WWT"FF"T? And who wants to live in their world, anyway?

What would the “Founding Fathers” think? Newt Gingrich thinks they’re all rolling over in their graves because of President Barack Obama’s policies:


Says Gingrich (via The Daily Beast):  “I think all of the ‘Founding Fathers’ would have said, if you have government this big, it’s going to be really dumb, it’s going to have large sections of corruption, it’s going to waste a lot of money, and it’s going to be a threat to your freedom, and I think all of the ‘Founding Fathers’ would be appalled.”

I get it that Gingrich is making a political point rather than a serious point in a graduate seminar, but it really grinds my gears to hear comments like these that denature and flatten the early Republic to a period of ideological and political consensus, rather than the vicious brawl that it was (with some duels tossed in for good measure).  “I think all of the ‘Founding Fathers’ would be appalled.”  As if.  Isn’t this the guy who’s supposed to have a Pee Aitch Dee in History? 

My bet is that Alexander Hamilton and most of the Federalists would be well pleased by the firehose of government money flooding Wall Street in the past year under both Presidents George W. Bush and Obama.  Continue reading

A Guide to Modern Manners, by Mistress Historiann

Recently, Nancy Gibbs claimed in Time that true liberation is not caring what people call you, Miss, Ms., or Mrs.:

Whether my children’s friends call me Ms. Gibbs or Mrs. May or any combination of the two, I view it as a sign of respect and don’t worry about the particulars. My husband never remotely suggested that he was bothered by my not taking his name; in fact, he’s accustomed to occasionally answering to Mr. Gibbs. My late father, a fine writer, thrilled to see that name in the pages of this magazine. All these identities are me: Ms. when I’m out slaying dragons, Mrs. when I’m in the company of those I love most, Miss when I want to stay home under the covers and daydream. Feminists a generation ago fought for the title and dreamed of Freedom and Choice and Opportunity; maybe the surest sign that they’ve won is not which title we pick, but that we can have them all at once.


Historiann knows best!

(Don’t you just love those lectures about how feminists in the dreary, ideologically rigid Soviet-era of feminism got it so very wrong?  Me neither.)  Salon’s Judy Berman begs to differ too, noting the position of heteronormative married and maternal privilege from which Gibbs writes that “As a (potentially permanently) unmarried woman,” she doesn’t have access to “Mrs.,” and may never.  “And even if I were, the title’s connotations — that I was someone’s counterpart, that I had taken my husband’s name — would get to me.  The problems with ‘Miss’ are the same as its advantages: Just as it conveys youth and freedom, it also suggests inexperience. On a very basic level, it feels diminutive.”  She concludes:  “As long as we still have ‘Mrs.’ and ‘Miss,’ then ‘Ms.’ will never be the same as ‘Mr.'”

The early Americanist in me wants to remind everyone that these are just abbreviations for “Master” and “Mistress,” and that “Mrs.” was a term applied to women on the basis of family status, not marital status.  (My students always find it freaky to see a baby or a young child referred to as “Mrs.” in primary sources, as they occasionally were in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.)  Wouldn’t that put a fun spin on social relations if everyone starting addressing everyone else as “Master” or “Mistress?”  Would-be language purists who think they’re standing up for a timeless tradition should keep this in mind–“Mrs.” and “Miss” are thoroughly modern innovations.

I’ve never heard a male colleague of mine complain about what his students call him, but this is a matter of constant frustration for many of my women colleagues, especially those who are unmarried and/or non-heterosexualists, who understandably really hate being called “Mrs.”  Continue reading

Scent of a woman's ISBN number?


Frans van Mieris, "A Woman Writing a Letter" (1680)

Mama Ph.D. has a suggestive post today about book reviews and the sex of the authors whose books are under review:

One of my clients has written a book that is about to be published. It is an excellent book — beautifully written, with intertwined themes that reverberate long after the narrative ends. The book was recently reviewed in a distinguished publication with an online presence, and my client sent me a link to the review. It was outstandingly positive, the sort of review that makes you want to run out and buy the book, and I congratulated her heartily.

“I don’t want to seem ungrateful,” she responded, “but look at this.” She showed me another review from the same publication, of a male colleague’s book. While my client’s book had been described enthusiastically as an engaging, fast-moving read (which it is), her colleague’s was discussed in respectful terms, lauded for its profundity and depth — descriptors which also apply to my client’s book.

“It’s because he’s male,” she said. And a perusal of other positive reviews seemed to support that. Continue reading

It's not called "Mad Women" now, is it?

madmen_8I’ve decided to give Mad Men another try–I really can’t stomach the reality TV shows that have dominated this decade, and I like to reward people who are trying to produce quality dramas for television.  But, since so many of you whose opinions I respect took me to task for my skeptical post on this last year, I thought I’d take another look.  I’m just about halfway through season I, and I have to say that I’m pretty much sticking with my original verdict:  it’s OK for a diversion when I’m stuck in the rec room rotating loads and folding laundry (which is exactly what happened here at el rancho Historiann last night), but I’m a little tired of all of the “hey, in 1960, they did all kinds of stupid and dangerous things, didn’t they?” heavy-handed little in-jokes.  (Like the hugely pregnant women constantly smoking and drinking, lots of drunk driving, and even an aside about feeding peanut-butter sandwiches to children while encouraging them to handle BB guns.  Get it?  Nowadays, we know that both peanut butter and BB guns are equally dangerous!)  OK–we get it!  We’re so much more virtuous and careful now, aren’t we?

One thing I appreciate about the show is its relentless exposure of suburban married misery, although it’s so unstinting that it seems over the top.  Unfortunately, the show is guilty of one of the most irritating things about TV and movies today, which is the relentless focus on men’s lives and men’s stories.  Continue reading


Most days, I’m perfectly happy that we keep our TV in the basement out of the way, and that it only gets the bare minimum of cable channels (local broadcast stations plus, for some odd reason, MTV 2, CMT, and Oxygen. As if!) Yesterday and today, I’m really, super-especially happy not to have a TV with the complete cable package.

(I considered posting the video clip here, but I thought that would be abetting the exploitation of the child-named-after-a-raptor who made national news yesterday. If you’re curious, you can see the video at The Daily Beast.)

I don’t care if the “balloon boy” was a hoax or not–how can anyone not see that doing interview after interview with CNN, Larry King, and the Today show (to name just a few examples!) is maybe not what children are all about? Continue reading

The academic life: movin' on.

forsaleI had an e-mail exchange yesterday with a good friend of mine from when I lived in–let’s call it Winesburg*–Ohio.  He left Winesburg a few years after I moved out to Baa Ram U.  He told me today that the junior scholar who replaced him there really likes her job.  He writes,

Apparently, this new assistant prof loves it and has a bunch of friends also hired at the same time. And my response was, just wait until the friends start moving away. And then I remembered how I really liked [Winesburg] for a couple of years — then [good friends] moved away and then you, and so on.

I’ve been thinking about the transience of academic careers and lives a lot lately–Flavia commented briefly on this in her most recent post, and then I got this e-mail from my old friend yesterday.  Continue reading

"Get Yourself a College Girl," 1964

Who knew that “The Girl from Ipanema” was on the soundtrack of the 1964 movie, “Get Yourself a College Girl?”  I sure didn’t–it was wayyyyyyy before my time, but check out this selection from the movie, which features a load of mid-century modern details:

Get_Yourself_A_College_Girl_(1964)(H/t to Big Tent Democrat at TalkLeft for putting me in mind of this song.)  The singer is Astrud Gilberto, and I never would have guessed she was such a sweet, young thing. Continue reading