I’ve decided to start a weekly installment series addressing a particularly stupid display of ignorance that is entirely too common: the saying-slash-bumper sticker with the phrase “Well behaved women rarely make history.” It goes without saying that I am not a feminist. As a matter of fact, I’d consider it fightin’ words if anyone ever accused me of that. In the immortal words of Andrew Klavan, feminists are dreadful, and they lie all the time. It is, however, almost hysterical to watch them in action, if you didn’t have to weep for society in between laughing of course. They’re just so goddamn stupid and fail so very, very hard you have to wonder why we take these people seriously.
Take this bumper sticker for instance and listen to its implications. Apparently “making history” is a good in itself for these people, while being “well behaved” is disdained. Well, Hitler made history (sorry to go Godwin so fast but it’s true). Stalin made history. Genghis Khan made history. Napoleon made history. As for being well behaved, that’s kind of what you want your kid’s teacher to be, right? Or your doctor? Or your Congressman? And while we’re on the subject, was Genghis Khan “well behaved?” So God and internet willing, over the next few months, each Sunday we will delve into systematically dismantling this precious little gem of ignorance. Because history is replete with women who behaved well, and also with women who behaved badly, and the consequences of their actions resonate to the present day.
So to start on a positive note, I give you the first of our historical women, a paradigm of behaving well: Queen Elizabeth the First. Taking the throne in the wake of the disastrous reigns of Henry VIII (the guy who simplified divorce by having his ex-wives beheaded) and “Bloody” Mary, in her first address as queen Elizabeth resolved to rule by “good advice and counsel,” and history records that she did just that. Her reign saw Protestantism (the driving force behind the West’s progress in the 16th century) become dominant in the British Empire and gain a foothold in Europe as a whole, and also saw England become the dominant power on the high seas just as the age of colonization was reaching its most critical point–the colonization of North America. It was under Elizabeth’s reign that the first British forays into what would become the United States were undertaken and that Catholic Spain’s ability to compete for the New World was forever crippled with the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. Let’s not have any delusions here–in the 16th century the Catholics weren’t the Catholics we know today and the Catholic Church was a corrupt institution run for power, not faith, and determined to keep the common folks subjugated and uneducated. The Protestants winning out was a major factor in making the world what it is today and in large part we have Elizabeth I to thank for that. Whaddya know–a well behaved woman made some serious history, and in a good way too.
We’re not going to argue over whether colonization of the Western Hemisphere was a good thing. And if you want to fuss about the emphasis on religion you’re welcome to look up the Spanish Conquistadores, the guys who went into Central and South America looking for cities made of gold and “converting” the natives to Catholicism at the point of a sword.
Tune in next week when we will discuss the first of our examples of a woman behaving badly who made history. Spoiler alert: it did not go well.