March
10th 2009
Lawrence Stone: classy, classy guy!

Posted under: book reviews, European history, Gender, wankers, women's history

1985In case any of you doubted my judgment of Lawrence Stone as a complete tool, you can decide for yourself.  Close your eyes, and imagine it’s 1985.  You’re wearing a tube skirt and tights and an oversized sweater (or, if you’re really lucky, a big leather jacket like the one Molly Ringwald wore in The Breakfast Club.)  You’re listening to Madonna’s latest hit single, reading about her upcoming wedding to Sean Penn, and wondering if Boris Becker really has a shot at the Wimbledon men’s singles championship at age 17.  Then, you open up your latest copy of the New York Review of Books–what can I say?  You were a precocious teenager, right?–and you see this review of The Weaker Vessel by Antonia Fraser and Women in English Society, 1500–1800, a collection of essays edited by Mary Prior.  Stone begins his review like this:

Before beginning a discussion of the books under review, I must first set out the ten commandments which should, in my opinion, govern the writing of women’s history at any time and in any place:

1. Thou shalt not write about women except in relation to men and children. Women are not a distinct caste, and their history is a story of complex interactions;

2. Thou shalt strive not to distort the evidence and the conclusions to support modern feminist ideology: social change is by no means always the product of an activist minority, and all change is relative not absolute;

3. Thou shalt not forget that in the past nearly all women paid at least lip service to the idea that they were in all respects inferior to men, as ordained by God. The only area in which they were thought to be clearly stronger was in their sexual voracity, their capacity to have multiple orgasms, but this was more a source of shame and temptation than of pride;

4. Thou shalt not confuse prescriptive norms with social reality;

5. Thou shalt exercise subtlety in recognizing diversity, ambivalence, and ambiguity concerning the relative strength of love, sex, money, birth, parental authority, and brute force in determining the choice of a spouse;

6. Thou shalt not assume the ubiquity in the past of modern emotional patterns—neither premarital love, nor conjugal affection, nor maternal devotion to infants. Circumstances and culture are often stronger than natural instincts;

7. Thou shalt not exaggerate the importance in the past of gender over that of power, status, and wealth, even if all women experienced the same biological destiny;

8. Thou shalt not use the biographies of a handful of exceptional (usually upper-class) ladies to describe the experience of the majority of (necessarily lower-class) women;

9. Thou shalt be clear about what constitutes real change in the experience and treatment of women;

10. Thou shalt not omit to analyze with care the structural constraints on women created by values, religion, customs, laws, and the nature of the economy.

When Joan Scott wrote in the following month to ask, rhetorically, “[a]bout what other subject would even as consistently audacious a scholar as Professor Stone presume he could speak as God?” Stone feigned incomprehension.  He wrote these Ten Commandments, he claims, ”never imagining for a moment that anyone would suspect me to be claiming to speak for God or Moses, or indeed anyone but myself.” 

Stone’s intentions are of minor importance, although the rest of his reply reads like one of those non-apology fake apologies that go something like, “I’m sorry if anyone was offended by what I wrote. . . “  My estimation is that at least ten out of ten of these commandments are either pointless because they apply to all historians, or insufficient, or just plain wrong.  Discuss!

62 Comments »

62 Responses to “Lawrence Stone: classy, classy guy!”

  1. Janice on 10 Mar 2009 at 9:18 am #

    I started grad school in 1985 and, guess what?, I read that review! Not in a women’s history class but simply out of interest as I knew one of the historians who’d contributed to the Prior collection and wanted to see what the esteemed Professor Stone thought about this new material.

    I was sadly unsurprised by his tone in these “commandments”. Let’s just say that he’s not the most misogynist historian it’s been my privilege to have known. And every last one of them thinks they’re smart and funny. *sigh*

    The third one, though, in particular, really irked me. The specific construct of gender that he invoked here isn’t timeless — the ideas of women’s sexuality have changed a lot over time and place and culture. His characterization of women in this commandment struck me very much the 17th century elite ideology as mediated by prudish modernism, i.e., Stone’s own intellectual and historical prejudices, no?

    Both of those books he reviewed are on my bookshelves to this day but his review was immediately consigned to the dustbins of history where it, in my opinion, rather contaminates the rest of the detritus. I do still use some of his work in my teaching, though it’s just his edited collection of primary sources for the history of courtship, marriage and divorce.

  2. Historiann on 10 Mar 2009 at 9:23 am #

    Janice–my thoughts exactly on Stone’s own curiously blinkered world view, as though 17th C English history and its peculiarities were universal rather than specific to that time and place. And as though he’s read everything there is to know that women wrote and thought, and is completely convinced that there’s no good reason for feminist readings of anything.

    Tool, tooler, tooliest.

  3. squadratomagico on 10 Mar 2009 at 9:27 am #

    H-O-L-Y S-H-I-T-!

  4. Notorious Ph.D. on 10 Mar 2009 at 9:31 am #

    Devil’s advocate here: Despite the toolish tone, I think #8 is solid. This is why I found Duby’s pronouncements on medieval marriage (based on the study of six women from exclusively aristocratic families!) to be so deeply irritating.

  5. Notorious Ph.D. on 10 Mar 2009 at 9:33 am #

    And for the record: I wore a tube skirt precisely once, after which I decided it was a very bad idea.

    (considers long digression on my own 80s fashion errors; wisely reconsiders)

  6. Historiann on 10 Mar 2009 at 9:35 am #

    But–doesn’t it apply equally to historians of anyone, not just women’s historians? In other words, I’m sure that if Stone thought for 20 seconds, he could probably name many more men’s historians who have made these assumptions by looking at elite men only.

    A lot of early women’s history was of the “great woman” school of biography, but that’s because of the dominance of the “great man” school of (men’s) biography and history that seems to be a perennial mountebank in our profession.

  7. The History Enthusiast on 10 Mar 2009 at 9:37 am #

    Thanks for posting this. I had no idea he was such an ass!

  8. Historiann on 10 Mar 2009 at 9:40 am #

    Yeah–it’s funny, isn’t it, how one can be such a complete and total ass, and yet still remain a Great Historian?

    Let this be a lesson to us all. I’ve written a few things I regret–more the tone and emphasis–because of brash youthfulness and (unfortunately) arrogance. I don’t write book reviews like that any more, but they were nothing on the order of pretending to be the lawgiver on high!

  9. Susan on 10 Mar 2009 at 9:44 am #

    Oh, imagine you were a junior professor in 1985, a few years off tenure, reading this. Working in Stone’s field, knowing that he was going to be #1 on your outside readers for tenure.

    Gulp. I’m with Janice — it was a stupid review, and I think he really thought he was being funny. Many of his ten commandments could equally be applied to his own work on the family; and there is probably another about not assuming that written expression is a match for emotion. That said, his modus operandi in the Davis Center seminar that he ran at Princeton for many years was equally dogmatic (oracular?): he did not reserve this approach for gender. He would announce what the paper was about, tell you that there were three questions we needed to talk about, and expect everyone to agree. Needless to say, not everyone did.

    When he did read my work (when I was at the Davis Center), I found that he was a somewhat reductive reader: he found a few things that really made sense with what he was working on at the time, and glommed on to them, and he took them out of context. THey were things I thought relatively minor. Stone’s strength as a historian was his ability to see big patterns and describe them. The rest of us have spent years saying, well, it wasn’t quite like that. He wrote books with a big sweep. . . he could be wrong, but he was often interestingly wrong. And he had a completely tin ear for gender: he was an Englishman of a certain generation and class, and he never got the theories relating to women and gender; I suspect he would have said you don’t need to have any different analytical frameworks for women.

    I took my first course in Tudor-Stuart England from Stone, and so I know that the narrative in my head is still heavily shaped by him. One of his gifts was to produce a really clear sense of narrative, with a fairly complicated set of interlocking issues. It was, also, of course, the problem with much of his scholarship, which was often too schematic. But it was full of evidence, and stories. (Oh, and for the record, in 1975 he told me not to go to grad school because of the market.)

    In addition to all this, in private he was a very kind man. I think it’s important to remember that scholars — even those who are intellectual jerks — are human. Just as “nice men” can be harrassers, intellectual jerks can be decent people.

    I’m sorry this is so long, and incoherent: I’m having trouble doing justice to a very complicated legacy.

  10. squadratomagico on 10 Mar 2009 at 9:51 am #

    OK, having gotten over my initial shock (which was high), I will say that Notorious’ point about #8 is a good one; and that, in addition, I like point #4. I see this one violated all over my field — in all subfields and topics. As you point out, Historiann, many of these points are quite general, rather than specific to women’s history. His suggestion that they are of keener relevance to women’s history than other subfields is absurd; but some of them are good principles for historical interpretation, broadly speaking.

  11. Susan on 10 Mar 2009 at 10:00 am #

    Oh, and P.S. Stone really liked to argue. He didn’t mind it when you disagreed with him.

  12. Historiann on 10 Mar 2009 at 10:01 am #

    Susan–thanks for your longer reflection on Stone. I’ve just been wondering if I should re-publish some of the asinine, misogynist things that some of our “Great Historians” have published in the past, 1) because Stone was far from alone in these attitudes, and 2) to remind us all just how hostile the environment was in the 1970s and 1980s. I wouldn’t want to encourage us to think that the “bad old days” are over, though–as the comments from ADM in the previous thread suggests, the reception of women’s and gender history still varies widely across regions and kinds of institutions. I wonder if today people are just more polite, but that many of them still have the same assumptions and thoughts about women’s history.

    Still, I think it might be rather amusing. Send your suggestions into the thread below!

    And, Sq.–yes, these “Ten Commandments” would be useful for all grad students to think about–most of the obnoxiousness derives from his preaching only to certain members of the congregation.

  13. Matt L on 10 Mar 2009 at 10:35 am #

    Zowie, what an ass. In both form and content its a pretty determined reassertion of patriarchy, especially if he did think he was being witty. As mentioned by other commentators, there are some commandments that could be a rule of thumb for most all historians (4,6,8 and 10) provided they are revised to be gender neutral.

    Although, it makes me wonder: I came up with a handout on the eightfold path for writing a book review for the undergraduates. I suppose that could be perceived as speaking for God or the Buddha, although, I really just want to inculcate the students with the values of the profession. Maybe a religious framework is the wrong way to explain a set of scholarly practices.

  14. Historiann on 10 Mar 2009 at 10:52 am #

    Well, Matt, when you’re the professor writing a handout for students, you surely can tell them what to do and how to do it. When you’re a colleague writing a book review about two books in a field that isn’t yours–that’s when a little bit of modesty would be appreciated!

  15. ortho stice on 10 Mar 2009 at 11:17 am #

    Frankly, it’s distasteful to call a guy who has been dead for almost 10 years a “complete tool”; “Tool, tooler, tooliest”; and “an ass.” These terms do not lead to a productive or useful discussion of Stone’s twenty-some-year-old book review.

  16. Historiann on 10 Mar 2009 at 11:24 am #

    Oh, really, Ortho? Do you really think we should have a useful discussion of this book review? That would imply that Stone’s position is defensible.

    How does his being dead make it somehow more offensive to point out his toolishness? See, I think that if he wanted us to have a “useful discussion” of this review, he would have reviewed the books in question as he found them without making lofty pronouncements on a sub-field in which he was not an expert. I guess we mere women are supposed to just shut up and take whatever comes down from on high from the Great Historians.

    Feel free to leave the discussion if you don’t like it.

  17. squadratomagico on 10 Mar 2009 at 11:51 am #

    Historiann, I think you jumped on Ortho a little quickly. I don’t think he’s defending the tone and presumptuousness of Stone’s review, so much as pointing out a certain kind of ad hominem, polemical tone that he finds “distasteful.” Moreover, while I agree that Stone’s review is shocking and offensive, I think Susan has shown us, here and in the previous thread, that Stone was a complex human being who sometimes (OK, maybe often) acted in obnoxious ways, but who cannot, and should not, be regarded in unidimensional terms.

    I don’t particularly care if you call Stone names, but I also fail to see how Ortho crossed a line in finding it distasteful.

  18. Historiann on 10 Mar 2009 at 12:08 pm #

    Ortho didn’t cross a line–he’s entitled to his viewpoint, as I’m entitled to mine. I’m just a little tired of being told not to speak ill of the dead by young men who think I’m insufficiently appreciative of their literary (or historical) heroes.

    And, I really don’t get the idea that the dead are sacrosanct. I think that historians in particular would have a problem with that, since most of us work on mostly dead people most of the time. (It’s true–I’ve never called Cotton Mather a “tool,” although I think I called him an “armchair general” and a “chickenhawk war enthusiast.”)

  19. John S. on 10 Mar 2009 at 12:40 pm #

    I don’t subscribe to the can’t speak ill of the dead, but I will say that for some reason I find myself trying to be more respectful. Not unwilling to criticize (or even insult), but trying to be less off the cuff and snarky. But being a bit more measured because the person is no longer around to defend themselves doesn’t mean they are exempt from things you would say about anyone living. For my money, I don’t think Historiann’s calling Stone a “tool” qualifies as inappropriate. But even if you found it inappropriate, surely some other word might apply to convey similar sentiments?

    As I scholar, however, I raise questions about Historiann’s usage. Not because I find Stone unworthy of ridicule (he is immensely worthy of ridicule for writing this), but as a cultural historian. Did people call each other “tools” in 1985? The logic of Stone’s own 10 commandments mandates that we use 80s slang to insult him. I can’t remember what Jeff Spicoli called Mr. Head in Fast Times at Ridgemont High (or is 1982 too early?) or any of the jargon from Breakfast Club.

    I do remember loving the latter movie in the theater when I saw it, though I can’t for the life of me figure out how I got into a R rated movie as a 12 year old.

  20. Notorious Ph.D. on 10 Mar 2009 at 12:43 pm #

    Okay, I hadn’t thought about it quite the way you’re proposing, but you’re right: he seems to imagine that all women, and only women need to be lectured on these points.

    Thought experiment that I did to wrap my head around this: substitute “clergy” or “kings of France” for “women.” Hmmm. All of a sudden, the truly condescending nature of this pops out for me.

  21. Historiann on 10 Mar 2009 at 12:47 pm #

    John: I think that “d!ick” is the term used for Mr. Hand (yes, Hand, not Head) in Fast Times (when Spiccoli says, “You d!ck!”), and that word and “d!ckhead” got thrown around a lot by my peers in the 80s, but I don’t work blue any longer, so “tool” seemed like a good substitute.

    So you’re saying I’ve been too polite?

  22. Notorious Ph.D. on 10 Mar 2009 at 12:51 pm #

    (I just clicked on H’s second link, on the second Updike post, and noticed that downthread I’m labled an “obstensible scholar” and “sad.” It actually made me giggle, and I’m sorry I missed it when it first came up.)

  23. Historiann on 10 Mar 2009 at 1:00 pm #

    You’re very obstensible–incredibly obstensible, in my view!

    To borrow a leaf from your obstensible book, Notorious, this is pretty funny: “Thou shalt not forget that in the past nearly all clergy paid at least lip service to the idea that they were in all respects inferior to men, as ordained by God. The only area in which the clergy were thought to be clearly stronger was in their sexual voracity, their capacity to have multiple orgasms, but this was more a source of shame and temptation than of pride.”

  24. John S. on 10 Mar 2009 at 1:07 pm #

    My error on the Fast Times character–I should know well enough to consult the archive (in this case, the IMDB) before trusting my often faulty memory.

    As to the particular insults–well, maybe you have been too polite! I myself try not to work blue in public anymore, but sometimes you need to be willing to go there to capture a historical moment. As colleague of mine once noted that the biggest historical inaccuracy in the TV show Deadwood was that the characters weren’t cursing enough.

    And sometimes you need to work blue for other reasons. I think that refusing to kiss the butt of the powerful (in and out of academia) can often be an important way of deflating their authority. And if that means referring to prominent scholars holding endowed chairs as d!cks, well, then so be it. You can’t always do that at every level–not yet having tenure, I am not about to go engage in that willy-nilly. But trust me, I have said much worse things in private and will be saying them soon enough in public. (Everyone get ready!)

  25. Historiann on 10 Mar 2009 at 1:14 pm #

    John–I can’t wait! Promise that you’ll give us at Historiann.com a preview of coming attractions!

    I would happily curse like a drunken, angry sailor (and truth be told, among close friends, I occasionally still do.) But–this is a G-rated blog, so I try to keep it clean (although not, as this post suggests, necessarily free of invective.) My basic rule is that if I wouldn’t say the word out loud at work, then I won’t write it here. I do this too because of the subject matter here–women, feminism, gender, and sexuality–and believe it or not, most people who go looking under these topics on the world wide timewasting non-peer reviewed web aren’t looking for intellectual conversations about history, and I don’t want people stumbling over here looking for pR0n.

  26. John S. on 10 Mar 2009 at 1:59 pm #

    I can certainly understand the need to keep a G-rated establishment here. You really never know what people are going to troll around teh interwebz for–except that some people will always be trolling around for x-rated material.

    Getting back to the Stone review–I am struck not just by what Stone said, but by the point that you raised in the recent post on Lee Siegel. Namely: how did this get by his editor? I mean, I can understand an editor giving Stone free rein to write about the importance of lived experience versus prescriptive literature, but might the ed. have simply said, “You know, there is a less condescending way to make this point?”

    That to me speaks volumes. It’s not just that Stone felt entitled to write so dismissively about women’s history; it’s also that an editor was so willingly complicit, either out of agreement with Stone or a deference to a senior scholar’s views. I’d love to think that things have improved since then, but I am not so sure about that. Let us reserve ridicule for Stone’s editor (and his successors) as well.

  27. Historiann on 10 Mar 2009 at 3:20 pm #

    Of course, you are right–it’s certainly quite strange that on the one hand, the august NYReview decided that these books merited a review. On the other hand–especially in the case of the edited collection, which featured contributions by academic scholars–why let the reviewer be a d!ck about it?

  28. Susan on 10 Mar 2009 at 3:52 pm #

    I think some of this has to do with “what you’d do in person” and the persona of Historiann. I get that there is a tone here that allows us to say publicly what we often think privately.

    So: I think these commandments are stupid. I thought so when I read the review 23 years ago. (Of course I wouldn’t mind a commandment that said “Thou shalt not talk about men without talking about women and children.”) But I also want to acknowledge that this was a small portion of what he wrote. So it’s not about not speaking ill of the dead as much as finding a way to do it that doesn’t reduce someone rich and varied career to one part of a stupid review: Scott acknowledged that the review itself was reasonably fair. And I would rather save my energy for the stupid things people are saying today than for the stupid things said many years ago.

  29. tlatoani on 10 Mar 2009 at 3:57 pm #

    Really? Stone’s view is, to be sure, a horrific, but a review from 1985? Come on. There are CONTEMPORARY gender issues to discuss, no?

  30. susurro on 10 Mar 2009 at 4:20 pm #

    umm, I’d like to take a moment to thank all of my mentors for not teaching this drivel especially since I can name a few who probably had it framed and hung over their beds.

    Honestly, the sickest part of this list is that I can find 1 or 2 I agree with – like not letting the experience of upperclass women stand in for the experience of all women, which has been a major problem in many fields and activist circles. I guess even a fool gets it right sometimes.

  31. susurro on 10 Mar 2009 at 4:22 pm #

    PS. and I’d like to thank you historiann, for bringing this to my attention b/c yes I am going to teach this the next time I teach methods. It illustrates both what goes wrong when you start any research with your own cultural biases about a group at the center and why we need a feminist lens in order to do any research well.

  32. Matt L on 10 Mar 2009 at 6:02 pm #

    Hmm, Historiann, I see your point about the difference between a review written about the work of a colleague, and instructions for students. But still I wonder if framing something as scripture, gospel or some other form of Holy Writ is the path to good feminist pedagogy. I’d like my students to (potentially) develop into the kinds of colleagues I want to work with at a later date. So maybe even a mock argument from authority is not that witty after all. If its not the polite way to talk with colleagues, its probably not the effective way to address students as future colleagues.

    Ortho, squadratomagico, I would concede that my calling Professor Stone a bad name was an ad hominum attack. It was inappropriate and I was imprecise. I would not like people to call me an ass after I was dead, (or even alive) even though I probably have deserved it on more than one occasion.

    So let me be more precis: what Professor Stone said was asinine and chauvinist. I think that regardless of how charitable the actual review was, the message of the ten commandments, even under the guise of humor, was less than kind and down right condescending. Stone was saying, listen up women historians, since you are new to the game, I am going to tell you the rules and show you how its done. The review might have been written in 1985 (safely in the distant past), but I have seen similar performances by other venerable senior professors in grad school during the 1990s and 2000s. I think that we can consider the Stone review a data point in a larger continuum of chauvinism in the academy. (Paging Dr. Larry Summers to the white courtesy phone…)

    Finally, I’d agree with the other commentators and say that the NYRB aided and abetted Stone in his chauvinism. I do not think it would have been acceptable in 1985 if he had written Jew or African American instead of Women in his ten commandments. The NYRB would have yanked that part of the piece faster than you could say pogrom or lynching.

  33. ortho stice on 10 Mar 2009 at 7:10 pm #

    I do not see the point of dredging-up an almost twenty-five year-old book review so we can laugh, sneer, and call its author a “tool” or “ass.” Most of us already knew what Stone thought of the emergent field of women’s history. Many of us have probably already read the roundtable on Scott’s “Gender” article published in the December issue of the AHR. Those of us who have read the roundtable (which might be a fruitful discussion topic) know that Stone denounced Scott’s initial presentation of the ideas that were the seeds of the “Gender” article as “philosophy, not history.” Stone was not alone. His male colleagues in Princeton’s Department of History met Scott’s initial presentation with deafening silence.

    It’s a testament to the power of women’s history that it weathered the criticisms of influential, academic gatekeepers to become a vibrant field of historical inquiry that has influenced two generations of historians. It is my opinion that we (historians of women, women historians, feminist historians, and historians of gender) should focus our attention on the many current threats to our fields and our colleagues, such as the unequal pay of women in academia, the continued ghettoization of women’s and gender history, and that elderly, white-male historians still feel entitled to speak authoritatively for and about fields other than their own. All of these subjects, in my opinion, seem like more productive conversation starters than reproducing Stone’s “commandments.”

  34. Historiann on 10 Mar 2009 at 7:53 pm #

    That’s right, Ortho: I never, ever talk about “the many current threats to our fields and our colleagues, such as the unequal pay of women in academia, the continued ghettoization of women’s and gender history, and that elderly, white-male historians still feel entitled to speak authoritatively for and about fields other than their own” on this blog.

    Thanks for the lecture! All of us tiresome women should just STFU and let bygones be bygones, right? You’ll let me know when it’s OK to talk about “elderly, white-male historians,” won’t you?

  35. Janice on 10 Mar 2009 at 7:59 pm #

    Why does the discussion always have to be on contemporary events, here? Really? A lot of people’s world views were shaped during this time (as Historiann’s imaginative scene-setting evokes) and, as Matt L noted, this is hardly the last such response to women’s history (or even the worst). But because of his very high profile in the field and because of the responses it engendered, it’s a very interesting part of the history of our profession.

    I think it’s particularly apropos here this week as Bennett cited Stone’s review as representative of an enduring attitude amongst some historians that others, “inspired by feminism ‘distort the evidence and the conclusions to support modern feminist ideology.’” (Page 14, note 36) I’d have to agree but, thankfully, that particular attitude seems to be somewhat in decline.

  36. Jeremy Young on 10 Mar 2009 at 9:17 pm #

    Historiann, would it matter if I stated, once again, that my only problem with your Updike piece was that the man hadn’t even been buried yet? Or that Updike is in no way a personal hero of mine, and that I’ve never even read any of his books? Or that I disagree with ortho in this thread, and agree with you that Stone is/was an ass? Or would you continue to attack my one-off comment anyway?

    Honest to goodness, I am not an anti-feminist come here to harrass and annoy you. I read your blog because I enjoy it a great deal, and rarely comment on substance because my commitment to feminism is relatively new and evolving, and I want to understand more before I begin to speak on the subject. That’s in fact the point of my reading this and other feminist blogs, to learn. I understand you have no positive proof of this, other than my word in this comment, but I’d ask you to reexamine whatever stereotype you’ve formed of me based on that single comment and see if it isn’t possible that I meant it in a way that had nothing to do with the gender of either the author or the subject.

  37. Anonymous2 on 10 Mar 2009 at 9:29 pm #

    To be honest, I really appreciate Historiann schooling us younger folk on the history of debates on women’s and gender history (Thanks Historiann!) Since I am not in a field that would encourage me to read Joan Scott, et al, I’ve come to the literature on gender through the back door and don’t even know who Lawrence Stone is!

    And I have to say that I have a colleague who writes about women but is loathe to describe hirself as a historian of women because that would belittle hir contribution to the field. The mentality is still there among men and women.

    (Historiann, please don’t rat me out!)

  38. Historiann on 10 Mar 2009 at 9:35 pm #

    Jeremy, I’m sorry to bring that up again–all is forgiven. You’re still going to be my campaign manager when I primary Bennett, right?

    And Anon2–don’t worry. Your secret is safe with me. (Are you really that much younger than me? Yegads.) Well, if you went to grad school right after undergrad, you probably are that much younger than me.

  39. Jeremy Young on 10 Mar 2009 at 10:04 pm #

    Absolutely…political work seems much more fun right now than the grant application I’m working on. :)

  40. Anon2 on 10 Mar 2009 at 10:25 pm #

    Historiann, I’m mentally younger but not so much physically (I had the complete Molly Ringwold sixteen candles thing going – down to the hat and the haircut). I took time off in the middle of undergrad (for most of a decade!)

  41. Another Damned Medievalist on 11 Mar 2009 at 7:32 am #

    Historiann, I should point out that among my A&S colleagues, the vast majority support Women’s Studies, and we have a small program. Yes, there are some cranky dinosaurs who dismiss it, but it’s not a big thing. Most of my female colleagues are feminists, and most of them are reasonably outspoken about it in lots of ways, although my (male) dean is more likely to agree that, for example, I’m stymied on a committee because the chair is made of privilege and I’m just a woman.

    My complaints were more that, on a campus where the professional schools (not so much Nursing, because, well, women!) tend to hold a lot of sway, women tend to be generally dismissed in governance issues.

    The resistance and dismissal comes more from the students (generally NOT feminist) and members of the local community, who are very much of the “History is about kings and battles” and “history is local history” bent. So to identify as a ‘women’s historian’ telegraphs to them that I don’t do ‘real history’ and that ‘of course you do that stuff, because you’re a woman.’

    It’s a hurdle I don’t need.

  42. Graham Cumberland on 11 Mar 2009 at 12:53 pm #

    If Stone was still alive and well enough to defend himself, such criticism might be acceptable in the rough and tumble of open debate. However objectionable you feel his views to have been, this discussion has gone too far.

  43. hysperia on 11 Mar 2009 at 11:52 pm #

    I didn’t realize that the dead were past criticism even if they left a legacy of printed material in which they took positions and often critisized others. My goodness, I’ve been critisizing Plato all these years for his views on the place of women and poetry in the Republic and now I realize I’ve spoken ill of a dead body who can no longer speak for himself. I never should have said he was toolish on this issue and I regret it. After all, he’s famous and he did write other stuff that wasn’t so bad. I take it that the public works, deeds and writings of the dead are beyond reproach? And especially if the body has not yet cooled?This. Is. Just. Silly.

    I don’t know why these men insist on irritating themselves by visiting here.

  44. Graham Cumberland on 12 Mar 2009 at 3:13 am #

    Historiann’s blog is an interesting one. It challenges one’s preconceptions and makes one think again, which is why men read it as well as women. Hysperia should not get hysterical.

  45. Historiann on 12 Mar 2009 at 6:17 am #

    Graham–please don’t be insulting. Hysperia specifically said “these men,” not “all men.” You’re welcome to your opinion, and maybe you thought you were being cute with the hysperia/hysterical comment, but I don’t brook insults among commenters, especially when they’re gendered slurs.

    Thanks for your compliment, although we disagree on Stone.

  46. Graham Cumberland on 12 Mar 2009 at 9:44 am #

    Hysperia’s reference to “these men” was a caustic remark on my presumption in posting my first comment. I have actually looked at her own blog where, I am sorry to say, her hostility to all men is more than evident. I believe that women have all the human virtues and weaknesses just as men do. We shall get nowhere by engendering hostility between the sexes. I should add that the difference between criticising Lawrence Stone, whose son and daughter are alive and will have been hurt by this interchange, in ad hominem terms and Plato who has been dead for almost 2,500 years, but whose ideas still rightly attract scholarly study should be clear to everyone. I do enjoy reading your blog from time to time, partly because it makes me think, partly because it puts points of view I do not share but which I need to consider.

  47. Historiann on 12 Mar 2009 at 9:58 am #

    Graham–you are welcome here, please address your comments about Hysperia’s blog at her blog, not here. It’s off-topic, and not very cool.

    Now, on topic: Stone published his review in the NY Review of Books, not in an academic journal. (Indeed, I doubt that a book review editor in an academic journal would have permitted him to be so condescending in a review–this is one of the problems with non-peer reviewed publications!) Stone wrote a truly obnoxious book review and published it in the NYRB–that makes him fair game for public criticism. I criticize all kinds of writers in mainstream publications and other media and public figures here–if you do a search on Lee Siegel, Maureen Dowd, Chris Matthews, you’ll get your hair blown back with some invective in those posts, too.

    I appreciate the esteem you have for this non-peer reviewed publication, but I seriously doubt that what I think about a 24 year-old book review really matters to anyone but a few commenters here.

  48. hysperia on 12 Mar 2009 at 1:09 pm #

    I hope you’re not bugged, Historiann, that I’m responding to Graham Cumberland here. I’ll not take up too much space, just to say, I didn’t intend my “these men” remark to be caustic, not at all. Just a suggestion about something that truly does puzzle me. I certainly understand the reason why many men would want to visit this blog but not so much those men who become irritated by feminists so easily. As for my own blog, I’m afraid I can’t take the “man-hater” epithet too seriously – the “criticism” is intellectually lazy in my view, as well as being untrue. Do I need to say that I have lots of friends who are men? lol and thanks for your appropriate response Historiann.

  49. Historiann on 12 Mar 2009 at 1:40 pm #

    Hysperia–that’s fair enough. This blog is, shall we say, ecumenical when it comes to people’s chromosomes. I hope you’re enjoying that new grand-baby boy!

  50. hysperia on 12 Mar 2009 at 8:10 pm #

    He’s just wonderful Historiann! His Mama and Papa are pretty cool too.

  51. Angel on 17 Mar 2009 at 5:12 pm #

    It’s interesting to me that, rather than listening and replying to the post, so many male commenters here felt more comfortable deploying silencing techniques like policing the “tone” a woman chooses to use, or raising the all important question of whether a given woman likes men enough.

    Because of the patriarchal culture we live in, Lawrence Stone was able to wield significant rhetorical power with his “tone” in his article; it was all there for him, ready made as a man. He was even given a large, respectable forum to do it in via the NYTBR. But what’s more important than his easy marshaling of those forces against women who were struggling to create a historical voice for themselves is the fact that, twenty-odd years later, a woman calls him a “tool” on a blog.

    Magnificent derailing skills.

  52. Historiann on 17 Mar 2009 at 5:33 pm #

    Good point, Angel–I just made it myself in the comments on another blog that’s part of our women’s history month book review roundtable. To be fair, not everyone here complaining was a man–there was a woman in the previous thread, and I’ve seen other complaints from women, too. But, yes: for some reason, it’s very important to discipline my speech and writing!

  53. Angel on 17 Mar 2009 at 6:57 pm #

    To be fair, not everyone here complaining was a man–there was a woman in the previous thread, and I’ve seen other complaints from women, too.

    Oh! I see. My bad.

    But, yes: for some reason, it’s very important to discipline my speech and writing!

    Well, the “tone” argument is a classic in feminist and anti-racist derailing, from what I’ve seen. The best theory I’ve seen is that people with privilege (whites, men, etc.) have the tools (no pun intended?) to do verbal violence without seeming to lift a finger in anger, so that a woman/person of color who calls out “that hurt, you jerk!” ends up seeming like the attacking party, the angry one. We’re acculturated to notice and be offended by minutia, while privileged people can say things that create an oppressive atmosphere, that work toward silencing without seeming angry to others or experiencing much (any?) emotional turmoil themselves.

    Getting back on topic. Whether or not Stone intended to contribute to diminishing women’s contributions to history or not, I can’t say. But I believe it’s the responsibility of people with social capital to first, recognize the power they have, and second make sure they’re not abusing it. The fact that it probably didn’t occur to him to do either of those things–and that he was cocooned in a publishing industry that didn’t call him on what he said–does make it pretty obvious how widespread the misogyny was, that someone could be participating in it without perhaps even meaning to.

  54. The Man Who Fell to Earth: Hugh Trevor-Roper (1914-2003) | At This Point on 25 Dec 2010 at 9:19 pm #

    [...] to feud!  A master of the deadly invective, Trevor-Roper loved academic brawls.  He sparred with Lawrence Stone and R.H. Tawney over the rise of the gentry and the origins of the English Civil War, with A.J.P. [...]

  55. Historiann tells all! (And too much is sometimes plenty.) : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present on 19 Jan 2011 at 12:52 pm #

    [...] I offer some reflections on my first few years of blogging, including the world-famous tool  controversy and the breastfeeding and “breeder“ food-fights of 2009.  Ah, memories!  (To read [...]

  56. just saying this on 19 Feb 2011 at 3:39 pm #

    Graham Cumberland on 11 Mar 2009 at 12:53 pm #
    If Stone was still alive and well enough to defend himself, such criticism might be acceptable in the rough and tumble of open debate. However objectionable you feel his views to have been, this discussion has gone too far.

    Snort. At first I thought it was satire of ridiculous old white guy who cannot believe A Woman Is Speaking On the Internet but it is in fact an actual ridiculous white dude. As a sexist tool he is so offended at criticism for another for being a tool we must STFU. I love the Internet. I love that these asinine use of privilege just do not work here.

    Graham brought his penis out to tell use not to call the other penis a tool. And you did not STFU. How dare you! Do you not know that Graham is the Most Feminist Dude He Knows. And that when he lectures (his untenured or student) female colleagues about being a lady they all just *adore* him. No one dares calls him a tool. Bad Ladies.

    Snort snort snort.

  57. Cowgirl Up: my talk at the University of Texas : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present on 04 Mar 2011 at 7:46 am #

    [...] did I call Lawrence Stone a “complete tool?”  You can review the controversy here and here.  I was calling him out on an obnoxious review in the New York Review of Booksin which he [...]

  58. » Carnivalesque 48 Sarah Werner on 17 May 2011 at 1:39 pm #

    [...] PhD; the second by Historiann (don’t miss her follow-up in which she expounds on why “Lawrence Stone is a tool”); and the third discussion is hosted by Tenured Radical. Part 4 will appear at Another Damned [...]

  59. Uncivil Liberties: Teaching Evaluations and A Clarification - Tenured Radical - The Chronicle of Higher Education on 21 Jun 2011 at 2:33 pm #

    [...] academic celebrity drew some cheers; one caution (my beloved Western Colleague, she of the famous Tool Post, wisely suggested that I refrain from pissing in the wind); and one personally nasty signed comment [...]

  60. Department of Snark: Or; Who Put A Tack On Gordon Wood's Chair? - Tenured Radical - The Chronicle of Higher Education on 25 Jun 2011 at 9:43 am #

    [...] famously stepped in all kind of horse pucky by calling out one very dead white man as a tool.  She comments on this episode in our fabulous Journal of Women’s History roundtable (winter [...]

  61. Tenured Radical - The Chronicle of Higher Education on 02 Oct 2011 at 4:36 pm #

    [...] And yet there are so many of you that I miss hearing from. “Come back to Free Blogistan!” Notorious Ph.D. (who is currently running a cool online writing group) implored in a comment on your post.  Well, I can’t — not now.  I’ve committed too much to this gambit as an intellectual and a writer, and anyway my project is to retain my old Treehouse crowd and also woo some Suits.  That could be interesting, dontcha think?  My dream, Historiann, is that you and I develop an annual award called the Toolies, given for the post or series of posts that is a) outrageous and b) draws the most censorious comments; and c) best exhibits the spirit shown at Historiann. [...]

  62. Cheap Oakley Oil Rig Sunglasses Clearance Outlet on 24 May 2013 at 1:04 am #

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