Feminism for Reenactors

I am a feminist.

In fact, I think it’s fair to say that this is a household full of feminists, and that any prospective new member ought to ask themselves: “Am I a feminist?” If not, they might not be the right fit for our house. And before you ask, NO, you do not need to be woman to be a feminist. You just need to believe that women deserve freedom and equality.

Feminism can be tricky to navigate in the SCA, because it was tricky to navigate in the middle ages and the Renaissance. If we’re honest, it’s still a trial trying to engage with the world as an avowed feminist. And if you ask me, that’s because we’re not as evolved as we think we are. We still struggle against stereotypes and systemic oppression, not to mention the unconscious bias that even the most “woke” of us have buried in our subconscious minds. In the SCA, all that internalized sexism and misogyny is sometimes given an elevated platform, bolstered by the historical fact of female disenfranchisement.

But history wasn’t all about men, even if it is often presented that way. Countless savvy, strong-willed, and brilliant women have defied the limitations that society attempted to impose on them. From Sappho, considered the greatest poet of her day, to the Mongolian Queen Manduhai, who reunited Mongolia after Genghis Khan’s sons nearly destroyed the empire, there have always been women who found a way to make an impact.

Besides, history isn’t a linear progression from barbarism to civilization. In many ways, and in many places, women held far more power in the 16th century than they do today. European noblewomen were frequently the managers of their enormous estates. In Safavid Persia, there were female fighters, doctors, painters, and scholars, all working in the haram — which amounted to a women’s city. The very fact of the profound isolation of women, usually interpreted as an absolute negative for feminism, actually served to give women opportunities unmatched in the modern era, even here in the United States. Before 1600, courtesans and sex workers could ply their trade legally in much of the world, and some of them rose to become extraordinarily powerful women, exerting influence over world politics and art.

Here at the House of the Lotus, we celebrate the women of history, in all their incarnations - rulers, peasants, prostitutes and nuns. But especially the prostitutes. That’s sort of our thing. We’re going to keep studying the women of history, and when we find out something cool, we’ll be posting it right here, where you can find it.

One parting thought: please think about what you can do to support equality in the SCA. Keep your eyes open. Keep your ears tuned. Pay attention to how women, LGBTQ people, disabled people and minorities are treated — and if something isn’t right, speak up. Look closely at your kingdom laws and Corpora — and if something isn’t right, speak up. Do your part to make the SCA a more inclusive place.

In Service to the Dream,

Laila al-Sanna’ al-Andalusiyya