In this article, a group of female History professors are interviewed, and showcased in colorful and feminine and appropriate attire. Some might find it “disempowering”. Some say the title belittles women. I’m not so sure about that…
First off, I LOVE when a female professor that I work for comes into the office wearing a leopard print dress and high top boot converses and says “Im a badass, I wear what I want.” She embraces her power as a serious intellectual but doesn’t feel the need to downplay her femininity or ability to express herself through fashion.
From the article, however, they ask the same kinds of questions that a journalist would ask male professors: “Why the Tudors?, If you could go back in time…, What do women bring to the way we see history?”
Aren’t these too the same questions that we ask ourselves as educated women—what do I, as a voice that has been surprised and shut down, bring to the world of scholarly work? The article itself reads like an interest piece about a few awesome women in the History world.
As to the “History Girls” thing—I think this is a function of living in a society wherein formality and respect are on the decline on ALL fronts. I can one hundred percent imagine an article in The Atlantic showcasing “The History Boys”—except of course, that Men in academia are so run of the mill and standard that they would have to be an exceptional group of men to even be showcased. This also reminds me of the idea that along with an increase in awareness and support for marginalized groups will come an increase in attention and special treatment—yes women, we have not completely won the fight, but in the mean time, we will continue to be in the news for every gosh darn thing we do because it still surprises people!
Do we like when women are showcased or not? Cause sometimes it seems like there is backlash on both fronts?
And yes, they are dressed up, but isn’t the point that Academia has been dominated by old white men for so long, that heck, lets talk about some kickass women who are equal to or better in intellect? Yes, the picture dolls them up but they were in an article, therefore there has to be a picture. And some of them are in pant suits, and ALL of them are appropriately dressed. —yes, contemporary, colorful, and feminine (but I dare say that if the article dressed them up in ugly jackets and slacks instead, someone would complain that the article was suggesting that women in academia just have to look like men or want to be men).
Additionally, I understand the annoyance with “History Girls” but when society does not respect academia the way it did years ago, I wouldn’t expect anything less. That is what annoys me the most. We can trivialize the work that a PhD does down to a few sentences in a questionnaire? Do an expose! Write a long essay and publish it as a biographical piece! These women poured years and years into becoming experts, don’t ask them to boil their ideas down into a few sentences!
But then again, should we be happy that people are taking note at all? —Probably.