On the Vindication of Women Writers Part 2

Reading further through the major Guardian interview with Margaret MacMillan, Oxford warden and don, I feel compelled to continue this Sunday’s “Sermon”. 
Simon Moss, the interviewer d’un age certain, somehow needs to include in his article about this magnificent scholar, her relationship to her MALE ancestor, Lloyd George (no mention of the other half of the genetic equation). When he asks her why she hasn’t traded on this personal history MacMillan responds that she wants “to be seen as myself”. Besides, she says, she’s Canadian.
An academic for a few decades in “a vocationally oriented institution” (Moss’s put-down of Ryerson, a top-notch Canadian school), he asks MacMillan why she hadn’t gone “off to some top-notch university… in the United States?” – ah I guess there aren’t any top notch universities in Canada Mr. Moss. 
“I didn’t want to,” she responds, “In many ways it was the best thing to happen to me. I started out teaching history to nurses, engineers, journalists, public health inspectors. A lot of them thought history was a waste of time and they didn’t want to be there, but I learned how to teach and there was a great deal of satisfaction.”
Imagine! Wanting to teach to people doing real jobs? Nurses (a predominantly female profession, what a waste of time Mr. Moss implies)! I mean what could a public health inspector possibly get out of learning all about the Public Health Act of 1848 or 1875 for heaven’s sake??? (plenty in fact). 
Indicative of the subject at hand (The Vindication of Women Writers Part 2), MacMillan wasn’t “successful”, as inferred by the interviewer, until after her book on the 1919 Paris Peace talks, “Peacemakers” (2001) was published. This, says MacMillan, was a book about “a bunch of dead white men sitting around a table talking about peace treaties [about a war started by the same constuency]” and she has a drawerful of rejection letters testifying to her commitment to seeing it published. It was after it became a bestseller that she hit the big time academically and as a writer. 
Moss the interviewer digs at her and, contextually, at mature women writers and scholars I believe, when he asks her, “Why the relative dawdle?”
MacMillan responds, “I was married at the time, and had a job.” Imagine had she answered, “I was married and had a job raising children” – quelle über-dawdle!!!
The interviewer asks if MacMillan sees her “elevation” (my emphasis) to Oxford don as being a “late flowering”. She responds,’Yes. One of my brothers said, “we’re all on the racetrack and you’re the horse that is ambling along and not doing much. Then suddenly you get a burst of energy as you come round the clubhouse turn and go whoosh”. Again, look at the language even HER BROTHER USES… he implies that being a wife with a job and teaching history to non-academics, that she is ‘ambling along’ and that she is ‘not doing much’. Really? Then too, how he sees their lives and careers as a competition. Proud I am guessing, but possibly threatened by this success? It’s difficult for some men to experience being husband or brother of, rather than the opposite.
The interviewer concurs with this view and continues with the metaphor… “She makes a gesture that suggests a horse surging through the field to win the race, which is just what she’s done.” In other words, MacMillan has “won” the race of life by becoming an Oxford don and being a publishing darling. Well 20 years ago I bought her book, “Women of the Raj” and found it engrossing, well written, informative. However, the subject was on WOMEN, ergo, a nice “ambling along” project of little worth to Moss et al. I guess.
The blatant sexism of this article is SO UNWORTHY of Professor MacMillan who is a good and even scholar, and equally of importance, respectful to her audience.
My final comment is the ridiculous tag line on the article about this very serious and mature voice who is guiding us into the centenary of the war years with her book, “The War That Ended Peace” (2013). It reads: Margaret MacMillan “Don’t ask me who started the war or I’ll burst into tears”. Of all the erudite quotes he could choose from, he chooses this one, and with one fell swoop, reduces this mature, sane voice, to being an emotional, ergo untrustworthy, woman.
When will the Guardian retire the old goats who are really incapable of hearing what women have to say?

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jul/25/margaret-macmillan-just-dont-ask-me-who-started-war

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