Herstory

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Herstory is history written from a feminist perspective, emphasizing the role of women, or told from a woman's point of view. It is a neologism coined in the late 1960s as part of a feminist critique of conventional historiography,[1] with the word "history" reinterpreted, using a false etymology, as "his story." (The word "history"—from the Ancient Greek ἱστορία, or historia, meaning "knowledge obtained by inquiry"—is etymologically unrelated to the possessive pronoun his.)[2]

The herstory movement has spawned women-centered presses, such as Virago Press in 1973, which publishes fiction and non-fiction by noted women authors like Janet Frame and Sarah Dunant.

Usage[edit]

The Oxford English Dictionary credits Robin Morgan with coining the term in her 1970 book Sisterhood is Powerful. Concerning the feminist organization WITCH, Morgan writes:

The fluidity and wit of the witches is evident in the ever-changing acronym: the basic, original title was Women's International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell [...] and the latest heard at this writing is Women Inspired to Commit Herstory.[1]

In 1976, Casey Miller and Kate Swift wrote in Words & Women,

When women in the movement use herstory, their purpose is to emphasize that women's lives, deeds, and participation in human affairs have been neglected or undervalued in standard histories.[1]

During the 1970s and 1980s, second-wave feminists saw the study of history as a male-dominated intellectual enterprise and presented "herstory" as a means of compensation.[3] The term, intended to be both serious and comic,[4] became a rallying cry used on T-shirts and buttons as well as in academia.[5]

In feminist literature and academic discourse, the term has been used occasionally as an "economical way" to describe feminist efforts against a male-centered canon.[6]

Criticism[edit]

Christina Hoff Sommers has been a vocal critic of the concept of herstory, and presented her argument against the movement in her 1994 book, Who Stole Feminism?. Sommers defined herstory as an attempt to infuse education with ideology, at the expense of knowledge.[7] The "gender feminists", as she termed them, were the band of feminists responsible for the movement, which she felt amounted to negationism. She regarded most attempts to make historical studies more female-inclusive as being artificial in nature, and an impediment to progress.[5]

Professor and author Devoney Looser has criticized the concept of herstory for overlooking the contributions that some women made as historians before the twentieth century.[3]

The Global Language Monitor, a nonprofit group that analyzes and tracks trends in language, named herstory the third most "politically incorrect" word of 2006—rivaled only by "macaca" and "Global Warming Denier".[8][9]

Books[edit]

Recent books published on the topic include:

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Herstory",[dead link] Oxford English Dictionary Online (Oxford University Press, 2006).
  2. ^ Jane Mills, "Womanwords: a dictionary of words about women", 1992, ISBN 0-02-921495-5, p. 118
  3. ^ a b Devoney Looser, British Women Writers and the Writing of History (Johns Hopkins University Press: 2000). ISBN 0-8018-6448-8.
  4. ^ Angus Calder and Lizbeth Goodman, "Gender and Poetry", in Literature and Gender, ed. by Lizbeth Goodman (Routledge: 1996). ISBN 0-415-13573-7.
  5. ^ a b Hoff Sommers, Christina (1995). "3 (Transforming the Academy)". Who Stole Feminism?: How Women Have Betrayed Women. United Kingdom: Touchstone Books. ISBN 0-684-80156-6. 
  6. ^ Robert J. Belton, Words of Art[dead link] (2002).
  7. ^ Hoff Sommers, Christina (1995). "5 (The Feminist Classroom)". Who Stole Feminism?: How Women Have Betrayed Women. United Kingdom: Touchstone Books. p. 97. ISBN 0-684-80156-6. 
  8. ^ Global Language Monitor web page[dead link] (2006).
  9. ^ ""Macaca" named most politically incorrect word". Reuters. December 16, 2006. Retrieved 2007-07-13.