Countless accounts from history suggest society has let women down. In more recent history, we can see examples of how society has repeatedly failed women. It’s clear that society has not always been kind to women, but many examples of strong women have fought back and made a difference. From suffragettes like Elizabeth Cady Stanton to modern-day activists like Malala Yousafzai, women have repeatedly proven that they are capable of greatness.
Society has changed since then… but not enough.
Women have always been fighting for their rights, and although society has progressed in some ways, there are still many ways in which women are treated unfairly. It is clear that society has not always been fair to women, but thankfully things are slowly starting to change. We must keep fighting for equality until all women can enjoy the same rights and opportunities as men. For every step forward we take, there are two steps back. This can be seen in everything from the wage gap to how society values women’s work. This blog post will explore historical accounts suggesting that society has let women down.
Are women’s behaviour controlled? Here’s the proof from the PAST
Not long ago, I was listening to Janet Jackson, and that whole Super Bowl scandal came to my mind. Do any of you remember that scandal? So, the thing was that Janet was the headliner, and she invited Justin Timberlake to join as a surprise guest. And they were getting to the big finale, performing Justin’s song, Rock Your Body. They get to the end, and they sing the lyrics. And right at that moment, Justin reaches over Janet’s costume, ripping off a piece of her costume, exposing her right breast on live television.
It was wild. Whose fault was it? Well, according to everybody, it was Janet Jackson’s fault. She received a ton of backlash, sometimes even bordering on harassment. She had to go on, like, an apology tour. It was ridiculous. She didn’t rip off the costume. She didn’t do that. Who did that? Justin did that. Media outlets across the country stopped playing her music. It had a massive effect on Janet’s career, which she still deals with.
And you’re probably wondering, what happened to Justin? Absolutely nothing and the story was completely led to painting Janet as this terrible villain. And accounts being controlled to downplay women is a common pattern throughout history.
Let’s start in Egypt in 69 BC. With the birth of Pharaoh Cleopatra. I am still determining who her mom was, but her dad was the king. He died in the year 51 BC, which left the kingdom to the 18-year-old Cleopatra and her ten-year-old brother, Ptolemy XIII. The advisors of Ptolemy XIII weren’t having any of that. And in 49 BC, Cleopatra was banished right off the bat. They said, “Nope, we’re not sharing this with a lady. A man needs to be in charge.”
But although she was banished, Cleopatra was still technically a co-ruler, and she wasn’t ready to give up that power. But first, she needed an army. There was a powerful Roman general at this time, and his name was Julius Caesar. He was aware that Cleo and her brother were planning and starting a war over their throne. Remember, Cleopatra was a fugitive in the desert, banished, and she couldn’t just roll back into town. So she had her servant wrap her up in a carpet and then send the rug to Caesar as a gift. What an entrance. Because when Caesar rolled open that carpet, Cleopatra emerged dressed in her full royal garb.
That’s pretty iconic. She laid out her plans for Egypt and convinced Caesar to support her. So Cleopatra and Julius successfully defeated Ptolemy XIII. During all this, Julius and Cleopatra hit it off.
And in the year 47 BC, Cleo gave birth to a son. His name was Little Caesar. No, his name was Caesarion, which translates into Little Caesar. So Cleopatra had successfully led a rebellion, taken back her throne, strengthened the relationship between Rome and Egypt, and also had time to have a kid in between all of that.
But instead of talking about Cleopatra’s accomplishments, the town talked about Cleopatra being a harlot and accused her of using witchcraft. And as things shifted in Cleopatra’s life, the stories grew.
So Julius Caesar gets assassinated in 44 BC. Two of his friends, Mark Anthony and Octavia, weren’t a part of the stabbing. Mark was very suspicious of Caesar’s death and wanted to get to the bottom of it. So he calls up Cleopatra, saying he wants a meeting to see if she has anything to do with Caesar’s death. It makes sense as she was the mother of Caesar’s child. They end up meeting. They didn’t get to the bottom of Caesar’s death, but Mark pledged his undying support for Cleopatra.
Who wouldn’t? She’s an incredible ruler, Smart and beautiful. Mark left his wife and kids behind and followed Cleopatra back to Egypt. And then, in 40 BC, Cleopatra gave birth to their twins. Then she had another child in 36 BC.
During this time, Egypt grew wealthier, and Cleopatra expanded Egypt’s territory. She’s making moves, but no one cares about that, and they care about her love life. They’re like, “First Caesar, now she’s with Mark Anthony. Like, what kind of witchcraft is she using?”
And in 34 BC, Mark decided to make Cleopatra’s son, little Caesar, heir to the Roman throne instead of his Roman son. The people of Rome became a little upset. And they thought Mark was giving away the kingdom. So since Mark could no longer be trusted, they took away his throne and gave it to Mark’s best friend, Octavian.
Once on the throne, Octavian declared war on Cleopatra. He’d heard the stories and wasn’t falling for them, okay? He didn’t even give her a chance to defend herself, get to know her, or see how capable of a leader she was.
She was making good moves, but he went straight to war. Octavian defeated Cleopatra. Cleopatra ruled Egypt for almost three decades and, by all accounts, was a very successful and well-liked ruler. When Cleopatra took over, Egypt was facing floods and famine, and the economy was not in a good place at all. And she came in and turned all that around. She created an army and fought back insurrections.
She was an incredibly skilled diplomat as well as a skilled military strategist. She spoke around twelve languages. But despite all of these accomplishments and all the great that she did, Cleopatra is best known for her love triangle with Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony.
History books depict Cleopatra as deceptive and greedy. A quote described her as a “supposed exotic beauty, whose powers of seduction earned her an enduring place in history and popular myth.”
Cleopatra should be remembered as a great leader who did a better job keeping her kingdom safe than most kings. But her story has been rewritten to undermine her accomplishments because a smart, powerful woman wasn’t what history was ready for.
There’s another inspiring story from 30 BC
Catherine the Great was born Sophie Frederick, Auguste, on May 2, 1729, in Prussia, modern-day Poland. During her time in Russia, she caught the attention of the Empress of Russia, who had a son ripe, hot, and ready for marriage.
So it wasn’t long before Catherine was engaged to Peter III, the heir to the Russian Empire. Catherine and Peter married on August 21, 1745. It was an arranged marriage, and it was not a successful one.
It was well known that Peter had many mistresses, so Catherine had lovers for herself. Peter’s mother, the Empress, died. So being next in line, Peter took over Russia. By this point, Peter was being openly nasty to Catherine and wanted to get rid of her so he could rule with his mistress.
So Catherine coordinated a coup. And on July 9, 1762, Catherine became Empress of Russia. She had a public opinion, a court, and an entire army. The most well-known rumor about her was that Catherine the Great had coitus with a horse.
Now, spoiler alert, she never had coitus with a horse. Catherine’s reign was a golden age for Russia. During her early years on the throne, much of her focus was on public health and social issues.
She saved millions of Russian lives from smallpox at a time when most nobility just turned their heads. She was also responsible for revolutionizing the education system. On top of this, Catherine found the time to be a well-versed politician and diplomat and negotiated a strategic defense alliance between Russia and Prussia.
She is also responsible for creating Poland’s borders, plus numerous other treaties signed, and battles fought and won. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say Catherine modernized Russia, so the name Catherine the Great makes a lot of sense.
Catherine is often called Russia’s longest-ruling female leader as she ran Russia for over 34 years, placing her fourth on the list of Russia’s all-time longest rulers, not just women. And even though she had too many accomplishments to count, what is she remembered for the most? A rumor about a horse.
For our next story, we get to go to Tennessee. In the 1900s, when Verne Mitchell was born on August 29, 1913, her family called her Jackie, so that’s what we’ll call her, too. As soon as Jackie could walk, she was interested in sports. Jackie’s dad started taking her to the ballpark. But Jackie didn’t just want to watch, okay? She wanted to be involved. She wanted to play baseball, basketball, and football.
She loved sports, but baseball was mainly her jam. So she joined a local minor league team, and her crazy pitching skills got her lots of attention, and this made headlines. But the “Chattanooga Daily Times” cared less about Jackie’s amazing baseball skills and more about if she could flip a pancake or sweep a broom. A crowd of 4000 people shows up for the very first game. So Jackie gets on the pitcher’s mount.
It’s the top of the first, two guys on base, nobody out. The shy Jackie Mitchell feels terrified because she’s not just pitching to anyone. Her first batter is Mr. Babe Ruth, all baseball’s all-time greatest slugger.
Jackie was a little nervous, and her first pitch was a ball. But the second was a strike, and the one after that was strike two. The smile faded from Babe’s face, and he asked the umpire to inspect the ball.
But there was nothing wrong with the ball. Jackie Mitchell was just an amazing pitcher, and she was one strike away from striking out Babe Ruth, and her fourth pitch nipped the outside corner. And strike three.
He’s out. Babe threw his bat down in disgust like he was angry. And he stomped off to the dugout. He threw a tantrum while Jackie played it cool. And the next guy up, Lou Gehrig. Lou was tied with Babe for the most home runs in the league, but that didn’t matter. Three pitches from Jackie and three strikes later, Jackie Mitchell has struck out two of baseball’s all-time greatest players back to back, which is seven pitches. This made the crowd go wild. Jackie walked the next guy, and the lookout manager took her out of the game, which seems a little unfair because the first pitcher got two players on base before he was pulled.
The Yankees won the game 14 to four, but history was made. Everyone saw how amazing Jackie Mitchell was, and there was no way to deny it. Or was there? Why are we here? So we know that before the game, the press was ignoring Jackie’s skill, so it’s probably not a surprise to hear that they kept that up post-game as well.
They reported that Babe and Lou weren’t trying when they were at that, and they were just like, they’re for fun. The New York Times said, “Babe performed his role ably,” as if the only explanation was that the men were having an off day.
Yankees pitcher Lefty Gomez said there was no way their manager would tell his players to strike out intentionally. Babe and Lou never claimed it was a stunt, either. But Babe did say, “women will never make good in baseball because they’re delicate.” But unfortunately, the baseball commissioner had the same stance on Jackie as the press. He ended Jackie’s contract because baseball was too strenuous for women. So Jackie was essentially banned from major league baseball because she was just too good at her job, but no one wanted to report it.
Controlling women’s narratives has happened throughout history, and it’s used as a weapon to dictate not just women’s behavior but how they are remembered. And it’s not like it’s limited to one place and one point in time. It crosses borders, cultures, and centuries. I mean, it’s happening to this day.
A great deal has been accomplished to empower women over the past century, but much work still needs to be done. Women face many challenges in today’s society, including gender-based violence, lack of access to education and economic opportunities, and discrimination in the workplace.
To further empower women, we must continue working to break down barriers preventing them from achieving their full potential. We need to provide girls with quality education and equal access to opportunities. We must end violence against women and ensure they have a societal voice. Only then can we create a more just and equal world for all.
There is no denying that society has let women down throughout history. But it’s important to remember that there have also been many accounts of people fighting for women’s rights and equality. We can learn from the past and use those lessons to ensure we don’t repeat the same mistakes in the future. We can create a society that is truly fair only by working together and just for everyone.