Live Twitter Chat @TempleUnivPress on Gender and Political Campaigns

@TempleUnivPress will host its first live Twitter Chat on February 20 from 12noon – 1:00 pm EST.  This week in North Philly Notes, Kelly Dittmar, author of Navigating Gendered Terrain: Stereotypes and Strategy in Political Campaigns, previews her upcoming Live Twitter Chat and the participants.

The topic under discussion is:  Will a woman run for president in 2016? If so, what role might gender play in her campaign or the campaigns of her opponents?

Dittmar_2.inddIn my book, Navigating Gendered Terrain: Stereotypes and Strategy in Political Campaigns, I argue that campaigns are gendered institutions where political candidates – men and women – are expected to adapt to the gendered rules of the game. For male candidates, stereotypic expectations of gender (masculinity) and candidacy coincide, while women candidates are expected to meet often disparate voter expectations of both femininity and candidacy. As a result, men and women candidates navigate differently gendered terrain en route to Election Day.

Male and female candidates typically navigate this terrain under the guidance of campaign professionals – practitioners and consultants who make their livings by planning, running, and advising campaigns. In Navigating Gendered Terrain, I survey and interview these political practitioners to better understand the ways in which gender informs campaign strategy and decision-making, noting that their perceptions of voters’ gender expectations often inform the ways in which they run campaigns. Moreover, the strategic and tactical decisions they make matter beyond winning or losing; they also have the potential to replicate or disrupt gender norms in electoral politics.

On Friday, February 20th (12pm-1pm ET), I will be joined by the following experts in a Twitter chat about gender and political campaigns. Veteran political consultants Christine Matthews (Partner, Burning Glass Consulting) and Martha McKenna (Partner, McKenna Pihlaja), as well as Debbie Walsh (Director, Center for American Women and Politics) will lead a conversation about how gender informs campaign strategy, how voters perceive male and female candidates, how strategy informs voters’ gender expectations, and what this all means for women running for and winning elective office. Please join us in this Twitter chat, hosted by Temple University Press (@TempleUnivPress), by following the Twitter handles listed here and using the hashtag #genderpolitics.

The participants include:

  • Christine Matthews (@cmatthewspolls) is President of Bellwether Research and Partner at Burning Glass Consulting. She has been conducting public opinion research for over twenty years at her own firm and as a partner at other top Republican polling firms. She served as an advisor for both Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels’ campaigns, including his re-election against a Democratic woman candidate in which he won 56% of women. In 2014, Campaigns & Elections magazine named Christine as one of their top 50 influencers shaping campaigns and the future of the industry.
  • Martha McKenna (@mmckenn) is a partner in the Democratic political media-consulting firm McKenna Pihlaja. Recently named one of Campaigns & Elections magazine’s “Influencers to Watch in 2014,” she has been integral to Senate gains made by Democrats over the last 3 cycles. After a decade of work with EMILY’s List, Martha successfully engineered U.S. Senate campaigns for Democratic candidates as the political director at the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee. She then ran the DSCC’s Independent Expenditure operation in 2012 through her consulting firm. Martha is also the co-founder of Emerge Maryland, an organization for Democratic women seeking state and local office.
  • Debbie Walsh (@debbiewalsh58) is director of the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) at the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University. She joined the CAWP staff in 1981. As director of the Center, she oversees CAWP’s research, education and public service programs. She is frequently called upon by the media for information and comment and speaks to a variety of audiences around the country on topics related to women’s political participation. First as director of CAWP’s Program for Women Public Officials and now as the Center’s director, Walsh has led the Center’s extensive work with women officeholders and organized more than a dozen national conferences for women officials.
  • Kelly Dittmar (@kdittmar) is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University–Camden and Scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics at the Eagleton Institute of Politics. She is the author of Navigating Gendered Terrain: Stereotypes and Strategy in Political Campaigns (Temple University Press, 2015), as well as multiple book chapters on gender and American politics. Her esearch focuses on gender and American political institutions with a particular focus on how gender informs campaigns and the impact of gender diversity among elites in policy and political decisions, priorities, and processes.  In addition to her academic work, Kelly works with CAWP’s programs for women’s public leadership and has been an expert source and commentator for media outlets including MSNBC, NPR, Huffington Post, and the Washington Post.

Honoring Nancy Hogshead-Makar, the International Olympic Committee’s Woman of the Year

This week in North Philly Notes, Nancy Hogshead-Makar, co-editor of Equal Playresponds to being named the 2014 Woman of the Year by the International Olympic Committee.

The International Olympic Committee presented the 2014 Women & Sports Trophy for the Americas to Nancy Hogshead-Makar during the general assembly in Monaco. Hogshead-Makar was recognized for her life-long advocacy for access and equality in athletics, and her legal expertise on women’s sports issues. Hogshead-Makar is a scholar, frequent speaker, and winner of three Gold Medals in swimming in the 1984 Olympics. She is the co-author of Equal Play; Title IX and Social Change, with Andrew Zimbalist.

Equal Play smallThe Trophy came with $37,000 in prize money for a project that will forward women’s sports issues. Hogshead-Makar will create an on-line training platform for Title IX education, specifically targeted towards coaches. Additional on-line training programs on legal issues involving women and sports are expected later in 2015, including sports administrators, families and law school students.

In 2014, Hogshead-Makar launched Champion Women to lead targeted efforts to aggressively advocate for equality, with expertise in topics include sport access and equal treatment, sexual harassment, sexual abuse and assault, employment and pregnancy and legal enforcement under Title IX and the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act.

Hogshead-Makar has testified in Congress numerous times on the topic of gender equity in athletics, written numerous scholarly and lay articles, and has been a frequent guest on national news programs on the topic, including 60 Minutes, Fox News, CNN, ESPN, NPR, MSNBC and network morning news programming. She serves as an expert witness in Title IX cases, has written amicus briefs representing athletic organizations in precedent-setting litigation, and has organized numerous sign-on position statements for sports governing bodies. From 2003 – 2012 she was the Co-Chair of American Bar Association Committee on the Rights of Women. Sports Illustrated Magazine listed her as one of the most influential people in the history of Title IX.

Hogshead-Makar said,

“Winning this award from the International Olympic Committee is as meaningful and powerful as the day I touched the wall in 1984 to win a gold medal. The men and women of the IOC are using the Olympic platform to enhance gender equity globally – throughout society. The stand they’re taking is changing the world; women’s sports participation breaks down stereotypes that hold women back.

Of course there are hundreds of people I’ve worked with shoulder-to-shoulder that I’d like to thank, but in particular I’d like to thank Scott Blackmun, CEO of the USOC for nominating me, Duke Professor Jean O’Barr for inspiring me intellectually, Anita DeFrantz, IOC Executive Board Member for supporting me, and Donna de Varona, 1964 Olympic for sparking this pursuit in my heart back in 1984.”

Temple University Press Books of the Year

Temple University Press had much to celebrate in 2014. Ray Didinger’s The New Eagles Encyclopedia was the year’s best-sellerand it’s still selling strong.  Philadelphia Mural Arts @ 30, edited by Jane Golden and David Updike, was the third collaboration for the Press and the City of Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program. And Thomas Foster’s Sex and the Founding Fathers  was a History Book Club Selection. 

But wait, there’s more! Press titles were honored all year long.  Envisioning Emancipation by Deborah Willis and Barbara Krauthamer received the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work, Non-Fiction. Adia Harvey Wingfield’s No More Invisible Man won both the Distinguished Book Award from the American Sociological Association’s section on Race, Gender, and Class as well as the Richard A. Lester Prize from the Industrial Relations Section at Princeton University. The Ethics of Care by Fiona Robinson won the J. Ann Tickner prize from the International Studies Association, and Bindi Shah’s Laotian Daughters received the Outstanding Book Award in the category Social Science from the Association of Asian American Studies.

Temple University Press also published it’s first journal, Kalfoumore about which is below. 

As the year comes to a close, the staff at Temple University Press reflects back on some titles they were proud of publishing in 2014. 

Mary Rose Muccie, Director

My best book of 2014 isn’t a book.  Despite the many great titles on our 2014 list, I have to go with our first journal, Kalfou: A Journal of Comparative and Relational Ethnic Studies.

Kalfou_smKalfou and I “launched” around the same time; the first issue was published shortly before I came to the Press in June. Adding a journal was an important step for us as a scholarly publisher and came with challenges big and small. We have years of experience publishing great books and had to learn quickly what was involved in publishing a great journal. The Press staff stretched, did what was needed, pulled together, and turned us into a journal publisher.

I chose Kalfou not only because of the accessible interdisciplinary content put together by a top-notch editorial board, the striking cover created by Art Manager Kate Nichols, or the electronic edition created with help from our friends in the Temple library. I chose it because it represents us stepping out of our comfort zone and expanding our own definition of who we are.

Kate Nichols, Art Manager

I am particularly proud of Kalfou, TUP’s first journal, published on behalf of the UCSB Center for Black Studies Research. Not only was the design and print/online publication a professional challenge (in collaboration with old and new colleagues), but the Kalfou’s content makes it especially rewarding.

kal´fü—a Haitian Kreyòl word meaning “crossroads” . . .

“This means that one must cultivate the art of recognizing significant communications, knowing what is truth and what is falsehood, or else the lessons of the crossroads—the point where doors open or close, where persons have to make decisions that may forever after affect their lives—will be lost.”—Robert Farris Thompson

Joan Vidal, Senior Production Editor 
Mobilizing Gay Singapore_sm

I’m particularly proud of Lynette J. Chua’s Mobilizing Gay Singapore: Rights and Resistance in an Authoritarian State for its analysis of the gay movement in a state that criminalizes homosexual acts and has no formal democratic process. Chua shows how activists have managed to put gay rights on the agenda by continuously adapting their strategies to circumstances under authoritarian rule.

 

Micah Kleit, Interim Editor-in-Chief 

Resisting Work_smA lot of what we publish in the social sciences confronts the challenges contemporary society places on the public sphere. Corporations, employers, social media; all of these parts of life make demands on us: on our identity and sense of self and other; our connection to the world; and, perhaps most subtly but crucially, our idea of who we are when we surround ourselves with friends and family.  Peter Fleming’s Resisting Work: The Corporatization of Life and Its Discontents grapples with these issues and offers real ways in which we can take back the public sphere from the forces of work and consumption in ways that recognize the destabilizing power of capitalism and neoliberalism.  It is a book that belongs to one of the great traditions of sociology, one that focuses on the power of social science as a force for transformation and liberation and affirms the importance of our existence as social beings.

Aaron Javsicas, Senior Editor


Dittmar_2.indd

Holman_v2_041614.indd

I was especially proud to publish two great new books on women and gender in politics: Navigating Gendered Terrain, by Kelly Dittmar, and Women in Politics in the American City, by Mirya Holman. This is an exciting, expanding area for us, and I’m pleased to say we’ll have additional strong projects on offer in coming years.

 

 

Gary Kramer, Publicity Manager

Hughey_front_012814_smAs a film buff and critic, I was particularly excited by the publication of The White Savior Film by Matthew Hughey. His canny analysis of films such as The Blind Side and Children of Men made me rethink how these films should be viewed. I especially appreciated his methodological framework that incorporates critical and consumer perspectives to explore “White Savior” films sociologically. This speaks to what interests me most as a critic: Why do people watch what they watch? I’ve long thought that folks look to the silver screen as a mirror. Hughey deftly shows that mirror is a prism.

Announcing the latest issue of Temple University Press’ journal, Kalfou

Kalfou is a scholarly journal focused on social movements, social institutions, and social relations. We seek to build links among intellectuals, artists, and activists in shared struggles for social justice. The journal seeks to promote the development of community-based scholarship in ethnic studies among humanists and social scientists and to connect the specialized knowledge produced in academe to the situated knowledge generated in aggrieved communities.

Kalfou is published by Temple University Press on behalf of the UCSB Center for Black Studies Research.

Kalfou

Vol 1, No 2 (2014)

Table of Contents

Feature Articles

Introduction: Banking without Borders: Culture and Credit in the New Financial World
Devin Fergus, Tim Boyd
Race, Market Constraints, and the Housing Crisis: A Problem of Embeddedness
Jesus Hernandez
Revisiting “Black–Korean Conflict” and the “Myth of Special Assistance”: Korean Banks, US Government Agencies, and the Capitalization of Korean Immigrant Small Business in the United States
Tamara K. Nopper
Reflections on the “Ownership Society” in Recent Black Fiction
David Witzling
United States, Inc.: Citizens United and the Shareholder Citizen
Lynn Mie Itagaki
Housing Desegregation in the Era of Deregulation
Christopher Bonastia

Talkative Ancestors

Walter Bresette: “All Struggles Are Related”

Keywords

The Model Minority: Asian American Immigrant Families and Intimate Harm
erin Khuê Ninh

La Mesa Popular

Sharing Knowledge, Practicing Democracy: A Vision for the Twenty-First-Century University
Seth Moglen

Art and Social Action

An Interview with Joe Bataan: Torrance, California, February 14, 2013
Tyrone Nagai

Mobilized 4 Movement

La Lucha Sigue: Latina and Latino Labor in the US Media Industries
Mari Castañeda

Teaching and Truth

“All You Needed Was Godzilla behind Them”: Situating (Racial) Knowledge and Teaching Anna Deavere Smith’s Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992
Jake Mattox

In Memoriam

Hearing the Community in Its Own Voice: Clyde Woods, 1957–2011
George Lipsitz

Book Reviews

Racial Propositions: Ballot Initiatives and the Making of Postwar California, by Daniel Martinez HoSang
Reviewed by Nisha N. Vyas

Elect these books for your reading list

On election day, we highlight ten Temple University Press titles with a focus on elections and campaigns.

Dollars and Votes: How Business Campaign Contributions Subvert Democracy, by Dan Clawson, Alan Neustadtl and Mark Weller

DollarsVotesScandals, including questionable fund-raising tactics by the current administration, have brought campaign finance reform into the forefront of the news and the public consciousness. Dollars and Votes goes beyond the partial, often misleading, news stories and official records to explain how our campaign system operates. The authors conducted thorough interviews with corporate “government relations” officials about what they do and why they do it. The results provide some of the most damning evidence imaginable.

The striking truth revealed by these authors is that half the soft money comes from fewer than five hundred big donors, and that most contributions come, directly or indirectly, from business. Reform is possible, they argue, by turning away from the temptation of looking at specific scandals and developing a new system that removes the influence of big money campaign contributors.

Mandates, Parties, and Voters: How Elections Shape the Future, by James H. Fowler and Oleg Smirnov

MandatesMost research on two-party elections has considered the outcome as a single, dichotomous event: either one or the other party wins. In this groundbreaking book, James Fowler and Oleg Smirnov investigate not just who wins, but by how much, and they marshal compelling evidence that mandates—in the form of margin of victory—matter. Using theoretical models, computer simulation, carefully designed experiments, and empirical data, the authors show that after an election the policy positions of both parties move in the direction preferred by the winning party-and they move even more if the victory is large. In addition, Fowler and Smirnov not only show that the divergence between the policy positions of the parties is greatest when the previous election was close, but also that policy positions are further influenced by electoral volatility and ideological polarization. This pioneering book will be of particular interest to political scientists, game theoreticians, and other scholars who study voting behavior and its short-term and long-range effects on public policy.

Campaign Advertising and American Democracy, by Michael M. Franz, Paul B. Freedman, Kenneth M. Goldstein and Travis N. Ridout

Campaign AdvIt has been estimated that more than three million political ads were televised leading up to the elections of 2004. More than $800,000,000 was spent on TV ads in the race for the White House alone and Presidential candidates, along with their party and interest group allies, broadcast over a million ads-more than twice the number aired before the 2000 elections. What were the consequences of this barrage of advertising? Were viewers turned off by political advertising to the extent that it dissuaded them from voting, as some critics suggest? Did they feel more connected to political issues and the political system or were they alienated? These are the questions this book answers, based on a unique, robust, and extensive database dedicated to political advertising.

Confronting prevailing opinion, the authors of this carefully researched work find that political ads may actually educate, engage, and mobilize American voters. Only in the rarest of circumstances do they have negative impacts.

Choices and Changes:  Interest Groups in the Electoral Process, by Michael M. Franz

ChoicesChangesChoices and Changes is the most comprehensive examination to date of the impact of interest groups on recent American electoral politics. Richly informed, theoretically and empirically, it is the first book to explain the emergence of aggressive interest group electioneering tactics in the mid-1990s—including “soft money” contributions, issue ads, and “527s” (IRS-classified political organizations).

Michael Franz argues that changing political and legal contexts have clearly influenced the behavior of interest groups. To support his argument, he tracks in detail the evolution of campaign finance laws since the 1970s, examines all soft money contributions—nearly $1 billion in total—to parties by interest groups from 1991-2002, and analyzes political action committee (PAC) contributions to candidates and parties from 1983-2002. He also draws on his own interviews with campaign finance leaders.

Civic Talk: Peers, Politics, and the Future of Democracy, by Casey Klofstad

Civic TalkDoes talking about civic issues encourage civic participation? In his innovative book, Civic Talk, Casey Klofstad shows that our discussions about politics and current events with our friends, colleagues, and relatives—”civic talk”—has the ability to turn thought into action—from voting to volunteering in civic organizations.

Klofstad’s path breaking research is the first to find evidence of a causal relationship between the casual chatting and civic participation. He employs survey information and focus groups consisting of randomly assigned college freshman roommates to show this behavior in action. Klofstad also illustrates how civic talk varies under different circumstances and how the effects can last years into the future. Based on these findings, Klofstad contends that social context plays a central role in maintaining the strength of democracy. This conclusion cuts against the grain of previous research, which primarily focuses on individual-level determinants of civic participation, and negates social-level explanations.

The Making of Asian America through Political Participation, by Pei-te Lien

MakingAsian Americans are widely believed to be passive and compliant participants in the U.S. political process—if they participate at all. In this ground-breaking book, Pei-te Lien maps the actions and strategies of Asian Americans as they negotiate a space in the American political arena.

Professor Lien looks at political participation by Asian Americans prior to 1965 and then examines, at both organizational and mass politics levels, how race, ethnicity, and transnationalism help to construct a complex American electorate. She looks not only at rates of participation among Asian Americans as compared with blacks, Latinos, American Indians, and non-Hispanic whites, but also among specific groups of Asian Americans—Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos, Koreans, Asian Indians, and Vietnamese. She also discusses how gender, socioeconomic class, and place of birth affect political participation.

The Change Election: Money, Mobilization and Persuasion in the 2008 Federal Elections, edited by David Magleby

ChangeElectionThe 2008 election was an extraordinary event that represented change at many levels. The candidates’ innovative campaigns changed how funds were raised, how voters were mobilized, and how messages were communicated through advertising and the Internet. Parties and interest groups played their own important role in this historic election. In The Change Election, David Magleby assembles a team of accomplished political scientists to provide an in-depth analysis of this groundbreaking presidential election. Through a set of compelling case studies, these scholars examine the competition for votes in a dozen competitive House and Senate contests and in the race for the White House in five states: Ohio, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Colorado, and New Mexico.

Backed by a wealth of data and extensive interviews, the contributors provide an up-close look at the interactions of candidates’ individual skills and personalities with the larger political forces at work in the election year. This book offers insights into the rapidly evolving organizational and technical aspects of campaigning.

Race Appeal: How Candidates Invoke Race in U.S. Political Campaigns, by Charlton D. McIlwain and Stephen M. Caliendo

RaceappealIn our evolving American political culture, whites and blacks continue to respond very differently to race-based messages and the candidates who use them. Race Appeal examines the use and influence such appeals have on voters in elections for federal office in which one candidate is a member of a minority group.

Charlton McIlwain and Stephen Caliendo use various analysis methods to examine candidates who play the race card in political advertisements. They offer a compelling analysis of the construction of verbal and visual racial appeals and how the news media covers campaigns involving candidates of color.

Combining rigorous analyses with in-depth case studies-including an examination of race-based appeals in the historic 2008 presidential election—Race Appeal is a groundbreaking work that represents the most extensive and thorough treatment of race-based appeals in American political campaigns to date.

The Persuasive Power of Campaign Advertising, by Travis N. Ridout and Michael M. Franz

Persuative PowerThe Persuasive Power of Campaign Advertising offers a comprehensive overview of political advertisements and their changing role in the Internet age. Travis Ridout and Michael Franz examine how these ads function in various kinds of campaigns and how voters are influenced by them.

The authors particularly study where ads are placed, asserting that television advertising will still be relevant despite the growth of advertising on the Internet. The authors also explore the recent phenomenon of outrageous ads that “go viral” on the web-which often leads to their replaying as television news stories, generating additional attention.

The Persuasive Power of Campaign Advertising features the first analysis of the impact on voters of media coverage of political advertising and shows that televised political advertising continues to have widespread influence on the choices that voters make at the ballot box.

Public Financing in American Elections, edited by Costas Panagopoulos

Public financingReformers argue that public financing of campaigns will help rescue American democracy from the corruptive influence of money in elections. Public Financing in American Elections evaluates this claim in an effort to remove the guesswork from the discussion about public finance.

Featuring some of the most senior scholars in political science and electoral studies, this book provides an up-to-date treatment of research and thinking about public campaign finance reforms. Exploring proposals at the local, state, and federal levels, the contributors provide a comprehensive overview of public financing initiatives in the United States and an examination of their impact. Also included are focused analyses of various existing public programs.

 

Considering the dynamics and representations of oversexualized black women

In this blog entry, Trimiko Melancon, author of Unbought and Unbossed: Transgressive Black Women, Sexuality, and Representation, discusses contemporary dynamics regarding race, gender, and sexuality.

A week ago I served as an invited moderator for a college student forum, “Freakum: The Hypersexuality of Black Women.” What the event and the students organizing it sought to explore, in part, were representations of black women. More specifically, how today’s portrayals of black women are images of them as the event flyer and prompt indicated, “oversexualized to the point where a black woman cannot just be portrayed as a woman, but as a sexual being.”

Questions from students ranged from inquiries attempting to ascertain the history of such images and if black women and blacks generally are in control of media representations of their sexuality. There were also discussions of black female pop cultural icons, including mega superstar Beyoncé Knowles and leading televisual personas Olivia Pope (ABC’s Scandal) and Mary Jane (BET’s Being Mary Jane). While the forum was stimulating, and the students were very intellectually engaged, I was struck by how, even in the twenty-first century, their understandings of these dynamics and representations of black women were punctuated by, and articulated through, binaries. Either they expected black women to uphold respectable representations always, or to do the diametrical opposite: be both carefree and, indeed, free to not at all worry about or contend with how they carry themselves or are perceived and, ultimately, portrayed.

Unbought_smIn these very notions of black womanhood and representations—and the still, at times, limiting or narrow roles or characterizations confronting them—reverberates the precise motivation and premise behind my book, Unbought and Unbossed: Transgressive Black Women, Sexuality, and Representation. My book idea actually started during my very own matriculation as an undergraduate English major struck by and grappling with representations of black women in literature. These interests became the groundwork of my college senior honors thesis, doctoral dissertation, and now this first book—a reflection, of course, of the evolution and intellectual maturity of those formative ideas over the course of more than a decade of research, critical thinking, and writing.

In Unbought and Unbossed, I examine post-civil rights representations of black women in literary and cultural texts of the 1970s and 1980s, informed by and produced during consequential political movements: civil rights, feminism, black nationalism, gay liberation, and the sexual revolution. This is a particularly significant era precisely, in part, because of the ways in which black women’s texts of the era embody and embrace a shift in terms of representations. Unbought and Unbossed explores how these moments create a space, cultural and political, for “the transgressive:” representations of black women who transgress and challenge racial, gender, and sexual circumscriptions or mandates that impose particular roles and circumscriptions of female identity on black women. Ultimately, I argue for far greater complexity (and complex understandings) when it comes to black women, representation, and sexuality—especially in terms of what constitutes “woman” and “normativity.” But I also illuminate how certain behaviors/actions operate as strategies in these literary and cultural texts. Sexuality becomes representative of not simply intimacy but, more broadly, of a larger aspirational desire for more complex understandings, renderings, and notions of race, gender, and sexuality as it relates to black (female) bodies. These women exercise their rights to be full citizens, in the racial and sexual sense, reminding us not to falsely mark any, every, and all expressions of black sexuality as perverse, illicit, or pathological but, rather, to afford blacks the range both allowed their white counterparts and reflective of the human (sexual) condition.

Unbought and Unbossed explores various moments, literary and cultural, post-civil rights and contemporary—from Toni Morrison’s novel Sula and Nelly’s rap video Tip Drill and tons in between. It does so to illumine not only the racialization of sex and the ways race, gender, and sexuality intersect. But, it also enables us to better understand the black sexual revolution, representations in the age of First Lady Michelle Obama, and the complexities surrounding black sexuality. And so, just as I asked the students to consider what black sexuality might look like unencumbered by stereotypes and either/or binaries, so, too, does Unbought and Unbossed ask all of us to contemplate this notion, as well as transgress simplistic conclusions regarding black women and black sexuality. After all, it is the twenty-first century and time to allow blacks the full measure of their humanity, sexual and otherwise.

Trimiko Melancon is an Assistant Professor of English, African American Studies, and Women’s Studies at Loyola University New Orleans. Learn more about her work on her website www.trimikomelancon.com or connect with her on Facebook (Trimiko Melancon) or Twitter (@trimikomelancon).

So Yesterday

In this blog entry, Allan Johnson, author of The Gender Knot and The Forest and the Trees writes about how things have changed—or have not—since the last editions of his classic Temple University Press books.

Awhile back I received an email from a college teacher using one of my books, The Gender Knot, in her class. She mentioned a disagreement among her students about whether my account of male privilege still holds true. One of the students settled the argument by flipping to the front of the book where the copyright date is found and pointing out that, well, there it is, the thing is eight years old.

That was easy.

Gender Knot 3e_smApparently, there is a ‘believe until’ date on descriptions of reality, or at least ones we’d like to see go away. And social systems can change almost as fast as Apple puts out a new iPhone, except, unlike Apple, no one has to actually do anything to make it happen. I don’t know exactly how many years it takes for a book to lose its credibility, but for some readers it is shorter than the average length of time that people own a car.

Sometimes I hear from a student who wants me to know that however bad things may have been for my generation, things are different now. That was then and the new generation has left all that behind.

There is of course change, and there is good research showing that most of it happens between generations, but the idea that we can go from up-to-your-necks to past-all-that in the space of a few decades, not to mention years, is something else.

What might account for such sudden and dramatic change they do not say, as if it somehow explains itself. It’s not that I don’t get it. When I think back to being nineteen or so, I don’t think it occurred to me that my generation might have been a continuation of anything remotely connected to that of our parents. We didn’t have to do anything to be unlike them, to break from the past, to start all over, because something new is what we were in spite of all those years of going to school and reading books and watching tv and everything else that goes with being socialized to fit the world into which we are born.

And don’t adults give graduation speeches exhorting young people to go out and be the hope of the future by being different from them?

It speaks to the power of both individualism and wishful thinking that we can sustain what amounts to a myth of self-invention by which each generation starts out fresh and decides who they are without having to deal with any historical or emotional baggage that they didn’t pack themselves. If everything is all about my experience and I don’t experience the thing myself, then it must not be there. “I have never been discriminated against as a woman,” she says. “I don’t see color,” says he. “If I can do what I want then so can anyone else.”

The myth of self-invention is connected, in turn, to the idea that everyone is different from everyone else. I’ve never really known what that means, or, more precisely, why it matters so much. Why should we care that no one out there is an exact match for us when the thing that makes our lives possible is all the ways in which we are alike—presenting ourselves and behaving in ways that other people will understand and accept as familiar. So what if there are dead ringers for me somewhere in the world?

And if everyone is supposedly unique, then it follows that everyone must have their own opinions and perceptions. I suppose that’s true in the sense that everyone has their own underwear, but, again, what does that mean when those same opinions and perceptions (not to mention underwear) show up in millions of other people, there being only so many possibilities?

And yet, we persist in the idea that our experience and what we know are somehow both unique to us and independent of the world through which we come into being and exist. I think, therefore I am—not I belong, connect, relate, share, participate, or continue some form of what came before.

Which brings me back to expiration dates on reality and how easily unpleasant things get relegated to a ‘past’ where they no longer apply, as if we can give them up as we would a habit or a fashion. And if problems like race or gender or poverty persist, it must be because there are individuals who, for whatever reason, have decided to be different from the rest of ‘us.’

The thing is, though, that social systems, and systems of privilege in particular, do not continue from force of habit, inertia, or individual choice. They are more than a collection of self-conscious attitudes or beliefs or styles that come and go on their own or through individual self-improvement.

Systems continue because of powerful forces exerted across generations, including adaptations to new circumstances so as to preserve the underlying structure and effect while seeming to have changed. “Power does not yield except by demand,” wrote Frederick Douglass more than 100 years ago, and as far as I can tell, recent history records precious little of that.

Layout 1The illusion of change is on my mind because a new edition of The Gender Knot, along with another of my books, The Forest and the Trees, has just been published. I spent months digging into the latest data, reviewing what’s been published in books and journals. And has anything changed? Well, of course. We have a black president, for one, and same-sex marriage is gaining support, and words like ‘transgender’ have entered our vocabulary.

But the evidence is also overwhelming that the basic structures of male privilege and white privilege and class privilege and even heterosexual privilege remain solidly intact. The epidemic of rape everywhere from the military to college campuses, the almost complete lack of progress toward gender equity for more than 20 years, the devastation of people of color in the most recent economic collapse, racial segregation and discrimination in hiring and the criminal justice system, the dramatic surge of economic inequality, the almost complete dominance of state and national politics by corporations and the wealthy, the patriarchal capitalist juggernaut that continues its systematic destruction of the Earth . . . you get the idea.

This is not to say that we don’t have the potential to reinvent ourselves, both as individuals and as a society. After all, that is what my work, both public and private, is all about. But such invention comes only from our active engagement with the reality of what has been and how it continues into the present, however much it may shape-shift into forms that give the appearance of change. And however much we might wish it otherwise.

“The past,” wrote William Faulkner, “is never dead. It’s not even past.”

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 80 other followers

%d bloggers like this: