This just in last night from the Historiann mailbag, from Jen Kirkman, the comedian who narrated “Drunk History, vol. 3,” the women’s history edition featuring the story of Oney Judge and her relationship with her owners, George and Martha Washington. Jen left a comment on that post from December, 2008:
This is Jen – the narrator from Drunk History. I thought you would find it interesting that I have received death threats, mean emails and countless comments directed at me being a woman, stupid, ugly, “this is what happens when bitches drink” etc. etc. for this episode.
My other male friends who narrated the other ones have received almost NO negative feedback – except for the occassional person who asks them, “Were you REALLY drunk?”
My comments are strictly to do with gender and young boys seem angry that when I got drunk – I got mad about slavery. I’ve had my patriotism questioned, and lots of boys write to me about how my facts are wrong – when many of the facts are spot on and I had a document in front of me that I was referring to.
I find it very interesting that the subtle sexism’s in our culture run RAMPANT on the internet and are very disappointing. I don’t think feminism is being addressed AT ALL to these younger boys in whatever school they go to.
I think the comments that Jen gets on her video are proof that the sexism in our culture is anything but subtle! And, I don’t think the feminist movement is portrayed at all in heroic terms like the Abolition or Civil Rights movements–if it’s addressed at all in K-12 history classes, and my guess is that it’s usually not a part of the curriculum. As to Jen’s experirence with on-line commenters and e-mails from complete strangers: what I’ve learned in my 14 months as founder and sole proprietor of this blog is that people who present on-line as male feel utterly entitled to say whatever they damn well please to people presenting on-line as female. Kind of like real life, only with less accountability! Like I wrote last summer, ” men (in general) are much more presumptuous about monopolizing or claiming women’s bodies, time, and space (in general) than vice-versa, because that presumption is a large part of the definition of male privilege. Although it’s no longer technically legal in most cases, male privilege thrives and it it enforced by many men, and women too (sadly). And this presumption works in similar ways in the blogosphere, as it works in real life.”
I’ve also been thinking about this all week long, ever since I saw this Call for Papers over at Tenured Radical on Monday morning:
Call for Papers: Feminism, Blogging and the Historical Profession. The Journal of Women’s History invites submissions for a round table on the emergence of blogging as a location for critical thought among women in the historical profession; historians of women, gender and sexuality; and feminist scholars who may, or may not be, historians. Participants may wish to address one or more of the following questions in an abstract of no more than 250 words: What role does self-publishing on the internet play in a profession where merit is defined by scholarly review and a rigorous editorial process? What are the intellectual benefits, and/or costs, of blogging? What are the ethics and consequences of blogging under a pseudonym? What kinds of electronic acknowledgement already correlate with established scholarly practices; which can be discarded; and which need to be attended to, perhaps more rigorously than in printed publications? If many scholarly publications and organizations have already adopted blogs as a way of spreading news and inviting conversation, is blogging itself developing rules and practices that will inevitably produce intellectual and scholarly hierarchies similar to those that blogging seeks to dismantle? Does feminist blogging offer particular opportunities for enhanced conversation about race, sexuality, class and national paradigms, or does it tend to reproduce existing scholarly paradigms and silences within feminist scholarship? Finally, are new forms of colleagueship and scholarship emerging in the blogosphere?
The round table will consist of a short introduction, several essays of 2 – 3,000 words, and a concluding comment/response. Abstracts should arrive no later than July 15, 2009, and can be submitted electronically to Claire Potter at tenuredDOTradicalATgmail.com. Final submissions are due October 1. Pseudonymous bloggers may publish under their pseudonyms, but must be willing to reveal their identities to the editor of the round table and the commenter. Bloggers based outside the United States are particularly encouraged to contribute.
Tell me, all of you women scholars and scholars of women out there: did you think that doing women’s history in the year 2009 would be viewed as so incredibly radical? When you were in graduate school, did you think you’d be living in a world where Jen Kirkman’s comedy would elicit such anger and disgust from people presenting as boys or men on-line?