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Fraser's "Feminism, Capitalism and the Cunning of History"

From Nancy Fraser's article "Feminism, Capitalism and the Cunning of History" (NLR Mar/Apr 2009, p. 114, my emphasis):

[Feminism works as] a general discursive construct which feminists [as participants in a social movement] no longer own and do not control -- an empty signifier of the good (akin, perhaps, to 'democracy'), which can and will be invoked to legitimate a variety of different scenarios, not all of which promote gender justice. An offspring of feminism in the first, social-movement sense, this second, discursive sense of 'feminism' has gone rogue. As the discourse becomes independent of the movement, the latter is increasingly confronted with a strange shadowy version of itself, an uncanny double that it can neither simply embrace nor wholly disavow. [...] This formula of 'feminism and its doubles' could be elaborated to good effect with respect to the 2008 US Presidential election, where the uncanny doubles included both Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin.

I couldn't resist posting this. The article was published in spring 09, so Fraser probably wrote it at least a couple of months earlier. Palin's book was published in November 2009 (I think), and I don't remember if the title was common knowledge for a very long time before that. I hope Fraser's construction here is the simultaneously dismal and delightful coincidence I want it to be. Here's more on the confrontation of feminism with its evil twin.

Friedan and the Mother-Teachers

From Betty Friedan's Life So Far, p. 161, citing an experience that took place in (circa) 1963:

But I surely wasn't getting much of anywhere, looking for patterns beyond the feminine mystique. I remember after one group interview, when I was lecturing at the University of Oklahoma, the educated women telling me how they were prisoners, forever grading freshman English papers, doomed never to get beyond instructor's pay or title because they were married to the doctor or dentist or lawyer practicing in that town and not about to leave. And when I got back home, there were long-distance calls: "Please don't use what I told you. They'll recognize me. I'm just lucky to have the job at all."

(Reference for the mother-teachers term)

Feminisms and Rhetorics 2009

I'm being asked by a few folks to circulate the following call for proposals for the next Feminisms and Rhetorics conference, which follows below. Bravo to Michigan State for taking out the parentheses -- as in feminism(s), rhetoric(s). If we're going to use the plural, let's use the plural.

One bit of criticism I have, which isn't necessarily directed toward Michigan State's department, or even the Feminisms and Rhetorics conference, is that I wish we could start putting conference sites in ONE place, like all FemRhet conference sites could be on the Coalition's site. We tried to do that with Computers and Writing, but it didn't catch on, as Stanford did their own site for 2005's conference, Texas Tech did their own for 2006, Wayne State did the same for 2007, which doesn't seem to be there anymore, and UGA created a site for 2008's conference.

The problem for Feminisms and Rhetorics, though, is more serious, I think. At least most of the Computers and Writing conference sites are still available. Try to go to the conference site for 1999, and it's not there. 2001's conference in Decatur, IL doesn't have a site available either. Ohio State's 2003 conference site redirects to the English department's main page. I couldn't find sites for Michigan Tech's 2005 conference or even the most recent one, 2007's conference at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

I understand if universities want to create their own sites for conferences they're hosting. Still, I don't think these sites should be thought of as ephemera. They're historical documents about fields of study. I think it's important to at least archive the files at some stable site that represents the organization and isn't hosted on a particular university's web space. If Michigan State does this, I will be very impressed.

Michigan State University / East Lansing, Michigan / October 7–9, 2009 *

The 2009 Feminism(s) and Rhetoric(s) conference will be hosted by the
Rhetoric & Writing program at Michigan State University. We invite proposals

• *reflect* the complexity and diversity of who "we" are as a scholarly
• *make manifest* the deep structure of the connections, intersections, and
overlaps that actually
make us a community;
• *help articulate* who "we" are as a deliberate community of scholars, and
what that means about our responsibilities and relationships to one another
across scholarly areas and institutional positions;
• *highlight* scholarly and teacherly activities that deliberately create
space for more complex notions of scholarship and teaching within the
discipline of Rhet/Comp;
• *include* and significantly engage communities outside of the academy;
• *focus on* antiracist pedagogies and scholarship; present
interdisciplinary scholarship in Afrafeminist Rhetorics; American Indian
Rhetorics, Chicana Rhetorics, Asian American Rhetorics, post/neo-colonial
• *highlight* the intellectual traditions of women's communities, especially
communities constellated around specific identity markers such as race,
ethnicity, class, sexual orientation issues, geographic origins;
• *explore* the relationships between written, oral, and material discursive
• and other topics that *address* the connections in the conference theme.

We also welcome proposals on relevant topics not directly addressed above,
that significantly engage disciplines other than Rhet/Comp, and that have
consequences for communities located outside of the academy.

Although traditional presentations are acceptable, we encourage participants
to create formats that go beyond the read-aloud academic paper. Interactive
sessions that include discussions, dialogues, and performances are
especially welcome. Proposals should be uploaded to the FemRhet 2009 web
site (www.femrhet2009.org), and can be for:

• 20-minute individual presentations (250-word proposals)
• 90-minute 3–4 member panels (500-word proposals)
• 90-minute workshops or roundtables (500-word proposals)

Please plan to submit a title, a proposal the length indicated above, and a
program-ready, booklet-friendly 50-word blurb for the presentation.

Proposal System Open: December 15, 2008
Proposal Deadline: February 1, 2009
Acceptances Distributed: April 30, 2009

For more information: Contact Malea Powell (powell37@msu.edu), Nancy DeJoy (
dejoy@msu.edu), or Rhea Lathan (lathan@msu.edu).

Daycare Only for "Non-Working Mothers"

So I've been looking into daycare programs for little Bamm-Bamm, as I've been told that I need to get him on waiting lists ASAP. We wouldn't need daycare very many hours a week, and not until late August/early September, but obviously we want good care.

Yesterday, I called a Methodist church that has been highly recommended to me by people I trust, only to be told that their daycare program (called Mother's Day Out, which doesn't seem to be an uncommon name for daycare programs) is "only for non-working mothers."


Now it could be that the person on the phone just told me that because they don't keep babies past 2:00 in the afternoon, and for most people who work, those hours aren't feasible. I think Jonathan and I may be able to swing it, though.

But -- what if it really is "only for non-working mothers"? Where do I start? There are so many problems with this, even if we're just talking about heteronormative households:

  • I object to the very idea: there's no such thing as a non-working mother (or parent in general, for that matter).
  • What if the mother works and the father stays at home? The at-home dad would still need days out to run errands. Would this kind of family be ineligible?
  • What if both parents work (say, for the sake of argument, the mother works part-time) because they have to in order to pay the bills? Would this kind of family be ineligible?
  • What if the mother works from home? Would this kind of family be ineligible?
  • What about single-parent households in which the parent (father or mother) HAS to work, or the family has NO money? Would this kind of family be ineligible?

I want to join this church and use this daycare, but if they would actually ban us from the daycare program because I am employed, that's a huge red flag. I don't want to be put in a position of concealing the fact that I have a job.

How terrible am I

for thinking this article is hilarious?

The 1920s in the history of women's bodies

Ever since reading Hollywood Babylon recently, I've been on a silent movie kick, mainly watching Clara Bow movies from Netflix. The following stills are from The Show-Off and The Plastic Age. I find it interesting that Bow, the original It Girl, the hottest of the hot in her day, isn't as skinny as most celebrities now.




Also, I'm intrigued with how queer and alt these women look. I think of a post Margo, Darling wrote a long time ago about getting her hair cut really short:

I cut it because my building has very weak circuits and my blowdryer kept knocking the power off. I cut it because I teach an early class this quarter and this requires no fixing at all. I cut it because I lost about twenty pounds last year and I promised myself that when I got my cheekbones back (sharper, stronger, bolder now, because I'm older) I could pull it off. I cut it because I didn't want to look preppy, or upwardly-mobile. I cut it because I wanted more queer visibility, because it seemed important that I not acquiesce to the tyranny of socially-normative standards of white female beauty (watch for women with short hair on tv tonight. You will not see one, unless she is an old woman in a posture-pedic bed commercial, or a crying contestant on a rerun of last season's America's Next Top Model.)

She's right. I know, for example, that my family -- not Jonathan, he would like anything I did with my hair -- would be horrified if I got this haircut (Louise Brooks):


But in these films, literally all the women have haircuts like those of Bow and Brooks, and it was fine. I wonder what happened to make this look so fashionable, then what happened to give it the queer cast it has now.

Photo of Faith Hill, Posted as a Public Service

Wow. I'm not sure how to change the animation to make it a little slower, but there the image is. Via Jezebel, and here's the annotated guide. I had noticed the arm resizing and the trimming down of her back, and obviously the removal of wrinkles, but I hadn't noticed some of the other stuff. I need to start reading Jezebel more often.

Edited to add a link to their manifesto.

Brilliant from start to finish

Read Mandolin's mashup poem based on pro-life rhetoric from some threads on Alas.

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