“New Yorker Cover — Satire or Slur?”

NOW is asking this question at the top of their page about the cover, which is reproduced there.  The cover picks up on just about every visual cue for the racist slurs leveled at the Obama’s and puts them all together in what they say is satire.  It is very hard to see the cover as funny at all.  It’s too likely that it will add to the strength of the rumors.

NOW’s  page enables you to write the New Yorker and object.

It’s interesting that Saturday Night Live tried a similar thing about Hillary Clinton; that is, they tried to give a satirical representation of slurs and ending up looking like they were slurring.  Or at least that’s what a lot of people supposed they were doing in a very unpleasant segment.  (I’m relying on my memory here, I should say.)

I’ve been wondering if this is connected to the idea that it is dangerous to issue denials of rumors that involve repeating them.  And it’s hard to see how providing another arena for the slurs can be helpful to the Obama’s.   In addition, the visual representation lacks the completely explicit “It is false to say that…”.

It may also be that the slurring has gotten so extreme it is beyond satirical exaggeration.  Think the most horrible things you can and you may have a rumor someone is pushing.

What do you think?

“Well-behaved women seldom make history”

Looking at Harvard’s courses in women’s studies may lead you eventually to Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, a very distinguished feminist historian at Harvard, who invented the famous phrase used as a title above.  It turns out that she has recently published a book of the same name.  I haven’t yet read the book, but I’m going to order it once I can convince Amazon.com that I am indeed the same person as I was when I last ordered a book from them.  Still, there are two tangential observations I can make:

1.  Of course the pressures on women to be well-behaved and do as one is told are enormous.  A lot of the pressures are obvious in every day life, since being well-behaved is heavily reinforced.  Inside even some feminists there’s a very well-behaved little girl who too often gets out.  And, of course, if you do behave in ways others see as  behaving badly, all hell can break loose.  It can get very, very nasty indeed. 

So what do we do?  Do you have any ideas?  Or perhaps you have a confirming story?  Or a tale to tell about finding the nice little girl had taken you over?  Is the strong need to be nice somewhat ethnic?  Has the culture of strong women in some communities made not being nice easier?

2.  And then there’s the book’s Amazon.com site.  Sites about feminist books can be painful to read.  This one has a puzzling review from the Washington Post by Michael Dirda.  He asserts on the one hand that

Despite many virtues, Ulrich’s book nonetheless often feels less like history than ancient history. A lot in its pages will be familiar to readers. Colleges have been offering courses in women’s studies for decades now. That battle is won. …

Still, as Ulrich notes again and again, history isn’t simply what happened in the past; it is what later generations choose to remember. And we do need to remember how it was.   Ulrich quotes historian Sara Evans: “It is startling to realize that in the early 1960s married women could not borrow money in their own names, professional and graduate schools regularly imposed quotas of 5-10 percent or even less on the numbers of women they would admit …

So it looks as though he thinks all this stuff is in the past.  So why end the piece with

Sometimes, we really do make a little progress — even when there’s still a long way to go.

And let’s note that it is often still perfectly legal to pay women less for exactly the same job; you just can’t say that’s what you are doing.  Still, the review has a line we would do well to remember:

Despite her fervor and personal convictions, Ulrich never forgets that she is a scholar as well as a woman.

She is always well-behaved?

Harvard and Women’s Studies

Crosscut Seattle  tells us that Harvard has finally gotten its act together on feminist and women’s studies.

I was pleased to see that Harvard has updated its curriculum. Under former President Larry Summers, Harvard neglected feminist and women’s studies. Fortunately, under Drew Gilpin Faust, Harvard has added 30 new courses this year.

Kudos to  Harvard, their new female president, and to Crosscut for understanding the importance of the change.

Belated thanks to DD, for this good news and for her fascinating blog, Reading Animals.

O, one last thing:  it doesn’t seem philosophy has been involved in the change.  I hope nobody is going to fall back in surprise at this.