Fat is the new crack

"a lumpish farmer's boy, fat, silly, and lazy."

In “Kindergarteners:  YOU’RE DOOMED!!!!” over at Shakesville, Elle writes about a story in the New York Times that raises fat panic to a whole new level.  The Times story claims that “more and more evidence points to pivotal events very early in life — during the toddler years, infancy and even before birth, in the wombthat can set young children on an obesity trajectory that is hard to alter by the time they’re in kindergarten. The evidence is not ironclad, but it suggests that prevention efforts should start very early.”  As Elle observes, “there is always room to blame mamas!”

Indeed, the Times story suggests that uterus and placenta play a malevolent role in fetal development!  (Who knew?)  Saith the Times:  “Many doctors are concerned about women being obese and unhealthy before pregnancy because, as they point out, the womb is the baby’s first environment. . . . The intrauterine environment of a woman with diabetes overnourishes the fetus,” said the study’s author, Dana Dabelea, an epidemiologist at the Colorado School of Public Health. And that, she added, may “reset the offspring’s satiety set point, and make them predisposed to eat more.”  ZOMG!!!111!!!  That might happen, right?  (Like Wayne from Wayne’s World used to say:  “and monkeys might fly out of my butt!”  My bet is that a child’s environment over the course of years–and not just hir mother’s uterus for 8 or 9 months–is more determinative of hir overall health.  But blaming mothers is easy and cheap, whereas ensuring fresh food, access to health care, and clean, green open spaces for every child to play in is expensive!)  Elle points to the historically racial and class dimensions of this rhetoric that suggests that fat mothers are bad mothers:

Given the blame-the-fat-mother meme, we can expect the continued condemnation of poor mothers and black mothers, who are more likely to be fat than mothers in other socio-economic and racial groups. Also, poor mothers might be eligible for programs like Food Stamps and WIC (which will provide infant formula), putting them in a position in which many people feel that their food choices should be scrutinized and judged. 

Obviously, this is just what we needed: another way to assess how horribly mothers fail. Continue reading

Women in science: Why So Few?

Many of you probably saw the New York Times article yesterday on the report issued by the American Association of University Women called “Why So Few?  Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.”  (See also Inside Higher Ed’s report, which goes into a bit more detail.)  It’s a comprehensive review of the literature on sex and STEM fields, ranging from elementary school through grad school experiences and into the STEM workplace.  I’ve skimmed the 134-page report–readers here will probably be most interested in the chapters on stereotype threat and achievement in STEM fields (chapter 3), the college student experience (chapter 6), university and college faculty (chapter 7), and workplace bias (chapter 9). 

Those of you who work with young children–either as educators or as parents, or both–will want to pay close attention to the advice the AAUW offers in chapter 2 regarding beliefs about intelligence.  The report describes the contrast between a “Fixed Mind-Set” (the belief that intelligence is essentially static) and the “Growth Mind-Set” (the belief that intelligence can be developed).  Children with the “Growth Mind-Set” embrace challenges rather than run from them and are persistent, they see effort as critical to intellectual mastery, and they learn from critical feedback–all skills that they’ll need if they’re going to achieve in any field, STEM or non-STEM.

I was particularly interested in “Why So Few”‘s discussion of workplace bias in chapter 9.  It argues that both competence and likability are critical to workplace advancement (as measured by promotions, salary increases, and the like.)  Continue reading

History was made, and You Are There!

It's HISTORY, b!tchez!

Does anyone else remember seeing those old Walter Cronkite TV shows that showed him reporting on historical events as though he were covering it live on TV called “You Are There?”  (I really dug those.  Go figure!)  Well, in the spirit of Uncle Walter–in the great “Health” “Care” “Reform” passage of 2009-2010, remember:  You Are There!  With all of this history falling down around us, we need some Real Historians to help us assemble the potsherds and read the hieroglyphs:

  • Sean Wilentz says Nancy Pelosi’s marshalling of House votes (and Barack Obama’s support for “his own bill”) makes her the most effective Speaker of the House since Henry Clay.  In fact, she’s the only person who’s brought stuff in for a landing since this Congress began last year.  Hey, if someone could find a rhyme for a campaign song that went, “Rise up, rise up, the country’s risin’/Henry Clay and Frelinghuysen!” we can probably find a great campaign song lyrics that rhyme Pelosi with. . . something, right?
  • Michael Kazin says that health care reform’s political triumph, like all liberal triumphs in recent U.S. history, will be brief, but its changes will likely be lasting.  Ted Widmer says that Obama’s victory yesterday was a victory of hope over fear, and compares the passage of health care reform to the 1993 OBRA that passed by one vote.  (He doesn’t remind us that it spelled doom for the Democratic Congress the following year.  Widmer is a former Clinton speechwriter.) 
  • Apparently, the only historians with opinions worth publishing are menContinue reading

International flight film reviews

I don’t really get out much to see new movies–the best I can do is get them on NetFlix and hope that I can manage to stay awake past 9 p.m. to watch them.  So, international travel permits me an almost unparalleled opportunity to watch a variety of recent movies!  Herewith are a few short reviews of the movies I saw (and/or dozed through) on the flight back home from our spring vacation:

  • The Blind SideO.  mai.  Gawd.  I’m shocked that anyone involved in this movie was considered for an Academy Award.  This by-the-numbers plot traffics in some of the worst stereotypes I’ve ever seen in pop culture in my lifetime.  It’s like a bizarro world view of how the U.S. really works, wherein the “bad guys” who threaten the African American protagonist are all black (drug dealers and a rep from the NCAA), and the “good guys” helping the protagonist are all rich, white people (the adoptive family, the tutor they hire, and top U.S. college football coaches.)  One exception:  one white “bad guy” is a high school teacher who dares to assign the young football hopeful a D for his schoolwork!  Yeah, that’s a reasonable representation of how power works in America:  if only the evil high school teachers and drug dealers would yield all of the power to rich white people and let them do whatever they see fit, all of our problems would be solved!  I saw nothing special in Sandra Bullock’s performance of a stereotypical pillar of True Womanhood, although I thought they could have afforded to give her a better dye job.  (How she beat out Gabourey Sidibe for Best Actress is beyond me.)
  • Whip It:  A totally awesome movie about a high school misfit and reluctant beauty pageant contestant from Bodeen, Texas who goes to Austin and becomes a rocking Roller Derby queen, starring Ellen Page, Juliette Lewis, Kristen Wiig, Marcia Gay Harden, Alia Shawkat (“Maeby” from Arrested Development) and Drew Barrymore (who also directed the film), among a bunch of other women actors of all ages.  It’s a great coming-of-age movie, with some of the classic markers of the genre (the first love affair, the confrontation of parental foibles, tensions among friends), but it’s smart and sensitive without being overly sentimental.  If like Tenured Radical you also didn’t like The Hurt Locker because of its simplistic and hackneyed portrayal of masculinity in war and because of its exclusion of women charactersWhip It is the antidote.  Continue reading

Historically historic hope and change!!!!

It’s coming tomorrow, right?  Well, except for American women, who will be subject to a fascinating neo-coverture thanks to the Senate “health” “care” “reform” bill!  Go read Natasha Chart over at Open Left for why exactly this scheme will offer millions of American women neither true health care nor reform:

Under the Senate system which makes abortion part of the initial purchasing decision, a woman’s employer, male partner or parents can all potentially prevent her getting insurance coverage for it, whereas now, it usually doesn’t come up because most private plans just cover it. Now, of the one in three women likely to need an abortion in her life, millions of women never have to have that conversation. Under the current wording of the health bill, that second check is the federal spousal and parental notification law that never managed to pass.

Then if the administrative expenses and familial approval weren’t enough, the second check creates a stigmatizing paper trail for anyone worried about public pressure or vulnerable to retribution by disapproving superiors. Even people who might support abortion might be pressured into dropping plans that cover it and one way or another, abortion coverage will end. That’s always been the point of both the Stupak amendment and Nelson’s Senate compromise, which will simply work more slowly to eradicate insurance coverage of abortion. Continue reading

Spring breakin'

Catch you next week!  Don’t forget:  proposals for panels, workshops, and single papers for the 2011 Berkshire Conference on the History of Women are due March 19!  So spend whatever time you’d otherwise be spending at Historiann.com this week putting together a proposal for the Berks instead.

We’ll have to do a massive femblogger meetup there.  The conference will be in Amherst at the University of Massachusetss, June 9-12–the Pioneer Valley is lovely in the late spring, friends!  And remember:  this comet only comes around every 3 years, so if you miss this one, you’ll regret it for sure.

Tempus fugit

Do any of you ever wish you could crawl back into the 90s again? Or is it just me and Fratguy?  We were poor for most of the ’90s–and when we were no longer poor, I had a bad job, but we always had very good friends and neighbors wherever we were–Philadelphia, Baltimore, Hartford, Somerville/Cambridge, Washington D.C., Providence, R.I., and “Winesburg,” Ohio.  I’m probably just nostalgic for the first decade of adulthood, when the possibilities seemed endless.  (I will say that it’s nice not to have moved at all for 8 years in a row!  It seems like I spent half of my 20s in a U-Haul, driving up and down I-95 and figuring out how to avoid the New Jersey Turnpike.)

(Aside:  Does anyone know if there have been any articles or dissertations written about all of the babies, baby dolls, fetuses, and allusions to reproduction that populate both Nirvana and Hole songs and videos?  Does anyone want to offer an analysis in the comments below?) 

Although this video of “Malibu” might suggest that we’re going to the beach for Spring Break, we’re not.  More details later–but I think I’m going to stay off-line and just live in the meat world on my vacation. Continue reading