Archive for November, 2007


Finishing Touches

That’s what I’ll be doing this weekend for my exam, typing up some notes, organizing my books and articles, taping key stuff to the walls surrounding my desk (which has been moved to my “foyer” area where my books are).  I’m NERVOUS and the MIKE IS OPEN HERE AT THE RP FOR WELL-WISHES FROM THE AUDIENCE.  :) 

(Prayers for NO SNOW on Monday are also welcome; our amazing and diligent Dept. Admin. Chief has already emailed me concerned that snow on Monday morning will prevent her from getting my exam questions to me at the specified hour of 10 a.m.  When will this end????)

As for today, it was all exercise and retail therapy and now a dinner date with my man.  I’m wearing a cute little jumper of a dress from Michael Kors more appropriate for my 22 yr old NYC cousin, but it was $25 at Macy’s after 3 different discounts, and I’ve got the legs for it, if I do say so myself!!  ;) 

Legs that, to Amy‘s delight I’m sure, are covered in LEGWARMERS!!!  I have been jonesing for these since they came out last year – who even knows if they’re still in style (Weboy?), but I DON’T CARE!  (Plus it’s Boston, which means they’ll be in style late or never or for too long, and regardless, just bucking the prep trend of which I am typically a part is avant garde enough for me!)

A pair of new gloves, also deeply discounted and with some cashmere inside, and a little make-up and Chaka Khan on the iPod and I am ready to head out.  Hoping to leave the anxiety at home with the misplaced idea that I should be reading The Truly Disadvantaged (again) instead of having some much needed, last minute fun.

Have a Wonderful Weekend!!!







In other words, in 87.5 hours I will begin my doctoral general exams, the first of the two major hurdles in my PhD program (the other forthcoming: my dissertation).  I’ve been staying up later and later, dragging myself out of bed, not leaving my house, missing my workouts, binging on food, reading a shitload, watching not so much but occasional long stretches of tv, and feeling generally anxious and like I might need the Jaws of Life to pry my shoulder blades apart.

Hence the sporadic blogging this week, both in quantity and quality.  At least, I scheduled my exams towards the end of the semester when the rest of the academic universe is aslo entering the miserable crunch period.  My more pleasurable breaks have been talking the M.A.S. off the ledge about his assignments and irritations, and chuckling over Professor Zero’s lamenting re: grading and her students’ and their families’ less than stellar – and rather hypocritical – commitment to their studies – a devastating mini-series in her usual excellent cataloging of all that is insane and intolerable about the Ivory Tower. 

For some reason, her blog invites just long, confessional commenting from me – I am not sure what it is about her virtual encouragement towards my streams of consciousness ramblings, but when I click through my Google reader to her site every few weeks of so, I end up chatting away as if we’re long lost friends.  She, like so many, maintains an anonymous blog, which in hindsight I wish I’d done, but I’ve never been very good at concealment, for better and definitely worse. So, if you are interested in the mental unraveling going on over here at The RP HQ’s, here’s some excerpts from my comments at her site re: not going completely bananas:

Continue reading ‘Homestretchlighttunnel…’


Prep for GREs, Donate rice



Standard Bearer

In Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life, one sociologist’s exploration into the “American character,” the “Massachusetts Irish” are “the ethnic group that defines the standard for ethnic groups.”*  (In all our traditional, old world, trusting, close-kin glory)

I’m sayin’.


*From Alan Wolfe, “Democracy versus Sociology,” in Michele Lamont and Marcel Fournier’s Cultivating Differences: Symbolic Boundaries and the Making of Inequality,”  1992, p. 317.


(Meanwhile, perhaps appropriately, on WWOZ, playing quietly on my iTunes, I can only make out the line in some alt version of The 12 Days of Christmas, “5 ROB ROYS.”)


Hey, watch my hat sail into the ring…

…re: feminism and education.

When I got back on-line yesterday after an overwhelming family weekend (you can pretty much ignore that Friday night musing about relaxing), I found my Google reader filled with I-think-Round 2 or 3 (??) of argument and confrontation related to Feministing Jessica Valenti’s Full Frontal Feminism (FFF).  Now, RP readers know that I tend not to engage in debates I don’t know too much about; indeed, my blog personality is a lecturing one.  My comments on other people’s threads tend to be towards correction or filling in blanks with research that I think would strengthen the argument in the post.  (Unsurprisingly, I am often ignored.  Who’s less fun than a troll?  A smarty pants.)

Broadly speaking, women of color (WOC) bloggers are taking white, male community college professor Hugo Schwyzer to task for adding FFF to his course list, and using the vocal enthusiasm he is hearing from some of his students of color, who comprise the majority of his classroom, I believe, as a ringing endorsement for FFF.  The larger context for this is that there has been a wide and vocal condemnation of the book from WOC bloggers for being exclusionary in its stereotypical white, upper-middle-class feminist perspective (did you check out the book’s cover?).  His report of his students’ enjoyment of the book is therefore effectively translated as proving the WOC blogosphere wrong.

Here are the most recent posts about this that are in my Google reader, beginning with the professor’s that stimulated the criticism.   I ended up reading through them for hours, and eventually posted a comment at Brownfemipower’s post about the silo-ing and/or silencing of perspectives and activism of women of color in women’s studies curricula.  I wish, a day later, that I could remember in which post the author asked where were the white women criticizing FFF.  It was made as a critique, if I remember correctly (feel like I’m playing catch up…this is why I am often so often just a lurker!), of how the professor’s post indicated that a few of his women of color students liking the book therefore meant it was actually not offensive to WOC, as if women who fit this description (according to whom, RP readers ask) are a homogeneous and tightly bounded group such that the opinions of a few individuals can stand for everyone, versus the basically infinite opinions possible re: this book among all women who read it.*   Well, here’s one white woman, at least.

Through Sylvia at Problem Chylde: Learning in Transition, I found an earlier brief review of hers of FFF, with a link to this longer one.   Both point to my main problem with the book, which I discovered when I picked it up earlier this year at a bookstore and read excerpts from it for a few minutes.  I was new to Feministing at the time, and discovering the book on a shelf at an independent local retailer seemed kind of neat.  Then I began reading, and was struck by how shallow and glib the tone was.  It had that forced hipster thing going on that I just hate, and seemed equivalent to the cool, older girl deigning adolescent you with her presence and leaving you to try to emulate her and her infinite wisdom about sex, fashion, relationships and boyz.  As Ama Lee writes at Feminist Review, “Valenti doesn’t give her readers credit that they can do the thing she most wants them to do: think, analyze, and be critical.”  (She also compares her to Ann Coulter…yikes.)  And as Sylvia writes, “…if anyone talked to me with the language this book uses, let alone put it in writing, I’d be done with them.  Like, totally.  (Pun intended.)”

For me, in addition to it’s exclusionary perspective, abundant all over academia, the idea of a college professor using such a superficial book that deliberately talks down to its audience like this is infuriates me. I see why women of color who take offense to this book are so pissed off.  Not only does it narrowly cast mainstream feminism as essentially about “the pro-life/pro-choice/mostly-fetus centered debate of women’s reproductive autonomy”, to quote Sylvia again, with occasional token “lip service to our [women of color, working class and poor women, lesbian, gay and transgendered women, disabled women] pet issues” (to quote her a third time), but it does so in a decidedly condescending tone.  And is getting  lot of press for it.   This sh*t drives me nuts.

But hey, smut sells.  Yet, it’s bad enough that feminism in this frame leaves the majority of us grappling with larger, more complex struggles out of “the movement.” It’s even more infuriating that possible recruits on the fringe are being lured in with a book that has about as much depth and range as a fashion magazine.  The insult in this particular case is this white man inflicting it on his majority students of color, whereas those of us not in his class can either exist in blissful ignorance about the book, ignore it, or rant about and deconstruct it and the limitations of feminism on our respective blogs or in other public fora. 

What’s so problematic about education is how the subjectivity of researchers, teachers and other authorities is infused into the curricula and student development.  A significant part of the research on the reproduction of inequality focuses on schools as a key site in which this occurs.  It’s why sociologists 100 years after The Chicago School are still arguing about whether social relations in poor and/or ethnic/racial communities are “disorganized” or not, because they don’t adhere to the ecological model of urban organization proposed by the white men considered to be the founding fathers of urban/community studies.  It’s why women are too often absent from ethnography, because the traditional ethnographer has been the “lone wolf” male who integrates himself into communities under study by going to bars and hanging on the streets (to paraphrase sociologist Maria Kefalas).  While I’m all about increasing the definition of legitimate perspectives in the classroom, and access to a much broader range of analysis, students deserve better exposure to the strengths and limitations of feminist theory and activism than is provided in FFF.  Now I’m curious to see what else is on the syllabus.


*I liked this point because one of my biggest cognitive problems with questions of racism, anti-racism or racial justice – especially in the blogosphere – is that they too often become binary or reductive, i.e., problems, conflicts and oppression boil down to racism with no other -isms present, and whites are necc. the oppressor.  In the context of feminism, the oppressors are white women, who are therefore also in bed with the patriarchy (though apparently with at least 18 rounds of birth control strapped to their thongs).  The construction at this stage comes across as very instrumental on the part of whites/perpetrators, which is easier to digest at an aggregative, macro-structural level than it is at a micro level, which is the level of analysis a good deal of the blogosphere specializes in, by its very nature of being a virtual universe of endless soapboxes (for those with access to computers).  Just I loathe in my Ivory Tower the assumption that the white, male perspective is the logical, objective interpretation of our social world, with its accompanying presumptive, prescriptive abstraction of the lives of women, communities of color, and poor communities, to name just a few, so do I resent alternatively being labeled by default as part of the problem when it comes to racism.  I wrote about this at greater length last week, so I’ll stop here...


Messy messy

Yesterday I wrote about Governor Patrick’s stance on nooses as terrorism. While I was developing that post, I realized the direction I was moving in about the larger issue of racism and racial justice was going to derail that post, at least in its readability due to my intellectual wanderings all over your computer screen. Perhaps you’ll bear with me here.

To begin, check out this week’s guest bloggers over the Center for Community Change’s Movement Vision Lab blog (MVL). On the question of the “future of racial justice,” commentators aren’t “optimistic:

There’s more tension and ambivalence from this week’s authors — and for good reason. They’re grappling with a feeling of frustration that I think all of us share — a deep disgust for and a sense of urgent critique of the current racial status quo in America.

Individual writers of color – a range of activists working for racial justice at home and abroad – alternatively believe they’ll see racial justice “when pigs fly,” or when whites allies are able to “discontinue” being white (??), or when we admit that race is “complicated” and “messy” and get into it. Man, we can’t even tell each other our asses look big in those pants; how are we going to wade into this morass together?

Continue reading ‘Messy messy’


“I am remembered as a hairdo”

If you are a freedom fighter, proud Brandeisian, feminist, or any or all of the above, read this interview with Angela Davis NOW.

Excerpts after the jump.

Continue reading ‘“I am remembered as a hairdo”’


Fighting Terrorism at Home

Or so MA Gov. Deval Patrick equates responding to the discovery of nooses within the MBTA (one employee wearing one for Halloween, and a noose found in a subway car by a black carman). Good for him. That’s the aggressive language that municipalities and officials should be using to describe these homegrown acts of racial violence, these hate crimes, including the agnostics at the federal Dept. of Justice who promise to act when “the facts and the law warrant” them to do so. (Duh.)

Based on data compiled from 70% of all police authorities nationwide, the FBI reports that hate crimes increased 8% in 2006. While race-related incidents in the precincts reporting fell about 2% from 2005, they comprise 52% of all reported events. 58% of all offenders are white, and one-third of the incidents occur near or at home. (Sleep well!)

In related event, this past weekend thousands of African-Americans marched at the Justice Dept. to protest the racial (and economic) inequality in the criminal justice system.

The Justice Department said yesterday that it is committed to prosecuting civil rights cases.

“The Justice Department shares with those who demonstrate today their objective of bringing to justice those who commit criminal acts of hate,” Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey said in a statement.

“It shares their vision of eradicating hate in our society,” said Mukasey, who was sworn in as attorney general this week.

Clearly one strategy the Administration has to realize that vision is to shift our hatred to those outside our society. Furthermore, perhaps we should give the new AG some time to get caught up on DOJ’s actual record of fighting hate crimes under Bush & Co. From a June 2007 NYT piece:

Continue reading ‘Fighting Terrorism at Home’


Don’t Ask

Top 10 Questions You’re Better Off Not Asking

1) Is that what you’re wearing?

(Got it, mom?)

2) Why don’t you have a boyfriend?

This might have been my LEAST favorite question of my 20’s, especially since it was so often asked in sympathy.

3) Do you think he’s “the one”?

Yeah, if we could not get into what I think of the concept of “soulmates” we’d probably all have a much more cheerful afternoon.

4) When are you two getting engaged/married?

5) When are you two having kids?  A.k.a., when are you going to give us some grandkids?

6) What baby names are you thinking about?

I learned not to ask this one when I immediately, reflexively passed judgment on one of the options a friend of mine was considering.   Now I try to never ask.

7) Are you breast feeding?

I’m also a guilty culprit on this one, as my friends/family are split about 50/50 between moms who switch to formula early on and women who breast feed for longer than 6 months, and so I like surveying mothers on this one.  Apparently it’s a rough equivalent of asking single or unmarried women questions like #2 and #4, respectively.  I try to turn it into a sympathetic space for venting for those who feel like they’re on the wrong side of the question to compensate for my prying, but maybe I should just stop asking instead.

8) Are you going to have anymore kids?  (And then, of course: when?)

And what has become my most loathed question of my 30s:

9) What will you do once you finish your degree?


I can only think of these Top 9, so give me your suggestions for #10.

10) …


Masshole Drivers

Legendarily agressive, fearless, obnoxious, and, apparently, stupid too.  Dare we brag, some of the most wicked, f*ckin’ stupid in the nation.  Yeah, what’s up.

Don’t look at me for pointers, I’ve already copped to failing my road test once. Though, now that I think about it, I did pass the written exam for my driver’s permit twice, given I had to renew it after I didn’t get my license on the first try.


Thanks to shame-faced IL driver O. Dear for the tip.