It’s definitely a day worthy of a Neely O’Hara meltdown:
(Deep background: This post recalls some of my earlier arguments about the dynastic nature of American politics, about which Americans are mostly in denial, at least when the dynasties involve male pols only. American politics became even more royalist in the first half of the twentieth century, when the U.S. emerged as a major international player. They’ve become even more royalist in the succeeding 70 years since World War II, in the years that the U.S. became a “superpower” and then the global hegemon.)
Hillary Clinton was diagnosed with pneumonia last week. It’s an entirely treatable condition suffered by more than one recent pol on the campaign trail, but looking at the media coverage of this ridiculous non-story, you’d think that she was Henry VIII on his death bed without a male heir. And that’s the American press coverage–it’s almost as though reporters on the 2016 campaign trail are unaware that the health of the nation is not entirely dependent on the health and heartiness of our Dear Leaders. Continue reading
My week up in Rocky, or ROMO (=ROcky MOuntain), another acronym used by Parkies, was a rich learning experience. As a seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Eastern historian my expertise was fairly irrelevant, but I took the opportunity to learn about how the NPS works. Besides keeping up with all of the military- and government-style acronyms (EIS, NEPA, EA , ETC) for the laws and procedures that structure the park’s conservation work, faculty from Colorado State and UC Santa Barbara helped CSU students think through the ways that environmental history informs and can assist natural resource preservation as well as the interpretation and visitor experience of the park. Continue reading
Today we feature a guest post from Historiann friend and colleague Zara Anishanslin (@ZaraAnishanslin), an Assistant Professor of History and Art History at the University of Delaware. Her first book, Portrait of a Woman in Silk: Hidden Histories of the British Atlantic World will be published by Yale University Press in September 2016. An expert in eighteenth-century British and American material culture, Anishanslin pulls some of the threads of contemporary conversations about African American women’s words and bodies, and finds many suggestive connections to colonial America and the early U.S. republic. In this lavishly illustrated post, she asks how were the images and ideas of African American women appropriated or deployed by others to their own economic and political ends? Why is it still so difficult for black women to be heard and to represent themselves? And finally, what does this say about the racialized and gendered nature of politics in the U.S. even now?
So reporter April Ryan challenged, in a televised discussion on Monday, July 18, day one of the 2016 Republican National Convention. Ryan was responding to the remarks by her co-panelist on an MSNBC morning interview, Republican congressman Steve King. King, in a WTF moment for the ages, had just questioned what non-white “subgroups” had done to further western “civilization.” Ryan’s challenge was the last word she got in before MSNBC host Chris Hayes (who along with Esquire’s Charlie Pierce had been talking over her), went to commercial break. On a Periscope video Ryan posted on Twitter, Chris Hayes announced his regret at not letting Ryan speak, but he had shut Ryan up when it mattered most.
That same day, Melania Trump, wife of presidential candidate Donald Trump, gave a plagiarized speech with word-for-word copies of one given by First Lady Michelle Obama in 2008. The two events occurred on the same day, in the same place, in the shared context of the Republican National Convention. But they have something more fundamental in common.
Ryan and Obama are black women; King, Hayes, Pierce, and Trump are all white, and most are men. In both televised cases, millions of viewers saw white people talking over, or appropriating without consent, the voices of black women. Both were examples that offered viewers televised examples of white people denying, silencing, or stealing, the creative contributions of black women. Although the Trump campaign is notable for its naked racism, what happened to Ryan and Obama is nothing new. Instead, it is part of a very long American history of white people’s sustained attempts to silence black women’s voices and to control black women’s bodies. Continue reading
Since I’ve got another book in the bag, this summer is all about readin’ and reflectin’. I’ve never had a summer in which I was not engaged in writing a monograph for more than twenty years: first it was a dissertation, then it was Abraham in Arms: War and Gender in Colonial New England (which was not a revision of my dissertation, oh well. . . ), and then it was my forthcoming The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright. And that about covers the previous 24 summers!
So what the heck am I doing with myself?
I’m giving myself the gift of just reading and dreaming about what might be an interesting project that will bring together my interest in women’s and gender history, sexuality, fashion, the body, and material culture. I’ll be reporting here and there about what I’ve read and who else might be interested in reading what I’ve read too.
For example, I finally have had the chance to look over The First Book of Fashion: The Book of Clothes of Matthäus & Veit Konrad Schwarz of Augsburg (Bloomsbury Academic, 2015), edited, translated, and with essays by Ulinka Rublack and Maria Hayward. It’s nearly a coffee-table kind of book in terms of its size and production values. I first heard about this book last winter via Twitter, which led me to Rachel Herrmann’s fascinating interview with Hayward about fashions in the courts of Henry VIII and Charles II of England. Continue reading
I have a new obsession. If it were a man, my husband would be jealous (or so I would hope.) All weekend and much of this week so far, I’ve been listening to the You Must Remember This podcast, which is written and voiced by Karina Longworth. Its tagline is “exploring the secret and/or forgotten histories of 20th Century Hollywood.”
Why do I love it? It’s like eating a bag of potato chips, or a box of candy, but they’re really smart potato chips, and really nutritious candy. I think I’ve shared here before that on the rare occasions I read history books for pleasure, I read twentieth-century U.S. history. Longworth’s research and writing are all that, plus celebrity gossip, and more!
But by far, the best thing about You Must Remember This is the clear feminist through-line of Longworth’s analysis of the careers of women artists. I burned through the entire 12-part series she did last summer on “Charles Manson’s Hollywood” while washing my windows on Sunday afternoon, and this almost made window-washing a pleasure. This series includes a riveting analysis of Manson Family murder victim Sharon Tate’s short acting career along with a consideration of the not-very-revolutionary aspects of the Sexual Revolution for most women, even (or especially) women in the industry. Since then I’ve heard her fascinating reconsiderations of the careers of Marion Davies and Mia Farrow. Continue reading
Tonight’s the night! Set your DVRs for TLC tonight at 9 Eastern/8 Central for Who Do You Think You Are. (Be sure to check your local listings–I told people here the show would be on at 8 p. Mountain time, but it turns out that cable here conforms to the Eastern show times!) You’ll see me join Tom Bergeron in Québec towards the end of his quest to learn about his 10th and ninth great-grandparents.
I don’t know all the details and will be eager to learn them tonight, but from what I learned on our shoot last month, it’s a story that spans France and early Canada. The stories we’ll see are emblematic of the age of religious wars and migration to the New World. Join us and let me know what you think! Continue reading
My beach reading this week is Joan Didion: her famous essays on the 1960s collected in Slouching Towards Bethlehem and The White Album (1979), and her novel from that era as well, Play it As it Lays. I’ve completed the essay collections, and came across this 1976 article about Georgia O’Keeffe that reminded me about the conversation a few days ago about women writers and artistic creativity and confidence: Continue reading
The title of this post refers to a 1998 essay by Francine Prose, “Scent of a Woman’s Ink: Are Women Writers Really Inferior?” Nearly twenty years later, the results aren’t encouraging for women. Over at Jezebel, Catherine Nichols writes about sending out queries to agents for the same novel, with the same cover letter and writing sample, under both her real name and in the name of a male alter ego. The results are even more depressing than you’d imagine (h/t Megan Kate Nelson for the RT that alerted me to this article):
I set up a new e-mail address under a name—let’s say it was George Leyer, though it wasn’t—and left it empty. Weeks went by without word from the agents who had my work. I read another study about how people rate job applicants they believe are female and how much better they like those they believe are male.
Her hit ratio as Catherine was two requests to see the whole manuscript out of fifty queries, so 1:25 positive requests. As George, her hit ratio was 17:50. Nichols concludes that he is “eight and a half times better than me at writing the same book. Fully a third of the agents who saw his query wanted to see more, where my numbers never did shift from one in 25.”
Who was is brilliant new writer, George Leyer, and when can we read his brilliant novel? Continue reading
I’m taking advantage of the rare treat of being left out a family camping trip this weekend to work on my book revisions, but I came across this delicious review of National Review and its 60-year-long tic of calling everyone on the Left a “Nazi” and everything on the Left “fascist.” Fish, as they say, rot from the head on down:
As John Judis documents in his 1988 biography of [William F.] Buckley, [Jr., founder of National Review] the conservative pundit’s father and namesake, William F. Buckley Sr., was an anti-Semite and fascist sympathizer who tried his best to pass along his ideas to his large brood. In 1937, four of the Buckley kids burned a cross outside a Jewish resort. The eleven-year-old William Buckley Jr. didn’t participate in the cross burning but only because he was deemed too young to participate and by his own account “wept tears of frustration” at being left out of the hate crime. At this point the young Buckley agreed with his father’s worldview, and would argue, in the words of a childhood friend, that “Bolshevik Russia was an infinitely greater threat than Nazi Germany.” The Spanish fascist leader Francisco Franco was a hero in the Buckley household, celebrated as a bulwark against the red menace.