#MedFemList goes viral

Eileen Power. One of the 'game changing' medievalists mentioned on #MedFemList. Image: wikimedia commons
Eileen Power. One of the ‘game changing’ medievalists mentioned on #MedFemList. Image: wikimedia commons

In a recent New York Times article a prominent US Civil War historian named over thirty ‘game changing’ historians, and only a single female scholar made the list. This isn’t to say that those named weren’t excellent scholars, but, as ensuing discussions of the listserv of the Society for Medieval Scholarship signalled, it was a reflection on a deep seated mindset – by no means restricted to Civil War historians – in which the contribution of female scholars is often overlooked, sidelined, or simply forgotten. This tradition has been of long duration ,although we have, thankfully, come some way from the days when the female ‘assistants’ who did all the work of identifying, transcribing, and translating important manuscript sources were unacknowledged, while their work went into print under the byline of their (male) professors. (Refer to the marvellous volume Women Medievalists and the Academy, ed. by Jane Chance, and available in the Matheson LIbrary if you doubt me on this.)

So, your humble correspondent started a hashtag, #MedFemList, inviting medievalists in the twitterverse to name five game-changing medievalists. This kind of activism is built on twin goals of responding to discrimination of all kinds with a positive alternate message, and of making the conversation a public one. I am proud to say this has succeeded in its immediate goals. The #MedFemList hashtag quickly began trending on twitter, with hundreds of contributions in the following 24 hours. Literally hundreds of wonderful female medievalists were named, in every sphere of medieval studies. Every contribution was a reminder to read the marvellous work of female colleagues across the discipline. There is now absolutely no excuse for the work of these outstanding scholars to be omitted from undergraduate syllabi around the world, or the reading lists of postgraduate students. This needs to be part of the legacy of our conversation.

Monash is home to many outstanding female academics and research students in Medieval & Renaissance studies, so on behalf of the Monash CMRS I am particularly proud to be a part of this movement. If you are inspired, look up the work of some of my marvellous Med-Ren colleagues online:

Follow the action online through our twitter presence (@MonashCMRS) or watch the hashtag directly (#MedFemList).

Or check out some random highlights on Storify: