Sunday, December 12, 2010


We are snowed in; this is one of very few times in my life when I actually have not been able to leave the house because of the snow. In Buffalo, there were a couple of heavy snowstorms (and a couple of blizzards, including one that dropped 3 feet of snow on us in a day). In South Dakota, I got my car stuck in the ice in the back alley for a few hours - ok, not *snow*, but winter precipitation. But here, even though Mr. P eventually shoveled out the driveway (with much assistance from our neighbor, who has a snow blower), the street has not yet been plowed, and there is a large pile at the end of the block from the plows that came through that intersecting street. So, we are staying put until they clear our street.

It has also been brutally cold, and so I did not leave the house today. Tomorrow is likely to be slightly warmer (read: above zero), so Bean and I may play in our snow fort. Yes, tomorrow is a snow day, and it's the first one that matters to Bean and that he will remember. Hopefully, we will also put the tree up and make a real occasion out of it.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Wesleyan, Zonker Harris, and Uncle Duke

When I was in college, my dorm (WestCo) had two huge festivals every year - Duke Day in October, and Zonker Harris Day in April. The festivals were based on drug experimentation during my time in the late '80s, and the dorm floors were decorated so that everyone coming through, but especially those taking psychedelics, would have an interesting experience. For instance, one floor put in black lights, covered the walls with paper and painted with fluorescent paint, and made highlighters available for drawing on the walls (or on skin). A common area was made into a womb, with mattresses and fabric walls. Tubs of oobleck were available to play with. The night before Duke Day, a group of students would pass out joints in the campus dining hall - an event called a "smoke out". To my knowledge, no action was ever taken by the authorities until my senior year (note that it was a first-year student who got busted - someone who had been told by the older students that nothing ever happened and it was safe to take a joint).

OK - so even *I* will acknowledge that it's difficult from a non-college student perspective to defend these festivals (other than saying that they were a hell of a lot of fun, and I'm glad I got to participate in them), and I'm not sure how it is that Wesleyan was able to stay more or less hands-off for a number of years. Shortly after I graduated in 1990, I heard that the festivals had been redesigned as music festivals, with no trace of the drug focus left - in fact, I remember reading something about the festivals specifically forbidding drug use.

But after reading Doonesbury this morning, and then googling and finding this, I have to wonder if the festivals were really as sanitized as I had thought they were. (The student blog, Wesleying, has put up a few posts, including some comments by alumni who also remember these holidays fondly.)

In any case, they seem to do it a little differently now, holding it on Foss Hill instead of inside West Co and in the courtyard. I'm sentimentally glad, though - and also surprised - to see that Wes is still using the same supplier for their dorm furniture (see the second picture). Despite renovations that supposedly included "better furniture" in 2005 or so, the furniture is exactly the same as it was '86-'90 (see photo 8).

Sunday, November 28, 2010

TSA, Sexual Assault, and Opting Out

Like a lot of people, I anticipate flying over the next couple of months, and so I have been following the TSA debates closely. I am planning to opt out because several folks have come forward recently to warn that the focused radiation on the skin that these new scanners use are likely to cause skin cancer in certain populations, including cancer survivors, people at risk for breast cancer, and children. That's two-thirds of our traveling group.

So, we are expecting the intrusive pat downs. And I'm frankly concerned about how this is going to be experienced by my 8-year-old child. I'm hoping that, if we explain everything ahead of time, and if the TSA agent also explains everything ahead of time (they are supposed to do so, but they don't necessarily do so), that he will take it in stride. I'm also concerned about just how intimate and invasive this touching will be. Despite the description the TSA agent gave to John Tyner, they really don't seem to be telling people exactly what they are going to do (check out the links below for examples). We are aware that they will be touching our genitals with their palms rather than the backs of their hands - but how many people expect this (note especially the discussion at the end re. the two levels of pat down - one standard pat down and one as punishment)? Or this? Or this? And how many people expect the TSA agent to put their hands inside the traveler's underpants?

Further, the TSA has now regrouped and is ready for the next John Tyners, arresting and threatening to fine anyone refusing to go through either the scan or the "pat-down" (scroll down to the bottom).

So we are faced with the "choice" of showing our naked bodies, including other intimate information that the scanners can see such as whether or not we are menstruating, whether or not we wear prostheses, etc., to people we don't want to show this to, OR we can submit to invasive touching that many people are calling akin to sexual assault. I find it interesting that those refuting this last statement on various blogs are responding by saying that the TSA agents don't enjoy this and don't intend it to be sexual assault. But, as with racism, intent is not really the issue. Legally, rape and sexual assault can occur regardless of whether or not the perpetrator thinks that that is what he's doing. There are many cases in which men have raped women and not thought that what they did was rape.

What is important is whether or not the person experiencing this experiences it as unwanted touching - which many clearly do, and it has serious ramifications, particularly for those who are survivors of past assault. This is not about Americans' prudish ways, and it is not about how comfortable individuals are with nudity. It is about simply being able to choose to whom and under what conditions we will share the intimate details of our bodies.

I am aware of my privilege operating here, as someone who has never been pulled aside for any additional screening beyond checking through my carry-on. I am aware that lots of people have been dealing with these situations for the last decade, at least. And so I feel uncomfortable at my own sudden outrage at this situation in which I must choose between two situations that I feel are violating. I should have been more outraged long ago.


If the recent news that Opt Out Day fizzled has left you feeling intimidated about opting out, you should read these two statements.

If you do fly and you experience anything you feel is inappropriate, here is one way to report abuse. And here is another resource.

(Just a last comment: As I have suspected, getting rid of TSA screenings in favor of private companies is not going to change a damn thing.)

Saturday, November 06, 2010

How Privilege Works.

I am not proud of these events, but they offer such a clear illustration of what it means to have privilege that I feel that I should share them with you.

The other day, I took Bean's hockey helmet to be fixed at a shop recommended to me by a friend. I am not an athlete, and when I go into sports stores, I always feel like a Grade A dork. I don't know the right lingo, I sometimes trip over things because I am flustered, and I generally feel out of place and anxious to leave. I also don't run into very many women in these stores, so that just adds to my feeling of not fitting in. But when I walked in the door, I was greeted very warmly by three friendly, male staff, who immediately got me what I needed and set to work adjusting the helmet. I relaxed and felt at home almost at once.

While I was waiting, a guy in the back mentioned Dunkin' Donuts coffee. As a transplant from the northeast, I was excited to hear mention of Dunkin' Donuts, which don't exist around here, as far as I can tell (well, except for one store, which you will hear about directly). This, with my new-found comfort, gave me the confidence to jump right into the conversation. Everything was going along well, and we were laughing and joking, until the young man in the back said, "there is one Dunkin' Donuts store downtown, and it's owned by this dirty little Asian man!"

This is the moment where I often find myself, when someone says something like this and expects me to laugh or to go along with the conversation. And this is the part that's hard for me because we had been, moments before, enjoying a moment of friendly chat, and now we were about to stop being friendly.

Keith Edwards of Men Ending Rape says that a well-placed, "Dude - not cool," can go a long way. That actually would have been perfect, except that I remembered it when I was back in the car.

As I stood there, looking at the ground and no longer participating in the conversation, I tried to figure out how to address the comment. Obviously, it was not a comment this white man would have made to me if I were Asian. Quite possibly, he would not have made it to me if I were a person of color but not Asian. It was one of those situations in which white skin signals common ground, and so people feel free to say things they otherwise wouldn't say. Also obviously (to me), he didn't mean anything by it. It was not unlike the way that people say "that shirt is so gay" while thinking they are not homophobic.

As I contemplated my options, I realized that what I have been teaching my students this semester about privilege is not quite accurate. I have been teaching them that privilege is not having to hear comments like that made about you and people like you. Certainly, that is part of privilege. However, what makes it so difficult for people with privilege to give it up is this next part: I realized that if I said anything, the nice exchange we were having was going to change. I was going to say something that would sit there like a turd on the floor, and they were going to stop joking with me, and I was going to then feel anxious and uncomfortable, just as I had worried I might before I entered the store. So my privilege in this situation was that, because I am white, I could walk into a store and have helpful, friendly staff see me as like them and treat me accordingly, and I could then choose whether or not to give up that genial relationship or whether to keep it.

I was not fully conscious of all of these feelings, including the fact that sports stores make me anxious, until I examined them in that moment of standing there and wondering what to do. So part of the privilege was also that lack of awareness of my own motivations and my competing desires (wanting them to continue being friendly to me; wanting to address the racist comment), and part of it was having the luxury of choosing whether or not to challenge the comment that was made at someone else's expense.

I am not proud to say that I did not challenge the comment in that moment. However, I did send an email to the store shortly afterward. Better late than never.

Monday, October 25, 2010

I know why Ginnie Thomas called Anita Hill (or, Credo Action is making a mistake).

I have been puzzling it over for the last few days. I knew it had something to do with Thomas' political activities with the Tea Party, but I couldn't quite figure it out - was she actually trying to get an apology, for reals? Was there some demographic within the Tea Party who believed Anita Hill?

It took Juan Williams' firing and Credo to put it into perspective. As you all know, Juan Williams was an NPR journalist who was fired from his job there for appearing on Bill O'Reilly's show on FOX and saying that he feared Muslims getting onto an airplane with him and that it was important to cut through the "political correctness" around Muslims and to be honest about the level of threat that Muslims pose (read the Michael Moore piece I link to below - he does a good job of responding to this). I have never thought much of Williams as a journalist, and I won't miss him, but many have made the (correct) point that firing him for this was a bad publicity stunt for NPR to pull. As they explain, now there is evidence for FOX's favorite (and not at all hypocritical, right?) suggestion that NPR only hires those reporters who agree with their so-called left-wing politics. And this is exactly the kind of thing that can give that much more motivation to Tea Party folks to rebel against the current administration - just in time for the November elections.

So I had this all in the back of my mind this morning when I opened my email to find an appeal from Credo Action to sign a petition demanding that Clarence Thomas apologize to Anita Hill. I generally support Credo, and I am on their mailing list because I almost always want to sign petitions and send letters on behalf of the causes that they care about. But this one is a mistake, and I think it is exactly the reason that Ginnie Thomas called Anita Hill. Any public move to denounce Clarence Thomas again is going to do two things. First, it is going to add to the racial divide, real or imagined, between Obama followers (a multiracial group) and the Tea Party (also a multiracial group, but more white than not). This is ironic, because Clarence Thomas is Black, but it means that the Tea Party will back Ginnie Thomas (not Black) and not Anita Hill (Black). It is a clever way to hide race in a discourse that will be focused on 'that woman who says unspeakable things about another woman's husband' - that woman who is then, as scholars have written, herself tainted by the accusations of sexual harassment while her harasser is not. Second, it is going to add to the Right's furor over Juan Williams and perceived "political correctness" among progressives, as once again, it will argue, the "facts" are erased and the "radical" left is out to silence a different opinion (in this case, held by Ginnie Thomas). All of this will help their attempts to paint the moderate Obama as an extreme, radical socialist, and to whip voters into a frenzy, none of which will help progressive causes.

So, don't sign that Credo petition. And let's hope progressives can stay focused on the real issues for the next week.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Trip Down Memory Lane

As Bean was going to sleep tonight, he asked me if we had had ice boxes instead of refrigerators when I was a kid. "No," I told him. "Grandpa had ice boxes, but we had refrigerators." "Did you have electricity?" he wanted to know. "Yes, we had electricity," I said. "You know, Bean, when Grandpa was a kid it was very, very different than when I was a kid. They didn't have television, they had ice boxes, they didn't have the same kinds of heat in their houses that we do. But when I was a kid, it really wasn't very different from the way it is now. We had television - ours was black and white, but there were color televisions then. We had telephones, but they were rotary dial phones" ("I know!" he said - "that is a very popular style for toy phones!"). "We had record players, not cds or mp3 players, and we didn't have computers."

"WHAT?!" he exclaimed. "No computers? How did you send email?"

"We didn't," I said. "We called people on the phone, and we wrote letters. If someone wasn't home, we called back later. Most people didn't have answering machines."

"How did you skype?!" he asked, floored that there was ever a time without instant and constant communication.

I didn't have the heart to tell him yet about Pong.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Black Hawk Down, Imperialism, and Shoe Shopping

I stopped by the shoe store yesterday because I had a 20% off coupon and because my feet have been uncomfortable now that the summer has ended and I haven't been able to slip on my Tevas or Keenes every time I leave the house. While I was looking, mostly in vain, for a size 11 in just about anything, I overheard the younger clerk talking to a customer he knew about a paper he'd written for school. Apparently, his professor was "lying" to him and was "ignorant". The professor had apparently told this student that "there was imperialism in Black Hawk Down". The student "looked it up, and there wasn't."

I have to pause here for a moment. Had the student said, "I looked it up, and it was kind of complicated, and it was boring" - that would have been less bothersome to me. The idea that someone would think that this kind of question is one that they could look up and find an answer to easily, especially someone who is in college, is just sad, because it means that they (or their parents) are paying for an education that they don't even know they aren't participating in. And not *participating* in an education means not *getting* one.

Meanwhile, this guy went on to say that he had told this to his professor, and the professor had told him that he had to look for it in order to see it. He was so irritated that the professor was apparently lying to him and didn't know what he was talking about that he wrote a paper about how people are ignorant about imperialism. And got an A minus.

He went on to talk about an upcoming audition for a reality show, and getting an agent, and so on - his dreams beyond that shoe store, dreams that clearly, in his mind, were unrelated to college. So, when I went up to the counter to purchase my shoes, fully intending to give him a lecture about what research really entailed, I told him that I had overheard him talking about his paper and asked him where he went to school. It was one of the community colleges, he told me - "pretty boring," he said, with a lazy, confident smile. And I decided, as the other clerk and customer were watching me curiously, not to be that person, and not to make that scene. All I could muster was, "that's too bad," in my mother's voice. But he didn't understand that I meant it was too bad that he was not applying himself and taking advantage of his education, that it was too bad that he thought that research questions all had simple answers, that it was too bad that he saw a flaw in his professor's education but not in his own. He mostly thought that I thought it was too bad that his classes were boring, though the smile wavered a bit.

And I left the shoe store and gave Bean a version of my lecture, telling him that, while he would very likely have teachers and professors who were wrong, he shouldn't immediately assume that they were wrong if he found information that challenged what they said. Instead, he should first try to figure out if perhaps it was a more complicated subject than he had first thought.

Sunday, September 05, 2010


This post prompted the following response, which I was going to post as a comment until I realized that it had become a blog post.

I think that what we understand 'cool' to be changes as we get older. I used to think extreme hair was cool until I met an asshole with extreme hair (who wouldn't talk to us because we didn't look cool, apparently) and a wiser friend said, "it's sad when someone's entire personality is their hair." I also used to think that people who went to things like Burning Man were cool, until I realized that attending an event does not make someone cool and that lots of people go to this kind of thing in the hopes that it will make them cool.

Most of the time, 'cool' seems to be about external things - hair, clothes, the kind of music someone listens to, maybe the kind of job someone has, etc. At the ripe age of 42, I've realized that cool, for me, is more about what someone *thinks* and what kind of person they are than what they look like and what they do. Of course, these things are more abstract and are not attached to specific acts or looks of 'coolness,' like smoking a cigarette or wearing black. But it makes sense that coolness should be abstract - it should be something you have to look for, something that you need to patiently discover in unusual places, rather than something you can buy at the mall, see at Burning Man, or find on Facebook or on television.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A moment of awe for cats.

For two days in a row, I've seen a young, very fit, what I would call "brindle" cat coming up the neighbor's driveway with a chipmunk in its mouth. Maybe this is common cat behavior, but I'm quite impressed. I didn't think it was actually possible to catch a chipmunk. They seem to move so much more quickly than anything else, and I've never seen a cat with one before. Well done, cat!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Submissions sought for edited collection on Black Motherhoods

Demeter Press is seeking submissions for an edited collection on Black Motherhoods

Editors: Karen T. Craddock, Nicole Banton and Saundra Murray Nettles

Pub Date: 2012/2013

This anthology will explore the multi-faceted expressions, experiences, constructs and contexts of black motherhood through an interdisciplinary lens. We invite submissions addressing the range of key factors that contribute to and are impacted by the notion of black mothering and black motherhood primarily through psychological, sociological, humanities and public health frameworks which include investigations of cultural, biological, socio-political, relational and historical perspectives that inform our thinking and practice as it relates to black mothers.

We specifically encourage offerings that amplify or redress black motherhood and constructs of identity, relationships, mental and physical health practice and policy, education, art/media and advocacy. Through this diverse exploration a deeper understanding and consideration about black motherhood will be expanded. This multi-disciplinary excavation of both long held and newly emergent ideologies of black mothering will allow a necessary space to examine the importance and impact of black mother(ing)(hood) in society.

A goal of this volume is to catalyze future expression, research and praxis while contributing to a variety of fields including cultural analysis, race/gender studies, and literary and art criticism. We look forward to including a range of academic writing as well as narrative essays and some creative works.

Suggested topics include but are not limited to:
identity development, psychological depression, resistance to marginalization, research and policy on reproductive rights, pregnancy, child birth and breast feeding, literary, media and artistic renderings of black motherhood, consideration of and comparison within the black Diaspora, social constructions of black motherhood and race, gender politics, personal narrative, ethnography, black mothering in diverse familial, social and professional contexts, lesbian black mothers, feminist theory, marital status and black motherhood, parenting/caretaking practices, childcare, trans-racial adoption, black adolescent mothers, role of black men, role of relationship among black women and influence on mothering, historical and contemporary treatments of black motherhood.

Submission guidelines:
Abstracts should be 250 words. Please also include a brief biography (50 words).
Deadline for abstracts is September 1, 2010
Accepted papers of 4000-5000 words (15-20 pages) will be due September 2011 and should conform to the Modern Language Association style
Please send submissions and inquiries directly to:
Karen T. Craddock, Ph.D., Nicole Banton, Ph.D. and
Saundra Murray Nettles, Ph.D.

Demeter Press
140 Holland St. West, PO 13022
Bradford, ON, L3Z 2Y5

Saturday, August 21, 2010

What I think about the so-called "ground zero mosque"

I'll set aside the fact that it's not actually at ground zero. I'll also set aside the bizarre and ignorant posturing that Islam as a whole is somehow understood to be the equivalent of Nazism (I must have missed the attempted genocide of Americans?). I'll just say this: if you don't live in the neighborhood of ground zero, keep your big mouth shut. This is an issue for New Yorkers - the ones that live there, not the ones who feel like "every American is a New Yorker because of 9/11" (bullshit) - to decide without the "help" of national politicians who want to win elections.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Credit Union Woes

For almost as long as I've been supporting myself, I have been a member of a credit union (CU)rather than a bank. I've been a member of at least four over the past twenty or so years; CUs were always smaller, more friendly, and more personally interested in me as a customer. Like food co-ops, they can operate at the bare minimum; for example, there was one CU in Buffalo that had a tiny office with very limited hours a few blocks from my house, and when I wanted to get cash, I had to either go there and write myself a check (after ensuring that they had enough cash on hand - larger amounts required prior notification) or go across the street to to co-op and write a check there (again, after ensuring that they had the cash to give me). It was all very crunchy and granola if nothing else.

Then, there are others, like the one in South Dakota, that don't seem much different from a bank in terms of their physical offices, only they don't charge you every ripstitch. Banking without fees!

When we moved here, we kept our South Dakota CU account for a couple of years. When we were in the process of buying a house here, though, we needed a local account. So, I looked up CUs, of which there are many in the Twin Cities, and started figuring out which ones were most conveniently located. The thing about CUs is that using ATMs at locations other than the credit union usually means a charge - there isn't often a network of free ATMs, depending on the size of the credit union. So I very carefully chose a CU that had an office close to home.

Now, overall, I like the CU. The people we met with to discuss services, loans, mortgages, and all that were lovely, and the office seemed professional. No, they didn't have safe deposit boxes, but then, I really don't have much to put into one, anyway.

My problems with this CU began almost immediately, however, and they have generally to do with the drive-through. One morning in late summer, I pulled up at the drive-through post and waited for the teller to signal that she was ready to help me, which is how drive-through windows had always worked for me in the past. I waited a while. Finally, I pressed the "call teller" button and heard, "We were wondering what you were doing!" I thought to myself, "hmmm....seems like good customer service in that situation would have been to ask, 'May I help you?' as soon as they saw me sitting there - but, whatever. No need to make a fuss." I completed my transaction and moved on.

Several months later, I stopped at the drive-through again. This time, I didn't waste time waiting to be greeted or asked what I needed. I was there to make a deposit, so I grabbed the tube, only to find that there was no pen. I called the teller, asked for a pen, and sent the tube back, empty. It came back with a pen. I signed my checks, filled out the deposit slip, put everything in the tube and sent it back. The teller told me, "you forgot to sign the deposit slip." So she sent the slip back to me, but in the meantime, she had taken the pen out. I sent the tube back a third time for the pen, and she sent me back my cash and a receipt - but again, no pen. I didn't need a pen at this point, but since my transaction at the supposedly speedier drive-through window had now taken longer than it would have taken me had I just gone inside, I felt it was my duty to point out that it would be helpful to leave the damn pen in the tube. (I didn't say 'damn'.) The teller responded by telling me that customers steal the pens from the tubes and so they did not provide pens.

At this point, I was ready to start yelling, so I pulled out, drove around and parked, and called the CU. The woman who answered was the same woman who had "helped" me at the drive-through. I asked to speak with her manager, she sounded scared, and she put the manager on. I explained the situation - that I thought it was ridiculous that they apparently had a policy of not supplying pens because customers took them - and tried to convey my amazement that they would withhold something so necessary and common-place. Doesn't *every* bank or CU provide pens? Even the bloody *post office* usually has a pen out on the counter! And so, I became that customer who must be dealt with in as polite a manner possible, even though the manager is thinking, "who is this loon who is so concerned about something so stupid?!" And I felt pretty stupid, taking this so seriously, as she explained to me that they do, apparently, try to provide pens, but that in the extreme cold, sometimes the pens explode in the tubes, requiring them to replace the tubes, and so they don't put them in the tubes in the winter months. (Why couldn't the stupid teller have just apologized and said so?)

I went back a couple more times to the drive through that winter (twice hitting my wheel on the extra-long cement island, and losing a hubcap), and each time there was, of course, no pen.

Finally, yesterday, a warm day, I decided to brave the drive-through once more. I opened the tube (there was a pen!), signed my check, and filled out my deposit slip the way I have always been taught to do - list the check amount ($25); give the sub-total ($25); list the amount being cashed ($25); show the total being deposited ($0); sign the deposit slip because I'm getting cash back. And I wait, and the teller's picture (the same teller from the pen incident) flickers over the screen long enough to say "hello" and "thank you" and then she's over and out; the tube is returned to me with - a receipt for deposit of $25 into my checking account. I say, "I was trying to cash this?" and there is no response - she's been off the line from the time she pressed "send." I press "call teller" and again she flickers over the screen, "yes?" I say, "I meant to cash this - that's why there is a zero in the total amount." Silence. Then, one final flicker "youdon'thavetofilloutadepositsliptocashachecksenditbacktome" and she's gone again - there is no conversation, no, "I'm sorry" or "in the future, you should do x, y, or z." Nothing. I get my tube back with my cash and she is done with me.

I know this is really a very little thing, but good customer service - competent customer service - really does make a difference. I don't like knowing when I leave the house that if I don't have a pen with me, I'll have to go inside. I don't like still not knowing what they want me to do when I want to cash a check (and I don't really like the idea of having to say my account number aloud outside when there are other people in the drive-through lane, which is what I assume would be part of the process). I don't like that the tellers can't be bothered to greet me when I show up. But more than everything else, I don't like that the CU employees don't seem to get that these are problems with the way they do business. That alone makes me wonder if I should find another CU.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Onion does it again.

This is not just a typically funny Onion article - this is a really clever piece that rips BP while offering a laugh (and a laugh is sorely needed right about now). I like the way it keeps us focused both on the enormity of the oil spill *and* on the enormity of BP's, well, bullshit.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

On Jews and "Home."

(I'm a little rusty, so bear that in mind, and I apologize in advance for that, as well as for the abrupt non-ending. But if I don't post this, it will be yet another deleted post. Just don't expect me to say anything new.)

Bfp writes of Helen Thomas: "She is not hating Jews or wishing death or violence on Jews as a people. She is offering a very pointed critique of occupation and violence that a Jewish nation/state is inflicting on indigenous populations." This is a crucial point. It is a mistake to dismiss her comments as anti-Semitic.

At the same time, the notion that Jews can simply return to their homes in Poland and Germany fails to recognize the reality of anti-Semitism and the legacy of anti-Semitism. Poles and Germans still own the houses and property of Jews who were dispossessed; they won't be giving them back anytime soon. Jews can no more "go home" to Germany and Poland than can a young woman "go home" to a parent who has raped her. Legally and physically, of course, Jews are able to travel to and establish themselves in these countries, and that is an important right and freedom that Palestinians do not have. Still, the meaning of "home" for any diasporic people is complex and difficult, and Thomas' comment, at best, did not recognize this complexity.

One of the stereotypes that has always followed Jews is the idea of Jews as having power to hurt others; for example, the sense many people (who are not Jewish) have that Jews are running the U.S. In the situation of Israel and Palestine, Jews do, in fact, have power, and Israel has used that power to hurt and oppress. But it is a mistake to imagine that Jewish people are therefore no longer oppressed or that they can return to the countries that tried to kill them and live safely.

I felt the need to say all of this, but I also need to say, now, that while I think we need to acknowledge this complexity, and while Thomas' comments need to be addressed so that this complexity is brought out, there is also something larger, here. Bfp gets at it in the quote above and in this post, as well. And so does Tony Klug's piece, "Are Israeli Policies Entrenching Anti-Semitism Worldwide?" Calling out Israel is not inherently anti-Semitic. Protesting Israel's abuses is, in fact, the moral duty of Jews as well as non-Jews. Just as we have worked to define "racism" and "homophobia" in ways that focus on institutionalized oppression rather than personal prejudice, we need to work on applying the same analysis to the concept of anti-Semitism. I don't believe that Thomas' comments were anti-Semitic, and while I am concerned that she made them, I am distressed that the larger point she was making is getting lost.

Further, perhaps like Klug, I worry that the rush to censure Thomas - and to force her out - is inevitably going to deepen the very real distrust and dislike of Jews in America and elsewhere. And it certainly won't help either the Israelis or the Palestinians.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Which is harder - teaching someone to drive or to ride a bike?

We are in the process of doing the latter - and I wish we'd started this process years ago. Because we didn't, we are just starting him on training wheels, and Bean is, quite understandably, nervous about the whole thing. Once he gets going, he enjoys it, but the journey to getting going is paved with arguments, tears, yelling, and endless, endless braking. It took us 40 minutes last night to get from the corner to our house. This is exhausting.

And he keeps saying, "If I were learning to drive a car, I wouldn't be so scared!"

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Help keep ARM / Demeter Press going!

From ARM Director, Andrea O'Reilly:

Good news: there has been a tsunami of support for arm. Hundreds of letters in, a fan of arm facebook set up already, dozens of mommy bloggers have blogged on it, a fundraising campaign already up and running, two media interviews. (details on all this wil be on arm facebook page and sent to arm supporters and members tomorrow) I am at loss for words to convey my appreciation for this outpouring of concern and outrage.

so yes we are resolved to keep arm/jarm/Demeter press going somehow/someway

...we are asking concerned individuals to do the following

1) Write a letter, however brief, to York officials listed in ARM closure email.

In 48 HOURS ARM has received close to 300 emails.

[The addresses (please cc;
Associate Dean of Research, FLAPS, Barbara Crow,
Executive Officer, FLAPS, Felim Greene,
Associate Dean, External Relations, FLAPS, Moghissi Haideh,
Dean, FLAPS, Martin Singer,
Vice President, Research and Innovation, Stan Shapson,
Associate Vice President Research, Social Sciences and the Humanities, David Dewitt,
Vice-President Academic & Provost, Patrick Monahan,
Director, Office of Research Services, David Phipps,
President and Vice Chancellor, Mamdouh Shoukri, ]

2) Distribute widely the ARM closure letter; contact your local media. Join the "Fan of ARM Facebook Page"

3) Send to arm and myself any and all ideas/leads/contact for funding for arm/jarm/demeter press post York.

4) Please purchase a Demeter Press title from ARM/Demeter Press page with a cheque payable to Demeter Press. Or make a donation to Demeter Press.

We will certainly keep you posted

And thank you again for your email. It means a great deal to us at this difficult time


andrea oreilly and renee knapp

Dr. Andrea O'Reilly,
Associate Professor,
School of Women's Studies,
Founder-Director: Association for Research on Mothering,
Journal of the Association for Research on Mothering, Demeter Press,
Co-Founder, Museum of Motherhood,
Co-Founder, International Mothers Network,
Editor, Encyclopedia of Motherhood, Sage Press, 2010.
York University,
Toronto, Ont.,
M3J 1P3
416 736 2100;60366

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Closure of the Association for Research on Mothering

Please read the following and then write a letter of protest to the emails below. Please also forward to your networks - let's get this out into the feminist blogosphere. You should know that ARM has been publishing work by and about mothers of color, queer mothers, and mothers with disabilities; it has worked hard to support the work of all those who mother and who study mothering.

March 2, 2010

Dear ARM Members and Friends,

I am writing with some very sad news concerning the Association for Research on Mothering, The Journal of the Association for Research on Mothering and Demeter Press. Due to York University’s continued refusal to provide base funding to the association, its journal and press, we will be closing ARM May 1, 2010. The Executive Officer of the Faculty of Liberal and Professional Studies (FLAPS) has assured us that all membership and subscriptions for 2010 and beyond will be reimbursed on a pro-rated basis.

Please find below information on 1) the context of; reasons for this decision; 2) whom to contact with your questions, concerns and comments; 3) the implications of such for ARM’s various research activities.

The Association for Research on Mothering was founded in 1998, its journal in 1999, and its press in 2006. Over these twelve years ARM’s accomplishments have been many and diverse including: 35 international conferences, including conferences in New York City and in Puerto Rico and one recently planned for Portugal in 2011; 22 journal issues and ten Demeter Press titles published (with another 15 Demeter Press titles in production or under contract); half a million dollars in external funding; a paid membership base of more than 500 individuals/institutions (including 110 library subscriptions) from 25 plus countries each year; a large and vibrant Australian “arm of ARM” (that has hosted 5 international conferences), ARM journals and Demeter press titles sold in bookstores across Canada and on Amazon; Demeter Press titles used as course texts in university classrooms across Canada and the United States; extensive media coverage including a front page story in the National Post in 2006; many national and international research projects and partnerships including the SSHRC funded project on Young Mothers and Empowerment Programming with ten research partners from 5 countries; co-producer of a documentary on the 21st Motherhood Movement; co-founder of the International Mothers Network (IMN) now with 120 members worldwide and co-founder of the Museum of Motherhood. ARM is recognized as the leading association and publication on motherhood worldwide and indeed as an important organization in Women’s Studies scholarship more generally. A Google search of the “Association for Research on Mothering”, for example, yields 225,000 hits while the “Canadian Women’s Studies Association”, (Canada’s only and long-standing national association of Women’s Studies) yields only 70,900 hits. That ARM, a relatively new research association and one focused specifically on the topic of motherhood yielded three times more hits than the Women’s Studies Association of Canada is indeed significant and speaks to the centrality and prominence of the association. For more information on ARM, its journal and press please visit our website at

ARM receives NO funding from York University though in recent years York has provided a small office for ARM and some teaching release for myself as director (and does provide accounting and financial services). ARM, as with all research associations and scholarly journals and as a nonprofit organization, requires some institutional support to cover its operating costs. Since ARM has received no institutional support it has incurred a deficit most years though in the last 4 out of 5 years ARM has made a small profit or broken even. In the last 6-7 years I have met many times with various university officials to request 20,000 dollars in institutional support either in the form of a grant or by covering some of ARM’s operational costs such as student wages, postage or printing or by providing an annual Graduate Assistantship. The answer has always been an emphatic no. In the fall of 2009 the situation reached a crisis point when the associate dean of research of ARM’s new faculty (FLAPS) froze our accounts as a result of ARM’s deficit and in the last three weeks has forced the suspension of all of ARM’s research activities including the cancellation of the May conference in New York and the production of the current journal issue and forthcoming Demeter Press title. With York’s refusal to provide some funding or to cover some of ARM’s operational costs and its recent decision to freeze our accounts and suspend its research activities, I see no other choice but to close ARM. I believe that ARM’s many achievements make ARM deserving of institutional support and have done my utmost to convince York of this but York remains steadfast in its argument that ARM must operate on a cost-recovery basis with no institutional support, (though York’s many research centres receive far more in university funding than ARM is requesting and do far less in research activities).

I ask that any comments or questions on the forced closure of ARM be directed to the following individuals (please cc;
Associate Dean of Research, FLAPS, Barbara Crow,
Executive Officer, FLAPS, Felim Greene,
Associate Dean, External Relations, FLAPS, Moghissi Haideh,
Dean, FLAPS, Martin Singer,
Vice President, Research and Innovation, Stan Shapson,
Associate Vice President Research, Social Sciences and the Humanities, David Dewitt,
Vice-President Academic & Provost, Patrick Monahan,
Director, Office of Research Services, David Phipps,
President and Vice Chancellor, Mamdouh Shoukri,

Membership and Subscriptions:
ARM will no longer be accepting memberships or subscriptions for 2010 and beyond. All paid 2010 and beyond memberships will be reimbursed on a pro-rated basis

The conference “Being and Thinking as an Academic Mother”, at Simone de Beauvoir Institute, Montreal, Canada, April 8, 2010 will proceed as scheduled

The New York conference “Representing Motherhood” May 20-22, 2010 is CANCELLED

The October conference “Mothering and the Economy; The Economics of Mothering” is

The Journal of the Association for Research on Mothering
No more issues of the journal will be published. 2010 subscriptions will be reimbursed fully.

Individual copies of past journal issues may be purchased at a discounted rate until May 1, 2010. Details on website soon

Demeter Press
Past titles may be purchased at a discounted rate. Details on website soon.

A decision is pending on forthcoming Demeter Press titles. A full update will be sent in the next week or two.

The next several months are going to be challenging ones for the association and in particular for ARM’s coordinator RenĂ©e Knapp so I ask in advance for your patience and understanding.

Though I am deeply saddened that our beloved ARM must close, I will be forever grateful to the wonderful members of ARM for their transformative and groundbreaking research and activism on and for mothers and mothering around the world. Thank you!

Dr. Andrea O’Reilly,
Founder and Director, ARM, JARM, Demeter Press
York University,
Toronto, Ont.,
M3J 1P3
416 736 2100;60366

Monday, March 01, 2010

To the guy behind me in traffic this morning.

Look, I'm sure you were in a hurry, and I can appreciate that you didn't like the fact that I was slowing down when you wanted to go faster as we exited the highway. What I saw that you didn't see was the truck ahead and on my right that was planning to turn left across my lane. I was turning left, too, and even if I weren't, the truck was blocking the right lane, so I had no choice but to stop, behind the truck and to the left, so that it could turn. Honking your horn at me is not going to make me play chicken with a truck.

I thought maybe you'd understand the situation after the truck turned, but no, you still found it necessary to drive up behind me after we'd all turned, honk furiously, and give me the finger as you sped away.

It is not my fault that you are in a hurry. Plan better next time. And please try to be less of an asshole.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Two years later... I've been teaching and talking and writing lately about the Great Blog Wars of '08, and I'm wondering where we stand. Specifically, I'm wondering where we stand on the girlcott of Seal Press. This is really bugging me, because in the interim, SP has launched their "Women's Studies series". What is the impact of this going to be on the discipline of Women's Studies a few years down the road? Meanwhile, the same few (fluffy, some of them) authors keep popping up with new books on SP's website.

On the other hand, I guess it's something that the covers of these books written by white women white women white women feature people of color...(that would be sarcasm, folks.)

Friday, February 19, 2010

2010 Obama Agenda Survey from the RNC

I hate political "surveys" that distort meanings in order to elicit specific answers:

1) Do you agree with Barack Obama and the Democrats that taxes should be raised for the sake of 'fairness,' regardless of the negative impact it is likely to have on the economy?

2) Do you believe the federal government has gone too far in bailing out failing banks, insurance companies and the auto industry?

3) Do you support amnesty for illegal immigrants?

4) Should English be the official language of the United States?

5) Are you in favor of granting retroactive Social Security eligibility to illegal immigrants who gain U.S. citizenship through an amnesty program?

6) Are you in favor of the expanded welfare benefits and unlimited eligibility (no time, education or work requirements) that Democrats in Congress are pushing to pass?

7) Do you believe that Barack Obama's nominees for federal courts should be immediately and unquestionably approved for their lifetime appointments by the U.S. Senate?

8) Do you believe that the best way to increase the quality and effectiveness of public education in the U.S. is to rapidly expand federal funding while eliminating performance standards and accountability?

9) Do you support the creation of a national health insurance plan that would be administered by bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.?

10) Do you believe that the quality and availability of health care will increase if the federal government dictates pricing to doctors and hospitals?

11) Are you confident that new medicines and medical treatments will continue to be developed if the federal government controls prescription drug prices and sets profit margins for research and pharmaceutical companies?

12) Are you in favor of creating a government-funded "Citizen Volunteer Corps" that would pay young people to do work now done by churches and charities, earning Corps Members the same pay and benefits given to military veterans?

13) Are you in favor of reinstituting the military draft, as Democrats in Congress have proposed?

14) Do you believe that the federal government should allow the unionization of Department of Homeland Security employees who serve in positions critical to the safety and security of our nation?

15) Do you support Democrats' drive to eliminate workers' right to a private ballot when considering unionization of their place of employment?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Jay Smooth on John Mayer.

I can't seem to post the video itself, but click here.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

In Honor of V-Day...

...let me take this time to remind everyone that vulvas are not vaginas, and vice versa. If it helps, remember that all the outside stuff is part of the vulva - the vagina is an internal organ.

This public service message is brought to you by the fact that I just read an entire scholarly essay that used the word "vagina" to talk, really, about vulvas - so please, folks, knock it off. This is a simply appalling lack of basic anatomy knowledge.

Thank you, and have a lovely Valentine's Day.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I'm still here.

I wonder how on earth I ever used to have time for a blog. Not only do I not have time to write, I also don't have anything to say. I've been keeping my head down and working, and as a result I'm meeting some deadlines but not very in touch with what's going on. Super Bowl? Olympics? What?