Friday, July 31, 2009

You Tell Me What's Real

Twitter has destroyed my life.

I just want to clarify that.

Thanks to @knitmeapony, I was directed to this:

19 Amazing Acts of Death Defiance

In reading it, I found this:

Annie Taylor
I thought it was a joke -Not to Annie Taylor it wasn’t. In 1901 Annie [sic]Tayler was the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel and survive. She expected fame and fortune, but as it turned out, no one at the time really cared. Sadly, she ended up dying in poverty. Although she made the journey with little injury and few accolades, Annie will still go down as the first person to ride the barrel at Niagara. (source)
Annie Taylor After

17 of the 19 feats were done by men who were given recognition, records, a place in history for what they did. The 19th feat was a male/female duo.

It did not escape me that the single feat completed by a woman by herself was the only one that garnered nothing positive for the feat completer. The initial article I read didn't even spell her name right within two sentences! The only person I knew who knew about Annie Taylor had heard the story framed in such a way to paint Annie as suicidal, and her survival miraculous, instead of an intentional, planned action. I have also heard that story before, and it conveniently leaves out her name, and shoe-horned her into the the "women are irrational and crazy!" meme.

There is a larger point to my ranting about a seemingly trivial historical detail.
Whenever someone asks why we need a Women and Gender Studies department at a university, whenever someone complains about there being a group of people devoted specifically to examining history through female-centric lenses, whenever I hear someone claiming that " are naturally just better than women, or else why would all the great artists/chefs/architects/scientists/explorers/nose pickers all be men?" I am inclined to point to something like this. Its true, it is not a coincidence that the recognized "greats" are men, because when women do something, their contribution is automatically filtered through these concepts that women are inferior, and anything done on their own is attributed to anyone except them. Their own words are obscured under this huge weight of what they signify culturally instead of who they are.

The "great" men in our history are so because they were seen as individuals able to accomplish things independently, but women are seen only as what we symbolize, so our accomplishments are either attributed to anyone/thing besides us, or to our entire gender, and even our motivations are taken from us by a hierarchy that thrives through destroying our certainty, and making us doubt our own lived realities.

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