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Go and Read

I figured it was time for a link roundup. Forgive the "Norm MacDonald imitating Larry King's bits" quality of the post:

Margo, Darling on hair. Margo just got her hair cut really short, and she reflects on it eloquently. It reminds me of college, when my hair was Mia Farrow short.

Not really an article to read, but check out the cover of In These Times. I'm going to have to go to Whole Foods to see if they have a copy. If not, the local co-op, where I should be shopping instead anyway.

Some evangelical Christians are also environmentalists. Find out about coalition-building ideas for the two groups. I say "two groups," but I know that the label "environmentalist" encompasses lots of different kinds of people.

Also at Campus Progress, a former pageant winner does a feminist analysis of pageantry.

The Little Professor has a smart take on plagiarism; see also the comments on the cross-post at The Valve.

Birth Stories

Introduction, by Clancy Ratliff

For a long time, I've been reading birth stories, both online and in print. I was enchanted with Anita Diamant's The Red Tent, especially the birth of Leah's first child, Reuben; Leah gives birth roaring, standing up, with women all around her supporting her legs, not letting her fall. Anthropologist Robbie Davis-Floyd (1998) interweaves her birth story with reflections on reproductive technologies and the "cyborgification of birth." The birth story has become more significant in recent years, with feminism's advocacy on behalf of the birthing woman. A common argument is that as reproductive technologies have gotten more sophisticated -- and, as some would argue, more invasive -- the woman's control over her own birthing experience has eroded. The laboring body is pathologized, "out of control," something that must be "managed" (See Schuster). In response to the "medical model" of birth, many women who have the financial resources to do so have sought the services of midwives.

In putting together these essays, I had considered breaking them up into sections, with stories of c-sections, drug-free births, etc., but I decided against it. To represent these stories in categories according to the presence or absence of medical technology simply repeats the erasure of the woman from the birth. It insultingly reduces the richness of these stories to what is really ancillary. I thought about the reasons I read and appreciate birth stories: the eloquence, the humor, the visceral honesty, the bravery in the face of immense pain, the powerful emotion. The choral similarities (the "ring of fire," for example). The fact that they are passionately feminist stories. The fact that these women wrote it down. So I decided to include the titles, authors' names, and a snippet of each story that will make you see why I enjoyed reading it and want to read it yourself.

Birthing Arden, by Jodi Egerton

For a long time in the middle of active labor, I was in a wild, amazing, euphoric, ecstatic high. In between contractions I'd remark on the beautiful music playing (Lanell had these lovely soothing cds with her), how much I loved turkey sandwiches, how delicious that massage lotion smelled...I looked up at Owen and Lanell between one contraction and just gushed 'you both look soooo pretty!'

Anya's Birth Story, by Sarah

This entire pregnancy, I’ve been nursing a fantasy of giving birth in the middle of a snowstorm with the fire roaring in the wood burning stove.

NikkiZ's Birth Story: Attack of the Giant Uterus, by Miss Zoot

Dr. SoNice was telling me that he was drawing a line for my incision. The weird doctor tried to joke and say 'He'll initial it too!' but Dr. SoNice immediately said, 'No I Won't.' Evidently Dr. SoNice is of the opinion that during an emergency surgery, joking is NOT the best way to console the patient. And in reality? I agreed.

A Labor Story, by Heather Armstrong (Dooce)

I order the Pregnant Pizza which really isn’t a pizza but a 144 square inch orgasm of garlic.

It's Jackson's first birthday today. Woo! by Fussy

5:40 p.m. Jack whips up a delightful little creamy pasta vegetable dish. I take one look at it and tell him there's no way in hell I'm going to eat that. He goes back to the kitchen and blends a bunch of fruit and dairy products and calls it a smoothie. I have a sip and push it away. Jack sits next to me and puts his arm around me. I tell him to quit looking at me.

Birth Story 4.0, by Mara

The baby's head was not coming down straight to apply any pressure to my cervix, so she manipulated a bit so it would, and recommended walking, and if contractions started up again, doing all we could to intensify the contractions, not backing down or seeking comfort. Which seemed like a fine idea, except that there were no contractions. So when she left, Raven resumed some work phone calls, I loaded Søren in the stroller and went for a walk. And within half a block found my knuckles were white on the stroller.

Duncan's birth story, by Silandara

I ended up on my back, with the nurse holding one leg, Kevin holding the other, I think. I had to grab onto my thighs and curl up my chin and bear down with each contraction.

Birth Story, Part One and Part Deux, by Tracitalynne.

At one point she was, uh, poised at the opening, and it felt like the world’s biggest poop moved forward a bit.

Ainsley's Birth Story, by Mommy with some help from Daddy

At one point, I apparently asked them to just 'suck the baby out' of me, and I also sassed Alison when she asked for 'one more push' - 'I already DID one more!'

Birth Story, by jmoon

Tom later equated my feelings to having jumped off a cliff, and knowing you were going to hit the ground, but being unable to stop it. This analogy seems very apt.

My First Baby, by Strange Quark

I pushed for 2.5 hours and finally Jasper was born. His hand was on top of his head, and so his head and body came out with one last exhilarating push. Just like superman.

Baby Born, by Fabmujer

For some reason part of a Cesarean birth is being strapped like Jesus...arms and legs taped down to a bed with arm rests which resemble a cross.

My birth story...may be sad to read, by Sabra Girl

Eventually after 2 other dopplers, 2 ultrasounds, a fetal scalp heart monitor, and my dr and midwife checking everything, they told us they couldn't find a heartbeat.

The birth story, by llyncilla

I’ve learned what not to do, what to do differently next time, and I just need expiation. I have a few demons that need two dimensional-izing, to be pulled apart and rewoven into a quiet little story, a story like a grave.

And So I Choose, by Allison Crews

There was no way I could handle the pain and horror of childbirth alone, in my bedroom and sanctuary, as I wished to do. I needed a man, trained to care for women, (who are inherently capable of caring for themselves), to see me through my labor. I needed to be monitored, strapped to a bed, cleaned from the inside, shaven smooth and knocked out cold. I was a little girl and delivering babies is a man's job.

Birth Story--Jiro Coltrane, by Stacey Greenberg

'Fill the birthing tub!' I commanded.

Baby Moon Essays: 1 : The Birth, by Lone Star Ma

Then I was pushing that wet, fat baby out…which didn’t burn at all, it was literally the best sensation of my entire life!

*NOTE: I know it's a little weird to have "Introduction, by Clancy Ratliff" at the beginning, but I'm thinking of this as not just a link-roundup type of post, but more formal, like an anthology. I hope to see others start creating these, perhaps as online course packs for classes, but it might be a neat assignment for students to do too. I see this as different from a carnival in that it's a one-time thing and not a serial; plus, there's my introduction at the beginning that explains my reasons for doing this project.

December Carnivals

New Kid, who has really outdone herself, has raised the bar for the Teaching Carnival, with the most comprehensive one yet. [NOTE: I see that all of New Kid's archives from December 10 to the present are gone all of a sudden. I'll leave the link up in the hope that the post will come back. UPDATE: This has happened at all TypePad sites. What we're seeing now at places like Frogs and Ravens, 2 Board Alley, and New Kid's blog are backup copies.]

The Happy Feminist is hosting the December Feminist Carnival, which features lots of topics such as sex, the arts, women's political representation, and women's work.

By the way, this is my 999th post. Does anyone want to suggest a topic for my 1000th? If not, it'll probably be my library story.

Edited to add, as long as I'm linking to stuff, a link to Composition Forum, which recently went from print to online with some (a lot of!) help from Bradley Dilger.

Feminism, Religion, Coalition

A reader from Moving Ideas asked me if I'd post an announcement about an online chat taking place later today:

Over the past year a debate over moral values and politics has grown increasingly prominent and divisive. To help learn more about the role of religion in politics and policy, particularly for women, the Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) conducted research that found that while religious women activists and feminist movements share many goals, they rarely collaborate.

On Thursday, December 15 [TODAY!] from 1 – 2 pm [that's Eastern time], Moving Ideas is hosting an online discussion with Amy Caiazza (IWPR) and Rita Nakashima Brock (Faith Voices for the Common Good) about the rift between religious women activists and feminist movements, how we can bridge this rift and how issues of race, ethnicity, and class both contribute to the rift and point to ways to overcome it.

I think the disconnect between religious women's associations and feminist groups is real, and I agree that it's a problem. I remember back in the days of the Ms. boards, there were MANY vitriolic flame wars about religion, especially monotheist religions with a masculine godhead. They were casually referred to as the Holy Wars. I'm sure plenty of former Ms.-ers remember them.

Chapter 4 Vignette

I've been very reluctant to write this post lest it spur another round of "Where are the women?" for me to contend with, but I figured it was time for a dissertation post. I owe it to you, right? Well, a while back I finished Chapter 4 and am now in the process of revising it. In Chapter 3, I give a thorough overview and chronological description of the "Where are the women?" case: the posts, descriptions of the (onymous) people involved, and the contexts and exigencies of each instance of WATW. For example, the Larry Summers speech had a degree of influence on many of the comments. I also give a more detailed micro-rationale for my project than I give in the introduction. To clarify a bit, the macro-rationale is "why rhetoric should study blogging" and the micro-rationale is "why the 'Where are the women?' case." As anyone who has participated in them can tell you, the WATW threads are quite rhetorically unproductive; nothing really changes as a result of them, and that's one reason I find them so interesting. So in Chapter 3, as part of my detailed micro-rationale, I bring in some of the MANY metacommentaries and parodies of WATW, plus some of the interview responses.

Now for Chapter 4. I'm mostly drawing upon Nancy Fraser's article "Rethinking the public sphere: A contribution to the critique of actually existing democracy," but in this chapter I'm not going into her thoughts about multiple, subaltern counterpublics. I'm more interested in the four problematic assumptions she points out on which Habermas’ idea of public sphere rests: first, that inequalities in social status can be “bracketed” in a public sphere; second, that a singular public is preferable to multiple publics; third, that issues and interests deemed “private” should be excluded from the discussion; fourth, that a public sphere’s fruition depends on keeping “civil society and the state” separated (p. 117-118). Fraser claims that “[o]ne task for critical theory is to render visible the ways in which societal inequality infects formally inclusive existing public spheres and taints discursive interaction within them” (p. 121). That task, rendering visible these inequalities, is the raison d'être of this chapter.

I'm reviewing the various stereotypes and ideas about women's speaking in public that get tossed around in WATW. To illustrate, see this comment, and tell me if this guy didn't totally nail the "maiden, mother, crone" archetypes/stereotypes that feminists have been talking about for years (sincerely, I think this is really well put):

[I]n the world of Big Punditry women get one of three jobs:

1. The Soft-core Liberal Infobabe. Doesn't say or do much. Her entire function is to perpetuate the idea that if you're a liberal, you can have sex with women like this.

2. The Breast-Feeder from Hell. Begins every argument with "As a mother, I ..." Uses nurture six times in a single paragraph. Her function is to serve up chocolate-covered liberalism to guilty insecure housewives.

3. The Uppity Old Lady in Tennis Shoes. See Molly Ivins. This is where Infobabes go when they get put out to pasture. They're supposed to be sort of funny - Driving Miss Daisy kind of funny.

Specifically, I look at 1.) the role of sex, beauty, and attraction and how it can create noise; 2.) "women aren't interested in politics; they're more interested in fashion, gossip, and babies"; 3.) "women and men communicate differently," i.e. the "women can't handle the food fight, boxing match, swashbuckling, Crossfire, Hardball, insert agonistic metaphor here flavor of political debate"; 4.) "women are too busy with the house and the kids to have time to blog"; and 5.) "women aren't as technologically savvy as men." Mind you, I'm not saying there isn't any truth in any of these, especially #4. I'm just laying them out there. I may say more about these later, but for the vignette I want to focus on #2, because there are pictures!

Consider these sample comments:

There are simply less females than males passionate about politics, hence less females blogging.
If there is a blogosphere concerned with sales at Nordstroms or Hollywood gossip, that blogosphere will be predominately female. (Reader at Kevin Drum's weblog)

and here:

As for the gender thing, I still don't know if this is a problem in search of a solution or just the way women are. I'm leaning toward the latter, frankly. They don't like war, don't like hard-nosed arguments and have a hard time separating the personal from the political. Case in point, a girlfriend the other night told me Bush was too stupid to be president, and anyway she didn't like his family--his daughters didn't seem engaged enough (unlike who? Chelsea? Amy Carter? I was confused). This, apparently, was enough to decide her vote--Laura is a bit chunky and I don't like her shoes, it's settled!

Let me first say that I mean no disrespect toward the people who made these comments. The ideas represented here have a long history. In fact, in keeping with Jonathan's creative 'Aleatory Research' methodology, I happened upon some political cartoons from the suffragist movement, which I ended up using in the chapter. From January 27, 1909, a comic by T.E. Powers titled "When Women Get Their Rights":

Also from the 1910s:

The caption says, “Woman Devotes Her Time to Gossip and Clothes Because She Has Nothing Else to Talk About. Give Her Broader Interests and She Will Cease to Be Vain and Frivolous.”

I'll stop there; this is only a vignette, after all. As always, feedback is welcome.

Quick Takes

  • I'd intended to do something for Blog Against Racism Day, but I ended up being too busy yesterday. A day late, I would at least like to point to a couple of posts about low expectations and race: one at Girl Genius and one at Girl-Mom. Go read them now.
  • It has now been about four weeks since I last shopped at Target. I need some toiletries, though, and today I looked to see if there were any stores that have a birth-control-and-Plan-B-friendly policy. Turns out that Planned Parenthood has this handy chart. CVS and K-mart, here I come (actually CVS because they mailed me some coupons). I guess some people already saw the list, but it's new to me.
  • Tina Turner was honored by the Kennedy Center for "lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts." When I saw that story, I thought of What's Love Got to Do with It. I saw that movie in the theater -- I must have been in my late teens -- and I was So Moved by it that I sat down and wrote Tina Turner this multi-page letter. I got a postcard from her fan club.
  • I smiled when I saw this post at Mike's, and I thought of it when I saw a student as I walked into the building to my office today. He was walking in the opposite direction, and as he walked, he was reading comments he'd received on a paper. It was subtle, but he looked up from the paper and was beaming. It was so clear that he was proud of his work and thrilled that the teacher had praised it. I was immensely happy for him. I don't think he saw me, but I'm glad I saw him. And the music swells... "This moment brought to you by Sylvan Learning Center." No, seriously: Seeing him got me excited about being able to teach again in the fall, wherever it may be.

Articles in print

Cool. Now I can put page numbers next to those listings in my CV:

Ratliff, C. (2005). Essentialism. In Heywood, L.L. (Ed.), The women's movement today: An encyclopedia of third wave feminism (pp. 122-123). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Ratliff, C. (2005). Performativity. In Heywood, L.L. (Ed.), The women's movement today: An encyclopedia of third wave feminism (pp. 240-242). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

I have 2 articles in Volume 1 of this

Article in SadieMag

I'll join Jill, Rox, Lindsay, and Deanna in blogging the SadieMag story on women and blogging. For the story, I answered some questions over email and spoke on the phone with Stephanie Schorow, the author of the story, and I recommended that Schorow watch these videos from BlogHer, especially the ones by Halley Suitt and Heather Armstrong. I don't have anything to add beyond what others have already said, but I thought I'd share some comments I made that ended up on the cutting room floor.

1. Are there truly fewer female political bloggers than men? Seems like male-written blogs dominate the top 100 lists (technorati, truthlaidbear) but does that reflect what's happening in the blogosphere?

No, I don’t think there are fewer female than male political bloggers. I think the common understanding of “political blogger” is too narrow and usually refers to a blogger that, first of all, writes about politics narrowly defined. Lots of women especially, but also men, have a broader, more sophisticated understanding of “political” that includes the ways public policy affects individual lives. This view of “political” opens up a space for a lot of personal narrative writing about lived experience, which, again, doesn’t immediately spring to mind when someone says “political blog.”

Second, some of the male-authored blogs in the top 100 lists are more like aggregators or filters, with many short posts per day mostly consisting of links to news stories and to other bloggers’ posts. That’s certainly doesn’t reflect what’s happening in the blogosphere. Plus some of them write about nothing but politics, and that doesn’t reflect what’s happening in the blogosphere either. Most people write about a wide variety of topics.

Also, if you look at the most popular blogs according to the ranking tools (especially Ecotraffic), you’ll also see several of the blogs that are owned by Nick Denton of Gawker Media: Gawker, Defamer, Gizmodo, and Wonkette. Many in the blogosphere read them but think of them more as magazines than blogs. These blogs have several writers, all of whom are paid to blog, and they stay very much on topic.

2. Are female bloggers-- right left moderate -- getting the attention they deserve? if not, why not?

It’s hard to cast it in terms of “deserving” or “not deserving” when we’re talking about blogging. It’s not as simple as saying that good writing will attract a large audience, and bad writing won’t. Blogging is a distributed communicative model, where you have to reach out and gather your audience. You have to link to other blogs so that they can see you in their http referrers, you have to comment on other people’s blogs, send them trackbacks, link to their posts in your posts, etc. You have to write yourself into the network and engage with the medium, and that entails a good bit of what many would consider self-promotion.

So if you think of it as “the best writers deserve the most attention,” well, there are plenty of good writers out there, but we have to find out about them somehow. Some people argue that the people who are at the top of Technorati and the Ecosystem, regardless of whether they’re men or women, deserve to be there because they’ve put a lot of work into updating their blogs constantly and reaching out and connecting to their audiences – and maintaining their relationships with their audiences. (See, for example, Halley Suitt here.)

Still another factor to consider is a blogger’s real-world reputation. If a major league scholar with impressive credentials starts a blog, people are going to link to it immediately. Economist Gary Becker and judge / legal scholar Richard Posner, for example, started a blog together some months ago, and it generated a lot of buzz immediately. Some people might think that if a person has impressive credentials, that means he or she deserves a larger audience.

3. What are some of the best female-written blogs in your opinion? The best liberal blogger? The best conservative blogger? The best in keeping everyone guessing?

Best female-written blogs:
One Good Thing: http://buggydoo.blogspot.com/
Girl Genius: http://girlgenius.typepad.com/girlgeniuscom/
Badgerings: http://badbadbadger.blogspot.com/

Best liberal bloggers:
Pharyngula: http://pharyngula.org/index/weblog
Bitch Ph.D.: http://bitchphd.blogspot.com/
Body and Soul: http://bodyandsoul.typepad.com/
Norbizness: http://norbizness.com/
Feministe: http://feministe.us/blog/
blackfeminism.org: http://blackfeminism.org/
Hullaballoo (Digby): http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/
John & Belle: http://examinedlife.typepad.com/johnbelle/

Also creative endeavors like:
The Rude Pundit: http://rudepundit.blogspot.com/
Wealth Bondage: http://thehappytutor.com/ (“fetish action figures”)
[UPDATE: Totally should have put Fafblog here the first time.]

Best conservative bloggers:
Ann Althouse: http://althouse.blogspot.com
Ilyka Damen (now defunct): http://ilyka.mu.nu
(and though they’re more libertarian/fiscal conservative)
Crescat Sententia: http://www.crescatsententia.org/
Marginal Revolution: http://www.marginalrevolution.com/

4. Do females have a different voice than men when blogging? Or is the Internet truly a genderless zone that levels the playing field? Do females feel more free in writing their opinions than speaking them when they might be shouted down by men - or even by other women?

I wouldn’t say women have a different voice from men. While stereotypes do exist, both feminine (attenuated assertions, claims phrased as questions, an interpersonal style) and masculine (opinions stated as facts, information accompanied by critique, aggressiveness), it’s not at all the case that actual practice confirms these stereotypes.

I hope that women feel free to state their opinions online, but I’m not sure about that. In the course of my research, I’ve seen references to women bloggers who stopped blogging, especially conservative women, but I don’t know why that is. I’ve also read quite a few posts and comments about how women face harassment and threats online, so intimidation might make some women feel inhibited about posting their opinions online. Whether it’s actually the case or not, it’s commonly said that more women blog pseudonymously than men.

5. Some bloggers, such as Digby, are said to be female but keep their gender a secret. Do you think it makes a difference to readers?

Google "jon digby" blog and you’ll see that some people claim digby is a man. But for a long time, I’ve found it interesting that people think digby’s a woman, though; many of his posts are more essayistic than the punditry we see on a lot of the men’s political blogs, where most of the posts are just links to news items or other posts with a sentence or two of commentary.

6. Wonkette has garnered a lot of attention for her site. How representative is she of female bloggers?

Not very. Wonkette is run by Nick Denton of Gawker Media and is more like a magazine. He picked Ana Marie Cox based on some of her prior writing, like on suck.com.

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