Gender Roles in Re-enactment

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Gender Roles in Re-enactment

Postby RecycledViking on Wed Sep 24, 2008 12:23 am

Some other forums have touched on this topic, but I would like to hear what other people have to say and start a general discussion on gender roles and the modern re-enactor. What do you believe? Where do you draw the line? Do you think this is important or a non-issue? What has been your experience with gender and re-enactment?

I'll begin with my personal opinion. This is my opinion, just what I individually believe, not saying that anyone has to agree with me or that I represent anyone else.
I personally believe that modern people can portray either gender in re-enactment as long as it's done consistently. So I believe in women as male fighters (kind of hard not to seeing as that's how my time in MedRen was spent). And yes this means I wouldn't turn down a lad in a dress, I've never seen or heard of one but as long as his kit is authentic and 100% female then I approve (whatever that's worth).
This may seem too liberal or too permissive and I understand that concern - that's why I'm starting this discussion. I personally don't think it's too liberal myself. Here's my reasoning:
We're modern people. We were born in the 20th century and we live in the 'information age' and we use computers and watch TV and drive cars and have real jobs and pay taxes to our modern governments.
When we get into re-enactment, we are already breaking the boundaries set up for us at birth. We are saying, 'I know I am living in the 21st century, but I would like to see what it would be like to have been born in the whateverth century.' The majority of us are also stepping away from our modern occupations and choosing to 'be' something else.
If we as re-enactors are already portraying someone who is NOT from the same time period, who does NOT have the same occupation, then why can't we portray someone NOT the same gender?

That's just my opinion. What's yours?
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Re: Gender Roles in Re-enactment

Postby Leinsterman on Wed Sep 24, 2008 8:00 am

RecycledViking wrote:And yes this means I wouldn't turn down a lad in a dress, I've never seen or heard of one


You obviously have never seen me in my Iron Age chief's 'below the knee' pleated leine. :D It was made for me 12 years ago by some well meaning people who may have erred a little on the long side.

I think I recall some male members of the SCA turning up at a re-enactors going away party in Athy around 1997? wearing dresses, long and short.

The English did after all insist that the Irish change their 'dress'. :lol:
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Re: Gender Roles in Re-enactment

Postby Nerva on Wed Sep 24, 2008 10:27 am

Salve Annie

You ask a dam good question. Let me give you the example of the Roman Army. Women could not join the Roman army as legionaries although I believe there may be some references indicating the presence of women in the late Principate. So what does this mean for our group? To be honest I would have a difficulty if one of our female members wanted to portray a legionary as it would probably be commented on at every event "Oi, women didn't join the Roman army!" etc. etc.

However, the peoples absorbed by the empire often had very different traditions, example Boudicca. This means that women who want to fight as part of our group can take the Numerius route - a Roman ally or foe.

Basically, in my opinion women can do whatever they like as part of our group as long as it's broadly historically correct - the same applies to male members as well.

Now, run home like a good girl and put the dinner on... :lol: :lol: :lol:
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Re: Gender Roles in Re-enactment

Postby knightofredemption on Wed Sep 24, 2008 10:54 am

Good subject :D

I had this conversation with a girl friend of mine just recently, she wanted to now if there was any precedence for women fighting in the medieval period, I had to be honest and say I didn't know, but after asking around some folk who know a great deal more than me, it turned out that there is much evidence for women warriors in just about all periods of history. It makes sense, there are plenty of women fighting in modern conflicts all over the world. After all, when push comes to shove a women fighting to defend her home and children is a truly scary thing. So I say go for it. :D
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Re: Gender Roles in Re-enactment

Postby Neil on Wed Sep 24, 2008 11:00 am

When I started doing reenactment it was very simply explained to me. The men can wear skirts the women can't :D In other words if a woman wants to do combat she must dress as a man unless it is in a period in which women fighters would be considered historically accurate. Men dressing up as women for living history was never discussed but I've gotta say in my opinion I don't think the public would be as open minded about men in drag as us reenactors may be. Regardless of how accurate the kit was :D
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Re: Gender Roles in Re-enactment

Postby Nerva on Wed Sep 24, 2008 11:24 am

Neil wrote:When I started doing reenactment it was very simply explained to me. The men can wear skirts the women can't :D In other words if a woman wants to do combat she must dress as a man unless it is in a period in which women fighters would be considered historically accurate. Men dressing up as women for living history was never discussed but I've gotta say in my opinion I don't think the public would be as open minded about men in drag as us reenactors may be. Regardless of how accurate the kit was :D


I wear a little red dress, that's the beauty of being a Roman...re-enactment for cross dressers :lol: :lol: :lol:
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Re: Gender Roles in Re-enactment

Postby Leinsterman on Wed Sep 24, 2008 11:53 am

RecycledViking wrote:We are saying, 'I know I am living in the 21st century, but I would like to see what it would be like to have been born in the whateverth century.'


Annie, on a more serious note.
There are lots of examples of women fighting, but they were fighting as armed women, not women posing as men. I can only think of a few areas in history where men played the part of women. Medieval and Tudor actors, Sheakspearian etc, were always men, and played both sexes. I think in classical times, the Greek plays, in was similar.

From a re-enactment perspective, we have women members who fight, usually as women. We work with UK groups who have women helmed and fully armed up as knights and posing as men fighters, and get away with it, not least because they are bloody good fighters.

I find it difficult to see a context where men could dress as women and get away with it for authenticity. Most of the lads I know would not make good Nell Gwyn's.
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Re: Gender Roles in Re-enactment

Postby ciaranc on Wed Sep 24, 2008 11:59 am

A kilt is a skirt isn’t it !!
ok my 2 cents worth, the reason why woman dress as males on the battlefield is purely a safety issue, you really need to wear trousers or knee length tunic in order to be able to move properly, long skirts/dresses just restrict your movement too much and also pose a trip hazard to other. BUT if you’re not on the field and are doing for example archery then yes of course you should be able to dress as a woman. there is plenty of evidence of female warriors especially female archers in history (not going to cite them here cos i don’t have them to hand) e.g. just look at Iron Age Queen Maeve indeed there have been many female warriors in the medieval age (for those who want citations just go to http://libraryautomation.com/valerieeads/medievalwomeninwar.html)

so my humble opinion is a resounding YES
1. Women should be allowed take part in combat but on the field of combat should wear male clothes in order to be safe. (the one exception to this is when the women get kidnapped from the village obviously they should be allowed fight back if they are on the battlefield even though they are dressed as women )
2. Off the field of combat then they should be allowed dress as women and take part in archery or flinging whatever else comes to hand.
3. Men should be allowed dress as they wish so long as its authentic to the period (on that subject an interesting read here http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/pwh/gayvik.html)
4. living history really should be more reflective of what the gender role was perceived as, if your going to change the gender role you should be able to explain to the public how and why its authentic
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Re: Gender Roles in Re-enactment

Postby RecycledViking on Wed Sep 24, 2008 12:24 pm

Hooray! Discussion! I knew some kilt/tunica jokes would appear and you haven't disappointed :lol:

I'm suprised and enlightened by both the acknowledgment and support of women as historical female fighters. That wasn't part of my original question but it appears to be a hot topic in modern re-enactment. Is the general consensus that 'If female re-enactors want to do combat, they don't have to dress as a man (as long as their kit is combat-safe) because there is lots of precedent for female fighters'?

I'm interested in your opinion on re-enactors of either gender portraying figures of either gender. Do you believe that the public, aware that we have not actually stepped out of a time machine and are real people too, would understand a gender-bending? Or do you believe that females should portray females and males should portray males for the sake of consistency?
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Re: Gender Roles in Re-enactment

Postby ciaranc on Wed Sep 24, 2008 12:32 pm

I think in the living history role yes gender role's are quite important as it does serve as an educational platform. if there is supportable evidence to the contrary then so long as you can explain why to the public who ask, then why not engage in the role reversal. Indeed no one ever questions a woman dressing as a man but a man dressing as a woman always provokes comment and/or criticism.

Basically i believe you can do anything in re-enactment so long as you can produce the evidence to back up why your doing it
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