29 August 2008

Why do the women have to grind the corn?

I showed signs of being a feminist very early on when in 6th grade, along with my partner in crime, Heather, demanded of our Social Studies teacher, Mr. Corica, "Why do only the women have to grind the corn? Why didn't men also grind the corn?" We were studying Native Americans (or as we called them back then, Indians). Of course the answer to that question is long and complex, but you would think he could have given us some kind of answer. Instead we got no answer which only made us both ask more insistently. I am sure it was annoying to be harangued by 2 13 year-old girls, but wasn't it also interesting that we were even asking the question? I still find it sad that instead of an answer we got into trouble. Both Heather and I ended up with notes home to our parents, but we never forgot that moment. And, for the most part, I don't think it has made us stop asking the question.

That is why I am sharing this image of women grinding corn which I came upon in a project I am currently working on at my job. I didn't need it to remind me of the "incident" from 6th grade, but it made me laugh. Hopefully it makes Heather laugh too.
Four young Hopi women grinding corn. Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Edward S. Curtis Collection.


tracie valentino said...

I had so many responses to that story... but for now, all I'll say is, wow.

I had a similar type of anti-feminist experience: In 4th grade, I remember that we had an assignment to come up with some sort of lofty ambition for when we grew up. I told my (female) teacher that I wanted to be the first female president. She told me that women can't be president, and I should lower my ambitions to vice-president.

Good Lord, rereading that, it sounds like we grew up in the 50s! Do you think our teachers were thinking, "some day, they'll make terrible housewives." :)

ZoesMom said...

Tracie -- It's scary how many women our age have those same kinds of stories. Hopefully when our daughters ask those questions and have the same ambitions they will get an answer and encouragement. At least we'll be able to give it to them.

If Mr. Corica thought I would be a terrible housewife -- he was certainly right. :-)

Noble Savage said...

I was told by my 7th grade home ec teacher that because I was crap at cooking and sewing and didn't really care that I would likely end up pushing a baby carriage before I graduated high school and be miserable. I didn't learn to cook until I was in my 20s and I still don't know how to sew. But guess what Mrs Case? My husband sews my fucking buttons and my tailor hems my trousers and I'm not stewing in misery over it. So there!

Emily Barton said...

Yes, why DO women have to grind the corn? And too bad your teacher didn't see that as a great expository writing assignment, which is what it should have been: why I wouldn't want to have to grind the corn or why women shouldn't have to grind the corn.

I think if I'd lived in a certain era, I would have been one of those women who dressed herself up as a boy, so she could have a little fun.