How did Queen Elizabeth I respond to ideas about gender during her reign?  

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Queen Elizabeth had a difficult task when it comes to sex roles.  She had to (and wanted to) keep power for herself at a time and place where women were seen as much weaker than men even in terms of emotions and intellect.  She was not really challenged in terms of her right to the throne, but it was assumed that she would need a man to help her rule.

Elizabeth both accepted and fought against these ideas about sex roles.  For example, she accepted them by using the possibility of marrying as a political device.  She did not deny her womanhood but, at the same time, she did not completely accept that it limited her.  She is famous for having said (we cannot be sure that she said exactly these words, but it was something like this) "I may have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king."

That pretty well sums up Elizabeth's attitudes towards sex roles.  She had to live with stereotypes about women and she used them to help her when she could.  At the same time, though, she asserted that the stereotypes did not completely apply to her and that she was perfectly capable of ruling.


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