May 12th 2014
Posted under: local news, wankers, weirdness
If you tried to comment on any but the most recent post (on Maternal Solicitude) yesterday from about 3 p.m. MDT until 7:30 this morning, you probably discovered that comments were closed on all older posts. I discovered a nasty spam infestation yesterday afternoon, and decided that the best way to deal with it was to quarantine my older posts, delete all new spam as fast as I could, and hope that my spam canner would figure things out.
That appears to have worked, so now my comments are back on everywhere. My apologies for any frustration or delays in seeing your comments posted.
May 11th 2014
Posted under: American history, childhood, Gender, the body, unhappy endings, women's history
From the very first paragraph of Mary Watkins’s Maternal Solicitude, or Lady’s Manual (New York, 1809), h/t to my graduate student, Clarissa:
WHEN a mother does not nurse her own infant, she, in many instances, does violence to nature; a custom unknown among the most polished in the purest ages of Greece and Rome. The sudden check given to this great natural evacuation of milk, at a time when her weakly state renders her unable to sustain so great a shock, is often of the worst consequences to herself; and the loss to the child is much greater than in commonly apprehended. A woman in this case, runs the imminent risk of her life from a milk-fever; besides the danger of swellings and imposthumes of the breast, and such obstruction in them as lay a foundation of a future cancer, (7).
Yes, a 205-year old breastfeeding manual on the first page threatens the reader with both the loss of her child and CANCER! But let’s not get too smug today. Maternal Solicitude is almost as subtle as modern pro-breastfeeding propaganda. Continue Reading »
May 8th 2014
Posted under: American history, book reviews, Gender, unhappy endings, women's history
Rebecca Traister, who wrote Big Girls Don’t Cry, the single best book about the 2008 Democratic primary contest, has written about Monica Lewinsky’s essay in Vanity Fair, and has supersmart things to say about our tendency to cherchez les femmes instead of placing the blame for men’s poor behavior where it belongs–on the men. Instead of antagonists, she writes, Lewinsky and Hillary Clinton are doppelgangers:
In the fervid investigation and coverage of it, both women got hammered—as slutty and frigid, overweight and ugly, dumb and monstrous. They each became cartoons of dismissible femininity—the sexually defined naïf and the calculating, sexless aggressor, characters who illustrated the ways that sex—sex that’s had by men as well—always redounds negatively on women. These two women weren’t at odds; they were in it together.
. . . . .
The reason that, no matter what they do, neither woman can ever shake this old story is that it is never-ending; and it is important. It is the story of women in the United States: marginalized, sexualized, and pitted against each other since time began in an attempt to keep them at the fringes of a power structure and very far from the top of it.
Go read the whole thing. (Why isn’t this woman a staff writer at a legacy magazine like The New Republic, The Nation, or The New Yorker? I sure as $hit would rather read her than Adam “let me
sell tell you about my adorably precocious children” Gopnik, or some of the other very predictable writers at those publications.) Continue Reading »
May 6th 2014
Posted under: American history, bad language, jobs, local news, unhappy endings, wankers, weirdness
This is a brief coda to the previous post, in which several commenters noted that they support selective special causes on their campuses. I have in fact done this too–for example there’s a “school is cool” program coordinated through Baa Ram U. I’ve supported in the past, which provides local needy schoolchildren with new backpacks loaded with the necessary supplies. I’ve also donated to several memorial funds and fellowships coordinated through other universities, but have been frustrated by the ongoing begging that goes on for years and years, meaning that the University of Whatever Foundation ends up spending at least the amount of my donation on paper and postage.
For example: In 2003, I made a one-time donation to the University of Colorado for a scholarship in honor of the late Jackson Turner Main, an emeritus professor there, and the University of Colorado Foundation still sends me invitations and solicitations. Eleven years later! It leads me to ask: who did I kill to deserve this?
Continue Reading »
May 4th 2014
Posted under: American history, bad language, jobs, local news, unhappy endings, wankers
I just received a telephone solicitation from a student at Baa Ram U. to donate money to support programs at Baa Ram U. I realize that because the Democratic politicians in my state (who have been running the show for the last nine years!) are so gonad-free that state colleges and universities are literally going begging. I also get it that “development” is all the rage. Everyone’s got their hat out these days.
But I still feel pretty goddamned miffed about being asked to donate to my own damn employer. The steady stream of solicitations had been until tonight confined to paper and email pleas for support. (Curse you, stupid land line!) I’m really interested to hear how the rest of you university and college employees feel about being solicited for donations by your employers, because I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one.
Here’s my thinking: Continue Reading »
May 3rd 2014
Posted under: American history, art, happy endings
Awesome!!! (H/t Slate, Dave Shumka, and the CBC.)
May 2nd 2014
Posted under: American history, art, bad language, Gender, race, wankers, weirdness
Does anyone else feel like he’s a Mad Men character (Donald Draper/Roger Sterling) who showed up forty years late with ideas that are seventy years out of date? Every time I hear his name it’s like I’m in a meeting at Sterling Cooper Draper Price.
May 1st 2014
Posted under: American history, art, bad language, Gender, GLBTQ, Intersectionality, race, students, unhappy endings
Junot Diaz, an alum of the Cornell University MFA program, on MFA vs. POC: “Lately I’ve been reading about MFA vs NYC. But for many of us it’s MFA vs POC.” He continues,
I didn’t have a great workshop experience. Not at all. In fact by the start of my second year I was like: get me the fuck out of here.
So what was the problem?
Oh just the standard problem of MFA programs.
That shit was too white.
Some of you understand completely. And some of you ask: Too white … how?
Too white as in Cornell had almost no POC—no people of color—in it. Too white as in the MFA had no faculty of color in the fiction program—like none—and neither the faculty nor the administration saw that lack of color as a big problem. (At least the students are diverse, they told us.) Too white as in my workshop reproduced exactly the dominant culture’s blind spots and assumptions around race and racism (and sexism and heteronormativity, etc). In my workshop there was an almost lunatical belief that race was no longer a major social force (it’s class!). In my workshop we never explored our racial identities or how they impacted our writing—at all. Never got any kind of instruction in that area—at all. Shit, in my workshop we never talked about race except on the rare occasion someone wanted to argue that “race discussions” were exactly the discussion a serious writer should not be having.
. . . . .
In my workshop what was defended was not the writing of people of color but the right of the white writer to write about people of color without considering the critiques of people of color.
Oh, yes: too white indeed. I could write pages on the unbearable too-whiteness of my workshop—I could write folio, octavo and duodecimo on its terrible whiteness—but you get the idea.
Continue Reading »
April 30th 2014
Posted under: American history, students
In seventeen years of teaching the U.S. History survey through the Civil War and Reconstruction, I have never failed to cry while reading the Gettysburg Address.
I feel like such a sentimental dork, but it’s one of the few times that you can hear a pin drop in the classroom as the students wait for me to pull myself back together.
April 26th 2014
Posted under: American history, bad language, Gender, Intersectionality, race, wankers, weirdness
Modupe Labode, Assistant Professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, sent out a tweet yesterday: “Where are the analyses of Cliven Bundy & race from western and/or public historians? Was looking for my students and found v. little.” This anti-racist, feminist, fake cowgirl has been looking around too and found little beyond stuff on political blogs and websites.
Now that the work week is officially over, it looks like I just might have to start mucking out this nasty little stall, as it seems to have a great deal to do with the stuff I’ve written a lot about from the other end of North American history: guys, guns, whiteness, and gender. You know what those cheese-eating surrender monkeys say, mes amis: plus ca change. . . plus c’est le meme chose. Or to quote William Faulkner, a dude who doesn’t get a lot of airplay on this blog, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Although I am loathe to direct any more attention to this failed rancher who nevertheless has figured out how to whip up the rubes to his defense, I have a few things to say about Bundy’s recent bout of whistling Dixie. Continue Reading »
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