Thanksgiving Post

It’s a nice one – go check it out. :-)

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A Lament on Academic Spec Work: * Cry Cry *

Here is a piecemeal rant about the unpaid nature of so much (all?) academic work. (Here I am referring to the Humanities as I know it, though I am well aware that science is full of its own never-ending-post-doc-fueled nightmare job/less scenarios.)
A friend, HH, recently sent along a great comic about asking for free or “spec” work:
(Excerpt respectfully linked back to Maki Naro’s full piece, “What Happens When You Ask a Cartoonist for Free Work?” from 17 August 2015.)
The email immediately following hers in my inbox was from a list-serv and included the following call for — perhaps you guessed? — academic spec work:
I removed the name of the society because it’s not particularly relevant. This kind of call for submissions, blog posts, and other forms of academic labo(u)r go out All. The. Time. but nobody has made a great comic explaining why this is a crappity crap method of exploiting intellectual work.
The FAQ at reads, in part:

What is spec work?

Basically, spec work is any kind of creative work rendered and submitted, either partial or completed, by designers to prospective clients before taking steps to secure both their work and equitable fees. Under these conditions, designers will often be asked to submit work under the guise of either a contest or an entry exam on actual, existing jobs as a “test” of their skill. In addition, the designers normally unwittingly lose all rights to their creative work because they failed to protect themselves by means of a contract or agreement. […]

Why is spec work unethical?

The designers in essence work free of charge and with an often falsely advertised, overinflated promise for future employment; or are given other insufficient forms of compensation. Usually these glorified prizes or “carrots” appear tantalising for creative communicators just starting out, ending with encouraging examples like “good for your portfolio” or “gain recognition.”

Their questions regarding the pursuit of unpaid labo(u)r fit academia quite well with only a few tweaks (underlined – changed from artists and visual creativity to academics and written expression):
  • Will I equitably pay a researcher for the work rendered as if they were hired under contract to do the same thing?
  • Will I negotiate proper compensation for the usage rights commensurate to the scholar’s level of skill?
  • Will I return the working files and usage rights to all submitted writing?
In conclusion… maybe all academic work is spec work. I say this not only because of the competition mentioned above from some academic history society, but because a scholarly CV (or at least a so-called “good” scholarly CV) includes lots and lots of unpaid writing. Better yet, it sometimes includes your writing that you have to pay to see.
I don’t even have access to an article that I wrote!
TL;DR (too long; didn’t read) is now BPW;DR (behind pay wall; didn’t read)
Laments about graduate work are prolific and painful. As commentator EC so succinctly and articulately wrote:
grad fuI’ve pointed this out elsewhere, but it is hilarious when schools post positions for adjunct instructors to teach courses on Social Justice.
come on
Are you kidding me? You’ve got to be kidding me. Even the Jesuits are doing this! Come on!
Plenty more ranting on the topic of unpaid academic labo(u)r as spec work is possible, and likely necessary, but perhaps scratching the surface here will help others be a bit more aware of the issue and–perhaps–encourage some pushback to the many list servs, calls for papers, employment hopportunities (where you have to hop to it with little or no compensation), and journal submission processes that favo(u)r those who are unpaid and otherwise ill-served by the practice of spec work.
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Everything you never wanted to know about parenting

This is a deviation from the regularly scheduled programing about map-related research, but I did promise tangents in the blog byline… We will return to our regularly scheduled programming sometime – likely after this tiny mammal in my house turns 18 and heads off to McGill.

Having now read every book available in the English language on infants, I can tell you that only one of two anecdotes will emerge from any attempt made by any parents to do anything:

(1) We tried this one trick and now our baby sleeps 13 hours at night with two 3 hour naps during the day! Also does math! And light housework!

(2) I nursed him on demand around the clock and now his spouse is ambivalent about bedsharing with the mother-in-law 32 years later.

Some other great excerpts:

  • “Don’t allow your bedtime routine to last more than 45 minutes.” (WHAT HAPPENS AT MINUTE 46?!?! I’ll just assume that everyone spontaneously combusts.)
  • “You have to use sunscreen!!!!”
  • “Never ever ever, under any circumstances, use sunscreen. Your baby has a Vitamin D deficiency. I can tell, from looking out of the page.”
  • “Duct tape your baby into the crib.”
  • “Never even consider using a baby cage or anything other than organic free-range duct tape, you monster!”
  • “If you don’t let your baby cry it out for 10 hours, they will never learn to self-soothe.”
  • “If you let your baby cry it out for 10 minutes, you will give them PTSD.”
  • “Whatever you do, be consistent!”
  • “Try different approaches until you find one that works.”
  • “Your baby is too young to sleep 8 hours straight.”
  • “Your baby is too old not to be sleeping 6 hours straight.”
  • “You’ve given that baby a sleep disorder. Just give up now before you ruin things further.”
  • “One time, this one thing happened when a baby was 2 weeks old, and that baby grew up to be Prime Minister / a serial killer / a star athlete / a master chess player / a real creep / way too into Star Wars. Can’t possibly be a correlation! Must be a causal link.” (Pediatricians are especially great at drawing these types of data-based conclusions.)
  • “Breastfed babies have an IQ 1000 times higher than formula-fed babies.” (The pediatrician who actually said this to me clearly wasn’t too familiar with the IQ scale, which only goes to 11.)
  • “Formula-fed babies are 1000 times faster and wittier than breastfed babies.” (Omigod, why are people so invested in policing other people’s decisions!? Babies Need To Eat. Full stop. Unless you are feeding them thumbtacks, you are probably doing the right thing. If your pediatrician recommends feeding them thumbtacks, maybe you should think about finding a new one. Don’t take my advice – I am just thinking out loud over here.)
  • “You shouldn’t read other books about baby parenting because they’re too prescriptive. You should buy MY book though because it is in no way prescriptive as long as you follow these 8254 easy steps to cultivating a happy, healthy, non-mutant child.” (What’s with the mutant shaming?!)
  • “Night nursing will give your baby cavities.”
  • “Anyone who says that night nursing will give your baby cavities is a lying piece of sh*t and you should burn their house down.”

So, basically, as long as you always/never do everything/nothing, you should be fine/everything will be terrible.

All these “experts” drive me up the wall. Remember, “expert” is just another word for “@$$hole with a book deal.” Don’t even get me started on blogs and Facebook groups on any remotely parenting-related topic. People with keyboards are just @$$holes with keyboards. #mommywars

Lots of the books are written by pediatricians with x years of experience and x number of children (usually a different x-value). I find their appeals to the authority of “I am a pediatrician and parent” particularly galling because I don’t know your kids! For all I know, they are tiny terrorists! Why would I take advice from you, rando?!

On the other hand, when I call my aunt with four kids or friend who’s an OB, I appreciate and respect their anecdata because I know those kids are nice or that our friend wouldn’t give us wantonly terrible information. Thanks for all that, friends.

The most important things people have told me that I would like to highlight thus far (what are we, 100-odd days in? Expertise-sharing time!) in the parenting process are:

TRUST. Trust yourself. Trust your baby. Trust your instincts.

When I first read advice to “Trust your instincts,” I was like “WHAT INSTINCTS?! I DON’T HAVE ANY INSTINCTS!” Yes, yes, you do. Any parent who is paying half a percent of attention has instincts.

Not “I can anticipate my child’s every want and need because we are psychically linked” instincts (which is kind of what I thought I was supposed to be doing / feeling), but “Hey, he’s getting squirrely, it’s been a while since he napped, and every other status marker (food, diaper, etc.) is dealt with, so he must need a nap again” instincts.

You know stuff. Follow your heart. Do the stuff.

CONFIDENCE. This ties in to trust yourself. You don’t have to listen to anybody else. Yeah, your kid might not wind up going to McGill, but that won’t be because you swaddled her or let her cry for thirty seconds. It will be because you DIDN’T BREASTFEED or DIDN’T FORMULA FEED (whichever one you are doing is the wrong one, unless you are doing both, in which case you are twice as wrong).

All families are different and all babies are different. Unless your baby is the 50th percentile of ALL THE THINGS, and generally very middle of the road (and even if they are!), then some things will and won’t work (or even fit) for you and your baby at different times (swaddles, swings, newborn size onesies, whatever!).

As one friend told me, as long as you take all of the knives out of the crib, you’re doing okay.

Remember, the charlatans selling books on infant sleep aren’t real prophets–they are preying on your sleep-deprived self and auto-filled credit card information. After all, Jesus wasn’t a Bible salesman.

SUPPORT. SO MANY of these stupid, stupid, stupid child rearing / sleep training books are like “Well you really want to kid out of your bed so your partner can stop sleeping on the couch. Your partner has needs, too, you know!” ‘You gotta put that baby down for naps so you have time to clean the house and make dinner.” “You are a failure as a human being and a terrible wife / mother / doormat.”


What has been helpful is the amount of support we have gotten from family, friends, and, yes, hired help (let’s give a big woohoo for postpartum doulas!). Living far from family with a new baby is hard, but we have had so many great visits from helpful family members and friends, we have great local friends supporting us, and we have a postpartum doula. Plus we have each other, which while a very wishy washy thing to point out, is apparently not the case for 99% of parenting book writers.

If your family suuuucks, then I am sorry, but hopefully you can hire help! If not, ask around your church or join an online support group or, last ditch scenario, call the fire department.

CONSISTENCY. Babies literally just got here. They have no idea what’s going on. Bed time might sound a little post-Industrial Revolution, but having a consistent routine (versus maybe an EXACT schedule) seems like it can really help babies (and probably kids, but who knows anything?! no one).

Adults dig rituals, too, if you think about it. Wake up, have a coffee. Get to work, check Facebook. Patterns, habits, whatever you want to call it, seem to be a thing for which humans have an affinity.

Considering that your tiny mammal is going to grow 10-40 times their size by the time they’re done baking (assuming a 10 lb baby who grows up to be 100 lbs or a 5 lb baby who grows up to be 200 lbs), their bodies are changing every minute of every single day, so knowing that you will read them a story and then put them to bed can be one thing that kind of barely helps them hold it together during the otherwise traumatic experience of LIFE.

If you are INCONSISTENT one day, that is okay, too. Cut yourself some slack. Everybody is like “no has to mean no, don’t even give in once!” and that is very good advice, but if you can’t follow it every second of every day, it’s okay. Tomorrow is another day. You have time to straighten things out and if something’s not working, you can always try something else! I mean, maybe my kid is going to be pretty messed up, so don’t trust me – just trust yourself and don’t feel bad unless it makes you feel good to do so (which seems like it might be oxymoronic, but you do you).

PATIENCE. Babies don’t always care that you’re being consistent. They have youth, adorableness, and surprising pinching strength on their side, but you have the greatest tool in the parenting arsenal: patience. You can just wait for them to accept things (putting them in a car seat, taking them out of the bath, going to sleep).

You can help and encourage them to accept things (doing homework, eating vegetables), but waiting it out can work just because you have an iPad with a backlog of Dr. Who episodes and they don’t. (Unless you gave the baby an iPad in which case see “they are never getting into McGill,” above.)

That’s it. The five easy (or not so easy) tips that I’ve culled from family, friends, and an array of stupid, stupid, stupid parenting books.

May the wind be always at your back, etc.

Go forth and kick ass.

Special thanks to EM, TM, RY, EC, KP, LK, JKZ, TP, and all the other great parenting role models out their for their support, hilarious text messages, and frequent delivery of burritos.

Please send more burritos.


Here’s a great link from JH: “New Parenting Study Released” by Sarah Miller, 24 March 2014, The New Yorker.

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Remembering 13 September 1759

Bill Nye's Comic History of the US

With an excerpt from Bill Nye’s Comic History of the United States (1894, page 120-122):

In 1759 General Wolfe anchored off Quebec with his fleet and sent a boy up town to ask if there were any letters for him at the post-office, also asking at what time it would be convenient to evacuate the place. The reply came back from General Montcalm, an able French general, that there was no mail for the general, but if Wolfe was dissatisfied with the report he might run up personally and look over the W’s.

Wolfe did so, taking his troops up by an unknown cow-path on the off side of the mountain during the night, and at daylight stood in battle-array on the Plains of Abraham. An attack was made by Montcalm as soon as he got over his wonder and surprise. At the third fire Wolfe was fatally wounded, and as he was carried back to the rear he heard some one exclaim,—

“They run! They run!”

“Who run?” inquired Wolfe.

“The French! The French!” came the reply.

“Now God be praised,” said Wolfe, “I die happy.”

Montcalm had a similar experience. He was fatally wounded. “They run! They run!” he heard some one say.

“Who run?” exclaimed Montcalm, wetting his lips with a lemonade-glass of cognac.

“We do,” replied the man.

“Then so much the better,” said Montcalm, as his eye lighted up, “for I shall not live to see Quebec surrendered.”

This shows what can be done without a rehearsal; also how the historian has to control himself in order to avoid lying.

The death of these two brave men is a beautiful and dramatic incident in the history of our country, and should be remembered by every school-boy, because neither lived to write articles criticising the other.

Five days later the city capitulated. An attempt was made to recapture it, but it was not successful. Canada fell into the hands of the English, and from the open Polar Sea to the Mississippi the English flag floated.

What an empire!

What a game-preserve!

Florida was now ceded to the already cedy crown of England by Spain, and brandy-and-soda for the wealthy and bitter beer became the drink of the poor.

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Celebrating Six Years of Friendship, or That Time I Made a Friend at the O-Train Station

Around Labo(u)r Day each year, I fondly remember once upon a time…

In September 2009, on Labo(u)r Day weekend, I moved to Ottawa, Ontario, to study for a Master’s in Canadian Studies at Carleton University. I had found a room in a house to rent using some sort of internet-based search (possibly Craigslist). Since it was a holiday weekend, my brand new housemates headed off on a caping trip a few minutes after I moved in. They left me a key and I, intrepid explorer that I am, saved my unpacking for later and headed off to join in the Grad Welcome Weeks events on campus.

As I left my new house for the first time, firmly locking the door behind me, I thought, “You know, I am in a new city in a foreign country for the first time. I don’t have a cell phone or really anything other than a wallet with U.S. currency in it. I’d better just check and make sure that I can get back into the house in case I get back late, in the dark, and / or I am kind of tipsy from Canadian beers.” (After all, some of the Welcome Weeks events were scheduled to occur in a pub called “Mike’s Place.”) I’d like to give a slight tip of the hat to Past Amanda for looking out for Future Amanda. Whatever part of my lizard brain made me double-check my ability to unlock the door turned out to be a Good Instinct.

Turning back to the house, I tried my new key on the door that I had locked behind me. I jiggled the key to the left. I jiggled the key to the right. I tried the handle. The door didn’t open. I retried the key. The door didn’t open. I thought about the consequences of being locked out of a new house in a new city with no cell phone and limited / no Canadian cash assets, unable to contact my new roommates away on a camping trip (their cell numbers were safely locked inside the house with the land line telephone), with new neighbo(u)rs who didn’t know me at all and probably thought I was trying to break in…

Then I figured I should focus up and try the key again. No dice. After a few more futile attempts (okay, several more increasingly panicked futile attempts), I reevaluated the situation.

“Well,” I thought to myself, “I can stand here all day being locked out of the house until it gets dark and one of the neighbo(u)rs finally calls the cops about my break-in attempts, or I can head off to campus and see what I can do about that Canadian beer. If I leave right now, I might just barely make it to the Welcome Weeks parade event on time.”

Off to campus I rapidly wandered, getting a little lost along the way because the part of Ottawa that I was in had looked way more walkable on Google maps before I left my computer and phone and internet access behind a locked door.

Man, I got so lost. This isn't even the path I wound up following. It was a mess. And it was so hot out! (Surprisingly so, for Canada. HA, WEATHER JOKE.)  And I forgot my sunscreen. Did I mention that I study maps because I am terrible at directions? Anyway, it was pretty scenic, even if I was too stressed out to appreciate it at the time.

Man, I got so lost. This isn’t even the path I wound up following. I was a mess. And it was so hot out! (Surprisingly so, for Canada. HA, WEATHER JOKE.) And I forgot my sunscreen. Did I mention that I study maps because I am terrible at directions? Anyway, it was pretty scenic, even if I was too stressed out to appreciate it at the time.

About an hour later, a bit breathless and sunburnt, I arrived at something called an “O-Train” station just in time to meet up with the departing Welcome Weeks group that was headed to a citywide Labo(u)r Day parade.

“Hello!” I introduced myself to the group of fellow newbie grad students and our fearless Welcome Weeks coordinator. “My name is Amanda! I’m from Chicago and I was wondering if I could sleep over at anyone’s house tonight because I sure am locked out of mine.”

Most of the other newbie grad students shuffled their feet and looked askance at this admittedly bizarre request, but one Canadian (whose name I later learned was AY) exclaimed: “At least you’re not locked out of your house in Chicago!”

“HOW DARE YOU SPEAK THAT WAY ABOUT CHICAGO, YOU TERRIBLE PERSON,” I thought to myself. “Why are Canadians always hating on the United States and our ridiculous crime rates?! What sanctimonious jerks.” (Not to mention, being locked out of my house in Chicago wouldn’t have been quite as much of a problem for me, since I actually knew other human residents of Chicago. And had a U.S. cell phone. And U.S. currency. Needless to say, I did not appreciate her point at the time.)

“Uh huh…” I said out loud. “So, can I sleep over at your place or what?”

“Well, I’m AY. It’s nice to meet you, I think… Let me just check with my brand new housemates, but it should probably be fine!”

In the end, it turned out that we all had a lovely time at the parade, a fabulous time at the over-crowded Mike’s Place, and that AY had actually attended the University of Chicago so kind of had a reasonable justification about her “not being locked out in Chicago” comment. Her housemates were amenable (enough) to a random person spending the night, and thus a friendship was forged from the initial flames of animosity.

The next day, I had my student ID photo taken, and I still have my disheveled, sunburnt, day-old outfit photo to commemorate the kindness of strangers (even Canadian strangers) who became fast friends through their kindness, generosity, and general awesomeness. My housemates eventually returned from their camping trip to find me on the front stoop.

“Oh, I forgot to tell you – the lock is really tricky,” one of them said.

P.S. AY’s totally at my house right now – our first non-family house guest since we had a kid! Although really, I do consider her family (along with the chick that I followed to Wal-Mart to befriend, and the chick I met on a trampoline at the gym, but those are stories for another time). Who else would let you just sleep over with no questions asked, coming to your aid when you needed it quite a bit!?

Happy Friend-aversary, Friend. :-D

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Giving Birth in a Baby-Unfriendly Hospital

As some of you may know, I have a more than passing interest in Baby-Friendly hospitals and the certification process, as well as adorable YouTube videos on the topic:

Someone close to me recently experienced a baby-unfriendly birth (despite the protestations of two obstetricians, who didn’t know about Baby-Friendly certification and both ironically insisted, “we’re not baby unfriendly!”).

She and her partner filed a grievance with the hospital and, in the spirit of posting once a month, I thought I’d share excerpts from her letter with you (with names removed as a friendly gesture to protect the unfriendly). Apparently the delivering obstetrician repeatedly told her she was going to die, despite the fact that she was not in any risk of dying (well, any more so than any other low-risk, average laboring woman).

Her letter offers a glimpse into her experience of hospital culture. The experience came as a surprise to a fairly well-prepared couple, so I hope it helps others in their decision making process, or at least gives readers some nice tips on how to tell people off in  a professional tone.

Our baby was born at X Hospital. We are writing to express our gratitude for the efforts of several members of the hospital staff, and our appreciation for the excellent care we received both at prenatal visits and in the Moms & Babies wing.

We were pleased to fall into the capable hands of Dr. G for prenatal care. She was attentive and thorough at each of our prenatal visits, as was the nurse practitioner. Furthermore, the nursing staff was cheerful, pleasant, and encouraging. They all happily answered our many questions, and Dr. G was a positive presence in the delivery room before her shift ended. The front desk staff was courteous and friendly at each visit, as well, helpfully scheduling and rescheduling our many appointments.

As first time parents, we were similarly pleased with the baby care courses we attended. The two-day class on childbirth and her hospital tour was a useful and often hilarious introduction to labor, delivery, and parenthood. The breastfeeding class materials were useful and the classes were reasonably priced and conveniently scheduled.

Many of the nurses we encountered in Labor & Delivery were kind, supportive, and friendly. For the most part, they read and respected the “birth preferences” document that we had prepared. We felt confident and encouraged by many of the nursing staff members as well as the anesthesiologists. Even though we had wanted to avoid an epidural, the anesthesiologist’s detailed explanation of the procedure reassured us, and the epidural ultimately provided a much-needed rest in the labor process.

We credit one nurse in particular whose arrival and immediate proclamation, “I see hair!” definitely gave the room a positive push in the right direction, as our baby was born only half an hour later.

While in the Moms & Babies wing, we found the nursing staff to be friendly and helpful. We received excellent postpartum care, including encouragement and information regarding breastfeeding, answers to our many (more!) questions, a visit from Dr. G, and even surprisingly delicious hospital food (as promised in the childbirth preparation class!).

However, we are writing to inform you that we will never be delivering another child at X Hospital, and we are discouraging everyone we meet from ever delivering there, as the wonderful facilities and stellar support staff are still not enough to outweigh even the risk of once again encountering Dr. R (the OB who took over after Dr. G’s shift ended).

In the 8 hours we were under Dr. R’s care, we endured the following offenses:

  • While I was in labor, he came into our room and announced that he was there to deliver my baby. He then realized he was in the wrong room and left.
  • Dr. R returned a bit later and immediately took a very stern and condescending tone with me, my partner, and my doula. He urged me to take Pitocin, threatening that failure to do so would lead to hemorrhage, hysterectomy, and death without ever providing any explanation as to how or why. While researching Pitocin in anticipation of childbirth, we had learned that all of these were also side effects of taking Pitocin, as well, a fact that he neither mentioned nor discussed with us in any meaningful way. His recommendation to administer Pitocin came in spite of the fact that I had already made excellent progress during a perfectly normal, low-risk, natural labor.
  • After we declined the Pitocin, Dr. R sent in a high-risk specialist, Dr. L.  We had a refreshingly positive and respectful conversation with Dr. L, who walked us through all our treatment options and their associated risks and benefits. She remarked that she does not usually get called into “normal” labor and delivery cases like ours, which led us to believe that Dr. R had made an inappropriate use of her time, our time, and hospital resources.
  • Dr. R returned, and I agreed that I would sign the form indicating that I was going against his medical advice. He said that he respected my right to make the decision not to take Pitocin, but that it was the wrong decision.
  • Even after I signed the “Against Medical Advice” form, he continued to badger me about taking Pitocin, frequently trying to scare me with the threat of impending death. He asked me how long I planned to be in labor, and when I replied “As long as it takes,” he said, “You could be dead by then.” Such remarks are not only poor bedside manner, they brought unnecessary fear and distress into what is, on its own, a scary and stressful situation.
  • In probing me for my justification for my choice not to take Pitocin, Dr. R casually mentioned bringing in the hospital lawyers, needlessly questioned the credentials of my birth team, insulted my mother by questioning her competence as a medical professional simply for supporting my decision, was rude and condescending to my doula, and generally behaved in a completely unprofessional and unhelpful manner.

We felt fortunate to be so prepared for our labor and delivery and were confident in our own choices regarding our medical care; we shudder to think of how anyone without the immense support and preparation we had on our side could endure the stress Dr. R brings to the labor and delivery room.

We will be going elsewhere for the delivery of our next baby, as we dread the possibility of having to once again cross paths with Dr. R, his grossly unprofessional behavior, and his appalling bedside manner.


Despite the fact that PAMF promised to address grievances in writing within 30 days, three months have now passed…


Because you know what every new mom wants is to be running around sending hate mail to multiple addresses (including the California Department of Public Health, the Santa Clara County Department of Public Health, the Medical Board of California, and the Santa Clara County Medical Association).


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Guest Post: Jillian Klean Zwilling on Feminism

Jillian Marie Klean Zwilling was recently interviewed by a high school student on the topic of feminism. Her answers impressed me so much that I decided to share the full interview here:

Why do you think there is so much backlash with feminism compared to other civil rights movements?

The backlash really has been happening from the beginning of the movement, going back to suffrage, and the reasons given for the backlash have changed substantially over time. I think we have very short cultural memories and think that the backlash is a new phenomenon, but it really isn’t. Alice Paul and Lucy Stone were jailed for working for suffrage. Many people just don’t know that history. This has been true for every single civil rights movement in this country, there has always been a backlash to change. Post slavery, many freed slaves faced horrific conditions and the struggle for voting rights for black men was very fraught. We are more familiar with the history of some groups than others, and those groups often faced significant hardship to make that history more visible to the general public.

In terms of the very recent backlash, I think it is a confluence of many issues. I think Susan Faludi’s work on the backlash does a nice job of pointing out that many people had a vested interest in keeping women out of the upper echelons of the workforce and keeping them from attaining financial freedom in ways they hadn’t before. Women who wanted to achieve top positions and get top quality educations were assigned negative stereotypes and some media outlets were quick to pick those up and perpetuate them.   Any time there is a change in the cultural norm, it takes time for the general population to adjust. But I think most people would agree that getting the vote, and working for women to have more equality in society has had overall positive outcomes. The feminist movement in some ways is a victim of its own success- many younger women look around and feel like equality has been achieved so there is no reason to join the movement, but with the wage gap and other issues of inequality that plague our society there is still more work to be done. Also, there has been a very erroneous message on the part of some younger women who feel that if they claim they are feminists that means they hate men or are working for women to have special privileges, but that is not a tenet of the movement- instead its an argument used to downplay the importance of the movement. On it’s face, feminism is about equality for everyone and that helps both men and women.

Where do you think misconceptions of feminism originate from?

I think a lot of the misconceptions come from the fact that there is no one “type” of feminist- instead feminism is invoked in many different ways by different people, not always with a clear understand of the history of the movement or the theory. Feminism has been painted as a big scary thing by those groups opposed to it, and that message seems to get picked up more often then the messages of actual feminists. There have also been active attempts by some more conservative groups to paint anyone who wants equal rights for women or people of color as extremists who want “special privileges” or to take over society with special interests. I have had conversations about feminism with many, many people and the interesting thing is how many different ideas have about feminism and what is stands for. There is so much controversy about what feminism means, when really it is a very simple idea: equality for all people.

What can feminists do or are currently doing to battle misconceptions of feminism?

I think it is very important for women and men to think about how sexism impacts them personally, and why they might have different expectations for the behavior of men and women. It is important to think about why we are so quick to accept less than full change in this country, as opposed to pushing for full equality. Every year the ERA has been presented to congress since the 1970s and it still has yet to pass. We still have a wage gap in this country, and we are in the very bottom half of the industrialized world when it comes to maternal/fetal health care. The same groups who are espousing “family values” messages are the same groups who opposed paid maternity leave or universal pre-school, why is that? Why are women still evaluated on their attractiveness as opposed to their ideas or contributions to society? Why do women continue to be actively objectified in our mainstream culture? I am very encouraged to see many young women taking up the mantle of equality and women who are in positions of power critiquing the systems they live in. I think women like Beyonce and Taylor Swift are starting some great conversations in feminist circles, and in the general public about how they view themselves and their industry. I am encouraged that men are continuing to publically identify with equality as well. Mark Ruffalo playing the Hulk and also standing for equality is such a great thing!

It seems the word feminism has a bad reputation. Do you think feminists should consider a different name?

Personally, I don’t think changing the name of the movement does much more then further fracture people’s understanding of the movement. Historically, there have been different groups who have claimed different sub-feminist group names (radical feminist, liberal feminists, eco-feminists), but just like any other living movement, there are disagreements between how the movement should proceed and what the important issues are and how to make changes. I don’t think the label is as important as the work that feminists do to ensure equality for everyone, regardless of sex, gender, race, creed, religion, etc.

Where do you see sexism in your day to day life?

I primarily work with college students, and I have to say that many of them are very cognizant of gender and race discrimination, but I still see issues on campus related to race, gender and sexuality discrimination. I still see a lot of pressure on young women to dress and act in particular ways, and the issue of sexual assault is one that affects women disproportionately.   Men do experience sexual assault as well, but historically women who experience sexual assaults are blamed for their assaults in cases of acquaintance rape. This leads to message that women need to stay indoors after dark, that women who drink are responsible for their assaults because they had a drink, that dressing in particular ways is responsible for sexual assaults. Messages like this are not usually aimed at men. That said, men who do experience sexual assault also face significant problems and their masculinity is questioned if they report. In some countries, the way that the laws are written there is no recognition that a man could be sexually assaulted at all. So in the case of sexual assault, victims of either sex face significant stigma and that is very problematic. Anyone who has been assaulted should be able to come forward without facing these types of issues.

There are also studies that show that women who teach are treated differently by students and colleagues than men who teach. People of color who teach are treated differently then white professors. We have inherent biases in behavior that mean we have different expectations for how to treat people and what behavior we expect from them. Women professors are more likely to be thought of as “shrews” when they are assertive, but that same behavior is encouraged in men. Women are not encouraged to negotiate when they are offered jobs but we always expect men to negotiate for more money. Women who do negotiate are often perceived more negatively and it can influence their job opportunities. The expectation that women teachers in general are supposed to be nurturing and maternal effects how women are treated in the classroom both as the teacher and the student. Women also tend to drop out of higher education when they have children and are more likely to be in contingent faculty positions as opposed to tenure track positions because of the biological realities of child bearing. This is bad for both men and women as they work to combat those stereotypes, but it does disproportionally affect women in terms of career and economics.

What form of sexism do you see the most?

I think that most women have experienced micro-aggressions at some point in their lives. Micro-aggressions are when sexism is veiled, so instead of overt sexism, when women are made to feel less than by comments or treated poorly, and then told to “lighten up!” or “it’s a just a joke!”. Micro aggressions are the reason women politicians are discussed in terms of their hair or wardrobe by the media, as opposed to their ideas. It is when a group of people have a meeting and everyone assumes the women will make cookies or coffee without a thought about asking if the men should bring the cookies. Or the expectation that women are supposed to clean or maintain the office kitchen or other roles that aren’t really part of their job descriptions, but are just expected. This is true in terms of many areas of a woman’s life- and often women are made to feel that if they protest these types of things they are being overly sensitive, because it’s not overt sexism, but it does have an impact.

I would say that men face sexism as well. Our culture tells men to suppress their emotions and to act in particular ways that are harmful for men as well. Sexism doesn’t just impact women, it also impacts men in negative ways. We continue in this culture to have a very rigid gender binary and that is harmful to anyone who doesn’t conform to the binary.

Do you think feminists can succeed in gaining equality if people do not understand what feminists are trying to accomplish?

Any time a movement is working toward something, there is always a need for awareness and advocacy. I think as people learn about the movement and what feminism actually stands for, it is hard to argue for continuing inequality for anyone. Again, I don’t think it is so much the label, as the work for equality.

What motivated you to go into academia and address issues of gender?

In terms of motivation, I was working on my M.A. degree in communication studies, and I started to notice that there were many examples of gendered representations in the media that I was examining for my thesis and that those representation were very interesting! I wasn’t planning to research gender specific topics, but it ended up emerging because I couldn’t talk about my work without including these important representations. I research medicine and women’s health, and so gender has to be a part of how I talk about my research, and I also think it has to be a way that we think about the world that we live in. Intersectionality (thinking about issues of race, gender, class and privilege and how they overlap) is very important in both my work and my life.

Do you have any final thoughts?

I think it would be great if more people were exposed to the history of the women’s movement in this country, and if people would do the research to learn about the movement as opposed to listening to the negative hype. If you want to disagree with something, take the time to learn about it. Be an educated dissenter!

Jillian Klean Zwilling is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Communication and an instructor in the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Illinois. Her research is centered in the medical humanities and rhetorical theory. She examines women’s health issues through the medium of advertising.

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Hello, readers!

The blog will be on hiatus for approximately 12 months, with intermittent posts when possible.

Have fun in the archives!

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Norman Rockwell Swipes

Not sure that I would actually classify this as a “swipes file,” since it’s mostly the same image, but I give you:


“Happy Birthday, Miss Jones,” Norman RockwellSaturday Evening Post, 17 March 1956.

New York Times, 9 November 2001

New York Times, 9 November 2001


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California Map Society Conference, May 2015: “Ghosts of Former Indigenous Inhabitants of Stanford University”

CMSAs a new student member of the California Map Society, I was delighted to have the opportunity to attend the Society’s conference at Stanford University on 2 May 2015. The speakers covered a range of fascinating topics. For the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing my notes from each talk from the event in separate blog posts.

Ghosts of Former Indigenous Inhabitants of Stanford University – John West


John West spoke about his “Ohlone Stanford Lands” map published in An Atlas of Stanford Counter Maps. I noticed this map during our lunch time tour of Branner Library:

counter map4West explained that part of the inspiration for his cartographic creation came from the mission architecture style on the campus of Stanford University:


He noted that the red tile roofs, stone arches, and fountains are a part of the “Stanford brand” that stands in contrast to the gothic architecture of East Coast ivy league schools. Despite positioning itself as some sort of “ahistorical techno-utopia” (focused on technology, innovation, and novelty), the Spanish mission architecture style, as West argued, actually celebrates colonialism in a visual tribute to the genocide of three quarters of the people on this continent. He pointed out the contradiction between unoccupied land (that was never “in use”) and emptied land (that Indigenous inhabitants have left), noting that these myths work together in support of colonialism and ongoing dispossession.

West used a 1950s survey map (measuring 4 feet by 5 feet) as the base map for his project in an effort to the visual contradiction between an authentic / outsider perspective. Working with Dr. Laura Jones of the Stanford Archeology Department, West initially planned to use his map to show how the Ohlone peoples had densely occupied the Stanford campus, based on the extensive archeological excavations all over the campus.

However, under state (and federal) law, active archeological digs must remain confidential to avoid vandalism and looting, so West instead chose to highlight historical resources, such as waterways, wildlife, and forests–with evidence regarding the latter derived as well as possible from 1940s ariel photos. The river and forests extend beyond the arbitrary boundaries of private boundaries. To avoid having his map show merely a collection of natural resources, West included contemporary sites to show that the Indigenous presence is not gone from the territory. Some of the present-day campus locations of importance to the Native American community and Ohlone peoples that West included on his map are:

1) Cantor Arts Center, which houses many Native American art materials and objects

2) Stanford Powwow, an annual event with roughly 30,000 attendees

3) Stanford Stadium, where alumni attempt to reclaim the inaccurate “Indian” mascot

4) Stanford Archeology Department, which conducts studies and digs on campus

5) Native American Cultural Center, which supports Indigenous students on campus

6) Muwekma-Tah-Ruk, an on-campus house for Indigenous students

7) Field Conservation Facility, which is affiliated with the Archeology Department and houses some of Dr. Jones’s findings from campus

8) Jasper Ridge, which is closed to the public but occasionally used for Ohlone ceremonies

9) Petroglyphs and bedrock quarries, both important to Ohlone peoples and archeological digs. Since these are already publicly known, their locations did not have to remain secret like the active digs.

10) Mount Diablo, which is considered a creation space by many Ohlone peoples

With his map and his talk, West strove to problematize history as it is learned in schools (through celebrations of Columbus Day) and urged us to unlearn lessons about the supposedly “virgin territory” of the United States (and the Stanford campus) by highlighting continuous occupation by Ohlone peoples along the riverbed, as well as use of oak groves for shelter, acorns, and hunting.

Although the present-day Stanford campus that is most broadly accessible includes the quad, residences, and classroom buildings, these are mainly in the precolonial swampy area. While the public can access much of the campus and the Stanford Dish hiking trail, access to much of the 8,000 acres (or 24 square miles) of the campus remain restricted. West used the technique of blacking out names to showcase the physical redaction of names from the historical record and indicate that Ohlone names for the territory may be unknown to contemporary cartographers, but despite this erasure from history, the area was richly labelled and named, densely occupied, and lived in by the Ohlone peoples.

West concluded: “genocide doesn’t disappear just because we’re not talking about it.”

His map was an excellent launching point for further conversations about genocide and colonial dispossession on the Stanford University campus, in California, in the United States, and in the Americas.

Further Reading:

– Joe Bryan and Denis Wood, Weaponizing Maps: Indigenous Peoples and Counterinsurgency in the Americas, 2015.

– CBC News, “First Nations learn to map territories using Google Earth,” 25 August 2014.

– Sacred Land Film Project, “U.S. Laws & Court Cases Involving Sacred Lands

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