Well behaved women, chapter 21

It’s been a lean couple of weeks around here but I expect we’ll be fixing that soon.  I would feel worse about skipping out on an installment of Well Behaved Women during women’s history month if I, you know, gave a half a care about women’s history month.  But I don’t, so I don’t.

Nonetheless today we will feature a somewhat shorter installment to highlight a great woman in history who did things the way she ought to have done them and it worked out great.  Sometimes called the “first great woman of history,” today’s special guest is Pharaoh Hatshepsut of Egypt.

Hatshepsut was neither the first nor the only female pharaoh of ancient Egypt, but she is known for being far and away the most successful female pharaoh.  She reigned for about 22 successful years and did pretty much what was expected of both a pharaoh and what was expected of a noblewoman in her society.  She is frequently depicted as adopting the formal ceremonial style of male pharaohs (who were of course the vast, vast majority of Egyptian rulers) and in terms of her political life she downplayed the fact that she was not a man, wearing the fake beard and taking the title of “king.”  But in her less formal day-to-day life she is often depicted in a very feminine manner, in terms of both dress and physical features.  What I am getting at here is that the historical accounts indicate that Hatshepsut did not see herself as a “female pharaoh,” she saw herself as “pharaoh” and on her own time she was a woman.  The difference is that one has something to prove and comes loaded with grievances while the other has a job to do and doesn’t give a rip about the “patriarchy” or whatever nonsense.  She didn’t waste her time with proto-feminism and sticking her female-ness in the faces of the Egyptian court and nobility, and in fact appears to have tried not to rock that boat.  Whether this contributed to Egypt’s prosperity during her reign is up for debate but it is what it is.

Of course modern scholars like to theorize and suppose that later pharaohs (Thutmose III in particular) tried to erase her from Egyptian history like a bad memory, which considering the records and statues of Hatshepsut that survive to this day is a laughable concept.  But of course, with a positive piece of history about a successful female ruler who didn’t get into high office due to her chromosomes, someone’s got to try to claim that evil mean men are the bad guys here somehow.

Next week, if all stays on track, we’ll be back on the bad side.


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