Archive for February, 2008

February 5th 2008
Senatorella for President

Posted under American history & Gender & wankers & women's history

New campaign slogan:  She’s got the smarts and the lady parts!

heathers.jpgIt’s caucus day here in my square state.  While I’m out doing my civic duty, here’s an interesting review by Susan Faludi of a new book called Thirty Ways of Looking at Hillary:  Reflections by Women Writers, edited by Susan Morrison.  (H/t to the lovely and talented Amanda Marcotte.)  It sounds like the book should be called Thirty Ways of Looking at Hillary by a Bunch of Jealous Heathers, plus a sensible essay by Katha Pollitt, although she’s voting for Barack Obama today.  What is it with Baby Boomers and their pathological envy of the Clintons?  I’ve always assumed that there was no small amount of class bias in the embarassingly obvious ressentiment of Maureen Dowd and the Washington establishment crowd.  Who did those hicks from Arkansas think they were, anyway?  (Well, Little Rock via those hick schools Wellesley, Georgetown, and Yale.)  Faludi’s review is a brief but brilliant foray into the gendered nature of Clinton-obsession, the Hillary version.  (Not that my generation should be let off the hook–although it would be nice if someone other than the obtuse Katie Roiphe were invited to comment, she who dismisses rape and Hillary Clinton because no one she knows has been raped or likes Hillary Clinton.  Well, no one I know likes Katie Roiphe, so there.)

The best part of the review is the introduction, where Faludi makes a counterfactual proposition that highlights the trivial issues the writers in this volume use to judge Hillary Clinton.  Faludi writes, “let’s imagine this book’s concept-30 well-known women writers talk about how they ‘feel’ about Hillary Clinton-applied to 30 male writers and a male presidential candidate. Adjusting for gender, the essay titles would now read: ‘Barack’s Underpants,’ ‘Elect Brother Frigidaire,’ ‘Mephistopheles for President,’ ‘The Road to Codpiece-Gate,’ and so on. Inside, we would find ruminations on the male candidate’s doggy looks and flabby pectorals; musings on such ‘revealing’ traits as the candidate’s lack of interest in backyard grilling, industrial arts and pets; and mocking remarks about his lack of popularity with the cool boys on the playground (i.e., the writers and their ‘friends’). We would hear a great deal of speculation about whether the candidate was really manly or just ‘faking it.’ We would hear a great deal about how the candidate made them feel about themselves as men and whether they could see their manhood reflected in the politician’s testosterone displays.” 

Seriously people, get over it:  it’s not about you–not about your unresolved conflict with your mother, not about your discomfort with ambitious middle-aged women (even if you are one too), and not about your need to pretend you know which superior choices the Senator supposedly should have made instead at any point in her well-documented life.  Cowboy up.  Git ‘er done. 

UPDATE:  Ruth Rosen, who will be appearing at the Berkshire Conference in June to speak on the topic of “Changes and Continuities in U.S. American Feminism, 1890-1990,” offers a different opinion in “Why Would a Feminist Vote for Obama?”

UPDATE II:  Perez Hilton endorses HRC!  (Hillary Rodham Clinton, not the Human Rights Campaign, although I assume he’s probably cool with both HRCs.)

UPDATE III:  Via Feminist Law Professors, here’s a great commentary on the mysterious, inscrutable origins of Hillary hating at Feminist Philosophers.  I think they’ve gotten to the bottom of it!


February 4th 2008
History departments: lite, brite, and mighty white

Posted under American history & Gender & jobs & women's history

litebrite.jpgCenter of Gravitas has a worthy post on diversity in faculty hiring in History departments, and it has attracted some smart comments from some of the regular commentors here at Historiann.  GayProf’s takeaway line is, “we must disrupt this ‘lite-brite’ vision of U.S. history. The stories of minority groups in this nation are not simply festive, colored pegs that can be plugged into a core white background. The history of race in this nation is the history of this nation.”  Kudos, GayProf, for working a toy from the 1970s into a wonderful metaphor!  (The closeup of Lite-Brites above left is from a giant Lite-Brite at Burning Man.)  Go read the post and the comment thread, especially if you’re in a department that’s now in the midst of the faculty hiring season.

But, do most History departments see the issues GayProf raises as problems to be solved?  In Historiann’s jaded, conspiracy-minded view, the reason most History departments hire nonwhite and/or non-male scholars only in targeted fields is that they don’t really want to change the way business-as-usual is done in their departments.  Historians can be coaxed to hire people who look “diverse,” but only if they color safely within the lines of their segregated topics.  They tolerate diversity only if they’re pretty well assured that they won’t have to re-think their lecture notes or the categories they use to cut history up into bite-sized chunks to feed to their students.  Hiring an African American medievalist, or a Chicano/a women’s historian, or an Asian colonial Americanist, for example, threatens to disrupt this neat segregation that the gender and/or ethnic identity of the scholar in question = the sub-field of history that scholar “should” pursue.  That would of course challenge the white men who still dominate the historical profession that perhaps they could or should include non-white, non-male people in their own teaching and scholarship in something other than a token fashion (i.e. putting African Americans and women in the sidebars in the textbook, while the “real” story rolls on around the diversion.) 

litebrite-tits.jpgGayProf also has some (appropriately) harsh words for women historians and women’s historians, although I think he incorrectly elides the two categories.  As many of us know from weary experience, many women historians are not feminists, and therefore they’re not particularly inclined to view their profession differently than their male peers (although that doesn’t mean that they aren’t in fact evaluated differently by their male peers, the poor dears!  Feminism won’t necessarily save you from being treated unfairly because of your sex, but at least you’ll know when you’re being had.)  There are now more women historians than there are women’s historians, which is a victory of sorts if disrupting the categories described above is your goal.  And although This Bridge Called My Back is out of print, many more scholarly titles by and of women of color have been published since that book appeared in 1981.  I don’t know any feminist historian trained in the 1980s or 1990s since This Bridge who would deny the importance of race and class to feminist scholarship–but then, agreeing with a proposition isn’t the same as making it the focus of your scholarship and teaching. 


February 3rd 2008
We loves teh funny!

Posted under fluff & weirdness

sarah-silverman.jpgMy apologies–I don’t know how to embed a video yet into a post.  (My brother-in-law has set this website up, and I don’t think that I’m allowed to have the keys yet for that particular vehicle.  Plus, he’s paying for the hosting, which I think might have something to do with this.)  Anyway, if Superbowl LIXIXIVVICMQ isn’t really your thing, and you’re really, like, “whatevs,” every time you’ve heard the New England Patriots’ winning streak described as “historic,” click here for some real entertainment.  (Warning–not work safe, not family viewing, etc.  If it were, it wouldn’t be so freaking hillarious, right?)  Sarah Silverman = Historiann - 2 years + teh funny. 


February 2nd 2008
A pox in your trousers? Not if your Pal MD can help it.

Posted under American history & Bodily modification & book reviews & Gender & women's history

two-sex-woman.jpgHistoriann realizes that she’s been blogging a lot about lady parts recently–my apologies for those of you who don’t have lady parts, or who aren’t particularly interested in getting close to anyone else’s lady parts.  Blame the wandering uterus, if you must, but if you’ve been following the ridiculous public conversation recently on Gardasil, the miracle anti-cancer vaccine that can benefit our students, younger sisters, daughters, granddaughters, goddaughters, and nieces, and all other people with lady parts, you’ll be interested to read our friend Pal MD’s brief review of the latest research at WhiteCoat Underground.  Predictably, instead of rejoicing at the discovery of a cure for cancer, there are a lot of people who are worried that this vaccine is going to unleash the inner slut inside all of our girl children.

Smallpox inoculation in the eighteenth century provoked even more anxiety and fear than vaccination does today in some tiny but stubborn sub-cultures.  In all fairness, inoculation (also known as variolation) was in fact a risky procedure, unlike modern vaccination, which involved infecting a healthy body with live virus to induce a mild course of the disease that would render the patient immune to future infection.  People who were inoculated were infectious to others, and some died from the resulting illness.  Many, many articles and books in the history of medicine that have addressed inoculation, but to my mind, the best of them are explorations of cultural history, and view disease and disease prevention as a window into past worlds.  Elizabeth Fenn’s Pox Americana:  The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775-82 (2001) includes a nice overview of smallpox inoculation in colonial America, in addition to exploring the course of a disease and its effects on a continent.

Robert V. Wells’s essay, “A Tale of Two Cities:  Epidemics and the Rituals of Death in Eighteenth-Century Boston and Philadelphia,” which appeared in a collection called Mortal Remains:  Death in Early America (2003), edited by Nancy Isenberg and Andrew Burstein, actually managed to elicit some sympathy in me for Cotton Mather, who although a horrible warmongering racist, was also a pioneering advocate for inoculation.  Mather’s life was tragically deformed by a measles epidemic in 1713, which took the life of his second wife, a daughter, newborn twins, and a servant girl in his household when he was forty.  Eight years later when smallpox came to Boston, he inoculated two of his sons and was rewarded for his brave public advocacy by a “fired granado” thrown into one of the bedrooms of his house, with a note that read, “Cotton Mather, you dog, damn you:  I’ll inoculate you with this, with a pox to you.”  (Fortunately the bomb fizzled, and Mather continued to promote inoculation.)  And there is an almost brand-new book by David E. Shuttleton called Smallpox and the Literary Imagination, 1660-1820 (2007), which includes a chapter about inoculation and the specifically racialized and gendered fears surrounding the procedure, which was first promoted in England by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (herself a possesor of lady parts) after she witnessed its successes on a trip to Turkey (scandalously exotic!) in the early 1720s.     

So, please follow in Lady Montagu’s (and–uuggh–Cotton Mather’s) footsteps.  Fight the woo–get your kids the Gardasil vaccine. 


February 1st 2008
Local Yokels: Affirmative Action, Republican-style

Posted under jobs & local news

Who says Republicans don’t like Affirmative Action–not the real kind, where you have to consider all qualified applicants, but Republican-style, where they don’t have to have any academic qualifications at all?  They’ve been highly successful at assuming the top jobs in Colorado universities with thinner C.V.’s than even our lowliest adjuncts.  The sole finalist to lead the University of Colorado (known locally as “CU”) is a multi-millionaire oilman and Republican fundraiser, Bruce Benson.  (See this post over at for a summary of news coverage and commentary.)  His qualifications for the position are a B.A. in geology from CU, and apparently, his fundraising prowess.  The Denver Post reports this morning that “Benson’s strength as a Republican fundraiser is unrivaled by anyone else in Colorado. In the 2004 election cycle, for example, Benson raised more than $3 million in contributions for state and national party funds and another $2.1 million to re-elect President Bush.”

If Benson gets the job, he will be only the latest politician to lead a major Colorado university: Republican former U.S. Senator Hank Brown was president of the University of Northern Colorado and is now the president of CU.  Northern Colorado is now led by Kay Norton, a Republican who contemplated a run for congress in 2002.  The University of Denver named Republican fundraiser Marc Holtzman as their President in 2003, until he resigned to run (disasterously) for Governor in 2006.  (DU is actually run by a Chancellor–the Presidency at DU was a new position created for Holtzman that focused only on fundraising.)  Holtzman’s name had been bandied about by then-Governor Bill Owens (Republican, natch) to lead Colorado State University.  CSU’s faculty successfully fought back that challenge on the grounds that people who lead research universities ought to have more than an undergraduate degree.  Colorado College has been led for years by former Democratic Ohio Governor Richard Celeste.

Psssst!  Memo to the CU Board of Regents and faculty:  didn’t you notice that the entire General Assembly–the House and the Senate–flipped to the Dems in 2004, and that there’s a Democratic governor now?  I guess if Benson gets the top job at CU, we can look forward to more bons mots like this one, in response to physics Professor Uriel Nauenberg’s question as to whether he would support CU’s international reputation as a center for research on global climate change:  “Anything we can do to eliminate greenhouse gases, I’m for it, but you have to be sensible about it. . . . I’m all for sensible alternatives . . . That doesn’t mean that I’m a . . . tree-hugger.”  (Memo to Benson:  contrary to what you may have heard from all of your Republican friends, there is no Department of Tree Hugging at CU.)


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