Tag Archives: courtly love

don’t treat me like a goddess!

It’s rather unpleasant up here. I can’t sit down comfortably or move much without fear of falling off, and there is no one else around. It’s boring too…there’s nothing to do, no challenges or intellectual stimulation. Worse of all, looking down from this height is giving me nausea and there’s no ginger ale. Take me down from this pedestal. Please and thank you.

At first, I couldn’t explain his behavior except to label it as “being in love.” Then I realized that he isn’t in love with me, he is idolizing me.  He is intimidated by my intelligence, awed by my beauty, amazed by my sense of humor, entranced by my smile, and on, and on… I can do no wrong. Now, I’m not going to lie, the self-esteem boost was nice for a little while, but that while turned out to be very little. I always thought I would enjoy being treated like a goddess, but when it actually happened, it just made me feel like I ate a bad batch of beans.

I have a friend who recently broke up with her boyfriend because of this very reason. There is, apparently, a fine line between being a gentleman and being a worshipful man-servant. Strong, confident, intelligent women do not want, nor need, to be worshiped by men. In the Middle Ages, this sort of woman-worship came in the form of chivalry, which I explain in a paper I wrote entitled “Courtly and Modern Love”:

Chivalric love developed into a highly ritualized and organized “game” with rules to follow and plays to make. Contrary to earlier views of love, here the lady was seen as a sort of goddess while the man who wanted her begged to be able to serve her. […]  Once accepted, the man commenced with wooing the woman with displays of affection such as songs, poetry, bouquets, etc […] Back in Europe’s Medieval period, love was a highly quixotic undertaking. Men fell head over heels for a woman at first sight and then spent their time bringing her gifts, doing her favors, going on quests in her name, and, of course, being highly jealous and thinking of her constantly.

Sounds great, right? It’s what so many women all across America yearn for! Yet, this type of love, too, is poisonous to feminist ideals. Putting women on such a high pedestal that they can do no wrong and have no flaws is actually detrimental to their self-perception and to their independence. For a woman, knowing that you have flaws and that you make mistakes, but being with someone who obstinately refuses to acknowledge them can be as confusing as it is uncomfortable. As a friend of mine put it, “It’s bad when a person is so blinded by this image he has of you that he can’t see who you really are.” All people want to be loved for who they really are and how they really are, not for how someone else distorts them in their mind.

The Worship of Aphrodite, manuscript of homilies of Gregory Nazianzus (the Theologian), 12th century.

The Worship of Aphrodite, manuscript of homilies of Gregory Nazianzus (the Theologian), 12th century.

Being idolized can also lead to a loss of independence. I know a woman who, before marrying her husband, was a very independent person and proud of it. Being treated like a queen constantly, however, changed her. Now it’s her husband who gets the car fixed, buys the groceries, cooks, washes the dishes, drives her around in the car… Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with dating a man who is willing to cook and fix the car, but there is something wrong with dating a man who always needs to cook and fix the car and never let’s you do it because he wants to do everything for you. It’s a tough situation though, because I know that many men do genuinely do these things because they love their wives or girlfriends and think that it is what they want. But ladies, we need to remember that the precepts of feminism are to fight for equality. The aim is not to produce subservient men and lazy women.

So, please guys, take the woman you love down off that pedestal and give her the equality that you both deserve. And girls, if you’re standing up there and looking down on a man driveling over how perfect you are, do both of you a favor and get down, one way or another.

As for me, I am sick and tired of all those ads in women’s magazines about how to release your inner goddess and how every woman deserves to be treated like a princess. I’m fed up with the new fad (or should I say very old, Medieval fad?) of making women into virtual deities that deserve worship. Women have not struggled for equal rights and respect for hundreds of years just to run around like fragile, perfectly-manicured princesses and goddesses who let men do everything for them as a show of “love”. Chivalric gestures are appreciated, but real love means equality. So I say, “Don’t treat me like a goddess!”

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