Where are the women? That question did not cross my mind the first time I looked at the list, nor did I question it the second time I quickly went through the webpage to confirm that I wanted to use the material for a lesson I will be teaching in an eleventh grade classroom. It only crossed my mind a few weeks later when I needed to add another lesson and thought about what would be a positive addition to the material the students would already be reading.
Famous speeches. That is what the eleventh-grade students at my student teaching placement are tasked with reading; however, a simple google search turns up results lacking any female figures. The list that I added to my lesson plan had twenty of the “best speeches of all time.” Women spoke none of them. The shock from this realization, and, even more so, shock from the realization that I so casually overlooked the lack of female presence twice, set me on the path to finding female speeches to present to my students, enough female speeches to balance out the male ones they inevitably would be reading.
My internet search provided me with a list that I instantly deemed as fantastic. However, copying the webpage into my notes to return back to later left me pondering a new question: what type of web pages are these types of lists primarily on? I was on a webpage clearly targeted for female readers; however, I considered that maybe my self-annoyance for neglecting to notice that my first list contained no women was now resulting in overthinking, but nonetheless, I hit the back arrow to analyze the other web pages that popped up.
Overthinking was unfortunately not the culprit.
Web pages containing all female lists either appeared on pages traditionally thought of as “female-oriented,” or contained subheadings (or even titles) that stated that these were lists that “all females should read.”
All females. What about the lists of the best male speeches? Were those for all males to read, or for everyone to read? Clearly, it is the latter. So, I was left with two questions: why don’t females appear on the best of all time lists (only the best female lists), and why are the best female speeches described as for women to read, not for all to read?
The answer to both is unfortunately too clear:
The contents of the speech cannot rank on the importance scale/
as long as the name on it is female.