Archive for the 'Gender' Category

July 16th 2013
Ditch the “women’s stories” and give us real women’s lives, please.

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

Anna North nails it in this admirably brief but accurate analysis of the “women’s stories” peddled by the mainstream media:

These stories, in mainstream American media, tend to fall into certain categories. There are the ones about when women should get married. There are the ones about how women balance work and their children, told with no discussion of these women’s race or class, and with a strange disregard for the possibility that said children might also have fathers. And then there are the ones about hookup culture.

Hookup culture stories are extremely popular. The latest, Kate Taylor’s “Sex on Campus: She Can Play That Game, Too” sits as of this writing at the top of the New York Times’ most-emailed list. It is about women at Penn, but it is essentially the same story as this one about women at UNC, and though less overtly polemical, it is also essentially the same story as this and this and this. It’s not hard to see why these stories succeed: They are about very young women having lots of sex with multiple partners. They’re a lot like porn, except that instead of an orgasm you get a vague sense of free-floating anxiety. Continue Reading »

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July 13th 2013
Sexuality and power in recent novels and recent history

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

Oh, professor!

In a review of two recent novels that feature professor-student affairs, reviewer Michelle Dean asks where is the frank discussion of power?  She writes,

The professor-student romance debate similarly breaks down, for the most part, to two opposing views. In one corner you have your Roiphes and your Paglias, who style themselves as revolutionaries for celebrating the power dynamics of the status quo. In the other you have feminists more aligned with Andrea Dworkin who seem to believe one can remove power from relationships entirely.

(Presumably, she meant to write instead “feminists more aligned with Andrea Dworkin who seem to believe one can’t remove power from relationships entirely.  At least, I’ve never read a word of Dworkin to mean that there was any such thing as sexuality without power.  This is a woman who was closely aligned with Catherine Mackinnon, the woman who wrote “man f^(ks woman, subject verb object.”)

So what do these new novelistic treatments of professor-student sexual relationships have to say about them?  Continue Reading »

20 Comments »

July 9th 2013
Why they only need little houses on the prairie now: reproduction politics in South Dakota

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

Charles Ingalls (1836-1902), hipster

You might have wondered why I found myself driving across South Dakota recently.  I’ve heard for years about the DeSmet annual Laura Ingalls Wilder Pageant, in which the townspeople put on a play based on one of the Little House series of books.  Unsurprisingly, their play rotation focus on the books set partially or completely in DeSmet–By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter and Little Town on the Prairie.  This year’s production was Little Town, and I have to say that I was impressed.  The talent is mostly local, with the major roles played by high school or college students.  Local younger children and adults played some of the smaller roles.  The permanently installed stage sets, lights, and sound are not small-town at all, and the setting on the South Dakota prairie is beautiful and memorable.  The show was timed so that complete darkness finally fell just as the play ended, so the mosquitoes held off until the curtain call.  I strongly and enthusiastically recommend a visit.

My only criticism?  I don’t mind seeing a high schooler play Charles Ingalls, but he really should try to cultivate Pa’s crazy ugly hipster beard.  They’re back in style these days.

Those of you who know the books will remember that DeSmet is the place where the Ingalls family finally settled after Pa’s restless and relentlessly unsuccessful attempts at homesteading in Wisconsin, Kansas, and Minnesota.  Continue Reading »

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June 12th 2013
Grad applications, ca. 1961: Writer Phyllis Richman gets the last laugh, and a Harvard proffie remains clueless

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

File this post under reader and commenter Indyanna‘s notion that effective teaching can only be measured in the obituaries of our students. Via Echidne, we learn that in 1961, Phyllis Richman, writer and longtime restaurant critic at the Washington Post, applied to the graduate program in City and Regional Planning at Harvard’s School of Design . She received the following letter from Assistant Professor William A. Doebele, Jr., which read in part:

[O]ur experience, even with brilliant students, has been that married women find it difficult to carry out worthwhile careers in planning, and hence have a feeling of waste about the time and effort spent in professional education.  (This is, of course, true of almost all graduate professional studies.)

Therefore, for your own benefit, and to aid us in coming to a decision [on your application], could you kindly write a page or two at your earliest convenience indicating specifically how you might plan to combine a professional life in city planning with your responsibilities to your husband and a possible future family?

Richman recently answered his letter:

I’m sorry it has taken me so long to respond to your letter from June 1961. As you predicted, I have been very busy. Recently, as I was cleaning out boxes of mementos, I came across your letter and realized that, even though we discussed it in person 52 years ago, I had never responded in writing.

In 1961 your letter left me down but not out. While women of my era had significant careers, many of them had to break through barriers to do so. Before your letter, it hadn’t occurred to me that marriage could hinder my acceptance at Harvard or my career. I was so discouraged by it that I don’t think I ever completed the application, yet I was too intimidated to contradict you when we met face to face.

At the time, I didn’t know how to begin writing the essay you requested. But now, two marriages, three children and a successful writing career allow me to, as you put it, “speak directly” to the concerns in your letter. Continue Reading »

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May 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 »

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May 26th 2013
A Modest Proposal: the Defense of Motherhood Act

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

Here’s an excellent suggestion from University of Wisconsin law proffie R. Alta CharoThe Defense of Motherhood Act!  Coming soon to a state legislature near you, if you decide to make it happen:

Having an abortion is a momentous decision. And a growing number of states are expressing concern for women who are contemplating that choice.

.       .       .       .       .

But while states give such solicitous attention to women planning to have an abortion, they ignore the needs of women planning to give birth. Bringing a child into the world is also a life-changing decision. Too many women have to make that choice without similar protections. It is time to demand equality and tell our legislatures to enact the Defense of Motherhood Act.

.       .       .       .       .

Physicians would have to inform pregnant women about the risks of childbirth and motherhood. They would have to note that childbirth, compared with abortion, is roughly 14 times more likely to result in maternal death and is more often associated with depression and other forms of mental illness. They would also have to emphasize that working women in the United States can expect to see their wages drop 9 to 16 percent for each child and that having a child makes it significantly less likely that an unmarried woman will ever marry. Continue Reading »

11 Comments »

May 15th 2013
Guest post on the Lords of MOOC Creation: who’s really for change, and who in fact is standing athwart history yelling STOP?

Posted under American history & class & Gender & Intersectionality & jobs & race & students & technoskepticism

Howdy, friends–Historiann here.  I’m knee deep in research papers and final exams and have no time for posting, so thank goodness someone out there is writing for the non-peer reviewed world wide timewasting web.  Today’s guest post is by two senior history professors who attended last week’s Annual Meeting of the American Council of Learned SocietiesSusan Amussen, an early modern British historian in the School of Social Sciences, Humanities, and Arts at the University of California, Merced, and Allyson Poska, an early modern Spanish historian in the History and American Studies Department at the University of Mary Washington.  They both attended the panel on MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), and came away wanting to talk about something thing no one in MOOC-world seems to want to talk about:  power.  So of course, they came to me and asked if they could talk to all of you.

Amussen and Poska ask a number of provocative questions:  Why in spite of the hype do MOOCs appear to be merely a digitalized version of the “sage on the stage” style of lecturing familiar to those of us in the United States and Commonwealth countries 100 (and more) years ago?  Why do MOOC-world advocates appear totally ignorant of feminist pedagogy, which disrupted this model of education going on 50 years ago?  What does it say about MOOC-world’s vision of the future of higher education that the Lords of MOOC Creation are overwhelmingly white, male,  and U.S. American professors at highly exclusive universities?  (And for the Lords of MOOC Creation, is this a bug, or a feature?  Friends, I’ll let you be the judges.)

 

MOOCs:  Gender, Class and Empire

 

Much of the discussion of MOOCs has focused on (alternately) their promise of providing “the best teachers” to students around the world, and presenting cheap quality education to the masses; or the threat they pose to education, in replacing face to face contact with potted lectures, further deskilling and de-professionalizing those of us who teach at less elite universities.  We want to argue that MOOCs raise broader questions than those usually mentioned. In the course of listening to a discussion of MOOCs at the recent meeting of the ACLS (American Council of Learned Societies), we realized that MOOCs must be analyzed in the context of the U.S. American discourse of gender, class, and empire. Continue Reading »

47 Comments »

May 10th 2013
Friday funny: “Divisive gender and quota stuff” is all we do around here.

Posted under American history & art & Gender & happy endings & publication & women's history

Don’t miss the cameo by Elaine Showalter, who appears in this video to restage one of my favorite scenes in American film history. Comedy gold! (Via Sophylou at True Stories Backward.)

11 Comments »

May 8th 2013
Worst teachers ever.

Posted under American history & bad language & childhood & fluff & Gender & jobs & students & wankers & weirdness

Trying to avoid grading final exams? Slate offers a diversion with a feature called “What’s the worst thing a teacher ever said to you?”

The Slate writers had some pretty funny stories, usually involving teachers who were irritated about being corrected by their students, but the stories in the comments below are funnier. Check out the story of the kid who tried–and failed!–to convince his high school honors English teacher that Miguel Cervantes’s Don Quixote takes place in Spain instead of the Netherlands. (Because windmills–duh!) And the stories about not understanding a teacher’s thick Southern or New England accent are pretty funny too: what would you do if you were asked to lead your class “down yonder hill,” or if instructed to draw a picture of that cozy autumn ritual we know as a “barn fire?”

The worst thing I can remember was probably said by a student teacher in his late 20s Continue Reading »

46 Comments »

May 6th 2013
Monday round-up: endless semester edition

Posted under American history & art & bad language & book reviews & European history & Gender & Intersectionality & jobs & race & the body & wankers & women's history

You’ve heard of The Endless Summer?  It sure seems to me like this is the Endless Semester.  Maybe it’s all of the snow and slush in April, but more than any other spring semester in recent memory, this one drags on and on.  While I’m desperately trying to lasso this semester and tie it up real good, here are some fun links and ideas to keep you diverted:

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