Archive for October, 2010

October 18th 2010
Prof. Pushbutton to the rescue!

Posted under American history & students & technoskepticism & unhappy endings

Reader and commenter truffula sent this along last week.  She writes, “A colleague dared me to send the attached page from the January 1960 issue of Popular Science to our [University] President via campus mail.  Not that he needs any encouragement from the rabble.”  I thought you all might enjoy this glimpse of futures past, since many of you live with its ghosts (“distance education,” on-line classes, “concurrent enrollment,” and whatever brilliant moneysaving or -making scheme they think of next.) Continue Reading »


October 17th 2010
Why must women’s colleges exist? A personal reflection

Posted under childhood & class & Gender & GLBTQ & race & students & wankers & women's history

This could be a very short post, with my answer being because they p!$$ off and disturb so many people!  But I’ll take the time to explain, for those of you who are curious.  As some of you recall, I linked to Tenured Radical’s series last week on the role of women’s colleges in women’s education, and jumped into the fray of the comments threads as well.  Knitting Clio has posted some further thoughts on this subject too–I objected to her raising the issue of class privilege rather than addressing the questions TR had asked, but she insists that we need to talk about the role of feminist education in co-educational institutions too.

This particularly heated comment thread–44 comments so far!–concludes with Dr. Cleveland writing, “This has been an amazing thread.  I’ll admit that I needed my eyes opened to how much resistance there is to the mission of women’s colleges. It’s shocking to witness. But it also makes a very strong case for why women’s colleges are still very, very necessary. If TR hadn’t persuaded me, the hostility of some of the commenters toward women’s education would have.”  I’ve been thinking about this all week long, and would like to share my personal experiences of my attendance as an undergraduate and brief affiliation as a faculty member with women’s colleges. 

When I enrolled in a women’s college 24 years ago, I wasn’t expecting that it would be all that different from any other small, liberal-arts college.  But I was wrong–not so much in the way that it functioned or educated me, but in the way that other people reacted to the existence of women’s colleges and to the fact that I attended one.  I came to understand that my college represented something deeply threatening to other people, most of whom were men.

As a freshman, I had a boyfriend from back home who had strange fantasies about what a women’s college meant for the everyday lives of students.  He’d say things like, “You’re all women in the dorm, why don’t you all just walk around naked all of the time?  Why do you need bathrobes?”  “Do you just sit in your dorm rooms topless?  Do you touch each other, and give each other hugs and kisses?”  Continue Reading »


October 16th 2010
Campaigning while female, 2010

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

OK, OK, I know I said I’d stay out of it because I’m so disgusted by this campaign season, but I just can’t let some of the misogyny deployed against women candidates this year go without comment.  Now, let’s be clear:  I would never vote for Christine O’Donnell, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Delaware.  I think she’s desperately unqualified, and not very bright.  However, when have you ever seen coverage of a male politician like this, courtesy of Rebecca Dana at The Daily Beast?

“She baked me cookies once,” said Paul Angelini, her old neighbor in the city’s Little Italy district. He remembered O’Donnell as sweet, but the cookies as inedible. “Chocolate chip. They were burnt. They were terrible, really.”

Angelini lived with a few pals in a three-bedroom rowhouse nicknamed “the frat house,” and O’Donnell would swing by from time to time to chat. “We probably flirted a little bit with her, and she flirted a little bit back, that sort of thing.”

She would lounge on her front porch in her pajamas some weekends, smoking cigars and drinking wine with a girlfriend. She doted on her cats, but was not always fastidious about her housekeeping, according to neighborhood gossip passed along by her former housekeeper, Pam.She feuded bitterly with the woman next door. And, neighbors couldn’t help but note, for a candidate who’s been so vocally opposed to any pre-marital sexual activity, O’Donnell had frequent overnight visits from her boyfriend Brent, a Philadelphia lawyer who bought her house just before it went into foreclosure and still owns it to this day.

.       .       .       .       .       .       

The magnitude of O’Donnell’s ambition irked some of her old neighbors. Continue Reading »


October 15th 2010
As if there aren’t enough wealthy white men in politics

Posted under American history & bad language & class & fluff & Gender & race & unhappy endings & weirdness

Rich whities in their natural habitat

I laughed so hard I almost did a spit take on my morning newspaper when I saw this story about a mistake in a candidate’s name on Chicago voting machines:

It’s the typo to end all typos: Illinois gubernatorial candidate Rich Whitney’s name is misspelled as “Rich Whitey” on some electronic-voting machines in Chicago, and officials say the problem can’t be fixed before election day.

Maybe he should have stuck with “Richard,” or chosen “Dick” or “Rick” as a nickname.  (I’m not blaming the victim–I’m just sayin’.)


October 14th 2010
Up to my neck in work, buttercream ruffles

Posted under art & childhood & fluff & local news & women's history

Reader and commenter Susan sent this photo (via Cakewrecks)–and that about sums it up for me today.  I’m up to my neck in unmarked papers, unreviewed manuscripts, and unblurbed books, all of which need my attention immediatement, but I’m trying to achieve a barbie-like smiling serenity about it all.

I was a big fan of doll cakes as a little girl–I think I had at least a few when I was growing up.  My mother was a big Wilton cake method devotee–her favorite tube was the star, and she’d spend hours painstakingly baking and decorating my brother’s and my birthday fantasies to order with thousands of tiny, squeezed on stars.  This made for a busy, hand-exhausting week for her at the end of every summer, since our birthdays were only one week apart.  I remember a clown, a teddy bear, doll cakes, and once a cake sliced and decorated to look like a rainbow emerging from the clouds.  I think my brother ordered a lot of baseball cakes.  Continue Reading »


October 13th 2010
Craptastic “History” Channel: D00dstorians only!

Posted under American history & bad language & Gender

Good luck with that, Spanky!

Here’s an e-mail from a loyal reader who was forwarded this message from a “History” Channel casting associate–and not because the forwarder thought my reader might be eligible for the job!  (If you recall, I’ve had some choice bons mots here about the quality of programming on the “History” Channel in the past–just click here for our conversation last winter.)

Hello Professor _______,

My name is B——- McC——, and I’m a casting associate working on a new show for The History Channel entitled “History Quest”.  We are currently casting hosts for the show, hence this e-mail to you.

I’ve contacted of few of your department’s professors, and I wanted to reach out to you as well.  Perhaps you know of someone who would be an appropriate candidate for our show.

We are looking for a host with a strong background in American history.  Additionally, we need a host who is approachable, relatable to the audience, and capable of dispensing history lessons to show contestants in an accessible manner.

The show is half history lesson, half adventure reality series.  Each episode will be based in one American city, in which two teams will compete in physical and mental challenges based upon that city’s history.  The host will serve as both motivator and educator.

We’re open to many physical-types for the host position, but we’re focusing on finding more of a rugged, rough, and smart type.  Think Survivor’s Jeff Probst or Dirty Jobs’ Mike Rowe, but with a background in American history.

Here’s a description of our ideal host:

Male, mid 30s – mid 40′s, blue collar intelligent with the right mix of humor and gravitas.  Continue Reading »


October 12th 2010
Coming out/It Gets Better stories

Posted under American history & childhood & Gender & GLBTQ & students

Because of Tenured Radical’s series on women’s colleges and feminist education, I missed that yesterday was national Coming Out Day, which this year is being linked by a number of bloggers and writers to Dan Savage’s It Gets Better Project .  A number of my regular faves had special posts on this, but I wanted to highlight two especially moving stories.  First, Rose at Romantoes has a wonderful tribute to a high school friend of hers, Jay, who suffered shocking amounts of bullying in high school.  His is an important story to read now because as Rose writes, “it’s not always kids doing the bullying.”

One of my best friends all through school growing up came out after we started college.  That wasn’t much of a surprise to anybody, but of course that doesn’t make it any easier for someone to come out.  And for years he had been bullied, harassed, and tormented about being gay…but importantly, not ever, to my knowledge, by his peers.

In many ways I think he’d escaped that kind of treatment by other kids because he was just so damned charming and funny.  I mean, he was truly the funniest person I have ever known.  He was witty, punny, and could stage some of the best practical jokes imaginable with the straightest of faces.  He was also incredibly smart, musically gifted, and genuinely gregarious.  I really credit him for making my own time in high school as easy as it was–somehow, he single-handedly made it cool to be a nerd.

So who was doing the bullying?  Teachers.

People talk about three-hanky movies and novels, but have you ever seen a three-hanky blog post?  Keep your tissues close at hand, friends, for this next one too.  Fannie at Fannie’s Room offers a brave and moving account of her childhood–her growing awareness of her lesbian identity and gender-nonconformity, and the simultaneous terrible realization that being gay means facing the loathing and disgust of her family, friends, and peers at school.  Here are just a few snippets:

I am in first grade and am walking down the hall with my best friend. I reach out to take her hand.

She pulls her hand away in horror, saying, “What are you, queer?”

Last year, in kindergarten, this was okay. Today, I learned that there are new rules. I have also learned that whatever queer is, I Am Definitely Not That. Continue Reading »


October 11th 2010
Women’s education, part III

Posted under American history & childhood & Gender & students & women's history

Tenured Radical has published her third and final post on women and single-sex education, “What is Our Work?  Towards a Feminist Future in Education.”  There’s lots to think about and debate, but I’ll just highlight this paragraph towards the end of her piece:

Equality is never a finished project. As women’s aspirations and achievements change, so do their needs. While a women’s college privileges a feminism that puts women at the center, we must remember the other piece of the gender equality equation that feminism attends to: providing spaces where men who care deeply about the advancement of women in science, or any other field, can come to recruit the best minds, to partner with them, to mentor them, and to learn from them. Gender equality is a project, and it is, as Mary Maples Dunn said to me, an unfinished one. But to believe and invest in a project like feminist education is to demonstrate optimism about gender equality by investing in the institutions that will create it. Gender equality is, in the most optimistic scenario, a feminist task that may remain unfinished as long as women continues to re-imagine and re-invent themselves to meet the challenges of their own generation. Continue Reading »


October 10th 2010
Women’s education, part II

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

Katherine E. McBride

Tenured Radical has the second in her three-part series on single-sex education for women at her blog, “Feminism’s Unfinished Agenda:  If Women Have Equal Opportunity, Why Are The Outcomes So Very Unequal?”  There’s a lot of food for thought, but I thought I’d highlight that she features some reminiscences of Harvard University President Drew Faust of her student days at Bryn Mawr under President Katherine E. McBride: 

I will never forget Miss McBride up on the stage telling us to be humble in face of Our Work. I had not before realized that I had Work. I had thought I did assignments and took tests and wrote papers. But Miss McBride’s address instilled in me a new found reverence for learning and scholarship. My awe at being invited to play even a small part within that sacred and timeless world has never left me.

Mary Patterson McPherson

I’m with Drew Faust, although I followed her by more than 20 years in the late 1980s, when the United States–when it contemplated feminism at all–was already slipping deep into its “post-feminist” delusions.  Like I said a few days ago:  we were taken seriously, so we took ourselves seriously.  We didn’t have the luxury of holding back in class discussions and letting men take the lead.  We didn’t have the pressure of heterosexual performance in an academic setting (mostly–Haverford women and men could and did enroll in most of my classes over my four years, so an entirely single-sex classroom was probably a rarity.)  I and my classmates wrote the student newspaper, ran for the Honor Board and for student government, and competed against each other for scholarships, prizes, internships, and honors.  It was a great laboratory for women’s leadership and (mostly) friendly competition. Continue Reading »


October 9th 2010
From the Department of WTF?

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

Tenured Radical has a really nice post about the value of single-sex education for women over at her place.  Go read that whole thing, but here’s a sample:

[H]aving attended a school outside Philadelphia, founded in 1888 to prepare women for Bryn Mawr College, let me tell you I was educated to expect prizes. At my all-women’ secondary school, I had the astonishing good luck to be taught by feminists who never told me that I couldn’t, or shouldn’t, do anything because I was a woman. I had science teachers who responded to questions by creating research projects outside class; a Latin teacher who signed us up for citywide translation contests to make us work harder; a chemistry teacher who wouldn’t let us stop working on the problem sets until they were right; and history teachers who expected that all papers would contain primary research.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s being told, as a woman, that anything was within your grasp if you only tried, was a big deal. It happened only at private school and at the prestigious public Girls High in Philadelphia. Part of how the message of gender equality was conveyed was through rigorous competition and not being permitted to take refuge in any notion of female inferiority or weakness. I remember one moment, famous at our school, when a parent went to the headmistress to complain about an athletic contest played in the rain – something boys did routinely at their schools. It is said that this mother was asked firmly and politely in return: “Are you under the impression that young women melt?”

What I remember most about a single sex education was the assumption that we all would go on to do something significant. The ethic of our school was that women were entitled to labs, and languages, all the spots on the editorial board, all the parts in the play, as much math and science as we could learn, all the class offices and team captaincies, and the best colleges we could get into. The school’s web page says today: “Girls enjoy not just equal opportunity but every opportunity.”

But, the commenters over at TR only want to talk about the “class privilege” of women’s colleges, because apparently women’s colleges are the only expensive private colleges around!  Continue Reading »


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