Monday, April 26, 2010

Is The Oklahoma Legislature Really Determined To Legalize Rape And Medical Malpractice In Order To Stop Legal Abortions?

As the New York Times reported over the weekend, Oklahoma governor Brad Henry, a Democrat, vetoed two abortion bills last week. "One measure would have required women to undergo an intrusive ultrasound and listen to a detailed description of the fetus before having an abortion. Mr. Henry, a Democrat, said Friday that the legislation was flawed because it did not exempt rape and incest victims," the Associated Press report noted (I say the Associated Press because the Times does not think women's right to choose is actually important enough to report on, especially when the story is about women in a flyover state, so they simply reprinted a wire story.)

Mr. Henry said that “it would be unconscionable to subject rape and incest victims to such treatment” because it would victimize them again.

“State policymakers should never mandate that a citizen be forced to undergo any medical procedure against his or her will,” Mr. Henry said, “especially when such a procedure could cause physical or mental trauma.”

Under the ultrasound legislation, doctors would have been required to use a vaginal probe in cases where it would provide a clearer picture of the fetus than a regular ultrasound. Doctors have said that this is usually the case early in pregnancies.

The second bill "would have prohibited pregnant women from seeking damages if physicians withhold important information or provide inaccurate information about their pregnancy. Supporters of that measure said it was an attempt to keep pregnant women from discriminating against fetuses with disabilities." The Oklahoma legislature, which has passed this legislation before, vows to do so again.

Putting aside the question of why you would want to legalize doctors lying to patients, what no one has mentioned about the first bill is that it comes into direct conflict with Oklahoma's rape statute. If, in order to obtain a perfectly legal abortion, a woman must permit herself to be penetrated by an ultrasound probe -- in whatever way, or for however long, the technician and doctor wish to do so, that seems to me to be what statute 21-114 of the Oklahoma Criminal Code defines as rape by instrumentation. This act (putting an object in a vagina, anus or mouth against that person's will) is explicitly defined as rape in the first or second degree.

Coercing a woman into being raped with an object, for whatever reason, is, in fact, rape: this was first established in State v. Rusk (1979), which transformed the legal and popular view of what counted as forced sex by defining as rape any unwanted sexual intercourse, even if a man believed that a woman ought to give it up in return for the drinks and dinner he had purchased earlier in the evening. And by the way? Although it has been technically invalidated by Lawrence v. Texas (2003), Oklahoma still has a sodomy statute on the books too.

Furthermore, it isn't clear to me why, if the legislature is institutionalizing rape as the only path to a legal medical procedure, it matters that whether a woman has come to you having been already traumatized by sexual assault or not. Being raped once is "Oklahoma, OK", as they say in the song (particularly if you get your life back in return), but being raped twice is an act to which the state cannot consent?

Remember when various agents of the state-- cops, judges -- or your average college guy would suggest with a grin that you could just "lie back and enjoy it?" Or perhaps you recall those dark days prior to the feminist anti-rape movement when girls and women were routinely counseled that they only way to ensure that you would not be killed or beaten by an assailant was to be passive permit the rape to occur?

So where are feminists on this one? In our post-Abu Ghraib world, that women who have gotten pregnant through consensual sex would be imagined as candidates for rape-by-technician doesn't seem worth a mention by organizations like NARAL-Pro-Choice America (which has virtually eliminated the word "abortion" from its name) or the National Organization for Women (which has nothing about the Oklahoma bill on the portion of its web site devoted to abortion rights.) These are groups that ask for our donations in the name of preserving our access to the law. Feminists are not the only ones who have dropped the ball here. Although the AMA reported on the previous versions of the bill, struck down by court order in 2009, they made no public statement that I can find condemning the participation of medical personnel in procedures that enshrine violence against women in the law.

This is of course, the endgame of feminist lobbyists and their so-called allies in the Democratic Party having ceded the abortion debate for all but those of us who can pay to control the integrity of our own bodies. While abortion is technically legal, it is actually available to a fraction of American women who have the money to preserve their civil rights. Now abortion activists want to go after the rest of us, by forcing women to be physically tortured and verbally abused by crazy people funneling their projected fantasies about the innocent "baby" you are about to "execute."

And while we are at it, does anyone but me see see some relationship between how the Vatican and the Catholic Church hierarchy around the globe has handled institutionalized child sexual abuse, its successful attempts to constrict the civil and human rights of GLBT people and the lack of value the Church puts on women's lives by its lobbying efforts against legal abortion and birth control? And yet, organized feminism in the United States is not talking about this either.

People talk about political reform as if it could, and should, only happen in formal political frameworks. From my perspective, organized feminism has become too complicit with politics, too wedded to the business of lobbying and compromise, too interested in the forest and uninterested in the trees that make up the lives of ordinary people.

Have we given up?

Noon Update: for more observations about sexual violence in plain sight, go to today's post at Roxie's World.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sunday Radical Roundup: White Men Do The Right Thing, California Dreamin' and Asian American Studies Fun

Department of Southern Discomfort: Think what fraternities could accomplish if they wanted to. The Kappa Alpha Order ("inspired by Robert E. Lee," says the Associated Press) has recently banned its members from wearing Confederate uniforms to "Old South" parties. Such parties are a tradition that has ended on many campuses already because of protests about the uniforms. KA acknowledges that Confederate dress may be a "tradition" but that it's a tradition that is hurtful to those students who perceive it as a celebration of slavery.

"The decision, announced in an internal memo posted on the group's website, followed a flap last year at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, where a black sorority complained after a KA parade stopped in front of its house on campus. KA members were dressed in the gray uniforms of Confederate officers, and young women wore hoop skirts," writes the AP's Jay Reeves. "More than 70 alumnae of the sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, sent a petition to Alabama President Robert Witt complaining about the use of Confederate flags and uniforms on campus.

"In the memo to chapters, Kappa Alpha's national executive director, Larry Wiese, said such displays had to end.
'In today's climate, the Order can ill afford to offend our host institutions and fend off significant negative national press and remain effective at our core mission, which is to aid young men in becoming better community leaders and citizens,"' Wiese wrote."

The fraternity is also part of an important anti-hazing initiative.

Hat Tip.

Pack Up The Car and Move To Bever-lee (Hills, That Is. Swimmin' Pools. Movie Stars): Or Merced, which is nice too, and has A Job. One of my favorite and most faithful commenters passes on this ad for a one year visiting gig in sunny California: "The School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts at the University of California, Merced invites applications from exceptional scholars and teachers at the Visiting Assistant Professor level in US History with a focus on Comparative Race and Ethnicity. We particularly seek candidates with expertise in Chicano/a-Latino/a topics and capable of teaching the following subjects in the 2010-11 academic year, along with an additional course in their area of expertise: The Modern United States (1877-present), Topics in the History of Migration & Immigration, and Comparative Race and Ethnicity. The anticipated start date is July 1, 2010." Click here for the full ad.

New Anthology in Asian American Studies: Thomas Chen, a Ph.D. candidate in American Civilization, announces "We would like to announce the publication of Asian American Studies Now: A Critical Reader (Rutgers University Press, 2010), edited and with an Introduction by Jean Yu-Wen Shen Wu and Thomas C. Chen, a new anthology that collects both seminal articles and exciting new scholarship in the field of Asian American Studies.

"Ten years have passed since Jean Wu and Min Song edited Asian American Studies: A Reader (Rutgers University Press 2000). The Wu and Song Reader brought together essential readings in the field, and we believe it remains an excellent resource for students and teachers. However, the field has been flooded with outstanding new scholarship since 2000, and an updated introduction to Asian American Studies seemed appropriate. We designed this new anthology to be used as both a companion to the earlier anthology and as a stand-alone introduction to the field.

"We also used the compiling of this new volume to reflect on the state of the field now that it has established a significant presence in the academy. What has Asian American Studies achieved? What has it yet to accomplish? Indeed, what do we want Asian Americanist research, writing, and teaching to accomplish? We include pieces that discuss critical pedagogies, provide models of effective social justice work, and raise questions that we believe the field must grapple with if it is to survive as an effective site for political struggle and social transformation. Our goal is to urge those active in the field to consider with a new sense of urgency just how Asian American Studies relates—or should relate—to the work of anti-oppressive social transformation today."

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Terrorists With Good Intentions: A Review of American Subversive by David Goodwillie (Scribner, 2010), 309 pp. $25.00

A combination thriller and meditation on the state of radical politics in the 21st century, David Goodwillie's American Subversive, just out this week, begins inside the head of gossip blogger Aidan Cole who, inexplicably, is in hiding in a neglected vacation home. Why, we are not yet sure. But what we do know is that someone who has epitomized the often aimless spirit of the New Media is locked away, managed by "handlers." He is subsisting on radio and day-old newspapers for information about the outside world and wondering whether "putting [his story] down on paper" will help him figure out how he has ended up in this place. But where is this place, you might ask? Is he in the witness protection program? And how is it that he has been thrown back on outmoded instruments like paper and pencil?

Why indeed? And do we care?

Ultimately, yes, we do. American Subversive is a fun read, even though we come to care (and come to the fun a thriller should provide) a bit too slowly for my taste. For example, we have to slog through too much of Aidan's life among superficial, wealthy media whores. This is a type Goodwillie appears to know intimately from his own past as a journalist and an Internet entrepreneur (something he memorialized in the memoir Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time, 2006). We also slog through what proves to be an utter red herring, Aidan's ambivalence about his dying relationship with the bitchy Cressida, who has begun to break up with him by broadcasting Aidan's lack of sexual pizzazz in a gossip column she writes for the New York Times. This last is one of several odd plot details that will jolt you out of the fantasy world every thriller is obliged to create. The Gray Lady has tried to appeal to younger readers recently, with mildly pathetic innovations like the hideous boxed narrative in Sunday Styles describing the featured wedding of the week, or its "Evening Out" feature with some actor or rock band that has a really good publicist. But a regular column documenting the sex lives of its own employees?

OK, details, details. The story that concerns Our Hero is that there has been a bombing in midtown New York, at Barney's of all places. Aidan, in the midst of one of the terrible parties that punctuate his more or less meaningless life (he has major credit card debt and has gone to the event at Cressida's loft to confront her about the item trashing their sex life) receives a message in his blogger account that someone named Paige Roderick is responsible for the bombing, and that she is part of an underground network of domestic terrorists. A photo is attached, and you will not be surprised to learn that she is Very Beautiful. Subsequently, the novel alternates between Aidan and Paige's points of view to tell the story of who is responsible for the bombing, what it means, who sent the email anyway, and how the story of the two principles -- aimless blogger and committed underground guerrilla -- will come together to make everything clear by about page 100 or so.

It's hard to write a review like this without giving everything away that might ever want you to read the book, so I am not going to tell you who blew up Barney's or why. But I can tell you that I see you with this book on the beach, really I do. Although American Subversive starts slowly, I must admit that it eventually grabbed me, and I read the final 200 pages almost straight through. True, some of the plotting doesn't add up, and several of the characters are too thinly drawn for my taste. It's hard to be engaged by a character -- blogger or not -- whose narrative relies on an aimlessness finally disrupted by an accidental involvement with domestic terrorists who he eventually comes to be sympathetic to, and who ruin his admittedly purpose-free life.

Paige, on the other hand, is a character of real substance who carries the novel, and might have done so on her own. She becomes involved with the mysterious radical network (which includes elderly former Weatherman members and the Earth Liberation Front) because of grief over her brother's death in Iraq. She is compelling and nuanced, and her embrace by a gentle alternative community that turns out to have an agenda of its own seems emotionally authentic. It also seems real that a person might believe her life to have been rendered meaningless by the wartime death of a beloved sibling and her inability to absorb that death as she comes to understand that war as corrupt. Such a narrative accurately renders what many former Black Panthers and antiwar activists from the Viet Nam era have described as the sense of a world out of control in the 1960s, one that made them vulnerable to a magnetic set of ideals, and idealists, and that led to actions they now look back on with regret. Goodwillie's promise as a novelist is better signaled by his ability to imagine a character like Paige, rather than, as the publicity materials suggest, his imperfect rendering of his own life and experiences in the characters of Aidan and his friends.

Everybody in the novel is beautiful, and this bodes well for American Subversive having future incarnations that make its defects less important as it shape-shifts into other media. My prediction is that American Subversive will do better on audio books and Kindle than it will between boards, and that there is an agent somewhere who saw a so-so book but a great movie deal. I'm thinking Claire Danes for Paige, and Entourage's Adrian Grenier finally making a successful jump into anything other than playing Vince forever. Heck, there could be a television series (like the short-lived Prison Break), in which Paige and Aidan stay one jump ahead of the law, serving the people's justice on polluters, corrupt land developers, cheatiing mortgage companies, marketers of phony Green appliances, and military bureaucrats who deceive disabled veterans and the families of dead military heroes.

There are pieces of this complex narrative that don't quite hold together that I think could be smoothed out in a movie script, for example, ditching the ill-advised Weatherman subplot. As a historian, I do have a problem with that, since survivors of the group have mostly expressed sorrow for having taken up violence, not a desire to see those forms of violent subversion revived by a new generation. Furthermore, during the book's final chapters, there seem to be many more Weather folk still living underground than I can account for in total from the 1970s. And Keith, the compelling mastermind of Paige's little terror cell, who eventually becomes more or less deranged, reminds me more of the egotistical United Fruit Company bomber Sam Melville than he reminds me of the far more disciplined and ideologically-driven Weather Underground.

That said, most people will not be troubled by these historical details, Goodwillie is a decent writer and there are parts of the novel I really liked. By about page 50, it begins to move more swiftly, although I continued to be semi-impatient about Aidan's chapters -- he is more or less swept along by events -- and I looked forward to the chapters that documented Paige's ongoing, far more morally thoughtful, transformation. There is an important Betrayal, and a somewhat surprising twist towards the end (I won't wreck it) in which, more or less, All Is Revealed. It is also worth your interest that a novelist has gone out of his way, however imperfectly, to imagine what a principled resistance to capitalism and the contemporary war machine might look like in a post- 9/11 world. Simultaneously, Goodwillie also makes the case that human imperfection and the necessary isolation of underground groups creates the possibility for amoral megalomania. Whether principled, targeted violence to prevent unjust violence is justified or not is also not a task the novel resolves: that violence inevitably destroys lives is, I think, an argument the novel makes, and perhaps that was his principle goal.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Department of Good People Prosper: Elections to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

I just found out today that my Zenith colleague and mentor Richard Slotkin was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

This is so cool. Richie has been a special kind of mentor to me -- the volunteer kind of mentor. Prior to his retirement, he had an office down the hall from me and would occasionally wander down to check in. "How's it going?" he would say, which often led into a conversation about -- well, how things were going: how a book or article was coming along, how I was managing to chair the American Studies program with no faculty, how to solve a particular problem in my home department, strategies for recovering from the Unfortunate Events. I was once involved in a --ahem -- volatile encounter with one of Richie's dear friends on campus (over a matter of some importance, actually) and told him I was about to pull myself together to apologize so that the conflict wouldn't drag on and wreck future collaborations. "Don't apologize," he said nicely and firmly. "You were right."

Everybody who is in Richie's very wide circle of friends has a zillion stories like this so I won't go on. For my own part, it was astonishing to me to work for almost two decades with a scholar who is productive, brilliant, sane and generous.

The list of AAAS elections can be found here. It includes historians Ervand Abrahamian (Baruch), Greg Grandin (NYU), Carla Hesse (Berkeley), and Heinrich von Staden (Institute for Advanced Study).

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Job! Job! Job!

Via the East of California List Serve:

Assistant Professor/Faculty Fellow, Asian American and/or Asian Diaspora Studies, 2010-2011

The Department of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University invites applications for an Assistant Professor/Faculty Fellow position (non-tenure track). We seek candidates with a social science or history background and expertise in Asian American and/or Asian Diaspora studies. Preference will be given to candidates with experience in urban studies. The appointment will begin on September 1, 2010. This is a one year appointment, with a possibility of renewal for up to three years. Candidates must have completed a Ph.D. no earlier than 2005. The candidate is expected to teach three courses per year. Please send a letter of application, a curriculum vitae, a 20 page writing sample, a sample syllabus, and three letters of recommendation by April 30, 2010 to: Professor Sukhdev Sandhu, Department of Social and Cultural Analysis, New York University, 20 Cooper Square, 4th Floor, New York, NY 10003. NYU is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sharon Sievers, Historian and Women's Studies Activist at Cal State- Long Beach, May 27 1938-April 5 2010

Every once in a while something crosses my desk which seems to deserve a broader audience. This is one of those items, received over H-Net from Janet Goodwin of H-Japan:

It is with great sadness that I report the death of Sharon Sievers on April 5, 2010 after a long illness in Long Beach, California. Sharon was the chair of the History Department (for over twelve years!) and sometime director of Women's Studies for forty years at California State University Long Beach. In the early 1980s, together with the ACLU she helped save the newly-nascent Women's Studies program by suing the university which was bowing to public pressure from neo-conservatives in the area. Eschewing more money and fame at more prestigious universities, she chose to remain at CSULB to serve as friend and mentor
to thousands of young women and men who otherwise might not have remained in college or gone on to academic careers.

She made thousands of phone calls on behalf of students, fellow faculty members, (especially the scores of adjuncts that she hired for one or two semesters over the years) abused women, homeless waifs, and even an occasional administrator. The story is told that a former dean complained about the phone bill for the department until he was told that he owed his own position to a phone call Sharon had made in his defense. Sharon never turned away anyone in need. She couldn?t solve every problem, but she was willing to make that phone call to someone who might.

Photo taken from this page of the CSU-LB Women's Studies web page, with the caption "Genie and Sharon take back the prom." Sharon Sievers is on the right.

Sharon was brilliant, but never dismissive or condescending of any of us who were not. Her ribald sense of humor is legendary. She loved to laugh, occasionally at herself, but seldom in mockery of others. I have often told the story of her defusing a very tense situation at Tokyo's Narita Airport. Standing amid a very angry group of travelers who were intent on strangling a particularly obtuse airline factotum, Sharon said in sotto voce "Leave him alone, the guy is a soup short of a teishoku!" We laughed until it hurt.

Never at a loss for words, when asked about a particularly dark, peaty, single malt scotch, she opined that it "Tastes like it was aged in an old sweat sock."

She always claimed that she was "far too busy living" to write much more than her award-winning seminal work Flowers in Salt: Beginnings of Feminist Consciousness in Modern Japan (Stanford University Press, 1983 --still in print!). A generation later she penned a popular women's history textbook with fellow historian Barbara Ramusack, Women in Asia: Restoring Women to History (Indiana University Press, 1999). When asked why she chose to write the half of the textbook devoted to the women of China, Japan and Korea (Ramusack wrote the half devoted to South and Southeast Asia) she sighed and said "I guess I got tired of waiting for someone else to do it." Hundreds of my students have read Sharon's half over the past decade.

Sharon was also a poet and photographer, a fan of classical music and raconteur. She always laughed that she was a "Plain Plains Girl." She was born May 27, 1938 the Daughter of the late Celia (Pahl) and Edwin Walter Sievers of Scottsbluff, Nebraska. She began her education with a bachelor's degree at Augustana College in South Dakota, then a Master's in History at the University of Nebraska, finishing with her doctorate at Stanford University in 1969, a year after she began her teaching career at CSULB.

She is survived by her life partner Eugenia Odell of Long Beach, sister Beverly Hall of Tacoma, WA, dear friend Maylene Wong of San Francisco, and many grieving friends, former students and colleagues all over the world. We'll not see the likes of her again.

A memorial service is scheduled for 4 p.m., Saturday, May 8, 2010, at St. Luke's Episcopal Church of Long Beach, 525 E. 7th Street, Long Beach. Interment will be in her native Scottsbluff, Nebraska. Donations in Sharon's memory may be made to the Sievers Scholars Program, c/o Department of History, CSULB, 1250 Bellflower Boulevard, Long Beach, CA 90840.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sunday Radical Roundup: From The Sublime To The Ridiculous

OK, it's senior honors thesis week, so you cannot really expect much. Thanks to the East of California List Serve I have some real news, and the rest is just grab-bag city.

Fabulous In All Ways: CFP of the Week. "Consuming Asian America," 2011 Association for Asian American Studies Conference, New Orleans, Louisiana, May 18-21, 2011.

The theme for the 2011 AAAS conference “Consuming Asian America” is inspired, in part, by the site of the conference itself—New Orleans, the city that measures the success of its Mardi Gras celebration by weighing the garbage collected the morning after and whose shopping and nightclub district for locals is called “Fat City.” We invite proposals to engage with all aspects of consumption, such as excess (after all, New Orlean’s tradition of Mardi Gras suggests an excess of consumption), labor material culture, technology, marketing, identity, assimilation, gender, popular culture, religion, music, or tourism.

The title “Consuming Asian America” has a double sense, referring both to the consumption performed by Asian Americans and the consumption of objects, people, and practices that are marked as Asian American. We are interested in the material practices, actions, and cultures of different versions of the consumer, such as eating, buying, viewing, as well as the larger metaphor of consumption.

For example, proposals might examine the material reality of food and its cultivation, production, labor, and marketing: agribusiness, the restaurant industry, our current fascination with television food shows or “authentic” ethnic eating. Others might examine consumption, purchasing, and power by examining chains of production, from the unseen labor of overseas and domestic Asian workers to how the advertising of various products specifically employs or ignores Asian and Asian American bodies. This topic also encompasses the widespread consumption of goods and services identified as Asian or Asian American. These might include religious iconography, such as Mehndi and the Buddha, artistic traditions such as haiku, martial arts, or manga), or language and writing, such as Chinese writing in keychains, home decor, and body art. Consumption also can be thought of as a means of absorbing, reformulating, or challenging culture through various technologies: how images of Asians, from the yellow peril to the model minority have been circulated and consumed by a multi-racial America, and how one might control or resist the consumption of Asian America.

This is the first time AAAS will meet in New Orleans. Accordingly, we are interested in the ways in which New Orleans (and the Gulf Coast more broadly) has been the object of consumption post-Katrina, as well as the relative invisibility of Asian Americans in the public attention following the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. How might this conference steer us away from being unthinking consumers of New Orleans culture and instead engage us with the possibilities of critical activism?

Submissions due by Monday, November 1, 2010: submit online here Hat tip.

Job of the Week: Who says the job season is over? "The 4th Psychological Operations Group is seeking highly qualified applicants for a two-year (renewable for up to 3 years) Intelligence Analyst position focused on the eastern Black Sea/ South Caucasus region. Work with other civilian specialists conducting research and writing 20-40 page studies, work closely with U.S. and possibly foreign military personnel, travel within the United States and abroad in order to conduct research and support military operations. A strong background in study and research of the history, politics, and culture of the region of specialization is required. Prior residence in the region of specialization is extremely desirable." Must be a U.S. citizen and be able to obtain and keep a SECRET level security clearance." Oh yes -- must speak Armenian, Azerbaijani, Georgian, Kurdish, or Turkish. Russian is acceptable, but only if you are really, really good.

Otherwise, there are really no jobs this week.

Hip-Hop Artists Of The Week: Have you ever wondered what it would be like for a Tea Party Rally to feature a white, anti-tax rap group? Thanks to We Are Respectable Negroes now you know!

Friday, April 16, 2010

One Of The Down Sides To The New Media

Is receiving messages from pimps. For example, I just received the following message on Skype:

European and American women are too arrogant for you? Are you looking for a sweet lady that will be caring and understanding? Then you came to the right place- here you can find a Russian lady that will love you with all her heart. Can't find a queen to rule your heart? How about beautiful Russian ladies that have royal blood and royal look? Here you can find hundreds of portfolios of these fine women of any age for every taste. Please excuse us if you are not interested.

I am not interested, it's true, but should I excuse you if I find this message a violation of my privacy? Then there are the people who claim to be following me on Twitter, a great many of whom also turn out to be sex professionals. Those of you who are my Facebook friends may recall that this is not the only kind of advertising that repels me, but there is a theme: any ad that assumes something about my body I find offensive. This is a fairly large category, I'm afraid: ads that assume I am wrinkled, fat, not fat but morbidly concerned about my weight anyway, have yellow teeth are all boundary-crossing from my point of view. On Facebook, you can remove your gender entirely, which I have done: the IQ of the ads goes way up. I am now invited to participate in political campaigns, participate in intellectual events and buy books.

Shows you what Facebook thinks of women, no?

Yahoo mail, on the other hand, gives me only two choices: male and female. So I switched to male. Sidebar ads where stomach fat pulsated in and out were suddenly replaced by muscle building products that will kill me, financial instruments that will bankrupt me and concerns about my -- errr, male member (which I do not have, so these ads are of considerably less concern than the ones that suggest conventional forms of female body anxiety.)

But the messages from sex professionals bother me, I would have to say, because it seems like a remarkably impersonal marketing format for that particular product. In addition, solicitations like the one above play to the crassest forms of sexism, articulating non-American women as more "naturally gendered" -- pliable, obedient, and not "ruined" by feminism. While I don't think regulation of speech is the answer, I wish these services would allow each user, and each advertiser, to register. Thus one could choose to be contacted, or not, by sex professionals, as one could in any other media.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

And They're Off! Historians On The Guggenheim List

You can, of course, check the list yourself. But history colleagues who deserve a Jacquie Lawson e-card are:

Andrew Apter, Professor of History and Anthropology, and Director, James S. Coleman African Studies Center, University of California, Los Angeles: A study of slave coasts and hinterlands in Afro-American perspective.

Joshua Brown, Executive Director, American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning, The Graduate Center, CUNY: The visual culture of the American Civil War.

Antoinette Burton, Professor of History and Bastian Professor of Global and Transnational Studies, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign: Resistance in the British Empire from the Opium Wars to Mau Mau.

William Caferro, Professor of History, Vanderbilt University: War, economy, and culture in Italy, 1330-1450.

Hasia R. Diner, Paul S. and Sylvia Steinberg Professor of American Jewish History, New York University: Peddlers: A New World Jewish history.

Caroline Elkins, Professor of History and African and African American Studies, Harvard University: The end of the British Empire after the Second World War.

Walter Johnson, Winthrop Professor of History and Professor of African and African American Studies, Harvard University: Slavery, capitalism, and imperialism in the Mississippi Valley’s Cotton Kingdom.

Pieter M. Judson, Professor of History, Swarthmore College: A non-nation-based history of Habsburg Central Europe, 1780-1948.

Jeffrey C. Kinkley, Professor of History, St. John’s University: The dystopian imagination of China’s avant-garde.

Thomas K├╝hne, Strassler Family Chair in the Study of Holocaust History and Professor of History, Clark University: Body aesthetics and social conflict in modern history.

Susan Schulten, Associate Professor of History, University of Denver: The rise of thematic cartography in United States history.

John Fabian Witt, Allen H. Duffy Class of 1960 Professor of Law and Professor of History, Yale Law School: The laws of war in American history.

And of course, Zenith's very own alum:

Ms. Maggie Nelson, Faculty Member, School of Critical Studies, California Institute of the Arts: Contemporary uses and abuses of cruelty in art, literature, and media.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Monday Celebration: The 500 Posts

Today is a very special day: Tenured Radical has hit 500 posts. For those of you who think blogging is an easy-peasy activity that some of us do in our spare time, think again. You make spare time for it, dammit! And if you are really successful, people start asking you to write other things, and all of a sudden you are writing all the time, and .....but wait! That's what academics are supposed to do!

So on the occasion of the 500th post, I would like to honor a few other writers instead.

Historiann posts nearly every day. She is funny, smart, relentless and prolific. And could we have a hand for Margaret Soltan, over at University Diaries? Her posts are short, snappy, and muckraking to boot.

And how woud we know anything without Ralph Luker? If you check your sitemeter by 9 a.m., you will see that Ralph, the managing spirit of Cliopatria has already visited to see of there is anything to link to in his daily roundup. Ralph sees it as his job to link us to all things history, many of which are written by historians and public intellectuals who have published something of interest in the commercial media.

David Remnick is not a blogger, but he produced The Bridge. an over 600 page book about Barack Obama, in two years, while editing and writing for The New Yorker. It's not just that Remnick makes the rest of us look like pikers: admit it, we are pikers.

Finally, in one of the best articles I wish I had been given twenty years ago, Kerry Ann Rockquemore contributes to Inside Higher Ed's "Career Advice" column on how to pick your battles and manage your anger. It's a must-read for untenured faculty in particular. Just a hint to send you over there:

The problem occurs when new faculty members (majority or minority) respond to conflicts in one of two extreme ways: 1) fighting every battle or 2) avoiding conflict altogether. The problem with fighting every battle is that you will quickly alienate yourself from everyone in your environment. The problem with avoiding conflict is that when you push anger down, it grows, deepens, and expands. This can put you at risk of publicly exploding when triggered by a minor incident, developing stress-related illness, and/or sucking up so much of your energy that you have none left for your intellectual work....We often hear the generic advice to "pick your battles." This week, I want to encourage each of us to fundamentally rethink the idea that we have to wait until conflicts reach the stage of "battle"! Instead, let’s recognize that conflict is a normal outcome of people working together in an academic community. As a result, let’s begin to imagine ourselves as professionals who are comfortable, confident, and capable of resolving conflicts in our day-to-day lives.

Oh yes. And here's to the next 500 posts.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

The First Casualty Of War

This video of two Reuters news staff, two children and numerous unarmed bystanders (including a van that tried to assist the wounded) being being shot at and killed by a US military helicopter in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad will resonate for those of us old enough to remember the senseless cruelty of the Viet Nam War. As in Viet Nam, the lies begin with the soldiers on the ground and then trickle up.

It's long and tedious, as well as graphic, but worth watching. It was obtained by Reuters with great difficulty via the Freedom Of Information Act, and sent to me by one of my students. For additional information, see Wikileaks.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

On The Butler-Duke Final: Is Academic Excellence So Difficult To Combine With Athletics?

What the Los Angeles Times dubbed the final between "feel good Butler" and "real good" Duke turned out to be tighter than everyone thought, although I missed the game for an evening lecture at Zenith. When I am Director of the World, no lectures will be held on the evening of an important National Championship. Think about this when you are casting your vote.

But this brings me to a topic: the jaws that have dropped all over the country that two schools with a 90% team graduation rate made it through the bracket to the Big Game. Of course, Duke has been doing this for decades, but Butler was more of a shocker, since they operate as a good-sized liberal arts college (about 1,000 students more than Zenith) and have a basketball budget a tenth the size of Duke's (probably eight times the size of Zenith's, but now I'm guessing.) Of course, Butler draws on a local midwestern population where the public schools are good and childbirth is always a struggle because the little tykes come out with basketballs in their hands, but still. It was a big deal.

Add to this Cornell making the Sweet Sixteen, and there has been a general fluttering this year about the capacity of a few students to overcome their studying habits and press on to play championship basketball.

Of course, we already knew women could do this, right? But we take it for granted that most young men won't, and that tolerance for high levels of misbehavior and academic failure are part of the price a university must pay for athletic excellence (i.e., a team whose gear people will buy and that will bring home sumptuous television contracts that can be plowed back into more athletic facilities.)

Like so many things about university life, these tradeoffs are cynical and unnecessary: it is that old problem of assuming that things are as they seem. We talk about the "culture" of big time sports, as if we were anthropologists in The Land That Time Forgot, rather than looking at how we might change programs where the athletes are not doing college level work and are spending their spare time wreaking havoc on other students. Furthermore, if you look at schools that have a low graduation rate for their big budget teams, you often see overall low graduation rates, and students not able to get into the classes they need to attain the BA in four years. I remember a few years back when it was revealed that a Big Southern Football Power had a graduation rate of well under 10% for its national championship football team, but guess what? The university as a whole was under 40% for a BA in six years. And the team has not repeated its championship performance either, as its star players drifted off campus, mostly to the various forms of unemployment you are vulnerable to without an education or a pro contract. Hence, a few (not so very radical) thoughts for the NCAA about the relationship between athletics and education.

Athletic graduation rates are the canary in the coal mine. If a school does not value its student-athletes, and does not hold them to a high standard, that says something about how they value all their undergraduates. Are classes merely seen as a chore that students slog their way through on their way to the alumni association, or is there care taken to structure majors, provide the classes and advising students need, and support the development of academic skills? When athletes are caught in off the field criminal and social scandals, what does that say about the atmosphere that is more generally tolerated on campus by student organizations, Greeks, and the campus administration? Are adults even on campus after Thursday afternoon?

A baseline of academic discipline is a good indicator that athletes will be disciplined in their training habits as well. Learning to defer gratification, manage one's own time, set priorities and have healthy sleep, eating and sexual habits is part of what it means to be a grownup. It is these skills that get a young person through, either in the case of unbelievable celebrity (a scenario for a fraction of student athletes); ongoing pressure (a scenario for all college students including athletes); or a setback (an injury, illness, or surprising failure.) I asked my friend Tim, who went from my class at Oligarch University to the NFL, and was one of the most disciplined students I knew, what got him through a lab science major and varsity football. He smiled and said, "Well, when I had work I needed to do, I would just tell the coach I couldn't come to practice for a couple days." Because Tim was trusted by his coach to give 110% wherever he was, he managed his own life and he managed it well. What would college sports look like if everyone did this?

College coaches could keep their athletes in school by having an expectation that their athletes had taken high school seriously too. Each athlete should have a letter of recommendation from a teacher that speaks to this; on recruiting visits, a coach could take the time to talk to this teacher personally. Furthermore, students that were bounced around from high school to high school to get more starting time, either of their own volition or because of a parent's wishes, should be scrutinized more closely. These are the kids who, I would expect, could be guaranteed not to take school seriously because - why should they? It has never even been as important as their athletics, and they can't be expected to have developed that value system yet. Furthermore, why should they stay in college for any longer than it takes to get a contract or to get hurt? They never have gone to a school to be in school, so how would they even know what that means?

When college coaches, administrators, and alumni cheat and make excuses for themselves, athletes do too. And cheaters never prosper. Oh yeah, maybe for a season. But not for long. Building an athletic program, and building a college, is about the long term, not throwing the dice every year and praying it doesn't come up snake-eyes.

Intelligence, and being able to activate your intelligence in productive ways, matters, no matter what you are doing is a college skill. The notion of the "dumb jock" was invented by people who have never been successful athletes (or perhaps athletes at all.) It is true, the further you get away from money-making sports, the more intelligent people seem to be: crew, track, wrestling, squash, and many other sports that have modestly paid career dividends seem to be full of kids who go on to interesting non-athletic careers (or the very modestly paid coaching gigs their sport offers.) But one wonders whether the low academic expectations attached to the big money sports, not to mention coaches steering athletes away from challenging courses and majors, don't have more to do with the bad academic and career outcomes for these students than does lack of intelligence. Look at what these kids do on the field. A successful college linebacker not only has to memorize a vast strategic plan, he has to be a leader, be able to reorganize that plan on the spur of the moment, and process a tremendous amount of information in a matter of seconds depending on what is unfolding before him. That man may be many things, but he isn't dumb.

My advice to the NCAA is to refuse the notion that Duke and Butler have pulled off something exceptional, or that they are able to do it because they are private, not public colleges. To believe that is to undervalue what education -- and particularly public education -- ought to be; indeed, it refuses what it is, in many places. The truth is what they do can be achieved by everyone if the connection between athletics and education is a productive one that does not exploit the athletic labor of young people at the expense of teaching them.

And for my commenters who view these thoughts as simply naive? Show me the research demonstrating that athletic excellence is hindered by academic achievement, and I will post a picture of myself eating my UConn women's basketball hat.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Sunday (Am I Really) Radical Roundup: The Resurrection And The Life Edition

Continuing Concerns About My Politics Department: Click here for more concerns about whether I am really radical or not, discovered when I was Googling the Marc Bousquet reference cited in the previous post. It bears repeating occasionally that the Tenured Radical thing is meant to be understood in an ironic, oxymoronic, culture-warsy kind of context. But why waste an opportunity to talk about myself at length? Particularly on the Day that Our Lord rose from the dead, proved that there is hope for all of us, and encouraged the creation of the first, rudimentary group blog (currently also available as an iPhone App)?

It is my view that being a radical academic is a tricky, and perhaps impossible, proposition. Academics are inevitably hewing to one kind of convention or another, even when we are in resistance to -- well, whatever. Hence, one is always stumbling over one's own hypocrisies as a "radical academic." Case in point: it is well-known that I abhor the effects of tenure, its filthy rules, and its tendency to make young intellectuals not more daring, but more conventional and in-groupy. I would like to see tenure abolished. Conversely, I participate in tenure cases, perform the due-est diligence I can, and have been known to run them. It is how we academics construct our workplace, I like to see people get a fair shake when I can, and it seems perverse (not in a nice way) to throw people I like to the dogs because of my own silly rules.

Not so radical is it? So many compromises, so little time.

A more serious example of the difficulties inherent to academic radicalism is attached to what we produce: written words, in combinations intended to be legible to others. Academics are all engaging in literary arts of various kinds. If you don't adhere to some kind of recognizable genre, no one understand what the frack you are talking about or who you are talking to, and you have no audience. Occasionally someone does something startlingly new that shifts genre and/or convention, but it is rarer than you might think.

Here I would cite as my example of the forms of "virtuous convention" that counteract radical intent the queer intellectuals at Bully Bloggers (where you can read an excellent post by Columbia Law Prof Katherine Franke raising questions about the efforts by pro-gay marriage funders to force funding disclosures on the opposition.) I make an example of them because these folks (with whom I am acquainted) are as radically queer as they come: smart, successful, fun and everything good. Furthermore, several have contributed an idea or two that is so startling new that it has leaked out of queer studies to alter other fields entirely.

This is what radical knowledge is supposed to do. That said, queer studies has developed its own conventions over time: it adheres to unwritten rules of style, language, subject matter and argument, even as it often improves on these conventions. It is, as we say, now a field.

You might argue that what then allows queer studies to still claim radical ground is its refusal of normative cultural and political paradigms, and you would be right. But to come back to convention: is refusal, in and of itself, not itself a convention? Is refusal enough to persuade us that the phrase "radical scholarship" is not an oxymoron when queer studies is simultaneously creating disciplinary paradigms of its own inside the academy? Refusal, as Dick Hebdige put it so well, always "ends in the construction of a style, in a gesture of defiance or contempt, in a smile or a sneer." These "signals [of] Refusal" are "worth making...even if, in the final analysis, they are...just the darker side of sets of regulations, just so much graffitti on a prison wall.(Subculture: The Meaning of Style, 1979; p. 3).

More About Me Department: The title is not mine, and I didn't do the drawing, but you can read an op-ed by yours truly on intimate partner violence in today's Hartford Courant. You can see me in person as a panelist, April 27, at a Key Issues Forum to be held at Zenith University, "The Person You Think You Know; Signs and Solutions of Campus Violence." I am there to provide historical context, as you may have suspected.

Historiann Would Have Rocked Sterling Cooper: I don't know whether it is more fun to watch Mad Men or to read Historiann's critique of Mad Men. We are not going to tell her that there are some big unexpected changes in the last disc -- but it doesn't change her right-on analysis of the lumbering plot and almost antiquarian take on gender, sexuality and race in the 1960s.

I confess, part of the pleasure I get from the show is utterly pornographic. I thrill to Salvatore Romano's closet, as I recall dashing in and out of my own in the 1970s; I want to be Roger Sterling -- and now empathize strongly with his error in judgement in ditching his wife for a much younger, more expensive ball and chain; and I stood up and cheered when Betty Draper, in the last episode, when she -- oops! Almost told.

Have fun Historiann, and for crying out loud, get a better cable package so we can do this in real time this summer!

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Thursday's Fun Facts To Know And Tell

Whoopsie-Daisy! This was so much fun I thought it was an April Fool's joke, but since I can source it in two places, I don't think so. Here goes.

Ben Smith at Politico reports that a piece of Republican National Committee direct mail designed to look like the Census went out as a fundraiser. Unlike the Census, however, it contained a telephone number that led callers to a phone sex line. "'The number in question was a typographical error by a vendor used on this particular mailer — using 1-800 instead of 202,' said RNC Communications Director Doug Heye," quoted in Smith's piece.

Been there, done that -- except in my case it was a link assigned by Tiny that took my Twitter followers to a German amateur porn site instead of my blog. I still use Tiny, but now I check the url before I tweet. I recommend that the RNC follow this practice (try calling the number, for example, to see who you get) to avoid misunderstandings in the future.

Go to the Daily Kos if you want to listen to what the GOP faithful were exposed to. My deepest sympathies, gentlemen. Now lay off the Health Care Bill before God ratchets things up.

Memories of Audre Lorde: At the Women's Review of Books Blog, Jewelle Gomez has posted memories of her friendship with Audre Lorde. Note to young writers -- take risks. As Gomez recalls, "Despite being shy in 1980, I took a leap and mailed her a copy of my self-published first collection of poems. Why not? She left me a message on my phone machine in her mellifluous Caribbean voice. I listened to it in shock about ten times before I actually heard her words of congratulations—along with editing comments."

Nice. This is the way it should be.

And Last But Not Least, April Fools: At How The University Works, Marc Bousquet pulls your -- and Arne Duncan's -- leg. For an oldie but a goodie, go here to see Bousquet picking on your favorite Radical and Historiann for suggesting that Ph.D.'s who believe they were deliberately led down the path to perdition might want to broaden their outlook and chill on the rage thing. All publicity is good publicity, in my view, except if there is an incorrect 800 number attached.