History 104A, October 26: Miss America in a Feudal Society
Okay. This meeting will now come to order. Please remember that
Friday there is no Kirshner to hassle or to hassle you. I found out
this morning that my wife's father is dying. She lives in Oklahoma
and she's heading out there, but I may have to go out there for a
funeral. That's not something that I may enjoy; so it may
accidentally give you a day or two. I'm not sure when it will happen
because I can't go out this weekend if it happens because I'm going to
San Diego. In any case, I will try to send out an e-mail to keep you
from walking up the hill in the rain, if you will.
We were dealing with chess as a symbol of, if you will, medieval
Europe and its development to get a picture of what the main role of
life during the period was. I would like to do a two different things
today, basically talk about the futile society -- shush, please -- the
feudal society of medieval Europe as well as feudalism itself. And as
far as feudalism itself is concerned, you basically do have another
chart in your packet which sort of has little castles sitting there at
the end. You have your packet with you? There's these little
diagrams that you use in kindergarten to help students learn, but I
thought it might help you. Before we do, we talked a little about
chess -- my next topic that I wanted to deal with directly as well
tying to this, is the Miss America pageant. You have to keep some
interest going here. Let's start out with one of those things that at
least keeps your interest for at least five minutes and then you can
go back to sleep.
About 1970-71, I was teaching at a university in Florida and
there was a young woman in class -- I don't think I told you this
story, did I? That always came in wearing a trench coat. Did I
mention that story to you at all? She was quite beautiful; but the
sort of raincoat that she wore all the time, it didn't make any sense
because she wasn't raining outside. She was actually in two or three
of my classes. And all the guys were sort of taken with her and of
course I could see why. And you know how guys are, since there are a
lot of guys here. They like to hang around beautiful women just so
they can fantasize, so they get close making belief to their friends
making locker talk. Of course if guys don't hang around you women,
then you realize -- oh, okay.
THE PROFESSOR: In any case, one day she comes into my office and
she was doing a paper on feminism and she wanted some direction. I'm
not exactly sure why, because we were teaching under graduate division
level courses, but she had these other courses as well. And her name
was something like Fucks or something like that. It almost sounded
like the word itself. And I don't know what brought it on, but she
mentioned that she had been on the Tonight Show and that Jerry
Lewis -- do you still know the name about the Jerry Lewis? There's
something about Jerry Lewis that the French loved. In any case, he
was making fun of her name and Johnny Carson who was the Tonight Show
host at the time, wasn't on that night. And I said, Well, what were
you doing on the Tonight Show? And she said, Well, I was in the
Miss America pageant. Oh, I said, okay. You know how I am. I get
interested in asking questions and finding out a little bit about that
part of it. And it just always so happened that I had just received a
new book that I was later to use in the class there and here. It went
out of print. And I've have actually read one article out of it
called "Hang Ups from Way Back" and it dealt with the 1969
Miss America pageants. That was the pageant, by the way, where the
feminist protesters protested the Miss America pageant because it was
seen as a symbol of sexism and making women nothing but sex objects.
Did I mention that at all? That was the pageant supposedly as well
that they burned their bras in protest. Of course that story was sort
of made up but the men loved telling it -- yeah, they burned their
bras and it made a little small fire, that's all.
The other approach of the other element of sexism that went on.
And I gave it to her to sort of take a look at. And she started
reading through it. Of course the article is fairly interesting. It
dealt with the whole development of the Miss America pageant from
medieval Europe, and that certainly to me was interesting in and of
itself. And pointed out, for example, that the guy who sang "Here she
comes Miss America," Burt Parks, was what me in New York used the call
a swisher. It's a male who walks and acts like a female but dresses
like a male. In other words, extremely effeminate. It's a new
addition to your vocabulary for the test. And how the Miss America
had to be protected because they had to be reflective of the pure
virgin and how there were bodyguards which she told me were true.
They weren't allowed to go out without having protection. They were
watched the whole time. They were not allowed to date during the
pageant, and she was engaged at the time actually. By the way, one of
the interesting elements of the story that she told me was that she
had come from Ohio originally and she lost the Miss Ohio pageant. So
her father moved the family to Kentucky because in about two months
after the Ohio pageant there was going to be the Miss America pageant
qualifier for Miss Kentucky. Of course she won Miss Kentucky. And I
guess there isn't as much competition for the blond blue eyed women in
Kentucky as it is in Ohio. The only people who were in the
Miss America pageant were blond and blue eyed women. Even if they
weren't, they looked like they were blond and blue eyed. I'm not sure
exactly why you did this, if your father pushed you into it.
She's writing this sort of article on feminism anyway. And she
said, Well every woman wants to be placed on a pedestal, wants to be
worshipped, wants to be seen as a Goddess. She said, Doesn't your
wife? Well, no, not really. Of course that was my first wife who --
I may have mentioned to you that she became an organizer for the
communist party. Did I tell you that? After she left me. I do
strange things to women at the end. I said, No, no, she hasn't got
the slightest interest on being on a pedestal. No, no, she wants to
blow them up literally. In fact, that's one of the reasons I got
fired from my job at the university, she dropped this big banner from
the -- remember this was the Vietnam War era, that war before Iraq.
And she dropped this big banner from the library that said "Fuck
ROTC". Now, the administration wasn't very happy with the professor
whose wife did things like that candidly. I'm not supposed to tell
these personal stories. What the hell, I'm getting so old. Somebody
has got to hear this crap.
In any case, she looked at me sort of strange. And then she went
on the typical excuse that women have for beauty pageants, We got
college scholarships. So I give her this article and she's going
through it and again she's says, Oh, no, no, this woman's mother was a
real bitch. She wore pink and she didn't wear that white outfit. And
it was just historical. She's talking about all these elements of
riding around in the car and the glory she got from it and how she was
able to see her boyfriend who was a musician during the period of
time. And the article identified how, in medieval Europe, there was a
different level of oppression for the female and that was making the
female weak and a sex symbol came through by placing the female on the
pedestal. They were perfect. They were pure. They were domestic.
They were submissive. They were goddesses, which meant that men had
to do everything for them because they couldn't do it for themselves.
This was the birth of what we call chivalry. You take care of the
woman. It was the whole sense of you go out and fight for the female.
You go kill or sleigh the dragon. When you go out in the knight's
tale, you go out and joust and have the woman's scarf on your lance --
you've seen the whole images of that sense. Of course what it boils
down to is basically unrequited love.
Have any of you heard the term unrequited love? Basically what
it means is love from affair. You idealize the woman as a Goddess.
You place her on the pedestal and you will do anything for her, not
necessarily because you want sex. Of course you're a male, so you do.
But the fact is that just a look or a glance or a kiss on the cheek or
a scarf means absolute fulfillment for life. That is the beauty of
unrequited love. It's love from a distance, love from afar. And it
is worshipping that Goddess that Virgin Mary who bottoms the high
value of actually Christianity and Catholicism. And so some extent
there are those who bin to believe that she become as the mother dad
guess and that Christianity is seen for worshipping the Virgin Mary
than it is worshipping God and Christ. In fact, that becomes a
problem in the church to the extent that by the 1960s in the Catholic
church there were very few men who went to church. The church was the
gathering place for women. And in 1963 at Vatican II, one of the
things that they -- Pope John the 23rd did, was to remove much of that
women imaging and attempt to bring in more men into the church. That
level of it carries through. I'm jumping around here, but you know
the stories, flip around. They pointed out in the article how Burt
Parks switching across the stage as an effeminate gay guy, if you
will, reflected the fact that your woman was pure and that no man was
going to be able to deflower her, to destroy purity. That this is
America, pure, trustworthy, loyal, helpful, curious, kind, cheerful,
cleaner, and reverent and that the Miss America reflected that purity
that existed there. There were not air brushed in those days. They
didn't have supposedly breast implants or liposuction or anything,
chin tucks. And nobody did know that they put rubber glue on their
bathing suits so that they wouldn't pull up or things on that nature.
It's amazing of course how they could talk all the time with a smile.
I shouldn't ask if any of you are beauty pageant.
A Shut up.
THE PROFESSOR: I thought I would wake you up there.
A That was hard for me to smile the whole time. My cheeks started
like shaking for so long. Am I frowning now? Because I couldn't feel
my face. And of have on top of that, I couldn't feel my feet.
THE PROFESSOR: Did you put rubber glue on your bathing suit?
A They didn't wear bathing suits.
THE PROFESSOR: That's pretty much has been cut because of the
feminist impact on American society. In any case, that sense of the
unrequited love and the chivalry, it's hard to understand because
today we're not chivalrous anymore. I don't think there are many guys
that will go out of their way to open a door for a woman or pull out
THE PROFESSOR: There are a few, but are there a lot?
THE PROFESSOR: In my day --
A They do in the beginning.
THE PROFESSOR: In my day that was understandable. The whole
chivalrous idea, if you had a mud puddle, you would day your coat
across it for the woman to walk over the mud puddle without getting
her shoes wet, walking on the outside so they didn't get splashed with
mud, opening the door.
A There's a commercial where the car is driving and he gets out and
puts his jacket over the puddle. That's hows it is now. They do that
for their car.
THE PROFESSOR: The you know what a guy now sees as sex. I got,
yeah. Opening the garage door instead of the door, helps the car on
with its skirt. That's what they call those things that they put on
the front of the car, a skirt?
A A bra.
THE PROFESSOR: Put their bras on the car. It's a very
Hang ups from way back. There was a young man in my class who
ain't so young anymore, about 15 years ago. He still had the knight
in shining armor mentality. He still had this unrequited love. And
he fell in love from afar with this woman he had never dated. And he
just kept talking to her. Well, I've seen him in the last 15 years
and he still talks about her. He talked to her once. Now, we worry
today that somebody like that is going to be a stalker. But no, he
wasn't. He was just strange, from the wrong generation.
A Is there any irony that the end of that entire era are Jane Ayre
and Bronte with the whole chivalrous era was the onset of psychology?
THE PROFESSOR: (laughing). I can't answer that. Freud dealt
with those issues, as you well know. And we certainly know that the
end of the era in part in modern times came with The Feminine Mystique
book by Betty Freiden which talked about the female being placed on a
pedestal and the female being weak and seen as a sex symbol where men
are supposed to be seen as a provider and protector and a success
symbol. Men achieve success. It doesn't matter what they look like
as long as they have a lot of money and nice cars. And women have to
look good under the arm.
In 1972 -- I can't remember the exact name of the book called The
True Woman was published as the republican fund raiser actually.
Actually, I remember in 1971 a book came out -- I was working in a
democratic campaign and we got the republican book that told
republican wives how to dress and how to look at their husbands. They
had to look at them sort of goo gooed eye, like he is the greatest
hero in the world, so everybody would follow him and he knew that he
controlled you, sort of the Nancy Reagan anorexic look was the
approach that basically was projected. But this was the woman I sort
of alluded to once before, talked about why there were so many
divorces occurring and how republican woman who had been sex symbols
in the sense of looking good under the arm but were not to be sexy.
Anyway, if they engaged in quote/unquote real sex, they would be
considered as whores, prostitutes, and therefore their men would want
to get rid of them. In other words, they had to be cold and
unresponsive so that when men went on to conventions, they could hire
prostitutes for real sex. And that was the book, by the way, that
they told them that sometimes they needed to excite their husband in
different ways just to keep them, perhaps the wearing Saran wrap when
they came to the door with nothing else on. And of course that was
picked up on Fried Green Tomatoes. We did mention that once before.
A Probably not to everyone.
THE PROFESSOR: That was the other class? All right. In any
case, again, the whole point being that if a woman is to be specially
protected as in medieval Europe, if they're to be isolated, if they
were to be pious, pure, domestic and submissive and yet they're still
to be protected. How did they protect them in medieval Europe?
Chastity belt. Some of you saw the old Woody Allen movie when he got
his hand caught in a chastity belt. I thought that was a classic. I
don't know what the classics are anymore. So the woman would be
protected under that level. Despite being Catholic and being a fallen
woman with the scarlet A, that was the sin of the flesh. And the sin
of the flesh was to be expected, and that's why you had chaperones.
I'm not sure when we lost chaperones in the United States. But in
many countries, especially Catholic countries, up until recently,
women did not go out on a date without a chaperone. However, in
America, we have a Puritan ethic which was talked about a bit
predestination. You were born a saint or a sinner and therefore, if
you sinned, you were dammed forever to hell, to you kept it all in.
And in New England they had a system and I'll talk about this later
with Martin Luther called bundling. When you dated or courted in the
winter, men and women often met each other and talked to each other
under the covers of a bed. But there was a bundling board between
them that would separate them. And you would be surprised. Very few
guys cannot any ever jumped over the board or took advantages of knot
holes in the board or anything -- that pious, pure respect for the
And I remember a few years ago there were a number of woman who
were telling me this they were running into many problems because
American womens have the self-control in doing whatever they wanted us
to do but many times people from other countries especially from Italy
they would see them as quote/unquote whores and sluts and therefore
they were quote/unquote act uncivilized. In their presence. But once
again, that sense of the unrequited love, that symbol of the virgin,
reflects an attitude that comes out of the medieval period and does
identify the woman that I talked about the other day, who is placed on
the pedestal, Eleanor of Aquatain, Richard Lion Hearted's mother. It
also may explain in part why a Joan of Arc was possible at the latter
part of the period. Considering in our society that it's only been
recent that women have had any role in politics, government, and even
in the military in the last 10 years, and yet they're not supposed to
be in combat and of course they are in some levels. The fact is that
Joan of Arc in the early 1400s was given the command of the French
armies, went into battle as a 17 to 19-year-old woman. She was
executed at 19. And to think that the French or any military force
would allow a woman to command it at the point in time under any
circumstances, but if women are placed in the purity and the ability
to talk to the saints, if they're seen as a Goddess in their own
right, then Joan of Arc reflects that purity of the medieval period,
that unrequited love from afar as part of what really has developed
Now, I do need to make something clear. When I talk about the
woman being placed on the pedestal, what I'm referring to in medieval
Europe is not the lower class quote/unquote women. I'm referring to
the nobility. Please understand that when people looked at the
non-people who were the serfs and the peasants, their women were
nothing but sheep for sexual purposes. Wait a minute. That doesn't
make any sense. It does if you live in Livermore. You didn't hear
about that where this guy in Livermore had to put up an alarm on his
barn because somebody was breaking in and having sex with his sheep?
You have to bring that one up in ethics.
A How would he figure that out.
THE PROFESSOR: I'm not sure. That's a good question. I have
never been a member of the 4H Club so I can't tell you how they
figured that out. Maybe he left a prophylactic. I didn't want to get
the sleep pregnant.
In any case, it was quite common for the women of the working
class, if you want to talk about that, the peasants the serfs, to be
raped. In some cases in Europe, the nobles insisted that the serf
women, before they get married, have sex with them, that they were to
deflower the women. And we're talking about young girls 12, 13.
Power tends to corrupt. Absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely.
When we talk about a woman being placed on a pedestal, that's a
different level. Again, that same level coming down from the
unrequited love played its role in the United States in the 50s and
60s. No doubt about it. You saw the low class women as nothing but
sex symbols, not a symbol of a Goddess or something to be worshipped.
And how do you know who were the low class women? The Fonzerelli
group, from Richard Cunningham. It was they were pretty obvious to
tell. They're the ones who had tattoos. I'll let that go by as
people through things at me. We've of course changed today.
Acceptable practices. Equality for all, everybody get tattoos.
One other thing on the story of -- I don't even remember her
name -- the woman that I was talking about. I did ask her about the
trench coat, why she wore it all the time. And she told me that she
was wearing it because she was trying to get guys to not to constantly
approach her. And she was married and this way, she thought, it would
sort of keep them away. But what she was really doing was creating an
air of mystery around herself which she didn't really fully
The other sense of medieval Europe that we've talked about is the
feudal society and feudalism. They really are separate. As we
identified, the feudal society begins really in the early medieval
period. Feudalism begins somewhere around 1,000 and lasts until
around 1300. Elements of the feudal society lasts actually up through
the 18th century. The feudal society is not ended. Feudalism itself
is ended, but serfdom is not ended in France until 1789 with the
French Revolution. Serfdom is ended in Russia in 1861. Feudalism is
a political system. It's the system of government, if you will, the
feudal society is just that. It deals with the society. It deals
with the culture. It deals with the economics of the era and the time
with the political overlords that remain but later emerge under the
control of the monarchs of Europe.
As we identified the other day, what we had occurring in Europe
was a constant insecurity with the invasions of the Germanic tribes
into Rome and the Roman world, and then the Norsemen and of course
later the Muslims. Among the groups that we've heard of course and we
talked about war, the vandals that came through in this area, the
Ostrogoths, the Visigoths, which brings us to another typical Kirshner
story. When my older son was about to be born, as parents of course
we didn't know it was a boy and we needed to come up with some boy and
girl names. Well, as you already know, I'm a little weird because I'm
a historian. I decided to look for some names that would reflect on
history tied to me. And I became aware that the Visigoths had entered
into what we call the Iberian peninsula with a group known as the
Alans, another Germanic group. So another group that came into the
area of Spain -- it will teach me to open the map and think of these
things -- were the Swevys. And so I figured, well, you know, if it's
a boy, name it with the Alan; we'll call him Swev. Men shouldn't have
wimpy names. Well, I won't give you any. And if it were a girl,
named after the Visigoths, I thought it would be nice to name her
Vissy, nice feminine meaningless name. But my wife got upset and, No,
we cannot name her Vissy because she'll go around being called pissy
Vissy. It's probably true that I didn't think of those things. But
my father got really upset with the name Swev. In Judaism, you're
supposed to name your child after a dead grandfather or great
grandparent or something. And he wanted my son named after his father
whose name in English was Lewis, which means that you name it with an
L. So and we decided to change Swev to Lev. Now, I was not aware
that Lev was a name for Leo. He went up with the name Lev of course
when nobody knew the name and they would go -- Leon? They'd come up
with all these things -- Levi -- in today he doesn't have as much of a
problem because there are hundreds of Levs all over California who are
imports from the former Soviet Union. Just to let you know what
happens when you study history.
With the movements, of course, as I identified, the peoples of
Europe began to move inland and they created and identified this last
time too, these self-sufficient units that were economically and
socially and culturally self-sufficient which we call manners. Now,
remember I never said I could draw, so let's deal with the manner. Of
course there was always the manner house which was sort of a semi
castle. And as you know, they had the draw bridge around the mote
that protected it with the alligators type of thing. And then on the
manners, they usually of course had a means of growing products and
agriculture. And for much of the later medieval period in northern
Europe, they had the three field system of agriculture where two
fields to be produced and one left fallow. And there were two ways
that people lived on the manner. They either lived in villages or a
hamlet. Anybody know the difference between a village and a hamlet?
I didn't either. A village is where people live in an area where they
have their nice little grass huts all living with their own little
plots and then they worked the land for the lord of the manner. A
hamlet is where they live in different areas, not in a combined area.
The village and the hamlet was very common, depending on the area that
they lived in. And the peasants owed 40 days of work to the lord,
which translated to, they had to work the lands 40 days to produce
food for the lords as well. 40 days -- I'm not sure if that was
because of the Biblical 40 years wandering of Jesus being out in the
desert or 40 days, 40 nights. I lose time here. It was obligation
that knights had for their lords. They had to fight for them for 40
days as well. And that whole sense of owing an obligation for 40
And within this self-contained manner -- this is sort of a bridge
here -- there was generally a mill which we pointed out that mills
were not used with the windmill during the Roman empire because they
worked through labor of slaves and the slave labor pushed the basic
grinding stones. But the mills became areas that became very active
on most of the northern European manners. And there often was a
little church near the castle. And if it was a wealthy manner, they
would have a residence priest or friar. Now, remember friars were
people who lived under an order. They were like monks, except they
worked in the land. If they were a friar living and working on a
manner, they were also priests in a sense. Friars alone could not
give the sacraments. You had to be a priest to be able to issue the
sacraments. In most cases, the priests were circuit priests.
Translation, they moved from place to place and visited different
manners. And they might come to a manner only once a year. So once a
year they would do the baptism. Once a year they would do the
marriage. And once a year, I suppose, they would do a combined
funeral for all those that died.
The medieval manner also had an area where that was private land
of the king. These were the king's forest. And here that land like
Sherwood Forest was not to be entered by any of the peasants or
workers. It was only a land for the king to ride on, to go into and
hunt; and therefore, deer or whatever, and so basically he had the
meat and the peasants lived on basically bread, milk, and beer. By
the way, beer was extremely popular because, of course, water was
polluted. And so by making beer, they, in a sense, saved their
health. It is said that monks working hard in the fields in their
monasteries drank up to 2-gallons of beer a day. And that would
explain why friar Tuck had that big beer belly, which explains the
typical look -- I'm serious on that in that sense. That was the
social condition of medieval Europe. And these manners, in a sense,
were to continue up through, as I pointed, out the 18th and 19th
century without the power but the sense of the lords became a part,
especially in England, of the aristocracy. As some of you know, the
expense of the manner to keep up today, at least the expense of the
manner house, that the lords have has created a situation where many
of the lords in England actually run tours through their castles,
through their manner houses to pay for the taxes and the upkeep. The
feudal system that created these lords lasted probably until about
I guess then on Monday I'll talk about a little about feudalism.
If you'll bring your little packets on Monday, we can look at that
nice little chart that's in there. Have a long weekend.