Shorter Margaret Wente: porn fine by me, just leave it unexamined.

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

What I learned from the comments thread at Tenured Radical

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

Victorian Secrets by Sarah A. Chrisman (2013): perhaps some things are better kept under wraps.

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

Hillary Clinton still too old, sick, and worst of all, unattractive

As I predicted earlier this week, the sneering, sexist dismissals of Hillary Clinton are back, baby.  And just like in 2007 and 2008, it’s not right-wingers leading the charge–it’s people on the so-called “progressive” side of things.  Meghan Daum writes in the Chicago Tribune today:

Clinton’s finale could hardly have been more dramatic. After falling ill with a stomach virus in early December, she fainted, suffered a concussion and landed in a hospital with a blood clot between her brain and skull. Meanwhile, her detractors drummed up conspiracy theories about “Benghazi fever,” and her supporters had a moment of genuine fear that Clinton might not be around to follow the script that so many have been writing for her over the last several years.

Really?  Getting a tummy bug and a bump on the head is “more dramatic” than, for example, having a chronic heart condition (eventually requiring a heart transplant) and shooting a guy in the face?  I thought that was a lot more dramatic, especially for someone considered perfectly fit to be a mechanical heartbeat away from the U.S. Presidency!  And wait–what about choking on pretzel while watching a football game?  Maybe that was more ridiculous than dramatic, but I’d hardly call Norovirus high drama.  On to the comments about Clinton’s looks: Continue reading

Horror master King sez “Tax Me, for F@%&’s Sake!”

A most excellent screed from rich guy Stephen King as to why Ritchie Rich needs to pay more taxes.  To all of those Ritchie Riches who are “tired of hearing about” how they should pay more in taxes, he says:

Tough $hit for you guys, because I’m not tired of talking about it. I’ve known rich people, and why not, since I’m one of them? The majority would rather douse their d!cks with lighter fluid, strike a match, and dance around singing “Disco Inferno” than pay one more cent in taxes to Uncle Sugar. It’s true that some rich folks put at least some of their tax savings into charitable contributions. My wife and I give away roughly $4 million a year to libraries, local fire departments that need updated lifesaving equipment (Jaws of Life tools are always a popular request), schools, and a scattering of organizations that underwrite the arts. Warren Buffett does the same; so does Bill Gates; so does Steven Spielberg; so do the Koch brothers; so did the late Steve Jobs. All fine as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go far enough.

King and his wife are locally famous and revered in Maine for their charitable contributions and their support for the local arts community.  The Kings’ money actually funded a faculty position in History at the University of Maine that a grad school friend of mine has occupied for the past 15 years or so–a position that otherwise would not have been funded.  So he created at least one job–but as for the notion that Ritchie Rich is out there creating jobs?  Bullcrap, says King: Continue reading

In which I explain my hairstyle to others on the basis of my submission to authority, or, let’s talk about hair and history.

My hairstyle as worn by Jean Seberg

I’ve been thinking a lot about hair lately.  First, there was this comment from LouMac yesterday, in which she wrote (sarcastically, in a rant about “choice” feminism and the narrowness of straight women’s performance of gender) “Young white hetero women all have identical long straight hair because they choose it!”  Since most of you readers are affiliated with college and university campuses, you probably recognize this as the dominant hair aesthetic, too. 

I think there was a greater diversity of women’s hairstyles in Maoist China than there is among white college women today, but I have to admit that I went through my long-straight-hair phase too, in the early 1990s when I was poor and didn’t have money for luxuries like haircuts.  (The long-straight style has the virtue of being inexpensive to maintain if one has “good” hair.  African American women, some Jewish women, and others with curly or “bad” hair need at least regular blowouts, if not messy and dangerous hair-straightening perms too to achieve this look, so for some women it’s a very costly and time-consuming investment.)

Then back at Echidne, I found this link to something that she called Michelle Duggar’s “wifely tips for a happy marriage.”  Follow the links back that she provides, and eventually you’ll get to this PDF, “Seven Basic Needs of a Husband,” which includes a lengthy (and on the surface, strangely detailed) discussion of a wife’s hair and how it plays a primary role in a wife’s dutiful submission that is the foundation of all happy marriages, according to this document.  I’ve copied the document–with its strange quiz-like format as well as its odd typefaces, bolds, and use of ALL CAPS–as best I can here: Continue reading

Pretty on the inside

I saw Steve the Stylist yesterday for a haircut.  While waiting for him, I found myself drawn to one of those “plastic surgery disasters”-type cover stories on a celebrity magazine, in which different photographs of celebrities (all women) are compared, analyzed by cosmetic surgeons, and the results decried as “ruining” the celebrities’ faces, breasts, or whatever.  We both commented on the rank unfairness of an entertainment industry that won’t employ women over 35 or 40 unless they’ve had repeated cosmetic interventions, but then of course these women are mocked and derided for succumbing to the procedures that keep them employable.

Steve offered a fascinating observation based on having had clients who have had botox injections.  Continue reading