Enjoy this fascinating review of “The Worst Presidents in American History,” a panel recorded for C-SPAN 3: American History TV at the recent Organization of American Historians annual conference in Providence, Rhode Island. It features panelists David Greenberg (whose “The Last Great Republican Rupture” about the Republican primary of 1976 I highly recommend from last weekend’s Wall Street Journal), the always-awesome Annette Gordon-Reed, and Slate’s Jacob Weisberg, all of whom are presidential biographers and have loads of thoughtful ways of thinking about successful versus unsuccessful presidencies. And our pal Claire Potter, AKA Tenured Radical, is the panel Chair! Continue reading
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
Some of you may remember my occasional blogging about the recently returned U.S. Army captive of the Taliban, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in 2014. I wondered about whether his experiences were similar to those of other “redeemed captives” of eighteenth-century Anglo-American wars against Native people and their French allies, and why the U.S. media seemed to have so little interest in following up on his story. (As I suggested, the story was probably complicated and wouldn’t fit easily into a politically useful narrative for anyone on any side of U.S. politics.)
Serial, Sarah Koenig’s hit podcast, has been focused on his story in its second season, and the story it’s telling is indeed very complicated. Check out Koenig’s efforts to get Bergdahl’s story, and to fact-check it against the stories told by his Army colleagues, commanding officers, and sources with connections to the Haqqani Network in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The story she tell is of a young recruit with fairly weak ties to his fellow soldiers who were all in a bad situation in Afghanistan. Bergdahl became convinced that his commanding officers were corrupt, and decided to alert the U.S. military to the corruption by going “dustwun” (duty status whereabouts unknown) in order to get the attention of military leadership. Continue reading
Re: the recent silly advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about women and alcohol, Rebecca Solnit says: alcohol does not cause pregnancy, so obviously women should avoid men, not alcohol. “A woman can be fertile as the Tigris Valley in the time of Abraham and she’s not going to get pregnant absent consort with a seed-bearing man. But if you listened to the way it’s often framed, you might believe that women get pregnant on their own.” Also, if anyone should lay off the sauce, it’s men. because drunk men, not drunk women, are the source of greatest harm to others.
So why the panic over women tying one on?
I wish all this telling women alcohol is dangerous was a manifestation of a country that loves babies so much it’s all over lead contamination from New Orleans to Baltimore to Flint and the lousy nitrate-contaminated water of Iowa and carcinogenic pesticides and the links between sugary junk food and a host of health conditions and the need for universal access to healthcare and daycare and good and adequate food. You know it’s not. It’s just about hating on women. Hating on women requires narratives that make men vanish and make women magicians producing babies out of thin air and dissolute habits. This is an interesting narrative for the power it affords women, but I would rather have an accurate one. And maybe a broader one talking about all the ecological and economic factors that impact the well-being of children. But then the guilty party becomes us, not them.
You know those old stories in which a reporter for the New York Times or the Chicago Tribune drops in on the MLA’s (Modern Language Association) or the AHA’s (American Historical Association) annual meeting, drops in on a few panels with arcane subjects or papers, and then proves his or her thesis that modern academics are completely out-of-touch intellectuals discussing easy-to-caricature topics like queering the Peabody sisters or disability and turn of the 20th century American freak shows?
Well, one of ours has gone to Davos, and comes back with a very dispiriting report on the stupidity and naivety of our supposed betters (or at least richers). UC Santa Barbara historian of technology Patrick McCray has pubished his report on what he saw at Davos last week, and it wasn’t good. Over on his blog, The Leaping Robot, he writes about his invitation there to give a talk, and thought he’d give the proceedings there a little more respect than that offered by said Times or Trib reporter at modern literature and history conferences:
In accepting the WEF’s invitation to Davos, I tried to put aside some of my professional skepticism or at least channel it into more productive (i.e. less snarky) channels. In other words, I sought a line between stick-in-the-mud historian barking “It’s more complicated than than!” and being a starry-eyed Kool-Aid imbiber. I wanted to find a way to reach out to Davos Man in language he/she understood. Maybe I could even help pump the stomachs, idea-wise, of those that had consumed too much innovation Kool Aid.
I called my Betazone talk “innovation’s shadow.” In the time I had, I wanted to gently question some of the concepts of a 4th Industrial Revolution. I also hoped, to pour some mild acid on the prevailing innovation-centric view of technology that gives far too much agency to entrepreneurs and other “creative disrupters.”
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?)
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