The Cruel Shoes: Claire Underwood’s powerfully destabilizing stilettos

Here’s  a fascinating read by Megan Garber of fictional First Lady Claire Underwood’s perma-stilettos in House of Cards:

It is strange and striking that Claire Underwood, who is a human woman if also a fictional one, spends the early episodes of Season 4 of House of Cards permanently clad in stilettos. Claire, now the First Lady of the United States, wears her signature shoes—the shoes that complete her “power dress code”—not just when she is making public appearances, giving speeches and attending international summits and what have you, but also when she is not, technically, “appearing” at all. There’s Claire in the kitchen of the White House residence, hanging out with her husband while teetering in stilettos. There she is visiting her childhood home in Texas—among horse stables and tangled grass, upon soil that is so perilously soft—clad in sky-high heels. There she is nursing her mother in the same impractical footwear. In a scene that finds Claire exhausted from a day of, in every sense, dealing, she returns, finally alone, to the retreat of her lush bedroom, lays down on a chaise, assumes a fetal position, and falls asleep. In her heels.

(Did no woman, ever.)

What does Garber think this all-stilettos, all-the-time performance means? Continue reading

History’s Greatest Monster wins with support of every Dem in South Carolina except white men.

HillaryclintonSOSHillary Clinton had a big win last night. Even the professional Bernie Sanders-fluffers over at MSNBC had to admit it.  It turns out that white men might as well have not showed up to vote!  (And the younger ones didn’t.  Is that why Sanders fans are so dismissive of Clinton voters and our preferences?  Because we’re not white men?)

Hillary Clinton scored an overwhelming victory Saturday on the strength of nearly unified support from African-American and older voters in South Carolina, according to the NBC News Exit Poll. She captured nearly 90 percent among voters age 65 and older and about the same share of the black vote. She even narrowly beat Bernie Sanders among white voters. She ran up huge margins among all education and income groups, liberals, moderates and conservatives, late deciders and those who say they’ve long known who they were going to vote for.

She also ran very strongly among those who attend religious services at least weekly, and among the lowest income voters, both groups with large numbers of African-Americans. Clinton also ran better among women than men, but walloped Sanders among men as well. Only among white men did she fall short of a majority.

Given the thrashing Clinton administered Saturday, it’s hard to find a demographic group that Sanders won. As in earlier contests, Sanders showed some strength among young voters, winning a narrow majority of those under 30. He also edged Clinton among independents. Sanders received more than six in 10 among voters who said this was their first primary election, but this group was a very small share of the electorate (about one in 10). Not surprisingly, he won a majority among voters who want the next president to pursue more liberal policies than President Obama has.

The bottom line here is that Clinton is doing very well among people who actually show up to vote, even if they’re deeply uncool women, African Americans, old, or two or three for three.  Oh, well:  I think Clinton would rather be president than be considered cool in Williamsburg, Madison, or Austin. Continue reading

“Hillary, can you excite us?” The unresolved mommy problem of feminist politics, plus the return of the Whiggies!


Copyright Anne Taintor

Jill Abramson, the former executive editor of the New York Times and a woman who has has her own struggles straddling the line between “revolutionary” and “the establishment,” has an interesting article in The Guardian about Hillary Rodham Clinton’s troubles “exciting” young women.  “The ‘I’m a woman and it’s OK to vote with your uterus’ message is tired,” according to a Harvard students quoted in Abramson’s article.

So tired!  Yes, that’s right:  it’s so much more revolutionary to elect an older man president.  Hillary Clinton has already run for president, like twice, so we’re SO over it.  It’s almost like she actually got elected, or something.  Can we just move on, already?   (And has anyone in history ever accused American men of voting with their d!cks because they have elected a man for president 44 times in a row since 1788?)


The Whig of Illusory Progress goes to. . .young feminists, always.

Ah, well:  it’s the same old feminist story we’ve seen for the past 200 years, isn’t it?  As I have argued here before repeatedly, feminism is always the hapless frump of social justice movements.   I used to have a semi-regular feature here awarding people with flawed understandings of how history works the Whig of Illusory Progress.  Let’s just give young feminists of every generation a lifetime achievement award, shall we?

We love to blame feminists for everything they have done, and for everything they haven’t yet accomplished, and younger feminists are always eager to diss and dismiss their elders in the fight.  This was Carrie Chapman Catt’s move against Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton; it was Alice Paul’s move against Catt a century ago; it was what the flapper generation did to both Catt and Paul after suffrage was achieved; it was what the so-called “Second Wave” did to the 1920s generation; it was what my generation in the 1980s and 90s did to the Second Wavers (with sometimes a literal attack on mothers and their politics and achievements, as in Katie versus Anne Roiphe; Rebecca versus Alice Walker), and now, it’s what the millennials and younger women are doing to my generation of feminists and to Second Wave feminists like Clinton. Continue reading

Make America Great Again? A smackdown on #VastEarlyAmerica


Joshua Piker, Editor, The William and Mary Quarterly

It’s an old-fashioned early American smackdown over at the Omohundro Institute blog:  William and Mary Quarterly editor Joshua Piker engages Gordon Wood’s critique of the journal–and the wider field of early American history and culture.  While waiting 11 months to respond to Wood’s comments is a rather leisurely pace for an online publication, Piker’s blog post suggests that waiting may have been a good thing.  In his comments on Wood’s vision for early American history, I see echoes of a contemporary political argument.

First, a reminder of Wood’s comments from last winter in The Weekly Standard:

Almost a year ago, . . Gordon Wood published a review of Bernard Bailyn’s Sometimes an Art: Nine Essays on History.  In this piece, Wood heaps praise on Bailyn and criticism on the field of early American history, including theQuarterly.  The review includes the following paragraph:

“For many [early Americanists], the United States is no longer the focus of interest. Under the influence of the burgeoning subject of Atlantic history, which Bailyn’s International Seminar on the Atlantic World greatly encouraged, the boundaries of the colonial period of America have become mushy and indistinct. The William and Mary Quarterly, the principal journal in early American history, now publishes articles on mestizos in 16th-century colonial Peru, patriarchal rule in post-revolutionary Montreal, the early life of Toussaint Louverture, and slaves in 16th-century Castile. The journal no longer concentrates exclusively on the origins of the United States. Without some kind of historical GPS, it is in danger of losing its way.”

Piker breaks down Wood’s cherry-picking like this: 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

Students protest Jefferson statues on campuses with sticky notes

Thomas Jefferson statue at the College of William and Mary, November 2015

Thomas Jefferson statue at the College of William and Mary, November 2015

This is so 2015:  According to Inside Higher Ed“At both the University of Missouri at Columbia and the College of William & Mary, critics have been placing yellow sticky notes on [Thomas] Jefferson statues, labeling him — among other things — ‘rapist’ and ‘racist.'”  

Polite, inoffensive, non-vandalizing sticky notes with words on them, and still the internet right wing is in a predictable lather.  A William and Mary spokesperson comments, “‘A university setting is the very place where civil conversations about difficult and important issues should occur. Nondestructive sticky notes are a form of expression compatible with our tradition of free expression.'”

Tell me again who’s against liberty of speech and expression, friends?  The IHE article offers some interesting perspectives from different historians and Jefferson biographers–check them out. Continue reading

Who’s telling who to STFU at American universities? Observations on teaching at a HWCU.

cupofSTFUAh, yes: freedom of speech. What some really mean when they evoke it is, “my right to have my say and not have you talk back,” like all of those crybabies who have cancelled their appearances at commencement ceremonies in the last few years because not every student and faculty member greeted their future appearance on campus with hugs and cocoa and slankets.

If you really believe in liberty of speech, then stop telling others to STFU.  In my view, the people who are being criticized most vigorously for speaking up lately at Yale and the University of Missouri are all too often quiet about their experiences, silent on campus, and eager not to draw attention to themselves, and it’s these students whose voices we need to listen to the most.

Too many people have zero imagination about what it is to be African American or Latin@ on a historically white college or university (HWCU) campus. But everyone who has ever attended or taught or worked at a HWCU knows that African Americans on HWCUs are viewed with suspicion just for being there, let alone when they try to unlock their own damn bikes or organize a protest about their marginalization.

I teach at a HWCU in Northern Colorado, a place that is increasingly Latin@ but has very few African American residents.  In my classes, my experience with non-white students in general, and African American students in particular, over the past fourteen years is that they go out of their way to be polite, inoffensive, unobtrusive, and try not to call attention to themselves in any way.  Their efforts to try to fly under the radar and evade notice grieve me, even as I think I understand their interest in remaining quiet and unobtrusive.  I work to offer a non-white perspective on history constantly, but I don’t know if I’m making it better or worse for my non-white students (or if they even care.) That’s the reality of attending a HWCU for the majority of black students in the United States:  working hard to get your degree, trying not be noticed, not taking up much space or speaking up in class. Continue reading