Archive for the 'GLBTQ' Category

January 24th 2011
Rebecca Traister on Stephanie Coontz’s A Strange Stirring

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

"Pink right down to her underwear!"

A colleague of mine sent me a link to Rebecca Traister’s review yesterday in the New York Times of Stephanie Coontz’s A Strange Stirring:  “The Feminine Mystique” and American women at the Dawn of the 1960s (New York:  Basic Books, 2010).  It–like the book it reviews–is a refreshing review of Betty Friedan’s signal achievement and its importance in the intellectual and political history of American feminism.  In this respect, it’s quite a departure for Coontz, whom most of us know as a prominent American historian of marriage and the family.

After decades of distancing themselves from Friedan, whose activism after the publication of The Feminine Mystique was frequently controversial, it seems like feminist historians of all ages are now drawn to reconsider her work.  Her work (like any historical document or artifact) was a prisoner of its time, and since it was based on a survey of Smith College graduates, it was primarily an examination of la querelle des femmes from a white, middle-class perspective.  Perhaps 50 years is now a comfortable distance from which to read all of the uncomfortable questions Friedan’s book asked and raised about itself?

But as Traister points out, so many of these conversations throughout the twentieth century about women’s roles and how to combine family life with a working life have a Groundhog Day-like quality.  “Reading Coontz’s account of postsuffrage backlash — ‘Three decades of relentless attacks on feminism as antimale and anti­family had taken their toll’ — it’s hard to remember that she is writing about the 1950s. When she quotes Dorothy Thompson, who proclaimed in 1939 that the fantasy of women’s being able to meld career and family was ‘an illusion,’ we might as well be reading a modern antifeminist screed about the impossibility of ‘having it all.’”

I have to put in a word for Daniel Horowitz’s terrific biography Betty Friedan and the Making of “The Feminine Mystique”:  The American Left, the Cold War, and Feminism (Amherst:  University of Massachusetts Press, 2000), which may have started the whole Friedan revival.  Continue Reading »


January 22nd 2011
Tiger mother beatdown: child-free auntie queersplains it all

Posted under American history & bad language & childhood & Gender & GLBTQ & wankers & women's history

I’ve followed with only an exhausted disinterest the “controversy” over Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Motherover the past few weeks.  Having been scolded by readers for daring to express opinions on this blog from my perspective as an American women’s historian about modern discourses on motherhood without revealing myself either as a mother or as a non-mother has tried my patience in the past, and the whole fracas over Chua’s book (which was really about her article in the Wall Street Journal, which was clearly calculated to raise people’s blood pressure and get hits to the website) just seemed so calculated to get people–especially XX-chromosome people–whipped up into a lather as they performed their motherhood superior dances.

Fortunately, Tenured Radical breaks it down and explains it all in two posts, the first about the fact that “Middle Class Child Abuse is Not an Asian Thing,” and the second in which she writes about “How Amy Chua Made Me Think About Feminism” after actually reading Chua’s book!  Here’s an excerpt from the second post:

I can also now answer question The Los Angeles Times asked today: “What’s Behind Our Obsessive Amy Chua Disorder?”  The answer, I think, is that mothering is more or less a cursed profession that is analogous to being a professional homosexual, which is what I do when I am not being a tenured college professor.  As with mothers mothers, people always feel like they must have — nay have a right to have — opinions about homosexuals, regardless of how silly or unwelcome those opinions are.  The less people know about real homosexuals, the more they feel like they have to have an opinion about us. . . . Continue Reading »


January 21st 2011
A Modest Proposal

Posted under American history & Gender & GLBTQ & Intersectionality & jobs & race & students & unhappy endings

Reader Swamp Ape brought this to my attention earlier this week:  Jon Wiener, a History professor at the University of California, Irvine, has a modest proposal to make our classrooms safe from gun violence.  “The Arizona legislature is considering a proposal to authorize the carrying of weapons on campus by faculty members. The idea is simple—in case of trouble in the classroom, somebody needs to be able to blast away at problem students. But the question arises, should all faculty members be armed?”

Wiener thinks this might be dangerous–adjuncts are understandably disgruntled, the untenured regular faculty might be unstable, and “then there are the women, the minorities, and the gays—always complaining about ‘underrepresentation’ and ‘equity issues,’ always whining about pay differentials. Guns must be kept out of their hands, too.” 

The lesson is clear: guns on campus should be restricted to the hands of the senior professors—the old white men. They know the importance of preserving order. Continue Reading »


December 19th 2010
“I’m not a feminist, but. . . “

Posted under American history & Gender & GLBTQ & race & the body & unhappy endings & women's history

Mary Winter in the Denver Post, in an otherwise nice take-down of the inequities in the treatment of and advertising for women’s and men’s sexual dysfunction:

Call me cynical, but when the voice-over says, “This is the age of taking action,” my bar is set just a bit higher. And not to go all feminist on anyone,but I find it interesting that the female version of Viagra — a product called Zestra — still can’t advertise on most television stations, apparently because erections lasting four hours are acceptable prime-time conversation, but allusions to female sexual desire are not.

You may have seen the story on ABC’s “Nightline” this fall: two female entrepreneurs in California developed a botanical-oil-based product that in clinical trials was 70 percent effective in enhancing women’s sexual satisfaction, according to Zestra’s makers.

Now, you would not know it from the $300-million annual ad campaign for erection-enhancing ads for Viagra, Cialis and Levitra, but women suffer more sexual dysfunction than men do — 43 percent to 31 percent, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In other words, the potential market for flagging female libidos is huge. But here’s the irony: When the makers of Zestra went to 100 television networks and stations to buy ads, the vast majority refused them. The few stations that did take their money would run the ads only after midnight or during the daytime.

(U haz editorz at the Denver Post?  Or is u now like the non-peer reviewed interwebz?)

Winter’s point is clearly and strongly a feminist argument–women’s sexual dysfunction is treated differently both medically and in television advertising.  Yet, she distances herself from the political movement that made her analysis possible by writing, “[a]nd not to go all feminist on anyone, but. . . “  Continue Reading »


December 13th 2010
Trinidad hospital slays the goose that laid the golden egg

Posted under American history & Bodily modification & Gender & GLBTQ & jobs & local news & unhappy endings

Marci Bowers, MD

After years of being an internationally-renowned place for sex reassignment surgery for forty years, Trinidad, Colorado no longer has a doc in town to do the work.  The Denver Post reports that Dr. Marci Bowers, herself a transgender surgery patient at one time, has moved to San Francisco because of what sounds like an extremely stupid business decision on the part of the local hospital:

Her work has been recorded in documentaries, magazine articles, TV shows — attention she has welcomed, even courted.

Mt. San Rafael Hospital, not so much.

Bowers views the publicity as part of her work.

“It’s important. It educates people,” Bowers said.

The hospital viewed it as an intrusion, an inconvenience and a royal pain. Crews dragging cameras, wires and microphones through the 24-bed hospital disrupt patient care and cost money, said chief executive Jim Robertson.

That prompted an unusual policy. Media must get hospital permission 60 days in advance before visiting and pay for access.

It was that policy, Bowers said, that drove her away.

“In September, I finally said, ‘Look, if I’m going to stay here, we’ve got to address this media policy,’ ” she said.

The hospital and its board weren’t about to do that.

“There are many residents of Trinidad who would like to have the city known for something other than gender-reassignment surgery,” said board member Dr. Jim Colt.

Uh, right:  let me guess.  I’m certainly no businesswoman, but does anyone really think that the one gynecologist the hospital has hired to replace Bowers and the new ”cardiac diagnostic tests” are really going to bring patients from around the world to Mt. San Rafael Hospital?  Continue Reading »


December 6th 2010
Tonight we’re going to party like it’s 1995!

Posted under American history & art & bad language & Gender & GLBTQ & the body & unhappy endings & wankers

Did anyone else flash back to the last time Republicans won big in the midterms under a Democratic president last week?  I sure did when I heard the news that the Republicans once again were targeting a Smithsonian museum exhibition for being offensive to right-wing Republicans.  This article at Inside Higher Ed suggests parallels to the big Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition crisis of 1989, but I was thinking about the manufactured controversy of the planned Enola Gay exhibition at the National Air and Space Museum of 1994-95.  We were just talking about the Enola Gay controversy in my graduate seminar.  Our current graduate students know about this because it’s an important case study in public history, not because they remember it.  After all, most of them were in grade school in 1994-95.  Continue Reading »


November 27th 2010
“Science Cheerleaders”: feminist FAIL

Posted under American history & Bodily modification & childhood & class & Dolls & Gender & GLBTQ & Intersectionality & jobs & race & students & the body & weirdness & women's history

When I read Zuska’s comments about Science Cheerleader, I thought Science Cheerleader had to be a parody.  Apparently it’s not–but it is in fact a total joke, because (for example) it suggests that “What Everyone Needs To Know To Be A (sic) Science Literate” is the cheerleaders from the Philadelphia 76ers in spangly bras and short-shorts reading the words of an actual physicist.  The actual physicist does not don a bra-top and short-shorts and read the science concepts himself.  I wonder why not?  Maybe because he understands that it’s never a mark of status to appear publicly in a state of undress?  (In my period and field, for example, the only people portrayed as unclothed are enslaved people–and they’re almost never represented as wearing clothing at all, whereas 17th and 18th century portraits of white people are more portraits of clothing than of individuals.  Clothes make the man, indeed!)

Anyway, back to science.  Zuska writes:

Okay, let’s play what if. What if the Science Cheerleaders are responsible for making just one girl stick with her science & math classes – isn’t it all worthwhile then?

Let’s say the Science Cheerleaders do keep one girl in advanced science or math classes, but make three other girls feel like they have to pornulate themselves in order to be 21st Century Fembot Compliant While Doing Science, and make five d00ds feel like it is perfectly okay to hang up soft porn pictures of sexay hawt babes in the lab and harass some colleague because hawt science women WANT to be appreciated for being sexay and smart! – is it still worth it?

She then goes on to describe an effective outreach program she worked with to get more girls, especially girls who would be first-generation college students, into STEM fields.   Continue Reading »


October 17th 2010
Why must women’s colleges exist? A personal reflection

Posted under childhood & class & Gender & GLBTQ & race & students & wankers & women's history

This could be a very short post, with my answer being because they p!$$ off and disturb so many people!  But I’ll take the time to explain, for those of you who are curious.  As some of you recall, I linked to Tenured Radical’s series last week on the role of women’s colleges in women’s education, and jumped into the fray of the comments threads as well.  Knitting Clio has posted some further thoughts on this subject too–I objected to her raising the issue of class privilege rather than addressing the questions TR had asked, but she insists that we need to talk about the role of feminist education in co-educational institutions too.

This particularly heated comment thread–44 comments so far!–concludes with Dr. Cleveland writing, “This has been an amazing thread.  I’ll admit that I needed my eyes opened to how much resistance there is to the mission of women’s colleges. It’s shocking to witness. But it also makes a very strong case for why women’s colleges are still very, very necessary. If TR hadn’t persuaded me, the hostility of some of the commenters toward women’s education would have.”  I’ve been thinking about this all week long, and would like to share my personal experiences of my attendance as an undergraduate and brief affiliation as a faculty member with women’s colleges. 

When I enrolled in a women’s college 24 years ago, I wasn’t expecting that it would be all that different from any other small, liberal-arts college.  But I was wrong–not so much in the way that it functioned or educated me, but in the way that other people reacted to the existence of women’s colleges and to the fact that I attended one.  I came to understand that my college represented something deeply threatening to other people, most of whom were men.

As a freshman, I had a boyfriend from back home who had strange fantasies about what a women’s college meant for the everyday lives of students.  He’d say things like, “You’re all women in the dorm, why don’t you all just walk around naked all of the time?  Why do you need bathrobes?”  “Do you just sit in your dorm rooms topless?  Do you touch each other, and give each other hugs and kisses?”  Continue Reading »


October 12th 2010
Coming out/It Gets Better stories

Posted under American history & childhood & Gender & GLBTQ & students

Because of Tenured Radical’s series on women’s colleges and feminist education, I missed that yesterday was national Coming Out Day, which this year is being linked by a number of bloggers and writers to Dan Savage’s It Gets Better Project .  A number of my regular faves had special posts on this, but I wanted to highlight two especially moving stories.  First, Rose at Romantoes has a wonderful tribute to a high school friend of hers, Jay, who suffered shocking amounts of bullying in high school.  His is an important story to read now because as Rose writes, “it’s not always kids doing the bullying.”

One of my best friends all through school growing up came out after we started college.  That wasn’t much of a surprise to anybody, but of course that doesn’t make it any easier for someone to come out.  And for years he had been bullied, harassed, and tormented about being gay…but importantly, not ever, to my knowledge, by his peers.

In many ways I think he’d escaped that kind of treatment by other kids because he was just so damned charming and funny.  I mean, he was truly the funniest person I have ever known.  He was witty, punny, and could stage some of the best practical jokes imaginable with the straightest of faces.  He was also incredibly smart, musically gifted, and genuinely gregarious.  I really credit him for making my own time in high school as easy as it was–somehow, he single-handedly made it cool to be a nerd.

So who was doing the bullying?  Teachers.

People talk about three-hanky movies and novels, but have you ever seen a three-hanky blog post?  Keep your tissues close at hand, friends, for this next one too.  Fannie at Fannie’s Room offers a brave and moving account of her childhood–her growing awareness of her lesbian identity and gender-nonconformity, and the simultaneous terrible realization that being gay means facing the loathing and disgust of her family, friends, and peers at school.  Here are just a few snippets:

I am in first grade and am walking down the hall with my best friend. I reach out to take her hand.

She pulls her hand away in horror, saying, “What are you, queer?”

Last year, in kindergarten, this was okay. Today, I learned that there are new rules. I have also learned that whatever queer is, I Am Definitely Not That. Continue Reading »


August 22nd 2010
And your music. . . it’s just noise!

Posted under American history & bad language & childhood & GLBTQ & jobs & students

The media are at it again–announcing the discovery of another ”new” cultural “trend,” that is, and publishing a series of “You Kids Get Off My Lawn” type articles complaining about young people these days.  It’s the Great Recession, or the Second Great Depression, or whatever–so there’s another panic about the extension of childhood to age 30 and what’s-wrong-with-kids-these-days.  Sometimes today’s 20-somethings, who are the children of baby boomers, get the advantage of more sympathetic press coverage–see this New York Times magazine article, for example.  But a lot of this nonsense is pretty hostile, and unfairly harsh on a whole generation of Americans, like these cranky rants published today in the Denver Post:  “Generation Y Bother” by Ruben Navarette, Jr., and “A Generational Collision is Coming”by Tom Downey.  Guess what?  The rising generation is optimistic, idealistic, and isn’t professionally settled–GASP!!!  And old farts in their 40s on up feel free to condescend to them.  Thank goodness the media is on this story.

Pull up a chair on the porch and let Grandma Historiann give you a little history lesson about the days when we were all smelling the teen spirit, wearing our ballcaps backwards, and affecting the heroin chic look in imitation of Kate Moss.  Back in my early postcollegiate days–the early 1990s–there was a recession on, and a lot of wailing and rending of garments about what a pathetic bunch of losers we 20-somethings were.  A lot of people I know lived with their parents after college graduation and sometimes during grad school, or at least while they tended bar/coached junior high soccer/planned their next degree and/or move.  We too were lectured by older people and looked down on as “slackers,” stereotyped as unmotivated baristas with useless Comp Lit and Art History degrees.  A lot of ink was spilled on the return of ink–that is, tattoos–on a lot of our bodies, and whether or not we’d ever get “real jobs” after getting sleeved.  Then guess what?  Continue Reading »


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