Gender Brown Bag discussion: Silvestri on women pirates

Cheers to you: Silvestri raises a tankard that he has in his office. The lecturer has had an interest in pirates ever since he was a kid.

Lecturer Tony Silvestri will be adding to the ongoing conversation for the Gender Brown Bag lecture series by presenting a talk on pirate women at noon April 17 in the Lincoln room at the Memorial Union.

“When we think of the golden age of pirates, it’s male imagery that comes to mind,” said Silvestri. “Female imagery is the wench serving up ale or the damsel in distress. The reality is, there were a lot of women pirates. In the new world, there was more freedom for everyone who would’ve been stifled in Europe under the class and patriarchal systems there. Women played major roles in the age of pirates, both at sea as captains and on port.”

Silvestri’s experience with pirate research traces back to his grade school days.

“I’ve loved pirates since I was a kid,” said Silvestri. “In fifth grade, my class wrote our first research paper. I remember freaking out at the time because it was a four pager and we had to cite sources and include a footnote and everything. I wrote that paper on Black Beard the pirate. It was my first experience with reading primary sources and understanding what it is that a historian does. It captured my imagination. Here I am 40 years later teaching a class on pirates.”

Hoping to shed some light on a topic rarely discussed, Silvestri plans to open a conversation that challenges students to rethink what they’ve been fed by popular media about the role of women in history.

“Learning something you didn’t know before is always inherently interesting,” said Silvestri. “We’re lucky to live in a time when scholars and the general community are beginning to question and correct the misinterpretations and misogynistic and downright ignorant views of the roles of women in the past. It’s good to be reminded that things are not always black and white; they’re gray. They are more complex than you thought or how Hollywood might make them seem.”

This will be Silvestri’s first Brown Bag lecture. He is eager to become a part of the ongoing discussion on gender that the Brown Bag series has created on campus.

“I’ve prepared about a half-hour talk,” said Silvestri. “My hope is that the rest of the time will be filled with questions and discussions. I want students to come away with a new and deeper understanding and appreciation for the role of women in this historical time period.”

Silvestri emphasized the importance of not limiting your interests in college.

“Being at college is just the best,” said Silvestri. “You have the ability as a student to explore and sponge. Adulting is more focused and you have fewer and fewer opportunities to learn and be exposed to things that you didn’t know before. The ultimate thing that I want people to get from this discussion and any of my classes is the opportunity to do this.”

The discussion will last approximately one hour and is open to everyone who wants to learn something new.