Herstory

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Herstory is a neologism coined in the late 1960s as part of a feminist critique of conventional historiography.

In feminist discourse the term refers to history (re-stated as "his story") written from a feminist perspective, emphasizing the role of women, or told from a woman's point of view.

The word history, coming from the Ancient Greek ἱστορία, or historía, meaning "a learning or knowing by inquiry", through the Latin historia, is etymologically unrelated to the possessive pronoun his. In addition, the herstory movement has spawned women-centered presses, such as Virago Press in 1973, which publishes fiction and non-fiction by noted women authors like Janet Frame and Sarah Dunant, and HerStory Books, which published historical fiction from a woman's point of view by authors like Sorcha MacMurrough and Jac Carey.

Contents

Usage

The Oxford English Dictionary credits Robin Morgan with coining the term in her 1970 book, Sisterhood is Powerful. Concerning the feminist organization WITCH, Morgan writes:

In 1976, Casey Miller and Kate Swift wrote in Words & Women,

During the 1970s and 1980s, second-wave feminists saw the study of history as a male-dominated intellectual enterprise and presented "herstory" as a means of compensation.[2] The term, intended to be both serious and comic,[3] became a rallying cry used on T-shirts and buttons as well as in academia.[4]

In feminist literature and academic discourse, the term has been used occasionally as an "economical way" to describe feminist efforts against a male-centered canon.[5]

Criticism

Christina Hoff Sommers has been a critic of the concept of herstory, and presented her argument against the movement in her 1994 book, Who Stole Feminism?. Sommers defined herstory as an attempt to infuse education with ideology, at the expense of knowledge.[6] The "gender feminists", as she termed them, were the band of feminists responsible for the movement, which she felt amounted to negationism. She regarded most attempts to make historical studies more female-inclusive as being artificial in nature, and an impediment to progress.[4]

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