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An Introduction To Herstory This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   History - a required subject in all schools. Sooner ior later, we all have to sitthrough history classes, struggle through history texts and learn about "themen who shaped history." We are force-fed Paul Revere, Abraham Lincoln,Albert Einstein, the Wright Brothers, Martin Luther King Jr., - the list goes onand on. We digest the Holocaust, the demolition of the Native Americans, thewars, the glories. The glories of history. I'm talking about his story. It's allaround us. Shakespeare, Thomas Edison, Babe Ruth, Benjamin Franklin, Elvis,Leonardo da Vinci. And once in a while, a woman will be thrown in -self-sacrificing Florence Nightingale, temptress Cleopatra, or wife MarthaWashington.

And we, as little girls and boys, can't help but form ideasabout men and women through our teachings of his story. Men create, produce, do.Women are (usually) just not there. And when one is, she is a martyr, a whore, ora wife. People's need for role models cannot be denied, and in a society wherefemales/males have polar definitions, it is only expected that we seek same-sexfigures for those to look up to. A boy need only to open his eyes to find adisplay of male heroes. And from this wide variety of highly respected men, he isinfluenced and has a chance to become a highly-respected individual. And he cangain self-esteem and worth from knowing that he is a man - look at all the greatmen of the world, all the great things men have done and continue to do!

As for her, well ... she has her previously listed choices. But theserole-models will not positively influence her in a world where his story valuescertain achievements and glorifies the men who have achieved them, whilecompletely removing women who achieved the same things, and devaluing whateverother achievements women have made. This is the basic principle of a sexistsociety. And if history continues to be the required subject, and herstoryignored, we will continue to receive the male's end of the story - the female endwill continue to be buried, denied, devalued.

Why aren't we taught aboutJocelyn Bell Burnell - the 24-year-old grad student who observed the first pulsarfor which her immediate supervisor, Anthony Hewish, won the Nobel Prize? OrHimiko, Queen of Wa, who united dozens of warring clans into the single nationalunit we know as Japan? What of Mary Leaky, whose husband, Louis, was celebratedfor discovering the skull of the "missing link," when it was Mary whohad located it? We don't know that Freda Ehmann more or less invented theCalifornia olive industry, or that the first fiction film was directed by AliceGuy-Blanche. Here in Massachusetts we all learn of the famous ride of PaulRevere, but what about Sybil Ludington, the 16-year-old patriot who rode doubleRevere's distance from town to town to tell New York and Connecticut that theRedcoats had begun a raid on Danbury? Or that Jean Faut accomplished a featunmatched in any major league career, pitching two perfect games? Why is itunknown that Ruth Law set the American nonstop cross-country flight record forboth men and women? And that Hessie Donahue was the first person ever to knockout heavyweight champion John L. Sullivan in a boxing ring?

These femaleaccomplishments are all a part of herstory - what history left out. History alsoexcluded the two massacres against women: Chinese foot-binding and thepersecution of the witches. These crimes equal in sheer horror the exterminationof the Native Americans and the Jews, which have found some sort of place inhistory books, while the persecutions of women have barely been noticed. We aredenied descriptions of the bound foot - crippling, excruciatingly painful,callused, bloody, pus-filled, or how a man's parents inquired first about aprospective wife's feet, then her face. We aren't told of the mutilated femalefoot that served as a fetish for an entire culture for 1000 years. Nor are wetaught that the 9 million "witches" burned alive were people (ratio ofwomen to men: 20/1 - 100/1) concerned with nature - biology, medicine, sexology,the weather - refusing to conform to the Catholic doctrine. Religion itself is awhole other his story - we know little of the female spirits and goddessespresent in Aboriginal and Native American beliefs, we only know the Bible and Godthe Father.

We are living in a world of secrets, of stories untold. We arebeing fed only half the facts, and until herstory is uncovered and taught to thesame extent that history has always been, we will never know the whole story.n


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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