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.

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Is anyone speaking at commencement ceremonies this year? Or, why are rich & powerful people such wimps?

Are you seriously telling me that a former chancellor of a major university, a former U.S. Secretary of State, and the current head of the International Monetary Fund are so allergic to complaints about them that they can’t bring themselves to speak to graduating classes unless they’re assured that no one will offer anything harsher than polite applause in response to their remarks?  I guess the rich and powerful really are different from us–they think that their work and decisions should put them above any questions or criticism from the mere hoi polloi.  What a bunch of wimps!

Students and faculty are perfectly within their rights to question the bestowal of honorary degrees on these speakers.  But from what I’ve seen, speakers are declining to appear at commencements if anyone merely questions the righteousness of their appearance on campus on Twitter or other social media, or stages a few sit-ins or teach-ins.  Continue reading

Spam attack thwarted!

Dear Readers,

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.

Your pal,

Historiann

On philanthropy: why must no good deed go unpunished?

cowgirlguitardoremiThis 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?
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Donald Sterling

madmen_fullbodyniteoutDoes 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.

Being Cliven Bundy

cowgirlhaybarnModupe 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

From the land of WTF

wtfHere is the text of an email I received yesterday from my university. I honestly have no idea what it’s talking about. Does any part of this sound familiar to any of you? (Are there any palaeographers among you?)

This seminar will provide information about the university’s involvement in a national consortium that promises to enhance learning and teaching. The consortium, which includes several leading research universities, is exploring new directions in the use of instructional technologies. The intent is to facilitate and accelerate digital learning using the best integrated digital systems available that make it easy for faculty and enhance learning. The ecosystem consists of three components: a digital content repository/reflector, a service delivery platform, and a learning analytics service. The digital content repository/reflector will allow us to regain control over our digital learning objectives, allow faculty to choose to share/reuse digital content easily and seamlessly while preserving their digital rights. The service delivery platform is Canvas by Instructure, and has the characteristics of easier use by faculty and faster development of courses in it. The best learning analytics will be deployed and evolve apace as this area develops.

My first thought when I tried to read this email:  was this written by one of those software robots that allegedly can fairly grade essays? Continue reading