St. Charles and Isaac

For 3 months, I’ve been dreaming of going back to St. Charles, a beautiful colonial-era town in Missouri that is filled with quaint shops selling all kinds of fascinating things. St. Charles is made for walking, but who could face being outside in the horrible heat we have been experiencing in the region?

Finally, it became marginally less hot, so I planned a visit to St. Charles for tomorrow. And then I discovered that Hurricane Isaac is moving in our direction.

So I called my father to share my disappointment with Isaac’s untimely visit.

“Yeah, blame the Jews!” my father joked*.

After living in Southern Illinois for 3 years, I have become one of those desperately boring people who talk about the weather.

* In our culture, Isaac is perceived as a Jewish name. Of course, the hurricane is giving rise to many Jewish jokes in our Jewish family.


“Don’t Make Me Be a Jerk!”

The following statement is based on an idea that I find extremely repugnant:

Students have an ethical obligation not to cheat, of course. But faculty also have an obligation not to create situations in which cheating is likely to occur.

If we follow the logic of the quoted statement, it must be acceptable to say things like:

– Of course, rape is a crime. But potential rape victims have an obligation not to create situations in which rape is likely to occur. They should not wear provocative clothing, for example.

– Of course, stealing is a crime. But potential crime victims have an obligation not to create situations in which stealing is likely to occur. Don’t leave your bag unattended or somebody might be provoked into stealing your wallet.

– Of course, beating people is wrong. But they shouldn’t have provoked me into hitting them by saying things that annoy me.

If you think that faculty members have “an obligation” to save you from your cheating nature by removing every temptation to be dishonest, this means that, on top of being extremely immature, you are devoid of any sense of morality whatsoever. There are tragic life-and-death situations where people feel forced to do things they would never consider doing otherwise. But if something as insignificant as the format of an assignment you receive in college makes your integrity crumble, then you, not your professor, are at fault.

Question: when will we finally start treating students as the adults that they are?

A Favor Needed From Google Reader Users

If you read Clarissa’s Blog in your Google Reader, I have a huge favor to ask of you. Could you click on an article from this blog in your Reader and tell me what the URL looks like.

Does it look like this:


Or do you see a shorter, cleaner version that is like this:

Please tell me in the comment sections.

The reason I ask is that some blogs offer the longer URL when you click on  them from the Google Reader and I end up quoting those blogs less because it’s often a drag to find a shorter URL that can be used for creating a link. There are two blogs in particular that I stopped linking to altogether for this reason. Now I’m wondering if my blog has the same problem.

“Free Pussy Riot” Murders in Russia

Now let’s see if you have learned anything from all of my posts on Pussy Riot.

Two women were found murdered in Kazan yesterday. In the photo under the  fold, see what was written on the wall in the room where the victims were found (those who don’t like to see letters written in blood, shouldn’t look. There are no dead bodies or body parts, just letters. I respect people’s sensitivity but also have to add that if things like this traumatize you, you probably shouldn’t be following events in Russia):

Continue reading ““Free Pussy Riot” Murders in Russia”

Marginal Feminist Factions and Their Guiding Ideas

People keep suggesting* that I shouldn’t be referring to certain marginal feminist factions as “fake feminists” or “pseudo-feminists.” According to such folks, it is not my place to decide who is a real feminist and who isn’t. To me, this says that they are terrified of having their own beliefs and actions questioned. Since I don’t experience the same fear, I will continue referring to anybody the way it pleases me and everybody who disagrees can go stand outside.

So here is a list of certain marginal feminist factions that don’t do anything to advance the cause of gender equality. As a result, they have a lot of free  time to make noise and try to convince everybody that they are what feminism is really all about.

Whenever a woman sneezes, poops or yawns, it’s a deeply feminist act because she is a woman. Women are infallible.” This school of feminism doesn’t even notice how neatly it plays into the patriarchal myth that women are divine, perfect creatures who don’t need to sully their perfection with nasty mundane things like politics, work, etc.

All choices are sacred. As long as they are not made by a man. Because every choice that nasty creature makes is by definition vile and suspect.” This is, of course, choice feminism, the dead horse that I especially like to beat.

Women are victims. Breathing while female? Victim! Speaking while female doubly victim!! Refuse to see yourself as a victim? That’s because you are a total victim!!!” This is the perfect way to beat women down and prevent them from enjoying any aspect of their lives and achieving anything.

The essence of womanhood lies in a woman’s physiology. So let’s police each other’s bodies to ensure that everybody who calls herself a woman fulfills her physiological duty to humanity. Step away, you scary trans person! Don’t mess with my right to celebrate my genital area!” Only 20 years ago, nobody would have believed that essentialism could make such a strong and vocal comeback. We can now see, however, that for some pseudo-feminists their hatred of trasngender identities is more important than the damage they do to all women by resurrecting the patriarchal myth of womanhood being ruled by women’s physicality.

Women are profoundly different in nature than men. Reason and logic, those nasty male qualities, are not for women who are intuitive and animalistic. Women hate numbers and can’t understand them because they prefer to roll in the grass, worshiping the Earth mother.” Oh, Clarissa, you are so sixties, you’ll say. Then I will know that you haven’t taken any Gender Studies courses for a while and haven’t been to many feminist theory conferences recently. This is what North American academic feminism is about.

Have to wear a burqa? Lucky you! This is SO liberating. You don’t have to be victimized by the male gaze, how nifty is that? I wish I were from your culture! Were subjected to genital mutilation? This is SO liberating. You don’t have to be victimized by all those boring sexual desires. Oh, I love your culture! Given away in marriage against your will? Oh, how cute and exotic of you! You don’t have to be victimized by the need to date! Have to work as a stripper to feed your children? Oh, how liberating! You don’t have to be victimized by the need to be stuck in an office 8 hours a day!”  This is a trend that arose in response to the well-deserved charges that the former generation of feminism only concentrated on the needs  of middle-class WASPS. In response, these same WASPS started fetishizing every experience of women from other cultures and social classes in their obviously fake, “Oh, I so want to be you!” This is not only narcissistic as hell but also even more dismissive of any alternative experiences than anything 2nd wave WASPS could imagine.

Feminism is all about pregnancy, giving birth and breast-feeding. Unless you are constantly engaged in these activities, talking about these activities, and policing everybody who dares not to dedicate 100% of their time and effort to these activities, you are a dangerous, horrible creature. A woman who is not currently breastfeeding, is a freak. Why are you sitting there? Just go breastfeed already!” I call this school of thought, “If you feel insignificant and useless, go eat a baby.”

Of course, I will continue ridiculing these pseudo-feminist factions because it is both useful and fun.

* See the linked post and scroll down for the discussion, as well, if you need proof.

A Game: Funny Terms for Political Movements

Reader Rob F (whose own blog can be located here) acquainted me with a funny term for Libertarians – glibertarians.

I LOVE play on words so I have an idea. Let’s make a list of funny terms people use to refer to political and ideological groups.

Republicans – Repubenrons or Repugs

Anti-choicers – fetus lovers or the fetus people

My list is somewhat skewed because I have no idea how people of opposing systems of belief refer to Liberals and progressives. Other than “feminazi” nothing comes to mind. But feel free to share. I can absolutely guarantee that I will not be insulted. 🙂 Everything is getting too polarized in the months leading up to the election, so I think it’s a good idea to release some of the tension by laughing together.

Before we play, I want to say that this is not meant to offend anybody. Words only have as much power as we agree to give them. Of course, ethnic or racial slurs are not welcome because they are never inventive or interesting.

The winner will be the person who offers a term I find the most unexpected and funny. If there are several such terms, we can have a vote and decide collectively.

Back to USSR. Haven’t We Had Enough?

Please peruse this scary article that a reader of this blog sent to me:

Earlier this month, Mitt Romney received fawning press from the right wing media for turning out hundreds of coal miners to stand behind him during a speech on his energy plan in Beallsville, Ohio.

“To win Ohio, [President Obama’s] got to win eastern Ohio, and he’s got to get the votes of the people in these communities all around us here, and you’re not going to let that happen, because you’re going to keep our jobs,”Romney said that day.

It turns out that the coal miners did want to keep their jobs — in fact, that’s the only reason that many of them bothered to show up for Romney’s event. A group of employees at the Century Mine where Romney held his event recently complained to WWVA radio host David Blomquist that they feared they would be fired if they didn’t attend the Romney rally. Making matters worse, management did not pay the employees for the day because they were outside listening to Romney speak instead of working in the mine.

“Yes, we were in fact told that the Romney event was mandatory and would be without pay, that the hours spent there would need to be made up my non-salaried employees outside of regular working hours, with the only other option being to take a pay cut for the equivalent time,” the employees told Blomquist on his radio show. . .

Furthermore, the employees claim that “letters have gone around with lists of names of employees who have not attended or donated to political events.”

On Monday, Blomquist gave Murray Energy Chief Financial Officer Rob Moore a chance to defend his company on his show. Moore essentially confirmed the allegations.

According to Moore, the company “communicated to our workforce that the attendance at the Romney event was mandatory, but no one was forced to attend.” It seems that Moore may not fully understand the meaning of the word “mandatory.”

Sorry for the long quote but I believe it is important to see the situation as fully as possible. If this is true, then I have to say that it is quite scary. This is precisely what Russia’s President Putin and his party “United Russia” do to guarantee good turnouts for their political rallies.

If this is what Romney’s campaign does before Romney even gets elected, then what should we expect once he is in power? Oh, Soviet Union, here we come. As if the bailouts were not enough to give us all a scary reminder that Soviet practices are alive and well, here is the good old Soviet tradition of taking people off work and sending them to political rallies they had no interest in. But then the USSR, at least, never withdrew the salary for the days missed by employees because of such events.

I want to hope that the information provided in the article is not true. Does anybody know anything about this event?

Don’t watch the following video if you are not prepared to feel very, very sad:

El Sendero Luminoso

Professionally, no prospect terrifies me more than becoming one of those professors who keep offering the same tired collection of lectures for decades. Of course, the inertia is always there and I have to struggle against it in order to continue growing intellectually. This is why, as I shared earlier, I selected a variety of topics from recent Latin American history that I know nothing about and scheduled lectures on these subjects for this semester.

The very first topic was Peru’s El Sendero Luminoso. I’m ashamed to confess that my knowledge of it was so non-existent that I even had to do an online search to figure out what country it originated in. (Please remember that I’m not a Latin Americanist, which excuses this ignorance to an extent.)

Since these topics were included in the syllabus and announced to the students, I had no option but to start learning. I buried myself in sources on El Sendero Luminoso and finally delivered my lecture today.

The lecture was a smashing success. At the beginning of the class, many students looked bored and exhausted. The moment I walked into the classroom, many of them whipped out their cell phones and started texting with abandon. (I’m noticing that this is a very common reaction to a professor’s appearance. I attribute it to teenage shyness.)

However, after I started speaking, their interest awakened. Eyes opened, backs straightened, cell phones were put aside. The students looked riveted. At the end of the class, there were so many questions and comments that I couldn’t even finish the lecture on time. The prof who is teaching the next class in this classroom started making frustrated huffing noises that I could hear from behind the closed door.

We talked about the issues faced by progressive movements worldwide, the cocaleros, the War on Drugs. The level of enthusiasm the students exhibited was outstanding. Since the subject is new to me, I was very eager to share this new knowledge and I guess the students felt that.

I can’t tell you how happy I feel right now. This is what an educator lives for.

The moral of the story: intellectual self-improvement bears immediate and stunning fruit.

And now I’m off to my lecture on the Spanish Civil War.

Love of Visigoths

It turns out that I have 3 hard-core fans of the Visigoths in my Hispanic Civ course this semester. They took exception to my statement that the contribution of the Visigoths to the Hispanic civilization was minimal and proceeded to argue passionately (and very intelligently) about the importance of the Visigoths. It must be hard to challenge the professor when you are a Freshman or a Sophomore. Especially when that professor is yours truly.

Nothing makes me happier than to see young people being so passionate about things that happened 1,500 years ago and that are not immediately relevant to their daily lives.

A new definition of a university that I just came up with: it’s a place where you come to practice your love for things most people find ridiculous and boring.

As long as there are 18-year-olds who care about the Visigoths, our civilization will survive and prosper.