Why no women's history? Blame the Patriarchive! (An International Women's Day omnibus spectacular and bee-yatchfest.)

someone was going to have to set a bad exampleWell, we’re a full week into Women’s History Month, but Historiann has been so immersed in one woman’s fate that she hasn’t had time to come up for air–until today.  Apologies, sisters and brothers!  Consider this an “open thread” for any and all random thoughts on Women’s History Month–but just for kicks, here are a few l’il tidbits for your brain to nosh on:

1.  Check out The Patriarchive, which I’ve blogrolled under “History Geek Squad” at left.  Aside from having a most excellent name, this blog is about “gender, libraries, archives, technology, outreach, teaching, the digital divide, and blaming the patriarchy.”  Whew!  And what will she blog about after breakfast?  Who is this young mystery Marxist feminist librarian, and can I read what she’s reading?  We know only one thing about her–that like this dangerous woman she attended a subversive undergraduate college–but I hope we’ll learn more. 

2.  Anxious Black Woman is following up her excellent Black Herstory Month series with Women’s History Month blogging.  Go check it out, especially because today is International Women’s Day.  (Ortho at Baudrillard’s Bastard might be especially interested in her most recent post on Global Lockdown, an edited collection on women in the prison industrial complex.)

3.  Women in medicine:  part of an occasional series on the lives of women professionals around the world.  This is a true story, although some of the details have been altered:  one of Historiann’s college roommates is in academic critical care.  (I know!  Thank goodness no one’s life depends on me!)  She writes:  I’m a meeting for [The Very Important Research Physicians in Intensive Care Conference].  I am approached by an ICU Professor at the University of [Ben & Jerry’s] who introduces himself and then asks, “So what do you do?”  I respond, “I’m here in [Whoville], and I work with [this Division Chief]”.  He looks very puzzled.  “But what do you do??” he repeats.  “I mean, are you a resident or a nurse?”  Uhmmm, no Jerky McJerkface, she’s just like you, an actual professor of this bullcrap, although she apparently has lady parts!  This is just one in a series of insults that she has been offered in partial recompense for her lifelong dedication to her field.  Is it better to get angry every time this happens, so that one doesn’t get become blase about these things, or is it better to take happy pills and say, “whatevs, Last Century Dude.”  (Or, in l’esprit de l’escalier, should she have said, “I’m an attending physician dumbass, are you looking for the Senile Dementia conference?”  What say you, PalMD?)

4.  Do any of you have recommendations for a good picture book (ages 3-8-ish) that would serve as a good introduction to women’s history for the preschool/kingergarten set?  Perhaps a moving story about a little girl in history?  (Example of something like what I’m looking for:  there’s a very good book for preschoolers that introduces the concept of slavery and emancipation called Henry’s Freedom Box, by Ellen Levine and illustrated by Kadir Nelson, about Henry “Box” Brown.)

 5.  Et vous, mes amis?  What’s happening around your council fire?

0 thoughts on “Why no women's history? Blame the Patriarchive! (An International Women's Day omnibus spectacular and bee-yatchfest.)

  1. Hi Historiann! Thanks for looking out for me!

    I didn’t realize that we were in Women’s History Month. What do you think about the politics of designating, and in essence, segregating the history of “Women” or “Black people” to a month? I think it is appalling, insulting, and another example how some well-meaning diversity initiatives just reinforce the status quo of white, male privilege.

    To speak metaphorically, it’s as if the benevolent dictator magnificently grants a couple months out of the year to “explore” and “celebrate” the histories of others only to cement allegiance to his “benign” regime of patriarchy.


  2. Well, I think feminist scholars have done a good job integrating women’s history into black history month, and making women’s history month about more than just white middle-class women (although not enough, surely.) But I gather that your point is more the implication that we can talk about brown and black people one month (the shortest one, natch!) and the XX chromosome people the following month, but then April through January we can carry on doing the “real” history that doesn’t necessarily include everyone we talked about in February and March.

    I take your point about “reinforcing the status quo,” but on the other hand, if we dropped these two months designated to highlight African American & women’s history, then I’m afraid that we’d be back to close to zero representation of brown and black people and XX chromosome people at any time during the year in lectures, featured in library events, on syllabi, etc. (And, speaking in a completely self-interested fashion, Black History and Women’s History Months sometimes mean paying speaking opportunities for scholars whose work is not yet at the center of American historiography. I had a great March last year, with two paying invitations to speak!) It’s nice to think that we’re above all this now–I wish it were true–but I don’t think so.


  3. Just a thought re: your friend the medical professor — this might have been a backhanded compliment, i.e. she looks too young to be an attending. I used to get mistaken for an undergraduate when I first started teaching. Although it was annoying then, now that I’m an old fart full-professor, I look back on those days with a bit of nostalgia . . .


  4. Stuart–thanks for letting us know. By the way, I read Joyce Johnson’s _Minor Characters_ in college, and it’s one of the books I liked best from my undergrad years. Kudos too on the Amiri Baraka posts–I (heart) Baraka!

    Knitting Clio–well, she is dewily youthful and petite, but I don’t think that was the reason Professor McJerkface was confused about why she was there. After all, there are plenty of late-thirtysomething men in critical care, and I’m sure they don’t get challenged as much. I’ve only seen a man’s youth used to challenge his authority/position once, when a junior colleage arrived late to a meeting with our former Dean. She assumed he was an interloper, and said, “Excuse me, this is a meeting. If you’re looking for a class, it’s in another room.” However, I think that particular encounter said more about how that particular dean didn’t know who her faculty are, or how to read people’s body language and appearance. He was wearing a shirt and tie, and dressed and moved like he belonged in the meeting, so it was just an embarassment for her all the way around. (And, she was an idiot in more ways than one, so it was all of a piece with her.)


  5. Obviously, women aren’t fit to practice medicine On the bright side, someone thought she looked young enough to be a resident.

    On the other hand, to mix metaphors, women physicians are often not taken seriously even by other women. They are often referred to as “lady doctors” (I s’pose as opposed to us be-phallused real doctors).

    One of the nice things about primary care medicine is that it is actually possible to be a part time physician and mother without undue penalty. In academics there are obviously pitfalls, but out here in the real world, part time women physicians are more and more common, and just as respected.

    There are other interesting, although expected, trends. My female partner does far more paps than I do. That can be viewed as a “ghettoization”, or simply that many women feel more comfortable with a woman doing their pap.

    I could go on, but I’ll spare you.


  6. Got it, Pal! I don’t think anyone here would take it seriously, even if you did! From what I understand NICU/PICU/ICU are macho sub-specialities, and academic medicine is (as you say) more macho than private practice. My friend does look young enough to be a resident or a fellow, but if she lets her gray grow out or in another 10 years or so, I guess people will just assume she’s a nurse and not offer the resident or fellow option.


  7. quite possible. In general, among patients, it seems to be the older patients who make the “mistake” the most.

    In the macho publish/perish world of academia, all bets are off.


  8. Thanks for the kudos on the Baraka stories!

    On the topic of recognition for women in the professions we all have a ways to go, also in Europe. The person I am married to has been an associate prof. of American Studies for about a year and a half now, but she is regularly treated as a part-timer by her male colleagues who can’t seem to wrap their ‘brains’ around the fact that she is tenured: “What, you’re an associate prof. just like us?” is one of the more memorable actual quotes from an elderly historian at her dept. “Does that mean you took Carl’s job?”, he continued… Another ‘fine’ moment ocurred when a colleague of hers assumed that since she was commuting to work from where we currently live (5 h. by train), she “must be a part-time lecturer…” This peculiar male form of ‘logic’ continues to mystify me…


  9. One of my 6-year-old daughter’s favorite books is “You Forgot Your Skirt, Amelia Bloomer!” about dress reform and 19th c. women’s rights. It has a fun story (well, if women’s oppression can be fun – but Amelia Bloomer is fun!) and lively colorful illustrations and takes the “fashion” question up to today. My daughter likes it because she shares her name with Bloomer’s paper, The Lily 😉

    Our reading list also includes a straightforward “easy reader” biography series called Rookie Biographies (I think they are a Scholastic Books imprint??). I like them because they are easy to read independently, but not dumbed down at all (explaining new or big vocabulary words), and include real archival photographs. We just read “Rachel Carson” and “Helen Keller,” but there are numerous other female subjects covered.
    Children’s author David Adler also has an illustrated biography series for younger kids.


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