I was visiting Linda Kerber’s essay collection by that name (1997) this week and came across this passage;
“Indeed, whatever topics we were drawn to, everyone who taught women’s history perforce became an intellectual historian. We had to ask what different generations had meant by the terms they used: how they had conceptualized the categories of male and female, man and woman, or how the meaning of the term ‘feminism’ itself had changed over the course of the century. When people in the nineteenth century spoke of ‘The Woman Question,’ what did they mean? Does woman suffrage’ mean the same as ‘women suffrage’? Over the decades, the conceptual questions grew in complexity. To what extent have concepts like ‘feminism’ been implicitly located in racialized standpoints? What is the difference between sex and gender? To what extent is gender a social construction? To teach even the most basic narratives, we had to engage these questions. That was true in the early 1970s and it’s even more true now; feminist scholars cannot ignore theorists of language or historians of ideas.”
It sometimes seems that we take gender analysis for granted and don’t see it as automatically a form of the history of ideas–ideas about self, cultural proscriptions, and the ideas that motivate society. Do you view gender analysis this way? Is gendered analysis the thing that defines the intellectual history of women? Are we reifying gender difference by defining an intellectual history of women?
Tags: .USIH Blog