The History Channel Problem

4 Jun

Ask any archaeologist and they will probably tell you: the History Channel is rather disappointing. Shows like “Ancient Encounters” (or whatever that stupid show about ancient humans meeting aliens is called) tend to be the lynchpin in the whole dislike.

But the disappearance of women in history has always troubled me, too.  I realize the History Channel mainly focuses on the American Civil War and World War II, probably for the edification of retired old grandpas who have the time to sit and watch their programming for hours on end, but even those situations were not devoid of women and women’s contributions.  When women and our contributions aren’t mentioned, it can make it seem to anyone who isn’t an archaeologist or historian (and I have it on good faith that there are a lot of you) that women didn’t do anything at all.  We literally get disappeared.

So I was excited the other day when, while watching an episode of Pickers, a graphic came on the screen that said something about women disguising themselves in order to fight in the American Civil War.  Below it was a URL.  Thinking that it might give me something great to blog about, I checked it out.

Mentions of women are excessively rare in the interactive feature, and one of only two that I found was basically the same sentence as the one they had shown in the graphic: “400+ women disguised their identities and secretly served” (under Who They Were).  They also mention the female nurses who worked in the hospitals.

But after a little more digging, I discovered an entire section devoted to women.  Though I still don’t like that we’re treated as a sidenote to all of the ‘real’ action, ghettoized and buried in a far-less interactive section of the site, I have to grudgingly admit that the History Channel didn’t leave women out.

While I may still have issues with the History Channel (too numerous and often-non-topical to recount here), I want to laud them for attempting to correct at least some of the issues they have had in the past.  Hopefully, they will keep going, and someday do such crazy things as have women featured in the general sections of their website, or even offer women’s history programming that grandmas will be see themselves in too.

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