In the poem "History" by Adrienne Rich, is there a difference between HIS-story and HER-story?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There most definitely is a difference between "his-story" and "her-story," and feminist writers have argued for a long time now that "his-story" is actually very significant, as its linking of the words "his" and "story" together to form "history" reveals the patriarchal dominance that governs how history is told from a male perspective that does not allow a female perspective to enter into this male, hegemonic account. In her poem, Rich picks up on this theme through giving the title "History" to her poem. Yet, in the first line, she asks a question to her presumably male audience that criticises a male perspective of history as being simplified and not able to cope with the complexities of real lives and real history:

Should I simplify my life for you?

As the speaker in this poem remembers her own childhood, important world events are juxtaposed with the here-and-now struggles and reminiscences of a teenage girl that are just as vibrant and important, and in many ways more so, than the important events that happen. Note the following example:

In Current Events she said

the war in Europe is over, the Allies

and she wore no lipstick won the war

and we raced scraming out of Sixth Period.

Note the way that this important announcement is juxtaposed with the fact that her teacher "wore no lipstick." This is a trivial reference, yet one that reveals the importance of this fact in her memory. History is therefore implicitly criticised as Rich points towards a view of history that captures the struggles and memories of a girl who is growing up in their full complexity rather than a simplified and sanitised version.

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