At last! Mansplanations from an angry C-SPAN 3 viewer.

Drat!  My nefarious radical plot to start a “sex week” at Baa Ram U. has been discovered.  Behold!  A viewer named Bruce, who apparently writes like a blog SPAMbot, has caught me out:

I heard your classroom teaching “clothes of the 17th-18th century” It sounded like you were obsessed with breasts, and fully made that your focal point to those innocent brains of the all female class.* NO-not all slaves walked around bare breasted, and in fact, few ever did if you researched the truth.** Just why in the hell have you made this your theme in the class instead of talking about basic items, like dresses, suits, dress up ideology in those days.*** You must be one of those liberals trying to start a sex week on campus there?****

And it would have worked too if it weren’t for those meddling C-SPAN 3 cameras!

On a more serious note:  my C-SPAN lecture has re-opened my eyes to the power of television.  Each weekend my lecture aired, I got 3-4 emails from members of the public, all of which were highly complimentary and/or wanting to engage me on a question or comment that interested the writer (except from the one above, obviously.)  Even a cable channel with a relatively modest audience reaches so very many people by comparison to any other public lectures I might give, or my blogging, needless to say.

*For the record, the class had 26 women and 2 men enrolled, and they were all present on the day of the recording.  But, you got me, Bruce!  I am “obsessed with breasts,” just like almost every heterosexual male scholarI guess my mistake was historicizing and interrogating that “obsession” instead of just letting it rattle around in my pornographic imagination and/or personal collection like more decent historians.

**I was talking about representations of African American women versus white women, not necessarily their daily lived reality.  But thanks for your helpful suggestion that next time I “research the truth.”  I’ll bookmark that one, for sure.

***My hell of a reason is that this was class not about clothing, but rather a class on women in American history.

****What is “a sex week on campus?”  Seriously.  (And who thinks that we need to have a dedicated “sex week” in order for students to think, talk about, or engage in sex?  Back in the day, I thought “sex week” was every week in college, but maybe I just had a much better time in college than you did.  Quelle suprise.)

23 thoughts on “At last! Mansplanations from an angry C-SPAN 3 viewer.

  1. Ok, I am totally thinking about starting a sex week on MY campus now! Thanks, Bruce!

    (Seriously: I feel like that would be awesome, and also a little retro. So very ’90s and like the movie *Singles*!)


  2. We had Sex Week (called “Intimacy Week” in some official brochures) on my undergrad campus in the early aughts, with most of the events held in the residence dining halls. It was mainly stuff on sexual health and related issues, with a few more entertaining vendors to liven things up a bit. I remember that I found it amusing that the official week was held the week before Valentine’s Day…


  3. Oh, you evil person you! Oh, and the “innocent brains” that knew nothing of breasts…

    But it’s good that your correspondent knows the truth.


  4. Back in the day at the University of Chicago, there was the Lascivious Costume Ball. But I don’t remember a sex day, to say nothing of a week.


  5. A gentle introduction, followed by a lashing out, as if he were embarrassed to have been caught watching a lecture on stays (let alone on women!) and then, after the message gathers strength, a hopeful question. “Trying to start a sex week there?” Poor Bruce.


  6. Here’s something else hilarious, too: Bruce cc’d an Associate Dean at my uni, who’s a History faculty member and a good friend of mine, as though he were ratting me out to a boss or something.


    In college in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I remember there being a SAFE sex week, but that was all about sexual health and HIV/AIDS prevention. It sounds like “sex week” is maybe a marketing changeup from SAFE sex week to make sex sound, well, sexier.


  7. Should I send Bruce a link to this conversation? I had considered putting his full name into the post, but I declined because even though he’s clearly an idiot mansplainer, that just seemed too aggressive. But then again, he DID give me his email address. . .

    I haven’t been lectured by anyone as to what American history truly is or what I really should be teaching about for at least 5-6 years. I wonder if young male historians are ever mansplained like this? I think age and reputation has insulated me from these kinds of comments at Baa Ram U., but clearly mansplainers have their work cut out for them at places like C-SPAN 3: American History TV.


  8. Ahahaha. Sex week is a good enough idea to expand beyond college campuses, I think! My neighborhood has block parties in the summer but it’s too cold for that right now, so maybe we should have a neighborhood Sex Week. Since you can do that indoors.


  9. As to whether or not to forward, I vote no… clearly what he really wants is attention because his life is boring. Negative attention is better than no attention in his mind. (Yes, just like they say with 3 year olds.)


  10. I wonder if it might be possible to simply ask a question without setting off a firestorm.

    What is your reaction to the following statement from the Colonial Williamsburg website?

    “Plantation records do not indicate the use of stays in the yearly allotment to field slaves. That some slaves, particularly house slaves, did wear stays is proven by the many descriptions in runaway ads.”

    I don’t think it is possible to discuss any topic and use the words “always” or “never”. No two people are going to agree on every issue. That doesn’t mean one is right, therefore, the other has to be labeled as wrong. I hope what your students carry away from the class is a desire to do their own research and form their own opinions which may or may not, echo yours, Bruce’s or mine. Thank you.


  11. Sure you can ask a question without “setting off a firestorm.” Bruce wrote a jerky email–he wasn’t “asking a question” or presenting an alternative viewpoint based on the evidence.

    It’s an interesting observation from Williamsburg. Their interactive dressup program also shows a woman house slave wearing stays. But I think it’s important to remember that 1) most enslaved women, the vast majority in fact, were field slaves and 2) that many runaways absconded with stays and other clothing items that may have been purloined, not just hand-me-downs.

    It’s possible to acknowledge these exceptions while also maintaining my point (and the point of other scholars) that stays were a racialized garment in early America.


  12. I’m pretty sure that if I weren’t a white straight guy, I would never get away with teaching the history of Lysol as douche to my 10th grade girl classes (yes, I used your post). I figure I have the responsibility to push the envelope as far as I can so that other teachers in my department (mostly women) look relatively tame by comparison. I was teaching a workshop for teachers on teaching whiteness in the US survey and one of the workshop participants, a young African American woman, asked me “what do you do when the parents complain?” and it made me sad to say “they don’t. I’m white, male, and I have a PhD, nobody messes with me, they just assume I know what I’m talking about. I know it’s not gonna be the same for you. But look, here’s a reading list with these folks’ institutional affiliation. We’re private schools, if you say your teaching what the professors at the Ivies are teaching, and your just trying to give the kids the skills to succeed at Yale, you’ve got a pretty good chance at mollifying the parents.”


  13. As a commenter indicated above Yale has one, although the admins wanted to cancel it last year because Of the Title IX suit. You know — frat rape culture = feminist peer sex education.


  14. For someone obsessed with breasts, you completely missed the boat on good graphics. I expected more boobies for my naive minded female brain.

    That said, this boobies email did make me go listen to your lecture. It was fascinating. You are about 150 years to early for even the earliest part of my work but it’s always useful for me to think about gendering as I work with a highly gendered population.

    I’ve loved your book too, which I also picked up because of your blog. So converting modernist one 20th century historian at a time.


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