Thursday, August 27, 2009

Following up on Solon's post on "Anxiety and Motherhood," here is the comment that bothers me: "Since, as Katie points out, so few of history's famous thinkers and poets have been mothers, the intense ordinary swoon we feel about our babies has been neglected. But I think that we sing Auden’s lullaby quite as much to our children as to our lovers." I think this is a vast overstatement, and rather than suggest that mothers are just as capable of being thinkers, scientists, and writers but that their responsibilities as mothers often makes it more difficult for them to be both, as I think is the author's intent, it seems to suggest that mothers can't combine their love for mothering with their love for other types of work (and yes, I will continue to define mothering as work, no matter how much I love it or how sentimental I feel about my children).

I believe we Situationers did this once before, but how many famous thinkers and poets can name who were/are also mothers? Here are a few.

Marie Curie
Toni Morrison
Margaret Thatcher
Isabella of Spain (yes, I'm going that far back!)
Sara Willis Parton (aka Fanny Fern)
Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Betty Friedan
Adrienne Rich
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Madeleine Albright
Sandra Day O'Connor
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Anne Bradstreet
Abigail Addams
Harriet Jacobs

Can you think of any others?

An interesting take on visual rhetoric

I find this to be a valid form of "punishment."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Anxiety and Motherhood....

From Slate's Double X: a piece by Katie Roiphe that praises the joys of being a mother of a newborn and, along the way, attacking feminists' hostility to the pleasure of infants.

It is an interesting piece as our household transitions from one parent working to both parents working. While we both share childcare duties, Megs has been the one to stay home full-time even while writing a dissertation. Next week, she will step in the classroom for the first time and feels similarly to Roiphe about separation.

Roiphe's piece has been criticized for the following paragraph:
One of the minor dishonesties of the feminist movement has been to underestimate the passion of this time, to try for a rational, politically expedient assessment. Historically, feminists have emphasized the difficulty, the drudgery of new motherhood. They have tried to analogize childcare to the work of men; and so for a long time, women have called motherhood a "vocation." The act of caring for a baby is demanding, and arduous, of course, but it is wilder and more narcotic than any kind of work I have ever done.
First, though I am not to knowledgeable on the literature of which she speaks, I find it a bit dubious when writing about a group of individuals and stating that all individuals have one view. It is especially dubious when failing to cite one of those writers and perpetuating the fiction that one writer stands for all of the writers. Maybe those that criticized Roiphe (follow the link), feel guilt for going back to work and valuing work over family. I don't know. But I do know that the controversial paragraph is not very controversial.

In defense of the post, Hanna Rosen writes that this is a "very neglected subject in both literature and philosophy and yes, also feminist writing," especially compared to erotic love. But does this establish a prima facie case that feminists are dishonest about the connection between a mother and her infant? If anything, it is a call that research needs to be done (ahem, Megs....) but this claim establishes nothing else.

But this leads to another problem: if you are not speaking out against something than you are complicit in your silence. This means that Roiphe and Rosen may speak out on this issue but are complicit on all of the issues on which they do not speak. I am sure the list is endless.

Then there is the notion of choice: Roiphe criticizes feminists for not allowing people to choose what they want to do or be, i.e. choosing motherhood over work. But this is an endless game. Roiphe is now condemning people for condemning a choice. This could go on endlessly if we choose.

It seems as if the controversy seems a bit manufactured. If you follow the link on the criticisms of this post you will find that some of the attacks on Roiphe's piece are quite misdirected and unsubstantial. There are better critiques of Roiphe's article. Nonetheless, as we in this household transition, I thought this piece may interest the readers and writers here even if this is a good piece of writing gone wrong.

A Favorite

This came up on my Ipod this morning as I drove Wild Man to school. It's a personal favorite of mine, and apparently Wild Man, who told me "Turn it up, Mommy," agrees.

Tuesday Musical Tribute

Discovered this today. Makes Harrogate happy for a number of reasons. Wanted to share with friends here.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


The purpose of Torture

In The Lesser Evil, Michael Ignatieff argues that torture is a nihilistic political choice that results in irrevocable harm for the torturer and the tortured (see 136 - 143). Since it is the ultimate violation of a human being and the ultimate unlimited use of public authority against an individual, Ignatieff argues against liberal democracies employing it as a tactic in the War on Terror.

A good, clear explanation of Ignatieff's ideas come fom Julie Sanchez. In response to The 2004 CIA Inspector General Report on Torture, especially the section in which interrogators tortured a prisoner by threatening to kill the prisoner's children, Sanchez writes:
I guess what especially turns my stomach here is that the idea wasn’t just to inflict mental anguish on a presumably odious man in order to extract information. It was to inflict that pain by exploiting, as a weakness, whatever flicker of nobility or love remained in an otherwise wretched soul. It was a method of torture that would have been effective only because and to the extent there was something human left in him. Maybe I’m being overly sentimental, but every cell in my body is telling me this is sick and wrong.

There should not be much else to say on this topic though I doubt as if there will be a full review of what occurred. Ever.

I Heart Spam, II:

Subject: W this cargo overboard? -- Friend My Ship is Full; _ if _ only I could d:

And steamboats having partially annihilated space, and of the strides which education, if not intellect, has made upon the highroad of human improvement, assumes an importance greater than the things themselves deserve. To a truly philosophic ken, there is no such thing as a trifle; the ridiculous is but skin-deep, papillae on the surface of society; cut a little deeper, you will find the veins and arteries of wisdom.

Therefore will a sober man not deride the notion that comic almanacs, comic Latin grammars, comic hand-books of sciences and arts, and the great prevalence of comicality in popular views taken of life and of death, of incident and of character, of evil and of good, are, in reality, signs of the times. These straws, so thick upon the wind, and so injuriously mote-like to the visual organs, are flying forward before a storm. As symptoms of changing nationality, and of a disposition to make fun of all things ancient and honourable, and wise, and mighty, and religious, they serve to evidence a state of the universal mind degenerated and diseased. Still, let us not be too severe; and, as to individual confessions, let not me play the hypocrite. Like every thing else, good in its good use, and evil only in abuse of its excesses, humour is capable of filling, and has filled, no lightly-estimable part in the comedy of temporal happiness. What a good thing it is to raise an innocent and cheerful laugh; to inoculate moroseness with hearty merriment; to hunt away misbelieving care, if not with better prayers, at the lowest with a pack of yelping cachinations; to make pain forget his head-ache by the anodyne of mir

I Love Spam: Interesting Email of the Day

Subject: Concentrated Ferocity, during s

Gers on the backs of the non-existent, unattainable books. "But I disagree with you about reading," said Mary. "About serious reading, I mean." "Quite right, Mary, quite right," Mr. Scogan answered. "I had forgotten there were any serious people in the room." "I like the idea of the Biographies," said Denis. "There's room for us all within the scheme; it's comprehensive." "Yes, the Biographies are good, the Biographies are excellent," Mr Scogan agreed. "I imagine them written in a very elegant Regency style--Brighton Pavilion in words--perhaps by the great Dr. Lempriere himself. You know his classical dictionary? Ah!" Mr. Scogan raised his hand and let it limply fall again in a gesture which implied that words failed him. "Read his biography of Helen; read how J

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Free Speech Controversy in Brooklyn Library

According to The Brooklyn Daily News, the Brooklyn Public Library has restricted access to the 1930s children's book, Tintin Au Congo after a reader complained that the images from the book were racially offensive as the images depicted "Africans as monkeys." You can see images of the book through Google Images. (And, yes, please take note of the irony.)

The story concerns a young reporter traveling to the Congo who teaches the natives "right from wrong," which is a euphemism for advancing a pro-colonist message. During the trip, the young reporter kills numerous animals and, somewhere along the way, takes a few photos. Accoridng to Wikpedia, Tintin au Congo is part of an 80-year comic series, The Adventures of Tintin, that has been translated in to 50 languages and sol over 200 million copies.

According to library spokesperson, the book was relocated because it "had illustrations that were racially offensive and inappropriate for children." Individuals can still read the book. However, they must request a showing of the book in a special room 24 hours in advance. On the local CBS station, a library spokesperson discussed the move in terms of security for the book: the book has not been banned but relocated for its protection; patrons can still see it but they must see it under certain conditions and under certain supervision.

The ACLU is not happy with the move as it defined the act as censorship.

As The Brooklyn Daily News notes, the Brooklyn library received requests to ban or relocate 25 other books such as Godless by Anne Coulter. Only Tintin was relocated.