The One Star Angst

I don’t consider myself to be unreasonable, but shouldn’t you READ a book before you review it … especially if you are going to give it a snark-filled, snide, condescending one-star review? This is on my mind, since I recently received a vicious one star review of The Jezebel Effect based on the pseudo-reader’s ire that 1) Isabella of Castile was slut shamed in my book and 2) I said Isabella of Castile didn’t do anything for women. This review vexes me because 1) I use Isabella as an example of a queen who was NOT slut shamed and 2) Isabella is NOT the feminist warrior some hagiographical biographies and historical fictions make her out to be.

Here is the entirety of the paragraphs (out of a 100,000+ word book) that even mention Isabella of Castile in The Jezebel Effect:

It can’t just be that those who were slut shamed were all “too” strong – women who committed the sin of commanding men rather than submitting to them. Isabella I of Castile, queen of Spain, was not a cat’s paw for her husband, king Ferdinand of Aragon; she was his equal. She rode into battle, she conquered, she slaughtered, and she ruled with a stainless-steel grip on her underlings. She wasn’t a ‘nice’ woman, for the most part. She killed countless Muslims or drove them from their homes. Isabella I even paved the way for the Spanish Inquisition, which only lunatics think was a good idea. The Spanish Inquisition drove more than 170,000 Jews from their homes and killed or forcibly converted countless others. Isabella I of Castile was no sweet-tempered creampuff. Why isn’t she known as Isabella the Cruel? Why are there no rumors she made the beast with two backs with men other than Ferdinand? For that matter, why isn’t “Bloody” Mary I of England slut shamed? She usurped the throne from the lawful queen, Jane Grey, and then murdered the innocent teenager for political reasons. That is, by anyone’s standards, a crappy thing to do. Since most women who have done something this transgressive get accusations of sexual misconduct added to their list of sins, why is Mary I given a pass?

The most likely explanation is because 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.

Obviously, I am not slut shaming Isabella. What about the bitter criticism that Isabella did lots for women and I am a big ol’ liar (of the pants on fire variety) for claiming otherwise?

Well, leaving aside the hundreds of thousand non-Catholic (Jewish, Muslim, Protestant) women that Isabella’s regime persecuted and drove from their homes – because those women don’t count as part of “women” as a whole I guess – she didn’t do very much for any woman that wasn’t of a sufficient rank and or didn’t have aims entirely in line with Isabella’s own interests. Isabella was very, VERY interested in accruing power and respect for herself and her daughters, and wanted it recognized that some women (those Catholic women who agreed with her) could be scholars, but that is NOT the same thing as a wholesale interest in establishing women’s equality in any field or rebelling against an entrenched gender binaries. Isabella was certainly a strong and effective ruler, but the whole argument of the book is that JUST being a strong and effective ruler was not enough to get a queen slut shamed; a queen had to defy a cultural or sociopolitical gender norm to have rumors of promiscuity and perversion hound her.

I can handle readers who simply don’t like my style of writing and “voice”; fair play to them if they prefer other styles and critique me accordingly. It’s the reviews based on inaccurate facts that drive me bat-crap crazy.

Anyway, do me a solid and please review The Jezebel Effect. I hope you like it, but if you don’t then PLEASE base your review on either wholly subjective data or factual information. Otherwise, my Asperger’s syndrome will make me twitch.

The Jezebel Effect is available either in paperback:

or for your e-reader:

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