August
26th 2008
This is a huge part of the problem

Posted under: American history, women's history

Why are Michael Beschloss, Peniel Joseph (Brandeis University), and Richard Norton Smith (George Mason University) on my teevee right now talking about women’s history?  (Remember, I don’t have cable, so I’m watching the Democratic National Convention on PBS.)  What the hell do they know about women’s history?  Not much at all, as it turns out.  (Joseph seems to know more than the rest, and he makes some good points about African American women.)

At least Beschloss’s rug looks pretty good.  And he admits that it’s appalling that it took 88 years after women’s suffrage to see a woman seriously compete for a major party nomination.  Still, I think that someone should have called Linda Kerber.  I think she’s even in the Iowa City white pages, so it’s not like they couldn’t track her down…

9 Comments »

9 Responses to “This is a huge part of the problem”

  1. Knitting Clio on 27 Aug 2008 at 5:49 am #

    Yeah, really — couldn’t they at least have trotted out their favorite token female historian, Doris Kearns Goodwin, even though her field is not women’s history?

  2. Clio Bluestocking on 27 Aug 2008 at 6:17 am #

    They kinda prove the sexism with their own actions, don’t they? And they wonder why women get so upset! Are they really this tone deaf, or do they try really hard to be?

  3. Historiann on 27 Aug 2008 at 6:39 am #

    Goodwin knows something about Eleanor Roosevelt, at least. Even so, I think it would have been good to have an actual women’s historian.

  4. Kevin Lockett on 27 Aug 2008 at 7:19 am #

    I found the analysis disturbing for two reasons:
    1. It ignored the experience of African American women. In speaking in broad terms about “women” it ignored their unique experience and the ways in which they have not been traditionally fully incorporated into the women’s rights movement.
    2. Beschloss belittled the struggle of African American’s for political access in the way he compare Obama’s candidacy (he one of one black senators) to Clinton’s loss (she’s one of 12 women senators).
    I think the whole thing was an insult to women and to blacks.

  5. Historiann on 27 Aug 2008 at 9:01 am #

    Hi Kevin–well, Joseph did his best to correct Smith’s analysis, which assumed that women = white women. I was only watching during the Hillary Clinton hour, though, so you may have seen more than I saw.

    Beschloss’s comments after Clinton’s speech were very patronizing about her. Let’s see if Joe Biden can get the crowd going the way she did–I won’t hold my breath tonight–but it’s up to him and Obama to forge party unity now.

    Thanks for stopping by to comment–stop by again!

  6. Sharon on 27 Aug 2008 at 11:41 am #

    Funny thing. Here’s the text of the email I sent to Linda Kerber Tuesday night while watching PBS:

    For two nights, I have been watching PBS coverage of the DNC. It makes me crazy that they have a panel of three “presidential historians”–all men. I did vent to PBS, but I felt the need to complain further. They should have asked YOU! And there’s a good list of other women historians who would be as good or better than the guys they’ve got. Arrgh.

    Linda replied with this suggestion: Blanche Cook.

  7. Historiann on 27 Aug 2008 at 12:20 pm #

    Hi Sharon–thanks for stopping by to comment. Great minds think alike!

    I think Linda Kerber would be better than Blanche Cook–it’s the historical perspective of the longue duree that I think is missing on these panels, where they seem to think that American history started with FDR.

    And women’s historians know that in terms of change over time, even in the twentieth century, sixty years is a pisshole in the snow.

  8. Indyanna on 27 Aug 2008 at 12:29 pm #

    Yeah, and even if Kerber, Cooke, and whoever SHE suggested were tied up, there’s a virtually endless list they could have gone to before they got to “Beschloss,” right? It’s pretty nuts; I think they don’t want too many long words, to say nothing of too much critical talk.

  9. Another reason to consult some women’s historians : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present on 30 Aug 2008 at 5:15 pm #

    [...] on grooming and promoting women candidates?  In other words, consider this a follow-up post to my post last week about the total absence of women’s historians on the PBS panel of historians commenting on the Democratic National [...]