Archive for May, 2008

May 23rd 2008
What’s wrong with this picture?

Posted under American history & Gender & Intersectionality & race & women's history

Just to illustrate and amplify the point in the previous post, click here to find another shockingly offensive racist and misogynist image from the 2008 primary campaign (H/t Diary of an Anxious Black Woman.)  I won’t put that image on my blog–Anxious B. has a different position, but I’ve got a weak stomach for images that exploit lynching.  See also the commentary at Black Women Vote, and What About Our Daughters?

Are you back now?  Good.  Now, the individual who posted that image at the famous “liberal” Hillary-hating home base, DailyKos.com, meant to criticize people who are critical of Michelle Obama.  However, when you create a sexually and racially exploitative image in the course of criticizing other people for their racism and sexism, you’re replicating the exploitation, not calling it out.  Mmmmm…misogyny:  tastes great to supposedly liberal dudes!  And now, with extra racism!  (On what planet do people think this is acceptable?  Oh, yeah:  planet Wehatehillaryshe’sabitch.)  This is why misogyny is wrong, whether from the right, the left, or the corporate media, and whether it benefits “your” candidate or not.

Well, as Historiann predicted, it looks like Michelle Obama is being prepared for induction in the uppity candidate’s consort/First Ladies’ club, population 1.

5 Comments »

May 23rd 2008
Hark! A voice from the future, today.

Posted under American history & Gender & unhappy endings & women's history

Andrew Stephen in The New Statesman.  Just read it.  (H/t to Corrente.)

The one point I don’t agree with is his claim that Obama is “perhaps the least qualified presidential nominee ever.”  That seems to be hyperbolic at best, living as we are in the shadows of the wreckage of the George W. Bush Presidency.  (Obama, wasn’t a drunken partyboy until the age of 40, and didn’t have a father whose wealth and connections he could coast on.)  But I think Stephen’s analysis of this primary election season’s dynamic is dead on.  And, I suspect his prediction that “history. . . will look back on the past six months as an example of America going through one of its collectively deranged episodes” will come true, sooner rather than later.

While I am not an American political historian (as the field is traditionally defined), the political uses of gendered rhetoric are an important part of my intellectual agenda.  My first book was a study of how ideas and language about gender and the family were used to describe people’s observations and experiences of cross-cultural warfare and politics in seventeenth and eighteenth-century North America.  So, I know quite a lot transhistorically and cross-culturally about the ways in which ideas about gender are interwoven into political discourses in the modern West.  (And, as an “early modernist,” please understand that “modern” here means post-1492.)  People reveal themselves in the language they use, consciously or unconsciously.  Both Cotton Mather and Chris Matthews are spokesmen for their time and place as people favored by an eminent position in the culture.  We should listen to the words they say, not because they’re necessarily intelligent or “true,” but because they can tell us a lot about ourselves.

In many ways, the misogyny directed at Hillary Clinton this year–the blowback of which will probably be felt by women in all walks of life for years to come in thousands of discouraging ways–is part of an old story best documented by Bob Somerby at The Daily Howler.  Somerby has been on the case of the insular corporate media since 1999, when he noticed the power of the preferred media narrative about Al Gore’s candidacy for the Presidency, and its curious imperviousness to the facts.  And as Somerby points out regularly–you’ll never see or hear the media tell the truth about its own role in shaping our political and cultural discourses.  (John Judis’s recent admission in The New Republic that the media hated Clinton and picked Obama as the Democratic winner is one of the few times when we’re permitted to see The Great Oz operating behind the flimsy curtain.)

In my adult life, the corporate media has repeatedly gone off the rails and created an alternative universe that bore little resemblance to reality.  First, in 1993, it was the cheerleading for NAFTA, and the insistence that fair trade would lift all boats equally.  Then in 1998-99, it was with l’affaire Lewinskyand the impeachment of Bill Clinton, in which the corporate media convinced itself early on that Clinton was a goner.  Then in 1999-2000, it was the internet bubble, and Dow 36,000, and the breathless insistence that the U.S. economy was a perpetual wealth-making machine that had figured out a way to grow forever.  And, of course, we were told what a vile fabulist Al Gore was.  When Bill Bradley failed to beat Gore despite Bradley’s favorable press advantage, the media entrusted the task of destroying Gore to George W. Bush.  The consequences of this media echo-chamber/bandwagon became more serious than ever, when in September 2001 the corporate media told us that Bush was Winston Churchill reborn, the greatest “war President” ever.  With the runup to the invasion of Iraq in 2002-03, no dissenting voices were permitted to be heard, either from expert commentators or among the obedient stenographers in the press corps themselves.  This bubble was only burst by the malign–nay criminal–indifference and incompetence of the Bush administration’s response to Hurricaine Katrina in 2005.  This winter, with the nutcrackers, the comparisons to monstrous fictional characters, the unwarranted attacks and blatant disrespect (“you’re likeable enough,” “Sweetie,”), all backed up in perfect harmony by the ”iron my shirt” and the “bros before hos” chorus, it all felt too sadly familiar. 

In every one of these cases, not only was the corporate media wrong, but in most cases it was wrong in ways that were disastrous for people who aren’t the blow-dried, pancaked, made men (and women) of the corporate media.  That is to say, all but about 500 Americans.  All of them have high-paying jobs, with health insurance.  None of them lost their jobs because of NAFTA, or lost their pension plans and 401K’s as a result of the stock market bubble bursting.  None of them marched off to fight a war designed more to prop up George W. Bush’s poll numbers and help him win re-election than to make any part of the world safer, freer, or more just.  None of them saw their houses and families drown in New Orleans.  This year, with Bush’s approval ratings in the toilet, the corporate media decided that it didn’t want Hillary Clinton to be the next President.  That may be the decision Democrats would have come to on their own through the primary process–but her tremendous success at playing it to a draw suggests that with even occasionally fair press coverage, she may well have been triumphant.  Sadly, Democrats haven’t defended one of their own candidates–too many of us stood by and enjoyed the drubbing Hillary was taking because it benefited our preferred candidate, and many of us piled on too, repeating and amplifying some of the most vicious lies about Clinton that the “vast right-wing conspiracy” ever dreamed up.  As I have argued here repeatedly since February, that was short-sighted at best, given Somberby’s documentation of the preferred corporate media narrative for all Democratic presidential candidates for the past thirty years.  And yet, we have let the corporate media choose our candidate, when they have been so wrong, so consistently and disastrously wrong for the past fifteen years.

This post is not an argument for the flawless perfection of Clinton as a candidate, nor is it arguing that Clinton is the only or most important victim of this poisonous misogyny, nor is it suggesting that all Obama supporters are guilty.  (Historiann has said repeatedly that there are plenty of good reasons to prefer Obama for the Democratic nomination.  This blog has never trashed him, but rather has come to his and Michelle Obama’s defense several times.)  It’s a Jeremiad lamenting the fact that once again, Democrats have permitted a corrupt and wrong-headed media to select our candidate instead of insisting on the sovereignty of Democratic voters, and that we’ve allowed them to do this using language and ideas that the vast majority of us officially repudiate.  (Aren’t we the party for feminists?  Isn’t this party the one that defends women’s bodily sovereignty and civil rights?  Whisky Tango Foxtrot?)  We don’t know yet what all of the consequences will be for this media blanket party for Hillary Clinton in 2008.  We surely know, from bitter experience, what the consequences were for the media takedown of Gore in 1999-2000.  Remind me again:  how’d that work out for us?

UPDATE:  Gee, could this be a problem?  I dunno!  (Via Echidne.)

11 Comments »

May 22nd 2008
The consuming pleasures of “Sex and the City”

Posted under Gender & the body

We’re about to go all Sex, all the time around here, as we begin the final countdown until Sex and the City:  the Movie drops.  If like Historiann, you’ve occasionally thought to yourself, “whatever happened to Sex and the City?”, don’t miss NYC Weboy’s terrific overview of SATC (the TV show)and thoughts on how and why the show changed over time.  (You can find NYC Weboy at his eponymous blog, or over at New Critics.)  NYC Weboy’s thesis is that the show became more about the clothes than the characters:  “Pat Field’s evolutionary costuming wasn’t just a “fifth character” as so many suggest – it was the vehicle for reimagining the whole story as a consumerist fantasy.”  At the same time–and perhaps not coincidentally–the tone of the show was brightened up to make the characters more likable “types” than the individuals who inspired Candace Bushnell’s original columns in the New York Observer.  (Quick aside:  check out the cover of Vogue, featuring SJP wearing a very druggy face and crouched in between “Big”‘s legs.  Not an encouraging omen for the movie!)

I think NYC Weboy is correct–but I’d also humbly like to suggest that the TV show incarnation was always a consumerist fantasy, although I like his point that the materialism accelerated with the brand-name shoe fixation and Alexander McQueen couture miniskirts.  The show was always a consumerist fantasy because the four key women were depicted mostly eating and drinking in restaurants or bars gossiping with each other or meeting men, while effortlessly remaining size 0 or size 2.  It was all about the spending of money on the body, not the getting of the money, too:  the characters were rarely shown working, and problems at work were never developed except as they became problems in the characters’ social and/or sex lives.  Occasionally, the characters would be shown exercising–chatting in a yoga class or jogging in Central Park–but maintaining their sylph-like figures was another kind of work that was rendered strangely invisible. 

In other words, the show was a fantasy about the consuming body–feeding the body, pouring in alcohol, adorning it, giving it sexual pleasure–without the possible consequences that consumption ordinarily leads to (weight gain, debt, alcoholism, pregnancy, and disease).  Carrie Bradshaw even smoked cigarettes!  (Talk about a fantasy of the consuming body–she may quite possibly be the last likeable main character in a TV show who was a smoker.)  With many other women–married women and mothers–their bodies are there for the pleasure and use of others:  husbands, babies, and children all demand satisfaction from the bodies of wives and mothers before the wives and mothers can claim their own pleasures.  No wonder SATC was such an appealing fantasy world for middle-class women.  It was a world in which women’s pleasures came first, and without consequences.

2 Comments »

May 21st 2008
The “New Math”–for girls!

Posted under American history & Gender & women's history

tracey-is-wrong.JPG

UPDATED BELOW

Hillary Clinton won the Kentucky primary yesterday by a whopping 35%.  (That’s right:  with Clinton’s 65 percent to 30 percent, Barack Obama’s percentage of the vote is lower than the gap by which he lost.)  Obama won Oregon by an impressive 16%.  Clinton won more votes and more delegates last night, and yet the headline in the print edition of the Denver Post this morning reads “Obama Edges Closer.”  (The linked on-line edition headline is similar:  “Obama edges closer to nomination.”)  WWTSBQ?

On page 6A, the Post runs an AP story reporting on the three presidential candidates’ fundraising in April:  Obama raised $31 million, Clinton raised $22 million, and McCain raised $18 million.  The headline for the story?  “McCain’s fundraising jumps; Obama still on a roll” (no link available at the Post’s website, but the AP story can be found here.)  Clinton’s surprisingly strong fundraising is disappeared by the headline, although the third paragraph of the story itself reads, “[t]he former first lady raised about $22 million, aided by a stunning $10 million haul raised in the two days following her April 22 primary victory in Pennsylvania. It was her second best fundraising month of the campaign.”  Speaking of money, how about this totally coincidental error in the LA Times today?  (Oops–it’s that darn math for girls again, which means that Clinton’s campaign debt is doubled, but her fundraising ignored!  WWTSBQ?!?)

Clinton has won seven out of thirteen nominating contests in the past two and a half months (Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Indiana, West Virginia, and Kentucky), all but one in medium to large states, all but two by impressive (9% or higher) margins, and a few in total blowouts (35% or higher).  Since becoming the frontrunner and more recently the “presumptive nominee,” Obama has won only six contests since February (Vermont, Mississippi, Wyoming, Guam, North Carolina, and Oregon–3 small states/territories, and 3 medium states).  Meanwhile, SUSA has a poll now that suggests (surprisingly) that Obama would lose North Carolina in November to McCain by 8 points, but Clinton would beat McCain by sixWWTSBQ?

nast-donkey.jpgI guess all of those Obama supporters who panicked in early March were right to demand that Clinton drop out then after all, because she sure has been an a$$-kicking little-donkey-that-could this spring.  (Too bad she didn’t kick it up a notch a month earlier!)  It sure would have been nice for Obama if Clinton had forfeited and let them call the game for him at halftime.  If Obama is indeed the party’s nominee, I hope his losing streak ends in November. 

(No Hillary-hating and nothing O/T in the comments, please!  The subject of this post is the media’s strange inability to permit Clinton’s winning spring to interrupt or revise the preferred narrative, which is that Obama is the winner no matter how often or big he loses, and Clinton is the loser no matter how often or big she wins.  The subject is not what a vile, disgusting, child-eating, warmongering, calculating, unscrupulous, vicious, shrewish, knee-capping, kitchen-sink throwing, ambitious, monstrous f*ck*ng whore you think Clinton is, m’kay?  So you can just keep that garbage a-festerin’ over on your own blogs.)

UPDATE, 5/22/08:  Well, sometimes hacks tell the truth.  Go read Bob Somerby’s analysis of John Judis‘s Clinton “autopsy” (h/t to Correntewire and to Chet Scoville at Shakesville.  Judis actually wrote these sentences: 

Clinton’s second great political mistake lay in how she dealt with Obama’s challenge. Sometime in December, having realized that Obama was going to be a genuine rival for the nomination, she and her campaign decided to go negative on him. They did the usual thing politicians do to each other: They ran attack ads taking his words somewhat out of context (Obama calling Reagan a “transformative politician”); they somewhat distorted old votes (voting “present” in Illinois on abortion bills); and they questioned old associations (Obama’s connection with real estate developer Tony Rezko).

John McCain and Mitt Romney were doing similar things to each other—and Obama did some of it to Clinton, too. But there a was difference between her doing this to Obama and McCain’s doing it to Romney—a difference that eluded Clinton, her husband, and her campaign staff.

*          *          *          *          *

Obama, too, was, and is, history—the first viable African-American presidential candidate. Yes, Hillary Clinton was the first viable female candidate, but it is still different. Race is the deepest and oldest and most bitter conflict in American history—the cause of our great Civil War and of the upheavals of the 1950s and ’60s. And if some voters didn’t appreciate the potential breakthrough that Obama’s candidacy represented, many in the Democratic primaries and caucuses did—and so did the members of the media and Obama’s fellow politicians. And as Clinton began treating Obama as just another politician, they recoiled and threw their support to him.

Now we know that at least according to Judis, 1) the media decided early on that Obama should be the winner because his campaign was “historical,” hers not so much, and 2) they punished Clinton specifically for, you know, running a political campaign.  She didn’t understand the special rules in play only for Obama!  And so the media decided to beat the bitch, when Obama looked like he might not be able to pull it off himself.  Thanks for explaining it all to us so clearly!

I’ll comment more later on the strikingly absolute hierarchy of race over gender in the “oppression Olympics” Judis plays here.  Let’s just note that at least half of all of the people who were enslaved and who suffered under Jim Crow and marched for Civil Rights were female.   

22 Comments »

May 21st 2008
I hate to say I told you so…

Posted under jobs

Well, actually, I love to say thatInside Higher Ed today has an update on Mike Garrison’s presidency at West Virginia University, ”When the Base Disappears.”  (As many readers may remember, this has been a bee in my bonnet for several months now with a local version of this story.)  For those of you too lazy to click, here’s the nut:

Selected largely for his political experience, and lacking the basic academic pedigree of most presidents, Garrison relied on his connections as a scandal broke about allegations that a degree had been inappropriately awarded to a politically connected executive. As the charges and evidence multiplied, and as professors became more and more angry, many political leaders had his back, and his board seemed firmly in his corner. But in recent days, as some of his political backing has weakened, the flip side of his situation has become apparent. Many at the university say that Garrison’s non-traditional background as a political figure – not an academic – could make him all the more vulnerable to losing his job.

Now, how many of you struggling ABDs, adjunct faculty, assistant profs, and ultimately victorious but bitter tenured profs out there would like a fast ride to some of the top spots in state government?  Sounds pretty good, especially if you’re a policy wonk/political junkie/huge gossip like Historiann, right?  Well, imagine the outcry if one of us took one of their prominent jobs without the years of back-slapping, glad-handing, party machine-cultivating, and rubber chicken-eating that it takes to get ahead in state politics?  Outrage, I’m sure, especially if accompanied by the self-serving rhetoric of politicians and businessmen who like to play University president, only in reverse:  “State government needs to be run like a university!  We need trained academicians to bring integrity to state politics and focus on the people’s needs.  People don’t think they’re getting their money’s worth, so we need more Ph.D.’s to make government run according to academic values.”  Who the hell does she think she is?  No one in our line of work has ever heard of her!  She doesn’t have the credentials!  The outcry would never end.

Years ago, a close family member of mine kept insisting on doing his own major home repairs–not light bulb replacements or picture-hanging, or the occasional interior paint job, which is about Historiann’s speed of “home improvement,” but plumbing fixes and additions, roof repair, tiling, drywalling, etc.  This would be fine if he were retired, but his day job was being a primary care pediatrician, which means not just seeing patients all day, but being on call once or twice a week.  I liked to remind him of that simple fact we all learned in seventh-grade social studies:  the division of labor is the basis of civilization.  Did he really want drywallers, plumbers, and roofers diagnosing their kids and prescribing treatments?  Absolutely not.  Would it be appropriate to appoint a successful contractor to be medical director of the local hospital?  What do you think? 

9 Comments »

May 20th 2008
Smear the queer

Posted under American history & Gender & GLBTQ & Intersectionality

Go read Digby‘s excellent post on how Republicans tar Democrats with the lavender brush.  She’s got a great roundup of recent slurs against Obama and the Clintons (homme et femme), as well as a delightful stroll through recent American political history and the Republican penchant for roughing Democrats up by calling them fags and lezzies.  (Heterosexuality:  the last refuge of the scoundrel?)

Now I don’t give a fig about people’s personal lives, but isn’t it strange that the major offenders mentioned here (Ann Coulter, Maureen Dowd, and Kathleen Parker) lead–shall we say?–unconventional women’s lives, or had a less-than-ideal upbringing, whereas the major Dems they attack have very traditional families and personal lives?  To wit:  Neither Coulter nor Dowd have ever been married, and clearly aren’t members of the abstinence wing of the Republican party, since both are urban sophisticates who have had many affairs with prominent men.  (It’s safe to say that they’ve led lives more like Carrie Bradshaw’s than Anita Bryant’s.)  Coulter’s consistent physical presentation (for more than a decade) is that of Malibu Barbie ca. 1977 with her colored hair and thin, tanned arms and legs on full display.  It’s a commitment to a specific aesthetic, like that of a female female impersonator.  No Pat Nixonish pastel suits for her!  (Maybe that’s just her style–and it certainly sets her apart from all other women and men on political chat shows, so it may be part of her effort to brand herself.)  And Dowd herself has written about the difficulty of attracting age-appropriate men, when they seem to prefer younger women who are less successful and less outspoken than she is.  Finally, Parker (according to her bio at Townhall.com) is very conventionally married and has a son, but says that she was raised by four stepmothers.  (Nothing wrong with that–it clearly wasn’t her decision–but she sure does have a lot of opinions about Democratic families and marriages, doesn’t she?)  

Now, let’s look at the Democratic politicians they’ve attacked with such patently gendered and homophobic slurs:  John Edwards (total number of wives: 1, married with children for decades), Bill Clinton (1 wife, married with child for decades, zero divorces), Hillary Clinton (1 husband, married with child for decades, zero divorces), Al Gore (1 wife, married with children for decades, zero divorces), John Kerry (2 wives, 2 children, 1 divorce), and Barack Obama (1 wife, 2 children, zero divorces).  I’m not suggesting that one has to come from a perfect family in order to criticize other families–rather, I’m suggesting that since there is no such thing as a perfect family or a perfect marriage, as they should know, perhaps Coulter, Dowd, and Parker should stop evaluating their political opponents’ masculinity or femininity, lay off calling other people fags and dykes, and judging their marriages and families.  Just a suggestion, girls!  Kthnxbye!

6 Comments »

May 19th 2008
Schmucks R Us: University Presidents Gone Wild!

Posted under Gender & jobs & wankers

Well, it’s May, and those of us chained to the delightfully anachronistic agricultural calendar of academe are slathering on the sunscreen, filling up the industrial-sized insulated mug of iced tea, and sitting out in the garden to finish grading exams and calculating final grades.  Inside Higher Ed today provided a good roundup of recent controversies that have been covered here at Historiann.com (or should have been!)  So while most of you are mired in the details of the work that universities are supposed to do, here are some stories about a few university presidents and administrators (you know, the people who have the power to fire you) who are doing a heckuva job.  To wit:

  • West Virginia University President Mike Garrison, a politically-connected appointee without academic credentials or experience, continues to be a universally recognized embarrassment.  (It’s under Garrison’s watch that the business school awarded an M.B.A. to the governor’s daughter despite her not having actually, you know, earned it.  The Dean of the business school and the University Provost resigned recently, but not Garrison, despite his insistence that he “accepts responsibility” for the fraudulent degree.)  The most recent related dust-up reported in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is that two professors are filing a grievance “after being told their offices are being relocated, a decision they were informed of the day after one of them called for President Mike Garrison’s resignation.”  Anyone who’s worked in an academic department knows that some faculty are very particular about what kind of office they have, its proximity to the department office or bathrooms, how much or how little sunlight, noise level, views, etc.–like Goldilocks, they must have an office that’s “just right.”  This strikes me as the kind of petty, thuggish retaliation that’s characteristic of a political hack, but one who is clearly very attuned to the bizarre obsessions and status games of particular academics.  Well played, Mr. Garrison!  (How long will this guy be permitted to circle the drain at WVU?)
  • Next, in a move that makes Mike Garrison look like Kingman Brewster, Jr., Baylor University’s President John Lilley has apparently reversed 7 out of 12 of his tenure denial decisions on appeal.  (Historiann has reported and commented on the Baylor outrage here, here, and here.)  The Waco Tribune reports that “[t]wo of the cases were reversed after candidates bolstered their publication records, Lilley said, and external letters about the quality of some of the candidates’ research was influential.”  Yeah, right–anyone who knows anything about tenure files knows that it’s utterly impossible to produce something in two months’ time that would reverse a tenure denial, aside from embarassing publicity, poor fundraising, and the wrath of the Board of Regents.  Good news for those faculty members who are now among the elect, but this may make the gendered nature of the tenure denials at Baylor even clearer:  “Names of candidates awarded tenure were not revealed in Lilley’s e-mail, but the Tribune-Herald was able to confirm that three of the seven were engineering faculty Russ Duren, Randall Jean and Carolyn Skurla,” two men and one woman.  (Andrea, if you’re still out there, let us know what you know!) 
  • Finally, Phyllis Schlafly was awarded an honorary degree at Washington University.  Historiann was just flabbergasted by the news that any university (other than Bob Jones or Oral Roberts) would honor Schlafly in this fashion.  What’s next?  Spellman College honors Clarence Thomas?  Calvin College invites Christopher Hitchens to deliver next year’s commencement address?  Memo to Washington University:  next year, try to find a non-self-hating woman, m’kay?  It’s not about “freedom of speech,” it’s about choosing to honor someone whose life’s work is in accordance with the professed values of your institution.  What constituency at Washington U. (or anywhere in the nation) was demanding that Schlafly’s dubious achievements should be honored?  When you choose to honor someone like that, it make you look confused and un-self-confident too.

Here’s an entirely serious end-of-the-academic year question:  Why can’t they just emulate our students and get drunk and act like a$$holes?  It’s easy, it’s fun, and as long as you don’t drive, there’s little chance that it will make the morning papers.

 

11 Comments »

May 16th 2008
Barbie: the choose life! knit sportswear edition

Posted under Berkshire Conference & Dolls & fluff

Boy, most of you really hated “Barbie Death Camp!”  Here’s a soothing balm of Barbies and Kens in their vintage fashion knitwear.  (Connoisseurs will note that these aren’t the “real” Ken and Barbie dolls, but rather inferior knockoffs.  The male dolls here look strangely more childish than Mattel’s Ken ever looked.)

Check out that Beatles-era red skinny suit with black piping on “Ken” at the far left!  Snappy.  Also, someone should give top-row “Ken” the memo that says that heavy sweaters generally aren’t worn with swim trunks.  I kind of like that pale ice blue dress and coat combo next to swim trunk “Ken,” though–anyone know where I could find something like that?  I’ve got a big conference next month, and I’d like to look my best. 

6 Comments »

May 15th 2008
The daylight divide in academia

Posted under class & jobs & students & unhappy endings

Go read “In the Basement of the Ivory Tower,” a sadly provocative essay in The Atlantic by “Professor X,” who is an adjunct instructor at a private college and at a community college.  (H/t to Lance Mannion, via Suburban Guerilla.)  The article is a report from the front lines by an instructor who teaches introductory composition and literature courses to people who frequently don’t have the skills it takes to pass hir class, let alone earn a college degree.  It’s not snarky at all–ze is a compassionate person who truly dislikes failing hir students, but ze dislikes even more the falsely egalitarian notion that college is the only path to success.  I sheepishly identify with this:

The full-time, tenured professors at the colleges where I teach may likewise feel comfortably separated from those whom they instruct. Their students, the ones who attend class during daylight hours, tend to be younger than mine. Many of them are in school on their parents’ dime. Professors can fail these young people with emotional impunity because many such failures are the students’ own fault: too much time spent texting, too little time with the textbooks.

There are some returning students and other students with more complex lives taking courses in the daylight hours, but I agree with Professor X’s point about “daylight” versus nighttime students and faculty.   There is a large class and status divide between those of us for whom teaching and learning are our “day jobs,” and those for whom teaching and learning are pursued in the second shift.  To those students and faculty, our day shift must look like beer and skittles.  Professor X continues: 

But my students and I are of a piece. I could not be aloof, even if I wanted to be. Our presence together in these evening classes is evidence that we all have screwed up. I’m working a second job; they’re trying desperately to get to a place where they don’t have to. All any of us wants is a free evening. Many of my students are in the vicinity of my own age. Whatever our chronological ages, we are all adults, by which I mean thoroughly saddled with children and mortgages and sputtering careers. We all show up for class exhausted from working our full-time jobs. We carry knapsacks and briefcases overspilling with the contents of our hectic lives. We smell of the food we have eaten that day, and of the food we carry with us for the evening. We reek of coffee and tuna oil. The rooms in which we study have been used all day, and are filthy. Candy wrappers litter the aisles. We pile our trash daintily atop filled garbage cans.

That’s right–not only are they pursuing their second jobs and educations after hours, without the company of colleagues or even the minimal courtesy of the department office having the door open and a staff member to help with the copier, or to lend a stapler or a dry-erase marker.  These faculty and students are literally working amidst the refuse that the day faculty and day students have left behind:  the overflowing trash cans, the chalkboards already hopelessly smeared with dust. 

Professor X is the George Orwell of adjunct faculty and night school students.  Ze should write a book:  Down and Out in Amherst and Madison?

11 Comments »

May 14th 2008
Intersex crossing

Posted under art & Berkshire Conference & Bodily modification & childhood & Gender & local news

Date:  May 13, 2008

Time:  4:25 p.m.

Place:  Potterville, Colorado; corner of Mystreet and Oneblocknorth.

Found:  Intersex crossing sign.

(I know some jackass teenager did this with a Sharpie–but I’m choosing to read it as a comment on our restrictive and distorting gender binary and compulsory heterosexuality.  And, it’s the most interesting vandalism that I’ve ever seen in this town!)

At the 2008 Berkshire Conference on the History of Women next month, we’ve got a great panel that brings together disability studies, queer theory, and the history of sexuality in really innovative ways.  “How Do They Do It?:  Sexual Representations of Conjoined Twins in U.S. Culture” features Ellen Samuels on “Entertaining Millie and Christine McCoy:  Where Enslavement and Enfreakment Meet,” Alison Kafter on “Fabulist Past, Fabulist Future But no Queer Presence:  Desiring Disability in Sheila Jackson’s Half-Life,” and Cynthia Wu on “The Queer Pleasures and Frustrations of Chang and Eng’s Autopsy,” chaired by Ruth Alexander and with a comment by Catherine Kudlick.  Check out our program here!

 

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