This is a huge part of the problem

Why are Michael Beschloss, Peniel Joseph (Brandeis University), and Richard Norton Smith (George Mason University) on my teevee right now talking about women’s history?  (Remember, I don’t have cable, so I’m watching the Democratic National Convention on PBS.)  What the hell do they know about women’s history?  Not much at all, as it turns out.  (Joseph seems to know more than the rest, and he makes some good points about African American women.)

At least Beschloss’s rug looks pretty good.  And he admits that it’s appalling that it took 88 years after women’s suffrage to see a woman seriously compete for a major party nomination.  Still, I think that someone should have called Linda Kerber.  I think she’s even in the Iowa City white pages, so it’s not like they couldn’t track her down…

Vagina Dentata to address DNC tonight!

cu-527.JPGEric Bohlert at Media Matters looks at the recent history of Democratic party conventions (h/t Susie at Suburban Guerrilla.)  And guess what, boys and girls?  Hillary Clinton is being treated very differently by the media than any other presidential candidate in recent American history!

What’s so startling in watching the coverage of the Clinton convention-speech story has been the complete ignorance displayed about how previous Democratic conventions have dealt with runners-up like Clinton. It’s either complete ignorance or the media’s strong desire to painstakingly avoid any historical context, which, in turn, allows the press to mislead news consumers into thinking Clinton’s appearance (as well as the gracious invitation extended by Obama) represents something unique and unusual. Something newsworthy.

Based on previous conventions, if a candidate had accumulated as many delegates and votes as Clinton did during the primaries and then did not have her name placed into nomination, that would represent a radical departure from the convention norm.

Read the whole thing to re-live all of the ugly accusations and obscene language of the primary coverage, in its new, improved summer 2008 version!  Aside from showing once again that there’s nothing that anyone can’t say about the Clintons, Bohlert provides plenty of evidence of the misogyny that has been characteristic (rather than exceptional) in the coverage of Clinton’s presidential campaign.  I don’t know why Bohlert continues to claim that he doesn’t understand the origins of this media hate-fest: 

Even after all these months, I still don’t completely understand why Clinton’s essentially centrist campaign for the White House ginned up so much open contempt from the press corps, which has felt completely comfortable addressing her in an openly derogatory and condescending manner. The issue of her convention involvement simply allowed the press to whack her around like a piñata one more time, regardless of the facts.

The allegations and accusations about Clinton and her character are usually fact-free, mutually contradictory, and make no sense–but we’re not supposed to notice, because she’s a monster.  A woman who seeks that kind of power is clearly not a woman, but a she-devil who can embody any monstrous contradiction we can imagine.  Remember these golden oldies?

History Mystery: is FratGuy actually Princeton historian Sean Wilentz?

Princeton historian Sean Wilentz?

Sean Wilentz has another very provocative analysis of Barack Obama in the context of the last seventy-five years of Democratic Presidents at Newsweek.  Wilentz is a Bill and Hillary Clinton partisan–those of you over the age of thirty may remember his passionate, and even over-the-top denunciation of the impeachment of Bill Clinton–so keep in mind that he most certainly didn’t drink the Kool-Aid toss back the Jello Shots during the primary.  (Wilentz was practically frothing at the mouth in his December 8, 1998 congressional testimony–“history will track you down and condemn you for your cravenness”–but he was absolutely right about how it would look in the cold light of history.  And we didn’t need to wait more than a few years to see that more clearly, now did we?)  Go read the whole thing–it’s good, although I think he lets some of his fave presidents like Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson off the hook for the bad things they did–little things like dropping the bomb on Hiroshima and the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution!  (I’m not wild about his love for Andrew Jackson either, to say the least, but Wilentz is a romantic populist through and through…)

But, to the matter at hand:  Wilentz sees parallels between Obama’s campaign and another, more recent, example in presidential history: 

As Republican strategists have begun to notice with delight, Obama’s liberal alternative to the post-Bush GOP to date has much in common with Carter’s post-Watergate liberalism. Rejecting “politics as usual,” attacking “Washington” as the problem, promising to heal the breaches and hurts caused by partisan political polarization, pledging to break the grip that lobbyists and special interests hold over the national government, wearing his Christian faith on his sleeve as a key to his mind, heart and soul—in all of these ways, Obama resembles Jimmy Carter more than he does any other Democratic president in living memory.

.    .    .    .    .     .    .    .    .    .    .     .    .    .    .    .    .     .    .    .    .    .    .     .    .    .    .    .    .     .

In the absence of a compelling record, set speeches, even with the most stirring words, will not resolve these matters. And until he resolves them, Obama will remain the most unformed candidate in the modern history of presidential politics.

Now, this is really weird, but in a private communication a few months ago, Historiann commenter FratGuy quipped about Obama:  “What we need is another L.B.J., and what we’re getting with this guy is another Jimmy Carter.”  This raises an interesting question, FratGuy:  are you prizewinning Princeton historian Sean Wilentz?  Does your job afford you endless hours to post pseudonymously on random blogs?  My readership demands answers!  And I’m sure they’ll let you know what they think about your latest essay on this election in the coments below…

Run in the clouds

Those of you who know me in real life know that I pretend to be a really hard-core jock while struggling to get out to run 5-6 miles twice a week and doing curls with 10-pound weights about twice a month.  One of the ways that I preserve this illusion is that I like to run on the Ute Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park, which runs from the visitor’s center at the top of the park at 11,796 feet above sea level, down to Milner Pass, the continental divide, at 10,800 feet.  I end up doing this about once or twice a year–it’s about a two-hour drive from my house, depending on the time of day and traffic, so I can’t justify getting out to do it weekly or even monthly during the summer, the only time the road and the trail are accessible (usually early May to late September, depending on the snow.)  Sometimes I do it round trip, but yesterday I only had time for a one-way jog, downhill.

Yesterday was the day, and it was great!  I’ve never had any trouble running at that altitude, for some reason.  You feel a little lightheaded and tingly at first, but then it’s just another run, albeit with better scenery than my neighborhood routes.  No large animal sightings–not even an elk, which in RMNP are as common as pigeons in big cities.  Once I saw a couple of bighorn sheep on this run–fortunately, they left me and my running partner alone, as they can be very nasty creatures.  There were still lots of wildflowers, like asters, Indian paintbrushes, and all kinds of little yellow and white blossoms.  And the weather was mixed–overcast with thunderstorms all around me, but patches of warm sun (as you can see in this picture of the trailhead.)  Maybe I can get up there again in a few weeks to do the round-trip run before they close the road!

Joe Biden

Image by

Image by

Joe Biden?  Well, OK.  He’s an utterly conventional choice.  His name works better than Tim Kaine’s with Obama’s.  (Was anyone else dreading those Obama/Kaine signs and bumper stickers?  Say it out loud to yourself, if you don’t get it.)  He was born in Pennsylvania and is Catholic, and represents a state adjacent to Pennsylvania now, so that will boost the ticket’s chances.

The AP has an uncharitable review of Obama’s choice of Biden, saying that it “[i]n picking Sen. Joe Biden to be his running mate, Barack Obama sought to shore up his weakness — inexperience in office and on foreign policy — rather than underscore his strength as a new-generation candidate defying political conventions.”  (H/t TalkLeft.  Has the AP been sleeping all summer long, a la Rip Van Winkle?  Are they just waking up now to see Obama’s conventional campaign?)  Wev.  If he chose one of the “fresh new gubenatorial faces” like Kaine or Kathleen Sebelius, the AP could have run a story claiming that Obama’s choice shows a lack of confidence in not wanting a more experienced and seasoned pol as a running mate.  The only way to have made his VP choice more than a before-noon story today is to have announced that Hillary Clinton was the gal, but we all knew that that wasn’t going to happen.

Biden is OK by me, but it seems like a kind of reactive, seat-of-the-pants choice, more about responding to the double-invasion of South Ossetia than about a summer-long, deliberative process.  Anyhoo, chat amongst yourselves–Historiann is heading up into the mountains for a long run at 12,600 11,800 feet.  What a way to end the summer and embrace the coming autumn–up in the mountains, they’ve already had snow!

"Marrying up," and why that could screw up your career

There’s a new report out on the careers of social scientists, via Inside Higher Ed.  The University of Washington Center for Innovation and Research in Graduate Education has published a report based on survey data from people trained in anthropology, communication, geography, history, political science and sociology.  (See the full report here.)  Oddly, for the purposes of this report, history is a “social science,” but economics is not.  Wev.  I wonder if econ would have skewed the data because it is still hugely male dominated?)  Anyhoo, the reported results are just another verse in the same song we’ve been hearing all along:  Men’s and women’s careers start out relatively equally at the time they finish their degrees.  (The report suggests that women are slightly more likely to have a tenure-track job, and that men are slightly less likely to have tenure-track positions.)  But, lo:

[T]hese figures reverse themselves 6 to 10 years after a Ph.D., at which point men are more likely to have tenure or jobs outside of academe (generally with higher salaries than those for professors) and women are more likely to have jobs off the tenure track.

Employment Status by Gender 6-10 Years After Ph.D. in Social Sciences

Job Status Women Men
Tenured 30% 33%
Tenure-track, but not tenured 32% 32%
Non-tenure track 13% 9%
Other academic 8% 6%
Business, government or nonprofit 17% 20%

While the women in this study were less likely to be married or partnered, those who are tend to have “married up,” in that their partners are equally well-educated, whereas their male peers are married or partnered with people who have less education.  To wit,

Educational Attainment of Partners of Social Science Ph.D.’s

  Women Men
Partner has Ph.D. 34% 17%
Partner has other doctoral degree (M.D., J.D. etc.) 10% 7%
Partner has master’s degree 27% 35%
Partner has bachelor’s degree or less 29% 41%

Perhaps not surprisingly in light of those statistics, women in the social sciences are more likely than men to report that they changed jobs because their partners needed to move for professional reasons.

This study provides data for what I’ve observed anecdotally among friends and colleagues.  Women, much more often than men, are in marriages that don’t privilege their career tracks.  Should we conclude then that women are to blame for their own professional marginalization if they don’t prioritize their careers?  On the one hand, I admit that I disapprove somewhat of people who earn professional degrees and then choose not to work in their profession.  (That doesn’t mean they have to work for money, or that part-time or non tenure-track work doesn’t count–just do something to pay society back for the privilege of your education, and raising your own children, however worthwhile or gratifying, doesn’t count.  You’re still pouring your resources only into your family instead of sharing your expertise and training with the wider world.) 

On the other hand, there are deeply rooted cultural expectations that continue to demand that husbands be taller, older, better educated, and richer than their wives, so even feminist women seem to prefer mates who surpass them in height, age, education, and wealth.  (Just as there are lots of men who wouldn’t choose a wife who was taller, older, better educated, or richer–it works both ways, of course.)  So, more domestic labor may fall on the person whose career is not prioritized, and who may be engaged in part-time work or in work not as directly related to hir professional training.  (I’m not saying this division of domestic labor is “natural” or even reasonable, just that sidetracking your career usually means that you’ll be the person in your family who plans more meals and does more laundry.)

Maybe it’s because I work in the early modern period, when people understood that marriage isn’t primarily about love or romance, but I think it’s more about work and duty, and creating “a little commonwealth” in which a crapload of work has to get done over the years.  Love is great, but a worthy “yoke-mate” should assist you in the work you’ve chosen to do.  I’ve long thought that if more women thought about their work (both professional and domestic) and chose mates who would prioritize their careers, they’d be better off.  The problem is that many people choose their mates before they complete their educations, and they’re not thinking strategically about their own futures.  What do you think?  Did you think about these issues when you were dating (if, indeed, you’re married?)  Or do you think that our cultural preference (men and women) for male dominance in marriage is too overwhelming to be combatted in heterosexual relationships?  Sing it, sisters and brothers.

Shabattical Shalom, or, Season's Meetings!

Well, it’s all over.  My first, and much-anticipated sabbatical, the one I had to wait for for ten years.  Classes don’t start until Monday, but the meetings start today, so I’d say my sabbatical is over.

Oddly, I don’t feel depressed about it.  The thought of teaching again seems kind of appealing, and it will be good to see my colleagues on a more regular basis.  (Imagine–I actually like my colleagues!  Well, most of them, and you know what they say about absence making the heart grow fonder…)  I got a lot done last year on my new book, in spite of doing way more work for the Berkshire Conference than I thought I’d be doing.  It was nice sleeping in until 6:30 a.m. and being able to work at home.  Although I was probably better rested and less stressed out, since I didn’t have to wake up at 4 or 5 a.m. to meet a manuscript deadline or finish my class prep, as a naturally happy and optimistic person I wasn’t any happier on a day-to-day basis.  (And I would imagine that people who have a much lower happiness setpoint won’t become happy people while on sabbatical.)

Sorry–gotta run.  I’ve got a meeting to get to!