Granny watch: new fake issue for mainstream press, same old sexist dismissal

grannywolf“As Clinton ponders her second run for the White House, many variables are in play, from her age to her health to her economic platform to her status as a soon-to-be grandmother.”

I get it that Hillary Clinton is unlike every other presidential candidate in American history, not just as the only serious woman contender, but also as the wife of a former president, but:  srsly?  Todd Purdham implies here that grandmotherhood is going to so delight and derange Clinton that she’ll toss her last chance to run for president out the window.

We’ve had other presidents who were near relatives of previous presidents in American history three times before–the Adamses, the Roosevelts, and the Bushes*, not to mention the many brothers Kennedy who ran for president between 1960 and 1980–and clearly, in these cases the whole family is implicated in campaigns in a way that’s different from other presidential campaigns.  But I don’t remember the media running stories in 1998 about how George W. Bush might not run for president because he might have to miss his daughters’ high school prom night, do you?  (Oh, yeah:  The media were all about the presidential blow jobs back then.)  Mitt Romney’s dozens of grandchildren were never presented as a reason for him to kick back and let 2012 go by without him, although I recall several stories emphasizing the comfort his large family could give him after his loss. Continue reading

Joan Rivers, 1933-2014

JOAN RIVERS, from her TV show, The Joan Rivers Show, 1969.As most of you have heard, Joan Rivers died yesterday at 81.  The LA Times featured a really warm, funny, and feminist take on her career by fellow comedian Kathy Griffin, who considered Rivers a friend and mentor:

Stand-up is not a gig in which you say, “It isn’t rocket science.” It’s harder than rocket science. And like rocket science probably was for ages, comedy was not woman’s work when Joan was coming up in the 1960s. A woman could know she was funny, but to make a living out of it? At that time, there was Phyllis Diller, Moms Mabley, Totie Fields, and that was about it.

Right on, because if you want to become a rocket scientist, there’s an established way to do this:  college, graduate school, and a system of professional mentors.  It’s not easy, but there is a pretty clear path.  If you want to be a comedian, especially a female comedian, there’s not an established path, and there were and still are very few mentors.  

It makes sense that Griffin was drawn to Rivers as a mentor, because they both mock beauty standards for women in show business by meeting them but also revealing and deconstructing them at the same time:  the jokes about all of the work and time it took, about age, and about plastic surgery, and the obsession with body fat–their own and other people’s.  Griffin does a tremendous job of capturing Rivers’s ambition and generosity in just a few paragraphs: Continue reading

It’s so easy to be a 46 year-old old runner near sea level

After 13 years living at 4,659 feet, I’ve forgotten how easy it is to be a runner at sea level! Wow. You old-timers like me who live below 1,000 feet elevation have NO EXCUSES. Working out here feels like nothing, even though I left behind the High Plains Desert three weeks ago.

This used to be my birthday run, at nearly 12,000 feet. Now this is my run at about 920 feet above sea level: Continue reading

History, Judge Lynch, and Walking While Black: thoughts on Ferguson, MO

cowgirlcoffeeStop by and sit for a spell.  Have a cup of coffee, too, while you’re at it!  (It’s fresh, or at least it was this morning.)  As you have probably guessed, I’ve crawled my way out of the wilderness and back to internet-connected civilization.  Although the entrance to The Huntington Library and Gardens is torn up now because of a major construction project, everything indoors and out is pretty much its usual quiet and studied perfection.  As commenter Susan noted in the comments on my last post, the Corpse Flower is about to bloom here, so we’re all on the edge of our seats.  (Follow the progress on Twitter, #CorpseFlower).

I’ll surely be reporting more from my new sabbatical year location, but I’m actually getting lots of writing done this week (!) so I don’t want to let the blog suck too much of my mojo right now.  I’m enjoying the offline company of my fellow nuns and monks here.  It’s a refreshingly cloistered environment, in which people still cultivate the attention spans required for long study and deep reflection rather than the instincts of the blogosphere or Twitterverse.

The Huntington is also culturally and environmentally about 15,000 miles away from Ferguson, Missouri.  Working and strolling through this privileged environment, I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on the incredible liberties I have even amidst the many botanical, art, manuscript, and bibliographic treasures.  All it takes is a “reader’s card” on a lanyard around my neck, and I have nearly the run of the place.  And who am I?  I haven’t paid a dime for the pleasure–in fact, I’m a huge welfare queen!  I’m getting paid to be here!  What a tragically different experience Mike Brown had of his own neighborhood. Continue reading

Dietary advice from the eighteenth century: hold the cream after dinner & the rum at breakfast; have a tea latte!

No, no, NO!

No, no, NO!

The Anglo-American tendency to see food as medicine (rather than a vehicule for pleasure) runs deep.  Reading eighteenth and early nineteenth century cookbooks and dietary advice manuals, all of a summer’s day (like you do), I came across this advice that made me laugh out loud (funniest part in bold):

CREAM,

By being too rich, is improper for weak stomachs, liable to turn rancid, and difficult of digestion.  Upon strong stomachs, which can digest it, it is very nourishing.

It is an unwholesome custom to eat cream or milk with apple-pies, strawberries, &c. &c. directly after dinner, if you mean to drink wine; for the wine ferments, coagulates the cream, and makes the whole mass hard of digestion:  and upon weak stomachs, such a mixture will promote sickness, vomiting, &c.  This I myself have experienced more than once.

–from Thomas J. Hayes, Concise Observations on the Nature of our Common Food, So Far as it Tends to Promote or Injure Health (New York, Swordses for Barry & Rogers, 1790), 22.

Continue reading

Right wing minority wields disproportionate influence over the NWHM, and why the NWHM lets them

Via a retweet by Modupe Labode on Twitter, I found this fascinating essay by Manon Parry, who tells of her experience as a recent Ph.D. who had an informational interview with a staff member from the National Women’s History Museum in 2010:

While CEO Joan Wages may not think historians are integral to the project, the resulting online exhibitions, labelled “amateur, superficial, and inaccurate” by Michel, are certainly disappointing, mixing trite sentimentality (“Profiles in Motherhood”) with shallow celebration (“Daring Dames,” and “Young and Brave: Girls Changing History”). As the Huffington Post article noted, “there appears to be little rhyme or reason to who or what is featured on the museum’s website.” Yet despite the upbeat tone and narrow emphasis on great women and their accomplishments, the exhibitions are still too provocative for the right-wing opponents of women’s history. Since 2008, legislation to grant NWHM permission to build near the National Mall has stalled six times, blocked in Congress by Republican opponents acting on behalf of anti-abortion interests. Michele Bachmann’s charge that the museum will create an “ideological shrine to abortion” is just the latest in this repeated strategy. In 2010, Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Jim DeMint (R-SC), placed a hold on a bill two days after Concerned Women for America requested one, claiming that the museum would “focus on abortion rights.” In response, Wages reassured opponents that reproductive health will never be tackled in the museum. “We cannot afford, literally, to focus on issues that are divisive.”

I know first-hand that the content of the museum’s website owes more to the fears of a political backlash than to the results of decades of groundbreaking historical research.

I completed my PhD in 2010 with Sonya Michel as my dissertation advisor. Interested in employment opportunities at the NWHM, I arranged an informal phone conversation with a staff member at Ralph Appelbaum Associates, then involved as designers for the project. Although this contact acknowledged my relevant training and expertise, she bluntly stated that my research, on family planning media over the twentieth century, made me a liability, given the political sensitivity of the topic. Birth control may be legal in America today, but it is clearly not legitimate. I mention this personal anecdote as full disclosure, not to complain about what happened to me, but to highlight how bad things have become. This is the state of the public history of women in twenty-first century America. Simplified, politically sensitive, and censored.

Continue reading