Written for everyone interested in women's and gender history, History Matters reaffirms the importance to feminist theory and activism of long-term historical perspectives. Judith M. Bennett, who has been commenting on developments in women's and gender history since the 1980s, argues that the achievement of a more feminist future relies on a rich, plausible, and well-infWritten for everyone interested in women's and gender history, History Matters reaffirms the importance to feminist theory and activism of long-term historical perspectives. Judith M. Bennett, who has been commenting on developments in women's and gender history since the 1980s, argues that the achievement of a more feminist future relies on a rich, plausible, and well-informed knowledge of the past, and she asks her readers to consider what sorts of feminist history can best advance the struggles of the twenty-first century.Bennett takes as her central problem the growing chasm between feminism and history. Closely allied in the 1970s, each has now moved away from the other. Seeking to narrow this gap, Bennett proposes that feminist historians turn their attention to the intellectual challenges posed by the persistence of patriarchy. She posits a "patriarchal equilibrium" whereby, despite many changes in women's experiences over past centuries, women's status vis-a-vis that of men has remained remarkably unchanged. Although, for example, women today find employment in occupations unimaginable to medieval women, medieval and modern women have both encountered the same wage gap, earning on average only three-fourths of the wages earned by men. Bennett argues that the theoretical challenge posed by this patriarchal equilibrium will be best met by long-term historical perspectives that reach back well before the modern era. In chapters focused on women's work and lesbian sexuality, Bennett demonstrates the contemporary relevance of the distant past to feminist theory and politics. She concludes with a chapter that adds a new twist--the challenges of textbooks and classrooms--to viewing women's history from a distance and with feminist intent.A new manifesto, History Matters engages forthrightly with the challenges faced by feminist historians today. It argues for the radical potential of a history that is focused on feminist issues, aware of the distant past, attentive to continuities over time, and alert to the workings of patriarchal power....
|Title||:||History Matters: Patriarchy and the Challenge of Feminism|
|Number of Pages||:||214 Pages|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
|Last checked||:||21 Minutes ago!|
History Matters: Patriarchy and the Challenge of Feminism Reviews
This short book, by a very distinguished medieval historian, argues that the study of the past—particularly the pre-modern past—is vital to the feminist movement. Judith Bennett believes that in the decades since the 1970s, historians who study women have become increasingly disconnected from those involved in the contemporary women's movement, to the detriment of both groups. There has been much more work done on women's history outside of North America and Western Europe, and indeed on the lived experiences of women of colour within those regions, but the post-1800 West still dominates academic departments and popular history books. This means that many scholars are too presentist, and work without the kind of deep historical knowledge needed to perceive continuities within women's experiences. Though this is, as I said, a short work, it provides much food for thought and is well worth the read by historians in all fields. I wholeheartedly agree with Bennett on the necessity of studying medieval women (well, that's my day job; I would, wouldn't I), and the next time I teach on women's work I will assign the chapter here on the gender wage gap. That said I have quibbles—some minor, some less so—with her arguments in other places, particularly her advocacy for the use of the term "lesbian-like" to describe the experiences of many pre-modern women. Is failing to recognise that there were women in the Middle Ages who engaged in same-sex intercourse, whose sexual desires were directed in part or in whole towards other women, heteronormative and homophobic? Sure. Are there enormous difficulties in finding documentary smoking guns that prove romantic, sexual, and/or erotic relationships between women in pre-modern Europe? Yup. But is everything that is non-heteronormative automatically "lesbian-like"? She would classify here chaste communities of nuns, or even two biological sisters who rejected marriage and lived together, as "lesbian-like." A cross-dressing female student in fifteenth-century Poland is described as "lesbian-like." Here's where I start looking askance at Bennett. This is an oddly binary formula, and entirely rejects and/or absorbs other forms of non-heteronormativity such as asexuality or transgender identities. All she seems to be doing here is to invert heteronormativity to create a new form of categorisation to force on something that's inherently fluid and changing.
It's a very short book & I guess it can be viewed as an introduction to the importance of understanding what it means to understand history much farther back than 200 years ago & what that means for trying to understand & present the history of women in various societies throughout the ages. Bennett explains what this means for scholarship, theory & ,to a small extent, activism. She makes it clear that this history is complex & not simply or solely filled with active intentions or attempts to oppress women. Women's roles fluctuated with the structures of society, social mores of a given time & social hierarchies. She also makes it clear that sometimes experiences can change without their being an overall transformation of women's place in a society & that has significant implications for how history is interpreted & the status of women is traced. Probably a book more geared towards those in or experience with academia but it's still worth a read to keep in mind one's own personal interpretation & understanding when learning on their own.
Great historiography of feminist histories and excellent footnotes with plenty of sources of future reading. Highly readable.Blog posts with discussion (including one from Bennett): http://girlscholar.blogspot.com/2009/...Bennett argues that the study of history is vital to feminist movement, and that by studying the distant past we can be better able to examine modern questions about the role of women.
I read this as an undergrad, but admittedly usually skimmed the pages before class and did not fully appreciate the amazing nuance and complexity Bennett makes in clear and eloquent arguments of the importance of history to the feminist movement and the importance of feminism in history. She has become one of my greatest academic role models as a medieval, feminist historian.
This is a really clear and eloquent argument about the importance of history to the feminist movement, and the importance of feminism to history.
An interesting, nuanced book and hugely pleasurable to read. Stimulated lots of thoughts about 'doing' feminist history, and provided references to lots of other reading.