The first tournament that led to the founding of the Society for Creative Anachronism was organized by Diana L. Paxson, known in the Society as Diana Listmaker, in her backyard in Berkeley. From the perspective of one who was there at the start, and remembers the original goals of the organization, she has written an opinion letter and has kindly allowed SCAtoday.net to share it with our readers.
Mistress Diana writes:
As I see it, there are two issues relating to Inspirational Equality, who inspires a fighter, and what roles that the winning fighter and consort must then play.
It seems to me that there is a great deal to be said for allowing warriors to fight for the person who inspires them, whatever their gender.
Inspiration by a lady comes from the cult of courtly love which flourished during the part of the Middle Ages that has had the greatest influence on SCA custom, but which certainly did not hold during the entire period pre-1650. The Theban "Sacred Band" consisted of homosexual couples who inspired each other. In the early Middle Ages, the chieftain inspired the men of his comitatus. In the Chanson de Roland, Roland refuses to call for help for fear that "the poets will make bad songs about us", not because he will be unworthy of his lady. The same held true during the Viking Age. Any relationship that inspires an individual to strive to the utmost, to transcend limitations, to become a better and nobler person is clearly consistent with the ideals of the SCA.
At the first tournament, the victor crowned a lady as Queen of Love and Beauty. If we had stayed with an Inspirer and Champion, there would have been no problem. But by the third tourney, we realized that we needed someone to preside over the action and a way to keep the same champion from winning every time, and so we decided to make the winner of the tournament king and require him to rule for two tourneys. His inspirer obviously would become queen.
This had a number of unanticipated consequences. "King" and "Queen" are loaded terms, especially for the kind of person who is attracted to the SCA in the first place. The Inspiration/Champion roles were replaced by Ruler/Consort roles that throughout the medieval period were based on gender. In all the kingdoms, these roles have become the basis for the customs defining the roles of the ruler and consort. The question then becomes whether individuals who are not of the traditional gender can take those roles and do the job?
The SCA is based on role-playing. The grocery store clerk or the computer programmer creates a new persona from a different time and culture, with name, costume, mode of speech, and sometimes gender to match. The SCA has seriously stretched the original concept to allow women to fight. In requiring a queen regnant to rule with a consort of the opposite gender, the traditional gender-roles of king and queen have already been compromised (unless, of course, both cross-dress and adopt the social genders appropriate to the roles).
When the SCA expanded the definition of our focus by accepting Japanese or Viking or other personas from parts of our pre-1650 time period outside the high Middle Ages, and especially when the decision to allow women to compete for the Crown was made, justification for clinging to other elements of the period, such as finding inspiration only in a lady, was also lost.
Logically, therefore, fighters should choose those consorts who inspire them, of whatever gender.
Mistress Diana Listmaker, O.R., O.L., O.P. Court Baroness
This letter is Copyright © 2011 by Diana Paxson, and is republished on SCAtoday.net with kind permission of the author.