I just love it when a guy mansplains feminism for me

via Chronicle of Higher Education, in which Marc Bousquet mansplains what’s wrong with academic feminism.  The article starts out well by outlining the “normalization and feminization” of  contigent faculty in higher education.  Whose to blame for this?  Why the feminists of course!

“What’s mainstream academic feminism’s response to this situation? A cry for “comparable worth” evaluation of paychecks across disciplines, so that faculty positions with similar responsibilities, qualifications, and skill sets are similarly paid? No, most academic feminism subscribes to a version of the pipeline thesis.

Well, is academic feminism at least burning with outraged solidarity at all of the women shunted disproportionately into contingent positions? Again, no: Most female contingent-faculty leaders I know are bitter at the hilariously narrow version of women’s solidarity practiced by tenured feminists. “Why should I make common cause with beaker cleaners?” one lecturer quoted a tenured female scientist as saying when asked to support fair evaluation for contract renewal of Ph.D.-holding female lecturers on her campus. Female lecturers teaching lower-division required courses are commonly the targets of sexist evaluation by students and experience discriminatory employment outcomes as a result. According to many female lecturers, all too often the tenured feminists have nothing to say. At nearly every college I’ve ever visited, the women’s faculty group was a more comfortable home for female administrators than for female faculty serving contingently.

In some ways, of course, the influx of women into higher education is a feminist achievement to be celebrated. It is obviously better to have lots of women in college rather than, say, prison. But in the steadily more gendered exploitation of graduate assistants, undergraduate workers, outsourcing, debt peonage, and so on, higher education is deserving of critical scrutiny.

In an increasingly authoritarian national, corporate, and educational culture—producing ever more feminized workplace cultures and ever more masculinized leadership cultures—what sort of leadership should we ask from academic feminists?

On the one hand, there’s nothing wrong with the fact that many academic feminists hope to place more women in campus administration. It is common for organizational-sociology studies to find that more women in senior administration tends to have a modest impact on gender equity, particularly in terms of hiring more female assistant professors.

On the other hand, it may be even more urgent to remedy the low involvement of academic feminists in AAUP, the labor movement, academic unionism, and solidarity movements with female faculty (not to mention female staff). ”

Christ on a cracker — what planet does this guy live on?  There are plenty of feminists involved in AAUP and other campus organizations dedicated to gender equity and other social justice issues. Doesn’t he at least read the Chronicle’s own Tenured Radical?  Grr, this makes steam come out of my ears!

#Komen sucks, support @BCAction

Posted by Lorraine Tipton on Susan G. #Komen Facebook page: http://pic.twitter.com/rHfK54KK

via Huffington Post

As you all saw in my Twitter feed, I’m mighty upset with the Komen Foundation for their decision to no longer provide funding to Planned Parenthood for preventive cancer exams for low income women.

I’ve been a Komen “grumbler” for years but usually bite my tongue and shell out money when folks ask me to contribute “for the cure.”   My gripes include Komen’s support companies that “pinkwash” — i.e. sell products that have been linked to breast and other cancers and save face by selling pink stuff.  They spend a lot of the money they raise on administrative costs (e.g. the VP who pulled the plug on Planned Parenthood funding makes a six-figure salary), and there are doubts about whether the organization “raising awareness” really does anything to improve the survival rate of women with breast cancer.

So, if you really want to support an organization that truly cares about women’s health and is far more effective in fighting the breast cancer epidemic, then give your money to Breast Cancer Action (and Planned Parenthood because they need it.)

On the First Day of Advent, History News Network Gives Women’s History Bupkiss

via History News Network, where editor David Walsh has decided to “revive an old childhood tradition (suitably modified for the Internet) and bring you the HNN’s 2011 Advent Calendar, this year focusing on America’s fighting men. Every day from now until Christmas, we will feature a new image of American soldiers celebrating (or campaigning) around Christmastime. Follow our updates on Facebook or on Twitter at @myHNN. Happy holidays!”

So, as a corrective, I’m going to start my own damn Advent Hanukkah Kwanzaa Festivus Solstice [insert whatever winter holiday you like here] Calendar of America’s fighting women.  [BTW, Advent started last Sunday, November 27, so Walsh is also late out of the gate on getting that started].  Here’s my first entry:  Deborah Sampson, who “rebelled against the British and society by dressing as a man and fighting in the Revolutionary War for eighteen months under the guise of “Robert Shurtlif” of “Shirtlieff.”

Fellow women’s historians, please do join me in this endeavor.  Seasons greetings!

Speaking of Rosie — Governor of Maine decides to literally whitewash her and other workers from state history

via Inside Higher Education.

If the Republican assault on academic freedom weren’t bad enough, now we have an example of a Republican governor’s assault on artistic freedom, and a literal whitewash of state history.  Last weekend, Governor Paul LePage of Maine ordered that the mural of state workers (panel at left) be removed from the state’s Department of Labor building.  Employees returned to work on Monday to find the conference room where the mural was located replaced with white walls and fresh spackling.  All this because of one anonymous fax from a “secret admirer” [one of the Koch brothers perhaps?]  that complained the mural was too pro-labor and reminded him/her of “North Korean propaganda.”  What?  It’s the Department of Labor for crying out loud — isn’t it supposed to be pro-labor?

Naturally, Judy Taylor, the artist who was commissioned to paint the mural finds the decision horrible, and labor leaders in the state are outraged.  In an interview for the Portland Herald, Matt Schlobohm, executive director of the Maine AFL-CIO, called the decision “insulting to working people, petty and shortsighted.”

“It seems the governor is much more interested in picking fights with labor than creating jobs that people so desperately want,” he said. “We believe their story deserves to be told on the walls of the Department of Labor.”

Ralph Carmona, spokesman for the League of United Latin American Citizens, is troubled by the decision to rename a conference room now named after labor leader Caesar Chavez.

The really bad news is that his decision to remove a civil rights icon’s name from the Labor Department reflects an underlying pattern of actions and words that affect all Mainers,” he said.

That pattern includes LePage’s comment to the NAACP to “kiss my butt,” saying that women might grow “little beards” if they are exposed to the chemical Bisphenol-A, and a statement that he would go after union rights, Carmona said.

“What is next, the burning of books or the end of Labor Day as a holiday?” said Jose Lopez, director of the Latin American league. “When you add it all up, he is talking about business in a narrow sense that excludes Maine people and the public interest.”

Lynn Pasquerella, president of Mount Holyoke College, on Tuesday sent a letter to Governor Paul LePage criticizing this decision.  She and many students and alumnae are upset because the mural includes a panel of distinguished MHC alumna Frances Perkins (left), Secretary of Labor under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the first woman to hold a cabinet position.  According to Pasquerella, “the timing for this decision could not have been worse. Friday, March 25, marked the 100th anniversary of the horrific Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. This event strongly influenced Perkins’s lifelong commitment to the well-being of working men and women, as well as to working children in those days of rampant exploitation. But on an even larger scale, the Great Recession we are now struggling through–and which has hit Maine particularly hard–has numerous historical parallels with the Great Depression. Labor Secretary Frances Perkins, the first woman presidential Cabinet member, figured prominently in leading us out of that cataclysm.

I was particularly surprised to read that you were influenced by an anonymous fax comparing the 11-panel mural to North Korean political propaganda, because the act of removing images commemorating Maine’s history itself conjures thoughts of the rewriting of history prevalent in totalitarian regimes. If the U.S. Department of Labor in Washington, D.C. is housed in the Frances Perkins Building, why can’t she be honored with a conference room in Augusta?”

Why indeed.  As Civil Rights heroine Fannie Lou Hamer once said, is this America?

Rape Rape Part II: Wikileaks and Julian Assange version

via Slate Double X

Where Rachel Larimore says that “Julian Assange is Creepy: So is His Arrest on Rape Charges.”   In a turn of phrase oddly reminiscent of Whoopi Goldberg’s comments about the rape charges against Roman Polanksi, Rachel writes:

“It’s not that the charges aren’t serious. They go beyond Assange allegedly not using a condom when a woman asked him to. He comes across as a creep and a misogynist. But they are still cases of “acquaintance rape,” which is notoriously difficult to prove.  And that just contributes to the idea among skeptics—and Assange’s lawyer, naturally—that these are trumped up charges designed to keep Assange from causing trouble for the United States and its allies. It doesn’t help that the last time Assange had a document dump, Swedish authorities wanted to question Assange and then released a statement backing off and saying that he “is not suspected of rape.”

So, according to Rachel, date rape must not _really_ be rape?  WTF?!

In response to Rachel, Amanda Marcotte argued that “Assange Defenders Attack Rape Accusers for No Good Reason.”

” I have to agree with you that the circumstances of Julian Assange’s arrest are suspicious as hell and that the charges against Assange seem credible enough.  I’m surprised at how many people find it impossible to hold both thoughts in their heads at once and believe that because Interpol is exploiting the sexual assault charges to get Assange, it must mean the charges themselves are lies.  I often caution people not to assume conspiracy when opportunism is what’s likely in play. Even before all this came out, I really disliked the hero worship of Assange, who has always put me off my lunch.  It’s possible both that Wikileaks is a necessary curative for government overreach and that its leader is out to serve his own ego needs above all.  Anyone who thinks that’s impossible needs to think harder about what’s going on when politicians get sentimental on the campaign trail.

What is disgusting to me is how much of the left has conveniently forgotten that women who file rape charges can pretty much always expect to have their names dragged through the mud, unless they were “lucky” enough to be raped by someone of much lower social status who also jumped out of the bushes to rape them.”

Thanks, Amanda.  This needed to said, and now it has, and I don’t have too!  Back to grading. . .

Sexism in Science, or Why There was no Alberta Einstein

via NYTimes.com.  Oh boy, here we go again. John Tierney tackles another controversial topic by “daring” to side with the tired sexist conventional wisdom  that the reason there are fewer women in science than men is because of innate differences in intelligence.  Various replies in the comments section have nicely addressed the various studies that have demonstrated persistent social barriers to women in science, starting with social conditioning in childhood (e.g. boys are given trucks and tools, girls dolls and dresses.  Boys are praised for being smart, girls for being pretty).  For a great round-up of how women in STEM are addressing sexism in science, see the blog Geek Feminism.

Since I’m a historian, I’m going to limit myself to addressing this  one of the nearly 300 comments:

“When the Summers controversy erupted, I wondered why there was no Alberta Einstein and no Roberta Fisher. Solitary study of physics or chess doesn’t require much more than obsessive dedication, a piece of paper and a pencil or a chess board. Albert Einstein didn’t need an expensive lab, nor did Bobby Fisher. Both were clearly extreme in many ways. Equally extreme women could have duplicated their efforts, but not one did. Where are the extreme women?”

As an homage to Virginia Woolf’s reflections on what would have happened if Shakespeare had had an equally talented sister name Judith. here are my thoughts on why there was no Alberta Einstein. In this case, I don’t have to make up a fictional talented sister.  There is already a real-life example of  a woman of this era who equaled or even surpassed Einstein in terms of ability and performance as measured by professional accolades:  that would be double Nobel laureate Marie Curie.

First, let’s deflate the myth that Einstein was a lone genius scribbling out his theories in pencil while laboring in a Swiss patent office.  While Einstein did face the not insignificant social barrier of Antisemitism, he was well-connected to the academic and scientific institutions of the era.  He received his Ph.D. from the University of Zurich in 1905 and in less than a decade was a full professor at the University of Prague.  In 1921, Einstein received the Nobel Prize in physics for his work on the photoelectric effect. He was forced to flee German during the Nazi era, and spent the rest of his life at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ.

Here’s a summary of Marie Curie’s career.  Curie was fortunate enough to have a family who supported her educational aspirations.  She attended a prestigious gymnasium for girls in her native Poland, and later studied at the Sorbonne in Paris where she met her future husband Pierre.   Despite her academic achievements, she was denied a position at Krachow University solely because she was a woman.  Instead, she married Pierre and together they did the groundbreaking scientific research that led to them being awarded a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903.  Eight years later, Marie received a second Nobel Prize, this time in chemistry, “in recognition of her services to the advancement of chemistry by the discovery of the elements radium and polonium, by the isolation of radium and the study of the nature and compounds of this remarkable element.”   Despite being the only person, male or female, to be awarded two Nobel prizes by that time, she was denied entry to the French Academy of Sciences, again, solely because she was a woman.  She never received an academic appointment but did manage to get funding from the French government and private sources to run her own laboratory.

So, this is what happened to the most talented female scientists of Einstein’s generation.  For numerous other examples of women scientists from this period and beyond, see the excellent and exhaustive work of Margaret Rossiter.

Disability oppression: Disabled African University of Florida graduate student shot by university police

via Gainesville.com.  I’m very disturbed by this case, but not for the same reason as University Diaries, who  includes this with other cases of “delusional” students.  Here are the facts of the case that UD reports:

“Police first met with [Kofi] Adu-Brempong [an international student from Ghana] on Monday to check on him after a report of possible emotional problems. Geography professor Peter Waylen had contacted police to say Adu-Brempong had sent an e-mail with troubling statements, which were redacted in the police report. Waylen told police Adu-Brempong had been having delusional thoughts for at least a year and that he previously had received help from a UF counselor because he believed the U.S. government was not going to renew his student visa, the report stated. … Waylen and an officer spoke Monday with Adu-Brempong at his apartment. “I asked Adu-Brempong if he had any concerns that I could help with. Adu-Brempong advised that he was fine and did not need anyone’s help,” Officer Gene Rogers wrote in the report. “I advised him that Waylen and I were concerned for his safety and were there to assist him any way we could.” The report states Adu-Brempong refused help from a counselor and stated several times that he was fine.”

My first reaction was — why is it “delusional” for an international student to fear that he would lose his student visa?  Seems like a pretty reasonable fear to me.

Other facts not included in UD’s excerpt:  the student is 5′ 8″, 150 pounds, and because of a childhood bought with polio, needs a cane to walk.   According to the local papers, the student had called 911 because he didn’t believe that the men outside his door were really police officers (keep in mind that in some foreign countries distrust of police is justified).

In other words, it appears that the U of Florida campus police used deadly force against an African man who, in addition to being in a disturbed mental state, was no physical match for five police officers.

I agree with this op-ed from the Independent Florida Alligator.  This is  a clear case of disability oppression, and a racist one at that.

Update:  The student’s brother, Dr. Kwame Obeng, contends that this is a case of police brutality.  Students at UF held a protest rally on Friday.

It’s not just in our heads, or the reality of mental illness

During the past week, I’ve read several articles discussing the alleged excesses of the psychiatric profession.  One of the most annoying is this one by Edward Shorter in the Wall Street Journal.   Although I agree with Shorter’s critique of the shady practices of some pharmaceutical companies, he goes too far in claiming that anti-depressants are nothing more than placebos (Irving Kirsch makes the same argument in The Emperor’s New Drugs).  As I said in my comments over at University Diaries, I’d really like to see Shorter’s evidence for all these claims [especially the dubious one that benzodiazapenes are not addictive]. While there may be some truth to the argument that psychiatric disorders are overdiagnosed, he hasn’t presented very solid evidence that this is the case. Readers should also know that he’s a strong proponent of electroconvulsive therapy — which may have its uses in intractable cases but has serious side effects of its own.  How is the direct-to-consumer advertising for anti-depressants any different from those for other drugs? I’m a critic of Big Pharma too — but Shorter throws out the good with the bad. I really don’t appreciate Shorter’s implication that I’m a fool for taking SSRIs. If Shorter had made this argument about treatments for arthritis or diabetes, would anyone take him seriously?

Shorter is not a scientist: like me, he’s a historian of medicine. He has no experience treating patients with mental illness. He’s made similar claims for patients with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome — basically saying that these diseases are not real but all in the heads of the patients (a large percentage of whom are women — in other words, women are stupid.  For an excellent feminist critique of this view, see FWD/Forward).   There needs to be a middle ground between critiquing the pharmaceutical industry and acknowledging the reality of mental illness. Unfortunately this is not a sexy enough topic to attract the attention of the mainstream media.

NAMI Stigmabusters Alert: The Crazies and Shutter Island

NAMI StigmaBuster Alert: February 25, 2010

Different Movies, Different Strategies

Last weekend, Shutter Island was released. This week it’s The Crazies. They are two very different movies. Different movies require different strategies. In a previous alert, we asked for ideas.

The Crazies

It’s a science fiction horror film and remake of a 1960s cult classic. It has nothing to do with mental illness in the real world, but links an extremely stigmatizing title to an extremely stigmatizing plot. A town’s water supply is infected by a mysterious toxin turning people “insane” and violent. Those who are unaffected have to fight their way out or die from “the plague or the military.”

Language + stereotype = stigma. The plot is so extreme and disgusting that many people won’t take it seriously. Protest may seem ridiculous or only help sell tickets by giving the film more publicity-except it is an example of the most outrageous kind of stigma.

What’s sad is that Chris Albrecht, president & CEO of Starz Entertainment, which owns Overture Films, the studio that produced the movie, is “a long time advocate” for homelessness and children’s health. He has raised funds for Los Angeles’ Shelter Partnership and co-chaired a $250 million fundraising campaign for Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles.

Send Them a Message

Please contact Mr. Albrecht to express disappointment that he is even remotely associated with a movie that undermines everything he stands for. Please send a copy to Los Angeles’ Children’s Hospital.

Mr. Chris Albrecht
President & CEO
Starz LLC
8900 Liberty Circle
Englewood, CO 80112
Feedback e-address

Gail L. Margolis, Esq.
Vice President, Government, Business & Community Relations
Los Angeles Children’s Hospital
4650 Sunset Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Hospital feedback e-address

Tell Overture Films that the film’s title and linkage of violence to the buzzword “insanity” stigmatizes people with mental illness. The U.S. Surgeon General has warned that stigma and stereotypes, like the ones they have generated, are a barrier to people getting help when they need it. The company now needs to help set the record straight by funding public education on mental illness.

Mr. Chris McGurk, CEO
Overture Films
9242 Beverly Blvd, Suite 200
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(424) 204-4000
E-mail address for comments

Shutter Island

This one is a serious film with megastars, but its significance may be lost in too many dark or disturbing images. StigmaBusters have hated the promotional advertising, but those who have actually seen the film are split.

The story is about a 1950’s “asylum for the criminally insane” (authentic language from that era), a struggle for recovery and conflict between competing methods of psychiatry at a critical point in history- surgery, medication, and intense psychotherapy. The novel on which the movie is based credits Boston’s McLean Hospital and the book Mad in America, which NAMI NYC Metro once honored, for providing background.

Ask the Company for Help

Ask Phoenix Pictures, which produced the film, to help fight the stigma that surrounds mental illness in 2010 by donating some of the film’s profits to community mental health services in your community. Express disappointment that advertising around the film has been so extreme. If you have seen the film, offer your comments (pro and con).

Arnold Messer
President & CEO
Phoenix Pictures. Inc.
9415 Culver Boulevard
Culver, City, CA 90232
(424) 298-2788
E-mail address for comments

Use Them as a Teaching Moment

Use the publicity that has surrounded both movies to create a teaching moment in your community.

  • Call news editors and feature editors of local newspapers and news directors of local television stations
  • Shutter Island is about 1952. Local newspapers and television have run advertising about the movies. They should also run a story-or a series-about treatment and recovery in 2010.
  • Offer to help arrange interviews with individuals and families affected by mental illness.
  • Write letters to the editor, offer comments on local newspaper and television station Web sites and share short messages through social media like Facebook. Recommend NAMI’s Web site for up- to-date information about mental illness.
  • Remind them that the Surgeon General has reported that most people living with mental illness are not violent. Instead, they are 10 times more likely to be victims of violence.
  • The Crazies is pure stigma. Forget poison water supplies, insanity and violence. Movies like it create a real public health hazard-stigma-that the Surgeon General has warned against.

Out of the Inbox

Because of the large number of StigmaBuster messages received, they cannot all be answered individually; however, we appreciate every e-mail and do review every stigma report and prioritize them for action.

We also appreciate receiving copies of responses. They are important in helping to coordinate strategy and pursue genuine dialogue. You are our eyes and ears! Your help makes a difference!

Please send reports of stigma to the StigmaBusters E-mail address.

White Privilege and Amy Bishop

via Jack and Jill Politics, who suggest  that the best way to prevent violence in the workplace is not to focus on the weird people, but to treat  privileged white people the same as people of color.  Margaret Soltan has a roundup of Bishop’s violent past.  Would a black female professor have received probation after  punching another woman in the head at an IHOP? Not bloody likely.