Posted: Thursday, October 30, 2003
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It is important when traversing our collective and personal histories not to forget the stories of women. History has been for many of us, a collection of facts, information, dates and events. We learn it that way in school and the idea stays with us. While especially for African people as we attempt to recover much of our lost history, there has been a concerted attempt to draw from non-traditional sources for windows into our past, still too often the side of history that we get is political, public and largely associated with events. This tale of HIS-story is not so called by accident. Our views of history invariably rely on texts or oral testimonies by men, are interpreted by men and thus evoke a male perspective, a way of looking at the world.
If there can be one thing that the western feminist movement did achieve to attempt to correct this imbalance is the recognition of the uniqueness of a FEMALE PERSPECTIVE, a way that women write, women feel, what is important to them to record, what they pass on to their children and so on. While this scholarship has been largely western/ European and has often assumed the female perspective to be uniform and universal, it is the PREMISE that is valuable. The very idea that there is a whole side of history that has not been told is vital. The importance of the women that played important roles in political and military events has begun to receive more recognition within recent times. However what has not yet been widely recognized is the fact that the focus on the events and dates and politics of history negates another vital side of our collective human history, that is the feelings of an age, the emotions, the social organization, what has been retained and what has been abandoned. It is these things that are the jewels in the history that women tell. It is this that is the balancing factor in revisiting our history.
Women's narratives, the folk tales, the stories, the work, the issues and concerns that are particular to them is just as valid to our understanding of history as a knowledge of the wars, the treaties the land boundaries and the economy. Just as the male and female principles complement each other, our views of history also much combine to give a holistic view of the past. When we talk to our 'mothers' and I use this word to mean our female ancestors generally we begin to understand the time they lived in a deeper sense. If the common perception has been that it is men who have moved the wheels of history then it is women who have been the oil that greased the parts and sometimes have even been the wheels themselves. Without understanding the HER-story of women we do not know THE-story at all.
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