An animated series about women who dared defy history

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Do something that’s never been done before.

Lots of people. If one knew how to use a search engine one could see the phrase being applied to the presidential race, and not just to the candidate that will likely make history. There’s also this Supreme Court thing going on that defies not just logic, but also history.

This is a project by women about the women of history they love. Let’s not continue to berate them.


A typical definition of the term ‘history’ is something like, “the study of past events, particularly in relation to human affairs.” The Greek root is latinized as historia, or knowledge through investigation.

The study of historians’ methodologies for creating ‘histories’ is historiography – that is, examining the sources, tools, and theories (and more recently, the voices) used by historians.

History, then, is a human creation, not a found thing; we make it, and thus it is subject to all our conceptual strengths, weaknesses, and foibles. (Even “natural history” requires human analysis and interpretation.) I say “we” and “our,” but the vast bulk of historical output has been written by men, about men, for men. And for most of its few hundred years’ existence, historiography has used this same limiting factor as its fulcrum.

I suspect this new project by Sarkeesian, et al. seeks to write (or at least to inspire) new histories focused on women, and to also get a little meta on historiography’s ass for letting women’s roles in human affairs become so ignored.


Not sure that Ada Lovelace was the best example of a woman who has been overlooked by history (I’ll ignore the debate on the word ‘defy’, though I’m not sure it’s the best choice in this situation). The Science Museum in London (one of the greatest collections of scientific artefacts in the world, with free entry to most of its displays) has been running an exhibition on Ada for some months. Recognition doesn’t get much higher profile than that.

In general terms though, women who dared to defy their conventional role according to the mores of their time have frequently had their roles diminished in the historical record. The only ones who haven’t are those whom it would be simply impossible to ignore or play down - Marie Curie being the best example. Look at Rosalind Franklin (ibid boingboing passim) - and I’m sure there are more modern examples. How will today’s female pioneers and role models be represented by history? I guess it depends on who writes it…

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WAT? How do you defy history? What sort of idiot comes up with a name like that? Why not “Women who dared to make history” or something that actually sounds intelligent?.

History is written, you muppets. Especially the history cited. Defiance to such is defiance against a story, whether the story is sufficient or true or not. Talk about the sufficiency of a story or gtfo.

I’m always a little apprehensive when someone says they’re going to tell this story (I don’t know if Sarkessian et al will). Mainly because too many people turn it into a saga with clear villains and heroes, but the reality is a little more complicated and often speaks to bigger issues in addition to gender dynamics in science at the time as well as now. Unfortunately James Watson is something of an asshole, and it makes it hard to avoid dramatization in part because he inspires it. One of Franklin’s biographers, Sayre, made some grossly inaccurate claims, even erasing the existence of other very capable women at the institution to further a specific narrative about Franklin. However she was a friend of Franklin, and so her account is taken to carry perhaps more weight than it should.

I don’t find @ragingroosevelt’s complaint to be illegitimate. To some extent it’s mostly a stylistic concern and arguments for or against the phrase are defensible on aesthetic appeal (or lack thereof). (C.f. “One small step for man…”) Yes, it’s a common phrase, and no, I still don’t like it. Whether I personally find it to be clunky is not really a matter for debate in a sense. Though I would argue that regardless of what history is, it’s certainly not sufficiently monolithic enough to be defied. I can’t take it literally as a meaningful statement, and I certainly doubt that all of the great women portrayed defied history so much as they made contributions to the shape of historical events that deserved recognition. It’s a fine point, and I think that people understand or take the meaning of the phrase just fine without anyone belaboring it, but I don’t think it’s fair to accuse someone who doesn’t like it of being a jackass.

Overall, I have to be honest, I’ve always viewed Sarkeesian with some skepticism. Not because she’s exposing sexism which I’ve felt is far too obvious to deny in video games (and Gators can all go to hell as far as I’m concerned) or because she’s outspoken. Skepticism is just that, skepticism, not the all-encompassing hatred of the troglodyte mob that has turned hating her into a sick hobby. I’ve found she sometimes contradicts herself and not all of her research is on point. I worry that with the slick production values, maybe something is getting lost compared to her earlier work. Which compared to the bile spewed forth in industrial quantities by the Internet at mere mention of her name probably seems like praise, but I’m not so sure a lot of the work she’s done won’t seem fairly dated ten years from now in large part because of these weaknesses.


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