Sometimes, when I find myself in a situation where it’s time to put on my big girl pants, I whisper to myself, “Well-behaved women seldom make history.”
I’ll be the first to admit that it’s a little bit overdramatic. I’m a 20-year-old stuck in a pyramid scheme, not Rosa Parks, Joan of Arc or the editor of Cosmo. I don’t have to worry about anything world-shaking. My most pressing problem is getting an extra try on my math homework. Not to fight against the bourgeois or to vote. But the phrase is good for motivation, until I lose my spark about 20 minutes later.
I was saying this phrase to myself when I had an existential crisis. I realized that unless I do something unforgivably stupid or stumble upon something brilliant, I would not make history. Needless to say, it was a scary thought. After the pleasant realization that my life is meaningless against the test of time, I realized that I’m not alone. Women throughout history have been doing brilliant things and have had a hard time making history as opposed to their male counterparts.
This isn’t a groundbreaking thing to say. Unless you’re some sort of meninist, it’s common sense. Women were, and are still, stripped of their rights to vote, operate within their self interests and denied basic human rights. If a woman fought against this, she was accused of being a witch. If she didn’t, she was forgotten. You couldn’t win. Even if you had a sliver of hope to make history you had to be white, rich or willing to risk your life. It’s not exactly the chance of a lifetime, is it?
I want to say that this isn’t me poking holes at women heroes. Jane Austin will always have my heart. In fact, even women who are written about are almost always misrepresented. Marie Antoinette is portrayed as a stupid woman. Cleopatra is a symbol of desire. Don’t even get me started on Medusa. Women are designed to not win in history.
But what can we do to stand by these women? To honor the ladies who walked so we could jog (let’s be honest ladies, we’re far from running)?
The answer is to educate ourselves. We have to look at the facts and make sure to question everything from a woman’s point of view. We have to challenge what men of the time had to write about women. Then, when the facts are straight, you look for more. You see more women. You uncover more stories. You make history by uncovering history.
Maybe women didn’t make history even if they went against the status quo. Maybe you won’t make history, well behaved or not. But if you go against the grain and take history into your own hands, you can change history. And for some reason, I feel like this is a lot better than adding yourself to the history books.
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