Part of what makes the story of Margery Kempe so interesting is her reliance on dramatic gestures of faith, otherwise known as “affective piety". While religious movements of the time were all seeking to find new ways to connect with God, the influence of the Lollards, with their focus on faith as an emotional experience, is most seen within this text. Although a conversation about the Lollards would certainly be in order as a general starting point for any discussion about The Book of Margery Kempe, for the purposes of this paper, examining the ways in which gender, in this case, femininity, is affected by and affects representations of piety. Margery’s affective piety is hyper-feminine (in the sense that she uses her gender to persuade and present her faith) and this can be seen most when one focuses on her use of clothing and language to demonstrate her faith.

It is difficult to deny that Margery Kempe has a flair for the dramatic, especially when one examines passages about her clothing. Before her religious conversion, she was described as being a rather gaudy dresser, which brought criticism upon her, even though, “all her desire was for to be worshipped of the people." Given that she was heavily invested in other people’s attentions on her and how they perceived her, there is an undercurrent of falsehood surrounding this text, almost as if everything she does is more for show than from a sense of true religious ecstasy. Even when she switches her attire from gaudy to virginal white, there is something equally theatrical about her choice of a maiden’s garb since it is in such sharp contrast to her previous “sinful" manner of dressing herself.

Much to the dismay of her husband, Margery, before undergoing her religious transformation, is a literal “showboat" of female sexuality through her clothing. As it is stated by the narrator in one of the important quotes from “The Book of Margery Kempe” , “She wore gold pipes on her head and her hoods with the tippets were dagged. Her cloaks were dagged also and laid with divers colors between the dags that it should be more staring to men’s sight and herself be more worshipped." It is obvious in this passage, especially when viewed in connection with her desire to be admired, that she has a keen sense of the weaknesses of men, therefore, she flaunts her clothing (thus sexuality) freely. Despite her later conversion, this description is still fresh in the reader’s mind and it is difficult to forget that she is has the ability and knowledge of the feminine manipulation she is capable of—even if she supposedly isn’t using it any longer. In some senses, her style of dress can be called “affective sexuality" and her knack for invoking responses through her garments and outer showing of her desires is a theme that is recurrent and infused with feminine overtones. While her switch to the white of virgins can be seen as a sort of “affective piety" it is nonetheless a dramatic change and in itself can be seen as a gaudy gesture of true faith.

When keeping in mind the above description on Margery’s attire, it might be a little difficult for those who are suspicious of Margery’s acts to stifle a laugh when she appears before the archbishop wearing virginal white. This is not necessarily laughable because we already know she isn’t a virgin, but rather, because of the dramatic shift in her appearance. Here again, we see that Margery is using feminine dress conventions to manipulate responses—male responses in particular. In this case, she attempts to use her clothing to incite a sympathetic response to her as a “mother figure" dressed, like the Holy Virgin, in pure white. When the Archbishop asks her why she is dressed so and whether or not she is a maiden, her reply is dramatic and produces the response she is looking for. “Nay sir, I am no maiden, I am a wife." The text states that as she says these lines she is “kneeling on her knees before him", the very picture of a virginal humble subservient female. Margery obviously knows how to shift her personality, in particular her feminine side, to adjust to her surroundings and although it is difficult to judge whether this performance of virginal grace actually saved her from being burned, it is easy for the reader to think it did.

Along with her pious attire and behavior for the Archbishop and his men, Margery’s language changes and becomes much more wise sounding, as though she has become a sort of sage. Strangely though, this shift in her rhetoric is coupled with this very weak and submissive front she puts up when she first encounters the Archbishop. At first, she is weak and on her knees all dressed in maidenly white. This seems to invoke a response in the males since they don’t have her executed right away, but before the proceedings can go any farther, she breaks down and begins one of her famous crying fits. “At last she cried loud therewith that the Archbishop and his clerks and much people had great wonder of her, for they had not heard such crying before." Here she has made a spectacle of herself, but not without reason—to a suspicious reader of “The Book of Margery Kempesuch as myself, it would be perfectly feasible to think that this crying fit was planned in order to not only incite pity, but to listen to her once she’d gotten the attention necessary to say what she needed to. It’s an interesting question to pose whether or not this could have been the only way for a woman to receive the intellectual attention of the male authority and if so, then in some ways, Margery Kempe has succeeded in making her voice heard.