History is written by those who win. This is why you can celebrate Columbus Day but there is no Hitler Day. This is why you commemorate the Holocaust but you don’t even know the extent of the genocide that was inflicted upon the Native population in the Americas. Had Nazi Germany won, nobody would have known about the suffering of the Jews and the Nazi leaders would have been looked at under a different light. Nor would the rest of the West would have shown the same consideration towards the Jews and the Holocaust as they pretend to do now in such a case. And if the Europeans had lost in the Americas, history would have narrated to us the crimes that the Europeans committed when they came here, not their glorification.
- Elementary School: Here's a basic understanding of history and how the world works.
- High School: Actually, that's not quite right. Everything is actually a whole lot more complicated than that.
- College: EVERYTHING YOU KNOW IS WRRROOONNNNGGGG
- History Channel: Aliens.
But my rant is actually not quite about that stuff at all. It’s about history, and this notion that History Is Authentically Sexist. Yes, it is. Sure it is. We all know that. But what do you mean when you say “history?”
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.
tansyrr.com» Historically Authentic Sexism in Fantasy. Let’s Unpack That. / A great post from Tansy Rayner Roberts; read the whole thing, share it. (via gwendabond)
Yes. This reminds me of my perpetual frustration with that “well-behaved women rarely make history” thing - not the original quote, the “rah-rah for social rebels” way it’s used. Originally, it’s about how the lives of most women, women who weren’t The Special Woman, Not Like Those Other Girls, but who mostly tried to do what they were supposed to, those lives get ignored and were often unrecorded, the women washed out of history for their trouble.
And then the problem gets compounded in microcosm thanks to the wealth of classic, respected and popular male-authored SFF novels which elide the presence and importance of women in EXACTLY THE SAME WAY that the historical record does, so that people who grow up reading those novels subconsciously learn that both history AND fantasy are inherently masculine spaces.
And with far too many of those people, you can’t win: because on the one hand, they think it’s implausible to cast female characters in what they perceive to be traditionally masculine roles, but on the other, they find it boring and irrelevant to focus on female characters occupying what they perceive to be traditionally feminine roles. Realism to them - both as relates to history, and to imaginary spaces - therefore amounts to the studied absence of women.
If any of you are going to be writing in a Victorian England -based setting (I’m looking at the Dishonored fandom in particular, but lord knows it’s not just them), seriously consider checking out Inside the Victorian Home: A Portrait of Domestic Life in Victorian England.
It is the most useful and utterly fascinating book. Seriously. It takes you room-by-room through an upper-class family’s house and discusses fucking everything. I lost an hour of the morning re-reading the chapter on the dining room and subsequent discussion of when meals should be served and what color the walls should be painted and where the soup should be placed on the table, and I am now seriously considering taking a leaf our of the lovely medievalthedas’s book and posting excerpts for your reading and setting-enriching pleasure, because who says research has to be boring? This stuff is so good.
This weekend I was schmoozing at an event when some guy asked me what kind of history I study. I said “I’m currently researching the role of gender in Jewish emigration out of the Third Reich,” and he replied “oh you just threw gender in there for fun, huh?” and shot me what he clearly thought to be a charming smile.
The reality is that most of our understandings of history revolve around what men were doing. But by paying attention to the other half of humanity our understanding of history can be radically altered.
For example, with Jewish emigration out of the Third Reich it is just kind of assumed that it was a decision made by a man, and the rest of his family just followed him out of danger. But that is completely inaccurate. Women, constrained to the private social sphere to varying extents, were the first to notice the rise in social anti-Semitism in the beginning of Hitler’s rule. They were the ones to notice their friends pulling away and their social networks coming apart. They were the first to sense the danger.
German Jewish men tended to work in industries which were historically heavily Jewish, thus keeping them from directly experiencing this “social death.” These women would warn their husbands and urge them to begin the emigration process, and often their husbands would overlook or undervalue their concerns (“you’re just being hysterical” etc). After the Nuremberg Laws were passed, and after even more so after Kristallnacht, it fell to women to free their husbands from concentration camps, to run businesses, and to wade through the emigration process.
The fact that the Nazis initially focused their efforts on Jewish men meant that it fell to Jewish women to take charge of the family and plan their escape. In one case, a woman had her husband freed from a camp (to do so, she had to present emigration papers which were not easy to procure), and casually informed him that she had arranged their transport to Shanghai. Her husband—so traumatized from the camp—made no argument. Just by looking at what women were doing, our understanding of this era of Jewish history is changed.
I have read an article arguing that the Renaissance only existed for men, and that women did not undergo this cultural change. The writings of female loyalists in the American Revolutionary period add much needed nuance to our understanding of this period. The character of Jewish liberalism in the first half of the twentieth century is a direct result of the education and socialization of Jewish women. I can give you more examples, but I think you get the point.
So, you wanna understand history? Then you gotta remember the ladies (and not just the privileged ones).
Holy fuck. I was raised Jewish— with female Rabbis, even!— and I did not hear about any of this. Gender studies are important.
This is wonderful. Thank you.
In 1995, Roy Disney decided to release an animated movie about a Powhatan woman known as “Pocahontas”. In answer to a complaint by the Powhatan Nation, he claims the film is “responsible, accurate, and respectful.”
We of the Powhatan Nation disagree. The film distorts history beyond recognition. Our offers to assist Disney with cultural and historical accuracy were rejected. Our efforts urging him to reconsider his misguided mission were spurred.
“Pocahontas” was a nickname, meaning “the naughty one” or “spoiled child”. Her real name was Matoaka. The legend is that she saved a heroic John Smith from being clubbed to death by her father in 1607 - she would have been about 10 or 11 at the time. The truth is that Smith’s fellow colonists described him as an abrasive, ambitious, self-promoting mercenary soldier.
Of all of Powhatan’s children, only “Pocahontas” is known, primarily because she became the hero of Euro-Americans as the “good Indian”, one who saved the life of a white man. Not only is the “good Indian/bad Indian theme” inevitably given new life by Disney, but the history, as recorded by the English themselves, is badly falsified in the name of “entertainment”.
The truth of the matter is that the first time John Smith told the story about this rescue was 17 years after it happened, and it was but one of three reported by the pretentious Smith that he was saved from death by a prominent woman.
Yet in an account Smith wrote after his winter stay with Powhatan’s people, he never mentioned such an incident. In fact, the starving adventurer reported he had been kept comfortable and treated in a friendly fashion as an honored guest of Powhatan and Powhatan’s brothers. Most scholars think the “Pocahontas incident” would have been highly unlikely, especially since it was part of a longer account used as justification to wage war on Powhatan’s Nation.
Euro-Americans must ask themselves why it has been so important to elevate Smith’s fibbing to status as a national myth worthy of being recycled again by Disney. Disney even improves upon it by changing Pocahontas from a little girl into a young woman.
The true Pocahontas story has a sad ending. In 1612, at the age of 17, Pocahontas was treacherously taken prisoner by the English while she was on a social visit, and was held hostage at Jamestown for over a year.
During her captivity, a 28-year-old widower named John Rolfe took a “special interest” in the attractive young prisoner. As a condition of her release, she agreed to marry Rolfe, who the world can thank for commercializing tobacco. Thus, in April 1614, Matoaka, also known as “Pocahontas”, daughter of Chief Powhatan, became “Rebecca Rolfe”. Shortly after, they had a son, whom they named Thomas Rolfe. The descendants of Pocahontas and John Rolfe were known as the “Red Rolfes.”
Two years later on the spring of 1616, Rolfe took her to England where the Virginia Company of London used her in their propaganda campaign to support the colony. She was wined and dined and taken to theaters. It was recorded that on one occasion when she encountered John Smith (who was also in London at the time), she was so furious with him that she turned her back to him, hid her face, and went off by herself for several hours. Later, in a second encounter, she called him a liar and showed him the door.
Rolfe, his young wife, and their son set off for Virginia in March of 1617, but “Rebecca” had to be taken off the ship at Gravesend. She died there on March 21, 1617, at the age of 21. She was buried at Gravesend, but the grave was destroyed in a reconstruction of the church. It was only after her death and her fame in London society that Smith found it convenient to invent the yarn that she had rescued him.
History tells the rest. Chief Powhatan died the following spring of 1618. The people of Smith and Rolfe turned upon the people who had shared their resources with them and had shown them friendship. During Pocahontas’ generation, Powhatan’s people were decimated and dispersed and their lands were taken over. A clear pattern had been set which would soon spread across the American continent.
Chief Roy Crazy Horse
It is unfortunate that this sad story,
which Euro-Americans should find embarrassing,
Disney makes “entertainment” and perpetuates a dishonest and self-serving myth
at the expense of the Powhatan Nation.
We are tired of being analyzed, defined and represented by people other than ourselves, or worse yet, not considered at all. We are frustrated by the imposed isolation and invisibility that comes from being told or expected to choose either a homosexual or heterosexual identity.
Monosexuality is a heterosexist dictate used to oppress homosexuals and to negate the validity of bisexuality.
Bisexuality is a whole, fluid identity. Do not assume that bisexuality is binary or duogamous in nature: that we have “two” sides or that we must be involved simultaneously with both genders to be fulfilled human beings. In fact, don’t assume that there are only two genders. Do not mistake our fluidity for confusion, irresponsibility, or an inability to commit. Do not equate promiscuity, infidelity, or unsafe sexual behavior with bisexuality. Those are human traits that cross all sexual orientations. Nothing should be assumed about anyone’s sexuality, including your own.
We are angered by those who refuse to accept our existence; our issues; our contributions; our alliances; our voice. It is time for the bisexual voice to be heard. Bisexual Manifesto (1990) historic declaration about what it means to be bisexual as defined by members of the bisexual community themselves from the magazine “Anything That Moves”, a literary, journalistic, and topical magazine published in the USA from 1990 to 2002. (via bialogue-group)