Monday, December 21, 2009
Saturday, December 19, 2009
"After six decades of very private painting, Ms. Herrera sold her first artwork five years ago, at 89."
"I do it because I have to do it; it’s a compulsion that also gives me pleasure. I never in my life had any idea of money and I thought fame was a very vulgar thing. So I just worked and waited. And at the end of my life, I’m getting a lot of recognition, to my amazement and my pleasure, actually."
"When pressed about what looks to some like a sensual female shape in the painting, she said: 'Look, to me it was white, beautiful white, and then the white was shrieking for the green, and the little triangle created a force field. People see very sexy things — dirty minds! — but to me sex is sex, and triangles are triangles.'"
"Only my love of the straight line keeps me going."
Monday, December 14, 2009
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
The more I go here, the more I see how prevalent and institutionalized sexism is at Columbia (and the more glad I am I go to Barnard--not to say we don't have our fair share of sexist behavior going on. But Columbia has much more than its fair share.)
It's obviously important that everyone involved in academia (as everyone who authors this blog is, at some level) talk and think about this, but it still annoys me the way facts like this are reported.
I was reading today about women in Computer Science and came across this quote by Dorothy Zinberg from Women and Success: The Anatomy of Achievement:
As the data from women's career studies and anecdotes from personal experiences of women professionals begin to accrue, one of the questions that arises is not `Why are there so few successful professional women?', but rather, `How have so many been able to survive the vicissitudes on each rung of the career ladder?
I guess this sort of sums up my feelings on this type of article. I'm waiting for something to be framed this way. Instead of "there's this phenomenon of women not getting tenured nearly as often as men, especially in certain disciplines... Let's find out why!" How about looking at countless studies and reports that have already been done on why this is happening, then saying "No wonder such and such statistic has come about as a result of this!" Then we could look at ways the University is trying to change the causes of this, and ways in which it is failing?
Any thoughts? Experiences you want to share (I know you got 'em, ladies)?
In this vein, apparently studies of this sort are notoriously hard to get through committee at Columbia and are therefore often irrelevant by the time they are published.
I wonder why...
On the reading list:
MIT report: Barriers to Equality in Academia: Women in Computer Science at MIT
Monday, December 7, 2009
the last time i read that essay i was probably some form of teenager. i was still looking at everything marni did and said and wrote and wore as a set of instructions or even an augur--both, it took me years to learn, are bad ways of thinking about an older sister (children make mistakes). so the last time i had read it, my thoughts were laid out something like this: some time very soon i will be part of this club; i will know what it feels like to have the spirit of another human being slip into my body; i will write my own chapter of this book; i will be a lady.
there was no question in my mind that this would happen, or that it would happen very, very soon. an mri of my brain at the time would have shown that the whole thing was dominated by the assumption, totally unquestioned, totally unquestioned, that i would very, very soon start having babies. whole regions would have been lit up thinking about all the variables: who the husband would be, what fabulous grad school we'd struggle through our first years of marriage at, hair color, names.
almost 20 years later, it's been hard to pare away all those neural pathways, and the triumphs are silent and private. no scrapbooks of any of it, but i'm happy. and then reading marni's essay again... it's embarrassing now to remember that blithe and passive way of thinking, jarring to be confronted with your younger, stupider self. ghost pains. adults for the most part live in worlds that would have seemed alien to their adolescent selves.
i guess what i'm wondering is if i'd like to read or write a book about what being a lady has been like for me the same way marni wanted to make a book about what being a lady has meant for her and for most adult women. can there be a book about this kind of lady that isn't bridget jones's diary or sex and the city?
my experience of ladyhood has been essentially a negative one, not in an emotional sense but in that it's characterized by a lack of something, a failure to accomplish something. ladies have babies, but not this lady. and it's a hole that keeps growing: just as motherhood accumulates and expands, my lack of babies keeps stretching out in front of me and behind me and i get farther and farther away from motherhood as children around me get older and older, as the mothers i'm close to sink deeper into their relationships with adolescent and adult children. i mean, what kind of depressing book would this be? what would be the point? i wouldn't want to read it, and nobody else would either. putting stilettos and "you go, gurl"s on it would only make it worse. that lady doth protest too much. there's always a glowing kernel in any story about motherhood, a redemptive balm that we all know a mother is the best thing you can be. no such kernel in the spinster story.
we love mother stories because they go somewhere, and because everybody has a mother. their narratives are traditional and digestible: adam and eve, and baby makes three. and, dare i say it, mothers, in the best of circumstances, feel instinctively that there are people in the world who care what they have to say; so mother stories get written and read. the spinster story is scary and there's nobody to write or read it. jane austen wisely slaps marriages onto the ends of her spinster stories. it's almost like it's a curse instead of a story, like if you start telling the story some chasm yawns out and you have to cover it up, or you have to spit and turn in a circle three times. the danger is some kind of narrative equivalent to a time travel paradox where the human race stops existing because there's no mother character reassuring us that reproduction is still moving along. if we're not thinking about reproducing, and we're not thinking about shoes...there's nothing left to think about. chaos. a big hole. a head covered with snakes.
(i know, kristeva or cixous already wrote all of this.) (also, does the opposite of "life" have to be "death"? does the opposite of "gaia" have to be medusa?)
but ladies are ladies. ladies with babies are ladies; ladies without babies are ladies. but lady stories that don't involve babies...can they not be pathetic and depressing or about clothes and promiscuous sex? my hunch is that "lady" implies "baby" in a rigorous way. there's always a baby lurking somewhere in every lady story; it's there or it's gone or it's coming.
there are lots of reasons jesus often talked about women who are alone. here's a scritcher:
1 Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the LORD.
2 Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes;
3 for thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left; and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited.
4 ¶ Fear not; for thou shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame: for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more.
5 For thy Maker is thine husband; The LORD of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.
6 For the LORD hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused, saith thy God.
7 For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee.
8 In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer.
Friday, December 4, 2009
and one photo of my strong, beautiful, brilliant suite-mate/bestie Anna:
We often make and eat dinner together (I don't know if anyone's seen this skit, but the resemblance to our relationship is kind of scary...), and the other night we made a roast chicken dinner. I was inspired by Emmy's bacon-apple stuffing, and tried to imitate it.
I used an old baguette, bacon, apple, onion, garlic and rosemary and a little bit of Martinelli's. Before roasting the chicken, I filled the pan to about 1/2 an inch with Martinelli's and kept it covered for the first hour or so it was in the oven.
There's the little guy chillin in the oven. Waiting for the roasting to be over was one of the most frustrating experiences of my life--Every time I bake something, I am reminded painfully of why I never bake.
But it was worth the wait. When I took him outta the oven, there was a good inch of chicken juices (mingling with Martinelli's and bacon grease) bubbling at the bottom of the pan. See those darker patches on both sides of his breast? That's where we stuffed bacon under his skin (Anna's idea). Yeah.
The finished product (buttermilk mashed potatoes a la Anna):
The Cherokee tell a creation story about the female divine, a sacred narrative that is central to their theology and identity. The story says that the Daughter of God loved her children and wanted them to be happy, so she provided delicious food for them, food from a miraculous place, food that came from nowhere. The children, being afflicted with the curiosity of humans, needed to know where the food came from. They decided to find out, and hid in the room where she produced the food. They watched from their hiding place as she performed the miracle: the food came from her body, freely and purely. ‘She’s a witch!’ the children cried. ‘We must kill her!’ But the Daughter of God knew that this was an essential step in their journey to happiness. ‘You can kill me,’ she said. ‘But when I am dead, bury my body in the ground, and I will still provide food for you.’ So the children killed their mother and placed her body in the earth. From the grave of their mother, corn grew, nourishing and essential for the Cherokee people. The children knew that this was a miracle that could only have come through their selfish human error and their mother’s loving sacrifice.
Why is this story so familiar and poignant to those of us who believe in Christ? A parallel will seem obvious: the Daughter of God is Jesus Christ, who died for our sins and who provided us with living bread after his physical death. Why, then, is this story so much more familiar and poignant to those of the Mormon faith? It is because the LDS doctrine is the only Christ-centered doctrine to be dependent on the idea of gender as a divine concept, and therefore, dependent on the idea of a real and vital Mother in Heaven. If the LDS Church believes in a Mother in Heaven, and the LDS message is one devoted to Christ, then those beliefs are related - the LDS Church recognizes and celebrates the necessity of the female divine in understanding Christ. This idea is expressed in the defining scripture of the LDS faith, the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon’s planned and purposeful inclusion of writings about female characters, as well as the text’s use of female language relating to Christ, are tools used to draw the reader to a greater understanding of female divinity, and therefore help the Book of Mormon function as another testament of Jesus Christ.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
most of my time is spent with ladies who are graduate students. these are some wonderful ladies. some of them are beautiful and some of them are homely and mousy and some of them wear glasses and they're all whip smart.
tonight i made pita pizzas and caramel popcorn for a couple of my ladies.
Everyone’s in love with Greg Mortensen (Three Cups of Tea author, in case you haven’t been out of the house in three years), he who has built schools and helped Ladies in Other countries get an education.
I heard him speak at BYU several weeks ago, and John Tanner, the Academic VP, introduced him by giving this, perhaps apocryphal, though oft repeated, quote from Brigham Young that says something like if he could only choose to send either his sons or daughters to school, he would choose his daughters since in educating a woman you are in essence educating her children as well.
Mortensen’s point is that educating Ladies= the most efficient and effective way to reduce poverty, birth rate, sexual oppression, etc.
Young’s point is that women are in charge of raising kids and therefore need an education more than men.
I bristle at two assumptions inherent in Young’s supposed statement (a sentiment that I’ve heard in every single discussion about Ladies going to School in official LDS discussions)
1) It is right and good that women and only women are in charge of children and their nurture.
2) Lady School is only good because women will have babies and need to raise them, and therefore should be allowed to go to Lady School. A tautology?
3) Lady School skills should only be used to assist a woman in raising children.
Mortensen and Young are both pragmatists—efficient, accomplished, able to install cultural institutions in the most unfriendly of environments. It is true that educating women benefits communities exponentially. And it’s not that I want Mortensen to stop building schools for people, but, as per Eva’s previous post, this allows us to feel so warm and fuzzy about helping Other Oppressed Ladies while failing to examine our own oppression. Is this the uneasiness I feel? How is it that an Education for Ladies seems almost like a burden in the context of Young’s statement/the pervasive attitude among Mormons about Lady School, rather than a liberation (remember when Frederick Douglass first learned to read and suddenly understood exactly how un-free he was?)
Ladies, pack your School Books in your saddle-bags and carry them up a steep mountain to your families. Remember that you are mules, not stallions.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
In a reading, "Death by Culture", we did earlier in the semester, the author (Uma Narayan) discusses how in the US and Western European countries in the position to offer monetary aid to other (or "Other") countries, issues such as rape, lack of access to health care and education for children, the sex industry and associated spread of STDs in these other countries are seen as being caused by cruel, oppressive, patriarchal cultures, and are taken out of the context of the same or similar issues that exist within all patriarchal societies, including our own.
Focusing on fixing these problems in Other, third-world countries perpetuates the mythology of an enlightened and (by comparison, I suppose) non-patriarchal Western society that can only exist in contrast to a barbaric, patriarchal foil. Grewal posits, and I agree, that this hinders our ability to accurately and effectively discuss and address these problems not only abroad but within our own society.
Is it possible that more public discussion of issues mentioned above (caused, arguably, by institutionalized racism, sexism, classism, etc.) in the context of our own country could lead to more understanding and therefore more effective foreign aid programs?
In her remarks for World AIDS Day, Clinton focused stated, "Obviously, our efforts are hampered whenever discrimination or marginalization of certain populations results in less effective outreach and treatment." She focused on the need to "stand against any efforts to marginalize and criminalize and penalize members of the LGBT community worldwide. It is an unacceptable step backwards on behalf of human rights. But it is also a step that undermines the effectiveness of efforts to [AIDS] worldwide." Although it's obviously important to talk about strategies to treat and combat the spread of AIDS "worldwide", I wonder at the need to repeat that phrase. To me, this passage ended up sounding a little hypocritical in light of the fact that repealing the ban on people living with HIV immigrating or traveling to the US has taken so long. In the reading, Grewal talks about the issue of gender-based asylum, and I wonder what effect this ban has had on women who may want to seek refugee status in the US. I also wonder whether she was referencing sex-workers (in the US or abroad) at all within the group of "stigmatized" people, and why the issue of the the "prostitution pledge" instituted by PEPFAR wasn't referenced explicitly. It would seem that, as Grewal posited, sex-based violence perpetuated by people in one's own society is still a taboo subject and explicit discussion (and therefore effective aid and policy reform regarding)this cannot be, as Grewal puts it, "warmly received."
On a much, much lighter note, I was inspired by Emily's stuffing on Thanksgiving and will be making a roasted chicken (2.50 at West Side Market) with bacon, pecan and apple cider stuffing tomorrow.