Author: annie trussler – contributor
Despite the cruelty of it all, I will never underestimate the universe’s sense of irony. In downtown Regina, Jason Hall, owner of medieval style Stone Hall Castle, has really taken it upon himself to resurrect and refurbish the definition of the Dark Ages. A recent posting for a hostess job has demanded that, in order to fill the position of ‘Medieval Serving Wench,’ you must submit your dress size, along with breast, waist, and hip measurements. Without analysis, the disgusting, deplorable intentions behind these requests are evident, but again, there are often circumstances too ironic to go ignored. This particular level of brutish, misogynistic profiling truly belongs in the Dark Ages.
The dress sizes that were provided under a convenient drop down menu ranged from sizes four to ten. This might seem inclusive upon first glance, as such sizes roughly translate to 250 pounds maximum. But, even then, it would be impossible to apply for the position if you exceeded this weight standard, thereby outwardly and harshly excluding anyone defying ‘traditional’ body types. In fewer words, such a restriction implies that, in order to fill ‘Medieval standards of beauty,’ you must be traditionally thin – thin, voluptuous, the primitive ideal of an unenlightened time.
Irrefutably, the most disturbing aspect of this series of events is the usage of the term ‘wench,’ to begin with. The origin of the word wench, when considered in Middle English, is an ‘abbreviation of obsolete wenchel; child, servant, prostitute’ according to the Oxford dictionary. To be a wench is to be a child, hyper-sexualized to the point of specific breast and waist measurements; to be a wench is to be a servant, to do the bidding of one’s ‘superiors’, often men, in hopes of pay or recognition; to be a wench is to be a prostitute, a member of the sex trade who is often degraded, violated, assaulted, and stigmatized to the point of violence. To be a wench is to resurrect archaic presentations of women, all of which are subject to gratuitous prejudice, violence, and dehumanization.
On the surface, Stone Hall Castle’s call for employment is a light-hearted delve into the Renaissance lifestyle; yet, times change, and never without purpose. The Middle Ages were rife with disease, pestilence, violence, religious discrimination, and chiefly, violent, oppressive misogyny. Wenches were not quirky hand maids, they were young women, often minors, that were forced to cater to much older men who would view them as nothing more than sexual objects. Jason Hall adheres to this tradition unfortunately well. Potential women employees, reduced to breast and waist measurements, in true Dark Age fashion. The irony nearly outweighs the abhorrent nature of this entire circumstance. Nearly.
If all one intends to reappropriate from the Middle Ages, a time, despite its flaws, that boasted brilliant art, literature, music, and culture, were rife with objectification of women, there is more at work. Far more. If all one can hope to find beauty in from the Renaissance is the concept of women are servants, prostitutes, and child workers, there is far more to consider. This is not about nostalgia; this is about objectification. You can put it in any time frame, in any location, under any name, but when women are reduced to numbers and servants, misogyny is at work. James Hall has since revised his provisions, but only under intense fire: misogynists can guise themselves as the victim, claim they “did not know,” but they do. Very few people objectify women unconsciously – and even fewer for a business model.