Jan 7, 2010
I always knew Beth was trouble
I drove behind this bumper sticker today. “Well behaved women seldom make history”. My problem with this statement is it presumes an antiquated truth as the current condition for women, at least here in the US. The very notion that the women of today should "behave" is offensive to me. It implies that women are under somebody’s watchful eye, presumably a man’s. Do you know what subjects come up most often when you google the phrase “well behaved”? Children and pets. (I'm not counting the blog called wellbehavedmormonwoman.blogspot.com, that's a whole different matter.)
I wasn’t surprised to hear this quote came from a historian. It’s from an article about Puritan funeral services by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, a graduate student at the time. She is currently a Harvard professor of early American and women’s history. It became such a popular phrase that she later wrote a book with the title “Well Behaved Women”. It’s a history book not a treatise for modern feminism.
Replace the word “make” with “made” and I have no trouble getting behind the sentiment. Women who made history before the women’s movement were breaking traditional gender stereotypes of behavior. We owe them a lot. But believing misbehavior increases our effectiveness gives credence to the nonsensical idea that we are subject to some womanly standard of behavior.
Hasn't the goal of the women’s movement been to have our ideas, opinions and achievements counted the same as any other person’s. That’s the ground we start on and we don’t let people drag us to a lower level by buying into this behavior crap.
In my opinion a more appropriate bumper sticker for today is “Pay Me What I’m Worth”