Jan 09 2007

Blamer brain trust alert 2

I wanted grouper, but the Fish Man stuck the fillet under my nose and said, “You don’t want this whiffy piece of crap. Have the halibut.” So I did, and glazed it with red wine, ginger, and Major Grey chutney.

Blaming pedagogue M writes in with this request:

“I’m trying to track down a good reading, article-length, to give to my students. Something that can break down just how the patriarchy, specifically the globalized capitalist godbag-ridden manifestation of patriarchy, uses heteronormativity to their own ends. In other words, is there a good nugget-sized piece on how assholes want us all to be in neat little hetero nuclear units so they can more easily market our brains out?

I figured you would know. Among all my shelves & boxes of books and articles, I can’t seem to find one that makes this connection in the bald, in-your-face kind of way that this particular group of students is likely to need.”

Sadly, M has grossly overestimated my bibliographical talents. I can’t think of a thing. In an effort not to let her down like a drunken stepfather, I chuck the problem at you geniuses.


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  1. Dr. Beads

    Perhaps the students could be assigned to read your blog for a week? I know it’s not an article, but it’s damn pithy.

  2. Ashley

    Adrienne Rich’s “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence”?

  3. yankee transplant

    Definitely assign them IBTP.

  4. Urban

    Are those brussels sprouts next to the fish slab? If so, what was done to them to make them edible? My father has been known to blanche them swiftly, then saute them with some bacon fat and shallots, and that’s about the only way I have been able to choke them down.

  5. M The Pedagogue

    Hi, it’s me, the pedagogue in question.

    I was thinking Rich for this, and that’s a solid, cornerstone essay to give to this next generation of blamers, but not exactly what I’m looking for. These are practical, working folks, returning students, people who appreciate nuts-and-bolts, and I’m trying to demonstrate the economic links between Mother-Father-Dick-and-Jane and corporate globalization.

    (Interesting side note: Firefox’s built-in spell-checker just red-lined “globalization.” Guess it’s not such the alterna-browser after all.)

    I don’t want to hear one more ounce of whining about “representation” ’til I can find a decent feminist class critique without APBing the blogosphere.

    End of rant.

  6. Amaz0n

    Twisty, this is very very OT, but I lament frequently that you do not publish recipe books, or at the very least post the recipes for delicious-looking items you cook along with their pictures. Some time ago you made some kind of tofu dish, whose recipe I pined for deeply.

  7. ripley

    pedagogue, I don’t know an article, but I found I could get my students to come up with some examples themselves in discussion, with good question posed to them.

    It took a while but I think they got it pretty well when asked questions to reveal the shape of patriarchy and heteronormativity in everyday life. It’s not as if they’re unfamiliar with it, just because they haven’t named it

    Especially, I should add, so-called non-traditional students, people who have experiences with jobs, the workforce, loan officers, bank officers, etc. And cheap prices, needing to go to Wal-Mart, issues around immigration and foreign policy and oil/gas/prices, and grocery prices.

    However you’re going to explain what it is that corporate globalization is, there are probably examples of institutions people have actually interacted with. There oughta be, if it’s a meaningful term. So maybe you can get them to come up with some of what you’re looking for?

  8. M The Pedagogue

    great stuff, ripley, and all very true. In my own educational history, the very best moments have been discovering that there were words and ideas around the vague impressions I had – and I don’t want to show up empty-handed.

    I have something akin to what you’ve described planned for the opening part of the class, followed by a horrifying fact sheet of statistics about the real wage stagnation, average American debt, cost of living #s, etc. To lead into a discussion about why everything’s so difficult if all it supposedly “takes” is “hard work.”

    I have a pretty great article from Salon.com about Bush’s little minions being cute little Horatio Alger caricatures and how you never hear about the federal policies or programs that helped them (federal student loans being a biggie).

    Now I’m recalling where I heard this idea of hetero nuclear family as economic unit: Engels. I might throw “The Origin of the Family” at them and just see what they do with it. I’m still trying to find something a bit more contemporary.

  9. Emma Goldman

    I have only two suggestions, and they’re both kind of sideways, i.e., not exactly what you probably want, but I found that to be useful sometimes. Plus, both are accessible. One is an article from Signs, about a million years ago, by Carol Cohen? Cohn? It was about the language of nuclear proliferation. She spent a couple of months hanging with the missile folks, and her discussion of how easy it is to slip into the acronyms and forget what’s actually being discussed was fascinating. (I’ll find the cite if you want; I can’t lay my hands on it right this minute.)

    The other is “From Front Porch to Back Seat” by Beth Bailey (I think). It’s a history of courtship in the U.S. between about 1900 and 1970 or so, and, when I used it, it led to a great discussion, prompted by the question, “How do you know when you’re on a date? What constitutes a date?” The students (who were college-age, for the most part)were able to see the assumptions embedded in their actions.

    Donna Haraway does a nice job talking about the attempts to link primate studies/behaviors with human behaviors.

  10. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Jeez, Twisty, why don’t you write it? It’s perfectly within the scope of your capabilities.

  11. B. Dagger Lee

    “The Kingdom of the Fathers,” in Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution, Adrienne Rich (New York: Norton, 1986).

    “Slaying the Dream: The Black Family and the Crisis of Capitalism,” in Women, Culture, Politics, Angela Davis (New York: Vintage, 1990).

  12. dr_igloo

    Lisa Duggan’s article in The Nation might be just the ticket. A key quote:

    “Republicans and Democrats are by and large in agreement that as social programs are whittled away, gender-differentiated marriage (heterosexual, with different expectations for women and men) should take up the slack. … So there is an economic agenda, as well as surface moralism, attached to calls for the preservation of traditional marriage. The campaign to save gendered marriage has some rational basis, for neoliberals in both parties, as a politics of privatization.”

    And the link:

  13. Jodie

    Those Brussel sprouts look oh so delicious that I probably won’t be able to get any work done now until after lunch.

  14. bigbalagan

    My advice is to cull what you need from Twisty’s archives. Especially if you’re looking for something that is not heavy on academic rhetoric (which is a kind of thick, starchy gravy on top of anything picante) you can’t do better, in terms of either focused, relevant content or outstanding composition.

  15. cycles

    And don’t forget the dark side as a primary source. I’m taking a guess here without proof, but there have got to be gobs of advertising industry white papers about how to segment markets by gender, and how neato it is to get a family to buy twice the stuff they need at a genderiffic markup. Ad Age is the only industry publication I can think of, but there must be more. Perhaps a light espionage mission among the advertising/communications faculty?

  16. Wrongshore

    This is in the opposite direction, but Immanuel Wallerstein writes about the value of the nuclear family to capitalism. Here’s an essay by him and Joan Smith — I’ve not read it, but I remember tasting Wallerstein’s world-systems approach in my bright college years and being pretty impressed.

  17. curiousgyrl

    I thought of Dugan also, as well as Hester Eisenstein. She has an essay detailing the transition from nuclear one-worker families to two-income households in an essay called A Dangerous Liason? Feminism and Capitalism or soemthing. I can email a pdf. Its a feminist piece but with an eye toward walmart, and an easy read. I can email a pdf.


    in other news–i tried for halibut last night, right here in Austin, but was forced to order salmon. I blame you know who.

  18. rebecca

    cycles: Comm. trade publications besides Ad Age include Adweek and Brandweek.

    Urban: The brussels sprouts in that pic look sauteed, which is the best way to eat them, IMO. Directions: Wash brussels sprouts real well to get the pesticides off. Cut the tips off the brussels sprouts, then halve each one. Spray a skillet or wok with olive oil and turn on the flames. Toss in brussels sprouts. Shake the skillet around periodically; don’t let the sprouts burn! When they start looking a cheery green, add a little sea salt and maybe even a few crushed pine nuts. Blame the patriarchy and dig in. Bon appetit!

  19. LibraryBlamer

    “Under Western Eyes Revisited: Feminist Solidarity through Anticapitalist Stuggles” by Chandra Mohanty was published in Signs in 2002 (vol. 28, no. 2). It is an update of an earlier article, but you don’t have to read the original article (I haven’t). It doesn’t speak directly to heteronormativity, but it’d be a short step if your students are comfortable with Mohanty’s ideas. I think it would be a good introduction, but I also think that there’s not going to be a single best way to get a potentially very techy concept across to the uninitiated. Also potentially useful would be a chapter from Naomi Klein’s No Logo. While it’s worthwhile to read the entire book, individual chapters can be appreciated on their own merits.

  20. Twisty

    Just so you know, those Brussel’s sprouts were pan-roasted alongside the halibut in a 400 F convection oven for 11 minutes. You cut a little X into the stem, blanch’em for a minute, dry’em, cut’em in half, toss’em with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a smidge of lemon zest, and throw’em in the same pan with your fish.

  21. Frumious B

    M. the Pedagogue:

    You could easily compile a compendium of ads for cleaning products to illustrate your point. These ads always feature a woman, and the level of cleanliness featured can only be acheived by a stay-at-home woman. I’m thinking in particular of Clorox right now with their reprehensible kids-having-gender-role-reaffirming-daydreams-in-the-bathroom series. While looking for a link, I found this:

    I had to go back to msnbc and read a female targeted newsstory to find the actual ad:

    At some point during the little girl’s pink fairy dance, you can view the mermaid and pirate (girl and boy, for those who missed the memo) daydream commercials via a link on the blue bar.

    Here is the article I had to read to find the ad:

    Further, Clorox relies on women filling the heteronormative role of being interested in children (funny how no one writes articles about kids straining male friendships) in order to reach them.

    A compendium of grilling commercials would be equally rich, as they feature men fulfilling the dudely role of grillmeister.

  22. lectric lady

    Twisty, I have really missed your wonderful food porn photos. I hope you continue with them on a regular basis.

    Gotta go. Need to get me some Brussel’s Sprouts.

  23. monkey6079

    This may not be exactly what you’re looking for, but the statement from the Combahee River Collective was the first thing to pop into my mind.

  24. tpurplesage

    I heard an amazing interview with George Lakoff about Politics & Language on KFPK in Los Angeles on Friday
    (here’s a link to listen to it: http://www.alternativeradio.org/programs/LAKG001.shtml)

    He talked all about Cognitive linguistics and the Republican Agenda. It might be a bit off topic, but I found it an amazing insight into the Republican parental/patriarchal view of the world, and how moral it is to be a greedy capitalist.

  25. tpurplesage

    Actually that link I sent makes you pay to listen to it. You can listen to it for free if you go here:www.kpfk.org, click on Audio Archives (on the left) and then go to
    Friday, January 5, 2007 3:03 pm – Alternative Radio and click on play.


  26. Leigh

    John D’Emilio’s “Capitalism and Gay Identity” is a pretty interesting piece on the subject. He outlines how capitalism transformed the nuclear family from primarily an economic unit to an emotional/spiritual center, so while (he argues) it allowed for the development of “gay” as an identity, as opposed to a behavior, it also invested the heteronormative family with a new, almost sacred significance. The piece isn’t perfect, but that’s actually something I like about it; it provides an opportunity for reader critique and can be a great jumping off point for discussion.

  27. deciduousfruit

    An interesting alternative perspective is Cynthia Enloe, an economist I think, whose Bananas, Beaches, and Bases offers some excellent insights into the ways American militarization has affected the gender roles and family structures in places where our military bases have created localized economies to serve our soldiers. And I second, or third, Chandra Mohanty’s Feminism Without Borders.

  28. Emma Goldman

    Another of my faves–again, it doesn’t deal with heteronormativity so much as expectations about sex roles/work–is Ruth Schwartz Cowan’s “More Work for Mother,” which discusses the industrialization and further feminization of housework.

  29. Carpenter

    The history of us ladies shaving our armpits is a pretty good one. All stated in an add in Harpers cuz razor companies wanted to double their market. I dont have link right not but I think its easy to find.

  30. Jess

    I realllly liked _Patriarchy and Accumulation On A World Scale_ by Maria Mies. Would need to pick the best piece of the book.

    There’s also “It’s All In The Family” by the wonderful Patricia Hill Collins, _Hypatia_ 13:62.

    For the place of heterosexually married women in upholding the class structure, a classic is _Women of the Upper Class_ by Susan Ostrander.

    Good luck to the (fellow) pedagogue.

  31. metamanda

    Not an article-length piece, exactly, but The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap by Stephanie Coontz, is very much what you describe. (She also has a riveting history of marriage out.) There are two chapters that might fit your requirements nicely: “We always stood on our own two feet: self-reliance and the american family” and “bra-burners and family bashers: feminism, working women, consumerism and the family”. Her work is very readable, and smart without being heavy on the academic jargon.

  32. curiousgyrl

    I would second or third the john d’Emilio and Stephanie coontz suggestions.

    And since brussels sprouts have for some strange reason caught some fire, I must also speak out in thier defense. Sprouts are delicious.

  33. FemiMom

    I don’t have any “nuggets”. I can, however, suggest a book from which you might exerpt:
    News Coverage of Violence Against Women, by Marian Meyers. The Meyers book does an especially good job of outlining oppression based on gender, race, SES, orientation, and even, addiction. It describes how market forces work with and for the patriarchy. What passes for news is what passes with the patriarchy(!) What sells is patriarchy(!) It explores the presumption of culpability that is leveled on non-male humans who are non-white, non-straight, non-middleclass, etc. The book describes particular cases, which I found especially useful in presenting these concepts to undergraduates. Also, although this book’s topic is “media”, it would be suitable for courses in English, sociology, communication, business (yep!), and philosophy.
    Heck, assign the entire book. It’s only about 150 pages.

  34. Pony

    Not a book, but an assignment suggestion. Students might also refer to various related IBTP posts to round out their reading list.


    Study Finds Utah Leads Nation in Antidepressant Use

  35. Ms. T

    I enjoyed parts of Laura Kipnis’ Against Love. She frequently makes the point that while “love” or “lust” can briefly upset capitalist production (ie all you do is concentrate on orgasms not working or otherwise being productive in sanitized capatalist sanctioned ways) but staying in a couple only reinforces capitalist production. In order to stay with your beloved, or to merely put up with them it is back to work for you and probably babies.

  36. LouisaMayAlcott

    Have them write the article.

    Here’s an outline:

    1. The material basis of patriarchy is ownership, and all ownership is enforced by violence. All ownership is adversarial.

    2. Heteronormativity is based on the Stockholm sysndrome, as discussed in detail on this page:


    3. All access to resources on this planet requires that one either:

    a.) live feral


    b.) make a deal (legal or otherwise) with the patriarchy that gives it present or future claim on your being. That claim, of course, being enforced by violence or threats of violence, and/or denial of access to resources (enforced as above.)

    4. Females were the first form of property, males individually and collectively being their owners. By extension, all offspring of a woman owned by the male individual or collective are the property of same.

    5. The definition and enforcement of ownership of females by males originated in individual and collective male violence.

    6. Ownership was extended through generations by violence conflict in the form of wars of various scales.

    Lots of material there.

    They can expand and detail at will.

  37. arse poetica

    M., while you’re at it, don’t forget to have your students Regender!

  38. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Twisty, I’d follow you into Hell in my skivvies, but I loathe, nay, I abominate brussels sprouts. When I was 4 I bit into one containing a tiny, curled-up worm. Never been able to look another one in the eye.

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