In chapter 5 of PHUS we learn more about the oppression of white women from the American Revolution to the Civil War. I think it’s important to note that when we read “women” in this chapter, it is specifically talking about white women because the oppression the whites women faced definitely is not the same as black women. This goes back to what we were talking about before about intersectionality which explains why the treatment of women at this time was not universal because it depended on many other factors besides womanhood. At the beginning of the chapter, the author calls this problem the “invisibility of women” which I think is an interesting way of putting it because it is kind of true. In history, with the exception of well-known female leaders, women are mentioned and acknowledged but it’s hardly ever in their own capacity. Instead, they’re always tied to whatever men are in their lives. Despite this fact, their oppression was also seen as an opportunity for “equality” granted by men. Although there were definitely strict ideas of what women could do, the fact that they could do anything at all, was an opportunity, for their time period at least. This gave the illusion of them being equal to men only because they weren’t on the same level as servants and slaves. While they were above them, they were still below men which they did end up getting fed up with also.
Even though we are learning more about the perspective of women from this time, it is the same problem that we have with history in general. A consistent problem there has been with the women’s rights movement is that it often gets whitewashed by middle-class white women. We are reading the same problem. Just as U.S. history focuses on white men, the history of women’s rights ignores most women except those who were privileged. Another topic I want to talk about is the disenfranchisement of women through language. In the United States constitution it says “men,” and at one point, the New York constitution specifically said “male.” While it is acknowledged that this was to purposefully to keep women out of politics, how is it possible that this language is still used today? People argue that when the founding fathers said “men,” they meant everyone. This is can’t be true because they weren’t dumb, and if they wanted the constitution to protect everyone, that would have written that in the first place. On a smaller level, I feel like this argument is backed by our current use of gendered words. For instance, saying things like “you guys” in reference to everyone or “mankind” for all humans only defends the mocking statement made by Jefferson that women are “too wise to wrinkle their foreheads with politics.” I am not at all defending this comment but what I am saying is that little things such as language can be impactful which the founding fathers clearly understood.