Archive for February, 2012

February 29th 2012
Mormon secrets revealed!

Posted under American history & the body & weirdness

Thinking about that thread on LDS post-mortem baptism of people of other faiths left me wondering:  did some of the angry commenters actually know what Morman post-mortem baptism entails?  I knew all along that there is no use of human remains, no disinterrment, no visitation of graves, and no involvement at all of the baptisees and their families.  If this kind of thing were central to the ritual, then I would share the outrage that some expressed at the practice.  Perhaps people really thought there was some kind of involuntary conscription involved that went beyond uttering someone’s name while a live Mormon undergoes a symbolic baptism on behalf of the baptisee?

Well, don’t take my word for it–take the word of Elna Baker, probably one of America’s most famous Jack Mormons.  She describes the Morman post-mortem baptism ritual, and why someone’s body must actually be immersed in a “water vault,” in a podcast from last September 26 on Marc Maron’s WTF.  Continue Reading »


February 27th 2012
Parenting confessions of a college professor?

Posted under American history & childhood & students & technoskepticism & weirdness

This story caught my eye last night:  “Parenting Secrets of a College Professor,” by Kathleen Volk Miller.  At first, I was thinking “right on” when I saw this:

My 20-year old daughter, Allison, who has her own apartment in Philadelphia, sent me a text the other day:  “I need socks and dandruff shampoo.” I laughed aloud and texted back, “I need deodorant and coffee filters.”

I had a fleeting thought that she was actually asking me to pick up those items for her, but I preferred to think we were playing a cellphone game. I try not to be a helicopter parent. Experience as a mother and professor has taught me how badly that can backfire.

Instead, I prefer a more hands-off approach, which came naturally. From the time Allison turned 18 something kicked in, and I simply no longer had any desire to know her work schedule or pick up her tampons. I remember wondering if this was as instinctual as nursing her or bundling her up when she was a baby.  But that’s not what I see at Drexel University, where I teach and where my daughters go to school.

Cue the stories of the other parents, the dreadful helicopter parents– Continue Reading »


February 26th 2012
Remember when?

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

Remember when during the 2008 primary election candidate Barack Obama argued that his selection as the Democratic nominee would mean that we’d get past all of the kulturkampfen waged by aging hippies and College Republican Baby Boomers still stuck in the 1960s?  Indeed, it was central to his appeal, and he played it up.  For example, here’s his speech “The America We Love,” June 30, 2008:

Still, what is striking about today’s patriotism debate is the degree to which it remains rooted in the culture wars of the 1960s – in arguments that go back forty years or more. In the early years of the civil rights movement and opposition to the Vietnam War, defenders of the status quo often accused anybody who questioned the wisdom of government policies of being unpatriotic. Meanwhile, some of those in the so-called counter-culture of the Sixties reacted not merely by criticizing particular government policies, but by attacking the symbols, and in extreme cases, the very idea, of America itself – by burning flags; by blaming America for all that was wrong with the world; and perhaps most tragically, by failing to honor those veterans coming home from Vietnam, something that remains a national shame to this day

Most Americans never bought into these simplistic world-views – these caricatures of left and right. . . . Continue Reading »


February 25th 2012
LDS baptisms of the dead explained & contextualized

Posted under American history

Via RealClearBooks, here’s a sensible explanation of the Mormon practice of baptizing the dead by Samuel Brown, which he argues is part of a universalizing impulse as well as reflective of the faith’s nineteenth-century origins:

First, it is a solution to what some scholars call Christianity’s “scandal of particularity.” By this they mean that Christianity claims that salvation comes only through Christ. If that is true, though, what about those who had no conceivable way to hear of Christ, let alone to confess him? What justice is there in a Gospel that arbitrarily denies heaven to people merely by token of their place of birth? Joseph Smith and his Latter-day Saints answered emphatically, “None.” The Mormon solution to the scandal of particularity was not that Christ is unnecessary, but that Christ can be brought to everyone in the afterlife. While the notion offends many modern ears, the solution has a sort of ambitious coherence. Continue Reading »


February 24th 2012
An artist, a neuroscientist, and a historian walk into a bar. . .

Posted under European history & the body

Or rather, they walk into a BBC interview studio–and they discuss the night from their different disciplinary perspectives.   Here are the results!

Do we manipulate the darkness, or does it manipulate us?

Oxford Professor of Circadian Neuroscience, Russell Foster, explains his research which shows how the blue-tinged sky of dusk is a trigger that tells our bodies it’s time to prepare for bed[, a]nd why it would be good for us to go back to rising with the dawn and going to bed at sundown.

Rut Blees Luxemburg finds surprising richness of night-time colours in her photographs, and historian Craig Koslofsky shows how early modern Europeans first colonised the night by introducing street lighting.

And most interstingly of all, Craig Koslofsky of the University of Illinois talks about his research for Evening’s Empire:  A History of the Night in Early Modern Europe.  If you just want to hear about the book, scroll ahead to about 32:15 in the podcast.  Continue Reading »


February 23rd 2012
In which I explain my hairstyle to others on the basis of my submission to authority, or, let’s talk about hair and history.

Posted under American history & Bodily modification & European history & Gender & women's history

My hairstyle as worn by Jean Seberg

I’ve been thinking a lot about hair lately.  First, there was this comment from LouMac yesterday, in which she wrote (sarcastically, in a rant about “choice” feminism and the narrowness of straight women’s performance of gender) “Young white hetero women all have identical long straight hair because they choose it!”  Since most of you readers are affiliated with college and university campuses, you probably recognize this as the dominant hair aesthetic, too. 

I think there was a greater diversity of women’s hairstyles in Maoist China than there is among white college women today, but I have to admit that I went through my long-straight-hair phase too, in the early 1990s when I was poor and didn’t have money for luxuries like haircuts.  (The long-straight style has the virtue of being inexpensive to maintain if one has “good” hair.  African American women, some Jewish women, and others with curly or “bad” hair need at least regular blowouts, if not messy and dangerous hair-straightening perms too to achieve this look, so for some women it’s a very costly and time-consuming investment.)

Then back at Echidne, I found this link to something that she called Michelle Duggar’s “wifely tips for a happy marriage.”  Follow the links back that she provides, and eventually you’ll get to this PDF, “Seven Basic Needs of a Husband,” which includes a lengthy (and on the surface, strangely detailed) discussion of a wife’s hair and how it plays a primary role in a wife’s dutiful submission that is the foundation of all happy marriages, according to this document.  I’ve copied the document–with its strange quiz-like format as well as its odd typefaces, bolds, and use of ALL CAPS–as best I can here: Continue Reading »


February 21st 2012
Great one-liners you’ll never see outside of the feminist blogosphere

Posted under American history & European history & Gender & wankers & weirdness

Echidne:  “Rick Santorum has the most open mind of the late twelfth century.”  Feel the Santormentum! 

I wish I were teaching the history of sexuality course this semester that I co-taught last semester.  I would really love to hear about my students’ reactions to fact that birth control has suddenly become a major campaign issue both in the Republican nomination fight and perhaps even in Barack Obama’s re-election campaign.

I think it might underscore the argument I made to them towards the end of the class last term that my college years in the late 1980s and early 1990s were in fact a freer time sexually from a feminist standpoint than many young women today enjoy.  Continue Reading »


February 18th 2012
We eat Ramen noodles, too: even prestigious grants are self-funded fellowships

Posted under jobs & local news & unhappy endings

Exellence without Money, round bajillion and one:  (my previous posts on this topic are here.)

This is a question for all of you faculty-types out there:  when you win a grant or fellowship to fund your research, do you get a salary match?  I had thought salary matches were a pretty normal thing.  I even got one from my former university–and get this:  the Dean even agreed to pay my rent in Fellowship City, as he understood that Fratguy and I had just bought a house, and that Fratguy needed someplace to live as he wasn’t able to take a 6-month sabbatical from his job!  That university was a mid-tier sectarian private uni, too–and it proudly called itself a “comprehensive” university, not an R-1. 

I was shocked to learn last year that my college at Baa Ram U.–which is officially an R-1 uni–doesn’t match our salaries when we win grants.  Accordingly, my colleagues who have won fellowships to do research recently have eaten a major pay cut (even with our craptacular salaries.  Most humanities grants top out at $40,000 or $50,000 a year, which is less than most mid-career faculty are earning even in my woefully underpaid department.)  On top of this, many of them also have had to fund, plan, and execute complicated international travel.  It has not always been like this:  a colleague of mine said that when she asked for a salary match 15 years ago to take a residential fellowship, it was approved within the department–it didn’t even have to go to the dean’s office.  Continue Reading »


February 16th 2012
Pretty on the inside

Posted under Bodily modification & Gender & local news & technoskepticism & the body

I saw Steve the Stylist yesterday for a haircut.  While waiting for him, I found myself drawn to one of those “plastic surgery disasters”-type cover stories on a celebrity magazine, in which different photographs of celebrities (all women) are compared, analyzed by cosmetic surgeons, and the results decried as “ruining” the celebrities’ faces, breasts, or whatever.  We both commented on the rank unfairness of an entertainment industry that won’t employ women over 35 or 40 unless they’ve had repeated cosmetic interventions, but then of course these women are mocked and derided for succumbing to the procedures that keep them employable.

Steve offered a fascinating observation based on having had clients who have had botox injections.  Continue Reading »


February 15th 2012
You’re a monster!

Posted under childhood & fluff

Think of how many times a day you might potentially use the declaration “you’re a monster.”


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