Stories are the personal accounts of individuals, history is the collective stories of the community. But the individual accounts don’t always agree, and so whoever gets to write the collective history—the conquerors, the dominant class, the owners of culture and teaching—decides which dissents are silenced. More often than not, these stories, these true accounts, are disappeared forever.
For all those whose histories have been disappeared, there is more than just the stories that is lost. It is the very existence of a people that is wiped from human memory. If the story of an entire people is lost and never told again, it is as if they never existed. It is then that they cease to be fully human, fully equal with those whose stories remain present and dominant.
Slavery was an example of this deliberate process of dehumanization and disappeared history: Africans were kidnapped, carried across the ocean in chains, and violently forced into generations of slavery. A deliberate and destructive component of enslavement and colonization is the erasure of identity and history. Like colonized peoples across the globe, the histories of the Africans in America were forcibly suppressed and replaced with the histories of their enslaver.
For generations, blacks in America had no history of their own, no legitimacy other than what was given to them by whites, including the conqueror’s history. And so they did not matter; in the public sphere, they did not exist. It wasn’t until blacks began reclaiming their history that they began to matter, began to demand equal rights, equal status.
Being rendered irrelevant is very much the case with the female half of the world. Women’s history has, for the most part, been lost—sometimes deliberately—but more often because females mattered so little to begin with, the dominant class who wrote the collective history did not include women in that public collective. The public collective is still mankind, not humankind, and certainly not womankind.
Woman have no history of their own, no legitimacy other than what is given to them by men; like the historic experience of enslaved blacks in America, even their names are taken from them and replaced by the names of the men they belong to. They were, and still are, mostly on the margins, mostly written out of the collective history still because their voices carry no weight, their stories do not matter. They are, after all, nothing more than a subclass of “mankind.”
Human Rights Discussion: “What If All the Secretaries Went On Strike?”