I am so tired of reading books by people whose historical frame of reference is <100 years. (I am not thinking of peer-reviewed histories here. I’m talking about general-interest non-fiction, which is my usual “just for fun” bedside table reading. But I’m of the firm belief that non-fiction should be based on research and grounded in research and a reasonable perspective. Even polemics must be based in fact.) What has my brassiere in a twist now, you may well ask? Continue Reading »
Archive for the 'the body' Category
The title of this post (and the image at left) is a Childcraft classic whose influence has been tragically overlooked on modern American historiography!
Have you ever seen those nasty trucknutz that some d00ds hang underneath their trailer hitches? Yes, that’s right: some men believe that the smelliest and most unattractive of their body parts are so awesome that they hang replicas of them outside of their cars and trucks!
So here’s what I’ve been thinking, after writing a blog post that I claimed was smeared with menstrual blood and would pollute everyone who clicked on it: Continue Reading »
I’ve got a question I’d like to throw open to your readership. I have a pregnant colleague who’s due at the very end of the fall semester. We don’t have a paid maternity leave, so her plan is to take sick leave for the last week of classes, if necessary, then use our long winter break as her “maternity leave” and resume teaching in the spring. She’s already worked up syllabi for her fall classes that are structured so the last week or so of meetings are devoted to research presentations, paper workshopping, etc., and can be easily covered by willing colleagues (including myself). And because she’s a responsible person, she decided to tell our department chair and dean about this now, months in advance.
Well. The dean acted like she’d never dealt with this problem before, and was not at all happy with the arrangement. What if my colleague had to take sick leave for more than a week? She should really be prepared to have more than one week covered by colleagues. Moreover, she should rewrite all her syllabi so that the material during those weeks aligned with the specialties of the colleagues she intended to cover for her. (Note: she’s the only person in our department in her field, though plenty of us would be competent to pinch hit in her area for a class meeting or two.) The dean seems very concerned about any possible unfairness, surprises, etc., to our students.
Am I right in thinking this is straight-up gender discrimination? It seems to me that the burden of preparing for every possible contingency should not fall on my colleague. If she came down with a sudden illness in the middle of the semester, we’d have to cope, with no pre-existing plan in place. And if she had a permanent disability that affected her mobility, say, not accommodating those needs would violate the ADA. Continue Reading »
Have you heard the one about the 600-year old bra? (Some of my bras only seem that old, but when I find a bra that works, I’m likely to wear it to shreds. Can any of you relate, or am I just about the laziest lingerie shopper in the universe?) This is a seriously cool discovery, one that I’m particularly interested in because I’ve developed something of a fascination with historical underwear. (I just gave a talk last month about the significance of stays in seventeenth and eighteenth-century North America.)
This discovery by Beatrix Nutz of the University of Innsbruck is important because historians of clothing have assumed that the brassiere was invented little more than a century ago, when aggressive corseting went out of style, and middle-class and elite American and European women were being encouraged (for the health of “the race”) to engage in sports and become more active. Corsets, which by the end of the nineteenth century severely limited one’s lung capacity, were not helpful when engaging in late Victorian and Edwardian-era fashionable sports, like tennis, bicycling, and croquet.
Some news organizations are also publishing photos of what looks like a 600-year old thong that was also part of the same cache of clothing. I’d love to read what you medievalists and/or fashion experts think about this, because I doubt that this article was worn in the way modern women wear underwear. My theory Continue Reading »
I’m about to fly off for my annual sojourn to the ancestral heartland, and while I was buried in the eighteenth century last week, it came to light that some time-traveling pols from the eighteenth century have joined the Michigan House of Representatives! Remarkable providences! I try to prevent my worlds from colliding, but the Michigan ledge just won’t let me. According to their thinking, vaginas should be the object of legislation, but people with vaginas should not be heard, and we sure don’t need to discuss the icky particulars.
I’ll be sure to ask every Michigander I meet if I’m truly welcome in their state. Will there be a border check, I wonder? Continue Reading »
In her thoughtful review of Linda Hirshman’s Victory: The Triumphant Gay Revolution (2012) E.J. Graff says that Hirshman presents a serviceable overview of the GLBT movement. However, she says that Hirshman’s core argument for its remarkable success slights the Civil Rights and feminist movements that preceded gay liberation, and misunderstands the importance of the previous two movements to the victories of LGBT rights:
Of course, Hirshman isn’t trying to tell the entire history of the lesbian and gay movement, but so much is missing that she gets her analysis wrong. Or did she limit her focus because her analysis is off? In the book’s introduction,Hirshman claims that America’s two great preceding social movements, for racial justice and women’s equal rights, were less ambitious and therefore less successful, making strategic calculations to emphasize their similarities to the dominant social order. Lesbians and gay men, in contrast, had to work hard to open up room for our deviance, and therefore achieved more profound social change.
. . . . .
But in praising the LGBT movement’s drive to make the world safe for difference, Hirshman implies that black people and feminists never had to establish their moral cred. Is she kidding? Blacks had to fight depiction as subhumans, sexual monsters, immoral criminals, and intellectual inferiors. Feminists were painted as sterile, heartless harpies; women’s brains as supposedly too small for public life. Both groups expanded the meaning of the founding American dictum: All of us are created equal, endowed with certain unalienable rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Continue Reading »
In a recent conversation with a friend who’s teaching an online course for her university,* she commented that she’ll probably get really bad student evaluations again this summer, as she has in the two previous summers in which she’s taught online classes. “I’m not a body to them,” she said, and therefore she thinks that the students feel freer to rip into her in their evaluations. (Of course they may also be venting some frustration with the online course format itself, although they may not know enough about online classes and what they can expect from their instructors.)
It sure makes sense to me that much of the humor in the classroom–quotidian small talk before class starts, questions about a student’s health, expressions of concern for their well-being, banter about university politics or sports teams, asking for student opinion on a local issue, dumb jokes by the professor–well, all of that is pretty much drained out of online courses. I hadn’t really thought about this until my friend made her observation about how much lower she’s rated in her online courses versus her F2F courses, but I think much of this kind of communication between students and instructors, and vice-versa, and among the students themselves–all of this non-content related, non-subject relevant communication is going to have a major impact as to how a student experiences a class emotionally. Continue Reading »
A colleague of mine recently gave a talk at my undergraduate college. While we caught up over a cup of coffee, he asked about my experiences there, as he’s interested in sending his daughter to a college or university like that. As I told him stories about the safety and liberty I felt there–and have felt nowhere else before Freshman convocation or since graduation–it occured to me that a surprising number of my fondest memories involved semi-public nudity. Most of the naked memories were streaking up and down Senior Row or skinny-dipping in a fountain after dark when few people were around to witness us, and it was always a group endeavor–sometimes all-women, sometimes a coed group.
Is it just me, or do some of you have similar stories and memories? What do you think is behind the compulsion of students to experience a college campus in Eve’s Livery? Continue Reading »
Well, well, well: fires are raging here in Colorado, and hellzapoppin’ everywhere else these days. Here are a few tidbits to keep you entertained today while I’m stuck in paper-grading hell. On a post last week that featured a new pair of shoes, a commenter asked if there were “shoes with manuscript-finishing powers?” Girl, there’s a shoe, or a boot, for every job. I’ve got these boots to inspire me to kick some a$$ and take names. That’s what they say about me, friends: Historiann really has a pair! (Of boots, duh!)
- Are your there, Judy Blume? It’s us, your perimenopausal fangirls. Anna Holmes’s writes a valentine to Judy Blume’s unforgettable adolescent protagonists: “Blume’s œuvre is filled with young female protagonists for whom boys, breasts, and sexual base-clearing are, if not irrelevant, sort of beside the point. In book after book, Blume gives us girls who have rejected the preciousness of childhood yet preserved the self-possession, ambition, and appetite for adventure that their peers and elders find in short supply. (‘What Mrs. Daniels didn’t know was that you could play with paper dolls like a baby or you could play with them in a very grown-up way, making up stories inside your head,’ reads one passage in ‘Starring Sally J. Freedman As Herself.’) Contrast this with Blume’s exasperated, often derisive depiction of adult women—highly anxious, easily upset, overprotective, obsessed with outward appearances—and you begin to understand that what Blume is celebrating is that brief yet exhilarating time in a young girl’s life in which internal narratives take precedence over external attributes.” Yes. Don’t miss Holmes’s comments about the new e-book versions of Blume’s work, which totally undermines the way that the Blume books circulated in grade school back in the day: someone would bring in their dog-eared copy, and each girl would have one or two nights in which to devour it before passing it along to the next girl. Deenie. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret. And the succes de scandale, Forever! (I never understood the appeal of Then Again, Maybe I Won’t, Blume’s one foray into male adolescence. But that’s her only dog, in my view.)
- From the department of “oops!” Dahlia Lithwick called her shot last week about the Supreme Court’s review of the Affordable Care Act: Continue Reading »
Today’s post is the second of a two-part interview with Mark Fiege (pronounced FEE-gee, rhymes with BeeGee), who has just published The Republic of Nature: An Environmental History of the United States (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2012). Mark is a colleague of mine at Baa Ram U., and his book delivers what its sweeping subtitle suggests–a striking reinterpretation of American history as environmental history, with chapters that span the seventeenth through the twentieth centuries. Part I of our conversation is here, if you missed it.
As I explained yesterday, The Republic of Nature is not a textbook, but rather an attempt to interpret key episodes or turning points in American history as environmental history, reconsidering them from the different angles employed by environmental historians and their extra-disciplinary colleagues. Its nine chapters explore New England witchcraft, the Declaration of Independence, “King Cotton,” Abraham Lincoln, the Battle of Gettysburg and the Gettysburg Address, the Transcontinental Railroad, the atomic bomb, Brown v. Board of Education, and the Oil Shock of the 1970s. (Click here to learn more about the book at its own website.)
Mark saddled up and rode out East yesterday for the start of his national book tour–see here if he’s coming to a middle-western or eastern town near you this spring. His book will be the subject of a special session next month at the annual meeting of the Organization for American Historians in Milwaukee on Friday, April 20 at 1:30 p.m. Be there, and you just might get an opportunity to meet Mark and his fellow panelists, Linda Gordon, Mary Beth Norton, Eric Foner, and William Cronon. Yes, that’s where Mark’s career is heading, friends–we’ll be lucky to keep him down on the high plains desert from now on.
In today’s conversation, we talk about how Mark defines environmental history and we even talk about some women’s history and history of sexuality and the connections between our fields:
Historiann: I love the point that “nature” and “the natural” are inherently ideological constructs—just as are classic concepts for organizing American history like “liberty,” “republicanism,” and “democracy.” Yet historians of the past several generations have been much more interested in organizing their lectures and books on the sweep of U.S. history around those contested political terms because of their flexibility. Americans as different as Jefferson, DuBois, Alice Paul, and Antonin Scalia, for example, have had very different interpretations of these big ideas. Your book shows how nature can be an organizing principle of American history, too.
I want to press you further on your definition of environmental history. Since you are advancing an expansive view of what constitutes environmental history, where I wonder do you draw the line between environmental history and everything else? Is there any subject or methodology you would categorically exclude, or is your habit of mind now inclined to look for an environmental hsitory angle in everything?
Mark Fiege: A recent book that I deeply admire and that speaks to all of these issues in particular ways is Susan Klepp’s Revolutionary Conceptions, some of the insights of which I incorporated into The Republic of Nature. As an environmental historian, I like the book because Klepp takes seriously the relationships among biological processes, culture, and power in explaining the causes and consequences of the decline in fertility during the American Revolution. Her claim that “procreation is power” is marvelous and expresses precisely what environmental historians are trying to do, which is to explain that complex, interacting combination of human and non-human material factors that drive history. Continue Reading »