Yet some would say, why women’s history at all? Surely men and women have always shared a world, and suffered together all its rights and wrongs? It is a common belief that whatever the situation, both sexes faced it alike. But the male peasant, however cruelly oppressed, always had the right to beat his wife. The black slave had to labor for the white master by day, but he did not have to service him by night as well. This grim pattern continues to this day, with women bearing an extra ration of pain and misery whatever the circumstances, as the sufferings of the women of war-torn Eastern Europe will testify. While their men fought and died, wholesale and systematic rape—often accompanied by the same torture and death that the men suffered—was a fate only women had to endure. Women’s history springs from moments of recognition such as this, and the awareness of the difference is still very new. Only in our time have historians begun to look at the historical experience of men and women separately, and to acknowledge that for most of our human past, women’s interests have
been opposed to those of men. Women’s interests have been opposed by them, too: men have not willingly extended to women the rights and freedoms they have claimed for themselves. As a result, historical advances have tended to be “men only” affairs. When history concentrates
solely on one half of the human race, any alternative truth or
reality is lost. Men dominate history because they write it, and their accounts of active, brave, clever or aggressive females constantly tend to sentimentalize, to mythologize or to pull women back to some perceived “norm.” As a result, much of the so-called historical record is simply untrue. For example, Joan of Arc was burned not for heresy but for wearing men’s clothes, as were other women right up to the
eighteenth century. Florence Nightingale was never called “the Lady with the Lamp,” but “the Lady with the Hammer,” an image deftly readjusted by the war reporter of the Times since it was far too coarse for the folks back home. Far from gliding about the hospital with her lamp aloft, Nightingale earned her nickname through a ferocious attack on a locked storeroom when a military commander refused to
give her the medical supplies she needed.
We also need women’s history because so much of women’s participation is frankly denied in the ceaseless effort to assert men’s “natural” superiority at all costs. Who knows now that the owner of the Round Table was not Arthur but Guenevere, or that generations of battling queens in India and Arabia helped to make their countries what they are today? And these distortions did not only occur in our
misty, distant past. Who ever hears of the all-female crack combat battalions in this century’s two World Wars, or knows what part women played in the discovery of quasars and DNA? What of the women’s space flight program in NASA’s glory days of moon landings, an initiative suddenly and ingloriously shut down without explanation, although the women’s results were at least as good as the men’s?
Reminders of women’s centrality to the human race are also crucial; they combat the persistent sense that discrimination against women is still somehow okay. In January 2000, Time magazine hailed Gandhi and Winston Churchill as two of the three “Persons of the Century” for their wisdom, leadership and all-around worth. The accounts of the two “great” men freely acknowledged that Gandhi had habitually abused women and that Churchill was a ferocious, lifelong
antifeminist, without any sense that this diminished their greatness at all. Substitute “blacks” for “women” and “racist” for “antifeminist,” and it is clear that both men would be candidates for disgrace, not for election to the pantheon of the great.
"my new year’s resolution is to not have any!! :)"
"When I was about 20 years old, I met an old pastor’s wife who told me that when she was young and had her first child, she didn’t believe in striking children, although spanking kids with a switch pulled from a tree was standard punishment at the time. But one day, when her son was four or five, he did something that she felt warranted a spanking–the first in his life. She told him that he would have to go outside himself and find a switch for her to hit him with.
The boy was gone a long time. And when he came back in, he was crying. He said to her, “Mama, I couldn’t find a switch, but here’s a rock that you can throw at me.”
All of a sudden the mother understood how the situation felt from the child’s point of view: that if my mother wants to hurt me, then it makes no difference what she does it with; she might as well do it with a stone.
And the mother took the boy into her lap and they both cried. Then she laid the rock on a shelf in the kitchen to remind herself forever: never violence. And that is something I think everyone should keep in mind. Because if violence begins in the nursery one can raise children into violence.”