Happy International Women’s Day/Month/Everyday. If you haven’t already call your mom, aunt, sister, grandmother, cousin, girlfriend, or friend and tell her how great she is.
I’ll wait. Okay done? Cool!
I waited to write this post until after my lecture this morning on ‘Feminist and Gender Theory in Archaeology.’
It should come as no shock that I am a woman who vehemently supports other women. I love seeing women meet success. I love reading the news and seeing the advancements women are making in STEM in the arts and in politics. I love celebrating what makes women awesome. This is why if you’ve been keeping up to date with things on ‘the Facebook’ I’ve brought back my ‘Inspirational Lady of the Day.’ I do this because I love drawing attention to things.
This not just because I love to meddle but because it needs to be done. For a really long time if I wanted to learn about women’s history I had to find the information myself. There were very few women featured in my textbooks. The answer the textbooks gave in the small paragraph (at the very end of the twenty pages comparing dick sizes of the Bourbon kings of France) was that women typically didn’t do anything. They didn’t write anything down. They stayed home.
Sorry, my dudes, but that’s lazy history.
If I can, as young meddling child, use Google to find a list of important women in history, you, as a middle-aged academic with multiple phDs, can too.
A question was asked this morning in my lecture whether or not the study of ‘Women’s History and Archaeology’ should be political. It most certainly should. Everything in our world is political. This doesn’t mean that you have to take a stance on everything, I love oranges just as much as I love strawberries… but it means that you can’t ignore the inherent politics of recognizing women. And in a way, by staying out of politics you’re admitting that some things just aren’t that important to note.
History and Archaeology will never be objective. We can’t go back in time and interview people. What we can do is take what we learn from the excavations and create our next best educated guess. But, as I’ve read, these guesses are often sugarcoated in modern stereotypes and bias. You see this in museum displays with the men in the forefront and the women sitting in the back. You see this in how just because a burial is found with a sword it’s deemed to be male… jokes on you, it’s a woman. Or how ‘Feminist Theory’ is treated as an offshoot of the Historical Discipline. Treating ‘Women’s History’ as some kind of secondary history tells students is that if they want to learn about women they should take extra classes. It send the message that women’s history isn’t going to be discussed in the mainstream history classes because it’s ancillary to an ‘academic understanding of the past.’
Some wild arguments I’ve heard against women’s history as part of the core curriculum as followed:
- ‘It keeps history ungendered.’ Sorry, my dudes, that’s even lazier.
The reason history is studied is because people find the actions of other humans insightful. They love to connect to the past and see were we as humans have come from. And I mean all humans. You cannot call it a ‘History of Humanity’ if you only count certain humans. Also, history has never ‘been ungendered.’ Take a gander around any bookshop and count how many history books you find written on women or by women.
2. ‘Women’s history is not interesting.’ Someone give me a spoon so I can gauge out my eyes.
Not every person is interesting. I will agree that some people are fucking boring. But discrediting an entire historical corpus on the basis that it’s not going to be interesting is pretty short sighted. This is like if I said the History of the American Civil War wasn’t interesting or for you Brits reading this, Henry VIII breaking away from the Roman Catholic Church (even though it was Elizabeth I who finalized the deal and actually set up the Anglican Church).
3. By extension, ‘women’s history doesn’t sell.’ pls, chad. s t o p.
The three highest grossing films of 2017 were about women: Star Wars, Beauty and the Beast, and Wonder Woman. The last was the first big-budget superhero film to be directed by a women as well, Patty Jenkins. She even went to my high school! Stories about women do sell. People want to see them. They want to read about them.
When shows on Women’s History are made they are watched and they are supported… but I guess History Channel hasn’t gotten the memo yet if this screenshot of their show lineup says anything…
I don’t hate men. Really. I’m not out here to fight people. Pinky promise.
But, I am pretty fed up with history as it’s been taught and the public perception of women’s history. There is no excuse not to recognize our stories and lives as valid.
To leave you with some final thoughts. I do mean all women.
‘Third Wave Feminism’ if you want to stick labels on things has really made massive leaps and bounds toward more intersectional feminism but there is a lot more to be done. By ‘intersectional feminism’ I mean that we need to identify that all women experience life differently and our history should not be treated as a single lump group. Aspects of ethnicity, sexuality, age, class, etc affect how women experience things. This affects their lives and our study of history.
To put this in context, I’ll use an example from the American Pay Gap (which does actually exist just in case you were wondering!). Over the years, we have recognized that yes, white women still only make 79 cents to a white man’s dollar for the exact same job. However, did you know that black woman are only make 60 cents and Hispanic women only 55 cents to the white man’s dollar for the exact same job. We know women make less than men, but sometimes we don’t look at the differences within working women themselves.
So yeah, in summary. The first step is recognizing that women exist in history. That women’s history is an integral piece of the historical discipline. Don’t be lazy. The second step, once you agree that women have actually done things, we need to realize that all women are different and experience life differently. We are all important but we are not the same. It is the differences that gives our history strength. Our differences are what make us so interesting and inspiring.
But, it takes all women (and men too) supporting and celebrating each other to make things happen.
So if haven’t already fucking call your mom.