Archive for the 'Gender' Category

October 7th 2014
Where’d ya go, Chip Hilton? Our historical imagination turns its lonely eyes to you.

Posted under American history & childhood & class & Gender & GLBTQ & jobs & race

chiphiltonMy sabbatical is mellowing me out and I’m definitely enjoying the relaxed, non-wired vibe at the Huntington.  The Huntington is wired, but what I mean by un-wired is that people here appear to be living their professional and personal lives in meatspace, face-to-face, rather than online.  They’re reading historical manuscripts and valuable rare books, they’re having coffee with each other, they’re meeting for lunch in the garden cafe.  In other words, not everyone in the world is on Twitter or blogs or Instagram all of the time!  It’s like it’s the War of 1812 or something:  before telegraphy even.

So, inevitably, I’m going to miss a lot of what’s happening now.  (I do believe my knowledge of both British and North American history in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries will be nonpareil in Colorado upon my return, however.)  Clearly, I missed a fascinating little interview with James McPherson of Princeton University in the New York Timeswhich is purely coincidental to the publication of his new biography of Jefferson Davis, I am sure.  McPherson is probably the most famous American military historian, and among the most famous historians of the Civil War era.

Some friends of mine alerted me to this interview, because something about it just didn’t seem right.  Let me quote an extensive passage from it now:

What books are currently on your night stand?

Ron Chernow, “Washington: A Life,” and Daniel James Brown, “The Boys in the Boat.” In very different ways, these books chronicle unlikely triumphs over seemingly insuperable odds to found a nation from 1775 to 1797 and to win an Olympic gold medal in 1936.

What was the last truly great book you read?

James Oakes, “Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861-1865.” A powerful analytical narrative of the confluence of politics and war that ended America’s shame and trauma.

Who are the best historians writing today?

Bernard Bailyn, David Brion Davis, Gordon Wood, Eric Foner, David McCullough, David Hackett Fischer. In elegant prose, based on impeccable research, they have covered the broad sweep of American history from the early colonial settlements through Harry Truman’s administration.

What’s the best book ever written about the Civil War?

The best book is actually an eight-volume series published from 1947 to 1971, by Allan Nevins: “Ordeal of the Union,” “The Emergence of Lincoln” and “The War for the Union.” It is all there — the political, economic, social, diplomatic and military history of the causes, course and consequences of the war, written in the magisterial style for which Nevins was famous.

Do you have a favorite biography of a Civil War-era figure?

Jean Edward Smith, “Grant.” A lucid and empathetic account of the victorious general and underrated president that helped usher in the current revival of Grant’s reputation.

Continue Reading »

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October 2nd 2014
Thursday’s lesson: how progressive historical change happens, plus Lena Dunham.

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

elvgrenlibraryFirst, Lena Dunham!  As usual, Rebecca Traister explains it all:

There are American presidents who have come in for less scrutiny than Lena Dunham. There are heads of major banks whose work to erode the possibility of middle and working class stability in the United States has drawn less criticism thanGirls. There are sitting Supreme Court justices, men who have recently disemboweled the Voting Rights Act, whose intelligence has been insulted less sharply than that of a 28-year-old woman who created and stars in a show on HBO.

This degree of pressure is unsustainable. Not just for Dunham, whose thick skin—and willingness to engage the valid critiques—does earn her my full-throated, unequivocal admiration. But also for all the exceptions to male rules—from Beyoncé to Hillary, Shonda to Sheryl—who get pulled and pushed and combed and raked over with equivalent ardor. This craziness is depleting and, I worry, ultimately defeating for all the other women out there with big ambitions: ambitions to write or sing or pass legislation, to lead or create, and to make money, win elections, earn recognition for their work.

Cherchez les femmes, mes amis!  Cherchez les femmes.  How messed up is it that Traister doesn’t even have to use last names when she writes the first names “Beyoncé to Hillary, Shonda to Sheryl.”  We can fill in the blanks because tragically, there’s only one of each, right?  If you missed it, Terri Gross did a fantastic interview with Lena Dunham this week.  It’s a model for how feminists of very different generations can communicate and learn from one another, a subject relevant to my next item.  (This will take a while, so get comfortable.) Continue Reading »

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September 26th 2014
Granny watch: new fake issue for mainstream press, same old sexist dismissal

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

grannywolf“As Clinton ponders her second run for the White House, many variables are in play, from her age to her health to her economic platform to her status as a soon-to-be grandmother.”

I get it that Hillary Clinton is unlike every other presidential candidate in American history, not just as the only serious woman contender, but also as the wife of a former president, but:  srsly?  Todd Purdham implies here that grandmotherhood is going to so delight and derange Clinton that she’ll toss her last chance to run for president out the window.

We’ve had other presidents who were near relatives of previous presidents in American history three times before–the Adamses, the Roosevelts, and the Bushes*, not to mention the many brothers Kennedy who ran for president between 1960 and 1980–and clearly, in these cases the whole family is implicated in campaigns in a way that’s different from other presidential campaigns.  But I don’t remember the media running stories in 1998 about how George W. Bush might not run for president because he might have to miss his daughters’ high school prom night, do you?  (Oh, yeah:  The media were all about the presidential blow jobs back then.)  Mitt Romney’s dozens of grandchildren were never presented as a reason for him to kick back and let 2012 go by without him, although I recall several stories emphasizing the comfort his large family could give him after his loss. Continue Reading »

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September 24th 2014
Stop telling Notorious R.B.G. to step away from the bench.

Posted under American history & bad language & Gender & happy endings & jobs & women's history

ruthginsburg

The one & only Notorious R.B.G.

This Sunday morning, I snapped open my copy of the Los Angeles Times to see yet another “everyone says [U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice] Ruth Bader Ginsburg should retire ZOMG now now NOW!!!!” story. (The online version of the story’s headline today says “she has no plans to retire soon,” but the headline of the paper edition gave voice to her critics who are trying to shoo her off the bench.)  If she retired today or in December, do any of these so-called liberals or leftists seriously think President Obama would get any judge remotely similar to her through the U.S. Senate’s “advise and consent” process?

Here’s what R.B.G. has to say about that:

Who do you think President Obama could appoint at this very day, given the boundaries that we have? If I resign any time this year, he could not successfully appoint anyone I would like to see in the court. [The Senate Democrats] took off the filibuster for lower federal court appointments, but it remains for this court. So anybody who thinks that if I step down, Obama could appoint someone like me, they’re misguided. As long as I can do the job full steam…. I think I’ll recognize when the time comes that I can’t any longer. But now I can.

In the unedited interview transcript, she said “But now I can, motherf^(kers, so step off.Continue Reading »

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September 5th 2014
Joan Rivers, 1933-2014

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

JOAN RIVERS, from her TV show, The Joan Rivers Show, 1969.As most of you have heard, Joan Rivers died yesterday at 81.  The LA Times featured a really warm, funny, and feminist take on her career by fellow comedian Kathy Griffin, who considered Rivers a friend and mentor:

Stand-up is not a gig in which you say, “It isn’t rocket science.” It’s harder than rocket science. And like rocket science probably was for ages, comedy was not woman’s work when Joan was coming up in the 1960s. A woman could know she was funny, but to make a living out of it? At that time, there was Phyllis Diller, Moms Mabley, Totie Fields, and that was about it.

Right on, because if you want to become a rocket scientist, there’s an established way to do this:  college, graduate school, and a system of professional mentors.  It’s not easy, but there is a pretty clear path.  If you want to be a comedian, especially a female comedian, there’s not an established path, and there were and still are very few mentors.  

It makes sense that Griffin was drawn to Rivers as a mentor, because they both mock beauty standards for women in show business by meeting them but also revealing and deconstructing them at the same time:  the jokes about all of the work and time it took, about age, and about plastic surgery, and the obsession with body fat–their own and other people’s.  Griffin does a tremendous job of capturing Rivers’s ambition and generosity in just a few paragraphs: Continue Reading »

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August 30th 2014
This just in: Men favored over women in employee evaluations and tenure review letters

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

cowgirlcomingrightupWell, burn my bacon!  Via Amanda Marcotte at Slate, we read of an informal study of managerial performance reviews in the tech industry by Kieran Snyder at Fortune that concludes that of the participants who volunteered copies of their performance reviews, women receive far more critical feedback:

The first thing I wanted to understand is how many reviews included critical wording in the first place. These were almost exclusively strong reviews, so I wasn’t sure. My own reviews have all contained critical feedback, both those I’ve received and those I’ve given. But I wasn’t sure what to expect.

105 men submitted 141 reviews, and 75 women submitted 107 reviews. Of the full set of 248 reviews, 177—about 71%—contained critical feedback. However, critical feedback was not distributed evenly by gender.

When breaking the reviews down by gender of the person evaluated, 58.9% of the reviews received by men contained critical feedback. 87.9% of the reviews received by women did.

Next, the study demonstrated that the critical feedback women and men received was very different in kind.  Women were overwhelmingly the recipients of negative feedback focused on their personality and their willingness to take credit for their work: Continue Reading »

22 Comments »

August 29th 2014
We U.S. Americans are now beyond parody: guns, race, gender, and parenthood, ca. 2014

Posted under American history & childhood & Gender & Intersectionality & race & unhappy endings

9-youzi

Shame!!!!!!

Jesus Mary and Joseph.

As I’m sure all of you know already, a nine-year old killed the man who was instructing her in the use of an Uzi submachine gun this week at a shooting gallery in Arizona.  The  juxtaposition of this story with a story from earlier this summer, in which a mother spent more than two weeks in jail for letting her 9-year old girl play in a park by herself while she did her shift at McDonald’s, says it all:  “In America Today, a 9-Year Old Girl Can’t Play Alone in a Park But She Can Play With an Uzi.”

Andy Borowitz satirized the current conversation about parenting and guns yesterday in “Nation Debates Extremely Complex Issue of Children Firing Military Weapons,” but then I open the L.A. Times this morning to find exactly this kind of “experts say. . . “/”others argue that. . . ” debate as to the best way to teach children to use guns in the pages of one of America’s great newspapers.  As though the use of semiautomatic weapons by children is a debatable issue!  Where were the voices of public heath experts, family practice doctors, and pediatricians?  Where were the voices of parents in Chicago, whose neighborhoods are routinely interrupted by gun violence and who fear for the safety of their children just walking to and from school? Continue Reading »

15 Comments »

July 28th 2014
Monday morning comix: keeping Austen weird over at Manfeels Park

Posted under American history & art & bad language & class & European history & fluff & Gender & GLBTQ & happy endings & wankers & women's history

Wentworth

Oh, say it ain’t so, Captain Wentworth!

This cartoon is among the many brilliant creations at my new favorite fun blog, Manfeels Park.  (You Austenites will get that pun immediately, of course.)  All of the highlighted dialogue comes from actual online mansplanations. Continue Reading »

10 Comments »

July 21st 2014
Polyamory looks just like heterosexuality, only moreso

Posted under American history & Gender & women's history

Via Twitter, I clicked on a link to an article about polyamory at The Atlantic by Olga Khazan, and was struck by just how un-rebellious it seemed.  Actually, it seemed pretty damned polygamous, as in Fundamentalist LDS-style polygamous, with a much older man sharing two much younger women.  Here’s the lede:

When I met Jonica Hunter, Sarah Taub, and Michael Rios on a typical weekday afternoon in their tidy duplex in Northern Virginia, a very small part of me worried they might try to convert me.

All three live there together, but they aren’t roommates—they’re lovers.

Or rather, Jonica and Michael are. And Sarah and Michael are. And so are Sarah and whomever she happens to bring home some weekends. And Michael and whomever he might be courting. They’re polyamorous.

Michael is 65, and he has a chinstrap beard that makes him look like he just walked off an Amish homestead. Jonica is 27, with close-cropped hair, a pointed chin, and a quiet air. Sarah is 46 and has an Earth Motherly demeanor that put me at relative ease.

My first thought?  Eeeew, not because of the polyamory, but because of the serious age differences between gramps and his girlfriends.  My second thought:  it’s not like FLDS communities in that the women are permitted to date other men and bring them home even.  But why is there still some old silverback in charge of the pack? Continue Reading »

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July 15th 2014
The war on expertise: there are limits to the democratization of knowledge

Posted under American history & Gender & jobs & unhappy endings & wankers & weirdness

einsteinrelativityThis American Life featured a fascinating–as in, car-crashtastic–example of the war on expertise that I thought many of you academic readers might be interested in, if you haven’t heard it already.  In a story called “Sucker Mc-squared” (Mc-squared as in Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, not Mc- as in McDonald’s), Robert Andrew Powell tells the story of Bob the Electrician, and of Bob’s conviction that he alone had discovered a fatal flaw in Einstein’s theory.  You can hear the entire story here–it’s well worth 20 minutes of your time.

To summarize:  Bob takes a year-long self-funded sabbatical to study physics and prove that Einstein had it all wrong.  Powell tries to get real physicists to read the paper that Bob produces over the course of the year, which turns out to be quite a chore because it turns out that Bob is kind of like the old joke about asylums being full of Napoleons:  there are thousands of cranks around the world who believe Einstein’s theory–and by extension all of modern physics–is wrong, and they are a plague upon real, working, university- and U.S. government-affiliated physicists in much the same way that Holocaust Deniers, Constitutional Originalists, and Lost Causers are to historians; climate change denialists are to real climate scientists; and anti-vaxxers are to real physicians.  In sum, these cranks have no confidence whatsoever in expertise or in the value of the credentials that real historians, scientists, or doctors have.  But yet, they crave their respect and demand to be acknowledged by the experts.

 Why does Bob believe that all of physics has it all wrong?  Why is he argumentative and defensive when finally Powell convinces a real physicist (Brant Watson of the University of Miami School of Medicine) to explain to him why he’s all wet?  Why does he admit that he doesn’t understand the advanced training in mathematics that physicists receive, and still believe he’s right?  SPOILER ALERT!
Continue Reading »

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