Deep in the Heart

Howdy, folks!  I made it to Austin, Texas last night for an intense conference here over the next two days, Centering Families in the Atlantic World co-sponsored by the Omohundro Institute and the Institute for Historical Studies here at the University of Texas.  And then Thursday afternoon, I’ll be talking about this here blog at the Symposium on Gender, History, and Sexuality in a talk called “Cowgirl Up,” in which I’ll address some important eternal questions of the academic feminist blogosphere, such as Continue reading

What I have learned about rape

Yesterday in Denver, a 46-year old anesthesiologist was acquitted of raping his 23-year old nanny.  The rape happened after he had taken her out for a beer to celebrate her birthday last summer, and he claimed that the rape was consensual sex.  Here’s what I learned about rape yesterday from the Denver Post’s reportage of the trial:

1.  Unless a rape victim’s life comes to a complete halt and she is unable to enjoy anything ever again, it’s prima facia evidence that she was not raped.

[Dr. Jordan] Sankel’s counsel asked why the allegedly traumatized victim threw herself a birthday party two days after the July incident.

2.  Rape can logically never be successfully prosecuted, because if a rape victim has the guts to cooperate with the state’s prosecution of the perpetrator and face him in court in front of a jury, then she had the toughness to fight off the rape in the first place.  (Ergo, attempted rape is not a crime and men should never be held responsible for their own sexual conduct.)

And if the alleged victim could “stand up to the glare of a courtroom,” posited defense attorney Pamela Mackey, jurors might believe she could have stood up for herself when confronted with unwanted sexual advances. Continue reading

What I learned from blogging: authority, essentialism, and motherhood

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

Wednesday Roundup: On Wisconsin edition

Given the massive attack on organized labor that’s afoot in the U.S. these days, tt’s nice to see that it’s not just the Arab world out protesting in the streets.  I’ve been enormously impressed by the scenes in Madison and following news and commentary as I can.  Here are some interesting things I’ve found around the web:

  • In “Plutocracy Now,” Kevin Drum of Mother Jones has a nice, succinct historical explanation for our current situation:  “How did we get here? In the past, after all, liberal politicians did make it their business to advocate for the working and middle classes, and they worked that advocacy through the Democratic Party. But they largely stopped doing this in the ’70s, leaving the interests of corporations and the wealthy nearly unopposed. The story of how this happened is the key to understanding why the Obama era lasted less than two years.”  I’d disagree with that last sentence, in that the “Obama era” was clearly a continuation of the abandonment of labor by the Dems, who were more enamored with their “creative class” than the working class.  But Drum still presents a useful narrative for understanding why labor’s back is against the wall now.
  • Big Tent Democrat over at TalkLeft points out the obvious foolishness of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s exemption of the police and firefighters’ unions from his assault on collective bargaining rights because “he couldn’t take the risk of cops and firefighters going out on strike and allow mayhem to ensue:”  “[U]nless police and firefighters are not prohibited from striking by law (think PATCO), permitting them collective bargaining rights makes the use of a strike more likely, not less. Indeed, Walker’s argument provides stronger support for limiting the collective bargaining rights of police and firefighters than for other state employees. After all, if state employees who are not police and firefighters can strike without causing mayhem, then there is less risk in permitting them collective bargaining rights. But of course nothing Walker has said on the subject has made any sense at face value.”
  • Others have made this point already, but what do you notice, friends, about the differences in the makeup of the police and firefighters’ unions versus the public employees and teachers’ unions? Continue reading

Monkees Monday

I know it’s Tuesday, but Monkees Monday scans and sounds better, doesn’t it?

Dig Davy Jones’s multiple maraca action! I loved the Monkees–I was too young for the TV show’s first run, but caught the re-runs in the 1970s. Whenever I hear this song, it always reminds me of “Last Train to Clarksville,” both thematically and musically: Continue reading

Fix higher ed in eight easy steps! (Free nutritious recipes included.)

Nutritious yet slimming!

Really!  And here they are, according to yesterday’s Washington Post:  “1. Measure student learning | 2. End merit aid | 3. Three-year degrees | 4. Core curriculum | 5. More homework | 6. Encourage completion | 7. Cap athletic subsidies | 8. Rethink remediation.”  You can read the article soup-to-nuts as I did by starting here, if you like.  There are some good ideas in there, but all together they’re kind of a nightmare jello mashup of epic proportions.

Here are my responses in brief to all of these suggestions:

  1. Because standardized high-stakes testing has worked so brilliantly at the K-12 level?  Let’s just strangle this one in its crib unless and until we get some evidence that more testing = more education.
  2. Sounds great!  But it’s never going to happen.  Merit aid is the fruit of the perfect marriage of plutocracy and meritocracy that characterizes American higher education, and the kinds of institutions that offer substantial merit aid have plenty of coin to throw around and plenty of other students lining up to pay the (resulting) inflated tuition price.  As it turns out, if you’re the graduate of an elite institution, you can actually eat prestigeContinue reading

Weekend roundup: Operation crashdown edition

Bottoms up!

Howdy, howdy, howdy!  I’m posting from my not-so-undisclosed ski holiday location this morning.  I fell down a lot yesterday, which I’m choosing to interpret as a sign of my increasing confidence.  I’m much less afraid to fall than I was in the past, and putting yourself in conditions in which you might fail is the only way to learn new skills, right?  I’m thinking that there’s a lesson for my professional life in all of this. . . .

You may not believe me–I wish I had a video to prove it–but I went down a ski cross course yesterday, and I only fell down once or twice!  It’s true.  Ski cross was my favorite Olympic sport last year–it’s the one in which four to six skiers race down a steep, twisty course with all kinds of jumps on it–it’s pretty much Roller Derby downhill on skis.  Now, I’m not saying that this ski cross course was at all like the one in the Olympics or the X Games, and I never caught big air (or any air at all), but it was a ski cross course!  I went up a big bump, and down; up a big bump, and down (still upright); up a big bump and down (still upright!); up a big bump and then omigodthere’sasteepsharprightturninthetrack so I intentionally put myself down to the left into a comfy snow drift.  Ahhhh! Continue reading