la pucelle wore the pants

The cross dressing martyr? The queer saint? The clergy wears robes but they still controlled who got to wear pants, and not fancy pants either…

But fancy as many a gentleman or warrior might be, he never dressed like a woman except as a disguise or a carnival prank. No plumed and curled courtier wore skirts- and no lady wore pants. It was an open scandal if any did, and the clergy merely voiced overwhelming popular opinion on this matter. The Church burned Joan of Arc partly because she wore men’s hose and would not return to women’s clothing, her transvestitism being considered the livery of the devil and a sure sign of witchcraft.

In her notorious and infamous martyrdom for heresy, based on reference, centrally, to cross-dressing, and defying socially accepted gender roles,  she is a reminder, a known case of the multitude of extensive persecution of sexual and gender minorities by the Inquisition, which included witchcraft and other artificially contrived crimes.

Isidore Patrois, Joan of Arc insulted in prison. 1866. —Although the French king had the opportunity to pay her ransom, he felt threatened by the emotional sway she had over the peasantry, and left her to her fate. Eventually, the Inquisition decided that there was not enough evidence to have her convicted of witchcraft, but she was burned at the stake on May 30, 1431 for wearing men’s clothing, which the Church referred to as “idolatry.” The steadfastness with which she refused to recant and revert to female clothing, and the fierce loyalty from the peasantry over what her cross-gender expression symbolized to them paints a dramatic picture of old tradition resisting stubbornly under the boot of the now-entrenched patriarchal authority.
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Susan Crane, Rutgers: Joan of Arc wore men’s clothes almost continuously from her first attempts to reach the Dauphin, later crowned Charles VII, until her execution twentyeight months later. In court, on campaigns, in church, and in the street she cross-dressed, and she refused to stop doing so during the long months of her trial for heresy. Joan’s contemporary supporters and adversaries comment extensively on her clothing, and the records of her trial provide commentary of her own, making her by far the best-documented transvestite of the later Middle Ages.

Because Joan’s use of men’s clothes partakes of her self-proclaimed identity as “la Pucelle;’ the maiden sent by God to save France from the English, scholars have generally considered her transvestism to be an attribute of her military and religious mission, a strategically useful behavior without implications for sexuality. But isolating transvestism from sexual identity risks assuming both that heterosexuality is the only possible position for Joan and that self-presentation has nothing to do with sexuality-that sexuality is innate and prior to choices about gendered behavior. I would like to reconsider Joan’s cross-dressing from the position that gender encompasses both the exterior, social interpretation of sexual practices and the more diffused generation, expression, and organization of desire that makes up sexuality itself.


(see link at end)…Despite her unimpeachable piety, virginity and moral purity, her sacrificial loyalty to France, and her miraculous bravery in combat, she was burned alive at the stake for wearing men’s clothing and for heresy! In fact, Joan of Arc was tried and unjustly convicted in France by the very same Frenchmen whom she saved from the dreaded English. No one came to her aid, not even the French King Charles VII, whom Joan saved from the clutches of the English and the apathy of the French and whom she brought to power through her own vision and military leadership.

In his excellent work, The Trial of Joan of Arc, Professor Daniel Hobbins has translated the court proceedings from Latin into English. Hobbins is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Texas at Arlington. In his informative introduction, Professor Hobbins places the trial in its legal and historical context, provides an overview of the trial and its major players, discusses extensively the nature of the inquisitorial procedure, and explains how the trial records were compiled. Hobbins also explores the woman, Joan of Arc, and her place in fifteenth-century French society. For Hobbins, Joan was a product of her times. Thus, it was not unusual for a pious woman to hear voices from God. But wearing men’s clothing and adopting the role of a military leader was unusual in the Middle Ages and cost Joan her life,…Read More:

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