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A thread about annyoing re-writings of history

(219 Posts)
Sakura Fri 01-Oct-10 06:31:28

Just thinking about how feted male authors/artists/scientists/revolutionaries in our culture and how female equivalents are ignored. Dworkin wrote of how good writing by women is despised, not in a romantic way, but actually despised.

I opened up Sep 27 2010 issue of Newsweek today and saw this enormous 5 page article called Men's lib. IN the first paragraph:

...As the U.S evonomy has transitioned from brawn to brain over the past three decades, a growing number of women have gone off to work....

Immediately this paragraph denies the brawn of domestic drudgery that women have undertaken, the fact that women worked in the factories for a pittance, that they were the cheap labour that drove the industrial revolution, that they did the back-breaking work of carrying water, hoeing, harvesting and cooking..that today women still get the low-status manual labour and that while men do carry out manual labour, a hell of a lot of men have kept the cushy, light, prestigious jobs for themselves.

In one fell swoop, the sentence denies Herstory with a rewriting of history. How often does this "mistake" happen on a daily basis? Does it serve to brainwash the new generation of men and women that women only started working after the fifties when men finally "allowed" them to hmm ?

Sakura Fri 01-Oct-10 06:48:38

A good example, is how I've noticed that feminists are frequently accused of "witch-hunting" or going on a "witch-hunt" if they identify someone or something as antifeminist.
Apart from the fact that this accusation of "witch-hunting" serves to tie women's hands in a ' damned if we do , damned if we don't ' manner not imposed on other minority groups, it is also a cruel irony, when you consider it was innocent women who were witch-hunted all accross Europe. As Elephants says about witch-hunters: "No, tHat was the other guys.

Beachcomber Fri 01-Oct-10 08:25:04

Interesting thread. Marking my place and going to have a think.

One obvious example; I studied history (how ironic - wish I'd done women's studies now). We covered both world wars with practically zero mention of women's role in the wars and how the wars changed things for women.

Unbelievably the book that got me thinking about how the wars changed things for women was a work of children's fiction. (The Flambards trilogy - written by a woman of course.)

ElephantsAndMiasmas Fri 01-Oct-10 10:07:21

I know beachcomber, there was an advert for an upcoming programme the other day, called something like "War - The Untold Stories" and I scoured the screen for sight of a woman, but nope. Althought last night on another channel there was a programme on called Spitfire Women which I can't wait to watch.

OP - I was reading an article about childhood obesity and the correlation with women "going out to work". Totally ignored many simple facts including a) most women have always worked b) the work is usually to feed the aforementioned children, not just an indulgence FGS, c)what a coincidence that the (unmentioned) rise of refined, sugary and fatty foods occurred at the same time. Shall we mention that? No. Selfish ladies

Will have a think.

ElephantsAndMiasmas Fri 01-Oct-10 10:13:48

In fact it's bizarre - when I picture the industrial revolution I see images mainly of women (and children) in cloth mills, ribbon factories etc etc. I know that's from actual images I've seen and accounts I've read. Surely the people writing this guff must have heard of it too? It just seems like a deliberate ignoring of the truth.

You've got pretty well-known authors like Dickens and Elizabeth Gaskell writing in some depth about women working (especially "Mary Barton" if you haven't read it), it's not like it's been covered up.

I think also it's a mark of the class of people who are (still) writing our news. Thanks to the networking aspect you have mainly quite privileged people going into these businesses, and perhaps their mothers/grandmothers/other female ancestors didn't work? Still very stupid to not investigate before writing a steaming pile though.

togarama Fri 01-Oct-10 10:31:06

Yes, there's total ignorance out there about female history even among better educated sections of society.

As Elephants noted, this is about class as much as gender. The majority of women have always worked but in low-paid, low-status professions. They had pretty much no voice.

The women with a voice tended to belong to more affluent families where women would not have needed to work. They were a small minority.

TheSmallClanger Fri 01-Oct-10 11:09:09

This is probably the most insidious case of antifeminist revisionism, but it doesn't just stop at working class women.

There is a tendency among certain writers and commenters to downplay even the most high-profile female achievements in history. For example, certain historians (can't think of any names at the moment) have made strong claims that Amelia Earhart didn't actually pilot her plane on all of her journeys. If this is a historic fact, then this is perhaps all well and good, but none of these writers has ever gone after any of the male aviation pioneers in this manner, when any one of them could have been exaggerating.

I read a book about early spaceflight quite recently, and the dismissive way that the author had written about Valentina Tereshkova really riled me. He was at pains to point out that she was not a pilot, and that her space capsule was controlled remotely, thus undermining her achievements. He fails to mention that all spacecraft of this time gave very little control to the astronaut, making Valentina no different in this respect from her peers.

ElephantsAndMiasmas Fri 01-Oct-10 11:23:04

You hear the same thing about the Bronte sisters - did their brother write their books? (Not the same as Shakespeare controversy because we have all their letters, accounts of meeting with publishers etc to prove it)

sethstarkaddersmum Fri 01-Oct-10 11:48:03

what a fab idea for a thread Sakura.

Elephants - has anyone seriously said that about Branwell Bronte? There is Mr Mybug, the character in Cold Comfort Farm, who is trying to prove it, of course.

I had an argument on here back in the spring I think, with some bloke who was insisting women hadn't helped build the canals. Then he moved the goalposts and said labouring like carrying away soil didn't count, it only counted if you were a proper navvy. confused

Isn't it The Whole Woman there where is a great line about how water is heavy but somehow it is still always women's job to carry it?

scallopsrgreat Fri 01-Oct-10 11:53:06

DNA discovery - Crick and Watson get all the mentions and plaudits. Rosalind Franklin made the real breakthrough that led to the discovery and Crick and Watson, by their own admission took some of her results without her knowledge and 2 weeks later DNA structure was magically discovered. They received the Nobel prize in 1962, she had ovarian cancer and died 1958 and they don't give posthumous nobel prizes.

StewieGriffinsMom Fri 01-Oct-10 11:54:06

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

sethstarkaddersmum Fri 01-Oct-10 12:00:00

didn't Watson say he didn't think she should have had it anyway?
along with all the other daft things he has said....

StewieGriffinsMom Fri 01-Oct-10 12:01:17

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

sethstarkaddersmum Fri 01-Oct-10 12:04:41

actually I might have been getting that muddled up with one of the people who got the Nobel Prize for pulsars saying it wasn't an injustice that Jocelyn Bell Burnell didn't get it.

ElephantsAndMiasmas Fri 01-Oct-10 12:13:35

SSM - well I remember reading that Stella Gibbons didn't make that up, it was a current controversy at the time. I found this loony who agrees, and apparently E F Benson's biography of Charlotte makes the claim that Branwell wrote at least the first part of Wuthering Heights.

Good point about the water.

Do these people not travel or watch TV? When I lived in India I saw far far more women than men doing the heavy work of road-mending, carrying hot loads of tar in buckets on their heads, digging, working in the fields etc etc. I mean, it's always been this way hasn't it, that's how the men in factories etc originally justified their higher pay wasn't it? That they were the "skilled" supervisors and the women were doing the heavy unskilled stuff.

ElephantsAndMiasmas Fri 01-Oct-10 12:15:50

SGM - please mention it to your DSs too (if any) or nephews etc. Very important IMO that the "secret history" of women's achievement isn't just passed down through the female line. (I wrote a blogpost for someone for Ada Lovelace day about that, will try to find)

notcitrus Fri 01-Oct-10 12:20:55

Franklin did do most of the crystallography, working for Maurice Wilkins at Kings. He took a bunch of her results to show Watson and Crick in Cambridge, to help them with their attempts to find a structure.

I used to work in the same building as Wilkins and after getting drunk at his 80th, we asked him what really happened - he said that he and W+C should have treated her better. Yes she was odd and antisocial but it possibly wasn't surprising, and yes they were just acting how they'd been expected to, but they should have treated her better.

Supervisors nicking juniors' work is still hugely common, but I think if she hadn't died so young she might well have been included in the prize - the Nobel committee in many cases have a list of contenders and wait for all-but-three to die off.

When three people got the Nobel in my field some years back, rumour has it that there were four contenders but it was decided that one was a total tosser so they didn't give it to him...

AvrilHeytch Fri 01-Oct-10 12:26:17

Message withdrawn

ElephantsAndMiasmas Fri 01-Oct-10 12:26:18

Here if you're interested SGM (not the best piece of writing ever).

Pogleswood Fri 01-Oct-10 12:43:29

Slightly different angle - but where did the whole idea of women being unsuited for serious thought,and thus at risk of brain fever and a mass of other awful fates come from?
Because there are quite a lot of well known,well educated,obviously intelligent women in history,aren't there? (Elizabeth 1st for starters)

ElephantsAndMiasmas Fri 01-Oct-10 13:05:44

yes but she was royal innit. Although she had more than her fair share of shit to cope with on the feminist front. Maybe she'd have quite liked to get married to someone without giving up her job? Or to have led troops into battle (a far sight better than her wanker of a father)?

I was reading just recently about the medical advice to women going to college in the early twentieth century - did you know blood going to the brain directs it away from your lady parts and makes your uterus wither?

I never understood that bit in P&P where Mr Collins likes to read aloud from Fordyce's sermons, then I actually had to read some of them. Oh My God. It's "women, don't bother about religious thinking too much, keep yourself pretty and please your husband and Jesus will be overjoyed" basically. From a vicar.

notquitenormal Fri 01-Oct-10 13:36:53

This reminded me of the story of Women Chainmaker's in the Blackcountry. I read about it as a teenager, reading an obscure library book about the history of women & work, and it had a huge influence on me.

I just googled it and found there's a commemoration in a couple of weeks time:Cradley Women Chainmakers' Festival

Warms the cockles of my heart that does.

I might go.

ElephantsAndMiasmas Fri 01-Oct-10 13:37:50

Also babies are actually quite heavy aren't they.

sethstarkaddersmum Fri 01-Oct-10 13:40:30

<wishes NQN would start a thread about the Women Chainmakers Festival, just for the pleasure of seeing it in Active Convos.>

sethstarkaddersmum Fri 01-Oct-10 13:42:33

yes, they are especially heavy when they become toddlers and small children.

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