The Wife's prologue begins:
"Experience, though noon auctoritee
Were in this world, is right ynogh for me
To speke of wo that is in mariage . . . "
She then proceeds to twist the definitions and interpretations of Church marriage doctrine (1 wife to 1 husband for life), virginity, and more. She goes on at length about the excellence of her "quoniam" despite her advanced age and loss of youthful looks. She is riotously hypocritical. She is the very definition of 'a pig in lipstick.'
"What thyng is it that wommen moost desiren"?
The image this morning in the Post of various Republican women, the one most in frame in her 70s, with her hands clasped in joy and a look of bliss on her face, contemplating the McCain/Palin ticket, while beneath, the caption talked about these women flocking to Palin because they detested male dominance, but did not consider themselves 'feminist' reminded me of the good Wife.
On the one hand, I know how they feel, as for them, Feminist with a capital 'F' equates with a cluster of liberal views that they do not share. I'm having the same problem, trying to figure out where I sit, no longer being quite pro-choice in a "choice" feminism or NARAL establishment feminism kind of way, yet not wanting to be tarred with the pro-life label, as that represents a complete world view that differs radically from mine. I, myself, am unmoored from things that seem familiar and the guideposts that mark the way of conventional political thought, which is all DC can understand.
Yet, still, they are feminists--with a small 'f'. Or else they are the Wife of Bath:
"Wommen desiren to have sovereynetee
As wel over hir housbond as hir love,
And for to been in maistrie hym above."
At the end of the Wife's actual tale, the old hag of a Queen, married to the beautiful young man through an act of coercion, offers him the choice of having her "foul and old" but true and humble, or young and fair at the risk of her unfaithfulness. He refuses to choose, and asks her to decide her own fate and future. Delighting in the fact that she has been handed "maistrie," she immediately turns young and fair, pledging eternal devotion to her husband and agreeing to obey him in everything.
And I was hoping for a watershed moment in feminism--for women to find some kind of common ground. How will this story end?