The absence of recorded women’s thought

BY:D. Mohney| April 8, 2019

There are several lists of the 100 most important books of all time.* Depending on the list, there might be as few as 3 books by women or as many as 7 to 12 books included in the 100. Those 7 – 12 women authors don’t show up until the 18th Century.

Aside from bias in compiling the lists, literacy was not promoted by those in power, especially for those women and men who toiled in bondage, serfdom or wage slavery. Anything they would have written, or did write, most likely would not have been regarded as worthwhile and would not have been preserved. In addition to the absence of literature, there is little evidence remaining that these groups created works of art, or engaged in scientific or mathematic pursuits, prior to the 18th Century.

A case in point: tartar, laced with bits of blue dye was discovered recently in the dental remains of nuns from the Middle Ages. It is hypothesized that the bits of pigment ended up between male and female scribes’ teeth when they moistened their brush tips with saliva. These bits of blue dye in women’s teeth led researchers to the possibility that it wasn’t just male scribes who copied scrolls, some of which are magnificent works of art, but women, too.

What other concrete expressions of women’s thoughts and ideas were buried, ignored, or omitted from histories of that and subsequent eras?

The point is: if culture, mores, values, opinion, philosophy, human emotion — especially when it comes to governing — are transmitted by recorded thought and physical works of art — the influence of women has been indirect at best.  Since women were traditionally excluded from the study of the sciences and mathematics, it’s hard to know what direction those fields might have taken — perhaps radically different directions, which is also true for philosophy and the arts.

Even under capitalism, women have made recent strides by insisting their voices be heard, and have made their way into positions where they have some degree of  power and agency. Women artists, writers and scientists are gaining recognition. Credit must be given to socialist countries, which have led the way, by building institutions and enacting laws which promote women’s creativity and participation. They further enabled women’s participation in the community, work place and political arena by providing child care centers. They led in making educational opportunities in areas previously off limits— science, for example — available to women. They have consciously addressed the special  healthcare needs of women by promoting women’s control of their bodies. They have brought women into governing bodies — in commerce and the government. This progress has had a powerful impact, influencing the status and lives of women around the world. Even though socialist countries have accomplished much, it hasn’t been perfect. An imbalance in the numbers of men and women still exists in  the leadership of socialist governments and Communist Parties.

There no doubt is a need for further discussion, study, and action. We must understand the effect of omitting or discarding significant voices — those of women, enslaved and oppressed people, as well as the voices of much of the working class, from the narrative of human history and cultures. We must understand the effect this has had on today’s world, including the socialist world.

The CPUSA recently adopted exemplary positions on misogyny, male supremacy and sexism, as well as a code of conduct. These policies and positions should be reviewed periodically and be part of new members’ orientation, as well as continued study for all.

A women’s committee must be maintained and promoted.

We must reach out to women’s groups in this country and  around the world to discuss,  and study in depth the effects of centuries of male domination, patriarchy, male supremacy, misogyny and LGBTQ issues.

The exploiters and oppressors who ultimately benefit from the current system must be identified.

We need to promote an understanding of the interconnection between racism and the struggles of  the entire working class. The struggle for working class unity must not be an afterthought, and must be brought to all, especially white workers, female and male, who have bought into racism, misogyny and male supremacy.

All who practice the science of Marxism-Leninism need to participate in working class struggles, in the US and internationally.  Constant evaluation and reevaluation of our work is a necessity and must be done thoroughly with the utmost honesty, with corrections made accordingly.

*There are several lists of the “100 Most Important Books”,  some going back to ancient Greece. None of them have more than a dozen works by women. FYI, below are 3 of those often included on those lists:

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, by Mary Wollstonecraft

The Second Sex, by Simone de Beauvior

The Feminine Mystique, by Betty Friedan



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