Archive for April, 2008

April 12th 2008
Stylin’ barbie knitwear

Posted under Dolls

Perfect for a spring stroll through your city!  The entire Historiann household has been on a spring vacation for the past few days, and will be away for a few more.  I’ll continue checking in from the road, and perhaps posting vacation photos along with my prankish yet trenchant observations on early American history, gender and sexuality issues, academic politics, the 2008 Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, and occasionally, vintage Barbies. 

For those of you wanting some not-academic politics to get you going in the morning, check out Bob Somerby’s post yesterday, a twofer rundown of Paul Krugman’s Friday column and a glimpse of the Sunday New York Times Magazine article about idiot blowhard Chris Matthews.  As always, Le Somerby is incomparable!  Why can’t Bob take Matthews’s job?  Why, Lord, why?

7 Comments »

April 11th 2008
Senate Candidate Schaffer’s trip to Mariana Islands and ties to Abramoff documented in CSU Archives

Posted under American history & jobs & local news & unhappy endings & women's history

Colorado Democratic Congressman (and candidate for the open U.S. Senate seat) Mark Udall is a happy, happy man this week.  And, oddly enough, it’s all due to the Colorado State University archives.  Yesterday, the Denver Post published a story about his presumptive opponent, Republican Bob Schaffer (pictured below right), based on research in the CSU archives.  Schaffer, a former 4th district Congressman, placed the papers documenting his 1997-2002 career in the U.S. House of Representatives in the CSU archives.  To his credit, Schaffer donated his papers without any restrictions–an admirable gesture upholding the values of transparency and open access that historians and archivists revere.  (I’m not otherwise a fan of Schaffer, but I wish more public servants shared these values.  I respect tremendously his decision to open his records, although I’m sure this week he’s regretting it.) 

Unfortunately for Schaffer, the story was unflattering, to say the least, as it documented a 1999 trip he took to the Mariana Islands courtesy of disgraced former lobbyist and felon Jack Abramoff.  The Post article says that the Congressman and his wife Maureen stayed “for free at a palm-studded beach resort and, besides factories, also toured historical sites and met with clients of Preston-Gates, Abramoff’s firm, according to a copy of the trip’s agenda archived in Schaffer’s congressional papers.”  (Who says working in an archives is boring now, eh?) 

Items manufactured in the Mariana Islands can display a “made in the U.S.A.” label, although they are exempt from U.S. minimum wage laws and most immigration laws, and have been repeatedly found by the Department of Labor and the Department of the Interior to be in violation of workers’ rights and human rights:  aside from the sweatshop-style garment factories on the island and the slum-like dormitories for workers, U.S. government agencies also have proof of women being forced into sex work, and pregnant laborers being forced to have abortions.  Later in the day yesterday, the Denver Post published his campaign’s denial that he ever met with Abramoff, knew him, or spoke with him about anything, and today’s paper has a report that Schaffer endorsed a key Abramoff ally for governor of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Much of the research for the article, as well as the photos that illustrate it, was done at the CSU archives.  (Click here for a guide to the Schaffer papers.)  Historiann’s source deep, deep inside the archives says that many people, especially journalists, have been all over his papers in the past few months, no doubt because of his current run for office.  The source writes, “I know a permission to publish was granted. . . the day before [the article was published] and a rush order to scan the photos went through.”  The source also says that the AP has contacted the archive for permission to publish the photos, too.  Let’s hope that this doesn’t discourage public officials from donating their papers to archives without restrictions–but unfortunately I’m pretty sure that every politician in Colorado is making a note never to do allow such open access.  I’m also pretty sure every other politician in Colorado–and perhaps around the country–thinks that Schaffer is a sucker for doing just that.

UPDATE, 4/12/08:  Fiction in the archives?  From the Denver Post again:  Schaffer spent Friday huggin’ and kissin’ Vice President Dick Cheney, who visited Colorado to raise money for him.  Schaffer said, “I am really disgusted with the tone and tenor and direction of The Denver Post stories. I have had no contact with the individuals in the story, particularly Jack Abramoff,” Schaffer said. “It’s a matter of fiction. That’s all I’m going to say about it.”  Best of luck with that!

3 Comments »

April 11th 2008
Philadelphia, or Philabarbia?

Posted under Dolls & fluff

Historiann commenter Indyanna sent these spectacular Barbie photos so that I could present them to you as a Historiann.com exclusive.  (I guess that now makes Indyanna my second on-the-ground reporter in the Philadelphia area!)  This was captured on the 2200 block of Rittenhouse Square Street in the City of Brotherly Barbie Love, a little block between Spruce and Locust, and 22nd and 23rd Streets.

Apparently, the two barbies above have a sister planted as an orphan in another window box to the side, or perhaps above.  Indyanna also sent along this blurred shot of the forlorn one, leaning over as if to catch what the other two are talking about.  The little minxes!

Thanks, Indyanna, for having your wits (and your cell phone camera) about you as you prowl Center City–and please keep the dolls-in-weird-places photos coming.  I’ve been thinking that I should update you all on Creepy Doll Head in her new home, my back garden–perhaps later this spring, when the garden will be green and blooming.

1 Comment »

April 10th 2008
Academic bullying and discrimination round-up, yee-haw!

Posted under Uncategorized

There have been a number of good posts ’round these parts recently that have continued discussing bullying and harrassment in academic work environments, especially as they affect women faculty members.  (Not so happy trails today, friends–but be good to your horse anyway.)  See for example Clio Bluestocking’s appalling stories of harrassment:  part I, part II, and part III.  She makes the observation in Part III that “[T]he focus in harassment cases is upon the “sexual,” which is not the source of the abuse. The source of the abuse is in the “harassment,” which is not always sexual in nature. While most universities and workplaces have a policy against sexual harassment, they do not have policies dealing with simple harassment or bullying. . . . unless provable damage had been done, and unless the hostile work environment rested upon sex, the subordinates had few options for recourse.”  The result of this failure to police or prevent harrassment is that in her case, “the colleagues of these [harrassers] did not see objections to their behavior as anything other than a personality conflict. When I brought my problem to the chair of the department in the third case, he told me, ‘you can’t file a complaint against someone for being an a**hole.’” 

Why not?  Isn’t creating a “hostile work environment” part and parcel of being an a**hole?  (I wouldn’t have minded working with a**holes so much if they left it at home.)  Tenured Radical posted last year about a book by Robert I. Sutton that argues that keeping a**holes out is an important precondition to creating a healthy and happy work environment.  She writes, “What is great about The No A**hole Rule is that Sutton’s examples help identify the a**hole behavior that is particular to one’s own workplace, how to identify it in oneself, and how to resist it. He also demonstrates the damage caused by a**holes, several of which seem particularly relevant to academic institutions, in my experience. One is that a**hole behavior is contagious: if effective interventions are not made, people who are not certified a**holes become more prone to temporary a**hole behaviors as they try to resist domination and seizures of power.”  (By the way, go ahead and type in the esses if you’re looking for Sutton’s book–Historiann doesn’t like to work blue.)

Prof. Zero makes a related point about abusive environments in her recent post, I Object, in which she meditates on domestic violence and victim-blaming.  She writes, “I find it very interesting that [women] are expected to escape physical abuse and are heavily criticized if we do not, but [we are expected] to absorb verbal and emotional abuse. We are to say it is happening because we have a ‘communication problem.’ Had we phrased things just right, we would have avoided ‘misunderstandings’ and would not have been abused. Now that we have been, we must be quiet and wait for the next episode. In the meantime we must still function at a high level.”  She’s absolutely right–why do we blame the victims if they don’t leave after being physically abused, and then blame victims again if they don’t just shut up and take it when being bullied and abused emotionally?  If we accept that victims of physical violence have no control over their abusers’ behavior, why do we tell people who are being bullied that they should “try to get to know people better,” and suggest that if they took people out to lunch more often, the harrassment would end?

Finally, Ann Bartow at Feminist Law Profs has put together some useful links in Data on Women and Men in Academia.  Note in particular the link to “Women, Work, and the Academy:  Strategies for Responding to ‘Post-Civil Rights Era’ Gender Discrimination,” a report by Alison Wylie, Janet R. Jakobsen and Gisela Fosado at the Barnard Center for Research on Women.

Whew.  Historiann has got quite a few stables to muck out now, doesn’t she?  Giddyup.

15 Comments »

April 9th 2008
Paris in Wonderland

Posted under fluff

Inspired by Ortho at Baudrillard’s Bastard–both by his nicely illustrated report on his spring break and his recent analysis of graffiti in New York City–this post is about one of my favorite spring breaks ever.  March 2001 was a great month for me–I had signed a contract to start a new academic job, freeing me from the misery of my first job, and I was off to Paris with a beloved close family member.  It rained a lot that week–natch–after all it was Paris in March.  But it was memorable in every way, as it was my first trip to Paris.  (I wasn’t one of those rich college kids who hung out in Europe all summer long–I had to work to cover my expenses and top up my steeply increasing tuition bill.)

One of the most distinctive features of our visit was the appearance of a cat who went quite sensibly by the name “M. Chat” (Mr. Cat, en Anglais.)  I take it now that he’s famous all over the world, and the star of a movie that premiered at the Pompidou Center in 2004.  But, we knew M. Chat before he was cool, and it was a pleasure to see where we might find his grinning face (and nearby, occasionally, his purple mouse friend.)   There he was again, along the banks of the Seine, or next to the funicular that goes to Sacré Coeur, or on the side of a building in Montmartre. 

M. Chat au Centre Pompidou

He’s got a website now, not by his mysterious creator, but by a fan, where you can track his whereabouts worldwide, as well as the locations of other graffiti characters.  His creator’s identity was a closely guarded secret until March, 2007, when one Thoma Vuille from Orléans was caught mid-Chat by police.  

Have you any M. Chat sightings to report?  (Of course, many of us believe that we have seen him before, since he seems to be the bastard lovecat of  John Tenniel and Keith Haring.)  To paraphrase Alice:  What’s the use of a blog, without pictures or conversations?

6 Comments »

April 8th 2008
A short history of recent presidential primaries

Posted under American history & Gender & women's history

eustace-tillarybama.JPGThis article in the Boston Phoenix provides an overview of recent contests for both the Democratic and Republican nominations (h/t Suburban Guerilla) and finds that running primaries all the way to the convention is far from unusual, especially among Democrats.  Author Steven Stark concludes, “[t]he fact is that, until now, candidates have rarely, if ever, faced such a concerted movement. . . urging them to drop out before their rival has clinched the nomination.”  He notes that this is “an argument virtually without precedent in modern political history, at least at this stage of such a close race. And while it does have its origins in an effort to preserve party unity, it also has its roots in an odd and vitriolic crusade to purge the Clintons and hand the nomination to a candidate who has yet, after all, to win a single large state’s primary (other than his own), let alone the nomination.”  (Well, I would say that Georgia is a significant large state victory, but that neither Obama nor Clinton is likely to win its Electoral College votes in November.)

Stark then reviews recent Democratic primaries, noting that in 1988 Jesse Jackson and in 1980 Ted Kennedy (who was after all running for the nomination against a sitting President!) waged their campaigns all the way to the party convention.  He also notes that rivals for the nomination carried on to the convention in both 1976 and 1960, and that Ronald Reagan (he of the “eleventh commandment:  Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican,” remember?) went all the way to the 1976 Republican party convention also against a sitting president,Gerald Ford.  (Historiann isn’t a modern U.S. political historian, but that run-down looks accurate to me–historians with more knowledge, please render your judgment of Stark’s analysis in the comments below.)  “Yet,” Stark writes, “in one of the tightest races in modern history — before the opponent has come close to clearly clinching the nomination, before a number of voters have been given the chance to have their voices heard, and when Clinton still has a chance, albeit a slim one, to win the prize, she is continually vilified for failing to see the light and bow out. What gives?”

Well, as you regular readers know, Historiann has been asking“what gives?” about the blatantly unjust press coverage and the vitriol from within the Democratic party trained on Clinton all along.  Stark assigns a lot of blame to “Clinton Fatigue,” and raises the question of sexism, but Historiann thinks he overlooks another important factor:  the primary elections listed above weren’t nearly as close as this one is.  The reason Obama loyalists are calling for Clinton to drop out is that, to paraphrase Monty Python, she’s not dead.  Obama hasn’t been able to deliver the knockout blow–despite the hyperventilations of Chris Matthews, he failed to turn his Iowa triumph into a victory in New Hampshire, and he only ran even with her on Super Tuesday (although she took the big prizes, California, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and New York, natch).  He trounced her in the Crabcake Primaries, but then was himself soundly beaten both in Ohio and Texas in March.  The upcoming primaries look pretty good for Clinton, and with the exception of North Carolina, not so good for Obama.  This primary has been run to a draw, friends, so let’s see this “Drop Out!” demand as the political tactic it is.  In spite of her campaign’s blunders, wretchedly biased press coverage, and the condescention and insults aimed at her by a small but loud subset of Obama backers, she’s running just about dead even, and neither candidate will be able to clinch the nomination without the Superdelegates.  Neither candidate should drop out–they owe it to the Democratic Party to give us a fair fight, to let everyone vote, and to let all the votes be counted.  (He may yet do it in Pennsylvania–polls have shown that it may be a very competitive race, but a SUSA poll released today shows Clinton up by 18 points, and benefiting from a big swing in men’s votes.)

Recently, the Obama campaign has apparently sent out a new memo to its surrogates asking them to dial back the calls to “Drop Out Now, Hillary!”  (I heard Chris Dodd scaling back on The Ed Schultz Show last week, for example, and the candidate himself has walked this one back, too.)  That’s a good move, considering that at least half of us prefer Clinton and resent, in Stark’s words, “that Clinton is being held to a different standard than virtually any other candidate in history. . . . In this case, when Clinton is simply doing what everyone else has always done, she’s constantly attacked as an obsessed and crazed egomaniac, bent on self-aggrandizement at the expense of her party.”  If Obama is the nominee, he needs to make sure that Clinton doesn’t just lose, he needs to make sure that he wins decisively.  And the only way to do that is to let the people vote.

(For those who never tire of contemplating the bias in the media against HRC, check this out, via TalkLeft.)

16 Comments »

April 7th 2008
Rape still a powerful weapon of war

Posted under Berkshire Conference & book reviews & Gender & Intersectionality & race & unhappy endings & women's history

UPDATED BELOW

Displaced women from Darfur (17 November 2007)Last night, I heard this report on the BBC World Service about the rape of women and girls in the conflict in Darfur, based on this study by Human Rights Watch.  The BBC says that although rape has been a tool of warfare throughout this conflict, the patterns have changed–it’s not just the Janjaweed, anymore.  “Women and girls (photo, right) are now as likely to be assaulted in periods of calm as during attacks on their villages and towns.  Government soldiers, militiamen, and rebel fighters [are] also targeting women on the fringes of camps for displaced people spread around the region.”  We saw this in the wars in the Balkans in the 1990s–although prominent feminist legal theorist Catherine Mackinnon was important in drawing attention to the use of rape and forced pregnancy by Serb soldiers in the wars in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia, this 1996 book by Beverly Allen looks like the comprehensive study of that human rights disaster.  So, as in Europe, Iraq, and Afghanistan, one of the most important lessons we can learn about modern warfare is that women’s rights and safety are dramatically degraded in war zones, and that women’s rights are never the priorities of the new governments that rise in the wake of these wars.

Rape and Sexual Power in Early America: CoverWhile rape appears to have been common in European warfare transhistorically, it wasn’t univeral in the Americas.  For example, there is no evidence that Native or European American women in captivity among the Northeastern woodlands Indians were raped in the borderlands warfare of the seventeenth and eighteenth-centuries.  Captivity was a means of simultaneously weakening your enemy’s numbers and strengthening your own, so captives targeted for adoption were treated lovingly as family members, and thereby induced to stay.  (However, scholars have noted the use of rape as  tool of war by other Native Americans.)  As Sharon Block’s 2006 book, Rape and Sexual Power in Early America conclusively demonstrates, rape was mostly the tool and prerogative of European and Euro-American men in colonial America because of their dominance over other people’s bodies, principally enslaved women and women indentured servants.  Successful rape prosecutions were rare because sexual coercion by men was considered heteronormative, and consent wasn’t a serious issue:  women were supposed to resist, and men were supposed to press their advantage–so where’s the harm?  (At least, that’s what most communities said, especially if the victim was a low-status woman.)  The one constituency that was regularly convicted of rape was African American men, and Block demonstrates that rape prosecutions against black men in the eighteenth century were a means of policing and punishing their sexual access to white women. 

For those of you interested in rape and rape as a tool of war, Diary of an Anxious Black Woman has a trailer on her website for The Greatest Silence:  Rape in the Congo, which she notes will be shown on HBO tomorrow night, April 8.  The rape, torture, and mutilation of women has happened throughout the bloody civil war that’s raged in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for nearly a decade, by both foreign militias and the Congolese Army.  If you don’t have HBO, or can’t stay in to watch tomorrow, you can catch it at the Berkshire Conference on the History of Women this June, courtesy of Women Make Movies.  (Historiann is in charge of the movie schedule, which isn’t final yet.  The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo will be shown sometime Friday, June 13 or Saturday, June 14 between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. in the West Bank Program Auditorium in Willey Hall at the University of Minnesota.)  The final film schedule will be posted later this month at the 2008 Conference website.

Do you think there are some universal–or near universal–laws about rape in warfare, or about rape in general?  Do you know of any exceptions to my (informed guess) that in modern warfare, “women’s rights and safety are dramatically degraded in war zones, and that women’s rights are never the priorities of the new governments that rise in the wake of these wars.”

UPDATEWOC Ph.D. has a post up about The Greatest Silence too.  She writes, “it is important for us to develop a complex theory of sexual violence that includes war and war that includes sexual violence as a tool of war. Once we do, we will be better able to address the specific cases of sexual violence in war zones and better protect women outside of war.”

UPDATE II:  Apparently, the U.S. Senate just last week held its first hearings on the use of rape as a weapon in warfare, with a special emphasis on rape in the Congo, including a screening of selections from The Greatest Silence, and testimony from the movie’s director, Lisa F. Jackson.  Thank you, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL).

27 Comments »

April 7th 2008
To the Maypole, let us on. . .

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

taylor-tower.jpgHistoriann.com has a young correspondant reporting from inside the Gothic Revival cloisters of Bryn Mawr College about the new Luke Wilson vehicle, Tenure, which Historiann wrote about a few weeks ago.  Our intrepid girl reporter, “E.H.,” says that the movie will be “shooting on campus in late April and early May, while we’re doing final exams.”  (Study hard, mes petites!  Remember, May Day–and exams–are only three weeks away!)  E.H. notes that “Luke Wilson and Danny Koechner have already been on campus; some of my friends have seen them around in the past few days, although filming was supposedly happening over at Rosemont College.”  Keep us posted, E.H.–ask your friends to leave comments here, too.  Let us know who’s being tapped to play the young female prof, and what you observe about the plotline.  Is “Grey College” in the movie going to be single-sex, or co-ed?

This could be Bryn Mawr’s biggest moment on film since Adam’s Rib (1949), one of the last of the classic screwball comedies starring Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy as Amanda and Adam Bonner, attorneys married to each other who square off in court over a case of attempted murder of an adulterous man by his wife.  (Interestingly, this sounds kind of like the setup for Tenure, with a male and a female professor squaring off against each other for, well, tenure.)  Defense attorney Amanda makes an explicitly feminist argument in order to lead the jury to acquit the defendant:  She argues that “woman is the equal of man – is entitled to equality before the law,” and so calls three highly successful women to the stand, “each representing a particular branch of American womanhood, for not only one woman is on trial here, but all women.”  The first witness Amanda Bonner calls is Dr. Margaret Brodeigh (Elizabeth Flournoy), who rattles off her resume thusly:  “A.B., B.S. – Bryn Mawr, M.A., Ph.D., M.D. – Columbia…Diplome des Sciences Chimiques de la Sorbonne, Paris, Docteur Honora-Scholar [probably Honoris Causa, h/t rootlesscosmo in the comments] de Philosophie, Universite…”  Yes, that’s typical–sadly, Historiann is an underachiever compared to her classmates.  And although this was something of a minor comedy, Hepburn in this movie seems more gorgeous than ever as a tough and self-assured 42-year old than she did in her younger years.

. . . The time is swift and will be gone!

4 Comments »

April 6th 2008
Childhood is gone…Turner Classic Film at 11.

Posted under Bodily modification & childhood & Gender & local news & women's history

It’s not enough that we subject them to a barrage of tests designed more to prop up local real estate values and funnel taxpayer dollars to wealthy corporations than to assess learning or teaching.  It’s not enough that they are practically bound in cotton-wool from birth, with their bike helmets, ski helmets, kneepads, elbow-pads, and car seats.  Now, we’re coming for the sweet, sweet acetones of their permanent markers.  Last week, an eight-year old kid in Colorado was suspended from school for sniffing sharpies, on the suspicion that he was getting high.  (Was I the only kid to liked the smell of permanent markers?  How many of them would you have to huff dry before you’d get high, anyway?)  What’s next:  outlawing twirling around on the playground, because that makes kids dizzy?

I’ve long wondered, what will become of the rising generation who never knew the comforting whiff of a fresh mimeograph as it hit their desks?  As they’re watching Turner Classic Movies, what will they make of that scene in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, when all of the kids pick up their handouts, sniff them, and sigh with pleasure?  It’s just not the same with photocopies.

Now, Suburban Guerilla points us to a Philadelphia Magazine article on Stepford Housewives 2.0 who schedule their eight-year olds for bikini waxes, highlights, and “blowouts.”  (Please tell us this is an April Fool’s Day joke!  Ha-ha?)  That’s right:  waxes for children who don’t yet have pubic hair.  From the article:  “‘I’ve actually been joking that I’m going to write a book called Where Has All the Pubic Hair Gone?’  Janice Hillman, a doctor in the Penn Health System at Radnor who specializes in adolescent medicine, tells me. ‘It’s such a rarity to find it these days in 10- and 12-year-old girls, and older girls. I need to check for it at that age — it’s an indicator of puberty and development, how much there is, where it’s growing. And now, I need to ask girls, if it’s not there, ‘Do you wax? Do you shave?’ Because so many of them do.’”

I suppose their mothers must experience limitless amounts of boredom and self-loathing.  Ladies, this looks like reason number 612 why you shouldn’t quit your job after having children:  less free time with which to turn your tween daughter into a waxed, implanted, tanorexic Pr0n star lookalike.  Talk about alienating girls from their own bodies.  Medieval Catholicism has nothing on these women.

9 Comments »

April 6th 2008
Get yer hands off me, ya damn dirty death!

Posted under fluff & unhappy endings

Charlton Heston has died.  Never has one actor starred in so very many cheesy movies without earning an Ed Wood-like reputation.  Think about it:  all of those weird 1950s biblical/ancient world epics (The Ten Commandments, Ben Hur), then the 1960s and 70s sci-fi and disaster movies (The Planet of the Apes and sequels, Soylent Green, and Earthquake).  How did he do it?  Maybe by taking himself and all of these roles so seriously, and remaining resolutely humorless in spite of the laughable material he was asked to perform.

And remember:  Soylent green?  “It’s people!!!”

2 Comments »

« Prev - Next »