History Lessons You Didn't Realize Were Sexist

Daniele Alvarez/Moment/Getty Images

There's no doubt that school curricula could use a facelift, particularly because many of your history lessons were totally sexist, and you might've not even realized it. Like so many marginalized gropus, women are regularly either horribly stereotyped or eliminated from history altogether. In fact, one teacher found that statistically, history textbooks mention one female for every eight males. Where were we this whole time? We must've been too busy getting our nails done and having our periods. Considering women are the ones who put men on the planet in the first place, I find this only slightly insulting.

Actualy, it's a lot insulting. And intensely problematic.

Our appearances in history books are marked by vagina-shaming, finger-pointing, and basically... well, let's cut to the chase: Everything is seemingly our fault. Some of these lessons are incredibly widespread and popular; but it seems that we're missing half the equation. These stories wouldn't exist if they were not quietly built on the backs of oppressed women, but no one wants you to know that. You wouldn't believe the female gladiators, samurai, and Amazons that are so often conveniently left out, but let's not jump ahead too much.

These popular history lessons are blatantly sexist, and the stench of gender inequality is burning my nose hairs. Here's what you need to know.

1. The Salem Witch Trials

A lot of information and speculation follow the 19 men and women who were accused of witchcraft and hanged back in June of 1962, making it a period of history commonly taught in schools, particularly around Halloween. The possibility of actual witchcraft was dismissed early on.

Here's where you can begin detecting the pungent odor of sexism. The majority of those hanged were women, and there's one possible explanation in particular that sticks out: Many of them were rich widows, had careers, controlled assets, or were set to inherit property. It seems that it wasn't witchcraft at play, but instead women in power posing a percieved threat. In fact, 76 percent of the women found guilty (and 85 percent of those executed) were from families with no male heir. Coincidence? Hmmmm.

2. Everything Is Eve's Fault

Most of us are familiar with the story of Adam and Eve, and how Eve was born from Adam's rib. If that doesn't scream sexist, I don't know what does. (And yes, I realize this may be more a literature lesson than a history one, but work with me, here.)

Here's where sexism makes a surprise guest appearance: Eve surrendered to the temptation of the serpent, eating from the Tree of Life even though God told her not to... and as a result, she was responsible for all evil in the universe, including the pain of childbirth and the subjection of women to men. Can you imagine that? One woman was responsible for all the evil in the world. That's a sh*t-ton of evil.

So if you're lookin' for someone to blame...

3. Menstruation Throughout The Years

A period is one of the most natural things in the world. A huge amount of the population experiences it, and for many of us, it's a reassuring sign that we're still likely able to reproduce. Schools talk to us about menstruation and reproduction because... why wouldn't they?

And yet, history would have us believe that women on the rag are flat-out cursed. Because bleeding from the vagina isn't already annoying enough, let's make it worse: In biblical times, women riding the cotton pony were considered impure, and anything they touched also became impure. A rabbi would have to bless an object a menstruating women touched before anyone else could touch it.

4. Miscarriages In Ancient Greece

There have been all kinds of explanations for miscarriages throughout history, but ancient Greece might perhaps take the cake — and I bet you didn't know this was totes sexist. Greece had a number of ways to explain why women had miscarriages, including "getting scared" or "experiencing too many emotions."

During the European Middle Ages, similar beliefs abounded that a startled, upset, or frightened woman was at high risk of miscarrying. While a woman's emotional and mental health are of course important to her safety and the safety of her unborn child, let's not hold her emotions totally responsible, people.

5. Female Hysteria In The Victorian Age

Up until the 20th century, it was not believed that females experience sexual desire or pleasure. Women were merely a hole. (Sorry for being blunt.) Eventually, they began coming forward with complaints of anxiety, erotic fantasies, and wetness between the legs. Nope, doesn't sound sexual at all. Professionals started calling this condition "hysteria." And we all know how "hysteria" and "hysterical" are used today. Just know, it all started with women.

Doctors and midwives experimented with a number of ways to relieve women of these discomforts, but this is my favorite part: Their relief wasn't called an "orgasm"; they referred to it as a "paroxysm." Why? Because women weren't capable of sexual desire!

6. Pandora: Messing Things Up For Everyone

Eve wasn't the only lady troublemaker in history. In Greek mythology, Pandora was the first woman on earth. She was "all-gifted," being beautiful, persuasive, and so on. And we've all heard of Pandora's box. Here's where the story is super duper sexist: Pandora, curious as she was, had this box (some say it was a jar) that she was told never to open, under any circumstances. So of course, she opened it, because women are obviously stupid like that (*eye roll*). In doing so, she released evil and spread it across the entire world. She quickly closed the jar and mistakenly trapped one thing inside of it: hope.

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