This week I am angry
There are many reasons – injustice, wailing about Brexit disaster before the talks have even opened (the dumb-ass, fast-track to undermining a negotiation team), the horror of people burning alive and now politicians stating it could have been avoided (so why was it not!); politicians using the plight of these traumatised families to promote their own politicking.
But sometimes it is just one little article which sends you into the stratosphere of indignation. When all the world is full of bad news a woman decides to make it worse for us. I am talking about Dr Lucy Delap stating that the words brilliant, genius and flair should be avoided at Cambridge University as they “carry assumptions of gender inequality” and that some women "don’t find it very easy to project themselves into those categories". What?!!
Since when did we, our sisters, our mothers and our daughters stop coping with these words? Since when did we need protecting from words which are also used about men? Since when did an academic have the right to assume that women may not see themselves in these categories?
As a historian, Dr Delap will be aware that such words have been used historically about men for one very simple reason – due to access to education, political power and economic dominance men have been able to do more, learn more, try more, win more, and gain more recognition. Hence, the number of male portraits on the wall of Cambridge University Library which her ilk also want removed. It is a simple function of history and not a consequence of our sensitivity.
We cannot rewrite history and take a revisionist approach to the social history of the genders across every culture in every country of the world. Women are slowly gaining their rightful ground – though we have a long way to go. But our path will be soon be cut short if we behave like little flowers who have to be protected from the language of success. Far from this, we need to stand up and shout about the women who have shown brilliance, flair and genius against the social odds.
As some assistance for Dr Delap, I have found a few women to consider and, to my knowledge, none of them have asked for protection:
Marie Curie - developed the X-ray system which transformed medical diagnosis
Vera Ruben - the first person to identify dark matter
Chien Shiung Wu – one of the world’s greatest physicists
Nettie Stevens - discovered the XY chromosome
Lise Meitner - discovered nuclear fission and refused to use it for destruction (the men did that!)
Jane Goodall - still saving wildlife of the world and she is 83
Elizabeth Blackburn - discovered the DNA predictor
Sylvia Earle - Oceanographer
J. K. Rowling - for getting generations of children to pick up a book
Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and Elizabeth Blackwell - led women into medicine
Elizabeth Arden - manufacturer and business mogul
Madonna - singer and business woman
Victoria Beckham - singer, designer, international business woman and a damned good mother too
Professor Mary Beard - brilliant historian and troll-refuser
Professor Uta frith – ground-breaking work on autism
Pinky Lilany - CBE for services to women in business
Professor Dame Ann Dowling - first female president of the Royal Academy of Engineering
Dr Dame Sue Ion - nuclear engineer
Professor Monica Grady - Space scientist
Angela Knight - banker
Martha Lane Fox - entrepreneur
I could keep going and going and going but I am getting more and more angry.
Woman all over the world have flair, genius and brilliance. We can never let ourselves be put in the shadows because an academic wants the words taken from the narrative rather than taking the message to the world.
So Sassistas everywhere, stand up and shout – we are brilliant geniuses with the flair of being female. Do not take away my right to be told so and believe so.
Until next time.....Stay Sassy