Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Sweetheart on the barricade

Dear Richard Thompson,

Don’t get me wrong, I love that you’re one of a handful of people writing songs about working class women. “We stood on the picket line, my Jennifer and me.” “She's my bright jewel of the alley / She's my Cooksferry Queen.” “I fell in love with a laundry girl who was working next to me.” Okay, you’ve established factory girls as romantic leads. But I assume there’s not a Jennifer out there writing songs about how much fun it was to picket with you as an accessory, her Richard, the equal of any woman? Not so much fun to be cast purely as the love interest, is it?

While you’re at it, why don’t you do a cover of “Union Maid” and advise us all to “get you a man who's a union man and join the ladies' auxiliary”? It might not go over so well with Jennifer, though.

your feminist academia queen

Monday, October 23, 2006


The National Folk Festival came to my hometown last week. Part of me was annoyed that nearly all the musicians were men, but part of me was not at all displeased to spend a day and a half watching curly-haired, step-dancing, rollicking, hurdy-gurdy-playing Quebecois and Cajun guys. Anyone who thinks folk music is the realm of old boring people needs to go see Le Vent du Nord's accordion player, or the Lost Bayou Ramblers' fiddler leaping onto his bandmate's double bass as they both continue playing.

On a related note, I want to learn to play the concertina. This seems unlikely to happen given my lack of free time and a concertina, although I'm having visions of spare time in the Peace Corps (and a handy desert or rainforest to practice in where I won't bother anyone). Although, come to think of it, sand is probably not good for concertinas.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Ms. Wise Goes to Washington

I agreed to go on the school trip to Washington to lobby senators about Darfur, but the night before I was chewing my knuckles and wondering what I had been thinking. I hate politics. I don't have a suit. The only shoes I've got to wear are the grubby black flats I schlepped around Europe in. We're going to a reception at some swanky club and I won't fit in. Everyone else will be a political science major.

In the end I convinced myself that as a good Quaker I needed to force myself to go. Even if I didn't know much about Darfur or say a word in the meetings, I could at least watch other people and be prepared to do it myself next time on some other issue. So I got on the bus the next morning with my best white shirt and the briefcase my mother got for her failed landscaping business.

And lo! it was okay. The other students did seem to be mostly poli sci majors, but most of them didn't have suits either and some didn't even have black shoes. And once I met them I realized that my disadvantages on Capitol Hill weren't so much. I didn't have an accent or wear a hijab. If I had asked a question about another country no one would have written my opinion off with "Of course she's biased, she's Jewish/Korean/Muslim/black."

I felt out-of-place in the Washington mystique, but maybe that's as it should be. I don't actually want to own a suit or be a poli sci major. I should be able to talk with senators without pretending to be one. And what kind of a system would we have if only people who owned suits went to their Congress members' offices? (One not too far removed from our own, unfortunately.) They have some beautiful marble buildings up there. Go visit them, even if you don't have a suit. Give them a piece of your mind.

Monday, October 09, 2006

My life is complete

I get to read an Alison Bechdel graphic novel for one class and talk about her strip Dykes to Watch Out For in a paper for another class.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Sampling the wares

I would be a better library worker if I didn't get keep stopping to skim the books on the shelves. At 8 in the morning finding books is the perfect job: no one else is in the stacks yet. I don't have to talk to anyone. I'm very efficient when it's dusty old psychology manuals or novels, but the art books and social sciences are completely distracting.

My favorite shelves are the HQs on the back of the third floor, with titles like The Essential Guide to Gay and Lesbian Weddings (roses all over the cover on this one), Prostitution : an Illustrated Social History, and the delightfully alliterative Queer Iberia. They have lots of words like "negotiating" and "deconstructing" and "subjectivity". It's addictive.