Heroism in the Integration of Masculinity and Femininity: A Study of Medieval Femininity in the Lives of Empress Matilda, Eleanor of Aquitaine and Margaret Beaufort Compared to Modern Femininity in Western Culture
Between 1100-1500 A.D. England was defining its political and economic power in Europe and as a country. The social expectations of women were based on the general beliefs of femininity that stemmed from physiological characteristics and the religious demands of the church. Three women of considerable social and political power changed the dynamics of English monarchy and the position of women in power for the rest of history. Empress Matilda, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and Margaret Beaufort each defined their positions at the time, changing the pre-conceived notions of femininity by acting in what their contemporaries deemed a masculine way. Matilda, Eleanor, and Margaret did not only thrive in their positions of power under the stereotypes developed in the medieval era regarding femininity, but also in the study of their histories they bring to light how women in modern social and political positions of power are still faced with the same medieval notions of femininity. Women today face the same stereotypes and cultural expectations regarding femininity and when those expectations are not met, or when the stereotype is breached, a wave of popular rhetoric in the form of slander and criticism towards them is accepted. Today, modern women criticized in their positions of authority face the difficulty of riding the fence between being perceived as feminine or masculine. The journey of a heroine involves the integration of both masculine and feminine.