authenticity, feminism, history, interpretation, living history, progressive reenacting, women's history, women's work
Let me be clear: Fort Ti was amazing. It was everything I’d hoped for. Far away, made of stone, populated with people I like, with an event cleared of all the crap that makes me crazy.
The issues that enrage me are both societal and hobby-specific.
While boys were boys and women were women this past weekend, I found myself tired out by biologically deterministic behaviour. For the love of Christ, you can listen to a woman, not talk over her or interrupt her even if:
a) she is not your boss or mother
b) you do not want or expect to sleep with her.
Gentlemen: we are human beings as smart as- if not smarter– than you. If we are smarter, society has taught us to manage that for you, so you won’t feel <ahem> small. I know that what men fear most is humiliation (the bravest ones will admit it) and what women fear most is violence (it’s true).
But a woman’s interest in history, or even military history, should be as joyous to you as your male friend’s interest.
So why the shouty?
Why the taking over of the conversation?
Why the relegation of women to a separate bench?
Why am I pointing this out?
Well… because even some of the best progressive reenactors have trouble getting past uber-traditional gender roles.
I get it, really, I do. I am accustomed to being a woman in a (hyper manly) man’s world.
I studied sculpture in college in the Dark Ages and I know from male-dominated fields. I ran a foundry in grad school, and a bunch of mostly-male work study students. I’m an owner’s rep for construction projects, and work with a lot of different contractors and construction workers.
But that doesn’t mean I have to like it or tolerate it, as any of my history, art, or construction associates will tell you. My younger counterparts have even less tolerance than I do, so I advise you to listen up, think about gender roles, gun shows, assault/predation and interpretation or consider Lysistrata the future you have earned.
It’s really simple.
You like living history?
We like living history.
Let’s play together better to more accurately represent the past without replicating crappy gender relations. If you start listening and stop interrupting, we’ll stop laughing at you.
Please let me put on this the kindest construction I can.
“…even some of the best progressive reenactors have trouble getting past uber-traditional gender roles”
I submit that this might not be “even” but “especially”.
Here’s why I think so.
Over the 40 or so years that I have been doing living history; I’ve noticed that folks who are really into it can sometimes have a tendency to slide into a kind of interpersonal 18c role play unconsciously. Those who are better dressed might talk down ever-so-slightly to those who are dressed working-class. Men might talk down to women. They don’t mean to be disrespectful, but it seems to be an unconscious part of being in the clothes and in the setting. I’ve seen it happen far too often, and it does tend to nettle whoever is on the receiving end, because it feels vaguely inappropriate, which it is.
So maybe what you’re observing is merely this phenomenon of which I speak, the military guy so into his character that he forgets, just a bit, that he’s not a real officer and you aren’t a real campfollower.
I probably needn’t tell you what solution I would recommend. In my experience, civilian reenacting events, aside frorm their other merits, tend to bring out the *nicest* reenactor men I know.
I just now found this column and have to agree. I have noted that, in my 1860s persona, I receive much more deference and courtesy when wearing hoops than when I’m wearing a work dress or wrapper. (My persona is middling poor and has one “best dress” that takes hoops.) It’s immersive, all right…. but I would hope that the fellows consciously realize they’re doing it and turn it off when not in character.
Here, here. Civilian events are where it is at. Much more fun, lots more to do. It’s my preferred activity.
I don’t think this post is addressed to the male living historians who are playing 18th century. Role play is fun, and part of the hobby. It is addressed to the ones who have been doing living history for 40 years or so who do the same thing every year and don’t want anything to change.
They are misogynists in everyday life and want women to sit quietly in camp and cook for them (weird, since it is historically inaccurate in the military context.) They also don’t take kindly to young people trying to alter what they do, even if it is based on the latest research. I think humans in general don’t like change and want respect based on how long they have been doing something.
Large organizations amplify these tendencies. I’m glad there are experienced folks who are willing to to teach the next generation, but I’m also glad there is a vibrant, freelance, living-history culture where they can go to express themselves.
Kitty is tilting at windmills and I support it.
Great post! As perhaps not-your-typical guy I prefer listening much more than talking, and I learn just as much if not more from women and children. 🙂
Great post! As perhaps your not-so-typical male, I prefer listening to talking, and learn just as much if not more from women and children. 🙂
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