Saturday, April 12, 2008

"But history, real solemn history, I cannot be interested in."

This week has been a mixed week, though for the most part filled with blank pages, procrastination and a few thousand words. Two chapters were due on Monday just past, and they are still not finished. I am rather embarrassed, but to my great disappointment I do not have a time machine (preferably a TARDIS) so they are, and will be late. It is a rather strange feeling as prior to this year I have never handed anything in late, and though I don't lose marks, I fear I am losing the respect of my supervisor. I need to work on that, so on Monday, I think I will bake her some biscuits. Surely a plate of delicious snickerdoodles or Spanish macaroons will be more interesting than a literature review, and certainly a lot let tedious for all involved. That is my plan, and so long as she doesn't think I am trying to bribe or poison her, all will go well!

Friday night was enjoyably spent with four girls who I went/go to uni with. As we all study history and are at various stages of post grad work, our conversation naturally turns to history. The question was raised; which is worse, to praise a woman because she is displaying traditionally masculine qualities, (political involvement, literary achievement etc) or praise her femininity (motherhood etc)? So many histories only report on women who were seen to step outside the mould and behave like a man, and it is these qualities that have been praised. While at times, the woman who performs what is seen as feminine duties, motherhood, wife, 'private' duties, can be overly read being oppressed or worse dull and not worth being placed on the historical record. Were all women who were not breaking the mould oppressed? Were they, as my friend put it (and does not believe) they all sitting in their gendered towers, unable to articulate, but screaming, 'Let me Out!' Can we, should we, try and look at the past (and perhaps the present) not in gendered terms but in human terms, or is this impossible? Or worse does it deny and strip us of a major part of our identity?

Now, I am a feminist, in the line of SSS's post Where are you Daughters of Germaine and I write history about women. However, I don't want to fall into the trap of only writing about women, forgetting men and their achievements. Worse still, I don't want to ignore the past that was not breaking moulds, but was living, loving and surviving. This is why I think I have moved towards looking at families which will hopefully let me look at 'people'. I however, cannot give up gender, as it was a reality and an experience that people lived, and therefore important and vital to understanding their lives.

I will be interested to know what you all think. I am not sure if I have articulated what I am thinking, but I just thought I would put it out there as it is where my head is at.



mscrankypants said...

Snickerdoodles and macaroons are not bribery; they are merely evidence that you have been thinking of your thesis and her welfare. Win, win!

There are so many takes on feminism I'm interested in, such as why so many young women today shun the label, what women of past and current generations thought they done for their cause and and gender, or why they didn't if that was the case. What else needs to be done and what are we really aiming towards? So many questions and no answers, I'm afraid, but I like your take on things.

Jacki said...

As a supervisor of research students- I would always vote for biscuits as helping in negotiations about deadlines.

I think the research into families of the period would be very interesting. Where will you find information about family life?

HH said...

The biscuits worked well I think, we had a good meeting today. Pleased you second the idea Jacki!

For family life I am looking at personal correspondence and diaries, I will then stretch out and look at other contemporary material including literature, conduct books, art etc to see how and where the families I am looking at fit into the broader society. (*fingers crossed*)

Jacki said...

Oooh snooping, I mean - carefully reading and analysing- diaries and letters will be very interesting. Will you get to do more overseas jaunts?

HH said...

It is a bit snoopy, but we will say carefully reading and analysing yes! Hopefully I will get to go back to the UK in September of this year, probably till Christmas or after Christmas if my family come for a holiday/to see relations.

Foodycat said...

Glad the biscuits went down well. I think the role of women needs looking at with some of the tools of subaltern studies in postcolonialism, because for a long time - even if they were not feeling oppressed - they were outside the hegemony.

HH said...

That is a great point foodycat, thanks. :)

Foodycat said...

Gosh reading back over my post it sounds terribly wanky. I apologise!