chapter  6
20 Pages

Christine de Pizan as a Defender of Women

WithRosalind Brown-Grant

For Christine de Pizan, the fundamental error made by misogynists was in presenting women as if they were a race of less than human beings, inferior to men in terms of rationality, moral judgment, and intelligence. Her response was to emphasize not only the essential sameness of men and women but also their possession of identical moral and intellectual faculties. To argue that men and women shared a common humanity and possessed an equal rationality, Christine's strategy was to show that the sexes were distinguished from each other purely by external bodily differences. Her trump card here was her adoption of Aristotle's theory that the differences between men and women were "accidental" rather than essential. In the Cite des dames she rejects Aristotle's argument that woman is a defective male, quoting the theological "proof" that women, as God's creation, were not misbegotten and that it is heterodox to claim otherwise.