I scanned the local Sunday paper, sure that I'd find something interesting to post about, and I was not disappointed. This being Seattle, I found a frighteningly PC screed in the "NEXT" section of the paper. (For those who are not familiar with the Seattle Times, NEXT is a section devoted to high-school and college age students, giving them a forum for issues which are relevant and important to them.) The writer, Jhalah Akhavan, is a senior at one of the Olympia high schools (a bio can be found here; she is the first person in the list). She is discussing "Women's History Month". She is also a barking moonbat. Here is some of what she had to say, with rebuttals where applicable:
I recall sophomore English, where I stayed after class one day to inquire about the rest of the year's planned reading material. Of the 10 or 20 books required since I entered high school, only one had been written by a woman. Precious few of the others dealt with or even included issues pertaining to women.
If Olympia schools follow the pattern common to most schools in America, the freshman English class concentrates on early-to-medieval world lit, Sophomore English on British lit, junior English on American lit, and senior English on modern world lit. As a sophomore, she would not have been exposed to most women's literature, as women did not write in the middle ages. As to "women's issues", that is not the purpose of English class. Social sciences, certainly, but not English.
In response to my concerns, the teacher pointed out two things to me. First, that Jane Eyre was written by a woman; this seemed to constitute proof that I was getting sufficient exposure to women's literature.
Second, if I was truly so concerned to learn about women specifically, I could certainly find a women's studies course at the community college, now couldn't I?
Bluntly put, but entirely accurate. Bravo to the teacher for putting a fine point on the issue.
Here I remember feeling an overwhelming rush of shock, disappointment and rage. Unexpectedly, my eyes began to well up with frustration. "But that's the whole point!" I spat. "Doesn't it strike you as somewhat ridiculous that to get the slightest mention of a woman beyond her position as wife to a prominent male figure, I have to go hunt for it on my own, outside of school?!
"Does it not strike you as odd that half of the world's population is systematically rendered invisible through curriculums such as your own?
Does it not strike you as thoroughly ridiculous that the teacher is expected to change the curriculum from a study of literature to a politically correct sociology class to raise the self-esteem of a grievance group, rather than on the merits of the literature involved?
"My intent is not to read books simply because they are written by women, but to explore a variety of important literature, and in showing us that this evidently does not include women, you are alienating at least half of your students, not to mention providing a grotesquely limited view of literary achievement!"
And then, because I had decided long before this encounter to educate myself beyond the classroom, I suggested a possible list of reading material. Bluntly put, this did not fly.
Remember that the student's view of literary achievement and the teacher's view may differ, and the teacher is the final arbiter.
Later, a related classroom discussion aroused no more than doubtful nonchalance in my fellow students. I realized that most of them could care less about the history of women.
Would she prefer to alienate the majority of students who do not share her deep and abiding need for validation? If they don't care, wouldn't forcing her views upon them alienate them and limit their views of literature?
The problem is, we're not going back far enough. When I finally decided to begin reading up on my own, I was amazed to discover the matriarchal, goddess-worshipping civilizations that existed as far back as 20,000 BCE.
Yes, and how much literature exists from that period? Not much. What were these civilizations' achievements, their advances, their contributions to our history? Nothing. They apparently lived and died in stasis, with no impact on the rest of the world. That is why they are not studied. All we know of them is scattered remnants of their existence.
I learned that findings of statues and artifacts from these cultures span from Russia to Europe and even here, where ancient Native American people thrived.
This is something that is discussed in History classes, generally a class taken in one's junior year in high school.
Thousands of years before the pyramids were built, giant, women-built stone temples graced the islands of Malta. Intricate calendars and measurements were developed based on the regular lunar rhythms of the women's menstrual cycles.
Built by women? Probably not. Built to worship women or goddesses, certainly. But it is not likely that they were built exclusively by women. And the lunar cycle is most likely the unit of measurement used, rather than the menstrual cycle that is linked to it.
Even more amazing was the fact that, in these times, it is evidenced that no rape or wars took place. The feminine was divine, respected and revered by men and women alike.
I will accept the "no war" premise, but the "no rape" assertion has absolutely no way of being proven or disproven. It is simply an article of faith amongst feminist scholars.
The likely reason for the lack of wars is twofold; first, due to the limited population, there was little competition for resources, and due to the technological standstill of the people involved, warfare was unlikely to achieve anything in any case.
Shouldn't we be paying attention to this kind of history? My simplified school education had led me to believe that between cavemen and the ancient Greek and Roman empires, little took place except some "societal transformations" as a result of wars.
Her displeasure with the facts does not invalidate them. In any case, the Sumerian civilization at Ur (complete with written records) arose shortly after the temple builders, and the Sumerians were not the peaceful goddess-worshipping gentlefolk of whom Ms. Akhavan speaks. Before they were defeated, the Sumerians warred with almost all of their neighbors.
I am fed up with such an inaccurate, incomplete picture of women's history. I want to hear the true stories of real women, not just the first ladies' formal achievements.
Did she not learn of Isabella of Spain, who financed Columbus's explorations, while consolidating and unifying the Iberian peninsula under her control? Did sheu not learn of Elizabeth, who turned England from a small, weak nation to the greatest empire Earth has ever seen? Did she not learn of Catherine the Great, leader of Russia, or Joan of Arc, who was one of France's most influential figures? Did she not learn of the Chinese empresses who ruled that country through several dynasties over hundreds of years? These were all covered in my high school history class fifteen years ago, before the diversity police stepped in. I seriously doubt that they were removed from history texts.
If she is looking for the stories of "real women", then she needs to look to a women's studies class. History does not deal with the lives of ordinary people; that is the bailiwick of anthropology.
In order to understand what it means to be female, I need to know where I came from. And that means the whole journey, back to all my mothers and grandmothers, back to a time when we were recognized not as an aberration of the male to be tolerated, but respected and revered as women.
<rolls eyes, shakes head>. I fear that what she is looking for has nothing to do with history. But, from someone who belongs to a group which explores "ancient feminine herstory, peaceful dimensions against gender violence, Feminist Archetypal Psychology and engendered archeology/anthropology disciplines", history is not her real agenda. But you already knew that.