History and Sexism

It could just be a coincidence.

This semester I run two of ten tutorials for a very large first-year world history class that covers the years 1914-1945. There is an acknowledged Western perspective.

Last week there was one lecture (50 minutes) assigned to the topic “Women in the 20th Century.” This had been rubbing me since the beginning of the semester when I first got the syllabus. I had heard of the “add women & stir” approach to women’s history but had never seen it so boldly in action. This week the students read the first (and only) readings for the course written by women.

Message here:

But that wasn’t where it ended. The prof wrote to the assistants a day before labs to say that covering only a few of the discussion questions would be adequate and mainly to concentrate on returning student papers and exams.

Message here:

Of course this is nothing new. History (patriarchy for that matter) is full of dismissing women’s thoughts, writings, and activities. I know I was sheltered living for four years inside of Women’s Studies, thinking that as I was opening my eyes to it so was the rest of the world. Since moving to the discipline of History I am frequently reminded why we still need women’s history.

Until women’s history is integrated in the survey course there is no equality.


4 Responses, Leave a Reply
  1. Jacqui583
    09 November 2007, 5:53 pm

    What an interesting post. As I’m only a part time student I’ve only taken a few courses so far. I’m a women’s studies major, with a labour studies minor and I have planned lots of history courses thrown in to cover black history, aboriginal history, etc. So I guess I have to look forward to hearing all about only black men’s history and aboriginal men’s history! What a disappointment! Remind me why I somehow thought Adademia would be more enlightened?!

  2. Candace
    09 November 2007, 8:04 pm

    See Jacqui, thing is, this isn’t at all what I expected. I managed a minor in History but all of the History courses I took were either cross-listed with Women’s Studies or else they were women-emphasis. I didn’t take any of the generic survey courses. I think if I had I might not be here right now — they would have turned me right off.

    She’s not at Windsor anymore, but I’ve heard that Dr. Nina Reid-Maroney’s American survey courses were well balanced. And any course taught by Dr. Tina Simmons (currently on sabbatical until next fall) is a good one to take because she also infuses multiple perspectives into the coursework. As far as the other profs go… can’t say I’ve seen or heard much of promise just yet. There’s a definite need for a women’s historian on campus this semester.

  3. Chase
    10 November 2008, 6:03 pm

    Shut the hell up. Honestly… are you looking to pick fights? You infer so much from the actions of the teacher as to his dismissal of women’s history. You think he hasn’t said the same of other subjects over the course of the semester?

    And if over the past 5,000 years men have [unjustly] been the sole possessors of political power or decision… then why would we have an equivalent 5,000 years of women’s history? The history of house-cleaning?

    We’re finally at the point nearing equality, due to the hard work of women over the past couple hundred of years. So, that’s where women’s studies begins.

  4. Candace
    02 November 2009, 4:10 pm

    @Chase, I think the professor’s comments about this particular topic come from and support centuries of women’s oppression. I’m calling attention to that. Whether the same was said in about other topics other weeks does not make it okay to dismiss women in world history.

    I’m not sure what you’re saying in your second paragraph. You’re not seriously saying that women’s contribution to history revolves around housekeeping??? If that is the case then we’re farther from equality than you think.

    Finally, I’m so glad you think we’re nearing equality. That has not been my experience. Another few centuries and maybe a course on the history of the world will not need a week on women ~ they’ll just be present in the coursework as authors, subjects, victims, and agents on many topics.

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