The Great Silence: apologies, and my return to blogging.

Ursuline chapel and convent, Quebec City, 2015

Ursuline chapel and convent, Quebec City, 2015

I know I’ve been very quiet lately.  I’ve been traveling for nearly three weeks, mostly tending to family affairs and doing a little research along the way.  I’ve also had the chance to spend valuable time in conversation with friends in Michigan and New England, a rare pleasure all the more precious because of current events, which utterly bristle with hostility and violence now.  I feel very sheltered and cared for by all of you, in comparison to so much of the rest of the world.

Although I’ve blogged extensively about the peculiar ferocity and gendered nature of gun violence in the United States over the past 8-1/2 years, I must admit to being completely hollowed out by the horrors of the mass murders in Orlando 10 days ago.  What does it matter what I or any of us write here, with that kind of nihilism plus access to semi-automatic weaponry living among us?  Unsurprisingly, the killer was a 100% homegrown American man, and like so many other American men, he was deranged by anger, misogyny, and his own sexual desires.

I may have more to say about this, especially the fact that the murderer targeted a largely LGBT and Latinx crowd, something that’s been lost in the panic about his supposed motivation to join ISIS/ISIL.  I’ve been happier living in my imagination in some of the more peaceful corners of eighteenth and nineteenth centuries for the past few weeks.  We all must consider how we can take the best of the past and make it a living tradition, and leave behind the worst:  injustice, brutality, corruption.  Historians struggle with these issues more than most people, I suppose.

A few weeks ago, I was invited by Edward Carson (@ProfCarson44) of the Christian Century to write something for their history blog, Then & Now.  Here’s an excerpt from “What future is there for religious women in the west?” Continue reading

More advice on faculty-student sexual relationships: JUST. DON’T.

don'tbeasshole

Just sayin’

Ugh. Disgusting! As if we need more proof that we need professional standards that prohibit sexual relationships between faculty and students at all levels.  (As in most of life, the solution is just don’t be an a$$hole, isn’t it?  We can avoid so very much trouble in life if we put up this little sampler in our offices, kitchens, and living rooms and obey.)

I’ve made the point here before about how these relationships poison other faculty-student relationships as well as the learning climate in general. But here’s something else that’s ruined when faculty-student sexual relationships are tolerated, something I have direct and sad experience with myself:  the notion that faculty interest in young women’s brains and careers isn’t tainted by sexual motives.

When I read Fernanda Lopez Aguilar’s experiences as an undergraduate student of Thomas Pogge’s at Yale University, I was reminded of something that happened to me as I was finishing college.  What happened to me was much less dramatic, but it was I think very related to the feelings of confusion and humiliation she recounts in the linked Buzzfeed article.

Sadly, although women are now the majority of college students (and have been for two decades at least), young women frequently have their intellectual ambitions questioned and have to wonder about the interest that senior faculty–especially senior male faculty–have in encouraging them.  Lopez Aguilar thought Pogge was interested in supporting her intellectual work, when it turns out his interest was mostly just sexual and prurient: Continue reading

Restroom panic! The solution is so obvious.

09018TPSweet baby Jesus, please let public restrooms all become inclusive/family restrooms already. They’ve been a problem for many of us (if not most of us, at least once in a while) for years, including folks in the non-transgender majority.  John D. Sutter argues that sexed bathrooms are relics that should be abolished as racially-exclusive public restrooms were fifty years ago.  I agree entirely, especially because there’s such a simple solution right before us!

When I was a first-time mother back in the early 2000s, the “family restroom” was fairly new on the scene, and I thought they were lifesavers.  (Maybe they were there all along, and I just didn’t have occasion to seek them out beforehand?)  Changing a baby in most public restrooms isn’t too difficult–I thought the family restrooms were even more useful when the children become toilet-trainee toddlers and little kids, because that’s when the extra space and time for everyone to go came in very handy.   Continue reading

Happy Easter/Pesach/Spring Equinox/_your festival here_! Enjoy an ad-free holiday at Historiann.

cowgirlhotstuffThe whole gang here at Historiann HQ wish you and yours a quiet, ad-free holiday of your choice this spring. I’ve had such an overwhelmingly positive reaction about my decision not to provide content for free at sites that are run by advertising dollars that I thought today I’d also direct your attention to other ad-free and content-rich history blogs.  Most of these are group blogs, except for The Way of Improvement Leads Home, which is run by the indefatigable John Fea of Messiah College:

  • Tropics of Meta: historiography for the masses!  Mostly modern U.S. history, California history, media studies, race, and gender.
  • Nursing Clio:  a group blog on gender, sexuality, and the history of medicine
  • U.S. Intellectual History:  big-tent intellectual history as it’s written and taught by junior and emerging scholars.
  • African American Intellectual History:  same as above, with a focus on black intellectuals from the eighteenth century to the present.
  • Religion in American History:  a group blog on the obvious, with contributors who cover the richness of American religious history from the colonial era to the present.
  • The Junto:  a group blog on early American history by historians based in North America and Britain.
  • Borealia:  a group blog on early Canadian history (First Nations/New France to Confederation, 1867)
  • The Way of Improvement Leads Home:  John Fea’s blog on early American history, American religious history, and early U.S. intellectual history.  Fea is apparently a man unafflicted by hunger, thirst, or the need to sleep, as he’s just published yet another book, and he has a podcast now, too!  (I am not worthy, but then, neither of most of you so we’re in good company.)
  • Notches:   A group blog on the history of sexuality, mostly European and North American.

Most of us who contribute to blogs like these have day jobs, or are madly finishing dissertations, or sometimes both.  It’s honest labor, and we do it because we love history and refuse to believe that it’s irrelevant for understanding the world as we have inherited it.  Peace, my sisters and brothers! Continue reading

An exceedingly impolite post against sexual relationships with students. (Why is this still even an issue?)

Do you feel lucky today? Well, do ya, punk?

Do you feel lucky today? Well, do ya, punk?

Via (I believe) David Schoppik at NYU and Twitter, I found this petition against sexual misconduct in academia:

Sexual harassment and other forms of sexual misconduct have no place in academia. These kinds of unethical behaviors, which often involve powerful males and their female students or junior colleagues, traumatize the victims, impede equal opportunity in academia, and impoverish the intellectual landscape of our scholarly communities.

As recent highly publicized news reports have made clear, the institutional response to cases of sexual misconduct often contributes to the problem [1-3]. Fear of negative publicity feeds bureaucratic inaction, but as these reports also illustrate, the consequences of institutional indolence can be worse. For the victims of sexual harassment or abuse, it is far worse.

Tough new policies emplaced by universities and professional organizations are welcome, but they will not lead to the needed cultural change without the commensurate commitment of individuals to provide a safe, supportive environment for women and men to learn and work together productively. An individual commitment entails disseminating a message of zero tolerance of sexual misconduct; educating faculty, staff and students about norms of workplace behavior and reporting pathways for their violation; and, most critically, publicly supporting the victims who come forward to report incidences of sexual misconduct. The reporting of misconduct by victims and bystanders should be recognized as courageous actions that are key to making our communities safer and stronger.

Go read the whole thing and sign on if you like–I did.  However, I think it’s offering only weak tea (or “spout water,” really) in its diagnosis and prescription. Continue reading

Attention premodern historians: Berkshire Conference CFP deadline extended to Feb. 5

It’s time to pull your Berkshire Conference proposals together, friends!  The deadline for papers and proposals for the June 1-4, 2017 conference at Hofstra University has been extended to February 5; see the call for papers and other information here.  The conference theme for the triennial conference is “Thinking and Talking About Women, Genders, and Sexualities Inside and Outside the Academy”

An email from former Berks President, the eminent European medievalist Ruth Karras, reaches out specifically to those of us working in histories before 1800:  “Proposals are coming in for the 2017 Berkshire conference, however we are beginning to notice some holes, specifically in the premodern period. Therefore, I am writing to ask for your help. Please consider submitting a proposal for a paper, panel, roundtable or one of our other sessions. In addition, please circulate this to your colleagues and networks.”  She continues:

The organizers of the Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, Genders and Sexualities have asked me to help publicize the extension of time on their Call for Papers, and to encourage medievalists and early modernists to submit proposals. They do very much want more premodern content. There has been some talk about how the conference theme doesn’t sound like it’s premodern-friendly, but it could be, and in any case not everything on the program needs to speak directly to the theme. Below is what I received from one of the organizers. If you feel moved to publicize this on your blog, I am sure they’d be grateful, and you might be helping fellow premodernists.

Continue reading

Chronology, “coverage,” and other pointless wastes of time for historians.

I’m not a traditional historian. I don’t give a fig about chronology except (maybe) in my “first half” (1492-1877) of the U.S. History survey class, and I never care about “coverage.” Maybe it’s my short attention span, but I go for books and ideas that intrigue me rather than the idea that I need to “cover” certain decades or themes in my classes.  The only kind of coverage I ever worry about is ensuring that my students are reading, hearing, and talking about as many different Americans as possible.  I try to ensure that we are reading and talking about women and men alike, and Americans of all classes and ethnic backgrounds.

More proof that I’m probably a bad professor: I write syllabi for the courses I wish I could have taken.  Selfish?  Guilty as charged.  But then I figure if I’m bored, how can my students not be bored too?  I’m just not that good of an actor.  Also, I’ve found that if it excites me (environmental history! material culture!), it’s probably going to interest the students more than a lecture or book I feel merely obligated to share with them.

Joseph Adelman has an interesting blog post over at The Junto about teaching a history course organized around four American autobiographies rather than rigid notions of “coverage” and chronology.  In a seminar for first-year students, I can see how it might be disorienting for them to jump from the 1670s (Mary Rowlandson) to the eighteenth century (Benjamin Franklin), and then to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries with two African American autobiographies, Frederick Douglass and Melba Pattillo Beals.  (He very generously provides a link to his syllabus, too.) Continue reading