Archive for the 'American history' Category

February 13th 2014
Free speech and bad art at Wellesley

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

Wake up!!!

Wake up!!!

Have any of you been following the fracas over the temporary installation of Tony Matelli’s “Sleepwalker” statue on the Wellesley College campus?  Lenore Skenazy published a faux-outraged commentary in the Wall Street Journal that summarizes the controversy and predictably makes fun of the campus feminists who object to the statue, rather than questioning the aesthetic judgment of the art museum director who decided to put up this crummy piece of art in the first place:

“Wellesley should be a safe place for their students, not a triggering one,” wrote one petition-signer, as if the statue actually made the campus dangerous. That’s a brand-new way of looking at—and trying to legislate—the world. So I checked in with Robert Shibley, senior vice president at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, about the Wellesley panic. “It’s the idea that any kind of discomfort is a form of assault,” he noted.

Once we equate making people feel bad with actually attacking them, free expression is basically obsolete, since anything a person does, makes or says could be interpreted as abuse.

Lisa Fischman, director of the art museum on campus, wrote an open letter to students explaining that, to her, the Matelli statue depicts a vulnerable, pathetic stranger. (He’s sleepwalking in his skivvies in the snow, after all.) But to the petition-signers, her point of view is apparently not worthy. One wrote that Ms. Fischman’s letter, like the sculpture itself, “should occupy a less intrusive place.”

Yet another wrote: “A school endorsing the decision to expose its female students to this . . . violates civil rights laws.” I’ll stop quoting these petition-signers now—their words are triggering some of my own fears.

Since when is it a “civil right” not to feel disturbed by a piece of art? And who gets to decide which art we chuck? You don’t like the “Sleepwalker,” but I don’t like “Winged Victory.” It stirs scary thoughts of decapitation. Dear Louvre, please stash that headless gal in the attic.

Yes, it’s over-the-top to describe an inanimate piece of sculpture as an assault.  But it’s also ridiculous to say that questioning Fischman’s judgment assaults liberty of speech as well.  (They submitted a petition; they didn’t occupy the museum and hold her at gunpoint in her office until she had the sculpture removed.  What the hell–it was a good effort to try to sell more copies of Skenazy’s four-year old book!) Continue Reading »

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February 9th 2014
Victorian Secrets by Sarah A. Chrisman (2013): perhaps some things are better kept under wraps.

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

victoriansecretschrismanBecause of my clear fascination with historical shapewear and undergarments, a number of people have recommended that I read Victorian Secrets:  What a Corset Taught Me about the Past, the Present, and Myself by Sarah A. Chrisman (New York:  Skyhorse Publishing, 2013).  Although I am deeply interested in clothing and historical costume, and although I incorporate this kind of material culture into my work as a historian, I have never been tempted to become a historical re-enactor.  Ever.  Perhaps because of my utter disinterest in wearing historical clothing myself, I was eager to read Chrisman’s book, which is an autobiographical account of a relationship between a 30-year old woman  and her corset.  Chrisman is very insightful about the ways in which corseting herself forces changes in her body, posture, and wardrobe.  However, she is much less thoughtful about how the people of Seattle respond to her experiment in corsetry.

Chrisman and her husband Gabriel enjoy wearing real vintage clothing from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and she describes their growing involvement with the reenactor community in Washington state.  In wearing a corset, Chrisman reports that she was able to leave her tall, slouchy, not model-thin body behind and finally to feel at home in her body for the first time in her life.  Her breasts were relieved of the pressure of her bra straps, and for once her curves were flattering.  Furthermore, her corset limited the amount of food she could consume at any given time, removing another source of anxiety about her body:  “It was no longer a matter of biology, but of simple physics:  my stomach could not expand past the diameter of my corset.  If I started the day with my corset at twenty-eight, or twenty-four, or twenty inches, as long as I did not loosen it, I would have the exact same measurement at the end of the day, no matter what I ate or what I did in the interim.  I could eat until I was full at every meal,” (120-21).

However, Chrisman approaches her interests in corsetry and historical costume like a buff, not a historian.  And like many buffs, she displays an astonishing intolerance for any fellow buffs whose interest in historic costume isn’t as accurate as Chrisman believes it should be.  Continue Reading »

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February 8th 2014
Sochi 2014 opening ceremonies: the fashion beatdown

Posted under American history & art & fluff & O Canada

OLY-2014-OPENING-CEREMONY

Lifties, terrorists, or Team Ireland?

You have to feel some sympathy for the designers of the team uniforms for the opening ceremonies for the winter Olympics.  After all, it’s an all cold weather sports event held at midwinter in the Northern hemisphere, so the team look has to be built around parkas, and perhaps accessorized with touqes and mufflers.  Aside from that, you need to find a look that’s flattering (or at least not deeply un-flattering) to people whose body types range in both sexes from tiny figure skaters to thick-thighed speed skaters and to ginormous hockey players and curlers.

But, honestly friends:  can’t we do any better than to make most of the international teams look like lifties or Teletubbies (see Argentina for the former, and Germany for the latter)?  And Ireland:  did you want to make your team look like IRA terrorists?

sochimexico

Team Mexico: kind of awesome

Mexico is getting slammed by some, but I thought their getups were pretty stylin’.  I like team uniforms that try to connect to the national identity of the country represented, and it’s quite a challenge when you have a tropical or subtropical country.  Cross your eyes a little bit and they look like matadors in traditional costume.  The U.S. uniforms probably seemed like a good idea when viewed in isolation, but having 200+ people in a great mass wearing that getup was just ugly and confusing. Continue Reading »

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February 5th 2014
Mooks talking MOOCs: Our AHA MOOC panel comments are now online at Perspectives

Posted under American history & class & European history & jobs & publication & students & technoskepticism

cowgirlropeAnd guess how I learned this?  Through the Twitter machine, when I saw Jonathan Rees tweet a link to his contribution, “The Taylorization of the Historians’ Workplace.”  (Regular readers will recall that Jonathan put together a panel on “How Should Historians Respond to MOOCs” at 2014 annual conference of the American Historical Association in Washington, D.C., last month.)

Our panel comments–slightly tweaked and edited–are now available at Perspectives.  Many thanks to editor Allen Mikaelian for his patient editing and great title suggestions for my contribution, “Can Teaching Be Taken ‘to Scale’?”  (Check it out–I quote William F. Buckley approvingly!)  I also quote one of you I saw at AHA who said to me something like Continue Reading »

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February 4th 2014
Tuesday roundup: hellz to the FAIL, or CU booze & loser cruise, and who’s screwed by CSU-Pueblo

Posted under American history & bad language & class & Gender & jobs & local news & unhappy endings

colorfulcoloradoHowdy, friends, and as the sign says, “Welcome to Colorful Colorado!”  Heck’sapoppin’ out here on the high plains, where the cold and the snow apparently will never cease this winter.  Oh, well:  I’ve got my horse to keep me warm–here’s hoping that you have someone to keep you warm, too.  Some in-state news and views you can use (or at least laugh at):

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January 30th 2014
I think I’m a little bit in love

Posted under American history & book reviews & class & happy endings & jobs & students

Meredith Broussard

Meredith Broussard

with Meredith Broussard, a data journalism professor at Temple University in Philadelphia.  Get this:  she bans the use of e-books in her classes although she teaches courses in digital journalism (h/t to commenter Susan.)  As Broussard explains on her syllabus:

You must bring a print copy of the texts to class. While I understand that e-books are convenient, and I enjoy reading them myself, our class depends on face-to-face interaction. Print is the absolute best interface for what we do in this class. The myriad interruptions and malfunctions of electronic readers tend to interfere with class conversation and distract you from being able to refer quickly to a passage in the text. So: read on whatever you like at home, but bring a book or a printout to class.

Why?  It turns out that in her experience, our so-called “digital native” students don’t always plan ahead.  (Surprise!  Or not, for anyone accustomed to working with late adolescents and young adults.)  Also, as I have argued here in the past, she notes that codex technology is unsurpassed for her teaching style and goals:

I really do believe that print is the ideal interface for a classroom. I used to allow e-readers in class. For a couple of semesters, I patiently endured students announcing their technical difficulties to the entire class: “Wait, I’m out of juice, I have to find a plug.” “What page is that on? My Kindle has different pages, so I can’t find the passage we’re talking about.” “Professor, do you have an iPad charging cord I could use?” After a while, I realized that I was spending an awful lot of class time doing tech support. The 2-minute interruptions were starting to add up. E-readers were a disruptive technology in the classroom—and not in a good way. Continue Reading »

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January 26th 2014
Gender, marriage, labor, and the “American Dream”

Posted under American history & class & Gender & Intersectionality & jobs & race & women's history

wendydavis

Wendy Davis

The Republicans–they just can’t help themselves!  First, we hear of Two-Buck Huck’s “Uncle Sugar” comments, and then we see that other Republicans are accusing Texas Gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis of dishonesty because although she lived in a trailer park with her eldest daughter, she didn’t live long enough in a trailer park; and because her second husband helped send her to law school, we shouldn’t buy her hard-luck tale of scrappy bootstrapping.  Liza Mundy has some thoughts on the Davis fracas in Politico:

The kerfuffle began last weekend, with the publication of a profile in the Dallas Morning News that filled out gaps in her story, and continued all week as Davis was spun by her critics as a social climber, an ingrate, a neglectful mother. She has been chastised for starting out in her marriage as a dependent (golddigger!), and finishing it as a lawyer so financially successful that she was the one paying child support to her ex-husband (careerist harpy!).

The exact same things could be said about Bill Clinton and Barack Obama but no one ever writes this way about male pols because our culture presumes that men are entitled to claim the benefit of women’s labor and pretend that everything they accomplish belongs to their efforts only.  Both Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton were the high-earning heavy-lifters in their marriages before their husbands ran for president.

Mundy concludes:

[Davis] is being subjected to a double standard. Behavior that would be unremarkable in a man—leaving your kids for prolonged periods in the capable hands of your spouse, as Barack Obama did, as did zillions of other fathers who campaigned for public office—is somehow suspect, even unnatural, in a mother. Following your fundamental nature; learning that there is a whole big world out there; adjusting your aspirations upward; getting some help from people who believe in you, people whose well-being is entangled with your own: this is the stuff of the typical American success story, the American dream. It’s a story we fall in love with, except, apparently, when the dreamer happens to be female. Continue Reading »

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January 24th 2014
Friday round-up: It’s What You Want!

Posted under American history & Gender & jobs & local news & students & technoskepticism & unhappy endings & wankers

Booted and rarin' to go!

Booted and rarin’ to go!

Who’s knows what you want, what you really really want?  I do, and what you want is a round-up, of course.  It’s been too long.  Take a gander, friends:

  • MOOC meltdown!  (Quelle suprise!)  It’s almost as if I know what I’m talking about!  From Inside Higher Ed:  “A professor’s plan to let students in his Coursera massive open online course moderate themselves went awry over the holidays as the conversation, in his words, “very quickly disintegrated into a snakepit of personal venom, religious bigotry and thinly disguised calls for violence.” But some students have accused him of abusive and tyrannical behavior in his attempts to restore civility.”  Cue Nelson Muntz.  I suppose there’s something to be learned from internet hatefests, but I don’t think it should be for college credit.
  • Speaking of college credit:  check out this experiment in using Twitter to engage students in survey classes run by my colleague Robert Jordan.  He writes, “The students, primarily freshman, have formed groups of 10-15 individuals tasked with the goal of a producing and publishing a work of digital public history via Twitter over the course of the semester. . . . [S]tudents quickly learn to discern an academic from a non-academic source; work collectively to determine the best narrative structure for the publication of their particular topic; develop an awareness of the opportunities and challenges inherent to communicating information through digital media; utilize digital and physical library resources; construct Chicago Manual of Style-formatted bibliographies for their sources; and become “knowledgeable users” of several digital technologies.”  I’d say that’s pretty darn good for students in a 100-level survey course.  You can find Robert on Twitter at @rjordan_csu–this semester he’s offering a new undergraduate course in digital history that will in part be co-taught by my colleague, Sarah Payne, who’s teaching a digital history methods course at the graduate level.
  • As my late high school French teacher used to say, run, don’t walk over to Vanity Fair to read Joshua Prager’s portrait of Norma McCorvey, the “Jane Roe” behind the key Supreme Court decision on abortion 41 years ago in Roe v. Wade.  I’ve heard the moral of this story before–about McCorvey’s ideological flip-flop from pro-choice to anti-abortion, and the argument that McCorvey isn’t so much a political activist as an opportunist.  That’s probably not new to most of you either–and really, I don’t blame McCorvey for attempting to profit from her own exploitation, considering that she doesn’t have a lot else going for her.  No, I was more interested Continue Reading »

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January 23rd 2014
Religion and Sexual Revolutions in the United States: a graduate student conference

Posted under American history & Gender & GLBTQ & students

From a correspondent:

Call for Papers: “Religion and Sexual Revolutions in the United States”

Graduate Student Conference, May 9, 2014

John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics at Washington University in St. Louis

The John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics at Washington University in St. Louis invites paper proposals for a graduate student conference on the topic of “Religion and Sexual Revolutions in the United States.” We are interested in graduate student papers that focus on any aspect of religious responses and/or contributions to changing sexual cultures in the United States, from the colonial period to the present. While we expect the conference to generate insights on the sexual revolutions that grew out of the 1960s and 1970s, we also invite submissions that interpret the idea of “sexual revolution” more broadly, to include for example: the sexual politics of new religious movements during the First or Second Great Awakening; religious responses to the “flapper” and “pansy” crazes of the 1920s; or religious voices in the feminist “sex wars” of the 1980s. We particularly welcome proposals that complicate existing narratives about religious conservatism and sexual politics, that highlight leftist and centrist religious responses to sexual revolution, or that emphasize the contributions and reactions of minority religious communities and new religious movements to shifting sexual cultures and debates. Continue Reading »

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January 22nd 2014
“Run around out there, kids.”

Posted under American history & bad language & jobs & local news & unhappy endings

cowgirlhaybarn

Time for some stall-muckin’!

This appears to be Baa Ram U.’s management strategy right now.  But first the good news from the Pueblo Chieftan (h/t Jonathan Rees):  Sociology proffie Tim McGettigan’s access to email has been restored, but his ability to send out mass emails is currently blocked.  (Chancellor Michael Martin, CSU Deputy General Counsel Johnna Doyle, and CSU-Pueblo president Lesley Di Mare have never heard of twentieth-century technologies like gmail, hotmail, yahoo, or early 21st-century technologies like blogs or Twitter.)  As Rees says, anything less than an abject apology for comparing him to mass-murderers and a full restoration of his email privileges is unacceptable.  Engaging or arguing with your political opposition is fine, and even welcome; petty over-retaliation is not.  It only makes you look weak and stupid.

I agree with Rees.  CSU needs to back down entirely and apologize.  Let’s review:

  • McGettigan sends group email suggesting parallels between Martin’s plan to fire faculty and staff to the Ludlow Massacre.
  • CSU-Pueblo suspends McGettigan’s email access, compromising his ability to do his job
  • CSU-Pueblo President Lesley Di Mare releases a statement claiming that “Considering the lessons we’ve all learned from Columbine, Virginia Tech, and more recently Arapahoe High School, I can only say that the security of our students, faculty, and staff are our top priority.  Continue Reading »

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