I used to be a history denier

In my defense, they lied to me

A suffragette being arrested. I didn’t know that women had gone on hunger strikes and had been force fed – which is horrible – to get the right to vote. I didn’t know because I was not taught in school and I didn’t look for more information because I didn’t know that I didn’t know.

I used to scoff at the idea of “Women’s history.”

What a stupid thing to study in college, I thought.

And doesn’t calling it, “Women’s history” make everything else, “Men’s history” by default?”

What a stupid thing to major in! What kind of job do you even get with that?

That’s an odd question for an English major to ask, but whatever.

I didn’t think about witches and Bad Women. I thought it was a Bad Thing to burn witches at the stake, but I didn’t think about the story behind witches – what made a woman a witch? Who decided what a witch was? Why were witches always women? Why weren’t men declared bad and worthy of burning?

(Hahahahaha! Because men had the power and women didn’t is why!)

I didn’t think about the Bad Women in mythology. They were just Bad, right? They had done bad things – I assumed – and hence people were scared of them.

Wait.

Men were scared of them. Men were scared of these women.

Why?

Then I read Circe, by Madeline Miller. And my view of one of the Bad Women in Greek mythology changed.

Amazing what happens when women are the center of the story and we see things from their point of view.

Then I saw this story.

Remember how Medusa is bad?

No. She was not bad. She was sinned against. She was raped and she got her revenge. I am now totally Team Medusa.

Medusa With The Head of Perseus by Argentine-Italian artist Luciano Garbati

A 7-foot tall statue of Medusa holding the severed head of Perseus will be installed in Manhattan, across from the NY County Criminal Court, the location of high profile abuse cases including the recent Harvey Weinstein trial. I never knew this before but Medusa was stalked & raped by Poseidon and then blamed for it, and cursed by Athena with the snake hair & turning people to stone thing. She was banished and then Perseus killed & beheaded her. This statue “inverts the narrative” as a commentary on the Me Too movement. It will stand there until April. Look how badass this statue is.

Rafferty Funksmith

And there was Ophelia.

Ophelia was not crazy. (I wrote a whole thing about it here.)

That was always the narrative I had heard – Ophelia was a nutter who killed herself because – why? We don’t know? We don’t know!

Well guess what there is probably more to the story.

If I had written a paper about this in college, I would have called it, “On the Apparently Stupid, Pointless, Senseless Suicide of a Female Character Who Once Again, Exists Only In Relation To A Male Protagonist.”

But now, researchers have figured out that she was probably pregnant. The flowers she was handing out? She had rue in that bundle. Rue causes abortions. It’s illegal to sell it in the US.

Theory is she killed herself because Hamlet got her pregnant and then blew her off. It was probably the same old story – come on baby baby yeah I promise I’ll pull out but hey if anything happens it’s cool we’re getting married anyhow right?

(I am looking for the meaning of rue in her bouquet and so many of the interpretations online are that it was about adultery, repentance, or regret. I cannot understand how someone cannot read that rue was used for abortions and not jump immediately to the obvious conclusion. Perhaps it’s men writing the pieces I am finding?)


In school, I learned about the men – but I didn’t learn about the women.

Part of this, of course, is because of this phenomenon:

“Historians are men who write history.”

(This line really should be “Historians are white men who write history,” but that part is understood.)

(I am sad to say this image is from a book called, Christ the King, Lord of History, A Catholic World History from Ancient to Modern Times.)

It hasn’t been until recently that I have learned about the women artists and scientists and composers and mathematicians.

They were always there.

But we were not taught about them.

(In the same way that we were not taught about the internment camps in WWII. And how we stole – not peacefully acquired land – from the Native Americans. And about the lynchings. And the sundown towns.

I had dinner with a friend — YES! I HAD DINNER WITH A FRIEND LAST NIGHT AND IT WAS AMAZING! and discovered she had never heard of a sundown town before. She also did not know that it used to be illegal to sell houses to Black people. We are so ignorant.

And how Black people are twice as likely as white people to be killed by the police. Etc. Etc. Etc. Funny how the people in power tell the stories that keep them in power.)

But women were behind the technology of GPS and discovering the double helix of DNA and the technology of the internet. Women were behind sending humans into space. Hybrid car batteries. The discovery of pulsars (something about stars that is important – I am not sure exactly what).

These are only a few examples – there must be hundreds of other cases where the women were behind the research and were not given credit.

And who knows how many more there could have been if women hadn’t been the ones taking care of children and doing all the housework. It’s not like women choose this. The men in power – their fathers, whoever – didn’t let them go to school. Married them off young to men who kept them pregnant until they died.

I scoff no longer at women’s history.

Wait.

I scoff no longer at history.

Instead, I am strengthening and focusing my wrath on those who have hidden history from me.

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