What About the Strong Queens Who Were NOT Slut Shamed?

Obviously, not all powerful and dynamic queens are slut shamed. Even when they develop reputations for other wretched things, it does not QED lead to rumors of sexual deviance. Mary I of England got the moniker Bloody Mary for her strong-arm attempts to re-establish Catholicism in England, but she was never called ‘Slutty Mary’. No one ever made up rumors she was unchaste with men, let alone relatives and/or horses. Why? Mary’s grandmother, Isabella of Spain, lead men into battle and gave birth in military camps; it’s hard to find a tougher woman leader in history. She also helped get the ball rolling on the Spanish Inquisition, so it’s not like calumny cannot be laid at her doorstep. Why do queens like Isabella and Mary get a pass on slut shaming when they are 1) bold and 2) did something historically condemned?

In The Jezebel Effect,  I argue that “neither Isabella nor her granddaughter Mary ever sought equality for any other woman but themselves. In fact, both Isabella and Mary saw themselves as divinely appointed outliers and viewed other women as a teeming mass of potential sinners. There was no proto-feminism rocking of the boat, I assure you. Both queens actively defended and strengthened cultural norms in general. Thus, their gender became secondary to their support of the larger system. Furthermore, Mary and Isabella were devoutly religious and did everything in their power to spread the influence and control of the Catholic Church, which defined the existing gender ideologies. The Medieval Church made the beliefs in women’s inferiority not only correct, but sacred. Supporting the church was the equivalent of supporting the patriarchy of the times.

In contrast, many slut-shamed queens not only rocked the boat, they launched Grace O’Malley-worthy pirate attacks upon it. Although none of them would describe themselves as feminist (no one had invented the word yet), they all — either overtly or more subtly through art and literature — advocated for the enlightenment of at least some members of the female sex. This was, like feminism today, not an attempt to reverse society and create female rule over men. It was, like feminism today, an attempt to give women the same rights and opportunities as those who were born with a penis. As a result it was, like feminism today, seen as threat to the social norm. Culture subsequently pulled out all the slut shaming big guns to repel these piratical women seeking to board to the ship of state.”

This same pattern is echoed in modern times. Conservative female leaders are more likely to deal with sexist remarks than slut shaming ones. Margaret Thatcher was called “Attila the Hen” and “The Iron Lady”, not Madge Mattressback or Daisy Do-me. Women who lead on the left, however, get the sexism plus a heaping scoop of slut shaming. Don’t believe me? Well, Hilary Clinton has been called a “two-bit whore” and “fucking whore” by political opponents; if that isn’t slut shaming what is?

Slut shaming isn’t about power per se – it’s what women are doing with that power that gets them accused of promiscuity or harlotry.

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