A Cannabis-Induced Epiphany: Gender Equality and the Medieval Notion of Chivalry

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Blowing out the last wisp of smoke through my bedroom window, I took in the sight of the city, a river of lights sweeping across the abyss of night, ever admiring.

It never got old. Marvel at our minds, our resourcefulness, the skyline seemed to boast. See how we’ve transformed our surroundings, changed the very surface of the planet. Every inch conceived in our minds and converted into reality – every brick and mortar a product of our consciousness.

Putting away the vaporizer and sacred stash, I crawled onto my bed. Reclining comfortably on a small mountain of pillows, I opened a book, flipping through a dozen dog-eared pages to a favourite chapter, and plunged into the world of A Song of Ice and Fire.

I followed George R.R. Martin’s dragon queen and her siege on a city in an eastern land, as a former arena-fighter prepared to do battle with one of the city’s defenders. When one of her knights indicated that for single combat, chivalry would demand a warrior on horseback alight from his steed when facing an opponent on foot, I stopped, eyes focusing on a single word: chivalrous.

The late medieval notion of chivalry had always puzzled me: it seemed bizarre that a society would largely deny a gender of rights yet idolize its members; that a society could at once view women as property and cater to them. Yet in reading this work of epic fantasy, something seemed to click in my mind.

Courtesy and consideration were paramount to the chivalric code, and it would have indeed been courteous and considerate of the champion to dismount. But what if it’s also about getting rid of any unfair advantages? About leveling the playing field? I wondered what the significance of the concept, if plausible, would be when applied to the treatment of ladies of the court.

Maybe all the polite things, the gallantry and heroic acts made in the name of love and begging for a lady’s blessing before war – the courtly love – maybe all that stuff wasn’t just about distractions or sex or justification for violence, I considered. Maybe it was about implicitly acknowledging the fundamental disadvantage of females, both social and legal.

But if that’s the case, I interjected, it could also have meant inadvertently keeping them at a disadvantage – by constantly doings things on their behalf, possibly curbing the desire to even want to do things themselves.

Systemic infantilization, coupled with placation bought by perks like special treatment and material items and security.

A double-edged sword. Hospitality in a hostile world.

I frowned down at the beloved book, deeply perturbed by my own thoughts.

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