top of page
Search
  • Writer's pictureChristine Stevens

More Letters to This Day in History: Women's History v. Plain Old History

Updated: Oct 23, 2023




The following is the actual correspondence between me and the History Channel regarding their This Day in History selection of historical happenings that I voluntarily subscribe to via email. (For more of my rants to This Day in History, see https://www.cmstevensmary.com/post/how-the-west-was-done )


May 1, 2022


Hi!


I’m That Woman with the category name problems. I used to harass you about the Westward Expansion category name but I’ve given up that fight for now and I’m refocusing on your Women’s History category name.


Just curious, how do you determine what is plain old HISTORY and what is WOMEN’S HISTORY?


I ask because today, I notice you have 2 stories about women under the plain old HISTORY category and 2 stories about women under WOMEN’S HISTORY. And by the way, BRAVO to you for having 4 stories about women today - usually it’s 0 or at least one of the stories is about a murdered or murderous female or one that’s getting married to a prominent man.


Is it only when a woman has ventured into a male realm that they are included in HISTORY (like today with Babe Didrikson Zaharias playing a very male sport, golf, or Calamity Jane whose fame came from the fact that she dressed and behaved like a man)?


Because today you put under WOMEN’S HISTORY an article about Women’s suffrage, voting rights and peace efforts pre-WWI US involvement. Now I don’t know about you, but Women advocating to prevent the slaughter and traumatizing of males seems like something that was in ALL our best interests. Not to mention the whole voting rights thing. Do I need to explain why that was a good idea for women and men?


And funnily enough, under WOMEN’S HISTORY today, you put an article about Gloria Steinem’s expose of the Playboy Clubs' dehumanizing practices. The Playboy Club, I probably don’t need to remind you, was, in the 1960’s operated and frequented by MEN. A woman shining a spotlight on MALE behavior through investigative journalism and helping to start to change that behavior is, in my opinion, everyone’s history.


So if you could clarify for me how you decide what is plain old HIStory and what is WOMEN'S HIStory, I would really appreciate it .


As Simone de Beauvoir wrote: "Representation of the world, like the world itself, is the work of men; they describe it from their own point of view, which they confuse with the absolute truth.” Perhaps you could consider changing your point of view?


Sincerely,

Christine Stevens

That Woman


May 4, 2022


Hi, it’s me again.


Are you familiar with the term ‘othering’? If not, here’s the definition from google:

oth·er

/ˈəT͟Hər/

verb

gerund or present participle: othering

  1. view or treat (a person or group of people) as intrinsically different from and alien to oneself. "a critique of the ways in which the elderly are othered by society” I include the definition because separating the stories of Women from the stories of Men is THE DEFINITION OF OTHERING.


Sorry, I got a little shouty there.


But putting Margaret Thatchers’ historic rise to power under Women’s History and not just plain old History, or Politics, or any category that you would put the achievement of a man under actually seeks to minimize her accomplishment. Can’t everything just be categorized under HUMAN HISTORY?


While I would agree women are different from men, I would also argue that the whole History/Women’s History thing means that History shows we’re talking mostly about the work of men and a woman doing anything noteworthy is an anomaly. Even if that female becomes the Prime Minister of England. And I’m no Iron Lady fan. But I will defend her place in History.


I feel like you’re a group of smart people and I’ve just spent the day teaching middle school so my snark supply is low and I don’t think I really need to explain any further why you insult one half of the population by separating our stories from the other half.


Separate is not equal, as we well know by now.


Ok I’m done.

Thanks for reading.

Christine Stevens

That Woman


May 5, 2022


oh boy.


Can’t help but notice that today’s offerings are once again all male except for that one article about the woman who murdered and then chopped up her husband, packed him in a suitcase and threw him in the ocean. At least she was categorized under Crime and not Women’s History. Oh, and the debut of Chanel No. 5, traditionally but not exclusively worn by women.


As I wrote in yesterday’s complaint, how you decide to categorize these events is a mystery to me.


Meanwhile, my Superficial Internet Search tells me that Nellie Bly was born today - the KICK ASS original investigative journalist, world traveler, etc. Feel free to read up on her: https://www.biography.com/activist/nellie-bly.


Personally, I’d rather know about Nellie than the fact that a noxious, over-priced, headache inducing (to me) perfume was launched on this day.


Just trying to be helpful,

Christine Stevens

That Woman


July 10, 2022


Hi!,

Well, just when I thought you all were stepping into the 21st century, you go and recycle an old piece of history that would be best forgotten. So now I have to bug you again.


I’m talking about trotting out a misogynistic piece of shit ABOUT a misogynistic piece of shit. To save the intern reading this letter’s time, I am copying the letter I wrote to you LAST YEAR.


Once more with feeling and bold type:


July 10, 2021


This isn’t a fact check, more of a WTF check.

Let’s see. Where to begin?


We'll start with the title: “Buckskin” Frank Leslie Murders a Prostitute


So you name (and even include his nickname!) an inveterate liar and violent murderer in your title, but the victim is simply ‘prostitute.’ This, of course, signals the reader to equate prostitute with either ‘inconsequential' or 'deserved it’ since she doesn’t even bear naming. It’s 2021. Please stop this shit.


Your article then goes on to describe a disgusting POS who, by the end of the article, I could not fathom why I was reading anything about him. Other than the fact that he ruined lives in the iconic town of Tombstone, AZ, why would he deserve any place in the historical record?


And then, in yet another example of what must be your occasional use of a 1950’s high school history textbook as your reference material, you describe the woman who helped Leslie win parole as ‘divorcee Belle Stowell.” What her marital status had to do with it, I’ll never know, but it feels like a 1950’s B Movie descriptor for a woman of ‘loose morals.’ It’s 2021. PLEASE stop this shit.


I will give you credit for naming Mollie Williams in the article this year, something I don’t think happened last year.


And although I thought last year's letter said it all, clearly you need some assistance. So here’s a helpful suggestion: If you must keep using it, re-title the article “Violent Misogynist Murders Sex Worker Blonde Mollie Williams.” Especially in our current situation, where we find the freedom and rights of half the population in the US under assault (yes I’m talking about reproductive rights), I feel you have a duty to frame history in a way that does not continue to perpetuate the acceptance of violence against women, real or imagined.


Also, just an FYI, my Superficial Internet Search turned up these fine ladies who are much more deserving of their place in history today than this stupid cowboy:

-Mary McLeod Bethune, an educator and founder of the National Council of Negro Women, was born today in 1875. She also served as Minority Affairs Advisor to Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

-Edith Quimby, a biophysicist and pioneer in the use of radiation in medicine and the development of standards for radiation protection, was born today in 1891.


Always happy to hear what you have to say about any of this,

Christine Stevens

That Woman


March 15, 2023


Hi!

Just can’t help myself. I noticed today, once again, all the history is HIS. And it just so happens to be Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s birthday. Probably don’t have to remind you who she was.


And yet you celebrate the birth of Andrew Jackson. I appreciate the honest portrayal, mentioning his violence and, most importantly, his OWNERSHIP OF ENSLAVED HUMANS.


Which is why I can’t for the life of me understand why you would celebrate a nasty, violent racist who reminds black people of his heinous contributions to our history every time they pull out a 20 dollar bill, and not the life of a person who worked to liberate all women from the entrenched patriarchy. And she had a reputation as a good, kind human being.


I mean, I imagine she might have even gotten along with an asshole like Jackson.

After all, she and Scalia were buddies.


Also, I think it’s Women’s History Month. But I’m not sure. Hard to tell.


Thanks for taking the time to read this,

Christine Stevens

That Woman

Who would really love to see more Women’s History on your page every day


April 10, 2023

————————————————————————

Referring URL: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/a-torture-chamber-is-uncovered-by-arson

————————————————————————


So today I just want to talk about balance.


While you do have one story about a woman, it is, once again, about a despicable, sadistic monster who tortured enslaved people. While you toggle back and forth between women victims and women criminals, I don’t think that counts as any sort of balance.


Meanwhile, today is the birthday of FRANCES PERKINS, quite possibly one of the most influential females of the 20th century. Starting with, oh, inventing Social Security. Here’s her Wikipedia page:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frances_Perkins


I don’t deny that the break up of the Beatles was historic and caused a veritable tidal wave of tears and depression for an entire generation, and the start of ping pong diplomacy with China was possibly a political game changer, but really, couldn’t you have made a slot for the woman who helped bring us the Labor movement and, oh yeah, created the minimum wage?


What do you think?


Happy to hear your thoughts,

Christine Stevens

That Woman



May 24, 2023


Hi.

I wasn’t going to say anything about today's This Day in History offerings re:your choices and the lack of not-just-murdered-or-murderous female representation, but then I thought “What the hell, I haven’t bothered you all in awhile, let’s do it.”


Because today, you chose to highlight the requisite murdered female/victim, poor Lori Ann Auker as well as Thomas Jefferson’s fling, Maria Cosway instead of someone like, say, Helen Taussig, born today in 1898, pediatric cardiologist, first woman professor at Johns Hopkins, helped create a technique that SAVED babies from blue baby syndrome AND helped ban thalidomide. Must I point out that her contributions helped save the lives of both females AND males?


Instead, I have to read about Thomas Jefferson getting giddy about a gal. And the first night time baseball game.


Please consider the message you are frequently sending to your readers, both male and female: Most women are victims or only mentioned in relation to a man.


Representation matters so much. We know that. You’ve made some great changes in how you present our colonizing past, Native Americans, black and brown people.


Can you work on the women now?

Christine Stevens

That Woman



A+E Networks Support (HISTORY) May 26, 2023, 12:39 PM EDT Hello Christine, Thank you for that suggestion! We will take it under consideration. Kind regards, HISTORY Support Sign Up for HISTORY Emails HISTORY Help Center

92 views0 comments
bottom of page