Archive for the 'Gender' Category

March 2nd 2014
Sunday morning sacrilege: Pussy Riot’s “Punk Prayer”

Posted under art & European history & Gender

Is there enough Pussy Riot in your life? I know–me, neither!

Per the conversation in the previous post, do yourself a favor: don’t bother looking at the comments on this video at YouTube.

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February 28th 2014
What I learned from the comments thread at Tenured Radical

Posted under American history & bad language & Bodily modification & class & Dolls & Gender & GLBTQ & jobs & the body & unhappy endings & wankers & weirdness & women's history

barbies31508

Why weren’t we on the cover?

Did any of you see Tenured Radical’s post yesterday about the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue 2014, “Happiness is a Cold, Plastic Doll?”  This year it features Barbie on the cover, but the same old soft-core porn inside.

The point of TR’s post was to comment on the cultural significance of SI’s annual swimsuit issue.  She noted her confusion when she first saw it in the 1970s, a decade in which porn was pushing into the mainstream, and Playboy had come to her campus to take some photos for “Girls of the Ivy League.”  (This was 1978; recall that most Ivies hadn’t admitted women until the early 1970s.  Welcome to campus, ladies!)  TR writes that the swimsuit issue wasn’t porn, but yet it “wasn’t not porn, because everything was exposed except, as Monty Python would say, the ‘naughty bits.’”  And yet–

The women were definitely chosen for their porny qualities. No model was included who didn’t have (as they used to say back in the 1970s) a “great rack,”  or was not able to spread her legs, tip her butt up alluringly for potential rear entry, or cock her head back in that time-honored fashion that says, “Come and get it, Buster Brown.”

But like those who reject changing the name of the Washington Football Team, the swimsuit issue is spoken of as a tradition. Hence it is harmless, right? Wrong. The swimsuit issue is the porn that gets circulated in public, as if it were not really porn, which to me – makes it more sexist than the tabletop magazines that just say brightly: “we’re all about porn!” It’s the porn that gets delivered at the office, and it’s the porn that people think it’s ok for little boys to have, like the Charlie’s Angels and Farrah Fawcett posters that were so popular back in the day, because it helps them not grow up to be fags.

This is not what all but four or five of us commenting on the post learned.  Instead, several porndogs wanted to turn the comments thread on this post into a strange personal porny fantasy involving fetishizing women’s bodies and insulting feminists and feminism at the same time.  This is a fair summary of their threadjack: Continue Reading »

31 Comments »

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 »

16 Comments »

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 »

24 Comments »

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):

20 Comments »

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 »

12 Comments »

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 »

4 Comments »

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 12th 2014
Effective history teaching: passion and deep knowledge (and stay classy!)

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

Eric Foner, a distinguished historian of the Reconstruction-era of the United States, makes a terrific point in an interview with David Cutler at The Atlantic.  (My apologies if the title of the article is his takeaway point:  “‘You Have to Know History to Actually Teach It.’” ) To wit, Foner says:

I tell my students nowadays who are in graduate school and going on to become teachers—the number one thing is to have a real passion for your subject and to be able to convey that to your students. Obviously the content is important, but that’s not as unusual as being able to really convey why you think history is important. I think that’s what inspires students.

In a follow-up question, Foner explains this in terms of the deficits in historical education he sees at the high school level:

The first thing I would say is that we have to get away from the idea that any old person can teach history. A lot of the history teachers in this country are actually athletic coaches. I mention this in class, and students always say, “Oh yeah, Coach Smith, he taught my history course.” Why? Well, Coach Smith is the football coach, and in the spring he’s not doing much, and they say, “Well, put him in the history course, he can do that.”

They wouldn’t put him in a French course, or a physics course. The number-one thing is, you have to know history to actually teach it. That seems like an obvious point, but sometimes it’s ignored in schools. Even more than that, I think it’s important that people who are teaching history do have training in history. A lot of times people have education degrees, which have not actually provided them with a lot of training in the subject. Continue Reading »

17 Comments »

January 10th 2014
Western Lands, Western Voices: The American West Center at Fifty

Posted under American history & conferences & Gender & Intersectionality & race & students

AWC50thFrom the Call for Papers I received from the American West Center‘s Director Greg Smoak:

“Western Lands, Western Voices,” a three- day interdisciplinary symposium exploring the past, present, and future of public engagement in the Humanities and Social Sciences will be held in Salt Lake City, September 19-21, 2014. The symposium marks the fiftieth anniversary of the University of Utah’s American West Center, the oldest regional studies center of its kind in the West. Our goal is to bring together college/university and community based practitioners for a lively discussion of the place and power of publicly engaged/applied scholarship in the American West.

Subjects:  We seek submissions from college and university based scholars, community based organizations and institutions, state and local historical and cultural entities, and indigenous Nations. The symposium will engage diverse fields including history, anthropology, political science, ethnic studies, literature, cultural studies, and the arts. We strongly encourage participants and projects that span disciplinary divides.  Submissions from graduate students, early career scholars, and community based scholars are particularly encouraged, as are those that address innovative ways of reaching public audiences. Continue Reading »

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