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Running Toward the Gunshots: A Few Words About Joan of Arc

So there’s another thing I’ve been thinking about, and reading about, and you can laugh at me all you want, but: Joan of Arc. I’ve been thinking, and reading, a lot about Joan of Arc. Patti Smith has a line in “Just Kids” about the optimism of little girls who choose “Joan” as their confirmation name; it got stuck in my head. Because you have to choose the name of a saint, basically, for those unfamiliar; you have to choose the saint you want to have your back. When you’re in trouble, or you need to make a very hard decision, and you need supernatural aid to keep going safely, you get to make one phone call, and it’s this particular saint, so think about the sort of trouble you’re likely to get into, and choose the one who will take your call: That’s part of what a confirmation name is about.

And yeah. Guess who I chose.

The thing about Joan of Arc is, I don’t know how many other saints were soldiers — Saint Michael is the only one that comes to mind, and he’s an archangel, so his existence is sort of questionable — but I do believe Joan of Arc may be the only person to be sainted for being a soldier. And it’s interesting, to know about her war. Her country was subject to a long-term invasion and occupation; the only way peasants like Joan were really involved,  aside from having a long war fought in their homes and being unshielded from its violence, was in terms of wanting to maintain their cultural identity, to stay French instead of being assimilated into the English culture. For a person who knows anything about our current wars — our current long-term invasions and occupations, our current struggles over cultural identity — this is interesting.

So, into this war comes Joan. Who is literally nobody: Poor, illiterate, a girl, not trained to do anything but clean the house and look after the sheep. Here comes Joan, from a place and a time where there is a popular folk legend that a girl will arise and save France. Here comes Joan, and she says God picked her; she says that the job of saving France is hers.

Whether or not she believed the story herself, what kind of courage does it take to do that? It’s basically like telling everybody that you’re Bigfoot. It’s like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but if no-one ever told Buffy that she was the Slayer, and she just stood up one day in the middle of class and was like, “guess what? I have superpowers, and I mean to kill vampires with them.” But not. Because even if you do proclaim out of nowhere that you are Bigfoot or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you still probably don’t decide that the next step is going to the Oval Office to visit the President, and explaining to him why he should give you command of the military and a role in deciding national policy.

I mean, I think I actually like the story better if she was making it up. If she just got wind of the myth — we don’t know if she heard it, but if you are a skeptic, you have to note that it specified the area in which she lived, and was therefore probably known by lots of people from that area — and had a very definitive opinion about the war, and thought she could do a better job than the people currently in charge, and then was like, “so that prophesied superhero you’ve all been talking about? It’s me. No, totally: That girl is actually real, and plus? She is me. Now hand me the keys to the army. And also, I want a sword.”

But at this point, the war was going badly. The King was broke; no-one thought they were going to win. It was going so very badly that, after a few basic security measures and tests and attempts to figure out who this woman was and what her agenda might be, the French monarchy was like, “okay, yeah, the illiterate teenager from nowhere who says God talks to her: WHY DON’T WE JUST PUT HER IN CHARGE.” It was a desperate move. If they were doing any better, they wouldn’t have tried it.

Or maybe they would have. Because Joan was very impressive, once she got started. The first man to whom she appealed said at first that she ought to be sent back to her father and whipped, and yet he eventually decided to help her. We also have testimony from her roommate at the King’s court, a woman named Marguerite: “I heard from those that brought her to the King that at first they thought she was mad” – uh, yeah, she just told everyone she was Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who wouldn’t? — “and intended to put her away in some ditch, but while on the way they felt moved to do everything according to her good pleasure.”

And of course, there was one particular potentially-mad, potentially-ditch-bound teenager working very hard to make sure that these guys “felt moved” to do whatever she wanted; lots of Joan’s power came from the fact that people “felt moved” to obey her or agree with her when they heard her speak. Eventually, that would be what killed her.

But that’s not yet: First we have to get to the part where this random woman from out of nowhere with a ridiculous story manages to convince people to take her to the King, and to convince the King to see her. (“She was not readily received by the King,” says another first-person account. The King “desired that she should first be examined, and that he should know something of her life and estate, and if it were lawful for him to receive her.” Invasive virginity tests, if you’re wondering, were a part of this.) We have to get to the part where this random teenager with a wacky-ass theory about being a prophesied superhero convinces the King to listen to her and put her in charge. And here is what she says, how she opens that massively unlikely conversation:

“Most noble Lord Dauphin, I am come and am sent to you from God to give succor to the kingdom and to you.”

Dear Mister President, Your boss sent me, and I am going to save the entire country, because I am magic.

I mean, jeez.

But it turned out that Joan was really, uncannily good at leading an army. She had skills that no female person who’d spent her life tending house — the thing she was best at, she later told a room full of men, was sewing — had any reason to possess. “She was quite innocent, unless it be in warfare,” says the former roommate. “She rode on horseback and handled the lance like the best of the knights, and the soldiers marveled.” Uh, yeah: I’ll bet they did.

So it turned out she was good, and you all know this part of the story. She was very good at it, despite the fact that she was initially excluded from the important meetings, and despite the fact that she had no training, and despite the fact that she was a woman and people weren’t supposed to listen to those — “harlot,” was a common theory among the English at the time, because what would a woman be doing in the army unless was sleeping with all of the soldiers; one English soldier straight-up laughed at the idea of “surrendering to a woman” — and despite the fact that her whole authority was based on telling people that she had magic powers. She took an arrow in the neck, in the middle of a battle, and kept fighting. If you want to get a sense of what actually made it possible for her to get from a kitchen in the middle of nowhere, to standing in front of the King and making her case, to a leadership position in the military, to leading this one particular hopeless lost cause of a battle, the Siege of Orleans, and winning it, this is instructive. If you want to get a sense of the sheer willpower driving this woman, think about being just a little female teenager from nowhere with no military training, whose biggest talent was sewing, shoved into chaotic, close-range, hugely violent battle, and about what it would take for you not to freak the fuck out at this point, what it would take to keep fighting with an arrow in your neck.

But then they killed her. It was the Church, actually, that killed her – another group of people operating in God’s name. None of the men for whom she’d fought tried to rescue her; the French did have valuable political prisoners they could have exchanged for her, but Joan was just not worth it to them. As soon as she’d won the battle and gotten the King coronated, they stopped funding or backing her campaigns to any real extent; she wanted to fight or go home but the most noble lord Dauphin just figured that Joan was a cute little mascot for the court.  One begins to understand, at this point, why he was losing the war: The part where she was like, “okay, so now that we’re saving France, maybe we should take back PARIS,” and he was like, “ehhhhhh, it might be hard though,” kind of stands out. So she’d improved morale in the army, she looked good standing next to the King, and when the English captured her, well, who cares? It’s just the cute little mascot. It’s just Joan.

But what a lot of people don’t realize – what I didn’t realize, until I read up on it – is that they didn’t actually kill her for heresy. Her answers, when they tried to trip her up and make her say or confess something heretical, were typically-yet-shockingly smart and charismatic and convincing; she did so well, and won so many people over, that they had to stop questioning her in front of an audience. What they killed her for was cross-dressing.

As soon as Joan got away from home, Joan started to wear men’s clothes. It started well before she joined the army. She referred to herself as “The Maid,” and refused to answer when they asked her if “she had wanted to be a man,” but the men’s clothes were very important to her. And she refused to stop wearing them in prison: She said, at one point, that it was to deter rapists (they were much harder to take off than women’s clothes, it was harder to get at her crotch, even aside from the image thing) and at another point simply that God told her to wear them. She told them that even if they killed her for it, she couldn’t and wouldn’t stop cross-dressing. So, so much of the trial and imprisonment was focused simply on trying to make her stop. At one point, exasperated, she snapped out at a captor, “give me a woman’s dress to go to my mother’s house, and I will take it.”

But cross-dressing was against Biblical law. And Joan couldn’t read. So they got her to sign a paper saying, in part, that she promised to stop wearing men’s clothes – a paper she could not read, that most everyone agrees they misrepresented so that she would sign it – and they shaved her head so that she wouldn’t have a boy’s haircut, and they stripped her and put her in a woman’s dress, and then, the next time she dressed like a boy again, that was when they killed her.

Because she was a bitch: “Master Jean Le Fèvre, doctor of sacred theology, declared this woman to be obstinate, contumacious, disobedient.”

Because she was a slut and a queer: “[Her actions] are contrary to the honesty of womankind, forbidden by divine law, abominable to God and man, and prohibited under penalty of anathema by ecclesiastical decrees, such as the wearing of short, tight, and dissolute male habits… it is notorious that when she was captured she was wearing a loose cloak of cloth of gold, a cap on her head and her hair cropped round in man’s style. And in general, having cast aside all womanly decency, not only to the scorn of feminine modesty, but also of well-instructed men, she had worn the apparel and garments of most dissolute men… [This] is blasphemy of Our Lord and His saints, setting at nought the divine decrees, infringement of canon law, the scandal of her sex and womanly decency, the perversion of all modesty of outward bearing, the approbation and encouragement of most reprobate examples of conduct.”

Because she thought she was so fucking smart: “Master Denis Gastinel, licentiate in civil and canon law, gave his opinion in the following form… ‘[This] woman is scandalous, seditious, and wanton, towards God, the Church, and the faithful. She takes herself for an authority, a doctor and a judge.’”

And then they burned her alive.

When I was a little girl, they told me that when Joan burned, God saved her heart; it was so pure and good that the fire couldn’t touch it, and God saved it, to show everyone what a terrible thing they had done. This, it turns out, was untrue. What actually happened was something you don’t tell little girls about. What happened was this: They burned her alive, showed everyone the body, burned the body again, burned what was left from that, destroyed it until there was nothing left of it that looked anything at all like Joan any more — there were still a lot of people who liked her; they didn’t want anyone saving a finger bone — threw what was left in the river, and walked away.

“May the Most High keep you in happiness to the salvation of His Holy Church!” Is how they closed their letter to the church authorities, notifying them that the job was done.

But that isn’t the worst part. The worst part, actually, is that toward the end of it, they got Joan to crack. When she finally realized that she was going to die, and in one of the worst ways possible, she cracked, she gave up, she gave them what they wanted, she said she was sorry.

“Seeing then the nearness of her latter end, this wretched woman openly acknowledged and fully confessed that the spirits which she claimed had visibly appeared to her were only evil and lying spirits, that her deliverance from prison had been falsely promised by the spirits, who she confessed had mocked and deceived her.”

Stripped. Head shaved. Made to wear a dress. Questioned, questioned, questioned; called names, called names, called names. Imprisoned. They made a cage to keep her in. They put her in chains. Attempted rape, attempted rape, attempted rape. (“I tried several times, playing with her, to touch her breasts, trying to place my hands on her chest, which Jehanne would not suffer, but pushed me away with all her strength.”) Tried to jump out the window and die, at one point; it didn’t work; the charges against her therefore included “cowardice.” Joan of Arc, found guilty of cowardice. Abandoned by her friends, abandoned by her King. (Most noble Lord Dauphin, I am come and am sent to you from God to give succor to the kingdom and to you.) Made to fight the hopeless battle, arrow in the neck. The King made her submit to a stranger’s finger up her vagina, to prove she was a virgin, before he would talk to her. The men who took her to the King thought she was crazy and planned to put her in a ditch. The man who sent her to the King thought she ought to be sent back to her father and whipped. All of this, just because she stood up and said she was the girl, the very special girl, the girl who could save them all. And then they were going to burn her alive, and at that point, only at that point, she broke down. It wasn’t real, she was sorry, it wasn’t real, she was everything they said she was, she was evil, the mission was evil, the visions were evil, the visions lied, they told her she was going to be okay, God told her she was going to be okay, fuck God, fuck the most noble Lord Dauphin, fuck France, fuck everything, she didn’t want to be Joan of Arc any more.

That’s the worst thing, the thing so terrible that the official position of the Catholic church is that this was impossible and therefore never actually happened: Toward the end, it wasn’t that nobody believed Joan of Arc. It was that Joan of Arc didn’t believe herself.

And I don’t know if I believe in Jesus, but I believe in Joan of Arc. I believe that if you choose Joan to be your one phone call, then Joan comes through. I kind of — this is weird lapsed-Catholic God-has-a-plan-for-you stuff, so bear with me — don’t actually think it was an accident that this one line from a book I read a year ago got stuck in my head, this week, and that I ended up finding the trial transcripts online. Because I’d never read them before, and I was over the whole religion thing, but I ended up finding out that she was a real person. This real,  live, bitchy, funny, charming, smart, obstinate/contumacious/disobedient, gender-inappropriate, charismatic, determined person, who somehow managed to happen, a really long time ago. I don’t know what I believe about the God thing. But I believe that we’re human beings, and that the range of human possibility includes Joan of Arc.

Here’s a list of things that Joan is the patron saint of, issues on which it is decreed Joan shall have your back: “Captives, France, martyrs, opponents of Church authorities, people ridiculed for their piety, prisoners, rape victims.” And soldiers, particularly female ones. Which is to say: Joan has a very definitive opinion on Bradley Manning. Joan has a very definitive opinion on civilians who are killed in long-term invasions and occupations. Joan has a very definitive opinion on rape, and rape survivors; she has a very definitive opinion on being threatened with rape and death for telling your side of the story; she has a very definitive opinion on being ridiculed for one’s beliefs. And I, personally, would not want to piss off Joan.

Now, I would argue that Joan is also the patron saint of queer folks in the military, victims of gender policing, cross-dressers, queer folks and women in politics, people and especially women who come from out of nowhere to exercise political voice, people and especially women who are violently assaulted or killed for having effective political voices — Joan has a very definitive opinion on Gabrielle Giffords; Gabrielle Giffords is alive, after being shot in the head at point-blank range and reported as dead, and a gay intern just out of his teens saved her life; “it was probably not the best idea to run toward the gunshots, but people needed help,” he said, and I must remind you, Joan, she has very definitive opinions sometimes — lapsed Catholics, lapsed Catholic women, women who have huge-ass troubles with the sexism of Catholics, and feminism. This is perhaps blasphemous, but Joan is also the patron saint of blasphemy.

And the retrial was started by her mother. That’s what it took: Joan’s mother, going around to all of the important authorities, asking them please, could you just change the record to reflect that her daughter was not evil? This other poor, illiterate woman from out of nowhere, making everyone listen to her. Families: Things run in them. And Joan was found not-evil, at the retrial, but she wasn’t declared a saint until 1920. The year after American women got the right to vote.  Meaning we couldn’t take her name until after feminism had won one of its biggest victories. That’s another reason I believe in Joan, more than anything: She opened the door, very politely waited for us to walk through, and then came in and took her rightful place.

104 Comments

  1. Catalania wrote:

    Thank you for this – beautifully written and really thought-provoking. I’d always thought that Joan of Arc as a feminist icon was kind of a cliche, but you’ve totally won me over.

    Sunday, January 9, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Permalink
  2. Paula wrote:

    I’ve been fascinated by Joan of Arc since I was a child. Whether she heard the voice of God or she was simply acting upon her own convictions, she kicked some major ass. She must have terrified the hell out the big bosses in the Church.

    Sunday, January 9, 2011 at 6:06 pm | Permalink
  3. Stephanie wrote:

    Yes. THANK YOU FOR THIS. As one of the little girls who also chose Joan of Arc as my Confirmation name and as a recovering Catholic I deeply appreciate this post.

    Sunday, January 9, 2011 at 6:15 pm | Permalink
  4. Caitlin wrote:

    This might be my very favorite thing that you’ve written.

    Sunday, January 9, 2011 at 6:19 pm | Permalink
  5. Laura wrote:

    I love Joan. Always have. I did a book report on her, back in seventh grade when I was a baby feminist. Did you know that she recanted after she was arrested again? Before they took her to her execution, she defied them one last time, and reaffirmed that she did have visions, and that she was who she said she was. They raped her and burned her and called her evil, but they couldn’t take that away from her.

    Have you heard Heather Dale’s song “Joan?” Gives me chills every time: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84xZYSQRhQ4

    Sunday, January 9, 2011 at 6:20 pm | Permalink
  6. Helen wrote:

    *SOB*

    Sunday, January 9, 2011 at 6:42 pm | Permalink
  7. jfruh wrote:

    This is awesome and great as ever. One more fun Joan fact in the “magic powers” category is that when she finally was brought in to meet the king, he deliberately didn’t dress like a king, to test her, and since there was no photography or TV there was no reason for her to be able to recognize him, but she did anyway.

    Sunday, January 9, 2011 at 6:47 pm | Permalink
  8. Ursula wrote:

    Delurking to say that I love this so much I’m printing it out. Thank you for this amazing piece of writing

    Sunday, January 9, 2011 at 6:57 pm | Permalink
  9. filangieri wrote:

    This was an amazing essay. If I’d known all this before, I would have named my daughter Joan.

    Sunday, January 9, 2011 at 7:05 pm | Permalink
  10. Andres wrote:

    There are plenty of soldier-saints. Joan of Arc is the only female one though.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_saint

    This post was really beautiful. Joan has always been my favorite saint.

    Sunday, January 9, 2011 at 7:22 pm | Permalink
  11. Traitorfish wrote:

    Like Catalania, I’d always thought of Joan of Arc as a bit of a clichéd choice for a feminist heroine (we were a Boudica family :P ), but the depth you’ve given her and her symbolism here is amazing. Fantastic job, Sady.

    Sunday, January 9, 2011 at 8:05 pm | Permalink
  12. Ellie wrote:

    I was sobbing so hard by the end of this I had to take a moment before I could read that last paragraph. And that just started up the waterworks again. Sady, I love your writing so, so much.

    Is it, then, a general trait of lapsed-Catholic feminists (feminist lapsed-Catholics?) that we were always fascinated by Joan of Arc?

    Sunday, January 9, 2011 at 8:17 pm | Permalink
  13. Julia wrote:

    This was great! I didn’t know the majority of this. Thank you.

    Sunday, January 9, 2011 at 8:36 pm | Permalink
  14. firefly wrote:

    Wow, I did not know so many of these things before I read this. I don’t blame her for giving up herself in the end, because of what she has been through. If I ever need a saint, it will be her.

    Sunday, January 9, 2011 at 8:41 pm | Permalink
  15. Feather wrote:

    Dear Sady: you just made me cry in the middle of a coffee shop. I never realized until this moment that I considered Joan of Arc a myth — I could not actually realize she was a real person, it was too awe-inspiring, too unbelievable that a woman could do that, in this world, at that time. Please don’t stop writing.

    Sunday, January 9, 2011 at 8:43 pm | Permalink
  16. eli wrote:

    This was great to read, and inspiring.

    Sunday, January 9, 2011 at 8:50 pm | Permalink
  17. Matthew Morse wrote:

    How are you so awesome? Thanks again for your writing, both here and on Tumblr.

    Sunday, January 9, 2011 at 8:59 pm | Permalink
  18. Emily wrote:

    This is my favourite post I’ve read on this site (granted, I’ve only been reading Tiger Beatdown for a couple of months now). I had no idea just how inspiring Joan of Arc really was; I’ll have to learn more about her. Thank you for posting this.

    Sunday, January 9, 2011 at 9:09 pm | Permalink
  19. alice wrote:

    i love this post. thank you for writing it. i’ve never been catholic, but i’ve been a fan of joan since i was a little girl and first read about her.

    and, possibly only tangentially related, there’s that one episode of buffy the vampire slayer (“tabula rasa”) where buffy loses all memory of herself, including her name. and the name she picks for herself? JOAN. coincidence? probably not, but it’s still a neat tie-in.

    Sunday, January 9, 2011 at 9:27 pm | Permalink
  20. GallingGalla wrote:

    I think we ought not automatically assume Joan of Arc’s gender. Hir refusal to adopt female garb, even in the face of death is a narrative similar to that of many trans folk who resisted society’s attempt to force them into the gender that they were coercively assigned.

    Sunday, January 9, 2011 at 9:31 pm | Permalink
  21. Tabs wrote:

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0019254/ <- this is a movie you need to see. 1928's The Passion of Joan of Arc (except in French).

    Sunday, January 9, 2011 at 9:49 pm | Permalink
  22. Tabs wrote:

    In fact: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BLBn9KK2Ss0

    Sunday, January 9, 2011 at 9:53 pm | Permalink
  23. ourlipsbend wrote:

    From one lapsed-Catholic to another, thank you for writing this. What a beautiful, unexpected thing to read tonight.

    Sunday, January 9, 2011 at 10:15 pm | Permalink
  24. ourlipsbend wrote:

    @tabs: thanks for that link to The Passion of Joan of Arc! I haven’t watched it in years but realized while reading Sady’s post that whenever I think of Joan, I picture the actress in that film. Neat.

    Sunday, January 9, 2011 at 10:21 pm | Permalink
  25. Copcher wrote:

    Until just now, all I knew about Joan of Arc was stuff people would refer to without actually explaining (probably because they assumed everyone already knew it), stuff I overheard people saying about her, and stuff I saw on Clone High. So I knew she was probably pretty awesome, but I didn’t actually know her story. I’m glad the first version I read was this one. It’s probably an amazing story no matter who tells it, but I can’t imagine it sounding any better than this.

    Sunday, January 9, 2011 at 10:22 pm | Permalink
  26. Tabs wrote:

    @ourlipsbend: Me too. She does such a great job. :)

    Sunday, January 9, 2011 at 10:30 pm | Permalink
  27. Bee wrote:

    Awesome! I love the idea of Joan of Arc as the patron saint of lapsed Catholics. (Although I don’t think I’ve ever said lapsed. I have a friend who calls us “little c catholics” – those of us who still sort of call ourselves catholics but don’t really believe in the church. Er, yes. Anyway.) Another great Joan song is Joan of Arc by The Fagans.

    Sunday, January 9, 2011 at 10:52 pm | Permalink
  28. Brad V wrote:

    I really wished that I had known more about Joan of Arc before this post. I feel like she would’ve been a perfect role model in my younger, less queer years. She’s still definitely a good one for me now. Thanks for writing it and deciding to post it! It was a really eye-opening read.

    Sunday, January 9, 2011 at 11:33 pm | Permalink
  29. a. brown wrote:

    This was magnificently written. I need to find a good biography. Do you recommend any?

    Sunday, January 9, 2011 at 11:39 pm | Permalink
  30. a. brown wrote:

    This was magnificently written. I need to find a good biography. Do you recommend any?

    (Also, how exactly is Boudica pronounced?)

    Sunday, January 9, 2011 at 11:39 pm | Permalink
  31. jc wrote:

    beautiful. thank you.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 12:19 am | Permalink
  32. Yaki wrote:

    Hi, I never comment here but this post made me.

    What a beautiful post you’ve written. I love you already but I love you even more now, having read this.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 12:33 am | Permalink
  33. Noanodyne wrote:

    Great post. You and others might be very interested in seeing or reading Carolyn Gage’s The Second Coming of Joan of Arc.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 1:36 am | Permalink
  34. Nancy wrote:

    I’ve been fond of Joan of Arc since I did a really thorough book report on her in elementary school (and I was not reading the censored children’s version of her biography). I’d forgotten about her mostly until now, but you brought her back to life for me, thank you. She now tops my other favorite female Saint, St. Brigid of Kildare. Beautifully written piece. Stuff like this is why I read this blog.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 1:38 am | Permalink
  35. auraesque wrote:

    Awesome.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 2:20 am | Permalink
  36. MsM wrote:

    I’ve been lurking for almost two years now! A “thank you” is long, long overdue.

    THANK YOU.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 4:51 am | Permalink
  37. Sarah wrote:

    I find myself almost wishing I’d been raised Catholic, now. She’s clearly the saint I’d want on my side.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 6:47 am | Permalink
  38. E wrote:

    Thank you for writing this.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 8:43 am | Permalink
  39. graeme wrote:

    For anyone interested in secondary sources, Régine Pernoud wrote a few biographies that are really top-notch. I think at least two have been translated into English.
    The trial transcripts are definitely worth reading!

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 9:33 am | Permalink
  40. curiouscliche wrote:

    This is my first time commenting, and I just wanted to say I thought this post was amazing. As a recovering Catholic, I found it incredibly inspiring and informative.

    Though I hate to nitpick, I feel like you’d rather get the historical details correct, so I’ll just point them out. The 19th amendment wasn’t ratified until 1920, a few months after Joan’s canonization. However, it did pass through the House and Senate in 1919, and universal suffrage had been extended years before that in various states, too. So your overall point still works.

    I apologize if my nit-picking was over-presumptuous. I read your commenting FAQ, but I wasn’t sure if this was appropriate or not. So, I completely understand if you delete this one.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 9:35 am | Permalink
  41. Zanna77 wrote:

    I love Joan of Arc and I love you Sady Doyle. You have been keeping me sane through this whole mess and I bless you for it.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 9:58 am | Permalink
  42. Tyler Healey wrote:

    Sady, you are on fire lately! You’re like Kobe when he scored 81 points in one game.

    Thanks for letting us know what Joan of Arc and Daniel Hernandez have in common most: They’re both incredible bad asses.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 10:07 am | Permalink
  43. Raemon wrote:

    I cried. Thank you for this.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 10:22 am | Permalink
  44. dave glasser wrote:

    Mostly irrelevant correction to a fascinating post: The 19th Amendment may have passed Congress in 1919 but it wasn’t ratified by enough states until August 1920, and Joan was canonized in May.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 10:35 am | Permalink
  45. Deirdre wrote:

    Just…bloody impressive.

    As a fellow lapsed Catholic, I’d never even thought of that, to be honest — that the Church has an (unofficial) patron saint of those who left the flock because of its politics, rather than its religion. Joan of Arc has always been my favourite, but it was more in a historical sense (I studied medieval history in university) than a personal/spiritual one; after reading this (and starting to read the documents you shared) it’s personal, too.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 11:09 am | Permalink
  46. vic wrote:

    I was always fond of Joan, even to the point where I chose her for my confirmation saint.

    Thankyou for writing this, even though I did down play a little the French and English part of in her death and focused on the Church’s betrayal as to me it makes her an even more important icon in history, with regard to age, class and gender, as what she did has rarely been done before or since and should be known by many more people.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 11:17 am | Permalink
  47. little light wrote:

    You’ve got my lapsed-Catholic seminarian ass singing this morning. Seriously.
    Jeanne d’Arc has always been one of my heroes and role models–if I’d gotten confirmed, “Joan” was my first choice, but I was never confirmed.
    I find it really telling that the (beautiful, tearjerkingly so) statue of Joan in Notre Dame de Paris is wearing armor and long femme hair and a dress. Even in honoring her as France’s beloved saint, they had to edit out the cross-dressing and defiance. Even as a longstanding fan of St. Joan, I didn’t find out about the gender stuff until reading Les Feinberg in my late teens, and it blew me away. I almost couldn’t believe, on top of every other amazing thing, that that was part of the story too.

    (Speaking of Buffy, there is a really good short story in a “Tales of the Slayers” comic about a mediaeval French slayer clearly modeled on Our Hero, who meets a similar fate as the price of heroism, and it is emotionally brutal and amazing.)

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Permalink
  48. monica wrote:

    I’m so surprised you didn’t bring up Buffy taking the name “Joan” in Tabula Rasa. Before she remembers who she is, she thinks her name is Joan. Because she kind of is, I suppose.

    Anyway, this is a lovely essay, Sady. I was raised Jewish and don’t believe in god anymore, but this makes me wish I could. But I suppose even though I don’t believe in St. Joan, I can remember her. And I will.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Permalink
  49. Joy wrote:

    Oh, Sady! This…this was gorgeous and full of power and YES, YES Joan has strong opinions, and you’d really best not piss her off!
    I just finished _Just Kids_ on Saturday. I was taken with that little part of the book too – Joan was one of my heras as a little Southern Protestant girl. One of my friends gave me a Joan medallion, inscribed with a prayer for strength, for a Chrisma-Yule present. Right before I took a leap of the scaring-me-shitless kind. And now this – so, so timely. Thank you, thank you for this post.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Permalink
  50. Sonneillon wrote:

    I’m signal-boosting this over at my journal if you don’t mind – just linking, not reposting. ^_^

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 2:06 pm | Permalink
  51. topaz_grrl wrote:

    Add my name to the list of folks who (until now) thought admiring Joan was something of a cliche. Turns out, the truth of her experience is even more moving than the glossed-over versions I’d read before today.

    Also, I love, for personal reasons, that Joan is both the patron saint of “opponents of Church authorities” AND “people ridiculed for their piety”. I’m a lapsed Catholic, current non-denominational Christian, and these religions are often steeped in misogyny. It’s hard, sometimes, reconciling my feminism with my faith, but now I know of someone who would support both counts. And is awesome.

    Thank you, Sady Doyle, for all that you do.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 2:16 pm | Permalink
  52. Apolla wrote:

    As someone striving to be a Good Human even when it forces me to be a bad Catholic (sorry Mummy), I want to say: thank you so very much. You rock… and so does she (certainly deserves better than the Milla Jovovich movie!)

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 2:48 pm | Permalink
  53. AnthroK8 wrote:

    I am a Conflicted Catholic, and I endorse this post.

    This is great.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Permalink
  54. tylrjm wrote:

    *tears*

    This is beautiful. And I love the idea of Joan of Arc as patron saint of queers. The bit about her refusing, on pain of death, to wear women’s clothing really resonates with me, too, as a transmasculine queer.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Permalink
  55. MKP wrote:

    This was so effing beautiful – it makes me want to wear my hair in a boy cut for the rest of my /life/, let alone for the forseeable future.

    At the Cathedral of St. John the Divine here in NYC, they have 7 chapels dedicated to 7 different immigrant groups and their countries of origin. The one dedicated to St. Martin of Tours has a statue of Joan in her emeffing armor, and at her feet is one of the stones from her prison cell that I visit every time I go there.

    There’s also a great statue of St. Joan on Riverside Drive – on horseback, wearing armor, holding her sword up to the sky.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Permalink
  56. babydyke wrote:

    Awesome, awesome post. I was raised Protestant, so I never heard much about St. Joan except as an example of why Catholics were doing Christianity wrong. *sigh* It’s really cool to get a better look at her as a person.

    a. brown–Boudica is pronounced boo’-di-cuh: the first syllable rhymes with ‘flue,’ the second with ‘did,’ and the third rhymes with ‘hub.’

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Permalink
  57. Skye wrote:

    Tears here as well. Thanks Sady.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Permalink
  58. Artemis wrote:

    I’ve had Tiger Beatdown posts cause me to tear up before, but this the first and only one that’s had me completely sobbing.

    I tend to think of myself as “culturally Catholic”–I don’t so much believe in God, but Catholicism was a huge part of my life growing up. And my mom, who is still super into saints, was more about the quiet, not-speaking-up-about-stuff saints, like St. Therese. I wish I’d known more about Joan growing up.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Permalink
  59. drst wrote:

    Thirding the rec for “Passion of Joan of Arc” – there’s a Criterion edition of the 1928 version (the history of that movie is epic) that is gorgeous. Watching it up on a screen in particular is an intense, moving experience.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Permalink
  60. A.M.D. wrote:

    I study women in religion, Jeanne d’Arc was the catalyst for my studies, but I hadn’t thought about that for a long, long time. Two things came to mind when I read this very insightful post. Athena is known as the Goddess of War and war strategy, but also home economics, crafts and animal husbandry. There is an interesting precedence set for Joan, though I am not implying that 13th century French peasants were making that connection, but just noting the similarity (also early forms of Athena are very masculine, but softer lines appear in later Greco-Roman art). Also, Hinduism has a story of woman, Sita, who is far from a war heroine, but who survives a fire by trial in order to prove her purity. In most of the versions of the Ramayana (the story in which she is found), the fire god, Agni, emerges holding Sita saying that she is too pure, and because of that she cannot be touched by him. In some other versions Brahma (part of the “old” Hindu triad of high gods) also defends her with respect to her trial by fire. So, another interesting connection with Sady’s point that she was taught that God saved her heart while she burned because of her purity. Characters like Joan were the lynch pin for feminist analysis of religion. Her story challenges the patriarchy that makes up the very scaffolding of religious history and history more generally. Without her and also, importantly/unfortunately the women who suffered the Witch Trials, academic feminist analysis would not be where it is today. This is not to say that we are done our work. Oh, no. It is up to scholars to keep women at the forefront of the research, it’s up to scholars to choose to study women’s history, to choose texts and oral history which speaks of the lives of women. If we don’t consciously do so, it will be white men’s history being told by white men today. And there is nothing cliche or overdone about Joan of Arc. She is our touchstone.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Permalink
  61. Alyssa wrote:

    Another Buffy moment relating to Joan of Arc: Willow dresses as Joan for Halloween.

    Also never been so proud of my middle name given to me by my lapsed Catholic mother. Coincidence? I think not.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 6:26 pm | Permalink
  62. Faith wrote:

    As one of those lapse-Catholics myself, thank you for this post. I was tearing up but got to feeling my heart break at the mention of Joan being the “one phone call” who society and the Church cast away: that Joan would not only not condemn these people, but based on her own life would rally around them, is a beautiful, beautiful thing.

    I don’t have a lot of religious pictures, not like when I was younger and raised in an VERY Catholic environment, but I do have a painting of a laughing Jesus. I think I will get one of Joan, boy hair, pants and all.

    My confirmation named was taken after Bridid of Kildane (I think that’s the place of origin, forgive me if I’m wrong/misspelled it.) I don’t remember much of her, though, but it’s time to look her up again.

    I also passed this along to my sister Joan–Joan of Arc is her namesake.

    All in all, beautifully fleshed out. Thank you for making this long dead historical figure a living, breathing, relatable, wonderfully flawed being for me. :)

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 6:27 pm | Permalink
  63. Faith wrote:

    (PS: Sorry for the errors in spelling and sentence structure, am loaded up on cold medicine today/my keyboard sucks.)

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 6:28 pm | Permalink
  64. X wrote:

    This was very beautiful. I’ve been a student of Jeanne d’Arc for a long time. Her story is . . . fantastic. I am an atheist. This makes her tale all the more astounding and incomprehensible, but it never occurred to me that she might be consciously co-opting prophecy and dogma of her own volition, I always sort of assumed she really had the visions and heard the voices. Thank you for that insight.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 7:23 pm | Permalink
  65. Esca wrote:

    So yeah, been thinking about getting a new tattoo, something feminist, something awesome. Yup. Joan is it. Its gonna happen. Yeah.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 8:10 pm | Permalink
  66. Sarah Robot wrote:

    That was beautiful. Joan’s story has always resonated with me; when I was younger, I saw the film with LeeLee Sobieski, and I always remember it as the first movie to ever make me cry as an adult. Now I think I can better understand why. Thank you.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 8:16 pm | Permalink
  67. I’ve been ambivalent about my birth name for a while, but this is helpful in reconciling me with it. Thank you.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 8:53 pm | Permalink
  68. Jay wrote:

    GallingGalla wrote:

    I think we ought not automatically assume Joan of Arc’s gender. Hir refusal to adopt female garb, even in the face of death is a narrative similar to that of many trans folk who resisted society’s attempt to force them into the gender that they were coercively assigned.

    Yeah .. seconding that.

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 2:03 am | Permalink
  69. Jude Brimstone wrote:

    @ A.Brown

    In the North of England, we pronnounce Boudicca/Boudica ‘Boo-dik-a’, which is thought to be the more accurate Celtic pronnunciation. In the South, people tend to use the Romanic pronnunciation ‘Boh-de-see-a’, which I guess is prettier sounding but less accurate to what she would have called herself.

    Being white and all, I don’t have that much to be proud of in my heritage, but Boudicca definitely makes me proud to be Celtic.

    Also, re:this post, I am naming the Catholic Church in my screenplay St Joan’s. ;)

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 10:14 am | Permalink
  70. GallingGalla wrote:

    In light of my previous comment, I just want to say that it probably came off as dismissive, and for that I’m sorry.

    I do appreciate your article. I knew something of Joan’s history from Leslie Feinberg, but you fleshed out a lot of things of her history.

    I’m on the path to becoming a newly-minted Episcopalian, and now thanks to your article, I’ve got a whole bunch of reasons to make Jeanne d’Arc my saint.

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 10:32 am | Permalink
  71. Brook wrote:

    very interesting insight. one note though, Joan was Canonized the same year women in
    america won the right to vote.

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 11:04 am | Permalink
  72. Genarti wrote:

    This is beautiful. I never knew the half of this.

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 11:51 am | Permalink
  73. Sady wrote:

    @GallingGalla, @Jay: I definitely hear you. I’m trying to respect the way she referred to herself, here; her identification (“I am a poor girl and cannot fight,” her title “La Pucelle” — which meant “The Maiden”) as a girl was pretty central to who she was and what she did, and to the myth she was either co-opting or seen to embody. Of course, she was also very good at managing her public image; if it’s central to the story that a GIRL must arise to save France, maybe it’s just important for her to publicly identify as a girl. It’s my understanding, just from reading a few books on the matter and not really going into the primary sources, that there are histories of trans men and women — men and women who lived as the gender they were, and were not assigned that gender as birth — even from this time period. And it’s hard, trying to frame such a different time and culture in terms of our contemporary understanding of trans and gender issues; issues like these come up every time we try to ascertain a historical figure’s sexuality or identity, because in many important ways, the fact that we have the language, concepts, and culture that we currently have contributes so much to our identification that these folks didn’t have. They had different tools and concepts and cultural understandings, like — in Joan’s case — a history of female saints who cross-dressed, or grew beards as part of their “miracles,” in order to “preserve their chastity.” But I definitely don’t dispute that she was butch and/or transmasculine and/or genderqueer. She just also identified as a “girl,” a lot, so I’ve tried to respect her own identification, from the words of hers that we have.

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Permalink
  74. Sam wrote:

    This essay was thought provoking, inspirational, wonderful–thank you!

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Permalink
  75. Kitty Pimms wrote:

    Thank you so much for this.

    I’m another lapsed Catholic who chose Joan as my confirmation name. I’d already lost a lot of faith in the Church and didn’t want to go through the ceremony at all, but my family insisted. I decided that if I had to be confirmed, it would be on my own terms and I wore black patent-leather Doc Martens with my pretty confirmation dress. Not a huge act of rebellion, but one that meant a lot to me at the time, and certainly caused enough friction to feel like I got my point across.

    For me Joan of Arc has always been the patron saint of provocative self-expression, of being fully and loudly yourself and forcing the world to acknowledge you on your own terms.

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 2:43 pm | Permalink
  76. Courtney wrote:

    this is fabulous! I chose her as my confirmation name as well (although I insisted on “Jeanne,” ostensibly for historical accuracy but mainly because our Parish School of Religion was run by a Joan and I HATED HER).

    we all had to do a little report on “our” saints back before the big day, but obviously it didn’t delve into the stuff you mention here.

    it seems appropriate, though: given the defiance & nontraditional gender behavior that’s a part of the Joan of Arc story, she’s a great choice for girls who are all, “okay, so let’s get this confirmation shit over with so Mom will let me stop going to PSR classes like she promised…”

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Permalink
  77. Catherine wrote:

    It occurs to me that if Joan really did hear spirits talking to her, then concluding that the ones whose predictions panned out were God (you will lead the French army) and that the ones whose predictions didn’t were evil and misleading (you will be freed from prison)–well, that would actually be pretty logical. And also well in keeping with biblical instructions for separating false gods from real ones. That part of the story also reminds me of Jesus’ laments before his martyrdom, and I think there is a very human versimilitude there–I imagine it would be very hard to watch the preparations for your own killing progress and progress and feel like God is still there helping you out.

    To Faith: definitely you should look up St. Brigid of Kildare because she’s very interesting, though not nearly as dramatic as Joan of Arc. She’s often connected with the pagan goddess Brigid and may have also become the Haitian lwa Maman Brigitte.

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Permalink
  78. jen wrote:

    this was so, so lovely. (another lapsed Joan confirmant here…)

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Permalink
  79. Roving Thundercloud wrote:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this. And MKP @55, thanks for the info about the chapel in NYC. Can’t wait to visit it!

    Here in Portland, OR we have a fabulous statue of Joan in armor, on horseback, restored and gilded so that it’s blinding on a sunny day (wish we had more here):

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laurelhurst,_Portland,_Oregon

    It was made from the original molds of Emmanuel Frémiet’s statue at the Place des Pyramides.

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 9:32 pm | Permalink
  80. Dominique wrote:

    That was just beautiful. Thank you for being around to write these posts.

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 11:11 pm | Permalink
  81. little light wrote:

    @Roving Thundercloud, I never understood the Joan statue in Laurelhurst, but I always found it reassuring, somehow, to pass by it every day. I wish it were in a place where people could walk up and admire it up close.

    Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 3:59 am | Permalink
  82. Roving Thundercloud wrote:

    @80 Little Light, me too. Oddly, according to Wikipedia, it’s dedicated to the Doughboys of WW1. I know that was on a lot of people’s minds in 1924 but it seems an odd pairing. Why not just Joan for Joan’s sake?

    Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 4:09 am | Permalink
  83. Napalmnacey wrote:

    I have nothing to add, since everyone has very much said what I wanted to say. Long-time Joan adorer here. But I have a real love of tough women from history who pissed off people in charge(Joan, Boudicca, Mary McKillop) so that’s no surprise.

    Adding another song to the list – Joanie by Kate Bush. I mean, a song about Joan of Arc, by one of the greatest women songwriters of our time. What more could you want?

    Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 9:21 am | Permalink
  84. latinist wrote:

    Joan of Arc is of course awesome. And I would add one more out-group to those she’s connected too, and again one that connects to recent events, though not in any straightforward way.
    It’s always seemed pretty clear to me that Joan wasn’t lying about her voices and visions. I remember from a biography I read years ago (so I’m probably at least a bit wrong) her saying (at her trial, maybe?) that she had “often” seen angels going about among people who weren’t aware of them. In other words, I think people today would call her mentally ill, and her visions hallucinations; obviously, in her own time/place they understood these things differently.

    Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Permalink
  85. Autumn Nicole Joan wrote:

    Another sort-of Catholic chiming in. After being raised and homeschooled in an intensely Roman Catholic household, I came out to my parents and told them about my girlfriend. I called them out on the way they cling to the church’s social proclamations over the actual words of Christ. I said a lot of things.

    I can’t go back there now.

    I’m still Catholic (Google “North American Old Catholic Church” if you want a real spirit-lifter!). I still love God and want to be a good person. But thanks to you, Sady, I remembered something I’d forgotten.

    Joan of Arc’s feast day is May 30. That’s the day she was martyred. That’s the day I was born, and the day I was confirmed in the grace of God. Her name is mine. I hope that her strength can be mine too.

    I really needed this, Sady, and I don’t think it was an accident that I found this post today. God has a plan for me too, I guess! Thanks again, and you rock!

    Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Permalink
  86. M Devlin wrote:

    This is one of the best things I have ever read. I am printing it out and keeping it. Thank you.

    Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 4:56 pm | Permalink
  87. X wrote:

    @Little Light @Roving Thundercloud I think the Statue is a tribute to France itself of which Joan of Arc is the most excellent symbol. Imagine the horror of the trenches and that entire ‘lost generation’ mindset. I live in pdx and I was unaware of this statue until now so I will pilgrimage there directly.
    Another little insight into her genius is the scene outside of Orleans, with the two armies drawn up in battle order and ready to throw down. The English have seen the situation entirely reversed and are feeling doomed. The French are full of pride and believe victory is at hand. They stand looking at each other for a couple of hours and then the English just leave. And Joan lets them go . . . she is able to restrain her army and lets them go, wow.

    Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 4:55 am | Permalink
  88. Alex D M wrote:

    Wow. Thank you.

    Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 8:07 am | Permalink
  89. Anastasia wrote:

    I, also, chose Joan (this would have been back in 1984). Despite some very persistent “Aren’t you sure you wouldn’t rather choose another saint?” pressure from my local priest and Sunday School teachers.

    Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 8:41 am | Permalink
  90. Grey Walker wrote:

    …and I’m here to add more tears at Joan’s shrine.

    Thank you.

    And thank you, @latinist, for pointing out her connection to mental illness. It can be very difficult for those of us who walk the narrow path between imagination and hallucination to feel that we have anyone standing for us.

    Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 10:26 am | Permalink
  91. Roving Thundercloud wrote:

    X @87, thank you for pointing that out, about honoring France and the horror of the trenches. But I think not–Wikipedia stated it was for the Doughboys (specifically American soliders). It doesn’t say what’s on the plaque/pedestal, though, so I guess you and I will have to go take a look. It’s stunning even on a cloudy day, and dazzling when the sun shines. My tiny daughter always makes me loop around the traffic circle an extra time so we can look at it.

    Wikkpedia says it was dedicated May 30, 1925, which was Memorial Day that year–but also Joan’s matrydom day, nice coincidence, eh?

    Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Permalink
  92. Alison wrote:

    beautiful

    Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 4:22 pm | Permalink
  93. Taybeh Chaser wrote:

    Thanks so much, from this lapsed/recovering/whatever/anywayex-Catholic, definitely agnostic, probably still half-drunk girl. This was very well done.

    Friday, January 14, 2011 at 11:29 pm | Permalink
  94. miga wrote:

    Wow! Joan’s my saint too, and yeah she’s pretty awesome. She’s also the patron saint of trash collectors for some reason.

    Saturday, January 15, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Permalink
  95. Athenia wrote:

    My confirmation name is Joan. Only later did I realize that I was also baptized at St. Joan of Arc Church.

    Have you read Joan of Arc by Mark Twain? It’s awesome. He considered it his best work.
    http://www.amazon.com/Personal-Recollections-Joan-Mark-Twain/dp/1598184687/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1295162403&sr=8-4

    Sunday, January 16, 2011 at 2:21 am | Permalink
  96. Kate wrote:

    This made me cry. Joan is my confirmation saint, too. I chose her in a moment of pique, when the (very insipid) woman who ran our education course kept telling us about all these women who basically didn’t do anything except sit around being pious. I didn’t really know much about her, but I have never ever regretted the decision. I am SO lapsed at this point (I think perhaps ‘lapsed catholic’ could be its own religion) but I still love Joan deep in my heart.

    You know the Buffy episode ‘Tabula Rasa’, where they lose their memories because of Willow’s spell? Buffy doesn’t know her name, so she picks on: she chooses Joan. Dawn mocks her and Buffy says ‘I like it. I FEEL like a Joan’. I’ve always secretly thought that it was a nod to our Joan.

    I don’t know wtf I believe, but reading this I made what I can only describe as a prayer – a true wish that came from the heart. That Joan’s spirit, the thing that made her herself, found peace and acceptance. And that we all can, too.

    God, so trite! :D

    Monday, January 17, 2011 at 12:19 am | Permalink
  97. STRATO wrote:

    Uhm, well yes. But what she also did was carry out a lot of gruesom acts of violence in the name of her king. As in, homicidal rage finds a nice channel to express itself, until it freaks out the people who exploited it for their own benifit. Leaving the violence of her exploits out of the equation might lead to biased conclusions, one might think…

    Monday, January 17, 2011 at 9:13 am | Permalink
  98. Ally wrote:

    Sady, you have got to stop making me cry at work.

    Wednesday, January 19, 2011 at 11:29 pm | Permalink
  99. Meredith wrote:

    This is absolutely beautiful and so affecting. You don’t find much progressive feminist writing about religious figures online that doesn’t just excoriate religion (when what they really mean is conservative religious [male] authority, which is enough to drive a progressive feminist mainline Protestant up a wall), so thank you.

    Saturday, January 22, 2011 at 8:40 pm | Permalink
  100. Soledad wrote:

    I grew up Southern Baptist, so saints are still kind of a new thing to me. (I’m exploring different religious views currently). Also, I hated history. I had heard of Joan of Arc of course, knew she fought in a war and they burned her…but I never knew this. Patron saint of rape victims? Of prisoners, soldiers, and blasphemy? (I’m keeping the last even if unofficial.) Regardless of whatever path I follow, Joan is one bad ass chick. I have a huge amount of reading up to do. :)

    Sunday, January 23, 2011 at 7:50 pm | Permalink
  101. g wrote:

    As yet another girl who chose “Joan” as her confirmation name, this post really resonated with me. I’m a “conflicted Catholic” too (thanks to the person above for using that phrase), but Joan will always be my patron saint. Her strength and faith–in her religion, her country, her comrades, herself–are exemplary of the greatest humanity. While I disagree with rewriting her as trans or genderqueer, she was willing to do whatever it took to carry out the will of her angels. Whether you believe her angels were real or imagined, Joan’s story is heartbreaking, a tragedy of integrity carrying an individual past the point of no return. In spite of all the voices telling her to go back to Domremy, she pressed on and revealed to the world what a young woman could–and can–do.

    Monday, January 24, 2011 at 9:52 am | Permalink
  102. Jennifer P wrote:

    This is about the third time I’ve read this, and it made me cry – again – and I think it might be the best piece of writing I’ve read in a year.

    Amazing.

    Wednesday, January 26, 2011 at 12:24 am | Permalink
  103. rowmyboat wrote:

    Might I suggest, for the reading public, Vita Sackville-West’s biography of Joan? (Vita, better known as being very close to Virginia Woolf.)

    Thursday, January 27, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Permalink
  104. Brianne wrote:

    Hi. My name is Brianne. I’m going to start off by saying that this is likely going to turn into a fairly lengthy and bizarre comment.

    Like you, I was raised Catholic. I can’t remember a time when I actually believed in any of it, despite the fact that both sides of my family were (and still are) very religious. I’ve always been the sole scientific mind. Luckily, my grandmother and father both saw this and encouraged me with strong female role-models: Susan B. Anthony (Grandma’s favourite — “She went to jail so you could vote!”), Marie Curie, and of course, Joan of Arc.

    Though I spent every Sunday in CCD, the only thing that really sunk in were the saints. I liked them. They had better stories. But more importantly, they were real people that had led good lives. I could get behind that.

    After three years of being dismissed by my doctor (he called me a “hormonal teenage girl”), I was finally diagnosed with cancer. Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, to be exact. Things didn’t look good for me. Not only had it spread throughout my body — not only did I have skeletal involvement — but I also had a metastatic colony growing on my spine. That means death sentence. I was given about a year to live. Somehow, a little luck was with me: By chance, I was paired with an oncologist who was as stubborn as I was, and together we decided to fight this as hard as we could.

    The type of chemo I was on typically gets spaced a month apart between treatments because it takes the body that long to recover. Mine was every Tuesday for ten weeks since it had to be treated aggressively. I went through surgeries, too. I had to get chemo injected directly into my spine. It was brutal.

    At one point, I couldn’t take it anymore. I knew I was going to die — I was sure that the treatment itself would kill me. I had one session left, and I didn’t want to do it. I could barely walk at that point.

    And that was when the lifelong atheist said “Ms. Joan of Arc, if you can hear me, give me your armour. Please help me. I can’t think of anybody else to ask.”

    I used to get imaging done every other week to check the progress of my treatment. Up until that point, the big tumour in my clavicle had only receded slightly.

    That day, it was gone. All of it. As my oncologist put it “It’s like you never had cancer to begin with.”

    Both of us are scientific people. Once, years later, we discussed what had happened. To this day (I work where I was treated, taking care of sick children, but extra-special care of my oncologist’s patients), he calls me his “miracle patient”. It makes both of us uncomfortable.

    I still don’t believe in God, but that doesn’t mean that I’m exempt from believing in Joan of Arc.

    Take what you will from my story: I’m perfectly aware that it sounds a little (a lot) crazy. I did not learn anything new from your article, but it resonated with me all the same — the thing about Joan of Arc being your one phone call. You’re right about that. When you call, she’s somebody who will pick up. I don’t know how, I don’t know why, but she will.

    Friday, January 28, 2011 at 7:50 am | Permalink