[In late-antique Rome,] what were the consequences for disgracing the patriarchy? If a woman who knows her role or position in culture rebukes said role, who [among her sphere of influence] is harmed by her [purported] step forward? Perpetua’s father: “Give up your pride or you’ll be the ruin of us all.”
The reputation of the household rests with how ably the father commands all others to order [heel]; the reputation [of the domus] falls, then, if he should lose hold/authority within his own home.
Traits of female lawlessness [and what they purpotedly beget]:
- courage and bravery ➔ rebelliousness (hysteria)
conscious choice ➔ uterine dysfunction
self-possession ➔ unhealthy bottling up of sexual energy
stubbornness and independence
rejecting self-beautification ➔ weight gain
formlessness ➔ doubt and arrogance
Consider Perpetua’s declaration, facta sum masculus, to imply she has circumstantially appropriated a [type of] male identity or a type of maleness altogether, to explain/contextualize her transformation (Gold, 245). [Her actions are deliberate;] she knows she’s being ambiguous, [and she is therefore] neither initially female nor male as typically described or defined.
Regardless of liturgical participation, it is presumed that god places men closer to his holiness than women (Denzey, 89).
[Regarding author privilege,] be mindful of the risk/dichotomy of the classical male/female readership [implication]. [The author] is at risk of eroding femininity at the implication or reinforcement of any cultural norm that celebrates hyper masculinity or [of] masculine behavior at the expense of others. Using the woman as a tool for sympathy also erases her agency (Cooper, 154-156).
By wary of revering or celebrating women in ways that are limited to the male conceptual domain (Denzey, 5). That is, [to be wary of consciously crafting] “consolatory literature” that favors the social desires of institutional maleness over the agency of others. [For example: (1)] women often had very little familiarity with the men to whom they were married (Denzey, 11). This may have resulted in forced conjugation: exchanging sodomy for chastity (Denzey, 11). [(2)] The commemoration of women in death was for the male public culture (Denzey, 16).
[Further extrapolation may be warranted beyond the reach of the religious.] What about pagan women near seats of power? “Pagan women of the period (4c.) slipped away unnoticed from historical record; they are named but are almost entirely silent” (Denzey, 39).
Present but without a voice. Does nobility matter?
Cooper, K. 1998. The Voice of the Victim: Gender, Representation, and Early Christian Martyrdom. pp. 147–157. In: G.M. Jantzen (Ed.). Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, 80: Representation, Gender and Experience.
Denzey, N. 2007. The Bone Gatherers: The Lost Worlds of Early Christian Women. Beacon Press, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S. 290 pp.
Gold, B.K. 2011. Gender Fluidity and Closure in Perpetua’s Prison Diary. Hamilton College, New York, U.S. pp. 237-252.
(from the red notebook)