Archive for July, 2012

July 27th 2012
From the mailbag: Enceinte, and doing everyone else’s job for them

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

Today, we have yet another irrational reaction to a pregnant faculty body.  A regular reader writes in on behalf of a colleague:

Hi Historiann!

I’ve got a question I’d like to throw open to your readership.  I have a pregnant colleague who’s due at the very end of the fall semester. We don’t have a paid maternity leave, so her plan is to take sick leave for the last week of classes, if necessary, then use our long winter break as her “maternity leave” and resume teaching in the spring. She’s already worked up syllabi for her fall classes that are structured so the last week or so of meetings are devoted to research presentations, paper workshopping, etc., and can be easily covered by willing colleagues (including myself). And because she’s a responsible person, she decided to tell our department chair and dean about this now, months in advance.

Well. The dean acted like she’d never dealt with this problem before, and was not at all happy with the arrangement. What if my colleague had to take sick leave for more than a week? She should really be prepared to have more than one week covered by colleagues. Moreover, she should rewrite all her syllabi so that the material during those weeks aligned with the specialties of the colleagues she intended to cover for her. (Note: she’s the only person in our department in her field, though plenty of us would be competent to pinch hit in her area for a class meeting or two.) The dean seems very concerned about any possible unfairness, surprises, etc., to our students.

Am I right in thinking this is straight-up gender discrimination? It seems to me that the burden of preparing for every possible contingency should not fall on my colleague. If she came down with a sudden illness in the middle of the semester, we’d have to cope, with no pre-existing plan in place. And if she had a permanent disability that affected her mobility, say, not accommodating those needs would violate the ADA. Continue Reading »


July 26th 2012
The dog blog is dead. Long live the mad blog!

Posted under American history & art & happy endings & jobs & women's history

Self-Portrait of a Madwoman

Last week, we lost a powerful voice in the queer academic and dog-friendly blogosphere:  Roxie Smith Lindemann of Roxie’s World announced her final departure from the blogosphere, only a little less than three years after her death.  However, her typist Moose has decided bravely to carry on blogging under a human pseudonym at a new blog called The Madwoman with a Laptop.

The Madwoman at MWAL, otherwise known as noted Willa Cather scholar Marilee Lindeman, describes herself on the new blog as “English prof, blogger, queer, feminist, non-geek fascinated by social media, making life up as it goes along. Play on. Tenure means never having to say you’re sorry.”

Her second post at the new blog is a thoughtful reflection on mid-career funks, the (corrupt) business of higher education, and the cardboard management-speak  slogan of “rebranding.” She writes:  Continue Reading »


July 25th 2012
I, at least, ain’t got the do-re-mi

Posted under jobs & local news & weirdness & women's history

The good news:  I got a raise for the first time in four years!  The bad news:  my total raise for all four of those years was $1,860.  Yes, that’s right:  I am worth exactly $465 more per year, if we average that out over four years.  In those four years:

  • I have taught 5 6 new courses and co-taught another new course, meaning that six seven out of sixteen courses over the last four years were entirely new.
  • I have written and published 2 essays in peer-reviewed journals, one book review essay, and one non-peer reviewed essay, plus a bunch of miscellaneous shorter essays.  I have also written seven conference papers (two of which were article-length and precirculated; all the while making progress on a book manuscript too, about three and a half out of six or seven chapters.)
  • My book won an “honorable mention” for a prize awarded by the Canadian Historical Association and the American Historical Association.
  • A chapter from my book was excerpted in Women’s America (edited by Linda K. Kerber, Joan Sherro DeHart, and Cornelia Hughes Dayton).
  • I have given four invited talks or lectures at four different universities in the U.S.
  • I have served on a search committee and put in three years on the College of Liberal Arts’s Tenure and Promotion Committee.
  • I reviewed four book manuscripts (one of them twice) and four article manuscripts (one of them twice) for publication.

At this rate, I might break into the high five figures before retirement!

Continue Reading »


July 24th 2012
This state sucks.

Posted under American history & unhappy endings

Coloradoans respond to automatic-weapon fueled mass murder by. . . going out to purchase more guns!  Awesome.

Check out this map of the world that compares national gun ownership rates, their rates of murders by firearms, and the percentage of homocides by firearms (h/t civilian in the comments to the previous post.)  The data are complicated–countries with high murder rates don’t necessarily have high rates of gun ownership, for example, but it’s clear that the U.S. stands out among its peers of developed nations with stable democracies.


July 22nd 2012
Gender, ownership, and the law

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

It’s striking to me the degree to which the right has induced a plurality (if not the majority) of Americans to accept the erosion of women’s rights at the same time it has insisted on a radical assertion of men’s rights.  I’m speaking here of the incredible discrepancy between access to contraception and abortion on the one hand, and access to military-style assault weapons and deadly ammunition on the other.  (I’ve written since the start of this blog about the gendered aspects of gun ownership and gun violence, so I think it’s fair to see the guns primarily, if not exclusively, as a men’s rights issue.  Commenter Mary Catherine and I had an exchange about this the other day, too.)

It’s interesting how men’s rights are presumed to be human rights, whereas women’s rights are understood to be only women’s rights, and therefore somehow not protected in the same absolute way by the U.S. Constitution.  It’s also interesting to reflect on the way that the tradition of male ownership and control of girls and women as natural and human resources is reflected in our jurisprudence.  Spousal consent laws have been ruled unconstitutional in anti-abortion laws, but parental consent laws are still OK.  But it’s interesting to think about why the notion of consent is even an issue with someone else’s body.  Waiting periods for women seeking abortion services are de rigeur now.

What would the world look like if we presumed the same ownership and control of men by women that women have historically suffered at the hands of men?  Just imagine: Continue Reading »


July 21st 2012
Your free hit of juvenalia and alternative nineteenth-century U.S. history and letters

Posted under American history & art & fluff

Dude, why can’t you do both?

Do you subscribe to The Writers’ Block podcast?  This is why it’s worthwhile:

Most of the book I wrote while watching music videos on MTV.  Yes, that’s how old I am.  Back then MTV still played videos.  Now, now doubt, you picture me wearing high-button shoes and rolling a hoop down a dirt road in, I don’t know, ancient Thebes?

Nobody ever had so much fun writing a book.  I’d be couch surfing with Alexander Graham Bell and Dolley Madison and watching Echo and the Bunnymen videos.  Abraham Lincoln would order us a pizza, and Bell would offer everyone hits of MDA.  That’s how far back this happened.  We didn’t call ecstasy “E.”  We didn’t even call it “X.”  Louisa May Alcott would be rolling us a fattie.  I’d shake my head no.  I’d whine, “Guys, I can’t get high!  I need to write my novel.”  And Harriet Beecher Stowe would say, “Dude, why can’t you do both?”

Continue Reading »


July 20th 2012
Yet another mass murder in Colorado

Posted under American history & unhappy endings

Information here, with updates likely available through the day at The Denver Post

Our political leaders continue to respond as though mass murders committed by young men armed to the teeth is a natural, inevitable phenomenon, like a wildfire, drought or tornado, instead of a political problem with responsible political solutions.  Or, rather, I should say that the only political leaders who feel empowered to speak up  after events like this are the ones who want to put more guns on the streets and in the hands of private citizens.  (How’s that working out for us?)

We’re living in a Banana Republic.  Actually, that term is condescending to Latin American countries.  Maybe we should just own the violent and semi-lawless state we’ve created and call all Banana Republics Yankee Republics instead, or Yosemite Sam Republics.

Your suggestions are welcome here.  I’m going to go weed my garden, listen to the news, and cry.


July 19th 2012
History of the body archaeological bonanza: 600 year old bras and thongs?

Posted under American history & European history & Gender & the body & women's history

Have you heard the one about the 600-year old bra?  (Some of my bras only seem that old, but when I find a bra that works, I’m likely to wear it to shreds.  Can any of you relate, or am I just about the laziest lingerie shopper in the universe?)  This is a seriously cool discovery, one that I’m particularly interested in because I’ve developed something of a fascination with historical underwear. (I just gave a talk last month about the significance of stays in seventeenth and eighteenth-century North America.)

This discovery by Beatrix Nutz of the University of Innsbruck is important because historians of clothing have assumed that the brassiere was invented little more than a century ago, when aggressive corseting went out of style, and middle-class and elite American and European women were being encouraged (for the health of “the race”) to engage in sports and become more active.  Corsets, which by the end of the nineteenth century severely limited one’s lung capacity, were not helpful when engaging in late Victorian and Edwardian-era fashionable sports, like tennis, bicycling, and croquet.

Some news organizations are also publishing photos of what looks like a 600-year old thong that was also part of the same cache of clothing.  I’d love to read what you medievalists and/or fashion experts think about this, because I doubt that this article was worn in the way modern women wear underwear.  My theory Continue Reading »


July 18th 2012
Our colleagues, ourselves

Posted under fluff & jobs & students & technoskepticism

GayProf is back, and he’s got another hilarious quiz for all of you proffie types, “Collegial is as Collegial Does.”  Here’s a little flava:

My office:

Best: “Is a place where I work quietly.”

Fair: “Is a place where I meet students from time to time.”

Bad: “Is a place where I can really turn up the volume on my music.”

Evil: “Smells suspiciously of sulphur.”

.       .       .       .       .

The role model who influenced my career:

Best: “The hardworking professors who took an interest in me as a student. They not only taught me the knowledge that I need for this job, but also what it means to be a committed educator.”

Fair: “Wonder Woman.”

Bad: “I did it on my own. Nobody ever helped me and I was always falling through the cracks.”

Evil: “Pope Benedict XVI.”

Honestly?  I would rate myself “fair” for the most part.  Continue Reading »


July 17th 2012
Didn’t any of these people live through the dot-bomb of 2000?

Posted under American history & students & technoskepticism & wankers

But this time everything will be different!  Reader Indyanna points us to a New York Times article that’s even fuller of fatuousness.

The great thing about being middle-aged is that you’ve heard it all before, and you can’t believe the rubes are falling for it all over again.  Remember those heady days of 1998 and 1999, when everyone was sure that the internet changed everything, and that we were all internet millionaires-to-be or stupid suckers who didn’t clearly perceive the bright future just around the corner?  Remember when we were promised the wonders of ordering groceries online?  (Who ever did that more than once, anyway?)  When we were assured that bricks-and-mortar stores (as they were condescendingly referred to) were soon to become like the abandoned caverns of a lost Atlantis because we’d be buying all of our stuff online?

Most of the breathless excitement was rooted in the fact that most people chose to ignore the fact that the same exact infrastructure is required to buy your books, your yoga mats, and your nephew’s birthday present at Amazon as you need to schlep to a store yourself and pick something up:  petroleum, pavement, and trucks, not to mention a gazillion miles of warehouse space in repositories around North America to hold all of that not-yet-purchased stuff.  And guess what?  It turns out that you need bricks and mortar for those warehouses, too.  And it also turns out that driving, walking, or biking to a store to evaluate the merchandise, whether it’s a new bathing suit or a bunch of parsley, and make your purchasing decisions on the spot is usually less wasteful and more efficient than having UPS deliver everything to your door (and/or return your merchandise because it doesn’t fit, doesn’t work, or doesn’t look right.) Continue Reading »


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