Dinner Dates: Mike Pence, Family Values, and Washington Masculinity

Mike Pence is pictured. | Getty

When word broke this past week that Vice President Mike Pence has a longstanding practice of refusing to dine alone with any woman not his wife in order to ensure that he is not tempted by an illicit relationship, the reactions from all sides of the aisle were intriguing but pretty predictable.  On the left, the claim was that this behavior was not only sexist and completely diminishing of women, but that such a move would prevent many women politicos from (literally) getting a seat at the table in an atmosphere where never-ending work schedules make working meals a prerequisite for employment.  On the right, a general rejection of the sexism thesis was followed by praise for Pence and his commitment to his marriage. Continue reading “Dinner Dates: Mike Pence, Family Values, and Washington Masculinity”

A Rabid Dictionary?

5510506796_dff8c07b64_bAre the accusations of sexism in the dictionary definitions that have moved through social media last week reasonable? While problems in the entries seem clear, the situation is complicated. In case you missed it, Michael Oman-Reagan, a PhD candidate in Canada noted that the Oxford Dictionary presented “rabid feminist” as an example for the entry “rabid,” which he included as one among many examples of “explicitly sexist” entries. The dictionary editors responded that their “example sentences come from real-world use,” but, of course, they chose which everyday example they wanted to enshrine. For a term with a negative connotation like “rabid,” such a choice provides an opportunity to offend someone, making the choice significant. If they had written “rabid NRA member” or “rabid leftist,” different groups might be complaining. Continue reading “A Rabid Dictionary?”

The Well-Intentioned Racist

Target practice

As Americans today celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, many of us continue to grapple with how to contextualize and understand the recent deaths of several young black American men at the hands of the police. This need to explain is thrown into even starker relief with the very recent story that black men’s photos are being used for target practice by the North Miami Beach police department. The chief of police insists that this is a case of “poor judgment,” not racism, because those officers taking aim at the targets are themselves multi-racial, and because other races are portrayed in other targets. As one might expect, however, at least one of the black men whose face became a target is not personally reassured, saying, “Now I’m being used as a target? … I’m a father. I’m a husband. I’m a career man. I work 9-to-5.”

It may seem quite paradoxical to discuss a “well-intentioned racist,” but arguably, there is usually no other kind. I am often amazed by how we expect that racism (or discrimination, more generally) is something committed by self-described bigots. Like many others who study and teach about social dynamics, I frequently tell my students that prejudicial behaviors and attitudes are not only ubiquitous, but also quite mundane — they are simply the old recipe of one part distinction and another part essentialization — and they are used to stir the stew of social power. Continue reading “The Well-Intentioned Racist”

Does My “Wife” Have a “Job”?

Six years ago I took an academic post at a liberal arts college with a heavy teaching load about 4 hours away from Syracuse, New York, where my wife works as a middle school teacher and where we own a home. Consequently, I commute back and forth every week during the fall and spring semesters. Many of my academic friends and colleagues ask me, “Can’t your wife get a job where you work?,” or “You’ve got a good publication record; why don’t you apply for jobs at more research-oriented universities?” Arguably, there are some latent sexist or patriarchal assumptions underlying these questions.

Presumably as someone who identifies as an academic, I have a career — perhaps even a “vocation” — whereas my wife, a public school teacher, has a mere job. Careers have trajectories and involve planning, nurturing, the accumulation of social capital, networking, and so on. A job by contrast could be picked up or discarded for another job which would be its functional equivalent. Why can’t she just swap jobs so I can pursue my career?

Networking Brainstorm Continue reading “Does My “Wife” Have a “Job”?”

Who Are You? I’m Short (… And Cute)

short girls

Who Are You?” asks members of Culture on the Edge to reflect on one of their own many identities (whether national, gendered, racial, familial, etc.), theorizing at the same time the self-identification that they each chose to discuss.

Although “short and cute” aren’t the first adjectives that I would usually choose to describe myself, they are among the more powerful identity categories that I deal with on a daily basis.  I have always been one of the smallest of my peers, occupying the front row of group photos and living life with most of my kitchen cabinets just out of comfortable reach. Having said that, I am not unusually short – I’m a little over 5’1”, and I wear a women’s size XS or S.  In other words, while I would never claim that my appearance is representative of the majority of women in my culture, there are still plenty of others right around my size. Continue reading “Who Are You? I’m Short (… And Cute)”

There She Is…

Nina-Davuluri_2672797b

“[Nina Davuluri‘s] victory did inspire some disturbing posts on Twitter; people were upset that the honor was given to an Arab, which of course she is not. Supporters of the Miss American pageant were very upset themselves, and why shouldnt they be: all this racism was ruining their sexism.”

Peter Segal, host of National Public Radio’s “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” (listen here)