No Girls Allowed: Television Boys’ Club as Resistance to Feminism

By | Academic Writing | No Comments

This article analyzes the male-only spaces present in four television series, FX’s The Shield, Nip/Tuck , Rescue Me, and ABC’s Boston Legal, which each include a gendered territory as a recurring feature. I argue that these homosocially segregated environments enforce boundaries against women and shelter intense bromance relationships that foreclose romantic relationships of any kind, acting as physical incarnations of troubling retrograde sexual politics and ideologies. I also assert that the “boys’ clubs” in which these narratives take place, enabled and empowered by the aesthetic dimensions of architecture and design, help establish workplace patriarchy as commonplace, reasonable, and benign. This article reveals that in these television boys’ clubs, problematic gender ideologies are protected and celebrated, misogyny is naturalized, and patriarchal beliefs and behaviors legitimized.

Read the full paper in PDF form here.

The Kids Are All Right

By | Essays | One Comment

The first thing I mothered was a turtle the size of a silver dollar pancake that I bought for 88 cents at Woolworth’s. The store clerk handed over Herman (I believe there was some legal requirement then that all turtles be named Herman) in a tiny Chinese takeout box, and his little claws scrabbled against the waxy interior all the way home in the family Dodge.

In a display of largesse, my mother financed a home for Herman, a clear, plastic, oval dish with a miniature staircase leading up to an island with a jaunty green-leaved plastic palm tree stuck in it. A little water in the bottom, Herman plopped atop the atoll, and my 7-year-old maternal instincts kicked right in.

I discovered that if I petted his nose, he jerked his head back into his shell like a collapsing telescope. If I held him upside down to count his yellow-and-green belly splotches, he peed in my hand. If I dropped turtle food flakes, which smelled dreadful, on the top of his head, he wore them for days. One morning, Herman was inert. I let him languish for half a week, and then, solemnly humming Tantum Ergo Sacramentum, I processed to the sandbox and buried him an inch deep. The next morning, he roused himself, dug his way out, and headed for the tall grass, his wee footprints bordering the track of a thin, dragging tail.

What they don’t tell you about mothering is how often you get it wrong.

I went on to nurture, with varying degrees of success, a collection of teeny-weeny toads; a terrier, a sheepdog, and a Newfoundland; several much-too-expensive orchids of obscure varieties, and three human beings. The toads were the pickiest eaters, the orchids most given to fungus, and the human beings 28 MILWAUKEE MAGAZINE MAY 2016 by far the most intriguing. When I was trying to teach them something, suddenly I learned something, instead. Despite having won debating trophies, I lost every argument I ever had with a 6-year-old — those creatures are born defense attorneys. It is not possible to make a 15-yearold happy on a family vacation — I have tried and failed, three times over. There is no scientifically accurate answer to most questions that begin with “Why?” And despite all my naive promises to myself, I lied about Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the way democracy works, and the specific details of how I behaved in college.

As the mother, I could run things just the way I wanted to when I was 12. I could declare the living room a gymnasium, pronounce chocolate an acceptable food group, and attempt to raise Democrats. I could set achievement standards at accessible levels — please, no chainsaw murderers — and force my progeny to memorize Dorothy Parker quotes.

Well, those are the glamorous things I could have done, but I actually did none of them. Mostly, I was a single mother, struggling to bring home the bacon and keep us in macaroni and M&Ms — food items that I threatened to combine into a single hot dish when the fighting over video games escalated into karate performed on the sofa. My children were admirably tolerant of my failure to become wealthy during their formative years. Once, a pair of stunningly expensive sneakers so bankrupted the budget that we set them on the dining-room table as a centerpiece for a week before Christopher was finally allowed to wear them to school. The afternoon when I learned the price of the hockey goalie pads Ian wanted, I had to hide in the bathroom and hyperventilate into a popcorn box. And the day Gretchen converted chocolate pudding and milk into papier-mâché paste that stucco-ed the living room walls shall go unremarked upon. But they lived, made it to the final level of Zelda, graduated college, and are quite lovely people. And not one of them is a chainsaw murderer. Yet.

What they don’t tell you about mothering is that once you are good and thoroughly in love with that toddler, fairies come in the night and take her away and bring you a preschooler, instead. And then you fall in love with the preschooler, and poof! She’s gone and you’ve got yourself a gangly child. And then that kiddo disappears and you’re presented with a teenager, and people start lighting candles and saying novenas for you. Despite 13-through-17, each age was delightful and I mourned its passing. Though my youngest is fully grown, I swear I wouldn’t be startled to open a bedroom door and find a 3-year-old in there, grinding Silly Putty and saltines into the carpet. Though they are long past, through some magic peculiar to parenthood, those ages of infancy and childhood seem alive and real to me now, and there’s something to be mourned there.

What they also don’t tell you is how despicably gleeful the little darlings are as they take off on their own, how heedlessly they leave behind the island of serenity and plastic shade you lovingly provided, and how eagerly they set out for the tall grass just outside the sandbox.

You can’t plan for motherhood (or fatherhood), as it turns out, because it never turns out as planned. But it often does turn out just fine, whether or not you knew what the heck you were doing. This is largely because children are born resilient and loving you, and possess the good sense to stick to their guns on those two points, bless their knees, even if you do get it wrong, sometimes or often. Which is something, come to think of it, that they really should tell you. At least every Mother’s Day.

Milwaukee County Supervisor Notices Hillary is A Girl

By | Essays | No Comments

Milwaukee County Supervisor Deana Alexander has taken to referring to Hillary
Clinton as “Ovary.” Alexander hopes her Twitter hashtags #OvaryClinton and
#OperationOvary will be mistaken for insightful political commentary.

They are anything but.

Alexander’s rhetorical move to name-calling based on body parts is not only
gender bullying, but reveals a self-loathing and desperate desire to gain the
approval of misogynists.

Alexander’s attempt to act like one of the boys by insulting women actually
insults the boys. Not all men fear women (or ovaries). Not all men think of women
who trash other women for being women as being particularly shrewd and
nuanced.

If Alexander wants to play with the big guns (or at least bigger guns) of political
leadership of any gender, she needs to engage with issues rather than deliver
sniggering asides about female anatomy.

Argue policy, voting records, and decision-making, by all means. Have at it.
Smart and incisive debate is required by democracy, and voters are hungry for
and responsive to it. Let’s talk issues, please. But not gonads.

Naming a body part and treating it as a witty riposte is what mean third-graders
do at recess. It is unbecoming of a public official and about as droll as calling
someone an ear lobe. Alexander’s tweets are embarrassingly self-
congratulatory—is she hoping for a phone call from FOX?—and she pats herself
n the back for her “call-it-out attitude” in identifying the presidential candidate as
being female. We caught on to Hillary’s gender a while back, Alexander. But
thanks for the tip.

All name-calling in politics comes off as mean-spirited and cheap; it doesn’t
matter who is doing it. It demeans the demands of public office and convinces
voters that candidates are less sensible than the rest of us. But making that
name-calling a reference to gender is particularly sinister. It implies that ovaries
signal difference and defect. It is a claim that a woman’s anatomy is adequate
grounds on which to castigate and discipline her. It is a judgment of a woman,
not on the content of her character, but on the contents of her abdomen.
Retrograde attitudes and cultural blind spots can often be revealed by performing
a classroom trick that I teach my students. I call it an identity flip. Look at an
advertisement, a media message, or a cultural attitude and reverse the genders
or the races or the classes of those involved. Flip White and African-American,
flip rich and poor, flip heterosexual and homosexual. Doing this reveals
unfairness and inequality that cannot otherwise be seen. When we are blind to
how women are sexually objectified in advertising, replacing a half-naked woman
in a vodka ad with a half-naked man makes us laugh—and then makes us
ponder.

Communication theorist Marshall McLuhan is credited with saying, “We don’t
know who discovered water, but it wasn’t the fish.” The very attitudes that we
swim in have been held so long by so many that they feel natural and right and
are all too often invisible to us. But flip the identities, and arrogance and
entitlement is exposed.

So if we think that gender bullying is appropriate political work for a public official,
let’s flip the gender. Let’s imagine that a male county official tries to skewer Jeb
Bush by calling him “Testicle.” What a perceptive critique! It is no offense to
Bush, who is surely aware of possessing this biological equipment. But it does
make that male county official start to look a little suspect, and the focus swings
to the strangeness of one man berating another for being male.

Fear of difference is initially useful. It is a primal fear that helps us all sort friend
from enemy in a preliminary, quick assessment. But then we apply logic and
reason, we consider experience and ethics, and ultimately allow our initial fear to
be informed by sound judgment.

Alexander’s moniker of Hillary does not argue intellectually or even lucidly; it
simply points to difference as if that is a sound foundation on which to base a
democratic decision. But democracy was ever about difference, Alexander.
#GetOverIt.

Pamela Hill Nettleton is an assistant professor of journalism and media studies at
the Diederich College of Communication at Marquette University.
Appeared on www.milwaukeemag.com April 29, 2015,
http://www.milwaukeemag.com/2015/04/29/milwaukee-county-supervisor-
deanna-alexander-notices-hillary-is-a-girl/

County Supervisor Notices Hillary Is A Girl

By | Essays | No Comments

Milwaukee County Supervisor Deanna Alexander has taken to referring to Hillary Clinton as “Ovary.” Alexander hopes her Twitter hashtags #OvaryClinton and #OperationOvary will be mistaken for insightful political commentary.

They are anything but.

Alexander’s rhetorical move to name-calling based on body parts is not only gender bullying, but reveals a self-loathing and desperate desire to gain the approval of misogynists. Her attempt to act like “one of the boys” by insulting women actually insults the boys. Not all men fear women (or ovaries). Not all men think of women who trash other women for being women as being particularly shrewd and nuanced.

If Alexander wants to play with the big guns (or at least bigger guns) of political leadership of any gender, she needs to engage with issues rather than deliver sniggering asides about female anatomy.

Argue policy, voting records, and decision-making, by all means. Have at it. Smart and incisive debate is required by democracy, and voters are hungry for and responsive to it. Let’s talk issues, please. But not gonads.

Naming a body part and treating it as a witty riposte is what mean third-graders do at recess. It is unbecoming of a public official and about as droll as calling someone an ear lobe. Alexander’s tweets are embarrassingly self-congratulatory—is she hoping for a phone call from Fox News?—and she pats herself on the back for her “call-it-out attitude” in identifying the presidential candidate as being female. We caught on to Hillary’s gender a while back, Alexander. But thanks for the tip.

All name-calling in politics comes off as cheap; it doesn’t matter who is doing it. It demeans the demands of public office and convinces voters that candidates are less sensible than the rest of us. But making that name-calling a reference to gender is particularly sinister. It implies that ovaries signal difference and defect. It is a claim that a woman’s anatomy is adequate grounds on which to castigate and discipline her. It is a judgment of a woman, not on the content of her character, but on the contents of her abdomen.

Retrograde attitudes and cultural blind spots can often be revealed by performing a classroom trick that I teach my students. I call it an identity flip. Look at an advertisement, a media message, or a cultural attitude and reverse the genders or the races or the classes of those involved. Flip White and African-American, flip rich and poor, flip heterosexual and homosexual. Doing this reveals unfairness and inequality that cannot otherwise be seen. When we are blind to how women are sexually objectified in advertising, replacing a half-naked woman in a vodka ad with a half-naked man makes us laugh—and then makes us ponder.

Communication theorist Marshall McLuhan is credited with saying, “We don’t know who discovered water, but it wasn’t the fish.” The very attitudes that we swim in have been held so long by so many that they feel natural and right and are all too often invisible to us. But flip the identities, and arrogance and entitlement is exposed.

So if we think that gender bullying is appropriate for a public official, let’s flip the gender. Let’s imagine that a male county official tries to skewer Jeb Bush by calling him “Testicle.” What a perceptive critique! It is no offense to Bush, who is surely aware of possessing this biological equipment. But it does make that male county official start to look a little suspect, and the focus swings to the strangeness of one man berating another for being male.

Fear of difference is initially useful. It is a primal fear that helps us all sort friend from enemy in a preliminary, quick assessment. But then we apply logic and reason, we consider experience and ethics, and ultimately allow our initial fear to be informed by sound judgment.

Alexander’s moniker of Hillary does not argue intellectually or even lucidly; it simply points to difference as if that is a sound foundation on which to base a democratic decision. But democracy is ever about difference, Alexander. #GetOverIt.

Alone, But Not Lonesome

By | Essays | No Comments

Not to get all tragic, but when I go out, I go out alone.

It happens to be the way I roll these days.

I dine alone. I go to movies alone. I attend the theater alone. Table for one. A single ticket. Just one ice cream cone.

I am fine with this. It’s Milwaukee that seems to have a problem.

I have practiced my aberrant lifestyle in New York, in London, in Lugano, Switzerland, and along the decidedly uncosmopolitan north shore of Minnesota. Never have I been as challenged and pitied as I have been since I moved to Milwaukee.

When I and my latest Nora Roberts novel crave lobster, the maître d’ looks past my shoulder at the lack of anyone standing next to me and frowns. “Only one?” he asks, with the sort of attitude you might employ if you were inquiring if the guy on the bus who just sneezed on you has bubonic plague.

When I am bold enough to go see a film à un, the teenage twinkie behind the counter peers over as though I might be dating a toddler lurking down near my knees. “You’re it?” she asks. “I’m it!” I say jauntily. She rolls her eyes, snaps her gum, and hands me one ticket reluctantly, as if a single person hasn’t earned the right to sit in the dark alone.

When I go to the opera, which I love, I make an occasion of it. I dress up because it gives me pleasure – not because a man paid for the tickets and likes to see 3-inch heels. I take myself out to dinner first, and am usually seated at the saddest table in the joint, near the kitchen or restroom or draft from the door. Sometimes, a waitress or waiter adopts me and provides cheerful, friendly service (probably imagining some calamitous catastrophe has sent me out to the Third Ward dateless), but often, my server is grumpy from the start, assuming a woman alone cannot do the math to add 20 percent.

At the theater, the usher takes my ticket. I wait a beat. She waits a beat. I raise an eyebrow. She raises an eyebrow. I hold out my hand for the stub. She keeps it. “And the rest of your party…?” Her voice rises like steam from a kettle. “I’m the party.” She cants her head with compassion. Her voice drops to a Darth Vader register. “All alone?” she slowly intones, as if this is akin to being adrift at sea among sharks in a raft that’s rapidly deflating.

Through the doors, the second and aged usher hands me two programs, forcing me to hand one back. “Ah, flying solo tonight,” he says, as if he has just been told I will be dead of smallpox within hours. “Me and Lindbergh,” I joke, like a plucky girl who can cope with being out in public without a fellow, or a girlfriend, or a note from my mother.

I take my seat and look out over the audience. They seem nice, and I like people, I do. I don’t buy a ticket for one because I am a raging misanthrope. There are benefits that traveling in pairs won’t give you. Sitting alone in concert halls, theaters and airplanes, a person appears approachable. I’ve had many a fascinating conversation with a stranger, some of whom have become friends.

Alone is what all the television heroes and heroines are just before something really interesting happens to them. Alone, I can order French food and attend German opera and must justify or defend neither. Alone, I cheerfully eavesdrop on everyone else’s discussions of the merits of the play and am spared a tense ride home with a partner who just doesn’t get Ibsen. Alone, I can hear what the playwright or the painter or the composer is telling me, free of interruption. Alone, I can hear myself think.

True, going it alone, I miss camaraderie and insights and exposure to the preferences of another human being. But trust me, I get plenty of that in life – I have children. And I do things with friends; there’s a place for that. But there’s a place for being alone in a crowd, too. It’s a singular joy that nourishes the soul.

A crowd can be good company. In my head, I am not as alone as I look.

After the curtain, the usher reappears and, in a sweet and courtly gesture, helps me with my coat. I thank him, and he dips his head toward me conspiratorially. “Maybe next time you can bring a friend!” he whispers.

Maybe next time.

When Writers Write about Writers

By | Essays | No Comments

When the voice of a superb writer is stilled, a community of people who make their living by putting feelings into wise and nuanced words does what it does best. Writers write about writers we have lost.

The colleagues and friends of New York Times media columnist David Carr have remembered and mourned him since his untimely death in the newsroom on February 12.

Before he was published in The Atlantic Monthly and the Times, Carr wrote for and then edited an alternative weekly newspaper in Minneapolis/St. Paul called the Twin Cities Reader. The Reader took on civic issues of urban policy and social justice, running long form stories that annoyed and delighted people, depending on whether or not you were the subject of the news. Carr’s years in the Twin Cities, once legendary among local journalists, are now legendary on a national scale, thanks to his riveting Night of the Gun, an account of that time and his struggles with addiction.

During those years and beyond, I was a freelance writer and then a magazine editor in Minneapolis. I did not know Carr well, but everyone I did know well, did. He was admired. He was adored. Things he wrote made other writers shake their heads and say, “Damn. I wish I’d written that.”

Journalists are a crusty lot, given to harboring professional jealousies and doling out praise to worthy competitors with an eyedropper, but fiercely loyal to each other in foxholes and on barstools. The best storyteller at any party is a journalist, and one doesn’t always want another within earshot to fact check the veracity of the tale. We’ve all said things to each other about each other that we have forbidden each other to write about. But journalists have big, broken hearts and a yearning to make at least small corners of the world right again, so they remembered Carr by gathering together in that metaphysical, existential way in which words penned miles apart fly through the ether, meet and acknowledge one another, and then pass right by.

Minnesota boys Brian Lambert, Jim Walsh, and Scott Gillespie deftly eulogized Carr. David Brauer, who wrote for Carr’s competition, City Pages, and who has been my editor in other incarnations, tweeted a heartbreakingly gorgeous remembrance that is a lesson in how to write a memoir in 140-character bits. You can read what they and others wrote on the print and web pages of the finest publications in the land. They don’t need to be quoted by the likes of me. But I do want to take note of their task because it says something not only about a writer, but something about writing.

It hurts us so to lose a writer because a writer’s voice becomes a reader’s internal one, lingering like a party guest who forgot to go home, commenting and critiquing, suggesting better adjectives, and making certain we don’t miss the scenery or the good bits. The loss of a writer is the loss of a conscience.

In remembering Carr, other writers explore the human meaning-making mystery of laboring to leave a mark—on a cave wall, a page or a life. Writers feel a kinship with other writers, even ones we never meet, because we are mutually intimate with the frustration of staring at a blank screen and trying to will genius into existence. Like parents who are strangers but meet each other’s gaze over the heads of their toddlers in a shopping mall, we nod wearily in recognition when we meet. We know our own people, and salute. It is a noble and aspirational and doomed thing to try to write words that touch other humans, and it’s so rarely done well that one wonders why we bother.

As a media critic, Carr didn’t just do our work, he wrote about what it was like to do our work. He wrote about us and welcomed young people who wanted to be us and said cogent, sensible things about how to write your way through the world. He honored the heroic dream of journalism—that it ought to count, and change things, and be a tough slog. And he and those who loved his work honor, too, the doomed task of a writer: to attempt to delight and repair the world with mere syllables and semi-colons, because there may be no more mighty way to do it.

Pamela Hill Nettleton is an author and assistant professor of journalism and media studies at Marquette University.

Job: Comm Specialist, Village of Whitefish Bay

By | Students | No Comments

Communications Specialist 

Village of Whitefish Bay

 

The Village of Whitefish Bay is seeking a part-time, Communications and Social Media Specialist (10 hours per week) to drive the Village’s social media engagement and public information initiatives.  This position will be responsible for print and online communication/social media initiatives for the organization.  The ability to be a self-motivated, team player, with strong social media and communications skills are vital for this position.   

Requirements:  Strong written and communication skills.  Ability to successfully manage several projects at once, as well as the ability to work independently.  Excellent organizational skills; good with deadlines, details, and follow through.  Strong experience with digital communication (social, web, mobile, etc.)  Must be able to work with Microsoft Office and Constant Contact.  Ability to attend a weekly Department Head meeting is desired.

 

College Degree in communications or related field required. Related experience required.

 

Responsibilities Include:

  • Conceptualize, write and edit electronic and print communication materials, including website, monthly print newsletter content, weekly electronic newsletter; periodic email blasts and press releases.
  • Update Facebook and actively tweet on a frequent basis.
  • Monitor usage and adjust content, frequency, accordingly.
  • Work closely with the Village Manager and other staff members to prioritize and successfully communicate the Village Board’s initiatives to the public.
  • Other duties as assigned.

 

Please mail or email resume and cover letter by March 10, 2015:

 

  Paul Boening

            Manager’s Assistant
            Village of Whitefish Bay

            5300 N. Marlborough Drive

            Whitefish Bay, WI 53217

 

            [email protected]

Scripps Howard Foundation Semesters

By | Students | No Comments

March 15 is the deadline for students to apply for fall internships with the Scripps Howard Foundation Semester in Washington program. These are paid internships ($3,346) with free housing in furnished apartments.

 

The interns report, write, take photos and make videos. They also tour Washington journalism and government institutions and take part in weekly seminars to discuss issues in journalism and  meet with guest speakers.

 

April 1 is the deadline for graduating seniors or those earning MAs to apply for our yearlong post-graduate, multimedia fellowship. This is a paid fellowship ($23,136) with free housing in furnished apartments.

 

The application forms are on our website: www.shfwire.com

I’m happy to answer questions from faculty or students.

Thank you.

Jody Beck

[email protected]

Scripps Howard Foundation Wire

Director, Semester in Washington Program

Scripps Howard Foundation

www.shfwire.com

202-408-2748

@JodyBeckDC

1100 13th St. NW, #450

Washington, DC 20005