Archive for the 'the body' Category

April 16th 2014
In memorium: Stephanie M. H. Camp, 1967-2014

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

scampStephanie Camp died two weeks ago.  I know many of my readers know this already, as a few notices have appeared on Twitter and other blogs as well as everywhere on Facebook.  I wanted to wait to post a notice until I could link to a formal obituary and also pass along information for those of you who might want to write to her family members or to donate to the causes she supported in her lifetime.  Here’s the obituary last week from the Seattle Times:

She was a well-known feminist historian who wrote a groundbreaking book on enslaved women in the antebellum South, and a social-justice activist who dared to take controversial stands. But Stephanie Camp was also known for her love of popular culture and her sense of adventure and for hosting great parties.

The University of Washington history professor died April 2 of cancer at the age of 46.

Professor Camp’s book, “Closer to Freedom: Enslaved Women and Everyday Resistance in the Plantation South,” which is in its second printing, led to a new understanding of how enslaved women resisted their captivity in the 19th century. It was cited not only for the quality of its scholarship but also for the beauty of the writing.

The book “transformed the field of American social history,” said Chandan Reddy, an associate professor of English at the UW.

That’s not hyperbole.  It’s a book that every time I recommended it to a graduate student or assigned it in class was a revelation to my students.  They raved about Closer to Freedom because of the ways in which it challenged our traditional understandings of slave resistance and made convincing arguments about how women’s lives and work in slavery demanded that we take a broader view of what “counted” as resistance to enslavement. Continue Reading »

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April 1st 2014
Spring!

Posted under American history & Bodily modification & European history & fluff & happy endings & the body

zodiacman

Homo Signorum, ca. 1486, from Guild Book of Barber Surgeons

From The Husband-Man’s Guide (Boston, 1712):

April

In this month sow Hemp & Flax, pole hops, set and sow all kind of tender herbs and seeds.  Restore the liberty of the laborious Bee, by opening her hive.  Let Tanners now begin to prepare to get Bark, and the good Housewives mind their gardens, and begin to think of their Daries.  Now purge & bleed, you that need; for the use of Physick is yet very seasonable, the Pores of the body being open; therefore this and the last Month is th’ best time to remove and prevent Causes of sickness, and for speedy remedy in any extremity.  Let blood these two Months the Moon being in Cancer, Acquary or Taurus, but held to be extream perilous for the Moon to be in that sign which ruleth the Member where the Vein is opened.  So also it is held best to take Purges when the Moon is in Cancer, Scorpio or Pisces.  But an Oyntment or Plaster is best apply’d when the Moon is in the same Sign that rules the Member to which it is applicable.

As it says after one of its recommended decoctions for common human complaints: Continue Reading »

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March 30th 2014
Shorter Margaret Wente: porn fine by me, just leave it unexamined.

Posted under American history & art & bad language & Bodily modification & Gender & GLBTQ & Intersectionality & O Canada & students & the body & wankers & women's history

craftmasterHere’s my brief summary of Margaret Wente’s predictable, by-the-numbers shot at the academic study of pornography:

Provocative lede!  Bad puns.  Academics write only jargon-filled articles that no one will ever read.  Also:  the stupid feminists used to be against porn, but now they’re pro-porn, but they’re still stupid (duh).  Irrelevant academics can’t even make porn interesting.  But you should be very alarmed by this trend!  Academic research on porn will take over our universities!  This research is trivial and therefore all higher education is unworthy of public support.  All college students should watch porn, just not for college credit.

I don’t carry any water for porn studies here, but I also don’t think it’s the most irrelevant thing ever studied in an academic setting.  (Because the internetContinue Reading »

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March 7th 2014
How doth the little crocodile improve his shining tail? The “big questions” and women’s history.

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

alicecrocodile“How doth the little crocodile improve his shining tail, and pour the waters of the Nile on every golden scale?” It’s that time of the year, friends. Why does every spring semester feel so damn busy? Is it the graduate exams, the lectures and colloquia, or the inviting, deep, deep snow in the mountains? All of the above? Other concatenations of obligations, pleasures, and near-disasters?

I was chairing a Master’s exam committee yesterday, and my student (who did brilliantly, natch) made a comment about the ways in which women’s history was always viewed as narrow or of limited relevance to the rest of the profession, when traditional topics in men’s history (the new imperial history, for example, which seems almost exactly like the old imperial history) are viewed as “big” topics of universal importance. Size matters, right? So why do male topics always seem bigger than women’s histories, even when they’re based on a much narrower source base written only by a tiny sliver of elites? (Bonnie Smith’s arguments in The Gender of History seem inescapable.) Continue Reading »

22 Comments »

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 »

22 Comments »

January 8th 2014
What I saw at the AHA 2014: Who are the ladies?

Posted under American history & conferences & European history & Gender & GLBTQ & happy endings & Intersectionality & jobs & students & technoskepticism & the body & women's history

elvgrenartistHowdy, friends!  I spent last weekend at the American Historical Association’s annual conference in Washington, D.C.  Here’s what I saw & did, at least the not-unbloglich parts.

  • Tenured Radical and I had coffee on Friday and then dinner on Saturday and spent the whole time figuring out how to silence and oppress more junior scholars, in-between her multiple appearances on the program and her incessant blogging and tweeting about the conference.  Honestly, those of you who want to take her on had better stock up on your Power Bars and Emergen-C, because her energy and enthusiasm for her work online and as a public intellectual are utterly overwhelming.  I’m ten years younger than she is, and I’m already at least a week behind her!  For those of you who are interested, see her three blog reports:  AHA Day 1:  Digital History Workshopalooza, AHA Day 2:  Fun With the Humanities, AHA Day 3:  Remember the Women, and her always lively Twitter feed.  (Excuse me–I have to go have a lie down after just linking to all of that activity.)
  • Clever readers will hear echoes of Abigail Adams’s counsel to John Adams in Tenured Radical’s “Remember the Women” blog post.  I also keep thinking of that scene from Lena Dunham’s Girls in which the character she plays, Hannah, asks the other women, “Who are the ladies?”  (Shosh has been quoting a heterosexual dating advice book aimed at “the ladies,” and Hannah’s question implies that “ladies” is a stupid, made-up, narrow way to talk to real women, who come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and sexualities, etc., and both Hannah and Jessa resent being lumped into the notional category of “ladies”–just click the embedded video below.)  That was the essence of Tenured Radical’s question for the women on the “Generations of History” panel she writes about in her AHA Day 3 post when she asked what the panel would have looked like if it had included a lesbian, for example, or even some women for whom marriage and children were never a part of their life plan.
  • Continue Reading »

32 Comments »

December 17th 2013
Way-out gear for mod maidens

Posted under European history & fluff & the body

I like these styles, although catsuits are very impractical when nature calls. (I remember these from the early 1990s–did anyone else have a velvet catsuit back then?) Continue Reading »

5 Comments »

November 23rd 2013
JFK puts the zap on Peggy Noonan’s brain

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

Peggy Noonan desperately tries to find something nice to say about John F. Kennedy, because he was assassinated and because he was the only Roman Catholic U.S. President:

Two small points. It is interesting that JFK was celebrated as the first modern president, the first truly hip president, and yet the parts of him we celebrate most are actually the old virtues. He lied to get into the military, not to get out of it. He was sick, claimed to be well, and served as a naval officer in the war. In the postwar years he was in fairly constant physical pain, but he got up every day and did his demanding jobs. He played hurt. He was from a big, seemingly close family and seemed very much the family man himself. What we liked most about him wasn’t hip.

And he was contained. He operated within his own physical space and was not florid or mawkish or creepily domineering in his physical aspect. Continue Reading »

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