Women have come a long way baby

Re: Fast Forward Weekly Vol 14 No 21 April 30 – May 6 2009

This is a quote from a director working at a theatre company that produces plays with “women’s issues” themes written in your paper as a “powerful voice for women’s stories”:

“Women aren’t central to the events of 17th- and 18th-century military history” says director Glenda Stirling. “If you’re looking at women’s roles in that era then is it anthropology? Sociology? Social history? If we look at women in history are we re-orienting history to the mundane?”

This is the perspective coming from a director at a “women’s stories central” theatre company? Wow. Truly depressing. She misses the point to such a degree I don’t even know where to start but I’ll give it a whirl.

Since the contributions of women have been misunderstood undervalued and subsequently left out of most history books (or written about strictly from a male perspective) how can this director say with certainty that women didn’t play a central role in the unfolding of these historical events? She is looking at history through the male gaze here and making judgements from that point of view. And when she suggests that looking at the contributions of women historically would reorient history to the mundane she again falls into a traditional masculine perspective — that what women have done in the shaping of Earth’s history has been boring mundane less important less interesting and less exciting than what men have done.

If this theatre company wants to truly further the stories of women this director will first have to get beyond the patriarchal perspective of women in history including in military history.

Jillian MacPherson