Esther Wheelwright (1696-1780), ca. 1763
I know I’ve been a very bad blogger lately–but I promise, it’s only because I’m trying to be a very good historian (or Historiann!) who makes my deadline for my book, The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright, exactly two weeks from today. I’m at the point that it’s really not much fun any more, and my brain is making weird mistakes in-between French and English words. I find myself not seeing words that I’ve written in French when I should use the English word. I also sometimes forget if the word I’m scrutinizing is actually in French or in English. (Those of you who work in languages other than the one you publish in can relate, right? I hope? Maybe I just need to work through my brain damage.)
There are some words that seem equally weird in both languages–like guimpe and wimple, just weird, amirite?–that confuse me now in my exhaustion. A wimple is the large swath of fabric that a nun wears over her head and which covers the upper part of her torso in fabric, like a hijab but it doesn’t cover the face as well. I can’t seem to remember whether or not I want to type ceinture or cincture, which describes the belt that some nuns wear. Continue reading
Laura Bennett analyzes Donald Trump’s comments on Megyn Kelly’s questions in last week’s Republican debate in Slate today. To review: Trump complained about the question she asked him regarding his offensive comments about women, saying that “[s]he gets out there and she starts asking me all sorts of ridiculous questions, and you could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her … wherever.” Bennett writes,
To be clear, Trump sounded like a Grade A bozo throughout the Kelly tirade, and his history of enthusiastic sexism made the period subtext seem like a safe assumption. If you listen to the full segment, though, it is not entirely evident where Trump was going with that “wherever.” At the end of the sentence, he did sort of peter out, distracted by the gleam of his own next thought about how well he was doing in the polls. Several minutes later, he declared that Chris Wallace seemed to have “blood pouring out of his eyes” while interrogating him, too. It is no secret that Trump is a cartoonish misogynist. But the media frenzy over bloodgate also seemed to be missing some key context.
Who knows if Trump meant specifically to reference menstruation? It doesn’t really matter. Anyone with half a brain–even half a lizard-brain like Trump–has to know that talking about blood and the only woman involved in the whole debate was just inviting others to make the connection he apparently pulled back from making himself. (Listen to the recording and judge for yourself. He’s a rude and crude dude. As Bennett suggests, compared to calling Gail Collins a “dog,” talking about Megyn Kelly’s menstrual blood is almost, to use a Trumpism, “world class.”) Trump evoked a taboo with ancient roots and surprising staying power, one that (not coincidentally) recalls male fears of emasculation by the power-sapping mojo of menstrual blood. Continue reading
There’s a nice explanation at Inside Higher Ed today about the #ILookLikeAProfessor meme that took off last week on Twitter. Masterminded by my Tweet peeps Sarah Pritchard, Adeline Koh, and Michelle Moravec, the movement attempts to address the age-old problem that we professors who aren’t bearded white men face at work:
Frustrated by the microaggressions we experience as “nontraditional” faculty, we started a new hashtag:#ILookLikeAProfessor. The flurry of photos, retweets and horror stories since last Thursday suggests that we are not alone in experiencing entrenched stereotypes and bias — both subtle and explicit.
- The female professor mistaken for an undergraduate. She was grading homework, not doing it.
- Male teaching assistants assumed to be the professor.
- Faculty members of color assumed to be the custodian.
- Asian professors assumed to be Chinese food delivery drivers.
We are not making this up.
My beach reading this week is Joan Didion: her famous essays on the 1960s collected in Slouching Towards Bethlehem and The White Album (1979), and her novel from that era as well, Play it As it Lays. I’ve completed the essay collections, and came across this 1976 article about Georgia O’Keeffe that reminded me about the conversation a few days ago about women writers and artistic creativity and confidence: Continue reading
Katha Pollitt has some ideas for reclaiming the moral high ground on abortion rights. I agree with her that abortion needs to be seen more visibly as a part of women’s health care. We all know women who have had abortions–some of us have assisted them in some way, and a third of have had abortions ourselves. I’ve helped one friend recover from an abortion. I’ve never had one myself, and count myself fortunate, not virtuous. There’s no question but that if I had become pregnant before I wanted to be that I too would have sought an abortion.
In fact, it was my planned, wanted pregnancy that made me feel even more strongly about the importance of abortion rights. Some women begin to question the morality of abortion when they become pregnant, and I always wondered if pregnancy would change my mind. It didn’t–in fact, it struck me as even crazier and more absurd that so-called “pro-lifers” cared more about the little jelly bean inside my uterus than the adult human woman in which it grew, a human with adult responsibilities and family and community ties. It struck me as the most clueless and obnoxious form of misogyny–the utter erasure of living, breathing women and all of our labor, hopes, and creativity in favor of the potential human life growing in our uteri. The notion that anyone but me would presume to make decisions about the rest of our lives enraged me. Continue reading
The title of this post refers to a 1998 essay by Francine Prose, “Scent of a Woman’s Ink: Are Women Writers Really Inferior?” Nearly twenty years later, the results aren’t encouraging for women. Over at Jezebel, Catherine Nichols writes about sending out queries to agents for the same novel, with the same cover letter and writing sample, under both her real name and in the name of a male alter ego. The results are even more depressing than you’d imagine (h/t Megan Kate Nelson for the RT that alerted me to this article):
The plan made me feel dishonest and creepy, so it took me a long time to send my novel out under a man’s name. But each time I read a study about unconscious bias, I got a little closer to trying it.
I set up a new e-mail address under a name—let’s say it was George Leyer, though it wasn’t—and left it empty. Weeks went by without word from the agents who had my work. I read another study about how people rate job applicants they believe are female and how much better they like those they believe are male.
Her hit ratio as Catherine was two requests to see the whole manuscript out of fifty queries, so 1:25 positive requests. As George, her hit ratio was 17:50. Nichols concludes that he is “eight and a half times better than me at writing the same book. Fully a third of the agents who saw his query wanted to see more, where my numbers never did shift from one in 25.”
Who was is brilliant new writer, George Leyer, and when can we read his brilliant novel? Continue reading
Oh, hai! Join me for breakfast?
OMFG: I think this state needs to issue basic intelligence tests for people who want to live in the Wildlife Urban Interface (WUI) zone in our foothills and mountains. This morning, I cracked open my newspaper to read this: “Boulder Heights plagued by bear break-ins.” My goodness–this is news if local bears have become expert lock-pickers and safe-crackers! I knew they were intelligent animals, but this is remarkable news!
But no. There were no “break-ins,” unless you consider walking in through an open door or window a “break-in.” People are going to bed at night with their doors and windows wide-open and are surprised to find entire bear families raiding their fridges: “Most recently, one came in through a neighbor’s window, pulled all the drawers and trays out of the refrigerator and ended up devouring a pile of energy bars.” That’s the thing about bears–they’re smart enough to zero in on the high-calorie, easily accessible foods you leave around the house, but they’re not in fact smart enough to outwit a locked door or window. Continue reading