Sexuality and cancer surgeries: what's mine is yours, apparently

DePaul-ReplacingHere’s an interesting article in Salon by Ann Bauer, “Sex Without Nipples,” about the differential between counseling and treatment offered to cancer patients about sexual issues in men’s versus women’s cancer surgeries.  Sadly, I’m not surprised–as we’ve seen before, somehow it’s all about teh menz and their feelings and their sexual satisfaction, no matter whose body has the cancer.  Whereas prostate cancer patients are counseled heavily about the sexual side-effects of their cancer treatments, women who opt for mastectomies are never advised about the possible consequences to their sex lives.  Bauer writes:

This is particularly true, it seems, when the topic is nipples. Virtually none of the literature or education around the topic of breast cancer covers the sudden disappearance of erotic sensation in the breast. There is no attempt, as there is in a prostatectomy, to preserve the nerves. Modern mastectomy simply hacks off the offending tissue and creates a blank area where there once was tingling current.

There are also body-image issues after breast cancer surgery and reconstruction, for patients and their partners.  But, one young woman who tested positive for BRCA1 and chose to have a preventive double mastectomy makes it sound like her partner’s discomfort and even disgust with her surgery, recuperation, and new body were another problem for her to solve, a problem she didn’t handle well enough.  “Jessie”‘s own mother had died at age 30, and she had five other maternal relatives die from the disease–so she figured, why take the chance?  Continue reading

Keeping up appearances: what about you?

madmen_fullbodyamlIt was interesting to me that nobody in yesterday’s comments talked about how a job candidate’s appearance and/or choice of clothing might affect the ways in which she or he is evaluated from their own experience, either as a candidate or as someone on a search committee or part of the hiring organization.  Fortunately, I’ve never heard anything untoward said about any job candidate’s appearance in any department I’ve been a part of–and I’ve never had anyone make any comments whatsoever about my own appearance while interviewing for a job.  I have heard people in other history departments complain about the inappropriate clothing choices of some job candidates–along the lines of either too casual or too revealing, for the most part.

There are a few instances I can think of where my physical appearance might explain a few (un)professional encounters.  For example, when I was younger (late 20s, early 30s), I was subjected to greater disrespect at conferences and professional meetings, especially by men who were old enough to be my father (or older).  I should note that some of my earliest writings were on masculinity, and the ways in which men’s authority (in my period and field) was built upon their their “mastery” of a household and on the labor of subordinates like wives, daughters, sons, servants, and slaves.  (Hey, it was the 1990s–it seemed new then!) 

When I gave seminars and conference papers that took this perspective for granted, I had a number of middle-aged and older male interlocutors who were just really, really angry with me.  Continue reading

Physical beauty and professional competence in women

eyesnotdownhereIt’s not just sexist men who judge physically attractive women who presume to compete for jobs–it’s pretty much everyone, apparently.  Go read this strange missive on “Cleavage and the Job Market,” straight from Laurie Fendrich’s disturbed psyche about a young woman who recently got a job for which there were 500 applicants:

The article reports that Mr. Kelsey was “immediately impressed” when Ms. B[****] came in on the second day of interviews. “Dressed in a conservative business suit, Ms. B[****] patiently answered all of the 100-plus questions,” we learn. Mr. Kelsey “liked that she remained consistent in her answers and showed independence.”

Uh, anybody ever heard about how a picture tells a thousand words? Forget reading the article. Instead, click “Enlarge” on the Times’ photograph of Ms. B[****] — who is facing us — sitting across from Mr. Kelsey, whom we see only from the back.

Does anyone need to have me point out the obvious? That’s a spicy bit of cleavage peaking up above what looks like a nice tight black Lycra top—the kind that clings to the chest the way Cling Wrap hugs a cheese ball. Note the body language (being female, I hereby assert my expertise in interpreting females). Ms. B[****] is leaning ever so slightly forward toward Mr. Kelsey, smiling a big, feisty, all-American smile. And why not? She got the job. Not for Mr. Kelsey any of those lumpy-looking men in the other picture (to see what I mean.

(H/t reader Lance.)  Huh?  “[A] spicy bit of cleavage peaking up above what looks like a nice tight black Lycra top—the kind that clings to the chest the way Cling Wrap hugs a cheese ball.”  (Is anyone else creeped out by the fact that this writer uses all of this gustatory language, as though she’s serving this young woman up for us like a canape?)  Continue reading

We love the 90s?

ilove90sWell, I loved them in spite of the stuttering insanity that gripped the mainstream media.  This little reminder is courtesy of Joan Walsh’s recent review of Taylor Branch’s The Clinton Tapes:

It’s always seemed to me no accident that the mainstream media began to lose its market share, its revenues and its respect in those years, when they slighted an embattled president’s worthy if controversial initiatives on Middle East peace, Bosnia, welfare reform, making work pay and building a U.S. social democracy, in favor of gossip about his character, his marriage, his taste in women and even the distinguishing characteristics of the presidential penis.

Against this historical backdrop of childish media snickering, the sharp, accomplished Branch comes off as a naif and even a rube in some of his stories, consistently flummoxed by the enmity among Washington media players, some of them his friends, as they savaged Clinton beyond proportion. He writes, bewildered, about a spate of vicious headlines at the end of 1996: The Times’ Abe Rosenthal accused the Clintons of “giving militant Islam its first beachhead in Bosnia,” while Maureen Dowd dubbed Clinton the trivia-obsessed “President Pothole” and the “Limbo President,” sinking ever lower. For good measure she added: “We pretty much know the Clintons did something wrong in Whitewater,” when in fact, 12 years later, we know no such thing. Wen Ho Lee at least got an apology from the Times; the Clintons are still waiting. (Clark Hoyt, is it too late to take that factual error up with Dowd?) Continue reading

Good diagnosis, but prescription FAIL

I’m at a conference this weekend, so while I’m out, go read Joanne Lipman’s interesting commentary in The New York Times today, “The Mismeasure of Woman.”  (H/t to Indyanna for alerting me.)  Lipman writes, “[c]ertainly, when you look at the numbers, women have made tremendous strides over the past 25 years. But in the process, we lost sight of something important. After focusing for so long on better jobs and higher pay, maybe the best thing — the enduring thing — we can do is make sure respect is part of the equation too.”  She traces the decline in women’s status to 9/11 and the simultaneous rise of rampant misogyny on the web.  (There may be a causal link there, or just a correlation–Lipman doesn’t say, and I’m hard pressed to try to disentangle the two phenomenae.)  “The conversation online about women, as about so many other topics, degenerated from silly and snarky to just plain ugly — and it seeped into the mainstream.”

I’m glad the status of women in American society is getting attention in the opinion pages of the Times, but her prescriptions seem like extremely weak tea.  (Well, she was a magazine editor–even so, these are surprising for their glibness.)  For example:  Continue reading

Classy Claude frets about his job talk strategy

grantbringingupbabyFrom the mailbag, again.  Some of you may recall Classy Claude’s report from the American Historical Association’s annual meeting in New York in January.  Well, Claude is a hyper-prepared, very exacting kind of a guy who is selectively on the market, so he’s already worrying about prospective job talks this winter.  Like a Boy Scout, Claude wants to “Be Prepared.”  Dear readers, can you help? 

Dear Historiann,

I’m on the market this year again, hoping to move to a more favorable geographic location.  I think I’m in a good position as a newish Assistant Professor with a book out.  A friend of mine told me that so long as I am an Assistant Professor, I should never consider talking about anything but my book, but that seems rather cautious.  (And not to mention, really boring for me.)  I’d like to talk about my next project, but I’ve only just started to research it, and my friend warned me against talking about such a new project. 

What’s your advice?  What would your readers suggest?

I too have heard this advice about job talks–at least, the part about how one shouldn’t ever give a job talk about a research project one hadn’t pretty much wrapped up and decorated with a bow.  But, I feel your pain:  you published that book already, so if anyone wants to see what you think about your book topic, they can just read your damn book, right?

But, no one reads anything any more, for any reason.  (They’re all reading stupid blogs like this one!  It’s so much easier and more immediately gratifying than work, isn’t it?)   Continue reading

Phoney complaint

dunceOver at Inside Higher Ed’s “Survival Guide,” a nervous grad student and adjunct instructor writes:

Dear Survival Guide:

I am a graduate student and also teach as an adjunct. I was recently made aware a student may be filing a formal complaint against me because I sternly told him he was not allowed to leave the class to take a phone call. He is not disputing the rule or my enforcement of it, rather claiming abuse because of my tone.

What should I do to prepare? Should I seek legal representation? I’m not sure what steps to take and I don’t want to do anything in the beginning that could jeopardize my chances for an acceptable resolution.

C. K. Gunslaus replies with a lot of helpful general advice–stay calm, try to recall the incident clearly and honestly, know your institution’s grievance procedures, etc., and the commenters have other good ideas (make your telephone and class disruptions policies clear on your syllabus, for example) but it doesn’t sound to me like there’s a lot of there there in this particular story.  Continue reading