Archive for the 'Berkshire Conference' Category

May 16th 2008
Barbie: the choose life! knit sportswear edition

Posted under Berkshire Conference & Dolls & fluff

Boy, most of you really hated “Barbie Death Camp!”  Here’s a soothing balm of Barbies and Kens in their vintage fashion knitwear.  (Connoisseurs will note that these aren’t the “real” Ken and Barbie dolls, but rather inferior knockoffs.  The male dolls here look strangely more childish than Mattel’s Ken ever looked.)

Check out that Beatles-era red skinny suit with black piping on “Ken” at the far left!  Snappy.  Also, someone should give top-row “Ken” the memo that says that heavy sweaters generally aren’t worn with swim trunks.  I kind of like that pale ice blue dress and coat combo next to swim trunk “Ken,” though–anyone know where I could find something like that?  I’ve got a big conference next month, and I’d like to look my best. 

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May 14th 2008
Intersex crossing

Posted under art & Berkshire Conference & Bodily modification & childhood & Gender & local news

Date:  May 13, 2008

Time:  4:25 p.m.

Place:  Potterville, Colorado; corner of Mystreet and Oneblocknorth.

Found:  Intersex crossing sign.

(I know some jackass teenager did this with a Sharpie–but I’m choosing to read it as a comment on our restrictive and distorting gender binary and compulsory heterosexuality.  And, it’s the most interesting vandalism that I’ve ever seen in this town!)

At the 2008 Berkshire Conference on the History of Women next month, we’ve got a great panel that brings together disability studies, queer theory, and the history of sexuality in really innovative ways.  “How Do They Do It?:  Sexual Representations of Conjoined Twins in U.S. Culture” features Ellen Samuels on “Entertaining Millie and Christine McCoy:  Where Enslavement and Enfreakment Meet,” Alison Kafter on “Fabulist Past, Fabulist Future But no Queer Presence:  Desiring Disability in Sheila Jackson’s Half-Life,” and Cynthia Wu on “The Queer Pleasures and Frustrations of Chang and Eng’s Autopsy,” chaired by Ruth Alexander and with a comment by Catherine Kudlick.  Check out our program here!

 

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May 13th 2008
Barbie Death Camp

Posted under art & Berkshire Conference & Bodily modification & Dolls & fluff & weirdness & women's history

I’m not sure what I think about this installation at Burning Man 2007, “Barbie Death Camp,” but since this blog is one of the few places on the non-peer reviewed internets where you can find deep, intellectual discussions of Barbies and dismembered doll parts, I suppose I have to cowgirl up.  (Be sure to click on the link above to see the whole slide show–this still photo is just one of many.  Thanks to Historiann’s newly tenured friend G.S. for the tip.) 

This blog says that “Barbie Death Camp” is clearly anti-consumerist, anti-corporate satire, but I’m not so sure it can be viewed only or primarily through this lens.  Looking at the slide show is disturbing–is it a feminist commentary on the  commodification and dismemberment of women’s bodies?  Is it a commentary on the ambivalent relationship girls have with their Barbies, since they frequently train their aggression on the dolls, cutting their hair and frequently removing their arms, legs, and heads?  Or is it just another example of female bodies being dismembered for our pleasure and entertainment?  (You can’t see it in this photograph, but the yellow school bus near the lower right corner has “DIE BITCH” scrawled on the side, so it’s not accidental that it’s a Barbie and not a Ken or G.I. Joe Death Camp.  I’m not sure how I feel about the appropriation (complete with toy ovens) of a specific historical event, the Holocaust.  Does it trivialize the attempted genocide of Jews, Gypsies, Gays, Poles, and disabled people in the twentieth century?  Is there an implicit commentary of the uniform perfection of Barbie bodies being destroyed in the same manner as the “racially inferior” or otherwise imperfect victims of the Holocaust?  Is it an accident that the Barbies in BDC look like they’re all white and are overwhelmingly blond, too?  What if it had been called “Middle Passage Barbie,” “Barbie Trail of Tears,” or “Killing Fields Barbie?” 

Reflecting on Historiann’s recent foray into contemporary feminist art, this project seems like it could have been included in the recent The Way that we Rhyme:  Women, Art, & Politics exhibition at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.  It shares many of the same features:  the use of found objects in particular, but also the “outsider art” fetish that many “insider artists” have affected lately, an aesthetic of amateurism and bad taste.  (Actually, in many ways, “Barbie Death Camp” is more compelling and provoking than many of the installations at the YBCA, which seemed to labor rather humorlessly under a different kind of historical weight.)

For those of you interested in pursuing some of these issues in a more serious forum, at the 2008 Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, we’ve got a panel on “Gender, Torture, and Memory,” which features papers on American POW’s in Korea, Femicide in Guatemala in the Cold War to the twenty-first century, and women in Stalin’s Gulags.  (Unfortunately, our roundtable on “Women and the Holocaust:  Reshaping the Field in the 21st Century through Oral History and Personal Narratives,” was cancelled.)  We also have a roundtable on “What (if anything) Can Women’s History and the History of Sexuality Teach Us about Genocide and Extreme Violence,” and a Sunday morning seminar on “Historicizing Sexual Violence,” led by Estelle Freedman of Stanford University, which features many papers about rape and sexual violence in wartime and in occupied or colonized countries:  colonial and postcolonial India, Nazi-occupied territories, 17th century Ireland, 1950s and 1960s Argentina, and 19th and 20th century Kenya, South Africa, and Costa Rica.  (You can find the full program here.) 

What do you think?  Is “Barbie Death Camp” funny?  Horrifying?  Feminist, or anti-feminist?  Too clever by half?  Or just really good bad art?

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May 11th 2008
“Dr. Colorado” on the 1908 DNC in Denver; sister Jan on early modern women’s labor history

Posted under American history & Berkshire Conference & European history & local news & women's history

Tom Noel, who teaches at the University of Colorado, Denver, and is known locally as “Dr. Colorado,” has a nice overview of the 1908 Democratic National Convention the last time it was in Denver.  There, Democrats officially nominated William Jennings Bryan for the third time, only to see him go down to defeat again in November.  Noel notes in his article that women’s suffrage was a major issue at the convention, since Colorado white women’s right to vote had been recognized since 1893.  Women from Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming attended the 1908 convention for the first time as delegates.

Apparently, historical talent runs in the Noel family, as his sister Jan Noel is a leading Canadian women’s historian at the University of Toronto, and one of the few who works on Francophone and pre-Confederation women’s history.  She’ll be on a panel at the Berkshire Conference next month called Women and Work in Preindustrial Europe and America, presenting a paper called “Alice (Clark) and the Looking Glass:  Searching for ‘Golden Ages’ among French, English, and American women, 1600-1800.”  English feminist Alice Clark (1874-1934) was one of the first women’s historians ever–her Working Life of Women in the Seventeenth Century was first published in 1919, and because it was so highly regarded (and the bibliography on women’s history remained so thin for 50 years) it was reprinted in 1968, 1982, and 1992.  (Thanks to Early Modern Notes for this excellent overview of Clark’s life and work.)  Along with Ivy Pinchbeck (1898-1982), whose Women Workers and the Industrial Revolution, 1750-1850 was first published in 1930 but reprinted again in 1969 and 1981, these pioneering authors owned the topic of English women’s labor history in the early modern period.  I read their books in graduate school in the early 1990s, and anyone working in early modern European women’s labor history has to grapple with them, so Noel’s re-visitation of Clark’s work is highly appropriate given the theme of the 2008 conference, “Continuities and Changes.”

I wonder if many women’s history researchers are (like me) indebted to women historians of Clark’s and Pinchbeck’s era.  Most of these women weren’t professionally trained, but with great intelligence and sensitivity, they invented social and cultural history in the late nineteenth century, and were arguably more widely read and are still better remembered than male historians writing within the conventions of the academy.  (See Bonnie G. Smith’s The Gender of History:  Men, Women, and Historical Practice for an eye-opening review of historiography and historians over the past 250 years.)  I could not have written my books* without the dogged research and guidance of amateur historians like C. Alice Baker (1833-1909, pictured at right), her younger protege Emma Lewis Coleman (1853-1942), and the unbelievably prolific Alice Morse Earle (1851-1911).  When my first book received its Library of Congress call number (F7.L68), I was extremely gratified and proud that my book will be shelved very near many of Earle’s books.  (She owns the F7.E section!) 

*(The second book is still a work in progress–alas!)

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May 9th 2008
Soylent Green…it’s historians!

Posted under Berkshire Conference & Gender & Intersectionality & jobs & race & students & women's history

No matter how much academics in the blogosphere bitch and moan amongst themselves, those crazy, cockeyed, optimistic kids keep signing up for graduate school in ever greater numbers!  According to this report at Inside Higher Ed, “More Historians on the Way,” based on this report by the American Historical Association, applications and enrollment in Ph.D. programs are up, but so is attrition from said programs.  Only 49 percent of graduate students have finished their degrees in under 10 years.

Historiann could have told you this was going to happen, as it has in every economic downturn over the past 20 years.  I started graduate school just before the 1990-91 recession drove up applications in my graduate department (Après moi, le deluge!), and I’m sure that the current recession is a good part of what drove applications up this year.  Twenty-two year-olds with liberal arts degrees look around and say, “whereas we used to be able to count on working at Whole Foods or Barnes and Noble with our B.A.’s while we decided what we wanted to do in life, now we can’t even count on getting a boring retail job.”  (Well, that was Historiann’s choice, anyway–while most of the rest of her generation became slacker baristas ca. 1990-94, and then became internet millionaires in 1998-99, she got a Ph.D. instead.)  Compared to unemployment, working in a library for five to ten years looks pretty good, and I’m sure most will stay long enough to get their Master’s degrees, and maybe even figure out their true calling.  And there are worse things than spending a year or two achieving a greater knowledge of history, even if you don’t become a professional historian, so long as you’re not racking up too much debt.  You’ll lower your lifetime risk of skin cancer, at the very least, and learn how to pronounce “Michel Foucault” the fancy French way.  (The only downside of graduate history education is that every U.S. Civil War buff at every party you’ll attend for the rest of your lives will find you and want to get your opinion on his pet theory on the Battle of Waxahatchmo Crick, even if you studied monastic communities in medieval Flanders.)

The author of the AHA report, Robert Townsend, will appear at the 2008 Berkshire Conference on the History of Women at our opening night plenary session, “The Changing (?) Status of Women in the Historical Profession,” Thursday June 12 at 7 p.m. at the Ted Mann Concert Hall on the campus of the University of Minnesota.  Along with Noralee Frankel (also from the AHA), he will provide the statistics, Paula Sanders will speak to best practices, Elizabeth Lunbeck will speak about women’s experiences in the academy over the past 40 years, and Muriel McClendon will address the experiences of faculty of color.  The session will be chaired by Mary Maples Dunn, a longtime member of the Berkshire Conference and whose professional interest in this issue over a nearly 50 year career as a faculty member and administrator is legendary.  Stop by to ask them some tough questions.  I’m not sure they’ll necessarily have all the answers–or the answers you’ll want to hear–but it should make for a lively conversation.  (See the links on the left sidebar for conference details and a PDF of the program.)

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April 7th 2008
Rape still a powerful weapon of war

Posted under Berkshire Conference & book reviews & Gender & Intersectionality & race & unhappy endings & women's history

UPDATED BELOW

Displaced women from Darfur (17 November 2007)Last night, I heard this report on the BBC World Service about the rape of women and girls in the conflict in Darfur, based on this study by Human Rights Watch.  The BBC says that although rape has been a tool of warfare throughout this conflict, the patterns have changed–it’s not just the Janjaweed, anymore.  “Women and girls (photo, right) are now as likely to be assaulted in periods of calm as during attacks on their villages and towns.  Government soldiers, militiamen, and rebel fighters [are] also targeting women on the fringes of camps for displaced people spread around the region.”  We saw this in the wars in the Balkans in the 1990s–although prominent feminist legal theorist Catherine Mackinnon was important in drawing attention to the use of rape and forced pregnancy by Serb soldiers in the wars in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia, this 1996 book by Beverly Allen looks like the comprehensive study of that human rights disaster.  So, as in Europe, Iraq, and Afghanistan, one of the most important lessons we can learn about modern warfare is that women’s rights and safety are dramatically degraded in war zones, and that women’s rights are never the priorities of the new governments that rise in the wake of these wars.

Rape and Sexual Power in Early America: CoverWhile rape appears to have been common in European warfare transhistorically, it wasn’t univeral in the Americas.  For example, there is no evidence that Native or European American women in captivity among the Northeastern woodlands Indians were raped in the borderlands warfare of the seventeenth and eighteenth-centuries.  Captivity was a means of simultaneously weakening your enemy’s numbers and strengthening your own, so captives targeted for adoption were treated lovingly as family members, and thereby induced to stay.  (However, scholars have noted the use of rape as  tool of war by other Native Americans.)  As Sharon Block’s 2006 book, Rape and Sexual Power in Early America conclusively demonstrates, rape was mostly the tool and prerogative of European and Euro-American men in colonial America because of their dominance over other people’s bodies, principally enslaved women and women indentured servants.  Successful rape prosecutions were rare because sexual coercion by men was considered heteronormative, and consent wasn’t a serious issue:  women were supposed to resist, and men were supposed to press their advantage–so where’s the harm?  (At least, that’s what most communities said, especially if the victim was a low-status woman.)  The one constituency that was regularly convicted of rape was African American men, and Block demonstrates that rape prosecutions against black men in the eighteenth century were a means of policing and punishing their sexual access to white women. 

For those of you interested in rape and rape as a tool of war, Diary of an Anxious Black Woman has a trailer on her website for The Greatest Silence:  Rape in the Congo, which she notes will be shown on HBO tomorrow night, April 8.  The rape, torture, and mutilation of women has happened throughout the bloody civil war that’s raged in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for nearly a decade, by both foreign militias and the Congolese Army.  If you don’t have HBO, or can’t stay in to watch tomorrow, you can catch it at the Berkshire Conference on the History of Women this June, courtesy of Women Make Movies.  (Historiann is in charge of the movie schedule, which isn’t final yet.  The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo will be shown sometime Friday, June 13 or Saturday, June 14 between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. in the West Bank Program Auditorium in Willey Hall at the University of Minnesota.)  The final film schedule will be posted later this month at the 2008 Conference website.

Do you think there are some universal–or near universal–laws about rape in warfare, or about rape in general?  Do you know of any exceptions to my (informed guess) that in modern warfare, “women’s rights and safety are dramatically degraded in war zones, and that women’s rights are never the priorities of the new governments that rise in the wake of these wars.”

UPDATEWOC Ph.D. has a post up about The Greatest Silence too.  She writes, “it is important for us to develop a complex theory of sexual violence that includes war and war that includes sexual violence as a tool of war. Once we do, we will be better able to address the specific cases of sexual violence in war zones and better protect women outside of war.”

UPDATE II:  Apparently, the U.S. Senate just last week held its first hearings on the use of rape as a weapon in warfare, with a special emphasis on rape in the Congo, including a screening of selections from The Greatest Silence, and testimony from the movie’s director, Lisa F. Jackson.  Thank you, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL).

24 Comments »

April 2nd 2008
“I’ll just die if I don’t get this recipie!”

Posted under American history & Berkshire Conference & Bodily modification & childhood & Gender & unhappy endings & women's history

Simply perfect:  Via Suburban Guerilla, botox may migrate from your wrinkles into your brain.  But then, maybe that’s what cosmetic surgery advocates want–to turn all women into Stepford Wives!  (Kind of like that 1994 Breeder’s song “No Aloha,” with the line, “Motherhood means mental freeze.  Freezeheads.  No aloha!”) 

I always thought that it was simply perfect that Katherine Ross played the main character Joanna Eberhart in The Stepford Wives (the original and only decent 1975 version.  That’s her on the left in a still from the movie.)  Remember that she played Elaine Robinson in The Graduate (1967), and that movie ended with Ben and Elaine on the bus after she ran away from her wedding, both of them looking slightly confused and sad that after their grand gesture, they didn’t really know where they were going.  Well, I guess we found out:  next stop, Stepford!  I suppose that was unsurprising, since the 1960s were much more about “liberations” that preserved male sexual access to women and male dominance.  And, Ben was never really in love with Elaine–he was in love with the idea of being in love with her, and she was in love with the idea of royally pissing off her parents.

It’s interesting that in 1975, the male fantasy depicted in The Stepford Wives was one were the women were submissive and sexually available, and the movie’s position was explicitly feminist.  (When Joanna gets suspicious about what’s going on with the women of Stepford, she enlists a sympathetic friend to help her join a Consciousness Raising group!)  Children and their needs hardly factored into the movie.  But, then, that’s actually accurate to my memory of the 1970s.  Kids were left to raise each other in roving gangs of kickball or T-ball teams, or on bad weather days, we played Sonny & Cher or Donny & Marie in someone’s basement.  Unlike today’s cosseted, bike-helmeted, car-seated, minivan-chauffeured, parentally-monitored little darlings, kids in my generation were the original latchkey kids, even if our mothers weren’t in the paid workforce. 

If you’re interested in the 1970s, come to the Berkshire Conference, where we’ve got two sessions devoted to the 1970ssession 71, Queer Politics and American Identities in the 1970s and 1980s, and session 173, Towards a History of the 1970s in America:  A Roundtable on Gender and Popular Culture, in addition to at least nine other individual papers on other panels.  (Program details:  just click here!)

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April 1st 2008
Anthea Butler on NPR’s Morning Edition

Posted under American history & Berkshire Conference

Professor Anthea Butler of the University of Rochester (photo right) was on NPR’s Morning Edition Monday speaking on the topic of “Prosperity Gospel churches,” which teach that true believers will grow rich if they only believe and send money to the church.  (Click here to hear her interview with Steve Innskeep.)  Prof. Butler points out that this is also known as the “People of Faith, or the Word of Faith movement.”  Some of these megachurch media stars like Creflo Dollar, Kenneth Copeland, and Benny Hinn, Eddie Long, Joyce Meyer, and Paula White are the so-called “Grassley Six” under investigation now by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) for what sounds like a faith-based pyramid scheme.

Prof. Butler an expert on African American religion, evangelicalism, and fundamentalism, and is one of the participants in the Berkshire Conference on the History of Women June 12-15 in Minneapolis.  She will appear on a roundtable called Religious History is American Women’s History.  (See the full program here–Prof. Butler’s roundtable is #21, on page 29).  Come on down and check it out in person–hers is not a face made for radio!

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March 10th 2008
Free publicity for women’s history bloggers!

Posted under Berkshire Conference & Gender & Intersectionality & women's history

pat-steir-1981.jpgAs one of the Program Committee co-Chairs of the 2008 Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, along with Peg Strobel and Susan Amussen, I sent out the following call for blogs (a CFB?) a few months ago:

“We on the 2008 Program Committee are assembling a links page for blogs that deal substantially with women’s history (both pedagogy as well as research and publications) and professional issues of interest to feminists both inside and outside of the historical profession.  While blogging is a free-form genre, and we understand that they will frequently offer a mixture of both serious concerns and humorous commentary, we cannot include blogs that focus predominantly on hobbies or other personal interests outside of women’s history and/or the aforementioned professional issues.”

Please let me know, in the comments below, if you have a blog you’d like us to list.  Just pop the link in your comment, and include a short list of the topics that you write about most frequently.  (You may also e-mail me if you have any questions.)  You do not have to be a professional historian or studying to become one in order to be listed–you just have to write a good blog that’s on point.  Also, I’d really appreciate recommendations for other people’s blogs you’d like to see on our links pages, which will appear on both this year’s conference website (www.berks.umn.edu) and on our main website (www.berksconference.org).  For those of you with blogs, I’d appreciate it if you’d help me spread the message–please link to this post with abandon, and encourage your friends to contribute.

As we approach the conference on June 12-15, I’ll be doing more blogging about the Berks, and highlighting some of the sessions that I think will be standouts, perhaps some “liveblogging” at the conference, and follow-up through the summer.  (Did you know that one of the fun things this academic conference offers is a dance?  F’real!  Check out the program, page 88, at the bottom.) 

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