Saturday, March 28, 2009

Saint Joan - a Real Woman in Real Pants


There is a confusing piece of political and church history going back to when the RC church was the power behind many thrones in Europe.

I have heard the story of Joan of Arc all my life. It was the name of my grade school in Philly now defunct. There used to be a life size plaster statue of Joan in her armor in the lobby outside the Principal’s office. That statue had no feminine features in the face. The statue looked like a man and not a woman.

When one heard the tales of Joan of Arc from the nuns, I do remember them saying that she was a woman. Some of my male classmates went with the visual of the statue in the lobby and were confounded when I told them that Joan is the not the French word for John and that Joan was a girl thing.

There are a number of Hollywood movies over the years that tell the story in what seems to be a completely different manner with each new production.

History seems to trip over itself about the national heroine of France and the heretic burned three times at the stake to prevent any relics from being retrieved from the ashes that were dumped into the Seine River.

Joan had visions of saints as a young teenager. She somehow manages to bring a weak French prince to the throne and to believe in her mojo. She leads disheartened armies to victory after victory until she is captured. She was no longer of any use to the French King who would not ransom her from her captors. Her captors sell her to the English against whom she has been striking blow after blow in battles.

The English turn her over to the English bishops who in turn put her on trial and find her guilty of heresy, a forgone political, I mean religious, verdict. Heresy is not a capital crime in that ballywick and the one last crime that warrants her death is the crime of dressing in men’s clothing. Very confused story on all levels.

Eventually the Pope, under control of the French King, reverses the English verdict of Heresy. Joan gets a “free get out of hell card” there. Then it takes another four hundred and fifty years until she is declared a saint in the RC church in 1920.

George Bernard Shaw in his written introduction to his play Saint Joan calls her the first Protestant saint because she used her own conscience as a guide and not any catholic rulebook logic in her definition of herself as a person, a woman, and a national hero.

Other than Shaw’s kind words, Joan of Arc, on all levels, has been maligned, misunderstood, trashed over the centuries and resurrected for RC PR reasons in the beginning of the 20th century.

No doubt the fact that she was a woman in men’s clothing and with a man’s spirit and successful in the realm of what men were supposed to do exclusively is part of the reason for her fall in life. After many centuries the facts continue to be muddled and the French fresh with a victory in WWI wanted a papal blessing of sorts and recognition for French accomplishments and not necessarily for Joan’s effort in the geopolitical thing.

The French conveniently forgot her for over four centuries. Frenchie gratitude is an unknown quality kind of thing.

The British who are kinky anyway on the underwear or drag thing, they would eventually disappear in the Joan Story as England breaks with Rome a century later.

It is kind of strange or is it queer how Joan is a hero on one side of the channel and a heretic on the other side? The one universal catholic church does not always fit into a one size fits all political or religious framework or corporate mission statement.

Misogyny or the hatred and contempt of women or girls would appear to be at the heart of this strange political and religious story.

Joan of Arc felt comfortable in her own skin, about who she was as a person and about her purpose in life. She, after five centuries, still defies any false labels that can stick in the long term. She truly was the first Protestant Saint.

It is amazing how in the beginning of the 21st century of the common era, that the west or the big western church thingy in Rome still is locked into Neolithic times with the Dinosaurs on its handling of female talent and energy that is it gladly discards in the favor of boring pot bellied middle aged men in various colors of medieval dress.

Of the movies about this great soul of Joan of Arc is a silent film by Carl Dreyer from 1928 and starring Maria Falconetti.

Passion de Jeanne d'Arc

I have seen this silent film and was greatly moved about the passion, stamina and inward strength of this great French Woman and Saint.

The film was thought to be lost for several decades until a full version of the film was found in a janitor’s closet in Oslo in 1981. Miracles do happen.

Joan of Arc was one such miracle to the human race and an unforgettable universal example of womanhood.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"The British who are kinky anyway on the underwear or drag thing" the blog seems to have been authored by a woman who is "drunk with success over shining sartorially without male competition" as Frances Anne Allen said in the May 1928 issue of The American Mercury. Many women secretly revel in the knowledge that an entire professional occupation---psychiatrists and psychologists---stands ready to see to it that only females are allowed a full range of human choice in apparel. The SKIRT, the alleged badge of inferiority, now becomes a symbol of female supremacy---"Only WE can wear a SKIRT!"