Search Results for "breastfeeding"

11th 2014
“Maternal Solicitude,” or, how to avoid both infanticide and suicide!

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

babydos&dontsFrom the very first paragraph of Mary Watkins’s Maternal Solicitude, or Lady’s Manual (New York, 1809), h/t to my graduate student, Clarissa:

WHEN a mother does not nurse her own infant, she, in many instances, does violence to nature; a custom unknown among the most polished in the purest ages of Greece and Rome.  The sudden check given to this great natural evacuation of milk, at a time when her weakly state renders her unable to sustain so great a shock, is often of the worst consequences to herself; and the loss to the child is much greater than in commonly apprehended.  A woman in this case, runs the imminent risk of her life from a milk-fever; besides the danger of swellings and imposthumes of the breast, and such obstruction in them as lay a foundation of a future cancer, (7).

Yes, a 205-year old breastfeeding manual on the first page threatens the reader with both the loss of her child and CANCER!  But let’s not get too smug today.  Maternal Solicitude is almost as subtle as modern pro-breastfeeding propaganda. Continue Reading »


28th 2013
Libertarian “feminist” to actual feminists: stop whimpering like a bunch of p*ssies!

Posted under American history & bad language & Gender & wankers & women's history

Why is it that Libertarian “feminism” is only expressed as criticism of any kind of feminist activism?  Take Cathy Young, for exampleplease!  Here she instructs us that “letting ideologues dictate the boundaries of acceptable speech on a large area of the Internet is a very bad idea.”  OK–that’s an interesting point, right?  The problem is that the only “ideologues” in her column are feminists who object to online misogyny.  She fails to identify online misogyny as ideological commitment, too.

First, she introduces the problem by using language that implies that it’s not online misogyny that threatens violence against actual women, but online feminism threatens violence against free speech, suggesting a false equivalence between the two points of view:

Feminist activists are on the warpath against Facebook, which, they claim, condones woman-hating even as it censors not only other hate speech but “indecent” images of breastfeeding mothers.  When I was asked to discuss this initiative on HuffPost Live WebTV,  I wasn’t sure where I stood.  The examples collected by the activists—such as a photo of a bloodied woman captioned, “She broke my heart.  I broke her nose”—are certainly repellent; the First Amendment is not at stake, since it’s a matter of private citizens using speech to pressure a corporation that already restricts content it deems offensive.  Yet a closer look suggests that the real agenda in this campaign is to whip up outrage about our culture’s alleged misogyny and flex muscle that could be used to intimidate and curtail legitimate speech.

Got it?  One group of people posts a photo of a bloodied woman with a violent caption, but that’s not the side that’s described as “on the warpath” against women.  It’s the side critical of this use of Facebook that is “on the warpath” in their attempt to “whip up outrage” and “flex muscle”–to beat up violent misogynists?  Continue Reading »


5th 2013
2012: the Year of the Asshole?

Posted under American history & bad language & book reviews & European history & fluff & Gender & the body

Some of you have probably heard of Geoffrey Nunberg’s Ascent of the A-word:  Assholism, the First Sixty Years (2012) because of his platform as the resident linguist for NPR’s Fresh Air.  A few weeks ago, we learned that Aaron James, a philosophy professor at the University of California, Irvine, published a book in 2012 called Assholes:  A Theory, and this article describing James’s book made me laugh out loud:

So what is an asshole, exactly? How is he (and assholes are almost always men) distinct from other types of social malefactors? Are assholes born that way, or is their boorishness culturally conditioned? What explains the spike in the asshole population?

James was at the beach when he began mulling those questions. “I was watching one of the usual miscreants surf by on a wave and thought, Gosh, he’s an asshole.” Not an intellectual breakthrough, he concedes, but his reaction had what he calls “cognitive content.” In other words, his statement was more than a mere expression of feeling. He started sketching a theory of assholes, refining his thinking at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, where he spent a year as a fellow in 2009.

Now here’s the part I really like as a historian.  James pushes beyond the linguist’s focus on the word to explore the history and philosophy of the asshole avant la lettre:

He consulted Rousseau (who, James notes, was something of an asshole himself on account of his shabby parenting skills), Hobbes (especially his views on the “Foole” who breaks the social contract), Kant (his notion of self-conceit in particular), and more-recent scholarship on psychopaths. He spoke with psychologists, lawyers, and anthropologists, all of whom suggested asshole reading lists. “There are a lot of similar characters studied in other disciplines, like the free rider or the amoralist or the cheater,” James says, calling his time at Stanford an “interdisciplinary education in asshole theory.”

James argues for a three-part definition of assholes that boils down to this: Continue Reading »


17th 2012
Inflammatory post

Posted under unhappy endings

Hillary Clinton.

Sarah Palin.

Barack Obama.





Flame on!  Continue Reading »


2nd 2012
New Year’s Roundup: Plus ca change edition

Posted under American history & bad language & childhood & class & Gender & jobs & unhappy endings & wankers & women's history

Hope your 2012 is Dy-No-Mite!

Well, friends, Happy New Year and all that crap.  We’re back home on the High Plains Desert, and it’s sunny and reaching into the 50s and 60s this week.  Fun!  I will miss feeling like Jaime Sommers running at sea level for the past two weeks, but it’s time to get back into running at 4,713 feet elevation-shape again.  While I’m out, here are a few linky-dinkies to keep you amused, if not informed. 

  • Kyle Smith of the New York Post asks, “Why do feminists reject their ultimate icon, Margaret Thatcher?”  Maybe the better question is why isn’t Margaret Thatcher a feminist?  “‘I owe nothing to women’s lib,’ Thatcher said, and at another point she remarked, ‘The feminists hate me, don’t they? And I don’t blame them. For I hate feminism. It is poison.’”  Duh.  I forgot:  feminists never do anything right, and everything is always our fault.  Women’s careers are never enabled by the work of previous generations of feminists–no, in fact women only profit by heaping scorn on feminism and feminists.
  • From the annals of it’s all mom’s fault:  this problem has a name, and it’s momYes, 1950s middle-class mothers, in addition to being blamed over the years for causing autism, “smothering” their children, and sending a generation of upper-middle class Easterners into a lifetime of psychotherapy, are now being blamed for Public Health Menace #1:  OBESITY!  Awesome!!!  Continue Reading »


6th 2011
Back in the saddle again

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

We’re back in Potterville, and I’m back in the saddle again with nothing to do but write for a whole month! Yippee-kai-ai-ay and yee-haw to that.

While I’m working away at my day job, go read this post by Echidne, in which she discusses the ways in which the media discuss the “fertility crisis” in some European countries without noting the extreme pressure on women who are mothers in said countries to leave the workforce. (Or in one case she cites, pregnant women and mothers are just proactively pink-slipped.) She notes that even with generous maternity leave policies, most mothers do not return to work after the birth of just one child in both Germany and Italy. This sidles up to a point that I’ve made here before (and even in my day job writing recently) about the global and apparently transhistorical resistance to see women as rational economic actors who make decisions about their lives that respond directly to their political, cultural, and economic environments. Continue Reading »


26th 2011
The breast milk “cure:” how can something so miraculous and cheap be resisted by women worldwide?

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

Nicholas Kristof asks, “What if nutritionists came up with a miracle cure for childhood malnutrition? A protein-rich substance that doesn’t require refrigeration? One that is free and is available even in remote towns like this one in Niger where babies routinely die of hunger-related causes?  Impossible, you say? Actually, this miracle cure already exists. It’s breast milk.” 

The belief that breast milk has nearly magical healing properties is at least 300 years old, and probably a lot older than that.  I have a Master’s student who’s working on a thesis about the rhetoric and beliefs about breastfeeding in the early U.S. Republic, and her research in the prescriptive literature by English and American physicians in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries has revealed a pretty static set of beliefs in breast milk’s power not just to ensure the health of infants, but also its uses in curing a variety of maladies in all sufferers, children and adults.  Breast milk was recommended both topically and internally for a variety of complaints in the eighteenth century, so it’s interesting to see Kristof reaching for the same language of healing and “cures” when touting breastfeeding in developing countries.   

While I think in general that Kristof is correct that promoting breastfeeding is a good thing, I also find that his column treats women’s bodies as mere vessels for the feeding of infants, and their time therefore as worthless.  Continue Reading »


5th 2011
Baa Ram U. lays it on thick this year

Posted under jobs & local news

I got an e-mail yesterday explaining that I’m not getting a raise this summer, again.  (We haven’t had a raise of any kind since 2008, and we faculty only get merit increases anyway.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a cost of living increase in my life.)  Here’s the boffo list of valuable, money-saving coupons I’m getting in lieu of a raise:

  • “The Board of Governors has approved our recommendation that there be no increase in [Baa Ram U.] parking permit fees again next year.”
  • “Beginning in the fall, we will be increasing the dependent tuition scholarship from 25% to 50% of resident tuition.” 
  • We will be increasing the Employee Study Privilege benefit from 6 to 9 credits per year, starting this summer.”
  • Faculty and staff will now be able to apply their study privilege credits to [Baa Ram U.] Global Campus courses [i.e. online classes], starting this summer.”
  • The uni has purchased new space for expanding the campus childcare center and it has adopted a new policy to accomodate breastfeeding mothers.  (Funny how this is being touted as a special bonus, isn’t it?)   
  • Baa Ram U. will offer Zipcar services starting in the fall term to faculty, students, and staff, for a fee.
  • The Veterinary Teaching Hospital will offer a 20 percent discount on veterinary services to [Baa Ram U.] employees.

Too bad for folks who don’t have cars, kids, or pets and who already have all the terminal degrees they want–they’re really getting nothing.  (Maybe that’s why they’re doing Zipcar this year–is it a sop to those responsible, green, athletic types who don’t have children and already ditched their cars?) Continue Reading »


19th 2011
Historiann tells all! (And too much is sometimes plenty.)

Posted under American history & art & bad language & Gender & jobs & local news & women's history

Booted and ready to ride!

I don’t quite reveal it all, but I’ve been invited to write recently for peer reviewed journals about the non-peer reviewed world-wide time-wasting blogosphere and my playground here, Historiann!  I know, friends:  Whodathunkit?  And who really cares?

First of all, readers will find an answer to this question at least if they click on over to Common-place to read my contribution to this month’s “Common Reading” feature, which I’ve called “Silence Dogood Rides Again:  Blogging the Frontiers of Early American History,” an essay on the long tradition of pseudonymity in early American history, pseudonymity on the world-wide non-peer reviewed internets, and my ambitions to join the local Roller Derby team.  (For realz!  I’ve got a great idea for a Roller Derby name, anyway, and that’s a good place to start.  You’ll have to click on over to Common-place if you want to find it out!)

Here’s some flava:

My main interest in my blog is now the larger community of readers and commenters who connect me to a wider intellectual world and whom otherwise I’d never meet, work with, or encounter through any of the traditional networking strategies in academia. Forget what you’ve heard about supposedly cool Colorado college towns and so-called “liberal” academia—it’s lonelyout here for a Marxist feminist early Americanist who writes eastern history. My (lightly) pseudonymous identity as a cowgirl probably plays a large part of my success in bringing folks together on the blog. I don’t want to burst your bubble, amigas, but Historiann is a lot more fun than I am—she doesn’t have any family or work responsibilities outside of writing about whatever she wants to write about, and acting as a welcoming host for guests who want to join online conversations about history, the academic workplace, feminism, contemporary politics, and the interesting intersections I find therein. Who knew that there would be 2,000-3,000 people a day interested in reading about my idiosyncratic and not necessarily interconnected interests? My playful pseudonymous identity helps pull it all together. (And, I think a lot of you eastern “Dudes” are pretty easy marks!) Continue Reading »


5th 2010
Work Promotes Confidence! (And maybe drinking.)

Posted under American history & art & childhood & fluff & weirdness

But alas–work does not promote blogging, and I won’t get promoted on the strength of this blog.  (Details on the poster at left here.)  Hope you have a good day of work behind you, too, and are enjoying the adult beverage of your choice, if that’s your style.  Here’s a recipe for a favorite of the twentieth-century working man, the Boilermaker, otherwise known as a “beer ‘n a bump.”  If the shot is dropped or mixed into the beer, I’ve heard it called a Depth Charge.  Truly, nothing could be simpler:


1 pint of beer (your choice)

1 shot of liquor–whiskey or rye is traditional, but tequila is a popular modern choice.  (It’s your call, but I’d stay away from the Frangelico if I were you.)

Directions:  Pour into separate vessels (or mix them together) and serve. Continue Reading »


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