Why Gender History is Important (Asshole)



This weekend I was schmoozing at an event when some guy asked me what kind of history I study. I said “I’m currently researching the role of gender in Jewish emigration out of the Third Reich,” and he replied “oh you just threw gender in there for fun, huh?” and shot me what he clearly thought to be a charming smile.

The reality is that most of our understandings of history revolve around what men were doing. But by paying attention to the other half of humanity our understanding of history can be radically altered.

For example, with Jewish emigration out of the Third Reich it is just kind of assumed that it was a decision made by a man, and the rest of his family just followed him out of danger. But that is completely inaccurate. Women, constrained to the private social sphere to varying extents, were the first to notice the rise in social anti-Semitism in the beginning of Hitler’s rule. They were the ones to notice their friends pulling away and their social networks coming apart. They were the first to sense the danger.

German Jewish men tended to work in industries which were historically heavily Jewish, thus keeping them from directly experiencing this “social death.” These women would warn their husbands and urge them to begin the emigration process, and often their husbands would overlook or undervalue their concerns (“you’re just being hysterical” etc). After the Nuremberg Laws were passed, and after even more so after Kristallnacht, it fell to women to free their husbands from concentration camps, to run businesses, and to wade through the emigration process.

The fact that the Nazis initially focused their efforts on Jewish men meant that it fell to Jewish women to take charge of the family and plan their escape. In one case, a woman had her husband freed from a camp (to do so, she had to present emigration papers which were not easy to procure), and casually informed him that she had arranged their transport to Shanghai. Her husband—so traumatized from the camp—made no argument. Just by looking at what women were doing, our understanding of this era of Jewish history is changed.

I have read an article arguing that the Renaissance only existed for men, and that women did not undergo this cultural change. The writings of female loyalists in the American Revolutionary period add much needed nuance to our understanding of this period. The character of Jewish liberalism in the first half of the twentieth century is a direct result of the education and socialization of Jewish women. I can give you more examples, but I think you get the point.

So, you wanna understand history? Then you gotta remember the ladies (and not just the privileged ones).

ask historicity-was-already-taken a question

Holy fuck. I was raised Jewish— with female Rabbis, even!— and I did not hear about any of this. Gender studies are important. 

“so you just threw gender in there for fun” ffs i hope you poured his drink down his pants

I actually studied this in one of my classes last semester. It was beyond fascinating. 

There was one woman who begged her husband for months to leave Germany. When he refused to listen to her, she refused to get into bed with him at night, instead kneeling down in front of him and begging him to listen to her, or if he wouldn’t listen to her, to at least tell her who he would listen to. He gave her the name of a close, trusted male friend. She went and found that friend, convinced him of the need to get the hell out of Europe, and then brought him home. Thankfully, her husband finally saw sense and moved their family to Palestine.

Another woman had a bit more control over her own situation (she was a lawyer). She had read Mein Kampf  when it was first published and saw the writing on the wall. She asked her husband to leave Europe, but he didn’t want to leave his (very good) job and told her that he had faith in his countrymen not to allow an evil man to have his way. She sent their children to a boarding school in England, but stayed in Germany by her husband’s side. Once it was clear that if they stayed in Germany they were going to die, he fled to France but was quickly captured and killed. His wife, however, joined the French Resistance and was active for over a year before being captured and sent to Auschwitz.

(This is probably my favorite of these stories) The third story is about a young woman who saved her fiance and his father after Kristallnacht. She was at home when the soldiers came, but her fiance was working late in his shop. Worried for him, she snuck out (in the middle of all the chaos) to make sure he was alright. She found him cowering (quite understandably) in the back of his shop and then dragged him out, hoping to escape the violence. Unfortunately, they were stopped and he, along with hundreds of other men, was taken to a concentration camp. She was eventually told that she would have to go to the camp in person to free him, and so she did. Unfortunately, the only way she could get there was on a bus that was filled with SS men; she spent the entire trip smiling and flirting with them so that they would never suspect that she wasn’t supposed to be there. When she got to the camp, she convinced whoever was in charge to release her fiance. She then took him to another camp and managed to get her father-in-law to be released. Her father-in-law was a rabbi, so she grabbed a couple or witnesses and made him perform their marriage ceremony right then and there so that it would be easier for her to get her now-husband out of the country, which she did withing a few months. This woman was so bad ass that not only was her story passed around resistance circles, even the SS men told it to each other and honoured her courage. 

The moral of these stories is that men tend to trust their governments to take care of them because they always have; women know that our governments will screw us over because they always have. 

Another interesting tidbit is that there is sufficient evidence to suggest that Kristallnacht is a term that historians came up with after the fact, and was not what the event was actually called at the time. It’s likely that the event was actually called was (I’m sorry that I can’t remember the German word for it but it translates to) night of the feathers, because that, instead of broken glass, is the image that stuck in people’s minds because the soldiers also went into people’s homes and destroyed their bedding, throwing the feathers from pillows and blankets into the air. What does it say that in our history we have taken away the focus of the event from the more domestic, traditionally feminine, realms, and placed it in the business, traditionally masculine, realms?

Badass women and interesting commentary. Though I would argue that “Night of Broken Glass" includes both the personal and the private spheres. It was called Kristallnacht by the Nazis, which led to Jewish survivors referring to it as the November Pogrom until the term “Kristallnacht" was reclaimed, as such.

None of this runs directly counter to your fascinating commentary, though.






At long last, The Chosen One has been discovered. Working as a cashier. With no interest in doing anything even slightly more difficult.

yeah because there is nothing more difficult than retail

tbh anyone who works/has worked retail would see the chance to go around saving the world in ways that could potentially kill them as a welcome vacation

“Does the position of Chosen One offer health benefits of any kind?” 

“Well, our ragtag gang of world-saving underdogs has a doctor on-team.”

“Do I have to pay her out of pocket, is what I’m asking.”

“Gosh no! She’s an idealist, you don’t pay her at all!”

“Oh! That’s nice. But then I guess there’s no paycheck.”

“I mean, the secret cabal that dispenses our orders does make sure we have enough money to feed ourselves and keep a roof over our secret lair and such.”


“Hourly what?”

“Like have you guys ever had to punch a time clock?”

“We once had to dismantle a sinister time-freezing device in the shape of a clock….otherwise no.”

“Sold. Off we go.” 






Everytime you fill in CAPTCHA you’re helping to digitalize old books and documents. Using CAPTCHA abt 250 books are added to a digital database everyday

Its called RECAPTCHA! The creator of CAPTCHA (Luis von Ahn) realised a lot of time was being wasted with CAPTCHA (worldwide we spend about 500,000 hours doing CAPTCHA every day)

So he wanted to put it to good use

The reason why CAPTCHA uses wonky letters is because computers can’t read them, but we can!

But when trying to automatically digitalise old books and documents this becomes a hindrance because computers often cant read the faded old letters. So the digitalising is done by humans (very costly and time consuming)

Anyway Ahn found out about these a integraded into captcha creating RECAPTCHA.

Everyday about 150 (sorry i meant 150 not 250) old books get digitalized this way. They are currently using it to digitalize the whole archive of The New York Times (since 1851)

So we’re all kinda building a digital library of alexandria this way by using captcha, noice

reCAPTCHA Founded 2007. Overview reCAPTCHA is a free CAPTCHA service
that helps to digitize books, newspapers and old time radio shows.
reCAPTCHA improves the process of digitizing books by sending words that
cannot be read by computers to the Web in the form of CAPTCHAs for
humans to decipher.

In case any of you thought this was BS

I always love seeing reCAPTCHA being used.

That’s what my dad told me too.

So when we fill out those wonky letters, we are basically helping the computer read weird handwriting.



like literally nothing stopped kanaya’s flirtquest, the same day she met rose she was killed by some douche but it didnt mess up her plans. she just got back up, chainsawed him in half and went back to waggling eyebrows at her

this is literally the first time they meet in person

un fucking stoppable


Today at after-camp daycare, we played Life and Death and God.

Basically, it’s the Game of Life but with some alterations created by the six 8-10 year old boys that were there.  I was designated writer of The List Of Stuff, aka the list in which anything we currently “possessed” (ie houses, children, pets, spouses, Gifts From God) was listed under our name so we could keep track.

God was played by the one boy who didn’t want to actually play.  When I asked him how God was going to fit into the game, he said that God worked in mysterious ways so he could randomly give people News From God whenever he felt like it.  We settled that if someone spun a three, they’d receive a miracle, and if they spun a seven, they’d get bad news, and at the end of every round (ie when everyone had had a turn) he could make a new rule for the world.

“Dude, you should’ve prayed more,” God told one boy as he spun a seven.  “Your dog got possessed by a demon and ate your baby.  You need to get an exorcism.  That costs $50,000 and a life card.”

“Aww man,” the unfortunate demon dog owner said.  “Not Shark Tooth Junior.  She’s my only daughter.”  Flips through his money  “What if I don’t want to spend money to get an exorcism?”

God shrugged.  “Then I guess you can keep a demon dog,” he said, “but it requires a human sacrifice every turn or it’ll eat you.”

The demon dog owner sighed and paid the money, and I crossed off both Shark Tooth Junior and Chicken Strip the dog off his List Of Stuff.

“Congratulations!” God said on another turn.  “You’re pregnant!”

“But I’m a man.”

“That’s why it’s a miracle,” God pointed out.  “It’s the next Jesus!  Also you have to name him Jesus The Second cause I’m God and I say so.”

I was blessed with the ability to turn water into wine at one point, and started a winery as a side business.  Both were added to my List Of Stuff.

At one point, not long after he’d had his first child, one of the boys’ mom came to pick him up.

“Come on,” she said.  “We have to go.”

“Give me a minute, Mom,” he called back.  “I’m dead.  We have to read my will.”

Thus proceeded the reading in which I read through his List Of Stuff one by one and he declared who each item/ability/person/animal went to and I then transferred each thing to other Lists Of Stuff.

“Your wife,” I read.  “Elizabeth.”

“I’m leaving her to,” he trailed off, tapping his chin as he considered his options.  “You, Kee.”

“You can’t give Kee your wife!” another boy protested, one who had already received three of the dead boy’s children.  “That’d make her gay!”

“Kee can be gay if she wants to be,” the dead boy pointed out.

“Yeah,” the boy agreed, “but she’s already got a husband.”

“She can have a husband and a wife,” God declared.  “It’s called being bisexual.  It’s allowed.  Plus I’m God, so that makes it double allowed.”


And that was how I ended up receiving everyone’s wives in their wills, and ended up married to my original husband, Lizard, and my four wives, Elizabeth, Lizzy, Eliza, and Shark Tooth (there was a theme that God had declared we had to follow in naming our spouses, a declaration which came after one of the boys had already married Shark Tooth).  I had no children of my own, but had eventually received dozens in wills, as I ultimately ended up as the last person left in after-camp.

And yeah.  Life and Death and God was definitely a fun time, and I feel like we’ll be playing it again in after-camp tomorrow.  It felt a little like dnd, tbh, with God being the dungeon master, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone wanting to spice up their Game of Life.  You could probably add in a drinking game aspect if you’re not playing with small children, or make like God Cards or something for people to pull from if no one wants to be God.


Recently, youtuber Natalie Wynn brought up a great concept in her breakdown of why Incels believe the things they do– “masochistic epistemology.” She put it simply, “what hurts, is true.

She said this in the context of how incels basically form parasocial death cults when they are ‘blackpilled.’ They come to believe that because they feel terrible about themselves right now, that feeling is objectively true and forever, and even the reality of how the ‘world really works’ and there’s no hope to change it, only to “LDR”. Which is, ‘lie down and rot’, a form of suicide baiting. What’s happened here is that otherwise genuine feelings of pain or insecurity have been validated maybe too much and have evolved into an entire worldview centered around affirmation of pain. And once pain-as-truth becomes social capital, the way people behave changes to maximize its growth and spread.

But I have to say? I feel like I have encountered versions of the very same behavior in my own spaces, on tumblr, on facebook, etc.:

  • There’s definitely forms of love-bombing that surround mental illness or depression support connections that shower you with confirmation and praise only as long as you reject any steps of managing mental illness, so long as it unstoppably dominates your life. Once you question someone else’s behavior or declare that you’re seeing a therapist or something all your new parasocial friends turn against you.
  • I’ve seen it in supposedly feminist spaces where women that are otherwise strangers to each other talk each other into hopelessness and heightened fear of sex and fear of other people in their life, especially male figures. Sometimes not even based in a specific personal experience, but instead just this collective ‘dark truth’ of womanhood. TERFs love to do this, and segue younger people into fear of trans women this way.
  • I’ve seen it happen a lot within lgbt+ spaces where someone’s personal despair about dysphoria, homophobia they face, not being able to find a partner or being judged by family or strangers, or even fear of violence, enters a feedback loop with other people they don’t actually know and don’t have any interests but their own consumption in mind amplifying it, forming these insular enclaves where fear is truth and everyone else is wrong because they don’t feel as terrible about being attracted to the same sex or for being trans as they should. Meanwhile no one struggling within this structure is actually getting the support or help they need, they’re just arguing about it and building cases for, when the mythical support does fall from the sky,  why they should get it first.
  • There’s mounds of discourse where people argue over how because that group couldn’t possibly live as terrible a reality as this group, their lived experience isn’t the order of the universe and therefore doesn’t deserve validity or attention at all. And to argue, inexperienced people fall into the trap of trying to artificially match the despair levels of their critics, or try to counter one black pill with their own black pill which will never be credible to outsiders, resulting in cringy disaster at all vectors. In the red-hot radioactive mess troll accounts prosper.

Which is not to say that all these situations are full of people as baseless as incels– some of them are living very difficult lives, but are using “masochistic epistemology“ as the internal logic of their world. And the effect of such an internal logic is extremely dark self-confirming biases in excess of what is necessary to communicate the dangers of their lives, or cope with hardship. And any similar person who goes off seeking friends who acknowledge their pain is going to find a black hole of people who’d otherwise be peers escalating that very pain in themselves and others in order to confirm it’s all real.

Natalie Wynn herself, a trans woman, struggled with the urge to go to 4chan’s /lgbt/ and wait for the most toxic and hopeless crowds there rip her appearance apart even though it made very little logical sense. The people there shared the same insecurities as her, that they don’t pass, that people will despise them, and in some way hearing those insecurities confirmed rather than denied to her felt more like ‘the real truth’ or ‘what people really think’ than it did to hear praise and encouragement. Even if what they had to say wasn’t anywhere near an objective truth. 

The “pain is real” mindset is that hard to shake! It doesn’t matter if you’re smart, prepared to identify the phenomenon with philosophy education, intellectually aware that it’s bad for you. There is a self-harm impulse to ‘face reality’, but a very specific reality that confirms the bias of your pain or insecurity. The comfort zone of discomfort, in a way! It just wants you to not feel crazy for feeling those things and is willing to hurt you even more to prove you’re right about your environment or your life.