Archive for March, 2010

March 21st 2010
International flight film reviews

Posted under American history & art & childhood & Gender

I don’t really get out much to see new movies–the best I can do is get them on NetFlix and hope that I can manage to stay awake past 9 p.m. to watch them.  So, international travel permits me an almost unparalleled opportunity to watch a variety of recent movies!  Herewith are a few short reviews of the movies I saw (and/or dozed through) on the flight back home from our spring vacation:

  • The Blind SideO.  mai.  Gawd.  I’m shocked that anyone involved in this movie was considered for an Academy Award.  This by-the-numbers plot traffics in some of the worst stereotypes I’ve ever seen in pop culture in my lifetime.  It’s like a bizarro world view of how the U.S. really works, wherein the “bad guys” who threaten the African American protagonist are all black (drug dealers and a rep from the NCAA), and the “good guys” helping the protagonist are all rich, white people (the adoptive family, the tutor they hire, and top U.S. college football coaches.)  One exception:  one white “bad guy” is a high school teacher who dares to assign the young football hopeful a D for his schoolwork!  Yeah, that’s a reasonable representation of how power works in America:  if only the evil high school teachers and drug dealers would yield all of the power to rich white people and let them do whatever they see fit, all of our problems would be solved!  I saw nothing special in Sandra Bullock’s performance of a stereotypical pillar of True Womanhood, although I thought they could have afforded to give her a better dye job.  (How she beat out Gabourey Sidibe for Best Actress is beyond me.)
  • Whip It:  A totally awesome movie about a high school misfit and reluctant beauty pageant contestant from Bodeen, Texas who goes to Austin and becomes a rocking Roller Derby queen, starring Ellen Page, Juliette Lewis, Kristen Wiig, Marcia Gay Harden, Alia Shawkat (“Maeby” from Arrested Development) and Drew Barrymore (who also directed the film), among a bunch of other women actors of all ages.  It’s a great coming-of-age movie, with some of the classic markers of the genre (the first love affair, the confrontation of parental foibles, tensions among friends), but it’s smart and sensitive without being overly sentimental.  If like Tenured Radical you also didn’t like The Hurt Locker because of its simplistic and hackneyed portrayal of masculinity in war and because of its exclusion of women charactersWhip It is the antidote.  Continue Reading »


March 20th 2010
Historically historic hope and change!!!!

Posted under American history & Gender & the body & unhappy endings & wankers & women's history

It’s coming tomorrow, right?  Well, except for American women, who will be subject to a fascinating neo-coverture thanks to the Senate “health” “care” “reform” bill!  Go read Natasha Chart over at Open Left for why exactly this scheme will offer millions of American women neither true health care nor reform:

Under the Senate system which makes abortion part of the initial purchasing decision, a woman’s employer, male partner or parents can all potentially prevent her getting insurance coverage for it, whereas now, it usually doesn’t come up because most private plans just cover it. Now, of the one in three women likely to need an abortion in her life, millions of women never have to have that conversation. Under the current wording of the health bill, that second check is the federal spousal and parental notification law that never managed to pass.

Then if the administrative expenses and familial approval weren’t enough, the second check creates a stigmatizing paper trail for anyone worried about public pressure or vulnerable to retribution by disapproving superiors. Even people who might support abortion might be pressured into dropping plans that cover it and one way or another, abortion coverage will end. That’s always been the point of both the Stupak amendment and Nelson’s Senate compromise, which will simply work more slowly to eradicate insurance coverage of abortion. Continue Reading »


March 12th 2010
Spring breakin’

Posted under Berkshire Conference & conferences & women's history

Catch you next week!  Don’t forget:  proposals for panels, workshops, and single papers for the 2011 Berkshire Conference on the History of Women are due March 19!  So spend whatever time you’d otherwise be spending at this week putting together a proposal for the Berks instead.

We’ll have to do a massive femblogger meetup there.  The conference will be in Amherst at the University of Massachusetss, June 9-12–the Pioneer Valley is lovely in the late spring, friends!  And remember:  this comet only comes around every 3 years, so if you miss this one, you’ll regret it for sure.


March 12th 2010
Tempus fugit

Posted under art & childhood & fluff

Do any of you ever wish you could crawl back into the 90s again? Or is it just me and Fratguy?  We were poor for most of the ’90s–and when we were no longer poor, I had a bad job, but we always had very good friends and neighbors wherever we were–Philadelphia, Baltimore, Hartford, Somerville/Cambridge, Washington D.C., Providence, R.I., and “Winesburg,” Ohio.  I’m probably just nostalgic for the first decade of adulthood, when the possibilities seemed endless.  (I will say that it’s nice not to have moved at all for 8 years in a row!  It seems like I spent half of my 20s in a U-Haul, driving up and down I-95 and figuring out how to avoid the New Jersey Turnpike.)

(Aside:  Does anyone know if there have been any articles or dissertations written about all of the babies, baby dolls, fetuses, and allusions to reproduction that populate both Nirvana and Hole songs and videos?  Does anyone want to offer an analysis in the comments below?) 

Although this video of “Malibu” might suggest that we’re going to the beach for Spring Break, we’re not.  More details later–but I think I’m going to stay off-line and just live in the meat world on my vacation. Continue Reading »


March 11th 2010
This one goes out to all the historians

Posted under American history & bad language & European history & Gender & GLBTQ & race & women's history

How long has it been since you heard someone called a “revisionist,” or heard someone muttering darkly about “revisionism” after a job talk or search committee meeting?  (For all of the non-historians out there who might still be reading:  “revisionism” was a charge thrown around a lot in the 1980s and 1990s by those historians who imagined that history is the pursuit of Unchanging Truth, and who were generally quite hostile to most of the new approaches to history since 1960 or so–social history, subaltern history, feminist history, queer theory–pretty much everything except political and intellectual history focused on DWEMs, that is, Dead White European/Euro-American Males.  Anyone who had different ideas or subjects in mind were called “revisionists,” which implied that we were doing Made-Up history, which was seen as an attack on the Unchanging Truth.)  I think it’s been nearly a decade since I’ve heard these terms in serious conversations. Continue Reading »


March 10th 2010
If Comrade PhysioProf produced the news . . .

Posted under bad language & fluff & jobs & O Canada

He’s mad as hell, and he’s not going to take it any more!  (WARNING:  the language is NSFW or children.  Just sayin’.)  Via The Daily Beast:

How many of us can relate to the “expert” in this video?  “I spent my entire life attending the nation’s most prestigious schools to talk about bull$h!t like this.  I’m really just happy to be on TV.”  Awesome! Continue Reading »


March 10th 2010
At your service: all of the responsibility, none of the authority?

Posted under jobs

In a post about having responsibility but no power in a new service task, Bardiac writes:

I’ve been asked to consider taking on a new responsibility here. It’s a responsibility that comes with a lot of responsibility, and relatively little power, though it’s very important that the job be done well and ethically. It involves working with folks who have tenure, organizing them to get certain tasks done.

.       .       .       .      .       .      
So, as a responsible person with relatively little power (I can’t fire these folks, affect their pay, or withhold special treats/privileges), what do you do when someone says “no” to doing their share of a group job?

In general, it’s a good policy to avoid assignments in which one would have all of the responsibility, but little or no authority.  I have taken on major service tasks in which the responsibility-to-authority ratio was a little more evenly balanced–for example, I served as Graduate Studies Chair, and I served on the program committee of a major conference.  (These jobs also kicked my butt–that was the responsibility side!)  But in both of those jobs–as on the search committees I’ve been on–I got relatively immediate gratification.  We hired a fine new colleagues/admitted some promising new graduate students/or put together a great conference program–and so I got to see what all of my work added up to within a year or so–and then it was done.

We all know that service tasks undertaken by the faculty are hardly ever recognized or rewarded with respect to our annual salary exercises or with respect to tenure and promotion.  And yet, someone’s got to do the jobs in which the authority : responsibility ratio is all out of proportion.  Continue Reading »


March 9th 2010
The Line, a film by Nancy Schwartzman

Posted under Gender & students & the body & women's history

Last night at the University of Northern Colorado, I attended a screening of The Line,a film by Nancy Schwartzman about rape and the line of consensual versus nonconsensual sex.  In it, she tells the story of her rape several years ago by a man she had gone to bed with–a fact that attorneys and anti-rape advocates explain would have made her case very difficult, if not impossible, to prosecute.  She had engaged in consensual sex–but she did not consent to anal rape, and she cried and screamed throughout the attack.  The climax of the film is an interview with her rapist recorded via a hidden camera–his face is obscured, but it’s fascinating to watch him squirm and writhe and desperately trying to convince her that everything that happened that night was consensual, and that they had “hot sex.”

The part of the film I found most disturbing was when Schwartzman told her friends what happened–and her friends told her that it happens to everyone.  What else did she expect?  That’s just the way it is, and she really should get over it because that’s how it happens sometimes.  After all, she consented to some sex acts.  In other words, they told her that rape is clearly on the continuum of how heterosexuality operates.  They read her actions as complicit with the rapist–whereas there was never any ambiguity for Schwartzman.  As she related in the Q and A session after the movie, she cried and screamed and repeatedly begged the rapist to stop during the rape, and then went home and wrote in her journal “I was raped last night.”  When even her friends told her that what had happened to her wasn’t rape, she bottled it up and tried to forget it. Continue Reading »


March 8th 2010
Sunny daze is here again?

Posted under American history

Someone’s being mean to White House Senior Advisor David Axelrod!  But somehow, I don’t think quotations like this are going to get the bullies to leave him alone on his walk home from school.  In fact, I think the bullies are going to start wearing cleats from now on:

“I guess I have been castigated for believing too deeply in the president,” [Axelrod] said, lapsing into the sarcasm he tends to deploy when playing defense.

That’s right:  if you made a mistake, it was only that you loved him too much.  (Where does anyone get the idea that Democrats can’t take a punch?  Oh, I don’t know–the fact that they’re falling all over their fainting couches because someone “castigated” them.  With words!  Really mean ones, I guess.)

In an interview in his office, Mr. Axelrod was often defiant, saying he did not give a “flying” expletive “about what the peanut gallery thinks” and did not live for the approval “of the political community.”  [Ed. note:  Weak!  If you don't give a "flying" frack, then don't bring it up.]  He denounced the “rampant lack of responsibility” of people in Washington who refuse to solve problems, and cited the difficulty of trying to communicate through what he calls “the dirty filter” of a city suffused with the “every day is Election Day sort of mentality.”  [Ed note:  you have to govern with the Washington you have, not the Washington you wish you had, with flying multicolored ponies and cream soda in all of the fountains and in the reflecting pool of the Lincoln Memorial.]

When asked how he would assess his performance, Mr. Axelrod shrugged. “I’m not going to judge myself on that score,” he said. But then he shot back: “Have I succeeded in reversing a 30-year trend of skepticism and cynicism about government? I confess that I have not. Maybe next year.”  [Can we get red pop next year in the reflecting pool?  That would be pretty, and extra-delicious.]

I’m just stunned to learn, once again, that President Barack Obama’s team really did believe that he was the magically transformational politician they marketed during the primary and general election campaigns.   Continue Reading »


March 7th 2010
Intellectual migrations: how and when to switch fields?

Posted under conferences & European history & jobs & publication & women's history

From the mailbag at Historiann HQ, a question about working outside the historical field in which one originally trained:

Dear Historiann,

I have a question about working outside one’s dissertation field, and wonder to what extent the topic of one’s dissertation dictates the career.  Is it permanent?  I am now working on a topic largely unrelated to my doctoral work, and I have already discovered this to be less-than-an-asset on the job market.  For jobs in my dissertation field, any search committee would look askance at current project; for jobs in “current project field,” they will look askance at the dissertation.  (Think: dissertation on revolutionary France, current project on Argentina). 

To what extent are we defined by a choice of dissertation topic, even throughout our careers? I have heard people commenting about a very senior (famous) historian who wrote a recent book, saying “how can he work on Y? He’s a specialist on X!” (X being his doctoral subject). He completed his Ph.D. 30 years ago, and has written a number of books. My view is, surely he’s had time to become a specialist in some other field/s of history since then. But this view is obviously not shared by all in the discipline. Should a junior scholar wait til after tenure to bust out their “true historical passion?”


Roving Renata

Renata, I agree with you that people in our profession can be extremely fussy and fuddy-duddy about switching fields and gaining new competencies.  (And as someone who wrote a book that wasn’t a revision of her dissertation at all but was an entirely new project–well, let’s just say that I can relate to your anxieties.)  People are unusually identified with their first books, especially if their first books were well received.  I once had a colleague who was absolutely haunted by this.  He once said to me, “it’s just agonizing to think that people will read my first book and think that that’s who I am as a scholar!”  Continue Reading »


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