Frustrating Lack of Female

After completing this week’s readings, I found myself frustrated and unable to extract many conclusions. I had hit a roadblock and had got myself hung up on one very specific issue. Where are all the women?

Last week I read all the posts in order. Starting from the top with “Were There Blog Enough and Time,” I noted:

“Female history bloggers may be more likely to post anonymously or pseudonymously than males, but not all of them do.”

Is that so? The blog post was written in 2005. I pondered the statistics (or lack thereof) that the assertion was based upon, and the validity of the statement 12 years later.

Filing that away, I moved down the line of assigned readings, which came to include a blog post on how the female abortionist was the evildoer in the 19th century and the abortion seeker, her victim; and another retelling a gruesome death of a 20-year-old girl after her unwanted abortion went wrong. Her boyfriend and the doctor chopped her into pieces, wrapped her up like Christmas presents and threw her parts into various garbage cans. “A Christmas Abortion.”A sensationalized title, if ever I’d read one. Total clickbait.

Neither of the authors identifies as female.

A series of questions began to play on loop in my head. If the internet and the blog are truly great tools for leveling the playing field for historians, why aren’t women writing blogs? I answer, of course they are. Then, why aren’t this week’s readings about topics in abortion history – a topical, gendered and often uncomfortable, (particularly so, regarding Jacqueline Smith’s body being hacked into pieces) written by women? It is fair to say that the history of abortion is a subject women are particularly interested in. Those posts are out there, I looked and found plenty. I am sure it can be understood why, considering (at minimum) the last six months, I have had quite enough of the opposite sex’s opinion on the whole matter. History is meant to be impartial and a good historian wants to find the purest truth to tell, but despite good intentions, intention cannot render out all  of the bias that comes with gender, class and ethnicity. This is not to say that the two posts were unsympathetic or that they presented a stance that painted these women in a negative light – the pieces were engaging and thoughtful, and both reflected on the changing trends in misogyny and women’s rights issues. But If the internet is so vast and diverse and is to be called the great equalizer, I would like to suggest readings by historians that reflect this diversity. In fact, the authors of the week’s readings were almost all from a single demographic (the white dude one). In any other given set of assigned readings, this would’ve probably flown under my radar. But why were we reading about abortion history in the first place? It seemed not only to be off-topic for our class, but specifically targeted. Maybe this sent my hackles up. Maybe I need to stay off Twitter and read the news less because everything seems to get under my skin these days. Maybe I’m becoming the militant feminist and the “bad woman.”

If I’m going to read about the historical victimization of women from a multitude of angles, I want those histories told by women. I know they are out there, despite all the pseudonyms.


– Pam Enlow


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