History is not a long series of centuries in which men did all the interesting/important things and women stayed home and twiddled their thumbs in between pushing out babies, making soup and dying in childbirth.
History is actually a long series of centuries of men writing down what they thought was important and interesting, and FORGETTING TO WRITE ABOUT WOMEN. It’s also a long series of centuries of women’s work and women’s writing being actively denigrated by men. Writings were destroyed, contributions were downplayed, and women were actively oppressed against, absolutely.
But the forgetting part is vitally important. Most historians and other writers of what we now consider “primary sources” simply didn’t think about women and their contribution to society. They took it for granted, except when that contribution or its lack directly affected men.
This does not in any way mean that the female contribution to society was in fact less interesting or important, or complicated, simply that history—the process of writing down and preserving of the facts, not the facts/events themselves—was looking the other way.”
I posted a few days ago on Autism and Empathy, and the excellent Disability in KidsLit reblogged and pointed out something important.
I agree with this sentiment, and as an autistic reader it’s incredibly important to me to have more—and more varied—portrayals of autistic characters, and protagonists in particular. However:
"He’s a caricature based on a disability, and the traits of this disability are played for laughs—what other disability are we, in 2014, invited to laugh at?"
Sadly, this is common across plenty of disabilities. Deaf/HoH characters “humorously” mishearing speech, MF/CFS being downplayed and ridiculed (which comes with bonus sexism), people with intellectual disabilities being imitated for humor’s sake… the list goes on.
They are absolutely right, of course, and I feel pretty badly that in the heat of my post I wasn’t more careful here. Because these jokes are everywhere, all of the time. What I’d been trying to say—and failed—was that I think THE ROSIE PROJECT is really extreme: it’s an international bestseller where the protagonist is basically a joke based entirely on his disability, and I could not find a single review anywhere that called the book out on this. I would hope that we’ve advanced to the point where that would not be true with other disabilities in mainstream literature—at least someone would call them out for it. But perhaps I’m wrong on that as well.
Somehow, poking fun at disabilities is still “okay” in our entertainment media. Of course there’s the “shock” humor—a genre that seems entirely based on reifying white patriarchal norms, but it’s much beyond that. One author caught a few disabled jokes in the Lego Movie, which just kills me. This stuff is for kids. And someday I’m going to have to explain to my son that he’s perfectly okay, despite those kind of “jokes” rampant in entertainment meant for him. Somehow.
Anyway, I was careless about something it’s not okay to be careless about, and I apologize. Thanks to disability in kidslit.