This past week, we interviewed our history teacher Mr. Cameron to learn more about women’s roles throughout history. During this interview we learned about how women’s rights have evolved, as well as steps we can take to promote gender equality at our school. We would like to give a huge thanks to Mr. Cameron for letting us interview him.
Camille: The right for women to vote was a huge step towards gender equality. What do you think are other notable events that have made advancements [towards gender equality] in history?
Mr. Cameron: So aside from the right to vote, other advancements that have allowed women greater freedom and independence, comes with regard to the ability to independently transport themselves, with, like, any sort of new modern technology. Prerogatively the ability to have disposable income and hold a job that provides the income for that independence, and similarly the transportation.
Camille: Were there any female-dominated societies or subcultures throughout history, and if there were, how were they seen by other cultures at the time?
Mr. Cameron: Examples of matriarchal societies can be seen in Post-Classical, bleeding into Early Modern West African Societies like the Ghana and Mali Empires. Matriarchal figures were revered for their reproductive capacities and general peaceful moderation strategies.
Camille: Personally, who are some female figures who you admire or would be good role models?
Mr. Cameron: First female role model: Malala Yousafzai, who despite undergoing some pretty tortuous circumstances has been able to turn that on its head and serve as an influential and inspirational person for people who are persecuted by any state conflict and use that personal experience to uplift those who are undergoing something similar. Secondly, Joan of Arc, of the Medieval France. No doubt working within the patriarchy and asserting her claims to authority by being the messenger of God. Thirdly, and going even further back into history, Empress Theodora of the Byzantine Empire. From prostitute to empress, and basically helping her husband stick with his emperorship despite massive riots. Thanks Theodora. Justinian loves you even in the afterlife.
Camille: What publications, books, Ted Talks, or movies would you recommend people watch or are your favorites that shine a light on gender equality?
Mr. Cameron: One really current issue that's regularly addressed regarding women's equality is the gender wage gap. There is one short piece by John Oliver (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PsB1e-1BB4Y ) explaining the very nuanced and complex nature of figuring out how that gender wage gap is established.There's also a short John Green from vlogbrothers ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=it0EYBBl5LI ) on that same topic. Prager University ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QcDrE5YvqTs ) problematizes that entire concept arguing that no gender wage gap exists. Looking between those three sources would be really useful.
Camille: In the classroom, how do you teach these values to give a more even view of history or just more balanced.
Mr. Cameron: Focusing on female perspectives in periods of history that are not contemporary (the end of World War I up until now) is really difficult to do. You could look back to any of those Western African nations that had primarily oral traditions, and there's no written record of that. Secondly, the sheer lack of sources from women in the pre-contemporary world makes it very difficult to teach that perspective and that point of view. Referencing the reality and regularly using vocabulary like patriarchy and matriarchy to establish the regularity of patriarchal practices and lacking matriarchal structures is what we can address prior to the regular production of sources by women in the contemporary era
Camille: Last question: To the high school students at SDA who are going to be reading this article, what do you think are some steps you can take towards gender equality around campus?
Mr. Cameron: I’ll speak specifically to the gentlemen reading this news article right now. Gentlemen, you claim that you love ladies and that you revere them, so: actions speak louder than words; listen to what they have to say.
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Camille Zimmer and Mila Roemer
Photo used under Creative Commons from ralph and jenny