Things that ACTUALLY EXISTED FOR REAL IN EUROPEAN HISTORY: Non-white people, mostly those of North African and Middle Eastern heritage who were immigrants, merchants, missionaries, mercenaries advisors, and scholars; female leaders, including the famed Warrior Queen Boudicca; and queer folk, seriously, Shakespeare wrote sonnets for dudes.
Things that did NOT actually exist for real in European History: Magic, faeries, dragons, wizards.
Q.E.D. The “well, there’s no black people/brown people/women leaders/gay people in this European inspired fantasy because that would be inaccurate” rhetoric is bullshit.
Me: No? *reads, has a ragepoplexy*
In case you’ve been living under a rock, Adria Richards is a “dev evangelist” who has come under heavy fire after complaining about sexually construed jokes made at a public panel at PyCon, and outing the programmers making the jokes to the Internet. One of the programmers who made the jokes has also been fired after his company found evidence that this was one in a series of incidents. Adria Richards has since been hit with an Anita Sarkeesian-level backlash: doxing, DDOS-ing, death threats, rape threats, the fucking sad fucking usual run-of-the-mill shit from 4-chan, MRAs at Reddit, etc etc. Oh, and they also got her fired.
In Amanda Blum’s blog post, she:
- tells us that Richards “construed [tech terms] to be used sexually” without providing the additional context that the PyCon representatives she alerted also agreed with Richards that the jokes were “inappropriate”
- tells us that Richards is “not an easy person” because she complained about her panel title and her time slot at a convention Blum’s hosted, then altered her topic to discuss the inclusion of porn at conferences, after she took issue to a panel the conference was hosting entitled “The Money Shot.”
- points out that this one time Richards disliked a t-shirt design so she told her blog about it
- tries to demonstrate that Richards has a pattern of behavior that should make us react to her firing with “schadenfreude” except that because this is all a big case of “overreaction,” everyone is losing.
- explains that she contacted SendGrid to tell them about Richards’ alleged pattern of behavior:
“I emailed SendGrid via friends who worked there to inform them of the pattern: when Adria is offended, she doesn’t work within the community to resolve the problem, and how ultimately,it actually harms female developers because it forms the perception that we are to be feared, we are humorless, that we are hard to work with.”
I’m sorry, but NO. NO, WHAT THE FUCK, NO.
If someone is making you uncomfortable at a conference for any reason you do not have to sit around and put up with it, nor do you have to laugh off the joke and move on, nor do you have to anticipate the inevitable public backlash and firing you will receive if you don’t play by society’s fucked-up sexist rules of behavior.
If you complain about having a shitty time slot at a conference (and WHO THE FUCK HASN’T? I know I certainly have) then it does not mean that you are “difficult to work with” or that you have an established pattern of behavior that should come into play or have any bearing whatsoever the next time you are made uncomfortable at a conference.
If the conference is hosting a panel topic that makes you uncomfortable in any way, whether it’s because of shitty sexist language or because of potential triggers or anything else, then you have the right to fucking say something without being accused of being “difficult” to work with or without being accused of eliciting a pattern of behavior.
Guess what:I, too, have a pattern of behavior!!! that pattern of behavior is called FEELING UNCOMFORTABLE A LOT BECAUSE OF OTHER PEOPLE’S SEXIST BEHAVIOR IN PUBLIC SPACES, including at conferences and geek cons. I have a pattern of behavior that involves frequently feeling unsafe around strange men making sexual jokes in my presence, IMAGINE THAT. And I, like every other woman, and like Adria Richards, deserve to act on my feelings of discomfort and unease when I’m at a convention like this.
I deserve to be able to say, in public, that when I was at DragonCon last fall, a vendor looked at me after someone had bumped into me and spilled alcohol on my chest and leered, “It looks like you’re leaking.” And I deserve to be able to say that in that moment I felt demeaned, objectified, embarrassed, humiliated, scared, and enraged, without being told that this makes me a fucking humorless bitch. I deserve to express those feelings without being reminded about the time I complained to a con staff about a completely different context, or about this one time in 2007 or 2003 when I said and did that one thing. I deserve to have been able to go to DragonCon staff in that moment and say, “what the fuck this is not okay.” And as it turns out, I had nowhere to go, and no one to talk to about that moment until just now.
And that is not okay, because jesus fucking christ, what is happening to Adria Richards right now could be happening to any of us, any woman who gets fed up with having to just shut up and take all of the sexist bullshit that surrounds us on a near-constant basis. And it is NOT okay that even people who are trying to be her “allies” are shaming her and talking about how she obviously overreacted.
You are not required to sit down and shut up. It is not your responsibility to make sure you communicate directly with the people who are making you uncomfortable. It’s not a sign of immaturity if you refuse to (or are unable to) make nice with people who make you feel scared and mortified and ashamed. It is not your job to make sure that you laugh and appear approachable while you are calling out this shitty demeaning objectifying sexist culture in which we live and work.
And it is not Adria Richard’s “overreaction” that is the problem here.
Fiction is not Darwinian: It contains no impartial process of evolution that dispassionately produces the events of a fictional universe. Fiction is miraculously, fundamentally Creationist. When we make worlds, we become gods. And gods are responsible for the things they create, particularly when they create them in their own image.
Laura Hudson writes about the shotage of women characters in Star Wars fore Wired.com in her article “Leia is not enough: Star Wars and the woman problem in Hollywood.”
“Science fiction in particular has always offered a vision of the world not myopically limited by the world as it exists, but liberated by the power of imagination. Perhaps more than any genre of storytelling, it has no excuse to exclude women for so-called practical reasons — especially when it has every reason to imagine a world where they are just as heroic, exceptional, and well-represented as men.”
While not necessarily an indicator of quality, the Bechdel Test recognizes another uncomfortable truth: that women are most often portrayed in media primarily in terms of how they relate to men. I doubt the people who made these movies believe they don’t value women as discrete human beings. But it’s still the story the media shows, if not tells – the narrative we’re all exposed to, over and over, whether we realize it or not.
Yes, many franchises are locked into demographic and historical legacies that make it difficult to introduce new characters that develop the iconic power or fan following of characters like Superman or Spider-Man. This makes women unlikely to play big roles in the important stories, and more likely to be killed, de-powered, or demoted. But the good news for Star Wars is that while these grandfathered gender dynamics may weigh heavy on stories that are still trapped in the past, they need not hinder the future.
see, the problem with white men like seth macfarlane is that they can tell other people to ‘grow a thicker skin’ or ‘stop being so offended’ because there are no ~jokes~ which poke fun at them; jokes which reinforce their lesser place in society.
try making one
jokeobservation about how pathetic white men are and see how they’ll throw the toys out of their prams, crying about ‘stupid bitches’ and ‘misandry’.
To put it simply, I AM TIRED OF TRYING TO EXPLAIN THIS SHIT TO PEOPLE WHO DON’T WANT TO HEAR IT. Especially “jokes” like MacFarlane’s, which, to the layperson’s ear, barely register above microaggressions (if the kind of people who see no problem whatsoever with “We Saw Your Boobs” were the kind of people who used the term “microaggressions”). I am tired of trying to have an intellectual discussion about dog-whistle sexism in a culture where prominent politicians are still trying to grasp what rape is, and in a world where little girls are shot in the head because they want to go to school. Asking people to think critically about some hacky jokes from a dancing cartoonist? You might as well wear a sandwich board that says, “Yell at Me With Bad Grammar.”
I am tired of being called a shrieking harridan for pointing out inequalities so tangible and blatant that they are regularly codified into law. I am tired of being told to provide documentation of inequality in the comments sections of a website where a staff of smart women documents inequality as fast as our fingers can move. Like, you might as well write me a note on a banana peel demanding that I prove to you that bananas exist. I am tired of being asked to “cite sources” proving that sexism is real (that RAPE is real, even!), because there is no way to concisely cite decades and decades of rigorous academia. Allow me to point at the fucking library. We can’t cite “everything,” and our challengers know that. It’s an insulting diversionary tactic, it’s an attempt to drag us all backwards, and fuck it. Do your own research like the rest of the grown-ups.
Lindy West, “Sexism Fatigue: When Seth MacFarlane Is a Complete Ass and You Don’t Even Notice” on Jezebel.
Can Lindy West be my bff?
Ok so Jezebel sucks but this is good.
(via stfufauxminists)And none of that even scratches the surface on the horror perpetuated on women of color here and elsewhere. cf: Quvenzhané Wallis vs the white women being degraded.
I love when people say things like, “you need to accept that people have different opinions than you” when it comes to holding people responsible and discussing the institutional consequences of racism, sexism, religious oppression, political justice, homosexuality and transphobia.
Um no, this isn’t some “I like oranges and you like bananas” type of shit. These opinions are harmful and can be rather dangerous. Especially when “opinions” have been the cause of much discrimination, genocide, colonialism, torture, harassment and even resulting in death.
“Opinions” got Trayvon Martin and boys like him killed, they are the reasons many LGBTQ youth kill themselves everyday, they are the reasons why Muslims have to face discrimination, why women weren’t allowed voices until just pretty recently, why the people of Palestine and Syria are suffering, they are why groups like the KKK and Westboro Baptist Church exist.
So, if you have a problem with people discussing these issues, unfollow and move on.
But hey, it’s just your opinion, right?
I like bananas and you like oranges.
Image taken from tumblr.
Recently, SFF author Tansy Rayner Roberts wrote an excellent post debunking the idea that women did nothing interesting or useful throughout history, and that trying to write fictional stories based on this premise of feminine insignificance is therefore both inaccurate and offensive. To quote:
“History is not a long series of centuries in which men did all the interesting/important things and women stayed home and twiddled their thumbs in between pushing out babies, making soup and dying in childbirth.
History is actually a long series of centuries of men writing down what they thought was important and interesting, and FORGETTING TO WRITE ABOUT WOMEN. It’s also a long series of centuries of women’s work and women’s writing being actively denigrated by men. Writings were destroyed, contributions were downplayed, and women were actively oppressed against, absolutely.
But the forgetting part is vitally important. Most historians and other writers of what we now consider “primary sources” simply didn’t think about women and their contribution to society. They took it for granted, except when that contribution or its lack directly affected men.
This does not in any way mean that the female contribution to society was in fact less interesting or important, or complicated, simply that history—the process of writing down and preserving of the facts, not the facts/events themselves—was looking the other way.”
The relevance of this statement to the creation of SFF stories cannot be understated. Time and again, we see fans and creators alike defending the primacy of homogeneous – which is to say, overwhelmingly white, straight and male – stories on the grounds that anything else would be intrinsically unrealistic. Contrary to how it might seem at first blush, this is not a wholly ironic complaint: as I’ve recently had cause to explain elsewhere, the plausibility of SFF stories is derived in large part from their ability to make the impossible feel realistic. A fictional city might be powered by magic and the dreams of dead gods, but it still has to read like a viable human space and be populated by viable human characters. In that sense, it’s arguable that SFF stories actually place a greater primacy on realism than straight fiction, because they have to work harder to compensate for the inclusion of obvious falsehoods. Which is why there’s such an integral relationship between history and fantasy: our knowledge of the former frequently underpins our acceptance of the latter. Once upon a time, we know, there really were knights and castles and quests, and maps whose blank spaces warned of dragons and magic. That being so, a medieval fantasy novel only needs to convince us that the old myths were true; that wizards and witches existed, and that monsters really did populate the wilds. Everything else that’s dissonant with modern reality – the clothes, the customs, the social structure – must therefore constitute a species of historical accuracy, albeit one that’s liberally seasoned with poetic license, because that vague, historical blueprint is what we already have in our heads.
But what happens when our perception of historical accuracy is entirely at odds with real historical accuracy? What happens when we mistake our own limited understanding of culture – or even our personal biases – for universal truths? What happens, in other words, when we’re jerked out of a story, not because the fantastic elements don’t make sense, but because the social/political elements strike us as being implausible on the grounds of unfamiliarity?
The answer tends to be as ugly as it is revealing: that it’s impossible for black, female pirates to exist anywhere, thatpixies and shapeshifters are inherently more plausible as a concept than female action heroes who don’t get raped, and that fairy tale characters as diverse as Mulan, Snow White and Captain Hook can all live together in the modern world regardless of history and canon, but a black Lancelot in the same setting is grossly unrealistic. On such occasions, the recent observation of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Junot Diaz that “Motherfuckers will read a book that’s 1/3rd elvish, but put two sentences in Spanish and they (white people) think we’re taking over” is bitingly, lamentably accurate. And it’s all thanks to a potent blend of prejudice and ignorance: prejudice here meaning the conviction that deliberately including POC, female and/or LGBTQ characters can only ever be a political action (and therefore an inherently suspicious one), and ignorance here meaning the conviction that the historical pervasiveness of sexism, racism and homophobia must necessarily mean that any character shown to surpass these limitations is inherently unrealistic.
Let’s start with the latter claim, shall we?
Because as Roberts rightly points out, there’s a significant difference between history as written and history as happened, with a further dissonance between both those states and history as it’s popularly perceived. For instance: female pirates – and, indeed, female pirates of colour – are very much an historical reality. The formidable Ching Shih, a former prostitute, commanded more than 1800 ships and 80,000 pirates, took on the British empire and was successful enough to eventually retire. There were female Muslim pirates and female Irish pirates – female pirates, in fact, from any number of places, times and backgrounds. But because their existence isn’t routinely taught or acknowledged, we assume them to be impossible. The history of women in the sciences is plagued by similar misconceptions, their vital contributions belittled, forgotten and otherwise elided for so many years that even now, the majority of them continue to be overlooked. Ada Lovelace and Marie Curie are far from being exceptions to the rule: Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, Leise Meitner and Emmy Noether all contributed greatly to our understanding of science, as did countless others. And in the modern day, young female scientists abound despite the ongoing belief in their rarity: nineteen-year-old Aisha Mustafa has patented a new propulsion system for spacecraft, while a young group of Nigerian schoolgirls recently invented a urine-powered generator. Even the world’s first chemist was a woman.
And nor is female achievement restricted to the sciences. Heloise d’Argenteuil was accounted one of the brightest intellectuals of her day; Bessie Coleman was both the first black female flyer and the first African American to hold an international pilot’s licence; Nellie Bly was a famed investigative journalist, not only travelling around the world solo in record time (in which adventure she raced against and beat another female reporter, Elizabeth Bisland), but uncovering the deplorable treatment of inmates at Blackwell Asylum by going undercover as a patient. Sarah Josephine Baker was a famous physician known for tracking down Typhoid Mary, tirelessly fighting poverty and, as a consequence, drastically improving newborn care. And in the modern day, there’s no shortage of female icons out fighting racism, sexism, homophobia and injustice despite the limitations society wants to impose on them: journalistMarie Colvin, who died this year reporting on the Syrian uprising; Burmese politician and activist Aung San Suu Kyi, who spent some 15 years as a political prisoner; fifteen-year-old Malala Yousafzai, who survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban for her advocacy of female education; and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakul Karman, who jointly won last year’s Nobel Peace Prize for their work in support of women’s rights.
But what about historical women in positions of leadership – warriors, politicians, powerbrokers? Where do they fit in? The ancient world provides any number of well-known examples – Agrippina the Younger, Cleopatra, Boudica,Queen Bilquis of Sheba, Nefertiti – but they, too, are far from being unusual: alongside the myriad female soldiersthroughout history who disguised themselves as men stand the Dahomey Amazons, the Soviet Night Witches, thefemale cowboys of the American west and the modern Asgarda of Ukraine; the Empress Dowager Cixi, Queen Elizabeth I and Ka’iulani all ruled despite opposition, while a wealth of African queens, female rulers and rebels have had their histories virtually expunged from common knowledge. At just twenty years old, Juana Galan successfully lead the women of her village against Napoleon’s troops, an action which ultimately caused the French to abandon her home province of La Mancha. Women played a major part in the Mexican revolution, too, much like modern women across Africa and the Middle East, while the Irish revolutionary, suffragette and politician Constance Markievicz, when asked to provide other women with fashion advice, famously replied that they should “Dress suitably in short skirts and strong boots, leave your jewels in the bank, and buy a revolver.” More recently still, in WWII, New Zealander Nancy Wake served as a leading French resistance fighter: known to the Gestapo as the White Mouse, she once killed an SS sentry with her bare hands and took command of a maquis unit when their male commander died in battle. Elsewhere during the same conflict, Irena Sendler survived both torture and a Nazi death sentence to smuggle some 2,500 Jewish children safely out of the Warsaw ghetto, for which she was nominated for a Nobel peace prize in 2007.
And what of gender roles and sexual orientation – the various social, romantic and matrimonial mores we so frequently assume to be static, innate and immutable despite the wealth of information across biology and history telling us the opposite? Consider the modern matriarchy of Meghalaya, where power and property descend through matrilineal lines and men are the suffragettes. Consider the longstanding Afghan practice of Bacha Posh, where girl children are raised as boys, or the sworn virgins of Albania – women who live as and are legally considered to be men, provided they remain chaste. Consider the honoured status of Winkte and two-spirit persons in various First Nations cultures, and the historical acceptance of both the Fa’afafine of Samoa and the Hijra of India and South-East Asia. Consider the Biblical relationship described in the Book of Samuel between David and Jonathan of Israel, the inferred romance between Alexander the Great and Hephaestion, and the openly gay emperors of the Han Dynasty - including Emperor Ai of Han, whose relationship with Dong Xian gave rise to the phrase ‘the passion of the cut sleeve’. Consider the poetry of Sappho, the relationship between Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein, the tradition of normative, female-female relationships in Basotho, and the role of the Magnonmaka in Mali – nuptial advisers whose teach women how to embrace and enjoy their sexuality in marriage.
And then there’s the twin, misguided beliefs that Europe was both wholly white and just as racially prejudiced as modern society from antiquity through to the Middle Ages – practically right up until the present day. Never mind that no less than three Arthurian Knights of the Round Table – Sir Palamedes, Sir Safir and Sir Segwarides – are canonically stated to be Middle Eastern, or the fact that people of African descent have been present in Europe since classical times; and not just as slaves or soldiers, but as aristocrats. The network of trade routes known collectively asthe Silk Road that linked Europe with parts Africa, the Middle East, India and Asia were established as early as 100 BC; later, black Africans had a visible, significant, complex presence in Europe during the Renaissance, while much classic Greek and Roman literature was only preserved thanks to the dedication of Arabic scholars during the Abbasid Caliphate, also known as the Islamic Golden Age, whose intellectuals were also responsible for many advances in medicine, science and mathematics subsequently appropriated and claimed as Western innovations. Even in the eighteen and nineteen hundreds, it’s possible to find examples of prominent POC in Europe: Alexandre Dumas, author of The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo, was of Creole descent, as was Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, the famous British composer, while Jamaican nurse Mary Seacole was honoured alongside Florence Nightingale for her work during the Crimean War.
I could go on. As exhaustive as this information might seem, it barely scratches the surface. But as limited an overview as these paragraphs present, they should still be sufficient to make one very simple point: that even in highly prejudicial settings supposedly based on real human societies, trying to to argue that women, POC and/or LGBTQ persons can’t so much as wield even small amounts of power in the narrative, let alone exist as autonomous individuals without straining credulity to the breaking point, is the exact polar opposite of historically accurate writing.
Which leads me back to the issue of prejudice: specifically, to the claim that including such characters in SFF stories, by dint of contradicting the model of straight, white, male homogeneity laid down by Tolkien and taken as gospel ever since, is an inherently political – and therefore suspect – act. To which I say: what on Earth makes you think that the classic SWM default is apolitical? If it can reasonably argued that a character’s gender, race and sexual orientation have political implications, then why should that verdict only apply to characters who differ from both yourself and your expectations? Isn’t the assertion that straight white men are narratively neutral itself a political statement, one which seeks to marginalise as exceptional or abnormal the experiences of every other possible type of person on the planet despite the fact that straight white men are themselves a global minority? And even if a particular character was deliberately written to make a political point, why should that threaten you? Why should it matter that people with different beliefs and backgrounds are using fiction to write inspirational wish-fulfillment characters for themselves, but from whose struggle and empowerment you feel personally estranged? That’s not bad writing, and as we’ve established by now, it’s certainly not bad history – and particularly not when you remember (as so many people seem to forget) that fictional cultures are under no obligation whatsoever to conform to historical mores. It just means that someone has managed to write a successful story that doesn’t consider you to be its primary audience – and if the prospect of not being wholly, overwhelmingly catered to is something you find disturbing, threatening, wrong? Then yeah: I’m going to call you a bigot, and I probably won’t be wrong.
Point being, I’m sick to death of historical accuracy being trotted out as the excuse du jour whenever someone freaks out about the inclusion of a particular type of character in SFF, because the ultimate insincerity behind the claim is so palpable it’s practically a food group. I’m yet to see someone who objects to the supposed historic inaccuracy of, for instance, female cavalry regiments (which – surprise! - is totally a thing) raise similarly vehement objections to any other aspect of historically suspicious worldbuilding, like longbows in the wrong period or medical knowledge being too far advanced for the setting. The reason for this is, I suspect, simple: that most people with sufficient historical knowledge to pick up on issues like nonsensical farming techniques, the anachronistic presence of magnets in ancient settings and corsetry in the wrong era also know about historical diversity, and therefore don’t find its inclusion confronting. Almost uniformly, in fact, it seems as though such complaints of racial and sexual inaccuracy have nothing whatsoever to do with history and everything to do with a foggy, bastardised and ultimately inaccurate species of faux-knowledge gleaned primarily – if not exclusively – from homogeneous SFF, RPG settings, TV shows and Hollywood. And if that’s so, then no historic sensibilities are actually being affronted, because none genuinely exist: instead, it’s just a reflexive way of expressing either conscious or subconscious outrage that someone who isn’t white, straight and/or male is being given the spotlight.
Because ultimately, these are SFF stories: narratives set in realms that don’t and can’t exist. And if you still want to police the prospects of their inhabitants in line with a single, misguided view of both human history and human possibility, then congratulations: you have officially missed the point of inventing new worlds to begin with.
While one can use both logic and data to poke gaping holes in Suzanne Venker’s argument that women need to surrender to their femininity and let men think that they’re in charge if they ever want to get married, I just want to point out one thing — one endlessly repeated thing — that she gets very, very wrong.
Venker claims that there has “been an explosion of brain research” that proves that men and women have different brains. This research, she claims, shows that men are loners who like to hunt and build things and women are nurturers who like to talk and take care of people.
This false on two fronts.
First, she’s wrong about the brain research. The books and articles claiming that there are “pink” and “blue” brains are not consistent with existing research. (They are out there because people can make a lot of money by confirming other people’s biases.)
What does the research say?
It’s true that scientists have documented a number of small, average sex differences in brain anatomy, composition, and function, as well as differences in size and tissue ratios. (Other differences — such as the size of the corpus callosum and lateralization, whether one sex uses one side of their brain more than the other — have proven to be wrong.)
So, scientists do find some differences, but they have largely failed to link these to differences in men’s and women’s observed emotions, cognition, or behavior. That is, we’ve found some differences, but we have no proof that they translate into anything. Moreover, new research suggests that differences we observe may be designed not to create differences between men and women, but to reduce them. The brain may have two strategies for achieving the same outcome or one difference may compensate for another. (For more, see Brain Gender by Melissa Hines.)
- idealized men are the powerful, complex people you want to be
- idealized women are things men want to fuck
- any questions?
Women invented all the core technologies that made civilization possible. This isn’t some feminist myth; it’s what modern anthropologists believe. Women are thought to have invented pottery, basketmaking, weaving, textiles, horticulture, and agriculture. That’s right: without women’s inventions, we wouldn’t be able to carry things or store things or tie things up or go fishing or hunt with nets or haft a blade or wear clothes or grow our food or live in permanent settlements. Suck on that.
Women have continued to be involved in the creation and advancement of civilization throughout history, whether you know it or not. Pick anything—a technology, a science, an art form, a school of thought—and start digging into the background. You’ll find women there, I guarantee, making critical contributions and often inventing the damn shit in the first place.
Women have made those contributions in spite of astonishing hurdles. Hurdles like not being allowed to go to school. Hurdles like not being allowed to work in an office with men, or join a professional society, or walk on the street, or own property. Example: look up Lise Meitner some time. When she was born in 1878 it was illegal in Austria for girls to attend school past the age of 13. Once the laws finally eased up and she could go to university, she wasn’t allowed to study with the men. Then she got a research post but wasn’t allowed to use the lab on account of girl cooties. Her whole life was like this, but she still managed to discover nuclear fucking fission. Then the Nobel committee gave the prize to her junior male colleague and ignored her existence completely.
Men in all patriarchal civilizations, including ours, have worked to downplay or deny women’s creative contributions. That’s because patriarchy is founded on the belief that women are breeding stock and men are the only people who can think. The easiest way for men to erase women’s contributions is to simply ignore that they happened. Because when you ignore something, it gets forgotten. People in the next generation don’t hear about it, and so they grow up thinking that no women have ever done anything. And then when women in their generation do stuff, they think “it’s a fluke, never happened before in the history of the world, ignore it.” And so they ignore it, and it gets forgotten. And on and on and on. The New York Times article is a perfect illustration of this principle in action.
Finally, and this is important: even those women who weren’t inventors and intellectuals, even those women who really did spend all their lives doing stereotypical “women’s work”—they also built this world. The mundane labor of life is what makes everything else possible. Before you can have scientists and engineers and artists, you have to have a whole bunch of people (and it’s usually women) to hold down the basics: to grow and harvest and cook the food, to provide clothes and shelter, to fetch the firewood and the water, to nurture and nurse, to tend and teach. Every single scrap of civilized inventing and dreaming and thinking rides on top of that foundation. Never forget that.
from a post by Reclusive Leftist on women’s erasure in history.
her comments relate specifically to an article by the NYT thanking “the men” who invented modern technology, but pick absolutely any academic field of study, and women’s contributions are minimized, if not outright ignored.
literature has been a huge part of my life for a long time, and i grew up reading the classics—which, of course, are typically books written by white men, depicting their experiences. i was taught that the first “modern novel” was Don Quixote, written in the early 1600s by a guy (Cervantes). i don’t think i know of a word to accurately describe my mixture of outrage, shock, and pride, when i discovered later that actually, the first modern novel was written 600 years earlier—by a woman! (it’s The Tale of Genji, written by a Japanese lady-in-waiting who was known as Murasaki Shikibu.)
this might not seem important, but if you’re a woman you know just how vital this knowledge is. even now, when women are being told that we can do anything we set our minds to, the historical, literary, and scientific figures we learn about are all men. it’s a much more insidious way to discourage women from aiming high—because what’s the point in putting in so much hard work if it’s not even going to be remembered after you’re dead?
All of this. For a long time, women couldn’t apply for patents in the US, so even if they invented something, they had to let their husband or male colleague take credit for it. Us ladies had made significant contributions to every field of study out there, and I am sick and tired of seeing that shit get ignored.