Sunday, May 31, 2009
Spanish writing style is, naturally, very different from English. The sentences are much longer, often with several subordinate clauses. Knowing how to manipulate them well, instead of knowing how to eliminate them altogether, is a mark of good writing in Spanish. There are many indefinite and passive constructions in Spanish. Complicated, elaborate sentences are a good thing. I feel absolutely free to heap on as many adverbs as I like.
For some strange reason, this style of writing feels incredibly natural to me (I'm a native speaker of neither English nor Spanish.) Of course, I don't go to the lengths of some of my students and colleagues who write in the form of the royal "we" and construct 18-line long sentences. There can be too much of a good thing, as well.
So, dear readers, if you feel in the coming days that my writing is becoming elaborate, bombastic and verbose, now you will know where it is coming from.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
This is, without a doubt, very offensive to women. It is, however, even more offensive to men. The advertisement clearly suggests that men can only get sexual ardor in exchange for very expensive pieces of jewelry.
So my question is: if this kind of rhetoric is equally offensive to men and women, then who promotes it? And why? There must have been a group of people somewhere who got together and decided that this billboard was a good idea. What could they have been thinking? Or have they lived the lifestyle of buying sex for money and calling it "love" and "relationship" for so long that they can't see it for what it is any more?
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What is really annoying here is the blindness that liberals demonstrate yet again in the way they read this conservative discourse. "Emotional" is the conservatives' way to refer to Sotomayor's gender, while "temperamental" is a way to refer to her Hispanic origin. By taking this language seriously (and refusing to see its chauvinistic and racist undertones) we participate in it.
This is not about emotion versus reason and temperament versus its lack. This is about gender and ethnic discrimination. If we continue engaging in this kind of discussions, we will soon find ourselves arguing about whether it's ok to hire women since they are "more likely to cry" in the workplace.
So what are the indicators that finally revealed my well-hidden (even from myself) conservative nature? According to Kristof, it's the fact that I wouldn't beat up my Dad and my tendency to feel disgusted by public washroom faucets. Another tell-tale factor is that I would never drink from an acquaintance's glass and would hate if anybody drank from mine.
So this is it, my friends. We can stop asking people about their stance on important issues such as abortion, gay marriage, torture, the economy, etc. in order to find out their political convictions. Just ask them how often they hit their fathers (I guess, beating up their mothers or siblings does not have an equally strong political dimension) and try to force them to touch bathroom taps. Every father-beating bathroom-faucet-licking individual is necessarily a liberal. See how easy this is?
Friday, May 29, 2009
The article starts with a bit of whining about "our sky-high divorce rate." From my point of view, this sounds extremely emotional and completely unscientific. What does the author mean by sky-high? What's wrong with the divorce rate? Why is it necessarily a bad thing? If you pretend to be a scientist, then maybe it would be useful to leave aside this kind of preconcieved views and deal with data.
The author proceeds from an assumption that economic crises have the capacity to "destroy the inner life of many married couples" and "generate a . . . backlog of couples whose relationships have been irreparably ruined." This, I believe, is just plain silly. If a relationship and its "inner life" (whatever this sociological term might mean) can be ruined by money or its absence, then I somehow doubt that it was a relationship worth saving anyways. A financial crisis can bring to light some problems that already exist in a relationship and, in this sense, it sounds like a positive thing.
*I will never forget the following state-of-art definition of identity provided by a group of known sociologists: "Identity is something that somehow binds certain people together." It literally took these researchers years (according to the preface of their book) to come up with an important conclusion that identity is something.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Right now, five armed men entered the Starbucks where I'm writing this blog. I assume they are police officers (based on how relaxed everybody's reaction to them is) although there is nothing in or on their clothes and baseball hats that would actually identify them as such. Two of the men keep futzing with their guns, touching them in an almost caressing way. None of the other patrons in this coffee shop seem to mind or even notice. I, however, can't bring myself to relax. I don't remember ever being in a room with one gun, let alone five.
At the same time, as unsettling as this experience might be, it is not nearly as scary as my memory of being accosted by a group of street preachers here in West Lafayette last summer. I was having coffee at a streetwalk coffee shop, when this guy came up to me and staring at me in a very intent way asked: "Are you ready to die??" It took me some time to realize that he was a street preacher offering salvation and not a crazed killer.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
New York Times is doing all it can to lose the last shreds of credibility with the readers. In his article "Liberated and Unhappy", Ross Douthat relies on the findings of some quasi-scientific chauvinistic study to prove that feminism has made women miserable. It is evident to anybody with half a brain that studies asking people whether they are "happy" are worthless. They have no scientific value whatsoever and can be manipulated to support any kind of prefabricated conclusions. Different generations define happiness in different ways. If Douthat read Friedan (or anything on women in the sixties) he would know why in the 60ies, before feminism gained ground, women overwhelmingly responded that they were "happy." Ignorance, however, is bliss and allows Douthat to promote his chauvinistic beliefs unfettered by even most basic knowledge.
Douthat, however, needs this "study" to prove his point that independence and being able to pursue a career makes women unhappy. His hatred towards women seems inexplicable until we look at his picture. This was definitely the boy who went to the prom alone. Today, it is obvious that he needs women who are financially dependent because no woman would give the time of the day to a man like this for free (an unattractive, uneducated woman-hater). This is why he spews his rage against women from the pages of the battered NY Times.
The article is so full of idiocies that it's impossible to enumerate them all. Women are unhappy, Douthat suggests, because after the divorce they are "stuck raising kids alone." Apparently, he believes that divorced fathers do not participate in raising their children. Also, it is impossible for this raging chauvinist to imagine that women might meet someone else after they get divorced.
Well, what can be said after this quasi-journalist, if he cites Sarah Palin as an example of an overburdened working mother.
This article demonstrates very well why print journalism has outlived its purpose. NY Times gives space on its pages to plagiarists, chauvinists, hacks, and fools. I hope it finds itself forced to close down for good very soon.
Monday, May 25, 2009
- Gender identity: I love being a woman and believe that it is the best thing in the world (of course, I have never tried being a man, so my view must be a little biased.) However, the kind of femininity I practise is far from mainstream. I feel different from many other women much more often than I experience a solidarity with them. I identify myself as feminist but my feminism is very different from what it is generally considered to be in North America today. I have been told by "real" feminists that I am actually a male chauvinist in disguise. My theoretical findings on women's issues are often not very palatable to other feminist scholars.
- National identity: I strongly believe that any kind of patriotism is profoundly unhealthy, but many people talked about the insidious nature of nationalism before me, so I won't repeat their arguments.
- Linguistic identity: I don't have a native language. This has both positive and negative consequences. I could never engage in any creative writing because for that you really need a language you feel as your own on a very profound level. On the positive side, I move between different languages and different cultural spaces all day and every day. This is a very enriching albeit arduous way of being. Language is not just a way to organize words into sentences. Living in a language means adopting the whole civilization that comes with it.
- Professional identity: I love being a scholar and an educator. I do, however, find it difficult to meet colleagues whose view of the profession and our goals within it would coincide with mine.
- Local identity: In the past 10 years I have moved 8 times. And this summer I will be moving two more times. It is obvious that with this way of life it is hardly possible to preserve a strong sense of attachment to any locality in particular.
- Political identity: Some of my political views are so far to the left that some people might consider them radical. For example, I believe that women should have a right to abortion on demand at any stage of pregnancy whatsoever. At the same time, my political beliefs also rely on certain concepts that are considered to be deeply conservative. For instance, I am a strong believer in individual responsibility. As a result of these seemingly contradictory views, I have never been able to identify with any political party or program.
- There is a common Neo-Baroque space (which is cultural, artistic, and ideological) shared by Spain and Latin America.
- It represents a peculiarly Hispanic approximation to modernity.
- It is an improvement on the Enlightened worldview since it manages to bring together the modern and the pre-modern, the mythic and the scientific, etc.
- Neo-Baroque inspires a culture of questioning and resisting neo-liberalism.
- It also poses a challenge to the English-speaking Protestant imperialist and hegemonic ideology of the US.
- The Baroque has been historically marginalized in its capacity of an Occidental discourse, so now it is capable of giving a voice to subaltern groups.
- There is nothing more Baroque than neo-liberalism and nothing more neo-liberal than the Baroque.
- Instead of giving a voice to the marginalized groups, it makes the representation of these groups more palatable to the affluent consumer of the 1st world. Novels by Garcia Marquez, Almodovar's recent films, Brazilian City of God cutesify painful realities of the Hispanic world in order to make them less threatening to a US consumer. The inhabitants of the favelas, the horribly abused Latin American women, etc. are prettified and voraciously consumed by the jaded Western readers and viewers. I have yet to see ANY liberating potential in these cultural products. If anybody can provide me with examples of how this art and/or ideology can be liberating, I would be very grateful
Reasons for my critique:
- As I wrote before, I completely disagree with the male-chauvinistic belief in the failure of the Enlightened project. Offering any alternative to it, especially one as politically toothless as Neo-Baroque, bothers me.
- I specialize in Peninsular literature and I simply do not believe that today Neo-Baroque art is either prevalent or mainstream in Spain. There are some feeble attempts to work with the Neo-Baroque but they belong, for the most part, to those who want to transplant peculiarly US cultural phenomena into Spain (Rosa Montero's Temblor is one example.) By theorizing Hispanic Transatlantic Neo-Baroque we, in my view, theorize something that does not exist. And this is profoundly unscientific.
- In spite of the liberating agenda we might attempt to ascribe to the Neo-Baroque, the only kind of cultural products it has created so far are the products that mark an extreme degree of conformism. The Neo-Baroque art's greatest originality lies in how inventive and creative it is in coming up with more and more ways to conform to the system of world domination that has been and remains especially oppressive towards the Hispanic people.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Unfortunately, many women do this on other areas of their lives as well. Somehow, they feel that having a significant other precludes them from participating in any one-on-one activities with their friends. I have often observed female friends who get together and for some reason bring their unwilling boyfriends and husbands, who are obligated to look for some common topics of interest.
As much as I love my partner, I feel perfectly justified in having my own intellectual life, my own blog, my writing, my hobbies, and my friends. By being a complete and interesting human being in your own right you can contribute all the more to any relationship you might have.
Then, a publishing house offered to review my book for publication. They said my topic is "just what we might need."
Another positive thing is that there is wireless in all conference rooms and I can blog during boring presentations. This is especially useful during those sessions where the first and the last talks are really interesting, while the two that come between them are a huge yawn.
The campus, of course, leaves a lot to be desired. It seems that nobody here has heard of air conditioning. I had to prowl all over the campus to find one air-conditioned room. It has now become my refuge between sessions. The only food we have access to without going all the way downtown consists of burgers, hotdogs and donuts. I love hotdogs but there is a limit to how many you can stand eating in three days. Even this paltry choice of food disappears after 6 p.m. Which is right before the end of conference sessions. I finally located a cafeteria that might have a widero choice of food, but of course they had closed down 10 minutes before a arrived.
People at this school surely haven't heard that equal rights entail equal responsibilities. If they want visibility and profits attached to our conference's presence on their campus, they should make efforts to make our stay bearable. Knowing of our association's egalitarian stance they feel that no effort is needed. And this is wrong.
Next year, the conference will take place at Concordia University in Montreal. There, we will not have to depend on anybody's inept organizing. The only problem will be that people will skip presentations in favor of enjoying the beautiful city.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Friday, May 22, 2009
Thursday, May 21, 2009
An ATM swallowed my debit card, which forced me to get a new one. As a result, my online banking ws blocked and I came to my local branch to reestablish online banking. The following dialogue ensued:
Me: I would like to reestablish online banking, please.
Me: Yes, please.
Teller: Why do you need online banking?
Me: I use it to pay bills online.
Teller (looking at me like I told her that I use it to travel to the Moon): Pay bills? Which bills?
Me: My bills.
Teller (with profound condescension): You don't need online banking for that. You can pay them through the ATM.
Me: I live in the US for the most part, so I really need online banking. I have been using it for the past 8 years and I would like to keep using it.
Teller: Why do you live in the US?
Me: For work. Could I get online banking please?
Teller: It's blocked.
Me: I know, I would like to have it unblocked.
Teller (acting like she heard this request from me for the first time): Why?
This went on for a while longer. Another teller became involved and put me through the same round of interrogation. In the process, tellers 1 and 2 kept exchanging mocking glances and rolling their eyes in my direction. The discussion continued until I remembered my agressive Soviet roots annd demanded access to MY money which is in MY account.
I have to add that my account with this bank is not and never was in default. I never owed them a dime. I've been a loyal customer for a long time and there is always at least some money in my account. In the US, the bank tellers fall over themselves to greet me and be as helpful as possible. But then again, there is no banking monopoly in the US and people can switch their bank as often as they want.
The most recent monstrosity is an article by somebody called Carol Sarler and titled "Why bosses are right to distrust women who don't want children... by a VERY outspoken mother (and ex-boss)" published in the UK's Daily Mail. The author is evidently one of those people who take it as a personal insult if anybody dares to make a life choice different from theirs. This author's rage against childless women (yet again, notice that she doesn't talk about childless men, just women) makes me think that she is profoundly jealous of what she imagines to be such women's lifestyle.
The article starts with a disclaimer that rhetorically represents a certain sign that what follows will be inspired by the very sentiment the author claims NOT to have. "Much as I like to trumpet the importance of a woman's right to choose all things at all times" says Sarler and immediately proceeds to bash women whose choices she doesn't like. Mothers, she claims, have "an essential humanity" that childless women apparently do not possess.
A little further on, Sarler proceeds to describe vividly her fantasy of the childless women's lifestyle which obviously leaves her green with envy and frothing at the mouth: "It's not the mothers, for a start, who are going to turn up late and hungover after a night on the razz; they'll have been up, dressed and alert for hours, having cooked a family breakfast and delivered their children to school. On time. It's not the mothers, usually, who run the office bitch-fest. They're not there to compete for the attentions of the male executives; they're there to get out of the house; they're there because they genuinely enjoy some adult company; and they're there because they have mouths to feed other than their own and shoes to buy for someone else's feet." None of this, of course, has anything to do with whether one does or doesn't have children. Sarler is clearly fed up wiith having mouths to feed and someone else's shoes to buy, cooking a family breakfast and driving to school.
Observe the nostalgia that inspires her entire rant. How much would she like to wake up with a hangover and flirt with the male executive, go out and buy some shoes for herself, have somebody cook her a breakfast and drive her to work for a change. Sarler never stops to think that having children has nothing to do with precluding her from doing all these things. For many women, being a mother does not mean becoming a sexless, boring, subdued machine, who is never allowed to have any fun.
Imagine what Sarler might have to say about mothers who dare to do all of the things that she condemns for childless women. And all this from a self-proclaimed defender of women's right to choose.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
How anybody can manage to convince himself that a culture where one does not even have a choice whether to learn to drive or not is liberating will always be beyond me. Somehow, this author has deluded himself into believing that a life where you absolutely HAVE to acquire one extremely expensive and dangerous metal can after another, constantly worry about gas prices, spend money on repairinng this idiotic piece of garbage, pay for insurance, waste time thinking, worrying and bothering about parking is a life of freedom.
And the funniest thing is that after producing such profoundly stupid pieces of quasi-journalism these people keep wondering why print media are about to disappear. After the news of Dowd's plagiarism and ridiculous articles like this one, I can't wait for the last print newspaper to die. People who write this stuff are either completely brainless or in the pocket of the automoile industry. No wonder that the public doesn't need their "news" and "opinions."
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
"What lurks at the horizon. . . is the nightmarish prospect of a society regulated by a perverse pact between religious fundamentalists and the politically correct preachers of tolerance and respect for the other's beliefs: a society immobilised by the concern for not hurting the other, no matter how cruel and superstitious this other is."
The reason why we "tolerate" seeing Muslim men who lead women behind them on a piece of string, as if these women were dogs, is not respect for a different cultural tradition. The only truth behind this "tolerance" is contempt, lack of respect, and the desire to infantilize the menacing Other. How would you react if you saw a Western couple interact in this way? Would you sneer? Give them a piece of your mind? I know I would. But when somebody we can easily identify as the Other does things that offend our sensibilities, we are supposed to avert our gaze in an utterly hypocritical show of our worldiness and sophistication.
Otherness is always scary. Tolerance allows us to deal with our fear by treating the Other as a wayward child who is allowed all kinds of pranks we will never put up with if they came from an adult.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Yet again, my pharmacy refused to sell them to me because "it is too early." I have engaged in the frustrating discussion of "too early for what?" with them too many times already. Apparently, if you want to buy your pills earlier than usual (for example, in case you are travelling), you are screwed.
For people like me, who will be travelling quite a lot this summer (and moving between two different countries as well), getting the contraceptive pills is next to impossible. I cannot possibly organize my travels so as to find myself next to the same CVS pharmacy in the small window of opportunity when I am permitted to acquire my pills (which, let me repeat, have been prescribed to me by an actual doctor).
And buying an extra pack, for emergencies? Don't even think about it. The access to the pill is restricted as much - or more - than the acess to the diamonds of the British Crown. This control over the pill is utterly unreasonable, of course. It's not like anybody will get high on them or develop an addiction. This is nothing other than one more attempt to police and control women's bodies.
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All of this sounds completely wrong. From my observations, women are much more likely to eat less and healthier food in the company of other women simply because women notice these things more. Too many women are weight-obssessed. Men, on the other hand, are less likely to notice what happens on another person's plate.
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Saturday, May 16, 2009
I disagree entirely with this suggestion. The standards of college education are slipping with every passing day. At the very prestigious Ivy League school I've been teaching, I had a student who wrote "poor" instead of "pour", confused the plural with the possessive, and saw no difference beetween "their", "they're", and "there." And all this, only a year before graduation.
In my opinion, there should be some minimal level of knowledge that everybody with a college degree should share. So, if figuring out what your own diploma says is too tough for you, then maybe you don't deserve that degree.
Friday, May 15, 2009
As paradoxical as this might sound, there is a lot of truth in this statement. If you ever tried mentioning the words "theory of evolution" to a biologist, you'd know that the experience is not much better than mentioning the words "the right to an abortion" to a Christian fundamentalist. People get very aggressive and start screaming "It is not a theory!!" in a way that shows a lot of emotional involvement with the subject.
Jose Ortega y Gasset, a Spanish philosopher, warned against an excessively narrow specialization of scientists in the 20ies of last century. I wish thinkers like Žižek were familiar with and incorporated into their work not only the French and the Spanish predecessors but also some Hispanic philosophers. But this is cultural hegemony for you.
Slavoj Žižek is one of my favorite contemporary philosophers. I cannot recommend his 2008 book Violence strongly enough. It's incredibly well written, so that any reasonably educated person can read it without struggling with arcane references and obscure terms. There is very little Lacan, whcih is great, because we have to admit that Lacan has been dead and buried in any possible sense of the word a long time ago. (For me, the first attribute of a chauvinist is a fascination with Lacan. Thankfully, Žižek seems to be getting over this sad limitation).
The approach Žižek takes to violence is nothing short of brilliant. Trying to analyze violence is always difficult, he argues, since our unavoidable emotional response to it does not allow for a detached rational analysis. This is why he proposes that we "cast ... sideways glances" at it, which will allow us to achieve a "dispassionate conceptual development of the typology of violence." This is exactly what Žižek proceeds to do in his book.
The kind of violence that interests Žižek the most is, of course, that which "pertains to language as such, to its imposition of a certain universe of meaning." With this statement, Žižek brings our attention back to the issues of ideology that for some time have been buried under the proclamations of a "post-ideological" era.
The Slovenian philosopher has no patience with liberal communists and their castrated self-congratulatory agenda: "The delicate liberal communist - frightened, caring, fighting violence - and the blind fundamentalist exploding in rage are two sides of the same coin," says Žižek. "We should have no illusions: liberal communists are the enemy of every progressive struggle today." His critique of these people is strong, direct, and to the point. Žižek tells us that there is no difference whatsoever between the traditional left and the traditional right: "Both the old right, with its ridiculous belief in authority and order and parochial patriotism, and the old left with its capitalized Struggle against Capitalism are today's true conservatives fighting their shadow-theatre struggles and out of touch with the new realities." Nobody could have this better. I have to say that I experienced almost physical pleasure when I read this.
Žižek 's book offers an incredibly profound understanding of the workings of ideology. Those who believe that the debates about ideology have no place in contemporary society should turn to the analysis presented in Violence. According to Žižek: "Verbal violence is not a secondary distortion, but the ultimate resort of every specifically human violence. . . Reality in itself, in its stupid existence, is never intolerable: it is language, its symbolization, which makes it such." There couldn't possibly exist a stronger and more timely vindication of the activities of any philosopher, thinker, and literary critic. Bravo, Žižek!
Thursday, May 14, 2009
If we recognize Goya, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Morisot, and Botticelli as art (and not pornography), then why shouldn't we extend the same courtesy to the Mochicas?
Well, how about that? Suddenly we discover that feminism doesn't have a clear goal anymore. Unlike Showalter, however, I feel that my feminism does have a clear goal. How about "emptying gender of social, economic, emotional, intellectual, and any other kind of meaning"? Imagine the world where being born with certain physical attributes would not mean anything and you'd be free to choose how to live, think, feel, have sex, etc. irrespective of gender. How is this not a clear goal?
Of course, I shouldn't have expected much from Showalter's article anyways, since it starts with talking about "the “Sex-and-the-City” feminism of girlfriends, white wine, and shopping."
Imagine, for example, a study similar to the one I discussed the day before yesterday. Only instead of women imagine the article talking about, let's say, the Jews. Just think about this headline: "A Study Proves That Emotional Intelligence Is Necessary for Jews to Have Good Sex." As a Jew, I can tell you that this would be very disturbing. As a woman, I am just as annoyed by the proliferation of articles, TV shows, or pseudo-scientific studies that go out of their way to create the vision of gender as an immutable, God-given set of characteristics that you cannot escape.
When this is done for the purpose of controlling female sexuality, it is even more disturbing. The saddest part of this, though, is how eager many women are to support this. The reason is obvious. Presenting women's emotions as the dominating force in their lives infantilizes women. And an infantilized, immature image can be very useful. For instance, it helps to shelter you from responsibility.
It is easier to live through someone else than to become complete yourself.
I was at a meeting two years ago in Beijing, and I passed a bunch of women who were marching in a protest. Their signs were probably saying something I wouldn't have agreed with at all. But I was so glad to see women marching. And it's happening all over the world.
Men weren't really the enemy - they were fellow victims suffering from an outmoded masculine mystique that made them feel unnecessarily inadequate when there were no bears to kill.
No woman gets an orgasm from shining the kitchen floor.
Instead of fulfilling the promise of infinite orgasmic bliss, sex in the America of the feminine mystique is becoming a strangely joyless national compulsion, if not a contemptuous mockery.
Strange new problems are being reported in the growing generations of children whose mothers were always there, driving them around, helping them with their homework - an inability to endure pain or discipline or pursue any self-sustained goal of any sort, a devastating boredom with life.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
I'm so sick and tired of this patriarchal propaganda. The next thing we are going to hear is the same old hugely offensive silliness that "for women, sex is about emotions and intimacy, while for men, it's about the purely physical."
This so-called study is about denying us the right to have sex just for the physical pleasure. Once again, women who separate sex and love or sex and emotions are somehow wrong.
The reaction of feminist sites? They celebrate it because for them it means that "women have brains." This is too ridiculous.
Now that the story about a student who duped tons of people around the world through lying on Wikipedia came out, I will have to make copies of this article at the beginning of each semester and hand it out to students.
On average, it takes women from 1 to 3.5 years longer than men to attain the rank of professor, depending on the type of institution in which they are employed and
regardless of whether they are single, married, or divorced or have children.
Respondents in private independent institutions report the longest period of time spent at the rank of associate professor for women (9.6 years) and the greatest discrepancy between women and men in length of time before the promotion to professor—9.6 years, compared with 6.1 years for men, a difference of 3.5 years, or 57.4%.
And there is more.
Percentage of Male and Female Professors 'Very Satisfied' With Measures of Job Satisfaction
|Authority over content of courses||92.3%||85.9%|
|Authority over what courses you teach||72.1%||61.1%|
|Time available for class preparation||41.6%||24.0%|
|Authority over non-teaching duties||42.6%||32.1%|
|Time available for work as adviser||38.8%||28.1%|
|Time required for work as adviser||38.5%||26.5%|
MLA's Conclusion: "Men report greater job satisfaction than women in almost all cases; women at the rank of both associate professor and professor feel less authority, autonomy, and control over their work lives than men do."
Maybe this is what we, feminists, should talk about instead of this endless blabber about weight and Sex and the City.
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I'm not suggesting that these body-related concerns should not be discussed. Today, for example, there is an important discussion of Eating Disorders at Feministing. It does, however, get pretty tiresome to see articles about weight every single day. A question to ask here is whether denouncing the weight hype so insistently and loudly ends up contributing to said hype.
The preponderance of discussions that concentrate on female physicality reinforces the vision of a woman as nothing more than her body. This is precisely what feminism originally opposed (Simone de Beauvoir's Second Sex is a perfect example). One of the main characteristics of a patriarchal society is a constant struggle to police and legislate female bodies. It doesn't make a whole lot of difference to me, though, whether my body will be policed by men or by fellow feminists.
Monday, May 11, 2009
"Imagine a country where you are just as comfortable talking to people about sex and what you like as you are talking about chocolate. That would be what sexual freedom would look like."
This telling quote is just too hilarious. Sexual freedom is about TALKING? How sad is it that people substitute having sex with talking about sex with such ease? Of course, Feministing where the quote appeared has nothing but praise for this statement.
They are especially famous for their beautiful erotic pottery.
And this is the building where I lived last year:
It is right on the corner of Sherbrooke and Parc La Fontaine. I lived on the eleventh floor, and the view of the city was incredible.
This is my favorite bar and cigar lounge. For some weird reason, I really like this place. They have 100 different kinds of martinis and you can smoke there. People say that Crescent Street is touristy and no true Montrealer would confess to liking it. But I actually do. This is the place I would go to have fun when I was an undergrad student many years ago.
This is what I dislike the most about this current brand of feminism: it's just as prescriptive and limiting as any patriarchy. There is a certain way of being a woman that is right and any variety is wrong. Didn't feminism start out as a movement to afford women more - instead of less - choices? Why are we limiting ourselves to one correct lifestyle, one right point of view, one magazine to read, and one TV show to admire?
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I can't believe I am finally going to Montreal. It is, without a doubt, the most wonderful city in North America. In summer, it is particularly great with sidewalk cafes, all kinds of festivals, and crowds of people enjoying life. Of course, half the city will most certainly be under construction, so the noise and the dust will allow me to have a true Montreal experience.
I only have a few days to spend this summer in the most amazing city ever. The gastronomical program I have to accomplish is huge. Living in a small town, as I do now, really limits my range of culinary experiences.
There are also many places in Montreal that are dear to me and that I would love to see for the memories they hold. This corner of Decelles and Edouard Montpetit, for instance, might seem incredibly ugly to many people. But to me this place means a lot.
This is next to where I first lived when I came to
Montreal eleven years ago.
Many freshly arriving immigrants settle in this area. Some of the streets around here are downright nasty. The building where we lived, however, was not bad at all. I will always feel fond of this part of town.
McGill College Street is one of my favorite places. I spent so much time there while studying and working at McGill. There are two big bookstores in this street, and I can't wait to visit them again.
1. The absolute winner is a defense of "natural" home births. Women who choose to give birth at a hospital or even have (the horror! the horror!) a scheduled C-section are presented as the devil (at worst) or not really women (at best).
2. The second favorite topic is weight. I read some version of the sentence "Society stigmatizes every woman who is bigger than size 2" a scary number of times. As a woman who has been wearing size 12 for years, I can say that this statement is a wild exaggeration. Not only do I not feel stigmatized for my weight, I would never agree to being a size 2.
Another popular chant within this issue is that excessive weight doesn't cause health problems. I have seen several very well-argued and detailed articles proving that even weighing 300 lbs does not harm you in any way. Since I'm not a health professional and know nothing about the subject, I'll reserve my opinion to the time when/if I know more.
3. Defense of male circumcision. Sometimes, it even transforms into a defense of female circumcision (a polite term for female genital mutilation). Yes, I kid you not, feminists today do not necessarily condemn FGM. Some are ready to accept this practice as a perfectly acceptable alternative way of being female.
4. Defense of breastfeeding until the child is at least 2. Yet again, women who can't/choose not to are presented as a lesser kind of women.
5. The right to fake an orgasm I already discussed in this blog.
6. The right not to shave your legs (I mean, seriously? Still?? No more important concerns have surfaced in the decades we have been discussing pressing issue?)
7. Cosmopolitan magazine as an embodiment of the new type of feminism. Anybody who has ever opened this silly rag would know how stupid it is to equate it with feminism. This admiration of Cosmo and Sex and the City as feminist contradicts the whole "fat is beautiful" rhetoric but nobody seems to care.
Visiting these feminist websites and blogs has left me confused and disoriented. If this is feminism, then I'm definitely something different.
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Saturday, May 9, 2009
This was part of my most horrible MLA experience.
Interviewer 1: (Asks me some question).
Interviewer 2 (under his breath): God, here he goes again with the idiotic question.
Interviewer 1: Did you just call me an idiot?
Interviewer 2: If you insist on asking the idiotic question all over again, then what does that make you?
Interviewer 1: So you are saying I'm an idiot?
Interviewer 2: Yes, I guess I am.
Interviewer 1: You know what? YOU are an idiot.
Interviewer 3 (leaning in to me, in a whisper, visibly embarrassed): I'm so sorry, we all had a very long day. Please don't mind us.
Me: Oh, it's ok. (An uncomfortable pause with Interivewers 1 and 2 glaring at each other). So... should I answer the question?
In the happy hippie town where I live right now, the strangers' reaction was extremely positive. I have never had so many women smile at me and try to make eye contact before.
In the less relaxed town I lived before, I had to discontinue wearing it because somehow it was seen as a pretext for most men to come up to me and strike a conversation (e.g. "So you are a feminist? I like feminists. Would you like to go out for dinner with me.")
Now I can't wait to try it in Missouri.
Caldera: "I have concluded that the controvery surrounding the Presidential Airlift Group's aerial photo shoot over New York City has made it impossible for me to effectively lead the White House Military Office. "
And the White House press release: "The President has asked his Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina and Defense Secretary Gates or his designee to jointly review the organizational structure of the White House Military Office and the reporting relationship of its components to the White House and the Air Force."
Splitting the infinitives? Has anybody been to college? This is the most basic mistake in the English language.
With the huge numbers of unemployed English lit MAs and PhDs, I'm sure the White House and the Military Office could hire a couple of qualified people to write their press releases.
The source for the statements: http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2009/5/8/729371/-Louis-Caldera-Resigns
Friday, May 8, 2009
1. TV is unpretentious. It doesn't claim to be anything more that what it is: cheap, silly, popular entertainment, a bubble gum for the brain. As a contrast, think of all the horrible films that claim to be art. Everything by Woody Allen or that horrible American Beauty monstrosity, for example.
2. TV allows you to be in control. When I watch Dr.Phil and he annoys me, I scream, swear, and throw things at him. During the presidential election debates I participated alongside Obama and McCain. This is very liberating and totally unlike the movie theatre where you have to swallow any stupidity being thrown at you from the enormous screen.
3. TV is humane. It gives you bathroom/snack/phone/e-mail/etc. breaks. Of course, if you watch a film on DVD or PPV, you can stop it. But it's not the same. On television, breaks are seamlessly woven into the general canvas of the narrative. In this sense, a film can be compared to somebody so garrulous that you have to physically shut them up. Television, however, is a much better conversationalist, since it steps back regularly to give you a chance to participate in the exchange.
4. It is way easier to find an interesting TV show than a movie.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Now, the worst ever MLA experience happened to me the year before. Neither immigration nor divorce have traumatized me quite as much. Here is a tiny little part of this horrible interview:
Employer: I see from your publications that you are interested in nationalism. What is your approach to national identity?
Me: The essentialist approach to national identity...
Employer (interrupts me with an exasperated look): Oh, so you are one of THOSE!
Me: I'm sorry?
Employer: You are an essentialist!
Me: No, just the opposite!
Employer (waving his hand in my direction): Enough, enough! I don't want to hear any more of these essentialist theories.
Me: I was only trying to say that the essentialist approach has long been intellectually and ideologically bankrupt...
Employer (obviously not listening and still very exasperated): Let's just move on to the next question.
[TO BE CONTINUED]
Me: I'm really sorry, I'm not sure what it is.
Employers: Please understand that we do not insist on your participation in (weird acronym). We would just like to know whether you might be interested.
Me: If you could tell me what it is...
Employers: You have to realize that we will be asking about many different things, and nobody expects you to say "yes" to everything. So you can just tell us if you are not interested in (weird acronym).
Me: If only I knew what (weird acronym) is, I could definitely tell you whether I am interested or not.
Kindly interviewer: It's OK, you really don't have to participate in (weird acronym). (Turns to the other interviewers). Guys, you are stressing her out, she obviously isn't interested in it.
Me (in quiet desperation): I would sooo love to find out what (weird acronym) is...
Employers: Well, let's move on to a different question.
A lot of time has passed, and I still have no idea what the weird acronym stands for.
[TO BE CONTINUED]
Some of the conversations I had as part of the interviews were strange bordering on scary. Here are some of them:
I enter the huge ballroom and approach the table where my potential employers are sitting.
Me (suitably chirpy): Hi! So nice to meet you!
Employers (looking collectively spaced out): Hi. . .
Me: I've really been looking forward to this interview.
Uncomfortable silence. One of the interviewers can't stop looking around. Another one is literally falling asleep. The third one decides to contribute to the conversation:
Employer #3: Hmm....
Me (feeling desperate): So... You must have a lot of work at this MLA.
Employer #1: Who?
Employer #3 (suddenly interested): What?
Employer #2 (waking up): Is she here yet?
Employer #1: No, let's keep waiting.
Me (feeling very invisible): So, how about that weather!
Employers (looking even more spaced out than before): We are waiting...
Me: I'm sorry, what are we waiting for?
Employers: The Chair. She will be back soon.
We spend the next 5 minutes in uncomfortable silence.
[TO BE CONTINUED]
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Wednesday, May 6, 2009
This class made me enjoy learning and thinking again. Your teaching style is ideal because it allows students tohave opinions even if they differ from what is widely believed. I am glad that I had the opportunity to meet and know you. You have inspired me beyond what I can express.
I think I'm going to cry...
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
God wants me to eat healthy, people. I might, however, still go out for pizza late at night, since I will be writing my presentation for a conference I have to attend until morning.
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1. The field of French literature is experiencing "a slow death." (We are a Romance Languages department, so I can only imagine what is going on with German and Russian, for example.)
2. The entire faculty will undergo a 15% cut. The enrollments, however, will continue to grow. (You can guess what it means to have fewer teachers and more students.)
3. All language departments will be conflated into one department. Basically, the eventual goal is to have one professor of each language (including classics, excluding English.)
4. We will have to stop creating new courses and keep teaching the same courses year after year (this measure is particularly supported by old professors.)
5. The entire university will move towards a trimester-based system. This, of course, takes away the best thing about our profession: free summers. When people are supposed to do research remains unexplained.
If/when these measures take effect, I will immediately leave this profession. As much as I love teaching and research, it makes no sense to stay under these conditions. This is ridiculous.
If this is what is happening at one of the richest and most prestigious universities in the US, you can imagine what is going on in other places. And the worst thing is, everybody is buying this sack of lies about such measures being caused by the recession. Wake up, my friends, these measures started being implemented at least 3-4 years before anybody heard of the recession.
There is almost nothing to rent. Now I understand why a huge part of my campus visit was an excursion with a real estate agent. For me, buying a place is out of the question. First, because my credit is not just bad, it's nonexistent. Second, because I am profoundly ideologically opposed to buying real estate.
The couple of places that are for rent are a) ridiculously expensive (the rent is higher than on the East Coast) and b) right on the highway. And I don't drive.
In all probability, I'll have to ask my department to put a cot in my office for me to avoid sleeping under the bridge.
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It doesn't bother me when Terry Eagleton gets into this tired anti-Enlightenment rant. As a group, privileged middle-aged white men have been steadily losing in power and prestige. When Eagleton says that progress is a myth, he talks as a representative of a particular collective identity, one that has suffered a significant decline. If things continue developing in the same direction, being male, white, and rich will entail no advantages whatsoever. As much as I respect Eagleton (and believe me, I really do), observing him in real life made it clear to me that he has been making full use of these advantages and will not give them up easily. Hence the "progress-is-a-myth" agenda. Eagleton and Co must believe that if they repeat this mantra often enough, there is a chance that the pesky consequences of said unexisting progress will disappear.
Now, what really bothers me is when people saying such things don't stop to think that the only reason they can say anything - that is, engage in the production of a public discourse - is the very progress they are so happy to berate.
I will never forget the sad spectacle of a Latina scholar, speaking at an extremely conservative Ivy League school about the evils of Enlightened thought. You'd think that a Hispanic woman might have a different perspective on these things than people who historically kept women like her in the role of perennially abused, disenfranchised and despised servants. Not so. She seemed happy enough repeating the age-old anti-progress lamentations of old white men without stopping to think about the ideological and political considerations behind this rhetoric.
The argument I have heard most often from the eminently self-righteous Enlightenment-bashers is: "Progress is bad because it has put humanity on the verge of extinction." Oooh, verge of extinction, scary. As a woman, I have to say, however, that I don't believe the world where I'm not considered a valid human being is worth preserving. If the downside of the historical processes that gave the downtrodden a voice and a presence is "the verge of extinction," then so be it.
Eagleton is right when he says that we ALL are not en route to a finer world. For me, the world gets better with every passing day. For Eagleton and the like, it evidently isn't.
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Monday, May 4, 2009
"I really enjoyed your class this year, and I appreciated more than anything that it forced me to remember that school doesn't have to be "all stress;" it can be fun, too."
This is the best thing I can possibly hear from my students. It's great to know that they didn't associate my course with stress and suffering. As painful as it is to let the students go at the end of each semester, this profession is extremely rewarding.