Search Results for "motherhood"

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

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


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 »


22nd 2011
Why the internet & Twitter suck

Posted under American history & bad language & childhood & Gender & the body & unhappy endings & wankers & women's history

Writing about parenting decisions on the internet is hazardous if you are a mother.  It doesn’t matter that the mistake in question wasn’t yours, and that instead it was a nurse’s fault that your child received the wrong vaccine.  If you are a mother, you will only be attacked as a neglectful mother/helicopter parent/narcissist/etc.  (Don’t believe me?  Just skim some of the first comments, if you dare.  I’m still trying to wrap my head around her being called both neglectful AND a helicopter parentAwesome!)

If you as a mother simultaneously transfused blood into your child WHILE lifting a burning car off of her body, you’ll still be told U R doin’ it RONG.  You’re a helicopter (or Jaws of Life) parent!  Parents do too much for their kids these days!  What a narcissist–why would you write about a private trauma like that?  It was dangerously irresponsible for you not to call 911 and let the paramedics handle that!  Take take take–that’s all they’ll ever learn if you do everything for them!!!!11!!!1!1!

It’s difficult for me to imagine that a father who wrote a similar essay would be subject to such patronizing, dismissive, and nasty lectures from anonymous (and not-so-anonymous) commenters and tweeters.  In fact, in the world I inhabit, I think it’s quite plausible that he’d be offered warm, gooey cookies for an essay like that, even (or especially?) from feminist writers.  Continue Reading »


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 »


18th 2011
Saturday round-up: slutty college years edition

Posted under American history & art & bad language & book reviews & childhood & European history & fluff & Gender & jobs & students & the body & unhappy endings & wankers & women's history

Good morning, y’all!  It’s another changeable day here in southern Maine, so just in case I end up spending the day at the beach and you don’t, here are a few items that will keep you entertained indoors:

  • First of all, have you been reading Tenured Radical lately?  It’s difficult to keep up with that woman, but I particularly loved Thursday’s cranky screed, “Question:  Why Do Development Offices Raise Money for Sports When Academics Are Being Cut?”  Excellent question!  As many of you know, I’m opposed philosophically and budgetarily to the free men’s sports farm clubsthat even Podunk Colleges and Directional State U.’s feel the need to provide to the for-profit teams of the NBA and the NFL, but when even sports-loving dyke proffies start wondering about the size and heft of the Athletic Department’s budget, compared to (for example) the Classics Department, somehow I feel less like the vox clamantis in deserto.  (And I don’t actually read a word of Latin!)  Repeat after me:  club sports good, free farm clubs bad. 
  • TR also shares what not to do when pi$$ed off by your colleagues.  (What is it with the peeing, boys?  Seriously?)
  • In “Fat Girl Woes,” New Kid on the Hallway writes, “You know what really annoys me? The way some stores that carry my size online won’t carry that size in the stores. I mean, clearly those stores would like to sell me stuff and take my money, but they don’t want me actually to shop in the store? You know, in public?”  (She’s not just a student-blogger any more–she has finished her law degree and really needs to wear suits pretty much all day long in her new career.)  I’ve noticed over the last several years that the combined forces of vanity sizing (what was once an 7-8 or a 5-6 is now a 4 or XS, for example) plus the fat discrimination New Kid reports means that the range of sizes represented on most store racks is narrower than ever.
  • Joyce Chaplin reviews Mary Beth Norton’s new book, Separated by their Sex:  Women in Public and Private in the Colonial Atlantic World, in tomorrow’s New York Times Book Review (h/t Blake at Down and Out in Denver.)  Chaplin writes, “The materials are rich, but most historians will be surprised that Norton goes after them with the equivalent of a power tool that has lost its edge. [Ed. note:  OUCH!] Continue Reading »


11th 2011
Why I had to skip the Berks

Posted under Berkshire Conference & childhood & Gender & happy endings & the body & women's history

Thanks for your kind comments and e-mails–our family emergency has been resolved.  I’m sure you’re wondering what on earth could keep me away from the Berkshire Conference 2011, especially considering that there won’t be another one until 2014!  Well, friends–there isn’t a lot that would keep me away from it, but there’s something I haven’t told you about Famille Historiann before that might put this into perspective:  Continue Reading »


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 »


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 »


30th 2010
The Old Belle is Still Ringing: the Tea Party and white women’s activism

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

Kevin Drum offers an interesting short history of right-wing populism and its rise after the election of Democratic presidents since the 1930s over at Mother Jones (via RealClearPolitics.)  He writes:

When FDR was in office in the 1930s, conservative zealotry coalesced in the Liberty League. When JFK won the presidency in the ’60s, the John Birch Society flourished. When Bill Clinton ended the Reagan Revolution in the ’90s, talk radio erupted with the conspiracy theories of the Arkansas Project. And today, with Barack Obama in the Oval Office, it’s the tea party’s turn.

.       .      .      .      .      .      

[S[hared tropes [of these movements] include a fear of “losing the country we grew up in,” an obsession with “parasites” who are leeching off of hardworking Americans, and—even though they’ve always received copious assistance from business interests and political operatives—a myth that the movement is composed entirely of fed-up grassroots amateurs. Take, for example, this description of Pam Stout, the star of a seminal tea party profile written earlier this year by David Barstow of the New York Times. After Obama took office, he writes, “Mrs. Stout said she awoke to see Washington as a threat, a place where crisis is manipulated—even manufactured—by both parties to grab power. She was happily retired, and had never been active politically. But last April, she went to her first tea party rally.” Compare that to the description of Estrid Kielsmeier in Suburban Warriors, Lisa McGirr’s history of ’60s-era right-wing activism in Orange County, California.Kielsmeier, a resident of my hometown of Garden Grove (my mother acidly recalls PTA meetings at my elementary school as hotbeds of John Birch Society activism), was a homemaker who ran the local gubernatorial primary campaign headquarters of ultraconservative oilman Joe Shell against Richard Nixon in 1962: “Her baby played in a playpen next to her desk while Kielsmeier participated in what she later called her first real involvement in politics. ‘Up to that time…it was education and just kind of…networking, really.’” Continue Reading »


28th 2010
That’s Professor Genius to you: Annette Gordon-Reed wins MacArthur grant

Posted under American history & Gender & happy endings & race & women's history

Can things get any better if you’re Annette Gordon-Reed?  I guess a new job at Harvard and a National Book Award, and a Pulizer Prize for her latest book, The Hemingses of Monticello:  An American Family weren’t enough–she won a 2010 ”genius grant!” 

I remember reading Gordon-Reed’s first book about Sally Hemings, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings:  An American Controversy(1997) back when it was first published, and being completely impressed by her thoroughness and doggedness.  She not only came to her conclusions (later ratified by the DNA evidence) about Hemings’ long-term liaison and motherhood of most of Jefferson’s children through old-fashioned historical methodology, this law professor out-historianed the historians by showing in excruciating detail how the historians had colluded for two hundred years in lying about Hemings, trying to erase the evidence, and perpetuating every ugly stereotype about African American women ever imagined.  Continue Reading »


1st 2010
Valley of the Dolls, Stepford edition

Posted under American history & art & Bodily modification & childhood & Dolls & Gender & GLBTQ & technoskepticism & the body & unhappy endings & wankers & weirdness & women's history

This creepy doll by Hans Bellmer, 1935

I can’t let the coincidence of this pass me by, since we’re talking about dolls and the objectification of girls’ and women’s bodies againSquadratomagico has a great post up on the off-label hormonal engineering of baby girl fetuses who have tested positive for (gasp!) Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia, which means that they frequently have ambiguous genitalia, may possess a strong interest in softball, and “as a group have a lower interest than controls in getting married and performing the traditional child-care/housewife role.” 

(Well, what thinking woman doesn’t agree with that last bit?  Seriously:  if you dig scrubbing crusty surfaces and wiping snotty noses and bums, that should be a symptom of clinical depression, not normative behavior in any adult, male or female.  Most of us do that junk because we don’t want the state condemning our houses and taking our kids away.)

Click immediately on this link to join the discussion.  I left a comment over there, so I’ll be following that thread.  Something else I didn’t mention in my comment is the odd equation of childhood behavior with adult predisposition for motherhood among these alleged sufferers of CAH:  “As children, they show an unusually low interest in engaging in maternal play with baby dolls, and their interest in caring for infants, the frequency of daydreams or fantasies of pregnancy and motherhood, or the expressed wish of experiencing pregnancy and having children of their own appear to be relatively low in all age groups.”  What a stupid way to think about children or the importance of play.  Continue Reading »


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