Archive for the 'Intersectionality' Category

August 18th 2011
White women’s political work: still impulsive, never strategic

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

UPDATED, 10:21 MDT

One feature of Ryan Lizza’s very good intellectual biography of Michele Bachmann from The New Yorker last week contains this curious explanation of her development as a politician:

For many years, Bachmann has said that she showed up at the convention on a whim and nominated herself at the urging of some friends. She was, she suggests, an accidental candidate. This version of history has become central to her political biography and is repeated in most profiles of her. A 2009 column by George F. Will, for example, says that “on the spur of the moment” some Bachmann allies suggested nominating her.

But she already had a long history of political activism—the Carter and Reagan campaigns, her anti-abortion and education activism, her school-board race—and she had been targeting [former Minnesota State Senator Gary] Laidig for a year.According to an article in the Stillwater Gazette,on October 6, 1999, Bachmann was talking about running against Laidig months before she went to the convention. “I tried to present information to Senator Laidig on Profile of Learning, he was not interested,” she said. “And I told him that if he’s not willing to be more responsive to the citizens, that I may have to run for his seat.” She told the St. Paul Pioneer Pressthat she had decided to run against Laidig a year earlier.

Once again, we have white women’s political activism cast as a “whim” or “spur of the moment” decision, rather than the result of careful planning and strategic thinking:  “Oh my heck, I don’t know nothin’ ’bout politics!  I just care so deeply about the children that I had to get involved!”  Very cannily, Bachmann’s signature issue in Minnesota state politics was activism on behalf of home schoolers and charter schools–in other words, as a concerned mother.  She is smart to rewrite her biography this way, and I’m sure Will grasps that it just wouldn’t do to have a female presidential candidate who looked at all ambitious, or even scheming–even though she threatened Laidig with a primary several times:  According to Lizza, “Laidig defended the education laws in the State Senate, which made him a target for Bachmann. “Michele came to me on several occasions and to my face said, ‘If you don’t vote to get rid of School to Work and Profiles, I will run against you,’ ” he said.”

Not very ladylike!  Continue Reading »

23 Comments »

August 17th 2011
Grad students of color and white faculty FAIL

Posted under Gender & GLBTQ & Intersectionality & jobs & race & students

Via Inside Higher Ed, Karen Kelsky at The Professor Is In has a riveting post about the challenges facing graduate students of color and in overwhelmingly white departments, which is to say, the vast majority of academic departments in any discipline you can think of in the United States and Canada.  She’s been affiliated with three public research university Anthropology departments, and she details the ways in which the faculty in two of the three failed to respond effectively to the questions that graduate students of color posed to them, their discipline, and to their way of conducting business. 

The whole thing is worth a considered read, especially if you serve as a professor or advisor of graduate students and/or if you’re interested in dysfunctional departmental dynamics.  (Like most of us, she’s like a neurologist:  more certain on the diagnosis than on ideas towards a cure.)  While it won’t be a surprise to any nonwhite readers, perhaps some white readers will be taken aback by her frankness in discussing white privilege among so-called “white allies:”

Here’s what I want to say. I learned through these interactions that the vast majority of white people in the academy are absolutely clueless when it comes to race. Not race as some abstract category of analysis “out there,” but race as it is manifested daily in their/our own subject position and actions.

One archaeology colleague remarked to me at a cocktail party, . . . “Too bad for you cultural anthropologists. You should be like us in archaeology. We don’t have any race problems. Because all of our students are white!” I gamely tried to explain to this colleague that the absence of students of color in her program was actually a more profound sign of a “race problem” than any visible conflict could be, but she was unmoveable. Continue Reading »

21 Comments »

June 25th 2011
Gender and performance in grad school

Posted under Gender & GLBTQ & Intersectionality & jobs & race & students

Via Canada-Supporting Women in Geography, I found this article by Duke University Literature Professor Toril Moi, “Discussion or Aggression? Arrogance and Despair in Graduate School.”  In it she writes about speech, authority, and power dynamics in the graduate seminar, specifically about the gendered nature of these dynamics:

Every year some female graduate students tell me that they feel overlooked, marginalized, silenced in some seminars. They paint a picture of classrooms where the alpha males—so-called “theory boys”—are encouraged to hold forth in impossibly obscure language, but where their own interventions elicit no response. These women, in short, say that they are not listened to, that they are not taken seriously, and that they get the impression that their perceptions of the matter at hand are of no interest to anyone else. 

Such experiences tend to reproduce a particularly clichéd ideology in which theory and abstract thought are thought to belong to men and masculinity, and women are imagined to be the bearers of emotional, personal, practical concerns. In a system that grants far more symbolic capital, far more intellectual power, to abstract theorizing than to, say, concrete investigations of particular cases, these women lose out in the battle for symbolic capital. This is bad for their relationship to the field they love, and it is bad for their careers in and out of graduate school. This is sexism, and all this goes to show that sexist effects often arise from the interactions of people who have no sexist intentions at all.

But there is another side to this. Sometimes I have a conversation with someone who has been described to me as a theory boy. Then I invariably discover that the theory boy doesn’t at all sound like an intellectual terrorist. He is, simply, profoundly and passionately interested in ideas. He loves theory and precisely because he loves it, he has strong theoretical views.

Moi concludes that faculty play a critical role in encouraging dialogic conversation rather than monologic performance, and that “[s]ome of us—professors and graduate students—need to learn to stop being so touchy, vain and self-regarding, so that we can listen to well-founded criticism without becoming defensive. Others need to learn to become more assertive and how to stand their ground when their views come under pressure. We all need to care more about formulating our thought precisely and less about the impression we make on others.”  But the point about faculty leadership is key, I think–it’s fun to engage in a lively discussion with passionate students, but we need to consider why some may not want to engage in the conversation, and how we can ensure that the ideas of those students get a full and fair hearing.

Moi’s article struck me as relevant because I’ve had a few interesting conversations recently that suggest that faculty play a role in perpetuating this division by using different language and different standards in evaluating their women versus men graduate students.  Continue Reading »

47 Comments »

June 23rd 2011
I just went gay all of a sudden!

Posted under American history & Gender & GLBTQ & happy endings & Intersectionality & women's history

Maybe it wasn’t all of a sudden–maybe it’s a process that has happened over the last few years, or maybe I was born this way, but I find myself wanting to align myself with the queer bloggers ever more closelyThe queer bloggers I read and feel a comradeship with don’t think that there is only one way to be a good lesbian or gay man.  They don’t police the language that other gays and lesbians use to write about or talk about their own experiences.  We sometimes disagree, but they don’t feel the need to lecture me about daring to write about queerness or question the authenticity of my queer sensibilities. 

Some of you heterosexualists, especially some of you who identify online as mothers:  not so much!  Continue Reading »

76 Comments »

May 25th 2011
On being (politely) called a pain in the a$$

Posted under American history & childhood & class & Gender & Intersectionality & jobs & race & students & the body & unhappy endings & weirdness & women's history

I was talking to a friend the other day about the fact that both of us throughout our careers have often been described by others as “outspoken,”  “willful,” or even “intimidating.”  For example, at a talk I gave a few weeks ago, I was introduced by a (male) former professor as “one of the two most willful graduate students” he’s ever worked with.  This was extremely disarming–first of all, because that’s not my memory of my graduate school self*, and secondly, because of course my instinct was to argue with this characterization, although that would only have ratified his judgment of me as “willful.”  (Game, set, and match to the former professor before I even opened my mouth!)

My friend–also a white woman, also exactly my age, also middle-class, and also supposed to be a “nice girl” from the suburbs–told me a similar story about how at the conclusion of a two-year postdoc, she was introduced by the (male) director of the granting organization as someone who really “shook things up” around the place and got up in their grills about various issues.  What could she say after an introduction like that?  Once again, shutting up is the only way you can go.  You can’t argue with him without proving him right. Continue Reading »

26 Comments »

May 24th 2011
Feminists demand let justice be done

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

UPDATED, WEDNESDAY MAY 25, 11:45 MDT

A correspondent sent this to me, so I pass it along to you to sign and return to kscarbro AT soemail DOT rutgers DOT edu.  UPDATE:  Kathryn Scarbrough has asked us not to e-mail our signatures–her e-mail in-box has been overwhelmed.  If you wish to sign the petition, you may do so by clicking this link and adding your name.

Feminists Demand Let Justice Be Done

Rape is always about power and domination; it is sexualized violence.

Rape and sexual harassment of women are pervasive at all strata of society and in all corners of the globe. Women will never be fully free and able to enjoy equality with men until this ends. As feminists, we see the arrest of former International Monetary Fund director Dominique Strauss-Kahn on sexual assault charges as an opportunity to increase public awareness and as a wake-up call to renew action against sexual violence, not only in the US where his arrest occurred and in France, where media and many public figures are portraying him as the victim, but around the world. Continue Reading »

6 Comments »

May 6th 2011
Should colleges ban fraternities?

Posted under American history & childhood & class & Gender & GLBTQ & Intersectionality & race & students

Sorry, boys!

That’s the question under discussion today at the New York Times’ feature, “Room for Debate,” starring Historiann BFF Nicholas L. Syrett of the University of Northern Colorado, author of The Company He Keeps:  A History of White College Fraternities (Chapel Hill:  University of North Carolina Press, 2009).  Nick gets the debate started with a strong opinion grounded in his research on the history of frats:

The chicken-or-egg question is this: do fraternities promote misogyny in members or do freshmen with retrograde gender politics seek out fraternity membership? The answer is both. We all join organizations whose values already match our own. But by promoting one version of masculinity – hard drinking and sexually aggressive – fraternities pressure men to change in order to earn membership and status within them.

Either way, if colleges support organizations promoting these attitudes, they tacitly condone them as well, encouraging men to believe there is a place for such beliefs on campus. The colleges themselves are thus culpable, which is precisely the point of the suit lodged against Yale.

I found most of the other debaters’ comments to be surprisingly wishy-washy, even those who agree with Syrett that fraternities are notorious sites of anti-intellectualism, alcohol abuse, and sexual assault.  Continue Reading »

41 Comments »

April 26th 2011
Larry Flynt, time hater

Posted under American history & bad language & book reviews & Gender & GLBTQ & Intersectionality & jobs & publication & race & wankers & women's history

Time Haters

Via Salon, we learn that Larry Flynt and Columbia University political historian David Eisenbach have written a book together, One Nation Under Sex: How the Private Lives of Presidents, First Ladies and Their Lovers Changed the Course of American History.  It looks for the most part like the kind of book you’d expect Larry Flynt and a political historian to write–it’s built at least 80% around secondary sources and it offers almost no acknowlegement or citation of the pioneering historians who made this kind of book possible (the feminists and the gays, of course). 

Instead, the footnotes I’ve been able to vet (via the book’s page at Amazon) offer just the usual parade of biographies of (in the words of my kiddie encyclopedia collection) “great men and famous deeds.”  Kudos for citing Catherine Allgor’s A Perfect Union, her new bio of Dolley Madison, and Clarence Walker’s Mongrel Nation, though–otherwise in the notes for the first chapter, it’s all founding fathers, founding brothers, the dogs and barn cats of the founding fathers, etc.  Shocking, I know.

It’s funny (and by funny, I guess I mean LOLSOB) how some analyses (like those offered by the feminists and queers) go from being dangerous, unsourced, risky, out-on-a-limb evidence problems, to being conventional wisdom in about 30 seconds these days.  Too bad for you, historians of sexuality–it looks like you risked your careers, your fortunes, and your sacred honor only to get buried in a footnote in a book by Joseph Ellis or Robert Remini, because those are the only books any authors of popular histories will ever read or cite.  Continue Reading »

21 Comments »

March 27th 2011
Geraldine Ferraro (1935-2011), bad girls, and good girls

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

It’s been quite a week for celebrity women’s deaths:  first Elizabeth Taylor, and now the first woman to run for Vice President on a major party ticket in the United States, Geraldine Ferraro.  I thought of the several obits I’ve seen that Joan Walsh’s was the very best, bar none.  She’s someone who gets both the New York political and national women’s historical context of Ferraro’s life, her 1984 candidacy, and her unfortunate remarks about Barack Obama during the 2008 campaign. (Just go read Walsh–do it!  Do it now!) 

And now, something I should have posted in honor of Elizabeth Taylor but seems relevant for Ferraro too:  Continue Reading »

22 Comments »

March 18th 2011
Telling Histories: Black Women Historians in the Ivory Tower

Posted under American history & book reviews & class & Gender & Intersectionality & jobs & publication & race & students & women's history

Telling Histories:  Black Women Historians in the Ivory Tower, edited by Deborah Gray White, features autobiographical essays from prominent African American women historians that reflect on their careers, their tenure battles, and their struggles to invent the field of African American women’s history at the same time as they were forced to fight to make and preserve spaces for themselves within the historical profession.  I blogged about this book briefly two years ago, but just this week finally sat down to read it.  (Consider this my slight contribution to Women’s History Month blogging.)

It is good to be reminded of how new the field of African American women’s history is–the contributors to this volume were born in the 1940s-1960s.  They are people we know and work with, and they are truly a pioneer generation.  White’s introductory essay does a brilliant job of highlighting the awesome challenges of professing black women’s history from inside a black woman’s body: 

Educated African American women believed they had to overcome their history before they could do their history.  Yet the nature of the history they sought to overcome was so embarassing and demeaning [of racial, class, and sexual exploitation and abuse] that it kept them from engaging that history in all but the most indirect manner.  It was not by choice, therefore, but by necessity that we came late to the historical profession.

White and her contributors explain the many struggles that black women faced as they began to enter the profession in the 1960s and 1970s– Continue Reading »

13 Comments »

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