Archive for July, 2009

July 31st 2009
An object lesson in pseudonymity and internet privacy

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

baghead

That's all you get here, folks!

Dr. Isis is a brilliant physiologist at an R-1.  She is also a married woman with a toddler whom she refers to as Little Isis.  Some of her posts talk about Little Isis’s adorable antics, but mostly she writes about science, science blogging, and shoes.  Here’s a lovely tweet e-mail she received the other day:

I hope someone does to your baby what you do to your mice.

Isn’t that a great thing to read as you’re settling into work in the morning?  Oh, and by the way, you pathetically stupid trolls:  Isis doesn’t work with mice.

It seems to me that feminist bloggers, for their own safety and sanity (not to mention, the safety of their families), either have to choose to hide their real life professional identity, like GayProf, Notorious Girl, Ph.D., Squadratomagico, Dr. Crazy, Prof. Susurro, and Dr. Isis, or they have to obscure their personal lives (like your faithful women’s history blogger and Barbie aficionado, Historiann.)  Prof. Susurro had a nice post on blog etiquette yesterday.  If you truly aren’t a jerk and don’t want to be mistaken for one, you could do worse than to follow her advice.

The advantage to going the completely pseudonymous route is that you can dish more about the world around you– Continue Reading »

19 Comments »

July 30th 2009
Colonial Barbie

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

colonialbarbie

$24.99 on EBay!

For my women’s history class this fall, I’m assigning Marla Miller’s The Needle’s Eye:  Women and Work in the Age of Revolution (2006) for the first time.  I was looking over my review copy from the press the other day, and to my amazement, her introduction starts with a discussion of “Colonial Barbie,” a Barbie produced in 1995 I had never seen or heard of before.  She writes,

[A]s a women’s historian studying early America I was drawn to her in both amazement and amusement.  Dressed in red, white, and blue, her costume the familiar mantua, petticoat, and mob cap, she would more accurately have been named Revolutionary Barbie, I remember thinking.  Most interesting to me, she held in her hand a piece of needlework.  Barbie was working on a quilt square, it seemed, depicting an American eagle.  Also enclosed in the box was a booklet recounting Barbie’s participation in the American Revolution and explaining the small object she held in her hand.  The title of the volume was “The Messenger Quilt.”  At first, I assumed that the usually adventuresome Barbie was involved in some sort of spy operation, cleverly inscribing and conveying military intelligence through a seemingly innocent quilt.  I was disappointed to learn that the quilt simply, if enthusiastically, celebrated the signing of the Declaration of Independence with a large red, white, and blue design reading “Happy Birthday, America.”

Poor Barbie–like so many other women in American history, reduced to commemorating the actions of Great Men instead of being a Great Actor herself!  Continue Reading »

41 Comments »

July 29th 2009
Someone even more cynical than Historiann?

Posted under American history & unhappy endings & wankers

If you liked Historiann’s little vade mecum last night on the 3/5 Compromise, the Connecticut Compromise, and how they have nothing to do with our currently dysfunctional congress, you’ll love Matt Taibbi’s analysis.  (Via Corrente–thanks, a little night musing for your link!)  Here’s the part that connects to my argument below:

The reason a real health-care bill is not going to get passed is simple: because nobody in Washington really wants it. There is insufficient political will to get it done. It doesn’t matter that it’s an urgent national calamity, that it is plainly obvious to anyone with an IQ over 8 that our system could not possibly be worse and needs to be fixed very soon, and that, moreover, the only people opposing a real reform bill are a pitifully small number of executives in the insurance industry who stand to lose the chance for a fifth summer house if this thing passes.

It won’t get done, because that’s not the way our government works. Our government doesn’t exist to protect voters from interests, it exists to protect interests from voters. Continue Reading »

11 Comments »

July 28th 2009
The U.S. Constitution versus the Democratic Party: at least one is working as it should.

Posted under American history & jobs

usconstitution

WARNING:  RANT ABOUT “HEALTH CARE REFORM” AHEAD

Matt Yglesias has his knee breeches and silk stockings in a twist because ZOMG “vast power is being wielded by people who, in a democratic system of government, would have almost no power. We’re talking, after all, about Max Baucus of Montana, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, Susan Collins of Maine, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, and Chuck Grassley of Iowa. Collectively those six states contain about 2.74 percent of the population, less than New Jersey, or about one fifth the population of California.”  (Via The Daily Beast.)  Funny, I don’t hear too many pundits all that upset when Senators from those same states (or others equally unpopulated) are rewriting or blocking legislation of which they disapprove.

So:  duh, Matt.  It’s been that way for 220 years, and in fact the decision to apportion senate seats by politically-defined land masses instead of by population has been used to block legislation throughout American history.  That’s what the Senate was designed to do!  It’s a feature, not a bug.  Read the U.S. Constituion, Article I, section 3, and it’s as plain as daylight dawning on Long’s Peak.  I’m not saying it’s right–this giveaway to small states was in part a result of the Continental Congress’s Constitutional Convention’s adoption of the nefarious 3/5 Compromise, in which large southern states totally scored by getting the U.S. to count enslaved people only for the purposes of determining representation in the U.S. House–they weren’t extended the rights and privileges of citizenship.  The agreement to give 2 Senators to each state–the Connecticut Compromise–was a bone the big slave states had to toss to the somewhat more urban small states like Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Delaware, which happened to be mostly in the North and mostly not states in which enslaved labor was a large part of the population.

It was perfectly clear by the end of the nineteenth century that the smaller, northeastern states had the short end of the stick of congressional representation, after westward U.S. imperial expansion had turned the Great American Desert (and beyond) into a bunch of large, squarish political land masses with very small populations and yet 2 Senators apiece.  Thus the domination of the rural southern and western minority over the urban majority continued into the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries.  You want a Corrupt Bargain?  I got yer Corrupt Bargain, right here, pally.  The North and East haven’t caught a break since John Quincy Adams’s “selection” in 1824.  (For the record:  I supported Andrew Jackson in both 1824 and 1828, but as you probably already know, I wasn’t permitted to vote because of my sex.)

Now, to the matter at hand, our pathetic “health care reform” debate, which seems to be more about figuring out how to subsidize for-profit health insurance companies:  is it really hopelessly screwed up because of the Connecticut Compromise?  Continue Reading »

18 Comments »

July 28th 2009
How professors matter

Posted under jobs & students & women's history

bmcbooks

Libby Gruner at Mama Ph.D. asks:  “Do Professors Matter?,” with respect to (yet another) study confirming that “[d]espite the hand-wringing of cultural conservatives, it appears that most college students are not indeed blank slates on whom radical professors simply write their left-wing politics; rather, students self-select into disciplines that tend to confirm their political biases.”  In other words, even if we saw our primary jobs as evangelists for a political worldview, it wouldn’t matter.

Her post got me thinking:  which of my professors mattered?  Maybe it’s because of my line of work, but all of the faculty members I knew in college still play a large role in my interior life.  It’s striking to think of how much I remember about them–down to their clothing, hairstyles, hearing aids, eyeglasses, catchphrases, and nervous tics.  I also remember a lot about what they taught me, both in terms of the subject matter we covered in their classes, but also about teaching (sometimes by good example, other times by showing me what NOT to do.)  It’s amazing to think of all the different personal styles and pedagogies that I was exposed to in just four short years.

bmclab

I attended a small college, and was taught by a cross-section of quirky, fusty, eccentric, and brilliant (and sometimes all of the above) scholars who together embodied every stereotype of college professor you’d ever want to run into:  Continue Reading »

12 Comments »

July 27th 2009
What the eff?

Posted under jobs & students & unhappy endings

whiterabbitclock

What effort time is it? I'm late!

Just go read Female Science Professor about her recent wrangling with a project accountant about her estimates for an imaginary concept called “effort time:”

I had to talk to the accountant about effort reporting for Project 1 and she asked “What % of your effort — not time — will you spend exclusively on this project during the effort reporting period?”

I thought back on my day, which was fairly typical for the summer, randomly guessed a number between 1 and 100, and spoke it as a question: 15?

She said: That’s a lot. Are you sure?

I said: 2? 7?

She asked: Which of those is correct?

I said: Neither. The correct answer is “I don’t know.”

She said: We need to use the correct number. OK, how much time will you spend on this project? Continue Reading »

18 Comments »

July 26th 2009
(Grad) school supply list

Posted under childhood & fluff & students

Sisyphus made a funny:  since ’tis the season that the back-to-school supplies lists are being mailed out to parents of elementary schoolers, why not offer up some helpful hints on supplies and tools one might need in order to be a successful grad student?  Her list is as follows:

  • Bourbon (at least three bottles per quarter)
  • No-Doze and Redbull
  • Flash drive
  • Box of tissues
  • Antidepressants
  • Portable stapler (because none of your students will ever think to bring their own or to staple their own essays, ever.  Ed. note:  hang onto this, because students who submit papers to tenured professors still haven’t figured this out.)
  • Uncrushable sense of purpose

crayolasHer commenters had other great suggestions–some humorous, but most very practical.  Some of my favorite serious suggestions include:  Trail Mix/Power Bars, coffee,a good thermos or non-spill coffee mug, a water bottle, and post-it notes.  I might also add Continue Reading »

39 Comments »

July 25th 2009
Feminism and whig history: why are we always fooled again?

Posted under Gender & women's history

wig

The whig of illusory progress!

Echidne has an interesting post about the history of the moon shot, “Reaching for the Moon,” in which she calls out the erasure of women from history even by purported “feminist” allies.  The specific occasion for her post was an article by Paul Campos, in which he boasted whiggishly, “One measure of how much has changed in the last 40 years is that the very idea of a woman astronaut in the 1960s would have seemed outlandish to most Americans (that the Russians had a female cosmonaut was widely interpreted as a preposterous publicity stunt).”

She responds that on the one hand, women’s participation was fixed within rigid limits, but that they were in fact part of the Apollo project all along:  “the absence of women astronauts in the program has a much more concrete reason: They were excluded from it. Books have been written about that: Margaret A. Weitekamp’s Right Stuff, Wrong Sexand Stephanie Nolen’s Promised The Moon.  And there were women involved with the project itself as described by Robyn C. Friend in The Women of Apollo.”

Echidne then muses, “I’m not sure why women’s history appears to evaporate the way it does.”  Well, here’s a theory:  Continue Reading »

36 Comments »

July 24th 2009
Friday round-up: police state a-go-go, yee-haw!

Posted under American history & Gender & Intersectionality & jobs & race & unhappy endings & women's history

cowgirl2Man, oh man!  The arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr. last week, and the dismissal of the “disorderly conduct” charges against him this week, are still top news in the U.S.A.  (Really?  I mean, isn’t that whole health care/North Korea/climate change thingy still unresolved?)  No apologies here for reporting and commentary on Skip Gates’s latest run-in with the authorities for being an African American man, since this is a blog that is full of commentary and gossip about higher ed, in addition to “history and sexual politics, 1492 to the present,” as the syllabus suggests.

Anyhoo, I’ve got a full day of exercises–physical and mental–ahead of me, so I’ll just leave you with this roundup of (mostly) intelligent commentary about l’affaire Gates, for your reading pleasure:

  • Check out Philadelphia Negro in “You Can’t Come Home Again.”  Darryl is a certified all-ivy grad who (like every other black man in America) has had his share of hassles by the authorities, on campus and off.  He writes, “we always have to worry if the keys to the kingdom will actually unlock the doors before us.  Because if they do not (and sometimes even if they do), someone else might call the police.”
  • Prof.  Susurro tells her stories about assumptions about who’s a professor, and who’s not.  (I linked to this a few days ago, but think it’s worth highlighting again.)  Every faculty member of color I know has stories like these–every single one.
  • Rob Weir at Inside Higher Ed suggests that we “Relax and Take Five.”  Really?  This article seems to sum up the fake “objective” view that many white people have of Gates’s arrest.  Continue Reading »

26 Comments »

July 23rd 2009
Secret Agent Historians

Posted under American history & European history & fluff & jobs & weirdness

austinpowers

Yeah, Squadrato baby, yeah!

Squadratomagico has an interesting post about her current research in London at the “Secret Agent Archive“–no specifics, because she doesn’t want to give away her identity in her day job, but she finds the location of the current object of her research exciting.  (And it sounds like an opening scene to an Austin Powers movie.):

I enter Secret Agent Archive through modern steel-and-glass doors that whisk open automatically, then submit to a bag search. I proceed to a room in the back, where I stash my personal belongings in the modern lockers with frosted glass fronts. Here’s where it really starts to get interesting: up two flights of gleaming marble stairs, through another set of modern steel-and-glass doors; then I swipe my magnetized I.D. card through a reader, which buzzes and flashes a green light. That is my go-ahead to pass through the turnstile surrounded by a metal detector.

Now I’m in the restricted sanctum.

Then it’s a turn down a corridor, through a pair of massive wooden doors into a reading room populated by a scattering of folk absorbed in their researches. Now, I ascend more marble steps, then walk back along a brightly-lit catwalk lined with books, heading way, way to the back and through a fire door into a very small, short passageway. Then, penetrating ever deeper into the bowels of this place, I immediately push through yet another completely unmarked, solid wooden door that looks like part of the paneling in this narrow space.  Continue Reading »

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