Archive for May, 2009

May 17th 2009
Lessons for Girls, updated

Posted under childhood & Gender & women's history

girlstickingouttongueIn case you haven’t clicked the page “Lessons for Girls” on the top, left side of the home page of Historiann, check it out, because we had several worthy additions over the past week.  I want to highlight one contribution in particular, You don’t have to be a mom, by Squadratomagico.

Squadrato writes, “I have considered writing about the topic of childlessness for some time, but always have hesitated. In my experience, this subject is one that elicits extremely judgmental responses. Many parents seem to regard my happy embrace of childlessness as a personal critique of their choice to have children. . . as an indication that I simply hate children . . . and as an indication of toxic selfishness. . . . I can only echo a comment I once read online: since when is saying “I don’t want…” an indication of selfishness?”  She continues:
The barriers in place before a girl who decides she does not want to become a mom are formidable. . . . Coming to terms with the fact that one does not want to be a mom, like one’s mom, can be a difficult psychological maneuver — particularly since the weight of cultural pressures are strongly against this choice. And once a girl or woman decides that she prefers not to have children, she must defend herself over and over and over again. I can say from lifelong experience that no one believes a girl who claims not to want to be a mom. It’s very frustrating when perfect strangers presume to know one’s innermost desires without even asking! As a child, I recall adults asking my brother what he wanted to be when he grew up, then turning to me and declaring, “I know what you want to be: a MOMMY!” And when I denied this desire, I have always been told, with a patronizing “what-a-silly-girl!” smile, “Oh, you’ll change your mind!” I was told I would change my mind when I grew up; then I was told I would change my mind when I met the right man; then, that I would change my mind when I settled down; that I would change my mind overnight when my “biological clock” suddenly started ticking; that I would change my mind when my friends had babies; even that I would change my mind after I had tenure. When confident assertions of my hidden maternal nature proved inadequate, the appeals to conscience began. I was told that I must have children for the sake of my future old age, for the sake of the human race, for the sake of perpetuating progressive values, for the sake of passing on my own intelligent genes (this last from my mom).

Continue Reading »


May 16th 2009
Reforming higher ed: unleash the power of the free market!

Posted under Gender & happy endings & jobs & students

A few weeks ago, I was tagged by the American Federation of Teachers higher ed blog to answer two questions inspired by that foolish op-ed in the New York Times by Mark C. Taylor last month.  The AFT’s questions are:

  1. Do you believe the U.S. system of higher education is in need of change and, if so, why and to what degree?
  2. What are the top three things you would change in the long-run if you had the power to do that?

There are a pile of exams and final papers a-waiting my attention, so I am going to answer 1)  Fer Sure, and 2) let’s keep it simple, and just abolish the free farm teams for the NFL and the NBA that most large universities subsidizeI wrote about this a few months ago, when I heard news that a university radio station in my former hometown was being axed for budgetary reasons: Continue Reading »


May 15th 2009
Boldly going forward, ’cause we can’t find reverse?

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

40 years later, and it's still loney on this bridge!

40 years later, and it's still lonely on this bridge!


Actually, some of our favorite feminist bloggers note the troubling absence of change in the makeup of the crew on the Starship Enterprise in the forty years since Star Trek first appeared.  (Historiann was never a “Trekkie,” although she saw a number of the original shows in reruns in the 1970s.  All of the neo-Star Trek shows and movies starting in the late 1970s on are a mystery to her.)  Anyway, people who know a lot more about Star Trek than I–and who have actually seen the new movie–offer their reviews, exerpted below.  (The title of this post pays homage to this silly parody song about the original Star Trek.)

The Bittersweet Girl writes, “unfortunately, feminist sci-fi geeks have less to be excited about.”  Hmmm–I wonder why:

There is a conspicuous lack of female characters and the ones there are fall into one of two classic categories: loving but doomed or inexplicably absent mothers or love interests/sex objects. There has been an attempt made to give Uhura an actual area of expertise, rather than just being a glorified telephone operator, but she still doesn’t do much except be ogled at by one male lead or gaze affectionately at another. And yes, she’s still in the micro-mini skirt — when she’s not in her underwear. Sigh. Given that so much of contemporary sci-fi is dominated by ass-kicking females (Starbuck, Echo, that Terminator chick), you’d think they could have given Uhura some previously unknown fighting skills. But, I hope that now that this origin story is done, the film makers can put a little bit more thought into female characterization in the next film. (Are you listening, J.J. Abrams?)

In a review titled “The Summer of Men, Take II,” Prof. Susurro is disappointed by this movie’s Captain Kirk:

I liked [William] Shatner and I liked Kirk. The Director of this film clearly liked neither, reducing James T. Kirk to an overgrown case of blue b@lls barely elevated by the fact that he ultimately saves the day. Centering Spock was a fascinating twist. However, those of us who get the homosociality of Spock and Kirk, as well as the well-honed dynamics of the entire male crew (leaving Uhura aside for a moment), understand that each of these characters plays a beloved role that is only enhanced by the role they play in the ensemble. None of them has ever been diminished or over shadowed by the other characters in any incarnation of the franchise until now. 

Finally, GayProf takes to task the disturbing absence of women and people of color in this most recent incarnation of Star Trek in a review called “Boldly Going Where We Have Been Before.”  He notes the optimistic, multicultural vision of the original show:  Continue Reading »


May 14th 2009
Just in case you thought that tenure at Harvard and a prominent role in government oversight would mean that you were taken seriously…

Posted under American history & class & Gender & wankers

Think again!  (That is, if you think that the U.S. government and publicly subsidized banking system should work for the little people instead of for the banksters.  I’m sure Larry Summers is taken to be a very serious person.)  Elizabeth Warren, on the other hand–not so much.  Lambert at Corrente was all over this last weekend, and this morning TalkLeft posted a brief explanation and a link to an NPR interview with Warren in which she is lectured by Adam Davidson, who has zero credentials in law, government, economics, or banking that I can find.  Warren, on the other hand, has a CV as long as your leg–but that doesn’t matter!  She still gets a lecture from a man who asked her for an interview.  From the TalkLeft synopsis:

Davidson accuses Warren of stepping beyond her bailout watchdog role to advocate for her “pet issues” (Davidson isn’t specific about what Warren’s “pet issues” are but presumably he is referring to Warren’s advocacy for consumers in a number of areas from credit cards to mortgages).

When Warren points out that the financial crisis will “not be over until the American family begins to recover” and that the financial crisis does not “exist independently” from problems experienced by American families (skyrocketing foreclosure rates, high debt levels on credit cards), Davidson sarcastically interjects “that’s your crisis.”

My favorite part is when Davidson informs her quite patronizingly that she is all alone, and that no “serious thinkers” agree with her (from Lambert’s partial transcript):  Continue Reading »


May 13th 2009
D00ds, you will abide!

Posted under Gender


D00dly science d00d

I have to ease on down the road to pick up a passel of exams and final papers this morning, and to meet with a former student returning from his first year in a Pee Aitch Dee program in triumph, so while I’m out please enjoy the wit and timeless wisdom of my new BFF, Comrade PhysioProf, in this post at Dr. Isis’ blog, On Being a Domestic and Laboratory Goddess called, “Comrade PhysioProf’s Handy-Dandy Guide for D00dly Commenters” (slightly edited):

You’re a d00dly d00d. Everyone around you since birth has been praising you for sharing your thoughts, opining on topics far and wide, and generally taking f[rack]ing action!

You have just visited a feminist blog, have read a post and/or some other comments, and your d00dly opining d00d brain lobe is pulsating like a motherf[***]er with all sorts of extremely important d00dly things to share with the laydeez. Will you get your sorry d00d a[$$] handed to you on a f[***]ing platter? Or will you be a tolerated visitor? Comrade PhysioProf is here to share his tips with you on avoiding d00d a[$$] platter handitude!

(1) If you are leaving the first comment to a post, you are almost certainly f[***]ing up.

(2) If you are using the words “men”, “boys”, “fathers”, or “sons”, you are almost certainly f[***]ing up.

(3) If you are using the words “should” or “useful”, you are almost certainly f[***]ing up.

Over on the feminist science blogs, I think they deal with more d00dly nonsense than on the feminist humanities blogs, but I’m sure you regular readers can think of a few past d00dly d00ds in the comments here.  Continue Reading »


May 12th 2009
Hey, baby

Posted under childhood & fluff

reallyuglybabySee this report on the top 10 baby names for both girls and boys for 2008.  I have no complaints–most of the names are traditional and dignified (which isn’t always the case with the girls!), although if I were going to name a baby girl after a dead president, I think it would be Cleveland, not Madison.  (You’d have endless opportunities to say, “Hello, Cleveland!”) 

I have a joke with a friend of mine about a family having four kids, and naming them all after the major cities in Wyoming.  Can’t you just imagine a short-tempered parent in a supermarket parking lot screaming, “Cody, Jackson, Cheyenne, Casper–get in the damn car, NOW!”  (I bet there’s already more than one family out there who has done it, don’t you?)  Speaking of family naming trends, there was a family in the town where I grew up who named their first daughter Faith, their second daughter Hope–but then they had a son, whom they named Myron.  (Must have been a family name?)

Continue Reading »


May 11th 2009
“Quality” and women’s history journals

Posted under Gender & jobs & publication & wankers & women's history

bookofhoursreaderA correspondent on the H-WOMEN listserv wrote in last week:

I have a question that I’d like to pose to list members: which journals are considered “top tier” in the field of women’s and gender history?

There’s a larger context for this inquiry.  For junior faculty members who do women’s and gender history and are tenure track in a history or interdisciplinary department at an R-1 institution,  a record of publishing in prestigious peer reviewed journals is often a pre-condition of successful tenure.  Yet in promotion and tenure committees at various institutional levels, there may be differences of agreement about what constitutes a prestigious journal and what constitutes a mediocre one. I know of at least one case in which a college-level promotion and tenure committee refuted arguments that the journal Feminist Studies was a top-tier publication by comparing it unfavorably with Gender and Society, which I always had the impression was an important journal for social science scholarship on gender but published fewer articles written by historians.  The same committee identified Gender and History as a third-tier journal which was not of sufficient quality and reputation to be considered “acceptable publishing” for a faculty member at that institution.

I don’t want to get bogged down in individual cases, but to ask is there a consensus about what constitutes “top tier” publishing in women’s history?  What standards apply to determine the quality of a journal for this particular field?  I also want to raise the wider question of what strategies junior faculty members can use justify the quality of their work and publishing record in a field like women’s and gender history which may itself suffer from subtle (and not so subtle) intellectual de-legitimization, both among individual faculty and administrators and structurally, at the level of institutions, disciplines, and the academy generally.

One of the editors of Gender and History, Karen Adler, wrote a nice response to refute the claim that G&H is a “third-tier journal:”  Continue Reading »


May 10th 2009
Lessons for Girls, numbers two and three: Opting Out, and On Pity

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

bartelbyDr. Crazy has made a contribution to our feminist vade mecum with Lessons for Girls, Number Two:  Opting Out.  She writes,

If I wish I had learned one lesson earlier in life, it’s this: it’s okay to opt out of toxic situations and conversations. Opting out doesn’t mean that you’re weak, nor does it make you a bad person. Sometimes, the most advantageous position is, in fact, one in which you don’t resist, in which you don’t explain, in which you don’t try to justify your position, in which you don’t bother trying to help others see your point of view. Or, conversely, in which you don’t try to be inclusive, to give antagonists a forum, or to apologize to diffuse a situation.

In other words, pick your battles, and don’t waste time on people or arguments in which your opponents just want to oppose you rather than work towards a consensus or a productive resolution.  This is exactly what Carol Berkin said to me a few years ago on the subject of doing women’s history.  Continue Reading »


May 9th 2009
Another daughter is dead, and the story is all about the killer now

Posted under Gender & students & women's history


Johanna Justin-Jinich

While I understand the interest in the killer’s life and motivations, I think it’s unfortunate that a murder always becomes his story, rather than the story of the victim or victims.  Especially because no one seems to have any interest in analyzing the ways in which male privilege is instrumental to the thinking that leads a man to pick up a gun and kill a woman whom he believes has not paid him the attention he is due.  (I’m sure that there are plenty of crazed loner women that we never hear about, because they don’t think they’re entitled to the time and attention of men and/or they don’t get guns and kill them.)  Stephen Morgan became fixated on Johanna Justin-Jinich nearly two years ago:

During the summer between those semesters, Mr. Morgan took a course at New York University, the same sexual diversity class in which Ms. Justin-Jinich was enrolled. By the end of it, Ms. Justin-Jinich had complained to the university of harassment, saying that Mr. Morgan called her repeatedly and sent her threatening and insulting e-mail messages.

One person who has reviewed the messages said the relationship appeared to have begun on a friendly footing. It was clear from the messages that they had seen one another outside of class, going out to eat on a few occasions, said the person, who declined to be identified because the person was not authorized to discuss them publicly.

But the person said that at one point, Ms. Justin-Jinich went away over a three-day weekend, and Mr. Morgan became enraged, sending her e-mail messages asking where she was and why she was not answering his calls. Continue Reading »


May 7th 2009
Elizabeth Edwards: J’accuse!

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

Really, how could you?  How could you let your cancer return?  I mean, way to make it all about you, when we had an election year media circus to run.  How could you drive your husband into the arms of another woman and make him have sex with her?  You practically threw the woman into his lap and unlatched her bra for him, for God’s sake.  How dare you prevent him from using birth control and make him impregnate her, leading to a huge scandal in the tabloids and headlines about a “love child?”  Why would you write such disgustingly sensational headlines about your own children’s stepsister, Elizabeth Edwards?  What were you thinking?  Weren’t you aware of all of the important work your husband has to do, all of the poverty in the world John Edwards has to end? 

elizabethedwardsBut, no–you were perfectly well aware of all of the important, poverty-ending, presidency-pursuing work your husband had to do, and you just couldn’t resist hitching your wagon to his star, could you?  You–a mere attorney, like your husband–who do you think you are, trying to bask in his reflected glory as a presidential candidate?  Your towering ambitions meant that you decided to endure terminal cancer and look the other way at the affair you drove your husband to!  Only a monster wouldn’t have ended a 30-year marriage over an affair–but apparently, you are almost criminally unfamiliar with common decency.  Now, you’ve written a book–do you think we really care about what you have to say about your life?  I don’t know how you can even look your children in the eye.  I don’t even know how you could look me in the eye, a perfect stranger whom you have never met and likely never will.   My God–your monumental selfishness is just stunning, Elizabeth Edwards.  Continue Reading »


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