Aemilia Lanyer – “Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum” (ctd.)

In the next prose text “To the Virtuous Reader” Lanyer makes a spirited defense against women-bashing, so popular in her times and not only her times. The interesting thing is that she criticizes first of all women who fall into the internalized patriarchy trap by talking trash about other virtuous women in particular or talking trash against women in general, as if they forgot they were one of them. (Seriously, if you are one of these women who humblebrags “I never have friends among women, women are boring and superficial”, leave this blog and don’t bother to read.) Ladies! No more women bashing! Men are perfectly capable of doing it themselves and it’s not awfully nice of them either. They forget they wouldn’t be here without women and so let us forget about their unjust accusations, treating them rather as spurs to make us even more virtuous. Then Lanyer quotes several biblical heroines who won over men’s pride and arrogance: Esther, Jael, Judith and Susanna. It’s not an altogether new trope, as a lot of women writers found solace in the biblical heroines, but it’s interesting that Lanyer focuses on those who managed to exact brutal revenge for the wrongs done to themselves or their nation (even Susanna’s judges were executed, if I remember correctly). Then she moves on to the New Testament, pointing out quite correctly that Jesus was throughout his life surrounded by women, in his last hour thought about his mother and after his resurrection showed himself first to a woman. Lanyer ends with an encouragement to all good Christians and honourable men to speak well of women, adding modestly that she hopes this small book may help.

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