So I’m doing a short midweek episode because something’s been irking me. I’ve heard repeatedly from a variety of people that history is a guy thing. And that’s f#*king stupid. I mean, you could say that just on sheer mathematics, 51% of history is a female thing. But that’s not the truth of it. The truth is that history is a human thing. These are everyone’s stories and while there were a ridiculous number of biased primary sources who focused on almost exclusively on men, it is our job to rise above those sources because if you are ignoring over half of the population you are ignoring the majority of our shared history. But unfortunately, many historians and narrators don’t rise above it. The easy path is to just speak about the men of society because the great man approach has been a historical trope since at least the Roman era. But it’s incomplete.
Besides, everyone listening to this episode has female ancestors. Aren’t you curious about them? Don’t you wonder how they lived? Even if it’s during the periods of history where women were relegated to the domestic sphere, doesn’t it pique your interest? I mean, even if you only want to know about kings… those powerful kings were involved in a homelife when they came home.
So how can you truly understand them as people if you cut out all this other material?
And the worst part about ignoring women in history, whether they are powerful war leaders like Boudicca, politically savvy manipulators like Eleanor, or just the simple crofter’s wife, when you ignore these people, you are disenfranchising an entire segment of the population.
When you say history is a guy thing, people hear it. People read it. And maybe the next Gibbon or the next Salway is hearing those comments, and maybe she’ll decide that she’s unwelcome in the field and seek out another area of study instead. So this stuff does damage to us all.
But it doesn’t need the be so blatant, simply telling these stories and acting like men are the only people who did anything and their stories are the only ones that matter has the effect of isolating people from history.
And we can see its effect play out in front of us… on Facebook we have thousands of listeners, but there’s a 20% split between men and women. That’s crazy! There might be mitigating factors that lead to this split, but it might also be the result of this bias of history being just for men.
So we need to tell the whole story. It’s not the easy thing to do, these stories are buried and hidden and in many cases just outright lost. But we need to do what we can to find them, because to do anything else it is, at best, lazy, and at worst dangerous.
And besides, these stories are great! And with that in mind, here is an early episode I did on a few prominent women in Celtic history for the members.