Archive for March, 2011

March 22nd 2011
Tuesday tunes: cute nonthreatening boys edition

Posted under art & childhood & European history & fluff

Oh, yeah: Haircut 100 from 1982. Very cute, and totally nonthreatening. (Most of the bandmates look like your friends’ dads–at least, the way they might have looked in 1982.) They have to have been the most American top-40 radio friendly “ska” band of the 1980s.

What was it with all the saxophones in the 1980s? Continue Reading »

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March 21st 2011
Groundhog Day at M.I.T., and everywhere

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

UPDATED, later this morning

The New York Times reports on M.I.T.’s efforts to recruit, retain, and promote women faculty in the Schools of Science and Engineering into leadership positions in the wake of its landmark study in 1999 revealing pervasive sex discrimination.  It’s good news–but M.I.T. is about where most American unis were about 20 years ago in their conclusions about the progress of women and the “new” issues that their success so far.  From the Times summary of the 2011 report:

In what the new study calls “stunning” progress, the number of female faculty members has nearly doubled in the School of Science since 1999 and in the School of Engineering since its original study was completed in 2002. More women are in critical decision-making positions at M.I.T. — there is a female president, and women who are deans and department heads. Inequities in salaries, resources, lab space and teaching loads have largely been eliminated.

“I thought things might get better, I thought people had good will, but I never dreamed we’d make this much progress in 10 years,” said Lorna J. Gibson, who led the Engineering School study.

Some of the problems noted in the report are brought on by progress: the university now struggles to accommodate two-career couples; a decade ago, women with tenure tended to be married only to their careers.

But the primary issue in the report is the perception that correcting bias means lowering standards for women. In fact, administrators say they have increased the number of women by broadening their searches. No one is hired without what Marc A. Kastner, the dean of the School of Science, called “off-scale” recommendations from at least 15 scholars outside M.I.T.

Among women on the science and engineering faculties, there are more than two dozen members of the National Academy of Sciences; four winners of the National Medal of Science; the recipient of the top international award in computer science; and the winners of a host of other fellowships and prizes.

“No one is getting tenure for diversity reasons, because the women themselves feel so strongly that the standards have to be maintained,” Professor Kastner said.

For many students and faculty–women included!–the mere presence of women and/or nonwhite scholars on a faculty in any meager number is prima facie evidence that “standards” are slipping.  Continue Reading »

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March 20th 2011
Rodeo Queen of Heaven, hear my prayer

Posted under American history & art & Dolls & European history & fluff & local news & women's history

This is Arthur Lopez’s “Robert Reina del Cielo,” or “Rodeo Queen of Heaven,” a clever little santo, or devotional sculpture of the Holy Family that I saw today at the Denver Art Museum (more info here, although as you’ll see they misspell cielo.)  Ain’t it swell?  Dig baby Jesus’s hand raised in the preaching (and/or bronco busting and bull-riding) position, just as in the European tradition. 

At least it’s the most important parts of the Holy Family–the Madonna and Child, natch.  Joseph:  he’s always seemed like the Ken of the Holy Family to me.  Barbie and Skipper seem to do just fine without him.

Continue Reading »

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March 18th 2011
Telling Histories: Black Women Historians in the Ivory Tower

Posted under American history & book reviews & class & Gender & Intersectionality & jobs & publication & race & students & women's history

Telling Histories:  Black Women Historians in the Ivory Tower, edited by Deborah Gray White, features autobiographical essays from prominent African American women historians that reflect on their careers, their tenure battles, and their struggles to invent the field of African American women’s history at the same time as they were forced to fight to make and preserve spaces for themselves within the historical profession.  I blogged about this book briefly two years ago, but just this week finally sat down to read it.  (Consider this my slight contribution to Women’s History Month blogging.)

It is good to be reminded of how new the field of African American women’s history is–the contributors to this volume were born in the 1940s-1960s.  They are people we know and work with, and they are truly a pioneer generation.  White’s introductory essay does a brilliant job of highlighting the awesome challenges of professing black women’s history from inside a black woman’s body: 

Educated African American women believed they had to overcome their history before they could do their history.  Yet the nature of the history they sought to overcome was so embarassing and demeaning [of racial, class, and sexual exploitation and abuse] that it kept them from engaging that history in all but the most indirect manner.  It was not by choice, therefore, but by necessity that we came late to the historical profession.

White and her contributors explain the many struggles that black women faced as they began to enter the profession in the 1960s and 1970s– Continue Reading »

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March 16th 2011
History and humor

Posted under American history & art & captivity & childhood & Gender & Intersectionality & publication & unhappy endings & women's history

Sit down and let me pour you a cup!

As you may have noticed if you are a regular reader of this blog, I like teh funny, and even if my sense of humor ain’t exactly your cuppa joe, I like to write to amuse myself, at least.  My problem now is that I can’t find a lot of humor in the book I’m writing.  I wrote a book about guys and guns and warfare in the Northeastern borderlands of what’s now the U.S. and Canada, so although that wasn’t a happy story for most of the people I wrote about, there were a lot of really fatuous English men and women I could mock in that book.  I realize it’s a low trick, but having a mockable bad guy or set of bad guys in your book is one way to leaven the story and add a little humor.  After writing about warfare for the better part of a decade, I looked forward to what I imagined to be a retreat into the relative safety and comfort of the cloister in order to write about a little English girl (Esther Wheelwright, 1696-1780) who was taken captive by the Indians at 7 and wound up in the Ursuline convent in Quebec at the age of 12, where she remained for the rest of her life.  

But, the problem for me right now is that there just isn’t a lot of humor in the story of a little girl whose life was filled with warfare and trauma for her English family, and the starvation, disease, and eventual destrution of her Indian family.  She arrived safely at the monastery and lived to the age of 84, but early modern nuns are just so earnest with their apostolic missions, such do-gooders that I haven’t found a lot of humor or texture in that part of the story, either.  They were not late medieval mystics who wrote long, fantastic narratives or offered descriptions of the various ways in which they mortified their bodies.  They were not aristocratic European nuns who flaunted their wealth and had men jumping in and out of their cells in between secret plots to make another Borgia prince the Pope.  They were teachers!  I’m a teacher, and many of you reading this are teachers–you know how boring and earnest we all are!  Who wants to read about about a bunch of teachers?   

In short, I have a humor problem with this book, and no really obvious bad guys to target for the cheap yuks.  (At least I’m having a hard time making scurvy and smallpox variola take the fall for everything.) Continue Reading »

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