I just wrote the following sentence in ch. 4 of my MS:
"Female plaintiffs had a fine line to walk when describing violent sexual encounters: in a culture where submission to male authority and protection of sexual reputation were both part of an appropriate female sexuality, women could have a difficult time describing rape in a way that did not implicate themselves as at least partially culpable."
As someone who writes on (among other things) the history of women in the Middle Ages, the reactions I get from non-academics tend to focus on how uniformly awful things were for women before -- what? 1968? -- and, by implication, how far we've come since then. Unless I'm actually in a lecture hall, I try to shift the topic quickly, because stepping back and really thinking about the above sentence makes me want to take my interlocutor, shake them, and ask them how much they think has really changed.** The problem is that my well-intentioned patriarchy-blaming would probably come out sputtering and quasi-incoherent, thereby undermining my point.
And now I have to wonder, for all those of you historians of women/gender out there: do any of you study any time period, anyplace, where the sentence I wrote above would not be true?
**Yes, yes: I'm aware of the myriad of ways in which my lot is better than that of a woman living in the fourteenth century. I get it. But my point is that it's a little early to hang the "Mission Accomplished" banner, ya dig?