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Review of Hidden Figures 

15 Feb

Usually, when a movie comes out about historically important women, my excitement is tinged with some trepidation. So often, these kinds of movies are about exceptional women – geniuses or rebels – and they are presented as the exceptions. “Can you believe that a woman did this?” the undercurrent asks. “Isn’t she so brave and unique and so unlike all of those incredibly ordinary women?” As if womankind has only ever had a few moments in history where she was worthy of notice and respect. 

Hidden Figures is not like that. 

There is certainly the genius, Katherine G Johnson, who the entire story is centered around. And all three of the main characters are in some way exceptional. 

But rather than constantly gasping at the heroines’ braveness and intelligence as if that’s the only thing that makes them worthy of being the eye of a movie, Hidden Figures humanizes them. It frames their efforts to overcome injustices not as the sacrifice they must make to overcome their inherent ordinariness, but instead as the ordinary travails of a black woman’s life. It tells the story from the characters’ perspective, pulling the viewers in by reminding us that we have at least 99% of our DNA in common. Black female geniuses want to be happy, it says, and happiness is not transcending gender and race in order to find a partner or do a great job, but encompassing gender and race in the process. A woman can be intelligent and also want to be a great wife and mother, it says. A black woman can be black and also want to be recognized for her accomplishments. 
A black woman can be a black woman and also have white women and men cheering her on. 

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Old News: Old Bra

16 Nov

Women have supposedly only been wearing bras for a hundred years.  But women have had breasts for millions of years, and those breasts can pain their bearers during exercise, pregnancy, or just everyday life – and for a lot of women, the best antidote is some external support.  So it’s no surprise that a few 14th century bras were found in the floorboards of an Austrian castle.  It’s certainly neat, though; it reminds us that the women back then were women just like we are.

Note: I put the right link in this time.

Hysteria is in Theaters!

13 Jul

Remember that movie about Hysteria that I mentioned?

It’s in theaters!

Go see it and let me know what you think.  My friend Spring will convince you:

Hysteria, as many of you probably know, was commonly recognized by Western medical professionals as a legitimate disease up until 1952. Women were diagnosed with hysteria if they displayed any of a wide array of symptoms including irritability, fluid retention, trouble-making, having too much or too little sexual desire, being too hungry, and on. Like me, pretty much every day. The common treatment became genital massage, and such was prescribed in early gynecological literature dating back to Hippocrates’ work around 330 B.C. Women would go to doctors, get rubbed off by the physician or his (physicians were most always male up until the 19th century) nurse or assistant. And women went religiously. It was a cycle, of course: repress, pay doctor to orgasm, repeat. The problem for doctors was, as Rachel P. Maines explains in an excellent piece of scientific history, manually stimulating the clitoris of a female hysteric was hard work and could take quite some time. Doctors had other patients to see and money to make, so when the invention of the electric vibrator came along, doctors were, physically and financially, relieved.

Don’t forget to visit Spring’s blog and click on her Rachel P. Maines link.

Lady Irony Strikes

12 Jul

…The irony for me being that not having to look for a job constantly anymore has actually left me with less time to update than before.  If only someone would pay me to post.

History Crushes

11 Mar

Found a new history-centered internet location today while researching: Fuck Yeah History Crushes.  It’s not just ladies but it does have some good information on quite a few, plus dorkiness and pictures.

Since I can’t seem to get my act together, go show ’em some love.

Another (Women’s) History Month, Dammit

6 Mar

It’s another month aimed at celebrating obscured histories – and basically the patron month of this blog – but I, as is usual these days, am ill-prepared for it.

Oh, I have a ton of stuff waiting in the wings for the few moments when I have the time to get around to it.

But working and job hunting and keeping myself sane in the process unfortunately leave very little time for me to get around to it, so I’m just going to have to inaugurate this month with a link to someone else who can recommend you some offline material to read.

I hope my sisters can forgive me.

You Belong To Me

2 Dec

Shortly after World War II, a young woman wrote a song called “Hurry Home to Me”, asking an imaginary boyfriend to not be distracted by his adventures abroad from the women he had left at home.  Since the war was over, the song was changed to “You Belong to Me“.  That young woman was Chilton Price, a music radio historian who wrote songs for fun.

The song subsequently became a hit Continue reading

100 Years of Culture in London

2 Sep

Oh friends, I have so much to post and so little time!

In the meantime, here’s another fun little thing to keep you company.

“The Help”

13 Aug

I’m usually really excited, for obvious reasons, about historical fiction (especially historical fiction that focuses on people other than the usual kings and presidents) making its way from books to the movies.  So when I first started to see ads for The Help, I mostly reacted with excitement.

But the track record of Hollywood in regards to telling the stories of black women is not good, so I was apprehensive too.  Sadly, it turns out that both the novel and the movie have major problems with accuracy* when it comes to the actual lived experience of black women in the South in the 1960s.  (And that’s not the only problem with it.)  For many white people, this will still be an eye-opening film, but I hope they are inspired to dig further, so that they will learn that this is a watered-down, cleaned-up, and stolen version of what actually happened.

*Found via Jack and Jill Politics.

 

Update: Another view on the subject.

The Seven Daughters of Eve

25 Jul

Since I am currently writing the longest essay of my life, I am skimming through a lot of books these days.  Most of them are on some obscure aspect of my thesis topic (for instance, Neanderthals, tools, and the ways that Neanderthals used tools), but occasionally I come across things that a layperson such as yourself would actually be interested in.

The Seven Daughters of Eve is one of those books.  Continue reading