In Django Unchained, the “N-Word” occurs 109 times. Occurs? Is used? (Look at how awkward that statement is; it’s an active sentence about a word spoken, but without a speaker doing the action.) I twitch to imagine Tarantino saying the word himself. It just sounds wrong. It sounds like some clumsy white dude trying to sound cool while he hangs with his homies. When Samuel L. Jackson says it, it’s quite cool and melodious. As a director, Tarantino can say the “N-word” one hundred and nine times with whatever accent, register, or inflection he desires. With gusto, in fact. Fortunately, at least for my auditoryRead More →

Today the WMST-L is discussing having students write their own Vagina Monologues. This recalls the incident a Michigan state representative was banned for saying “vagina” on the floor. All that week I used the word vagina in as many Facebook posts as possible. Women should write their own Vagina Monologues. And they should have some teeth to them.Read More →

The Opportunity of Adversity – Aimee Mullins’ presentation at TED.

Mullins had her legs amputated as a child and has made a name for herself as a model, athlete, and inspirational speaker. Her talk addresses how the idea that she’s “overcoming adversity” diminishes her. It’s a great illustration of the power of language and our stereotypes about people with “disabilities.” It’s a good video for discussing language.

A comment on the TED site is interesting, though: Mullins wouldn’t be as effective if she weren’t pretty.

 

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The sex war debates still prickle feminists, and I’m predictably on the fence about porn. The title of the book Pleasure and Danger remains relevant because porn is both those things, a crucial point about sex that we should always remember. For example, recently on WMST-L, the Women’s Studies discussion list, someone posted a call for papers about porn culture. The call was clearly anti-porn, and the posting provoked a brief but rapid pro-/anti-porn debate before the moderator shut it down for being inappropriate to the mission of the list. The pornification of consumer culture, which is not the same thing as porn culture, isRead More →

The origin of the word “swag” is appropriate since we are now in Mardi Gras season. Swag, as a bag to haul stuff around in, has been used for half a century in one form or another.  The version we use today – the free crap you get from car dealers, trade shows, and Mardi Gras floats – first appeared around the 1920s. During that time, it referred specifically to the sort of crap folks got from fairground showmen. From a bag to haul your crap in, to the crap you haul in your bag, either way swag has got it. I hope my husbandRead More →

Today I am grateful for copy machines. I have to return comments on group projects to students today, and I don’t have to rewrite the comments for each student. I can simply copy each group member’s copy on my magical combo printer/fax machine/copier/scanner. Once, this sort of task was impossible. I remember carbon paper, ditto machines, and mimeographs. Members of the academic generation before mine shared stories about typing their dissertations on carbon paper, and storing copies in the freezer to ensure they would survive a fire. Editing and revising under those circumstances were herculean. Carbon paper gave us the origin of the phrase carbonRead More →

I am making steps toward my goal of cleaning my office this summer. Yesterday, I tackled one of my bookshelves and encountered my 1929 edition Oz book, Ozma of Oz. I’ve always loved the art by John R. Neill, and I especially like the 1929 art nouveau cover. Finding this book raised many fond memories for me. I learned to read with the Oz books, starting with my father reading them to me, and then me slowly taking over and reading ahead. I’ve always loved Baum. Not many people know that he wrote a whole series of fourteen Oz books, as did several other authorsRead More →

I really like this word, Pentacostalgon! I read it in an article on CNN about an atheist named Jeremy Hall who is suing the U.S. military for religious discrimination. The story has been in the news for a while, but this is the first time I ran into the word. It comes from Michael Weinstein, “a retired senior Air Force officer and founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, who is suing along with Hall.” In the CNN article, he says “Our Pentagon, our Pentacostalgon, is refusing to realize that when you put the uniform on, there’s only one religious faith: patriotism.” Weinstein’s term hasRead More →