Archive for the 'Intersectionality' Category

March 16th 2011
History and humor

Posted under American history & art & captivity & childhood & Gender & Intersectionality & publication & unhappy endings & women's history

Sit down and let me pour you a cup!

As you may have noticed if you are a regular reader of this blog, I like teh funny, and even if my sense of humor ain’t exactly your cuppa joe, I like to write to amuse myself, at least.  My problem now is that I can’t find a lot of humor in the book I’m writing.  I wrote a book about guys and guns and warfare in the Northeastern borderlands of what’s now the U.S. and Canada, so although that wasn’t a happy story for most of the people I wrote about, there were a lot of really fatuous English men and women I could mock in that book.  I realize it’s a low trick, but having a mockable bad guy or set of bad guys in your book is one way to leaven the story and add a little humor.  After writing about warfare for the better part of a decade, I looked forward to what I imagined to be a retreat into the relative safety and comfort of the cloister in order to write about a little English girl (Esther Wheelwright, 1696-1780) who was taken captive by the Indians at 7 and wound up in the Ursuline convent in Quebec at the age of 12, where she remained for the rest of her life.  

But, the problem for me right now is that there just isn’t a lot of humor in the story of a little girl whose life was filled with warfare and trauma for her English family, and the starvation, disease, and eventual destrution of her Indian family.  She arrived safely at the monastery and lived to the age of 84, but early modern nuns are just so earnest with their apostolic missions, such do-gooders that I haven’t found a lot of humor or texture in that part of the story, either.  They were not late medieval mystics who wrote long, fantastic narratives or offered descriptions of the various ways in which they mortified their bodies.  They were not aristocratic European nuns who flaunted their wealth and had men jumping in and out of their cells in between secret plots to make another Borgia prince the Pope.  They were teachers!  I’m a teacher, and many of you reading this are teachers–you know how boring and earnest we all are!  Who wants to read about about a bunch of teachers?   

In short, I have a humor problem with this book, and no really obvious bad guys to target for the cheap yuks.  (At least I’m having a hard time making scurvy and smallpox variola take the fall for everything.) Continue Reading »

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February 28th 2011
Deep in the Heart

Posted under American history & childhood & conferences & European history & Gender & Intersectionality & jobs & race & women's history

Howdy, folks!  I made it to Austin, Texas last night for an intense conference here over the next two days, Centering Families in the Atlantic World co-sponsored by the Omohundro Institute and the Institute for Historical Studies here at the University of Texas.  And then Thursday afternoon, I’ll be talking about this here blog at the Symposium on Gender, History, and Sexuality in a talk called “Cowgirl Up,” in which I’ll address some important eternal questions of the academic feminist blogosphere, such as Continue Reading »

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February 24th 2011
What I learned from blogging: authority, essentialism, and motherhood

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

Suzie at Echidne has a list up of the six things she’s learned from blogging–go check it out, and if you’re a blogger (or a blog commenter), add your thoughts in the comments over there or here below.  Tell us what you’ve learned!  (If you click on over to Echidne, you’ll learn all about Wiener Nougat.) 

I’ve learned a thing or two–most of which I’ve already shared in my recent articles at the Journal of Women’s History and Common-place.  One of the things we haven’t talked about here for quite a while is that motherhood or not-motherhood seems like a bigger deal online than it is in real life.  In the JWH article, “We’re All Cowgirls Now,” I wrote:

I don’t want to give the impression that intellectual authority is simply a gendered problem—our identities are much more complex because gender is just one item on the long list of characteristics that mark us in both the meat and virtual worlds. While playing Historiann, I am clear about my sex (female) and my sexuality (heterosexual, married to a man) in real life, but I’ve chosen to remain deliberately ambiguous as to whether or not I am a mother. For the most part, this is because I blog with my professional identity up front, not my personal life or reproductive history: in other words, I blog as Historiann, not Mommyann or Not-mommyann. I’m qualified to write about history and politics because of my training and expertise in American history, whereas I don’t think that motherhood alone (if it pertains to me) would qualify me to write about anything other than my personal experiences as a mother. As a good feminist historian, I don’t believe that there’s anything essential, unifying, or eternal about the experience of motherhood. But, this refusal to identify myself either as a mother or a nonmother has also raised questions of authority. This becomes apparent when commenters disagree with me [when I write about motherhood from my perspective as an American women's historian]—they sometimes assume that I’m not a mother, and therefore question my authority to write about issues pertaining to maternity. I had thought that essentialism went out of style in feminism more than twenty years ago—but the blogosphere makes it apparent that essentialism about maternity endures, even among women in the academy. Continue Reading »

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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 »

14 Comments »

January 4th 2011
DePaul University: safe for white male scholars only?

Posted under American history & bad language & Gender & Intersectionality & jobs & race & unhappy endings & wankers & women's history

We’ve gone over this here before, friends–in “DePaul tenure process takes a turn for the . . . ” last May, and in “Women in Catholic higher ed:  do we exist yet?” last January, it sure looked like DePaul University was in the running to beat even Baylor University’s record of discrimination in advancement!  (I know–daringly ambitious, isn’t it?)  We read this morning that DePaul University is back in the news at Inside Higher Ed, which reports that last year, race was clearly a factor in the outcomes of tenure cases there: 

In the 2009-10 academic year, all those who were denied tenure were minority faculty members, and all white candidates won tenure. Of 43 applicants, 10 self-identified faculty members of color went up for tenure, but the University Board on Faculty Tenure and Promotion – the final committee to review candidates and, DePaul’s president said, the one with the most weight – voted to deny six of them (despite previous reports of more applicants and more approvals). The president ultimately signed off on an appeals board’s recommendation to reverse one candidate’s denial, meaning that in the end, 100 percent of white candidates got tenure, compared to half of minority candidates.

Of course, sex discrimination appears to have been operative in many of these cases too–the reporting over at IHEis a little difficult to follow, but it’s clear in the case of Philosophy Professor Namita Goswami that sex bias was a part of the package.  (How else to explain comments and opinions like these?) Continue Reading »

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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 »

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November 15th 2010
Peggy Pascoe, 1954-2010

Posted under American history & Gender & Intersectionality & race & women's history

Peggy Pascoe, one of the most important feminist historians of the American West, died July 23.  Estelle Friedman has a lovely obituary in this month’s AHA Perspectives describing her career and the importance of her intellectual work and feminist teaching and service to the profession:

Born in Butte, Montana, in 1954, Peggy Pascoe received a BA in history from Montana State University (1977), which later named her one of the school’s 100 most outstanding graduates. She entered the women’s history program at Sarah Lawrence College, studying with Gerda Lerner, and earned her MA degree in 1980. That year she began the doctoral program in U.S. history at Stanford, where I had the great fortune to serve as her advisor and then to become her colleague and friend. Her cohort—which included David Gutierrez, Valerie Matsumoto, and Vicki Ruiz—pioneered a multicultural and gendered history of the West. Pascoe’s revised dissertation, Relations of Rescue: The Search for Female Moral Authority in the American West, 1874–1939 (Oxford University Press, 1993), set a high standard for these fields. Through careful case studies of female missionary campaigns throughout the West, she explored the ways that white Protestant women attempted to uplift Native American, Asian American, working class, and Mormon women. Her balanced and subtle interpretation both credited the opportunities to challenge patriarchy and exposed the ways these efforts reinforced racial hierarchies.

Pascoe’s last book, What Comes Naturally: Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America (Oxford, 2009), was completed while she was enduring treatment for ovarian cancer and was awarded many prestigious prizes:

Pascoe was part way through the manuscript for her book on miscegenation law when she learned in 2005 that she had ovarian cancer. Initially she did not think that she would be able to complete the study. In 2007, at a panel held in her honor at the annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians, several colleagues commented on her draft chapters, which helped inspire her to go back to work on the book even as she endured multiple rounds of chemotherapy. Continue Reading »

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November 1st 2010
Monday Roundup: Road runner edition

Posted under American history & art & bad language & Dolls & fluff & Gender & Intersectionality & jobs & local news & race & students & unhappy endings & wankers & women's history

How-deeLa Famille Historiann, such as it is, had a fantastic weekend camping trip in Arches National Park.  I swear, ANP must have the friendliest, cutest, and nicest park rangers in all of the 50 states–how do they do it?  And the Devil’s Playground Campground was not just pictureseque, but immaculate.  I mean, eat off the bathroom floor immaculate, and I’ve never said that about a public restroom in my life. (I’ve never imagined saying it about a public restroom, quite frankly.)  This may have been due to the fact that a number of campers and RVs were camping closest to our local bathroom in the park, but there were plenty of other tent campers like us.  You can do a lot worse for 20 bucks a night, friends.  The wind- and rainstorm we endured Saturday night was dramatic, but hardly a deal-breaker.  But be sure to make on-line reservations–unbelievably, on Halloween weekend, this campground was full. 

You were all so good while I was away!  I wish I could give you all some of the candy that we have leftover after Halloween, for which we inevitably over-purchase.  So, these bibelots will have to do:

  • First of all, check out Dr. Cleveland, who it turns out is a dude.  He explains why it’s not the same thing when a student comes on to a straight, white male professor as when a male student does the same–or is otherwise inappropriate–to a female professor:  “Basically, all a male college professor has to do to repel such invitations is ignore them. A student has a fantasy, no matter how durable or ephemeral, of being pursued by an older man; if the older man doesn’t pursue, that’s pretty much the ballgame. . . . Does the student just have a garden-variety crush, or is she actually hoping to act out her fantasies? Doesn’t matter; there’s not much she can do without the male faculty member’s cooperation. Male privilege is not only powerful, but it’s convenient.  A woman professor, unfortunately, doesn’t have to distinguish the male students with harmless crushes from the ones who are prone to act out, either, because the young men who want to act out do. If the script is ‘man pursues,’ a young man with a sexual interest in his professor is apt to make unequivocal gestures.”  Continue Reading »

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October 25th 2010
Teaching while non-white and female

Posted under Gender & Intersectionality & jobs & students & the body & unhappy endings & wankers & women's history

Inside Higher Ed’s new-ish blog, University of Venus, last week featured this post by an anonymous female faculty member of color:

I was teaching one of my mid-level courses last semester. The first assignment for the class was a reflection paper on students’ socialization experiences within their own families. Usually students write about unsurprising things: the toys they played with, the clothes they wore, the sports and extra-curricular activities they took part in, etc. But last semester, one of my male students turned in a paper which read like a trashy memoir of sexual exploits. The inappropriateness of the paper’s content was matched only by the crudeness of its language. When I confronted him, he refused to acknowledge any wrong-doing and insisted instead on questioning his grade on that paper for the rest of the semester, over the summer, and now in the fall. He spent most of the rest of our class meetings last semester with his arms crossed and eyes locked on me. Sometimes he would stay back in his seat, still with his arms crossed, eyes still fixed on me, while the classroom emptied and I packed up my things. The fact that he is a lacrosse player is a significant detail. On my campus (and apparently some others too according to urbandictionary.com) they are known as “lax bros”- and they engage in behavior that epitomizes college life for at least some male athletes – partying hard, drinking, and acting aggressively.

Right after my confrontation with this student about his first paper, I shot my usual line to my husband, who is also an academic: “this would never happen to you!” Continue Reading »

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October 22nd 2010
Clarence Thomas’s ex-girlfriend tells all

Posted under American history & bad language & Gender & Intersectionality & race & unhappy endings & women's history

Or, at least Lillian McEwan tells us some of what some of us were looking for back in 1991.  (H/t to reader and commenter cgeye for the link.)

To McEwen, Hill’s allegations that [Clarence] Thomas had pressed her for dates and made lurid sexual references rang familiar.

“He was always actively watching the women he worked with to see if they could be potential partners,” McEwen said matter-of-factly. “It was a hobby of his.”  McEwen’s connection to Thomas was strictly personal. She had even disclosed that relationship to [then-Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee Senator Joe] Biden, who had been her boss years earlier.

In her Senate testimony, Hill, who worked with Thomas at two federal agencies, said that Thomas would make sexual comments to her at work, including references to scenes in hard-core pornographic films.

“If I used that kind of grotesque language with one person, it would seem to me that there would be traces of it throughout the employees who worked closely with me, or the other individuals who heard bits and pieces of it or various levels of it,” Thomas responded to the committee.

I can understand why she was reluctant to come forward with her information about Thomas.  After all, they had a consensual personal and sexual relationship.  His interest in pornography and in sexually evaluating the women he worked with was apparently fine with (if not welcomed by) McEwen.  I can certainly understand her reluctance to volunteer to be the African American woman to bring down only the second African American ever nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court because she thought his interest in porn was “boring.”  Continue Reading »

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