Den avhängiga: Kvinnoförakt som förutsättning för ett enda genus på 1200-talets Island?

Mikael Males


In this article my focus has been on the question whether women in thirteenth-century Iceland were held in contempt or not.
àààà In an article published 1993 Carol J. Clover argues that the gender-system in thirteenth-century Iceland was a one-gender-system, where that gender was male and all other individuals were characterised by their lack of maleness. She bases her argument on the words úmagi, úmegð, ââ¬Ëthose who cannot maintain themselvesââ¬â¢ which she connects to women. My survey of the use of these words shows that no such connection exists. She also claims that the scarce interest in women or womensô sphere in the sagas points to a structure where women were held in contempt for not being men â as indeed were all other úmagar: cripples, aged people, children and so on. I contend, however, that the sagasââ¬â¢ silence in this area cannot in itself be construed as a prejudice against women. Since female activity that drives the plot onwards, such as sourcery or whetting, is common in the sagas, we should conclude that interest in any activity to a large extent is due to its narrative potential.
àààà Other parts of Cloverââ¬â¢s article develop her thesis but present no supporting evidence. Thus there is no further empirical foundation for her proposition that women were held in contempt. To investigate if there indeed was such a contempt I have made a computer-based search for appreciative and deprecatory words in the family sagas, Heimskringla, Sturlunga and the fornaldarsÃâgur, using material from the thirteenth century only. I could find no evidence for contempt against women.
àààà I have also examined some passages from Hávamál and the sagas and argued that what we see in the thirteenth-century literature is mainly a tension between the genders, but in at least two cases (Hrolfs saga kraka andYngvars saga víðfÃârla) a rather straightforward misogyny that smacks of a Christian bias and focuses on female lewdness. What we are dealing with here can very well be a case of parallel ideologies, or parallel cultural paradigms, where the one is the old Nordic ideology that still in the thirteenth century ruled most parts of every-day life, and the other is the Christian, European ideology, entering society fromà above.



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ISSN 2387-6700

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