Natalie Bennett's Philobiblon is an interesting read. She writes on history, theatre, politics, feminism, "cyberspace" - pretty much everything - and she writes well, which is why she does it for a living (and why I don't). Her politics are red/green.
Via her blog, this piece on the end of privacy - food for the thoughts of a parent with three avid bebo/msn users aged 9 to 17.
Ms Bennett is yet another intelligent, talented woman who's childless.
Finally, as a single, childless woman, with an active social and professional life, entirely happy in that status, she's pleased to write about that, as an antidote to the inevitable Bridget Jones stereotypes.
Maybe I read the wrong blogs, but I don't see many - if any - Bridget Jones stereotypes on the web.
So what, anyway ? She has no children. Big deal. Neither have a lot of other people. Are you going to trawl the web for childless bloggers to tag ?
No. I only mention it because of this piece on using the internet to resurrect women's lost history. In among the quotes from Barthes and concepts like "the stuffedness of the body" there's stuff that's relevant to all historians (and that applies to both sexes). She (correctly IMHO) identifies the enormous potential of the web in gathering together snippets from disparate sources to begin 'the reconstruction of a life' - something I think is happening above all in the world of geneaology, where a post on a local bulletin board, forgotten for a year, suddenly brings an email from Canada with information about your great-great grandfather. (If only this site had the source texts as well !)
I digress. When Lionel Shriver wrote her magnificent essay on childless boomers she generalised that they weren't very historically-minded.
We give little thought to the perpetuation of lineage, culture or nation; we take our heritage for granted. We are ahistorical. We measure the value of our lives within the brackets of our own births and deaths, and don't especially care what happens once we're dead.
You couldn't say that about Ms Bennett.
The second reason why silicon immortality is important to feminists is that it offers many women the opportunity to contribute to the resurrection of women of their own and other ages, when other avenues are closed to them. Norma Clarke in The Rise and Fall of the Woman of Letters asks why Jane Barker, Sarah Fielding, Eliza Heywood, Delavrier Manley, innovative, popular, admired writers, were almost forgotten, while the men who were their compatriots – Milton, Pope, Steele, Swift – have got as close to immortality as any person who spends their life laying pen to paper could reasonably expect. I’m angry, sometimes, that these, my foremothers, like so many of their compatriots, did not do enough to ensure their own survival into the future (my emboldening - LT), and I have to ask: why ?
Trouble is, the 'survival into the future' not only depends upon the preservation of these women's stories, but on the continued existence of people who'll want to read about these women. As Ms Bennett writes :
If a memory of, or knowledge of, a person exists within a single human body/mind, then the person remembered has an existence, albeit a tenuous, wraithlike one ...
This alternative, embodied view of immortality chimes with a longstanding 'commonsense', pre-silicon-age view, which also holds that a person lives on whilesoever their memory is retained in that of another (my emboldening - LT). Making this “life” possible is often, consciously or not, the aim of historians, as Lerner says in explaining "why history matters … the dead continue to live by way of the resurrection we give them in telling their stories".
In this context a look at the demographics is instructive. As the ONS 2005 Poulation Trends summary (pdf) tells us :
As many as two in five secondary or medium educated women born in England and Wales in the mid-to-late 1960s were still childless going into their 30s, and almost half (46 per cent) of higher educated women were still childless at age 33. Among the generation of women born in the 1960s in France and Norway, fewer than one in three women of secondary and higher educational attainment were respectively childless entering their 30s and at age 33.
This isn't only a UK phenomenon. "Expected family size varies inversely with wife’s education" says this US presentation. The same's true in Japan and in Latin America (though in the non-welfare Latin American states both "the least educated and the best educated women share the small family norm").
The UK population is going up. Not all the new Britons will have the same attitudes to historical inquiry. The number of natives is going down - and they're ageing. And perhaps the natives producing the most children aren't rearing so many who'll read about seventeenth century lady jailers for pleasure and profit.
What have you done today to preserve a woman’s life – even your own – for future generations ?
A good question. Another good question is 'what future generations ?'
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