Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Why feminists must stand against government oppression in Mexico

Read this.

Then call.

Or write. (There's a template).

I'm not just giving orders--I promise, I'm doing this, too.

A Bunch of Stuff

First of all, thanks to everyone who expressed their sympathy and/or shared stories in the post below. Made me feel not so alone.

Rebecca, I laughed over your lunch invitation because for some reason it made me think of this scene in one of Tyler Perry's plays:
Cora, who's plus-sized, tells Brown that a nice man had invited her to lunch.
Brown, who's suspicious of the man's interest says, "Cora, that's how them mens get you."
Cora: "How?"
Brown: "They know you like lunch!"
I know, I know, reinforces stereotypes, but yeah, you can't miss me with a lunch offer. :-p

Is there any reason for there to be bumper-to-bumper traffic in the middle of the day? Good grief.

Initial (b/c I know there will be more to come) revisions are virtually done--just need to tighten one section. And, b/c I'd been working on the next chapter while stalling on this one, I promised advisor a very rough draft by the end of next week. Even if I chicken out and don't finish until the 16th, I'll be back on track.

Happy Hallowe'en and Happy Birthday to Cousin T! I wasn't going to take the kids trick-or-treating, because my neighborhood's not big on it and I was wary of taking them to the neighborhood where their school is. Why? Because it is predominantly white and I was afraid... well you can imagine what I was afraid of. And then I said to myself, "Self," I said, "Could you, for once in your life, get past lessons previously learned and your own biases and give people the benefit of the doubt? Maybe, just maybe they're not going to greet you with evil looks and slamming doors (See how ridiculous that is when I say it out loud?). It's just Hallowe'en!" And you know what?

They had a blast! They racked up. One elderly lady asked me if she could hug them because they were the only trick-or-treaters she'd had.

My favorite Jack o'Lantern this year:

**picture removed**

And the best web-shooter ever:

**picture removed**

Sorry, no pics of my crew. They went as Batman and Superman. Or, as one guy imagined, Batman and Robin-disguised-as-Superman.

Monday, October 30, 2006

I Had the Kind of Weekend...

...that makes you break off your acrylic fingernails so you can give into the desire to nervously chew your real nails into inexistence.

...heralded by your son's report card on Thursday that made you wonder (shame on you), "Lord, did this child inherit anything from me?"

...in which the good news that your department was guaranteeing you funding in the spring was offset by the facts that: 1) said funding comes with a waiver of out of state fees 2) said waiver increases your financial aid 3) hellish financial aid office decides you have been overawarded 4) said financial aid office returns your $2000 loan 5) you now immediately owe the university $2000, $1600 of which is "past due." Irony? I may be dropped from my hours which means I won't have funding/a job, which means I won't get the waiver, which makes all this redundant.

... during which you realize that without the acrylic nails, you can't engage in your other nervous habit--yanking out your eyelashes.

...in which you finish hand writing your revisions and are too tired to type them up.

...in which your increasingly insignificant other pisses you off further.

...during which you learn not only does being fat mean you must be unhealthy, it means you are misshapen (check the comments) and use more than your fair share of gasoline. Just so I can beat them to it, let me admit that I also tell little kids there is no Santa Claus, once stole from the tooth fairy, won't be a virgin if I get married, and single-handedly threw the 2000 presidential election. And my misdeeds ain't over because I'm not ready to sing.

...where you get to the library on Sunday at seven and all the close, well-lit parking spots are taken. Now, since you didn't really want to go, imagine what you have to bribe yourself with to stay.

...in which your use of the word "bitch" spikes exponentially as you use it randomly toward drivers, irksome family members, people blocking the aisle at the grocery store and your sister who's in the same mood as you.

...that ends with the observation, "I know damned well it ain't Monday again!"

Friday, October 27, 2006

And You Thought the Ghetto Party Was Something

Via Rachel:
In yet another case of blackface racism, a group of white Ohio football fans, including children, taunted their black opponents. The racist fans, including this white boy on the left, yelled racial slurs, painted their faces black, beat on frying pans, and wore Afro wigs when their team played a predominantly black opponent. This is really disturbing to see young children engage in this sort of behavior, which really challenges the whole kids are colorblind argument. The coach of the predominantly black team, Jeffrey Saffold, called the head of the youth football association for the white team to complain. Here is a quote from the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
“I think this was a way of supporting the team by showing up in bigoted costumes to mock their minority opponent,” Saffold said.
Saffold said he twice previously complained to Hudson coaches about the use of the N-word.
He said after Sunday’s game, he complained to John Elffers, president of the Hudson Hawks Youth Football Association, who sent him a letter apologizing for the fans’ actions.
Elffers, however, said the first complaint he heard came Monday when Saffold called him and said parents of Shaker players were offended. Elffers said he doubted supporters meant to be offensive.
“Their actions, albeit unwise, foolish and insensitive, were meant to be totally supportive and not intended to insult or offend anyone in any way,” Elffers wrote in his letter to Saffold. “We regret what occurred and apologize for any righteous indignation these actions may have caused to the coaches, players, parents and family members of the Shaker football organization.”
Usually I'd get into the point of "Intent does not matter/is not the primary issue," or "lack of intent does not excuse," blah blah blah.

But this morning, I am tired after a hellish yesterday and what promises to be a grueling weekend. Thus I am not in the mood to be polite and am channelling the great Moksha and calling people on their B.S.

Stop fucking lying. What else could the intent have been? You can't support your team without being in blackface and beating a frying pan? It's a coincidence that you used such things when your kids were playing a "black" team? Stop acting surprised when people are offended. Own your shit!

Stop lying!

***Okay, I may revisit this and say something more articulate later on.***

Thursday, October 26, 2006

I Heart My Family

My cousin J, the one who happens to also be my godsister, has decided that my absence from the phone and e-mail circuit means that something is wrong me. After doing some not-so-discreet research with my sister and my cousin T and "discovering" that I was mostly bogged down in writing, she sent me the following e-mail this morning:
Don't be grading my english either because I wrote this fast! I Love You and don't stress out to much I know that you have a big task at hand but it will work out just fine you are a very beautiful and bright young lady and you can do anything but fail and I love you for that anyway you will be Dr. ___________ sooner than you know and I know you will be the best so take your time finish your work and be the best that you are to me.

Love Ya Sis
I needed that today.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Updates on Overheard in the TA Office...

We have a pair of students in here right now who are too funny in their self-deprecation:

Student 1: I'm convinced I'm going to fail.
TA: Don't say that. Think positive.
Student 1: Okay, we are positive that if we combine our scores we might pass. (Hi-fives Student 2).

Student 2: Why do we have to have a test?
TA: I know; in a perfect world, there'd be no tests.
Student 1 (mumbling): In a perfect world, we wouldn't have to take history.

Student 1: You know how I remember Alexis de Tocqueville?
TA: How?
Student 1: I have to think of him as Alexis de TacoBell. Then I can remember. So what did Alexis de TacoBell think?
Student 2: Girl, please don't write that on the test.

(I missed 1st part of this)
TA: I can't imagine anyone in that era bustin' a cap-
Student 2: That's what Aaron Burr did!
Student 1: Busted a cap right up in Alexander Hamilton!

Student 1: The test is too long. Right about the middle, I start getting senioritis. I'm ready to graduate.
TA: Oh, you're a senior?
Student 2: Miss, she's a freshman.

Student 2: Can we talk about the 2/3 compromise?
TA: You mean the 3/5 compromise?
Student 2 pauses, does some calculations, then, "Dang, 3/5 is less than 2/3. We couldn't even get a 2/3 back then?"

I just had to record these right now--don't worry, despite the humor, they seem to have a pretty good grip on the stuff the TA is covering.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Overheard in the TA Office...

Fellow TA: "These students wanted to see their grades."
elle: "You have 'em right there."

FT: "I know, but they wanted an average. We were wondering if you'd calculated an average." (y'all he waited for me to get back from picking up my lunch to ask me this when he had the 2 students' grades and a calculator)

elle (still pissed off that keeping up with all the grades and all the attendance has become SOLELY my job): "No I have not calculated an average. They have two grades. Y'all can't add, then divide by two? Fellow TA, you can't show them how to add, then divide? No, I will not do it!"

Magically, 2 minutes later, FT, who had the grade printouts and a brain, showed them how to calculate their averages.
Woman, who acts as an interpreter (is that the right word?) for a deaf student:
"I'm looking for Graciela; she wanted to see this student after class."

Graciela (who is white): "For Graciela? I'm Graciela."

Woman stares: "No. Graciela."

Graciela: "I am Graciela. Is he my student?"

Woman: "No, Graciela said-" stops as another TA, Tonya, a Latina, enters the room. Woman to Tonya, "You wanted to see him right... Graciela?"

Tonya:"Yes, but I'm not Graciela, I'm Tonya."
Everyone in the room looks down, embarrassed not so much by the woman's assumption, but by the fact that she was going to insist Tonya's name be "Graciela". She's shameless though. Instead of apologizing:

Woman: "Oh, I must have written the wrong name down."
Elliott (who is a white male): Going outside the United States to a country that's not primarily white can be quite an experience for a white man, because, for a moment, you feel like so many other people must feel. It's not something we ever have to face here.

elle (thinking) well, at least he's thinking about it in some fashion. points to you, elliott!
5 minutes later:

Elliott: Yeah, the sugar, man. You might get diabetes, but at least you won't be fat.

Other TAs laugh. I think about making a snarky comment with my fat self then decide I don't dislike him enough to put his ass on blast.

100 Facts about Elle in 100(ish) Days (13)

Thought I forgot, didn't you?

Fact #13

This is at least 90% me...

Your Dominant Intelligence is Linguistic Intelligence

You are excellent with words and language. You explain yourself well.
An elegant speaker, you can converse well with anyone on the fly.
You are also good at remembering information and convicing someone of your point of view.
A master of creative phrasing and unique words, you enjoy expanding your vocabulary.

You would make a fantastic poet, journalist, writer, teacher, lawyer, politician, or translator.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Art Meme

Wow. So Vanessa (who's guesting at Feministe, btw) tagged me with the "8 images that amaze you" meme and I was petrified--this chick is not much of an art connoisseur and I wondered what in the hell could I put up? The only people I know more than some customary blurb on are Tanner and O'Keefe! There are a few paintings I like (learned about them mostly as a volunteer in my son's art class) and I tried to include them, but I sorta changed the meme to "8 10 images that amaze me or that I love." Here goes:

Fortitude. I love her for the **obvious** reasons. I'm not really used to seeing her from this angle, though.
Lord this was hard to find. I remembered the name--The Cradle--but nothing else. Still need to find the artist's name. It's sad, I know, but isn't it hopeful, too? Something about the way she's nurturing the children.

Ok, a standard. Midsummer Night in Harlem by Palmer Hayden. I love the sense of community--this is my hometown in the summer. Except we don't have brownstones and stoops--we have wood frames and/or tiny brick houses and porches. And we have to wait til the sun goes down some or we'll bake.

While on photobucket checking out a friend's pics, I stumbled upon this, by an Anthony Rodgers, and I liked it a lot. I'm trying to contact him to convince him to call it "Elle A-Straddle the World."

My mom and her beloved baby brother, mid 1950s. My uncle died a few years ago and my mom has never really recovered.

A history of military service-the first is my dad, all young and slim, in Vietnam. He reminds me (when he will talk about it) that he was old enough to be killed, but not old enough to buy a drink, during his first tour.

The second is the only extant (that we know of) picture of my paternal grandfather. He was a World War II vet.

**picture removed**

For juxtaposition, the first picture is of my paternal grandmother, 6 of her granddaughters and 3 of her grandsons (there are 21 of us in all) circa 1987. The next is of all 9 of her granddaughters (for a limited time. God, we all have the same smile!) circa 2003. Can you tell who the six grew up to be? Hint—the two oldest girls (another cousin and me) are not in the first pic and the youngest wasn’t born when it was taken. Picture number 2 is a hot commodity in my family--grainy, but the only one of its kind as my family is widely strewn and we've had one family reunion in my memory.

This spot is reserved for an image that I saw recently that I can't find. It is in the closing credits of Spike Lee's "When the the Levees Broke," an image of a black woman wrapped in an American flag--I may have posted about this already. That image was startling to me and I had to figure out why. I came up with two reasons-one, perhaps I don't really think of that flag as belonging to us and/or two, when you see people wrapped in it, the message usually is that the flag (or the country) offers support or protection--a gross misstatement in the case of Hurricane Katrina survivors.

Ok, I'ma tag a bunch, in hopes that at least a couple will find the time and desire to do it. I tag (complete at your leisure--if you're a meme person) Quinn, Gwyneth, Evanne, Ragey, Zan, Moksha, Nubian, and Ginviren. I'm too lazy to hyperlink y'all's names right now.

Update: Moksha, I started this Friday and I know you've been tagged by someone else in the interim.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Did I Really Say That?

While blogger is/was down, I looked through my archives, prepared to save some of my better posts in case blogger died.

I realized, what a difference almost 11 months make! I have said some ignorant, naive, bordering-on-inexcusable shit on this blog. I started to delete some of it or suspend the posts by hitting "save as draft." But that made me feel like a cheater or something.

Then I thought, in less than a year, I've grown a lot, become a lot less isolated (IRL and here). And I hope the blog shows that--that I was dead wrong or totally uninformed on some things, but that I learned.

And I'm still learning and listening and trying. Please be patient with this work in progress.

Why Is It So Hard to Believe?

The women who visit me here at this blog have pretty much nailed much of what I feel as I wander through this academic process. I collected some quotes from them, but let me begin with one that made my jaw drop, because it is exactly what I think:
sometimes seminars are so draining and kids use LOTS of big words, that i feel like i don't belong--like i'm not really smart and i got in by luck, by chance--and they will soon find me out. -Nubian
My God. I've felt like that from approximately day one of this program. Quinn's going to get tired of me using her as an example, but she's such a good one. Anyway, she and I and a lot of other smart women had this amazing class together. I would sit back and listen to them discuss historians and historiography and various theories that I knew absolutely nothing about and I'd think, "I'm never going to know this stuff like they do." And I still feel that way, in large part, like a faker, like I'm one step away from discovery.

That's why I gave this post this title. I don't know what it will take to convince me, to make me believe that I have the right and the ability to do this. I know that I'm good at school and I've been blessed to have the financial support--full scholarship as an undergrad, 3 nice fellowships as a doctoral student--to support that belief. Still, part of me attributes those fellowships to luck (I wonder who else was applying? I must have had some good recommendation letters.) rather than my abilities. Why?

I think it is centered in who I am--black, woman, having been raised in a Baptist household, etc. Being black and a PhD student, there is always this feeling--can't decide if it's internal or external--that you're an anomaly of sorts. Not solely because you don't see many peope with your racial background (though that is a HUGE part of it) but because you're here at all. It can't be just intelligence, I reason, because I know lots of smart black people who aren't where I am, who didn't even go to college. Why am I here while they are not? Is it chance?

And, as a woman, I really believe I attribute far too much to external factors and not my abilities. To do otherwise would be immodest, a charge that many women don't take lightly. I think as a woman also, I have an idea of my success as a shared thing--that lots of people have had a part in it--rather than a measure of my individual abilitites--a claim I think many men are more comfortable making.

That purported immodesty is an issue for me not only as a woman, but as a Christian, I think. When you come from a hellfire and brimstone background, you internalize the warning to not take too much pride in anything, lest God take it away from you. And, by the very nature of Christianity, you learn not to give yourself too much credit for anything--there's a reason why many parodies of black Christian church services begin with "Giving all honor and glory to God." Thus saying that I've come this far because I'm smart or I'm determined is troublesome because it obscures the role of "God's blessings" in my life. And even when you struggle to try to understand Christianity in new ways, aside from the ones you were taught as a child, it's hard to leave behind all the admonitions and the idea that pride can be deadly.

The self-doubt can be immobilizing--I worry, in my case, that I will defeat myself out of some strange, twisted psychological reason. And, when you doubt yourself, you can't enjoy people's praise. For example, I passed my comprehensive exams with distinction--one of my committee members told me out of all the universities at which he'd worked, mine were the best he'd ever read. That did make me happy, but it also made me anxious, because I live in fear that the dissertation won't live up to the expectations my committe may have formed based on my grades and my exams. So every rough draft becomes a battle--I can't let it be too rough, or Advisor will realize that I'm a faker--and every mistake is amplified in my brain.

I've even managed, in a way, to dissociate my writing from myself. As a grad student, it is what I get the most compliments on. But I am dismissive--"Oh, it comes easily to me, so it must not be worthy of praise," "Oh, I can do the writing, but what about the research--that's the really hard part," and so forth and so on. I can't allow myself to think of it as a skill that I've mastered, but more of a talent--something I am "lucky" enough to know how to do.

But the most frustrating part is the reason that I began this post with Nubian and Quinn: I absolutely hate the fact that other women feel like this. That Nubian and Quinn sometimes doubt themselves is unbelievable and unfair to me because I think know they are brilliant. I see the evidence in this blog world and, in Quinn's case, in real life. That they even have a single moment when they feel like I do makes me want to scream.

Why is it so hard for us to believe? What will it take for us to see?

**Update--A little of Quinn's thoughts.

Below are other observations my brilliant readers have made about this issue:

If you weren't worthy of this work and if you weren't brilliant, you would not even be in the phd program in the first place-Nubian

You can do if you put your mind to it! Ragey

I think this is a hard thing, especially for women, to do. To talk confidently about ourselves without seeming arrogant-Quinn

But, you wouldn't have made it this far if you didn't have the chops.-Gwyneth

You have lots to say... important things to say. Say them. -Gwyneth

You just need to make the point that people besides your committee recognize the skills.-Rebecca

Friday, October 20, 2006

Good Read

Finally convinced my son to check out Nana Upstairs, Nana Downstairs by Tomie De Paolo from the library. He told me over dinner yesterday, "Mama, I read that book. It made me want to cry." I made him go get it immediately and I read it to him, my nephew, and my sister.

And of course, the last few pages made me get all teary-eyed. I loved that book when I was a kid and it's still sweet and poignant.

In other news, the fall carnival is OVER.

I am going to bed!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

superfluous, abd

I am five-minutes-away-from-nervous-breakdown. (Sorry, Quinn). But it is a relatively benign breakdown--brought on by my son's fall carnival being this Friday (and I'm in charge of ticket sales) and trying to wrap up the initial revision of this chapter (I realize that it's been three+ weeks, I want to get it in before a full month!!!).

So, nothing particularly interesting to post except this: in the last couple of days, I have found two quotes that pretty much sum up anything I could've ever planned to do in my career as a historian of black women, labor, the New South, and the effects of the intersections of class, race, and gender on all three. It's not that these quotes say anything new, particularly, but that I like the way that they say it: a few words, a lot of meaning. All my planned scholarship summed up thusly:
The real beauty of whiteness was that all its privileges were masked. White wasn't privileged; white was normal. Whiteness became essential to the American conception of individualism because it is the only racial classification that exists to empower rather than disable its members... For most of American history, the idea of competitive striving among "equals" has presumed whiteness and masculinity. For everyone else, race ensures that the race is over before it has ever begun. -Richard White
My only problem is that this is written in the past tense. Quote #2:
only very rarely, it seems, are sistas able to live in our own damn communities without walking on egg shells… brownfemipower on a comment thread at nubian's.
Having accepted the inherent redundancy in my work, I'm off to finish the tickets.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

History Carnival

So I'm a day (or two) late and a dollar (or several) short.

The history carnival is up, right now, at ClioWeb (edition XLI--for those of us who study more recent times, that number is 41--I think. I had to look at it a few times).

Go forth and read once more.

It's Relative...

**Written a few days ago--no big insights beyond 1) how we perceive poor, in some cases, is relative and 2) I really can be self-centered and clueless.**
Over at Butterfly Cauldron, Zan noted
what constitutes 'poor' is different for people depending on where they live, how they were raised and exactly how many 'poor' people they know.
It made me think of the importance of perceptions, of relativity, of constructions.

For most of my adult life, I've thought of my family as poor when we were kids. And my sister and I have much resentment about that because we didn't have to be. My dad had one of the better paying blue-collar jobs in the area. My mom had a series of jobs--from convenience store work to picking peaches at a local peach orchard--until she got hired as a poultry processing line worker. So, two parents, three kids, two incomes in a tiny 3 bedroom brick house in rural Louisiana. We should've been okay, but it didn't feel like we were.

Oh, and we have a number of complaints. My parents weren't very good with money--they admit that. They didn't save (probably couldn't). My mom loved high-interest credit schemes (she once bought a vacuum cleaner for $2000 plus monthly interest and we didn't have carpet. She could use it to clean other stuff, she's always insisted). My dad, bless his heart, just had other stuff to do with his money. He went through a period where he just "wilded out." He payed the house note, electricity, and gas, but that was it. No groceries, no regular allowances, none of the little everyday things families need (I love my dad, but one of my most bitter memories is going on an FHA trip for 8 days to San Antonio, TX and he bitched and bitched about having to give me money. He gave me $40 (a popular number in the blogosphere, right now). I was going because I had done well at local, regional, and state levels in some competition, but he didn't care). My mom prided herself on feeding a family of five on less than $30 a week (she had to, I guess). She bought lots of generics and somedays we'd come home to things like rutabagas and turnips.

And clothes! Lord, the raison d'etre for girls in my hometown. We got five outfits to start school, one pair of shoes, and a couple more things at Christmas and that was it. No name brand anything. Things got faded or too tight? Too bad. Telephone privileges? Hah! Ours was constantly getting cut off (so damned embarrassing!).

Yet, everyone around us thought we had it so good. A friend once told me, "Hell, y'all were the only ones with a daddy." And the vice-principal would never let Sis and me sign up for summer JTPA jobs--"I know y'all's parents make too much." Still, I was convinced that we had it hard.

Until I started working with people who really had it hard. Until best friend Louisiana told me that one of the reasons she loves me so hard is because I always bought snacks at recess and shared them with her. Not a big deal, right? Well, apparently, whatever I shared with her, she tried to save to take home because it might be all she ate that day. She remembers cuddling up to her mom on the couch when their lights were off for warmth. She remembers being so hungry that it felt like her stomach was touching her back--like there was nothing inside of her. She remembers hand-me-downs and having to take care of her little sister. She remembers her dad sent paltry child support and nothing else.

Which taught me about perception. She thought it was cool that my dad was there and that I had "recess" money and that we had our own house. I thought it was cool that she could make straight parts (learned while combing her little sister's hair), wore trendy clothes (that she remembers as too big, even if they were nice), and was always so totally ready to defend herself or me (she had to learn that).

So as an adult, I get to thinking. I have real issues because I had a house and utilities but no luxuries? I had clothes and shoes but they weren't name brand? I had a mother who came to all our school events, cooked everyday, did homework with us, but didn't line our pockets? I have basically constructed a memory of poverty where, in reality, none existed.

But that construction is as powerful as reality. I continue to live my life based upon it. I am determined never to "look" poor again. Oh I didn't say "be." I said look. Perceptions, you know. And so I get caught up in the sorts of things that Jill was talking about. Only the things I do, they aren't done out of any sense of fun, but of a disturbing form of classism, the desire to set myself apart from (perhaps, above) what I've defined as poor. More troublesome to me is the fact that most of my intimate interactions with poor people have been with poor black women and I wonder if part of me is trying to set myself apart from women I claim as sisters.

Thus my obsession with adornment and teh trendy can be written in the following equation: patriarchy + class hierarchy + internalized racism = one shamed woman.

No fun at all.

Monday, October 16, 2006

One More Thing

I have to tell y'all something, but not a word is to be spoken on it until I say so. Advisor suggested, weeks ago, that I push really hard to graduate in the spring. I was thinking next fall. Now I am unsure.

I don't know if the goal is possible, which is why I don't want to talk about it-- til I bring it up.

Anyway, that update was posted as a transition to this: another committee member has suggested I go on the job market.

As if my unorganized, obsessive self can look for a job and write simultaneously. But aside from my neuroses, I don't think I can find a job because I don't think I'll interview well:

1) No, I can't tell you in a few sentences what my dissertation is about. I don't think I'll know til I'm finished.
2) No, I can't tell you convincingly where it fits in the historiography.
3) Yes, "um" and "ah" are standard English in my world.
4) No, I don't know what half the big words other historians use mean.
5) No, I don't want to teach both halves of the survey.
6) No, I don't know what to say when you ask me about serving on committees my first year.
7) No, I can't just stop saying sir and ma'am to colleagues my parents' age and plus--sorry that it makes me look less authoritative, but that was drilled into me like multiplication facts--you don't expect me to forget those, do you?
8) No, I can't do as Advisor suggested and highlight my honors and awards--that's bragging! You see them on the paper--you ask me about them!

And so on and so forth--though some of these are exaggerated. But this is just what I needed.

Something else to obsess over!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Dean chides law students over ‘ghetto’ party

A link to:
Some minority law students upset
But the photos — in which partygoers carried 40-ounce bottles of malt liquor and wore Afro wigs, necklaces with large medallions and name tags bearing traditionally black and Hispanic names — upset some black law students, said Sophia Lecky, president of the Thurgood Marshall Legal Society.
I'm not going to particularly dissect or discuss this. I don't suppose my hint to "get a clue" will do much good. But why did I highlight that particular line? Cuz I don't like the fact that the AP used it as a header. Cuz from what I've learned over the last couple of weeks, that is code for "we can dismiss this because only they care about it and you know they're humorless, petty, and hypersensitive."

But surely to God someone else besides "some black law students" were upset--not that I give a damn if they weren't, trust me, this was fucked up--because that will at least give their righteous consternation a veneer of legitimacy.

A Short Break

I wrote this really long post on how I've constructed poverty and how I agreed with Zan on the relative nature and how I may be a bit of a "classist." Then, I realized this blog was becoming a series of long posts. I read somewhere that you should keep blog posts brief--it is a norm, apparently. One to which I have a sneaking suspicion Ms. Bitch would say
resist dominant blogging norms. Remember: the oppression is always seen in the norm. Question them and ask how they fuck with us! Subvert! Resist! Change them!
Anyway, this is a short post to break up the monotony. Diatribes will resume shortly.

I'm off to the library!

100 Facts about Elle in 100(ish) Days (12)

Fact #12

I'm cheating--I don't know if these are really facts about me or just a recap, but oh well.

What I did today:
Woke up. Cleaned the bathroom. Showered. Got in bed and read. Blog surfed. Unplugged the modem and gave it to my sister to hide. Read some more. Wrote half a paragraph. Looked at my edited hard copy and tried to figure out how to pull the stuff Advisor wanted out of the notes and put it into the text. Took a nap.

Woke up. Got the modem back for 20 minutes. Checked e-mail. Tried to find critiques of George Borjas--advisor is wary of him and I mentioned him by name at the end of the chapter. Flipped through some blogs. Re-surrendered modem. Played tic-tac-toe, inventive scrabble (rules? we don't need no stinkin' rules!), and read _Giddy Grandma_ with The Kid. Tried to entice him to start reading _Second Cousins_ .

Went to Chili's. Decided to try, once again, to "get a buzz" (I've never been drunk. High either, but I'm way too scared for that anyway. Didn't start drinking until I was 23 (trust me, that's significant for a Louisianan :-) and, before tonight, never had more than 2 drinks in one night.). Had a strawberry margarita. Had an amaretto sour. Came home. Had a Parrot Bay thingy. All I got was somewhat sleepy. Flopped across the bed. Gave The Kid and nephew permission to sleep on an air mattress in the living room.

Strangest thing happened: an ex, for whom I still have a sweet affection, called just to chat. an ex, with whom I have a child, called to ask why I'm not interested in his life. an almost ex (he better quit messing with me!) called to reiterate that he's tired of my being generous with everyone else and selfish with him, to emphasize that I need to grow up (hah!), and to inform me that, unless I get some "little boy" whom I "can run all over," I'm going to "end up alone" Perhaps I will be pissed about this tomorrow, but apparently the alcohol did have some effect as all I said was, "Mmm, okay," and then, at his primadonna-ish gasp, "Well, what do you want me to say?!" My selfishness, IMO, amounts to the fact that I won't get down and worship him as the most brilliant engineer in the history of history. Two people who are used to being "teh smart" equal ego clashes from hell. He hung up in my face. Brief contemplation of calling him back and invoking attitude. Smug remembrance that, since he is upset, he won't be able to resist calling me to remind me how upset he is.

Responded to e-mail from another TA. Re-surrendered the modem. Broke out the old school, spiral, non-perforated notebook--cuz that's what I do when I'm serious about writing, baby. Wrote a page and four lines. Dozed.

Woke up. Requested modem. Checked e-mail. Checked a coupla favorite blogs. Decided to post. Realized I'm wide awake at 2 a.m. Realized my mom, in town for her class reunion, never called me back last night. Reminded myself that I am a mother who insists a woman's life does not have to revolve around her children--especially her grown ass children--and thus my pout because I wanted to see my mom and she's busy doing ridiculous things like having fun with her classmates is totally hypocritical.

Will re-surrender modem. Will climb into bed with John Higham and an article about Slavic coal miners and transnational or translocal or transsomething something. Will fall asleep around 6 am and be bitchy all day tomorrow/today.

See you then.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Dissertation Thoughts

Trying to brainstorm, bear with me. **Did a little shifting so this could be on top**

So, in revisiting the end of this chapter, I have to consider, once again, the evidence that, at least in issues surrounding the workplace, blacks and immigrants from Latin American countries don't generally build strong coalitions. Hard in an industry that has always been hostile to"traditional" worker organization via unions--in my study, unions have disappointed many black workers (by either being ineffectual in the face of company policy/pressure or by seeming to side with the company) and have been unable to reach Latino workers (b/c of lack of communication and the fact that many work through subcontractors and thus are not eligible for union membership)--and whose management encourages and sometimes sows the seeds of intergroup conflict and tension.

But the problems don't all come from above. There is real resentment on the part of some black workers and a recent study suggested that many Latino immigrants come to the US with negative stereotypes of blacks already firmly embedded. Add to that competition over schools, neighborhoods, and any other number of spaces, and cooperation seems highly unlikely.

Yesterday, in the midst of considering all this, it occurred to me--as Advisor so commonly says--that in studying this, I wasn't reinventing the wheel. Many of the problems between these two groups mirror the issues between black and white workers in the late 19th/early 20th century (and possibly beyond). But here is where my thoughts took a wandering path. In the last couple of decades (or so), historians have argued very convincingly that white workers--even the poorest of the poor--were not wholly manipulated into an unwillingness to build coalitions with black workers. Instead ( and this a very simplistic, rough approximation of a very complicated argument), they were willing to ignore common class issues in the interests of racial solidarity (and this didn't begin in the 19th century). In other words, they accepted, believed in, helped shape white supremacy and the privileging of whiteness and gained just enough from it (even if the gain was ideological) to not cross color lines.

If I compare the black and Latino experiences to that, my question is, if there is no similar privileging of "brownness" (and I don't think there is beyond the issue of "less brown = more better"), what is the overarching reason for the lack of coalition building along class lines? Why is race/ethnicity "trumping" in this particular context, too? I'm thinking that maybe it is related to white supremacy, also, but in a much different way: after years of seeing, and experiencing the wealth of this country in "pie" form, in which the majority group has the dominant share and everyone else is left fighting over a wholly insufficient piece (God, this is a horrible analogy), maybe blacks and Latinos (speaking in a generalized fashion) have accepted the notion that there is a zero-sum game going on, that for one group to advance--get a larger share--another has to take a smaller piece.

I see that, as I work my way through all these sources, reflected in blacks' worries about Latinos being the new, "largest minority group" (whatever that means)--there is a real fear that we will lose whatever political power we had/have, that we will lose powerful whites' attention as they seek to address "Latino" concerns. Conversely, in one sociological study, Latinos expressed some of the same thoughts--that black people had the "ear" of white people, that white people "cared more about" black people, that social services programs were geared for black people.

So the relations, between these two groups is still, in part, being determined in the context of how they understand their relationships with the majority group. But am I discrediting black and Latino agency? Is this way too simple? Does anyone understand what the hell I'm talking about? I had it on my mind and needed to write it out--figured I might as well do it in a context in which I might get feedback.

Update: Y. Carrington has an interesting post so related to what I'm fumbling and bumbling through here.

What the Well-Dressed Historian Is Reading this Weekend

So, since I actually sat down and wrote something in the chapter and thought deeply about it (which I often avoid because my mind goes on tangents), I'm rewarding myself with a little extra reading-while-I-write for this weekend. So, I went to the back of my closet last night and pulled out several things. And just because I'm smugly confident that y'all are way interested in what I read, I'm making a list.

For the Dissertation:
Ehrenreich- Nickeled and Dimed
Green- The World of the Worker
Foley- White Scourge
Meyerowitz- Not June Cleaver (Dorothy Sue Cobble's Article)
Janiewski- Sisterhood Denied
Sidel- Keeping Women and Children Poor
Kim- Koreans in the Hood
Ignatiev- How the Irish Became White

For Personal Enrichment (I have a grad certificate in Women's Studies and as part of the requirements, I had to take some classes outside history. I chose a social work class, "Women's Issues," an English class, "Feminist Theory and Methodology," and a sociology class, "Special Problems: The Family." I'm finally in the mood to actually engage these texts, as I think some will help with the dissertation and some will help me strengthen my self-definition as a scholar of women's history):
hooks- Killing Rage
Hesse-Biber et al- Feminist Approaches to Theory and Methodology
Findlen- Listen Up
Kemps & Squires- Feminisms

Just Because I Love It:
Gray-White- Too Heavy A Load

Will I get to all of these this weekend? Probably not, but I did learn a lot about reading quickly and for main points, arguments, place-in-the-historiography, etc., while I was taking my comprehensive exams. And some of these represent my simply revisiting texts for clarity and because I need them right now--actually, all the dissertation list except the Kim book fall in that category. So I probably will get through those. The feminist texts will be an ongoing thing, though I've already gotten back into hooks. And I'm delighted, because in an essay called "Beyond Black Only," she makes the following assertions:
Bonds of solidarity between people of color are continuously ruptured by our complicity with white racism. Similarly, white immigrants to the United States, both past and present, establish their right to citizenship within white supremacist society... through acts of discrimination and assault that register their contempt for and disregard of black people and darker-skinned immigrants. Concurrently, darker-skinned immigrants mimic this racist behavior....
And then she quotes Toni Morrison who says
In race talk, the move into mainstream America always means buying into the notion of American blacks as the real aliens. ...A hostile posture toward resident blacks must be struck at the Americanizing door before it will open.
So, I wasn't totally clueless when I was wondering and wandering in the post below currently above this one. And, while the book is a decade old, and this essay has probably been analyzed and deconstructed and whatever else it is we academics do, at least I found this.

And in my closet. That place keeps my fashionable trendiness and my academic sensibilities on point. ;-p

***UPDATE: Forgot to mention two things that I have read lately that 1) aren't related to the dissertation and 2) I really admired ("enjoyed" doesn't seem the right word, given the subjects) :

Colombus Day Observed 2006

An Angry Loveletter to WhiteSister

Canada troops battle 10-ft Afghan marijuana plants

I wasn't going to post anymore today (seeing as how I'm on a reading-and-writing mission and all), but then my co-worker showed me this story.

So now I'm picturing all my blunt-smoking friends, mouths watering, reconsidering their opposition to military service (an opposition wholly supported by the problems they'd encounter with urinalysis). Especially given this astute observation of the burn-the-plants-down strategy:
A couple of brown plants on the edges of some of those (forests) did catch on fire. But a section of soldiers that was downwind from that had some ill effects and decided that was probably not the right course of action.
"Ill" effects? I'm thinking that's not the right adjective.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


And no, I don't know what the hell is going on. I don't think it's my new template, though, as each time I go to the blogrolling site, I get a fatal or permanent or some other error message.

Does fatal or permanent mean they died?

Is Elle, the techno-travesty, going to have to go into the template and add all my blog friends?

Does anyone else have a clue?


...are proceeding slowly. But, if you know me at all, you expected that. I'm excited though, because I've gotten some suggested readings from a professor who teaches a class on the impact of race, class, and gender on labor history (so my thing) at another Texas university and from Rachel S. (these are going to help me with the framework of the whole thing), some kind words and a tip on tracking down some obscure sources from Steve Striffler, and La Mala is looking at my bit on language as a "conflicted space" between "natives" and "newcomers."

I've also been bugging the other PhD students in my department who study relationships between racial/ethnic groups, because I can go to them and say tell me about this or that in your own words. A good way to get ideas for "who to know" in a particular field, but also to get a feel for what they're saying. That works better for me than book reviews and skimming.

Now if anyone knows how I can get in contact with Dr. Bill Heffernan (I've been trying for a while now, albeit half-heartedly) who used to be at the U of MO-Columbia and who wrote a paper on poultry farmers IN THE LOUISIANA PARISH I'M STUDYING (sorry; there's so little on the industry in this parish that I get excited each time I think about it), I'd be ecstatic.

Monday, October 09, 2006

A Change Done Come!

I heart Miss Zoot.

Thank you!

100 Facts about Elle in 100(ish) Days (11)

Fact #11

Some of the issues I encountered on other blogs * this weekend led me to discoveries about myself: 1) I really am clueless when it comes to the politics of interracial/interethnic conflicts within the so-called left and 2) I probably am as sarcastic as some of my friends claim.

The moral of this story? My mom was right when she said, "Everybody you think is your friend ain't your friend!" and I really should rely more on reason, less on snark.

*I debated on giving that link, but my God! I am still reeling. You have to see BfP's post so that all the misconstruals and misquotes don't fry your brain, though.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

An Open Letter

Dear Sister,

I know you disappeared this weekend under the guise of a professional conference. In some places, that may be acceptable. What I want to know is how in the world you justify leaving me here with these kids alone?! On a weekend when the only kids’ movie that’s playing here, we saw last weekend and the summertime temperatures mean we won’t be pursuing too many outdoor activities.

Friday night wasn’t so bad—it appears even they know the rules about said day and time. But at 8 am this morning, I discovered they have no respect for others’ sleep. I happened to roll over and there was The Kid, peering at me, freaking me the hell out. “Mama,” he said, “May I get on the computer?” to which I responded, “Boy, it is Saturday morning! I am trying to sleep.”

I have vague memories of both of them waking me up more times in the next thirty minutes: “What can we eat? There’s no milk!” and “He’s taking too long in the bathroom!” When I did roll over, their hard-headed asses were on the computer anyway, looking at me all big-eyed and pretending to be frightened. And then your child tried to cover his ass by noting, “He won’t share the computer!”

I instructed them to go do something productive. Wary of my wrath, they decided to clean the living room. Only, they sprayed furniture polish everywhere and neglected to wipe it all up. And somehow, the vacuum magically started smoking and burning. Again, your kid, the consummate ass protector, told me, “I been meaning to tell y’all to buy an new vacuum cleaner.”

Apparently, my surprise trip to the living room broke up some food-sneaking. Your son ran to the bathroom to pee when I appeared. When I went in there, there was the wrapper of an ice cream bar along with the stick in the toilet. And he hadn’t flushed. Since I was not about to stick my hand in, I had to flush three times to make sure it wouldn’t overflow while almost peeing on myself.

But were these shepherds of the devil content there? Oh, no. They began the most annoying tattling—“He passed gas!” “He moved one of your pictures.” “I want a honey bun because he ate some graham crackers.” Oh and my favorite—“He threw that rubber ball in the light thing and the light is on! I smell it!”

And, when I dared ask them why they were acting like maniacs, they shrugged their shoulders. I hate that! So I told them to take a nap. Your son immediately had complaints that wouldn’t let him rest peacefully. “My two fingers hurt,” he said. “Are they broken?” I asked. “No!” “Too bad.” And then he got up to tell me, “My head is soft.” “It sure is,” I agreed.

And so goes the day. I’ve probably revised all of three pages of this chapter. They have had to clean up the same areas repeatedly. They’ve probably only read a combined total of ten words between them. And they keep tattling. “Y’all are not from Louisiana,” I finally told them, “because if somebody was bothering you, you wouldn’t just keep talking about it!” Was I directly encouraging them to fight? No! I was… well, hell, yes, I was!

But I am writing to 1) Let you know this cannot happen again before they are teenagers or before we have a live in nanny and 2) confirm exactly what time you are leaving your hotel. Do you need us to meet you halfway? Do you have enough gas money? Is there anything that may impinge upon your journey back?

Tearfully Prayerfully,


Yes, No, or Maybe

Lord, Have Mercy! I gotta share this before I get my nose back to the grindstone.

Yesterday, my nephew got his first "Yes, No, or Maybe," note from a girl. Without the maybe. This girl doesn't have time for waivering!

He is in the FIRST grade! The note (I deleted nephew's name):

My response (verbatim): "This little girl in first grade, too? Her fast ass! I bet her parents don't know. And you done circled "yes"? Your mannish butt. Y'all too grown!"

This little girl is sharp, y'all, which is why I hope she puts her energy into something other than gaining a boyfriend! How do I know that? Let's look at the note:

1. Aside from some punctuation and capitalization issues, this is pretty well-written for a child in the 2nd month of first grade. Trust me.

2. On her illustration, the little girl has eyelashes. I know kids pick up on that on cartoons and dolls and such (eyelashes = girl) but to pick up on it then express it yourself? I don't see that too often with 6-year-olds.

3. The little girl also has a thought bubble! Apparently those thoughts are focused on love, but still.

I really do wonder what her parents would think.

100 Facts about Elle in 100(ish) days (10)

Fact #10

My dad has me addicted to the Don Pendleton's The Executioner books. I love Mack Bolan. If you know of him at all, you know why that may be problematic with my stances on some issues.

Actually, my dad is the reason I'm a voracious reader. Not only did I pilfer his Executioners, I read his romance novels (he loved the sweet Harlequins), a few Louis L'Amours, and a Western series (of which, I can't think of the name right now, but they always had a big drawing of the hero's face on front and he had an almost-handlebar, black moustache).

Fun times.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Scratch My Earlier Confusion...

I totally get the TX ban on sex toys now. Via Feministe:
The study said women were more likely to reach orgasm if they used sex toys... Use of sex toys and orgasm in women may indicate a link between orgasm and sexual interest or adventurousness.
Cuz women pleasing themselves? Totally unacceptable.

Making it from Doctoral Student to PhD

A while ago, C.N. Le had a nice post on helping minority doctoral students to succeed. It seems universities are doing better jobs of attracting us, but a not so good one at keeping us. I wanted to post about my own experiences in a general sense--my goal is not to offend anyone, but to make some light bulbs click on! I also know, as I always try to acknowledge, that all these issues are not related solely to my race, but to the fact that I'm a woman coming from an immediate family in which there was little familiarity with college experiences--and none with graduate studies.

Le quoted the following:
Data revealed that these minority doctoral students encounter a variety of potential barriers, including family and first generational issues, inadequate educational preparation, unclear institutional policies and procedures and “chilly” departmental climates. Overwhelmingly, issues associated with race/ethnicity permeated every cultural and institutional barrier identified in this study. . . .
This study suggests that college leaders have failed to build bridges between under-represented students’ sociological and cultural factors and their doctoral programs.
Let's see: family and first generational issues, check, inadequate educational preparation, check, chilly departmental climate, sorta check--I'll explain in a moment.

Family and first generational issues--No one in my family knew what the hell I was getting myself into. While they are largely supportive, there are the jokes about my career student status. I don't laugh those off. In fact, they make me feel sort of ashamed, as if I'm somehow not yet a contributing member to society. So there's always been this pressure to hurry up in order to avoid the questions, raised eyebrows, and disapproving murmurs. To this group of working people, I am strange--over 30 and still in school. And while my immediate family is usually much more supportive, my mom asked me about the dissertation, "How long can that take to write? Can't you just sit down and do it?" And there is my dad's opinion that the only valid doctor is an MD. With my brain, I could've done something "bigger" in his opinion, been a "real" doctor or a lawyer. Underscoring my mom and dad's observations is a theory that I am lacking organization and drive--if I put my mind to it, I can hammer out this dissertation or I could've overcome my aversion to science.

I don't think people in the department here understand my familial obligations either. Last year, Advisor was horrified that I was going to be my son's room parent. "You can't," she said, "You need to be spending big chunks of time in front of the computer."

But I have a kid. That is my simplistic, and in my opinion, wholly explanatory response. I have a kid-one who demands lots and lots of time. I have to clean house, I have to think about dinner. Just as validly, I want to accompany him on field trips, I want to visit his classroom, I want to be an active part of the PTO. She is a mother, but her experience is different--I was 23 and in the middle of an MA when I had my kid; she was late 30s or so and already in possession of the PhD. So, her priorities, while she was working on the PhD were, understandably, different. She could put the degree before all else. I cannot. Truthfully, I will not. I mean, it's my kid, and I'm not getting this time back.

Advisor also hates the fact that I work in the summer (to tell you the truth, I didn't even let on that I worked this past one). It takes time away from my writing she argues and she is 100% correct. But again, I don't think she focuses on the fact that I'm a single mother with BILLS! I cannot live without income from July to October. It's just not feasible. Under her watchful eye, I have refrained from teaching outside classes during the school year, but things get excruciatingly tight sometimes and I can't do all the things I'd like to do for the kid.

I think there is also an idea that you can turn off obligations, forget all norms of reciprocity because you're doing such great, important work. Recently, I asked a colleague a question for a friend of mine who's researching this area. He's been here forever, so I figured he might have insight. He took my e-mail as a chance to scold me:
You don't have time to focus on helping anyone else. You need to be researching your own stuff. Anyone who loves you will understand your need to isolate yourself and focus solely on your work.
Um, no they won't. Where I come from, culturally and socioeconomically, that's called selfishness. And while it's tolerable in small doses, no one's going to tolerate long periods of such behavior from me. Yes, I give a lot, but missing in his summation is the fact that I get a lot. For me, this dissertation is not a solo project. My sister types and proofreads, my friends read for clarity, my mom and brother refer potential interviewees, my best friend points out people she thinks will be helpful for my survey and gets me information on the local school district, my dad has basically opened his wallet and turned his head (poor man). I cannot turn my back on all that.

Inadequate educational preparation: Wholly my own fault, but a factor nonetheless. I switched from thesis option to terminal degree after I had my son. Thus, much of what probably seems apathy or lack of... something, is genuinely a lack of knowlege of how to do this, namely, how to write a dissertation. I'm lucky enough to make the grade on writing, but the research--it's usually after I finish a chapter that I realize I need to go here or there or find this or include more about that, etc. They need to offer a seminar, a class, something!! on how to do this. I am still in the dark on a number of issues. Hopefully, I manage to stumble my way out of the halls of academia.

“Chilly” departmental climates: Brrrrr. When I got here, my initial advisor was off campus for the year. So, they dropped Elle, the woefully unprepared, into this huge department to fend for herself. I picked my own classes. I ruminated on my topic. I didn't socialize with the cool kids (like Quinn. In fact--Quinn was ultra-intimidating b/c she was my age, but light years ahead of me in historical knowledge! I hated her :-). And I wandered way off. In fact, had the graduate advising assistant not liked me from the beginning, I would've been back in Louisiana with a quickness.

But, Advisor, thank God, had already taken a slight interest in me, so she helped me. And, over the next two years, it became clear we could work together. Actually another professor from whom I took some independent studies, told me "She's interested in being your advisor but she doesn't want to step on any toes," and told Advisor, "She's interested in being your advisee but doesn't know if you want the extra work. Advisor also worried that I would feel the need to remain loyal to the initial advisor b/c she was black, too. Honestly, I had wanted to work with a black woman, but it just didn't work out. Plus, Advisor is brilliant and unafraid to crack the whip--two things I definitely need. Initial advisor remains on my committee and is friendly.

There was also an issue, early in my PhD program career that I won't disclose much about here, that involved the questioning of my ability--not because I performed poorly, but because I performed so well. And while I'd like to think that my work is just that unbelievable, part of me wonders, had I not been black, would the questions have been asked?

But speaking of chilly, my advisor is a Northerner. I am a Southerner. Not to speak in stereotypes, but there have been times when her abrupt tone has made me vow to never ask her anything again! But then she says things like, "You know, we think you hung the moon and stars," and I get all agreeable again. Seriously, learning not to take everything personally, to not fear that a chapter is going to be so poorly written that she's going to regret ever having taken me on, is hard.

Finally, when I started, I don't know who else was in the writing phase and thus not on campus, but I was the only visible black PhD student in the program (the numbers have "swelled" to around 4 or so). If you've never had an acute sense of being way different--despite very sincere attempts to make me feel part of the department and the grad student cliques--try that.

Given all that, you may be saying, well, Elle, what keeps you there? For that, there are a number of factors, too.

Pride (Quit now? Please!), My Dissertator Group (can someone say sanity via e-mail?), Advisor (because, you know, she thinks I hung the moon or something), I Like my Topic (I just wish someone else would write it), Graduate Advising Assistant (she's been with me since application days!), and I really, really, really love history.

No smart addendums for that one.

Toys for Hots

Um, had I not read here, here, and here, I may have missed the important fact that the great state of Texas has a ban on sex toys.


I am in a mild state of shock because I have been to novelty, specialty, sex or whatever you want to call them, shops in Texas, and they don't seem to lack inventory. In fact, I was much more impressed by the shops here than by the ones in Louisiana, where a similar ban was struck down. Two questions are bubbling in my mind...

1) How the hell are shop owners getting away with it? What do they say? How do they advertise their products? And thank goodness for spin doctors. :-)

2) Are there really such paranoid, hateful, little people out there who believe their calling in life is to assure a) that sex can be cast perpetually as a dark, dirty-but-necessary secret b) that the ones of us "permitted" to have sex (married heterosexuals) remember it's for procreation not pleasure and c) that it is their job to determine the context of and discourse surrounding sex for each and every human being?

So, okay, that second question is rhetorical.

But really, you should visit a novelty store in Texas--as long as you're shopping for educational purposes only, of course.

100 Facts about Elle in 100(ish) Days (9)

Fact #9

I am a firm believer in retail therapy and food for comfort. I have encountered few problems that shopping and an obscene dinner afterwards can't help me face.

The two problems that I have encountered that retail therapy and eating don't help: the perpetual broke-ness of my pockets and my scale.

That is all.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Dissertation (Sorta) Update

Ok, I don't know if I told you last week that Advisor's preliminary (ohmigod, how will I ever finish) comments on the chapter came via e-mail. A week ago, I got the hard copy. Though I've been doing the reading she suggested via e-mail and thinking about how best to re-order the chapter per her request, I haven't been able to make myself look at the comments she actually wrote on the paper while she was reading it.

So this morning, once the kiddos were gone, I grabbed a Smirnoff Ice and climbed back in the bed with the chapter clutched in my shaky hands. And yes it was morning and yes the drink contained alcohol and yes I'm Baptist and yes I feel like someone from the 50s climbing into bed with alcohol when the kids are away, but if the sorta-president can have carte blanche to do whatever he wants...

You get my drift.

So anyway, after a detailed perusal, the most amazing things didn't happen. I didn't feel like much wailing and gnashing of teeth. I didn't feel like I'd been cut to shreds. And I didn't think she was being nitpicky or difficult. The things she noted--primarily that, while I made excellent use of relevant sociology this was a HISTORY dissertation (up the historiography, elle, damn!) , I tended to bury a number of important points in the footnotes and conclusion, and she couldn't tell what my position was on some points because I so skillfully stated both sides of the case (okay, she didn't say skillfully, but I know that's what she meant to say!)--were actually things that I should've caught myself (actually, I'd been whining about the historiography thing to my group, but making no real effort to fix it). Shoulda, coulda, woulda, but in my exhaustion, didn't.

So, I'm tipping my next Smirnoff to my advisor. Good catches, woman, good catches!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Gramer 'n' Punc-you-ay-shun 'n' Stuff

A week ago, over at Starfish and Coffee, comebacknikki vented her frustration at the following grammatical practice:
Exactly when did it become acceptable to add an extra s to a name already ending in s in order to make it possessive?
I had a different perspective--but that is not, of course, the point of this post.

The point of this post is to express my own frustration, as a former teacher, a current TA, and a student who has to read way too much, with certain writing practices (the verbal doesn't bother me so much--unless people are giving a professional presentation or are onTV or something!) and to find out some of your pet peeves. I hate the following:

1) The mixing up of your and you're. It happens to the best of us but, honestly, I don't know how. I was always taught these words are not pronounced the same. Your is "yore" and You're is "yoor." Is that a Louisiana thing?

2) Subject and verb disagreement. Possibly my biggest pet peeve, even in verbal conversations, especially involving the incorrect use of "do" and "does."

3) "Try and" and"Go and." Most of the time, the "and" should be "to." I hear, quite often, "She's going to try and do it" or "I'm going to go and ask her."

4) The usage of personal pronouns instead of possessive ones before certain phrases. For example, "The problem is him coming home late" instead of "The problem is his coming home late."

5) Subjects that don't agree with clauses. Like, "Extending the length of the house, she sat on the porch" or "Wearing the little doggie sweater, the man took his puppy to the show." Okay, I drew a blank while trying to type this, but you know what I mean.

6) Run on sentences, especially ones that people connect with a comma rather than a semi-colon.

7) My own indiscriminate use of commas, -ly adverbs, too long sentences, and my hatred of using the same not-so-common word too often. I have had to break myself from spending an hour searching for a synonym or similar word.

Et tu?

Sunday, October 01, 2006

A Quote

I'm starting to believe maybe my brain is in a phase of acute politicization. I saw this quote the other day and immediately thought, "Oh, is that the only example they could use? Is that really an innocent example?" Here it is, found on a flyer encouraging people to turn to Jesus (of course, my issue is not with people turning to Jesus--I often recommend it :-):
If you turn to God, you turn from sin. A turn to something requires a turn from something else. For example, if you turn to the west, you must turn from the east.
That is all.

The Conflicted (black) (woman) (Christian)

Out of sheer laziness, I'm going to base the following on personal opinion and observation. I am not the only observer of such things, but it's midnight and the only reliable source whom I can think of who has engaged the issue is Deborah Gray-White. Maybe Charles Payne a little bit. But I digress.

What I've been thinking about is ongoing conflict/bitterness between black men and women. What I want to write about is how disheartened I am because I think black churches exacerbate it and tend to place all the responsibility squarely in the laps of women, making it another sign of "Eve's curse. "

An example--two Sundays ago, the pastor at the church I attend here, was making a joke about men who "pop their suspenders" and announce that they are "the man of the house." "If you have to do that," he noted, "then you're probably not the man of the house" (and no, I'm not getting into defining what "man" in this context means and what attributes are assignable to that being). And his next phrase was, "And if you live with a black woman, she probably tells you, 'You'd better sit down and be quiet, contribute something to this house,' but I won't go into that." Indeed, he didn't have to go into that because he quite often makes his point about bossy, emasculating black women. The problem with black families, in his opinion (and in that of many others), is that black women don't let black men be men. He has preached about how evil (yes, evil) it is for black women to assume certain positions inside the church--namely those of pastor and deacon. It is a bid for power that is not supposed to be ours, he says, for how could women, commanded by God to be submissive, lead a church?

And lest ye think that I have only observed this at my local church, let me describe a conference the pastor at my home church had with the young women of my church. I'll begin by saying my church at home is not so rigid--as in many black churches, women are the majority and the most active. And the church acknowledges that indirectly--women participate on most committees, head different organizations, and are quite vocal. The latest pastor was elected, in part, because the women of the church pushed for him so forcefully. Women are still left out of the pastor-and-deacons circle, but that actually causes a lot of woe for the deacons. They make decisions, pass down these edicts, and if the women of the church don't like them, they make it known. And when the women in my church don't like something, it has very little chance of succeeding. But back to this conference.

You see, Rev wanted to talk to us about relationships between black women and men. And, I will admit, we had some pretty stinging observations--everything from "They cheat," to "They're insecure," to "Lord, I hope my son turns out differently." (And remember, these are based on the experiences of one group of women and should not be construed to encompass or describe all black men). Still, every single one of us was determined that if we were to spend our lives with another person, we wanted it to be a black man. After listening, Rev, quite politely and in his usual intelligent-and-endearing tone, excoriated us.

Had we ever considered that a lot of the problem was us? What is it that we demand? Don't we realize we are more likely to have a higher education and thus, may earn more? Why, in this day and age, were we looking for someone to take care of us? (none of us had said that!) Why would a man keep coming to a house (or, more importantly in his estimation, I believe) a church where he felt he wasn't needed? Did we second guess all their decisions? Did we berate and browbeat them if they made mistakes? Did we control everything, thereby (once again) preventing him from being a man? And on and on.

Our responses to this conference, left all of us with a bad taste. You see, having been reared in the church, we didn't dare disrespect Rev. But our polite refutations did not sway him. "Pray," he advised, "that you learn to let go of some things. That you learn the role you are to fill."

And that was it. For me, this is increasingly a problem with my church experience. How can I happily go to a place where I am repeatedly told that, by simply being myself, I am preventing someone, potentially a someone I care much about, from self-actualizing? Where I am cast as a burden on the notion of black manhood? Where black womanhood and manhood are so narrowly defined, and defined in terms that don't correlate with our historical experiences? Where I am told that being who I am has disastrous effects on black homes, black churches, black communities? Where I have to contend with the idea that black women "run off" black men--something that is particularly troublesome for me because 1) it assumes that if a black man does not live in the home with a woman and her child(ren), he is fully absent, not emotionally or financially responsible which, for the millionth time, is not always true 2) it assumes that a man willing to run out on his familial and communal obligations is prompted mainly by a "controlling" woman. Hello--any guy who does that lowdown mess most likely has serious internal, not external, issues.

At the same time that I cannot imagine going to such a hostile place, I cannot imagine leaving black Baptist churches. It makes me a hypocrite, in a sense, a role with which I am increasingly uncomfortable.

100 Facts about Elle in 100(ish) Days (8)

Fact #8

I can't sleep without bedcovers, no matter how hot it is. In fact, sis and I tend to turn the AC waaaaaaaaay down just to have an excuse to burrow beneath the covers.

That is all.
Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...