Blogs > Cliopatria > Br'er Rusticus

Jun 17, 2008 1:31 pm

Br'er Rusticus

Br'er Rusticus got it in his head yesterday to attack the 2008 Berkshire Conference on the History of Women and someof thefemalebloggers who were there:
It is difficult to think of anything more depressing than a conference of female historians or more irrelevant to the future of the discipline of history. None of these figures has ever appeared on any work of early modern history that I have ever read or is likely to figure on any reading list I see. Historians are and should be concerned with the past of humanity, with men and women, old and young alike: being female is not a prerequisite for such studies and women's history like the histories of gender, sexuality and the family is a transient, ephemeral phenomenon.

Br'er Rusticus subsequently deleted his (one would assume) post. Smart move.

Update: Well, now bro has put up a revised version of the original. It includes this elaboration:

The sad truth is that universities across the advanced countries of the world have succumbed after c.1970 to pressures from the so-called women's movements to include in their syllabuses courses on women's history for which there was and is little justification. Intellectual fashions and fear of contemporary interest groups have led to the traditional focus of the subject being fundamentally altered to appease these interests. It is no surprise that it has been followed by demands for the composition of the profession to be altered too. Both developments have, in my view, done a disservice to the discipline. But intellectual fashions change as those attending this conference appear to have divined. That is a good thing. I hope to see the tide of women's history, gender history and the history of sexuality recede until it is a tiny creek flowing into the broad river of history. Then we shall have them in proper proportion.

Further Update: Rusti plays hide-and-seek with us by taking the revised post down again. It's an example of the cowardly use of pseudonymity. Meanwhile, Claire Potter,"As Catharine McKinnon Would Say, ‘Are Women Human?'" Tenured Radical, 17 June, replies for those he attacked. Historiann to Rusticus:"K*ss m* *ss." See also: Anne M. Boylan,"The Fourteenth Berkshire Conference on the History of Women," HNN, 17 June.

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Janice Liedl - 6/17/2008

Rusti believes that women's history was forced on the discipline by a bunch of powerful interest groups (oh, those scary feminists!) who also forced universities to hire women historians (when, obviously, men would do the job much better). And then they topped it all off by not really adding anything to the practice of history? But somehow, for all their righteousness, the reactionary forces with which Rusti identifies have not been able to deal with these women and restore history to its proper purity (and manly virility, one supposes)?

As another early modernist, may I point Rusti to Knox's "First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women"? I would presume that he would find its prescriptions familiar and comforting, if equally out-of-touch with the realities of the historical situation as he seems to be regarding the present.

Jeremy Young - 6/17/2008

You have to bleep out the vowel in "my"?

Seriously, this fellow is one odious piece of work. Thanks for highlighting his absurdities, and thanks as well to those who posted such excellent responses.

Alun Salt - 6/17/2008

It's back again. It could be someone who's realising he's out of his depth. I've made a second attempt at posting a comment. I'm assuming my first attempt was swallowed when he deleted it before. Anyway it's below.


Your argument appears to be a sustained case of special pleading. The same complaint could be appled to the history of <em>anything</em>. Pick your subject and I can say with a tired yawn that History should be concerned with the past of Humanity.

Early Modern History? Sigh, it's an anachronism and can hardly be considered out of context of its precursors and the later developments which influence its interpretation. English History? Puh-lease 'England' is a transient, ephemeral phenomenon.

In contrast Gender-based perspectives seem to have broad applicability because, as far as is known, humans have relied on sexual reproduction since diverging from the other chimpanzees. We can identify as gender is a human constant possibly as far back as the Upper Palaeolithic with the sexual division of labour. In historical periods this sexual difference has been the basis of gender differences. Sex, Social roles based on sexual differences and extended reproductive units, these all appear to be human constants.

Further even if specific genders and sexualities are transient and ephemeral it does not follow that makes them valueless. Point me at a permanent language please. I'll grant you that our interpretations of gender, sexuality or family are rooted in the present, but that's a constant for any historical subject. It's a process of translating the past into the present.

So I'm baffled as to why Women's History would be an issue when you're happy with a book on the 'English' Civil War.

As for the difference in opportunities for men and women in academia, I have no idea why being a Martin is better than being a Martina. Why should Historians as a profession ideally be any different in demographic composition to the rest of society?

Is it possible that the fact that 'None of these figures has ever appeared in any work on early modern history that I have ever read or is likely to figure on any reading list I see.' is indicative of a problem with your research rather than with other people's work?

Claire B. Potter - 6/17/2008

Oh dear.


David H. Noon - 6/17/2008

This post is much funnier now....