Food-is-love advising

I had a “food is love” grandma,  whose sweetness was doled out in ice cream. I miss her quite a bit, even though I think she likely missed me more. I moved away, and I am hard to stay connected to due to the mandatory time I seem to need in my own world. 

I have a student who has had a rough half year, and we made a date for pancakes to catch up.  My idea. I take students to lunch, I take students to dinner, we go to coffee, we have snacks.

 Food is entirely wrapped up in my expressions of hospitality and care. I’m sure nutritionists would not approve of this, but it’s the way I am. 

I remember a friend coming to my house after she had taken the LSAT. And she was feeling demoralized, as one does after these awful tests. She said she was hungry. Andy and I made her an omelet and toast. 

I remember a student of color ordering one of his favorite ethnic foods and happily consuming it in front of me, his white advisor, and it made me happy he was so comfortable with me he knew I understood how food is more than just nutrition, that it has so many meanings, that with me had space to have what he wanted, not what maintained an image. 

I remember that terrible week of the shootings at Virginia Tech, the students who hadn’t gone home had little to do, we bought tons of candy and snacks at the Walmart in Christiansburg (where you can, in fact, find Christians) and used my old projector from when I was a consultant to show “Weird Science” on the side of a building whose name I can’t remember now.  We stayed up until 1 am talking together after we were done. 

I remember my grandma, with her cake. Do you want ice cream, too? You would be having ice cream, too.

New Bedrosian Podcast: Planning for AuthentiCITIES, edited by Laura Tate and Brettany Shannon

Hey y’all! Everything continues to melt around me (this is fine, says the dog with the coffee cup. Hey! Verisimilitude!  I do have a dog and a cup of coffee, so….) but USC Price does do cool things, too, and one of them is a series of podcasts under the book club banner! We are podcasting interviews with USC Price book writers The first one is with an edited volume from the brilliant Laura Tate and Brittany Shannon called Planning for AuthentiCITIES. 

 

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There are 18 chapters and 16 authors involved in this effort, and it’s terrific. It’s got everything from how play and comics in the city helps contribute to the feelings of attachment and authenticity along with deeply theoretical chapters that hit the ball out of the park.  Our own Maria Francesca Piazzoni submitted a brilliant—and very readable—theoretical exploration. 

I love the book—I think it’s terrific—and I think it’s a real contribution to community development as well as planning/urban theory.  Of course, I’m crazy about one of the editors as all USC students are brilliant with extra brilliance on top, but I don’t think my affection is all bias. 

You can listen to my discussion with the two editors here! 

Today, my male colleagues will go on, like nothing has happened to anybody

As a matter of a fact, one genius decided yesterday to be as boneheaded as possible to upset everybody by email because, you know, accusers DO LIE now and then. Which, since we know the gender balance of these things here, means that any and every woman who has experienced sexual assault and aggression should be treated like she is a witness in a capital trial.  

Even though there is no trial. And all women are asking is to be believed when they say men, even men we like, who agree with politically, who have families and even turn out not to be terrible fathers,  do awful things.  

And all this did was cause hurt.  And more work for me as students turn to the professors who don’t have rocks in their heads, who are aware of how gender structures our lives,  because they need to.

And they are entitled to. At least in my book they are. 

And he was unpleasant to our women and allies and student group.

You see, it was important for men to discuss how it’s not all men.  Men, you see, have important needs. They need to be treated fairly.  It’s a policy school, and we must focus on the men, but only in certain ways, by focusing on how women fail to be perfect, and how when somebody points out that deep, deep insight, he’s entitled to his opinion about how women are not, as a universal class, above bad behavior. 

Because we discussed these deep, deep things, we did not discuss the many other policy-relevant questions: 

1. We did not discuss how yesterday two of the same old men who sat in judgment of Anita Hill all those years ago also sat in judgement of Dr. Ford, and is it really a good idea to have the same people holding on to incredibly important committee positions for that long? 

2. We did not discuss why Caesar’s wife must be beyond reproach, but a man of terrible character feels entitled to hold extremely powerful positions just because his friends tell him it’s his turn after he did his service to them chickenhawking Dems. 

3.  We did not discuss his jurisprudence at all. 

4.  We did not discuss how Republicans whined (and Kavannaugh himself whined and Lindsey Graham whined) that this was all just political hackery, conveniently forgetting that Neil Gorsuch was confirmed with what seems to me  decidedly little partisan haggling, largely because Gorsuch’s record was one of an honorable, conservative jurist whose natural law leanings make me crazy, but certainly speak to a more principled life in the law than Kavannaugh). 

5. We did not discuss why Republicans are so invested in this specific toxic candidate, or why they are so willing to stand by a man whose conduct towards women is appalling, instead of just withdrawing the nomination in favor of the many, many  qualified conservative jurists who are better men and oh by the way WOMEN who happen to be conservative jurists, all of whom are way more Gorsuch-like than Kavannaughlike. 

6. We did not discuss that lifetime appointments on the Supreme Court is probably a very bad idea institutionally, particularly when one party decides to pack the court. 

But we didn’t get to have any of these discussions.  Nobody got any smarter as a result of the discussion we DID have, but it was important to not have any of these other discussions because men need. 

And so the fellas will go on, having a nice work day today, while the women in the department continue to try to hold Price together for the students, so that at the end of the year, we can be told that we aren’t as research productive as all the dudes,  why aren’t we getting more done?  How are we using our time? 

Today your newsfeed will be full of crusty old men and that useless Jeff Flake.  Here’s a picture of two cute things, Dr. Tani and Izzy, instead. 

 

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Do not underestimate the extreme pleasure of filling your Little Free Library with feminist and anti-whiteness children books

MUHUHUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.  

Continuing to experiment with my little free library and front yard pocket park. I’ve been providing a place to sit in my front garden, and It’s well-used, with our long blocks and the like.  But I have only recently put up my Little Free Library, and we are quite obsessed. I keep telling myself I will just let it govern itself, but I check it every time I walk past, which is usually at least once a day given I walk past it on the way to the car, bus, or during walkies. 

Ahem. It all looks innocent enough.  Just a dumb old white lady virtue signaling on her private property, look at me, look at me, I share books.

 

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BUT NO. 

 

Giving away things is great fun, but I’m particularly obsessed by children’s books because I WANT TO BRAINWASH YOUR CHILDREN INTO MY EVIL WORLDVIEW MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.  

 

There are some great kid’s books out that confront whiteness.  LaMikia Castillo sent this one to me: 

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And then, of course, adventures: 

 

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Finally….I am a huge, huge fan of Illustrator Jack Ezra Keats: and his little guy in the darling red snowsuit:  

 

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Avital Ronell and A Bunch of Dudes

So to get you normal people caught up, the scandal surrounding surrounding Avital Ronell at NYU, here’s a description, along with (PAY ATTENTION PHD STUDENT AND NONFICTION WRITERS) the point of the entire essay stated in the first sentence from Fordham’s Leonard Cassuto: 

 

It shouldn’t take a case like Avital Ronell’s to make us pay attention to graduate advising. Ronell, a professor of philosophy at New York University, was recently suspended from teaching for a year for the sexual harassment of Nimrod Reitman, one of her former Ph.D. advisees. Reitman, who had brought a Title IX complaint against Ronell after he graduated, has further claimed that Ronell’s lukewarm recommendations have hindered his search for an academic job. Ronell disputes all the charges.

This case is strange for many reasons. One is that Ronell is female and Reitman is male — an inversion of the usual pattern for sexual-harassment cases. Further, Ronell is a prominent scholar. And the kicker: Ronell is lesbian, and Reitman is gay. The two have been flinging he said/she said barbs at each other since his accusations went public. More than 50 scholars signed an open letter of protest of NYU’s investigation, and now that the university found that he was sexually harassed, Reitman has sued NYU for damages.

“What Happens to #MeToo When a Feminist Is the Accused?” asked The New York Times.”Groping professor Avital Ronell and her ‘cuddly’ Nimrod Reitman see kisses go toxic,” said Britain’s The Times. The public fascination is no wonder. This is bizarre stuff.

It is, but it isn’t.  This has the feel of a “Man Bites Dog” story, and thus we have it in the BLOODY  New York Times which has apparently lost its mind again:  What happens to #MeToo When a Feminist is Accused? 

Well, bloody nothing.  First of all, just being queer doesn’t mean you are feminist, and just because you are feminist—and I have real questions about whether Ronell is or isn’t one—doesn’t mean you will never abuse your position.  Even posing this headline this way pisses me off as how it illustrates the NYT’s desire to have it both ways, to be the grey lady, while also dog-whistling to the worst in us. Har, har. This’ll give those feminists their comeuppance and douse some fires on this whole #MeToo thing.  

I have to start by saying I personally have not found Ronell’s work particularly useful over the years, at the same time that her advisor, Derrida, who has some big coattails, was pretty important to my own ways of thinking about the world.

 I’ve generally considered Ronell to be one of those few women who could gull their way through the university’s star system, which, by the way,  is actually one of the villains here (SEE STUDENTS, I’M NOT NEARLY AS GOOD AS CASSUTO, BURYING MY LEAD HERE.)  Post-modern universities give most of the work to adjuncts and then use media to flog a small number of their “stars.” Who are these people?  Who can explain this?  They look good, they are stylish, they write their own Wikipedia pages, they get on great with deans and higher-ups, they network like crazy,  and they in no way REALLY challenge existing social or economic relationships. And, notably, they get their work done.  Avital Ronell fit this bill very well, with her pixie-ish looks (not a criticism) and her connections to one of the most important philosophers of the 20th century, and, in turn, her control over a department at one of the exclusive privates just outside the Ivies. 

If there were a recipe for this academic scandal to get into the mainstream, it’s this one with Ronell: Man bites dog, yes, but then 50 other superstar academics did her the great “favor” off condemning the investigation—let’s repeat this, condemning the investigation–in an openly circulated letter arguing (REALLY BADLY) that because she’s such a precious little genius and so playfully queer that her behavior somehow can’t be judged by the rest of us (puke)–and thereby making the holy bejeezuz damn sure that the WORLD was doing to pay attention to Ronell’s disgrace granted their own star status. Like, somehow, they don’t know how this works, only they do, because they’ve done every play in the star playbook to get where they are.

Honestly, with this set up, why are we surprised that malignant narcissists make their way into these star positions then make others miserable, which is exactly what it sounds like Ronell did.  I have no doubt that some of the people on the 50 scholar list were well-intended but oye what were you thinking? 

The key to understanding this is 1) the man bites dog story of the malignant behavior in  question coming  from a queer woman versus the 2) everyday story of the malignant narcissists in star positions is that men dominate in high-status, perk-laden positions and women don’t. It’s not that feminists are immune (though I would hope our training would make us more reflexive leaders, nothing is certain). It isn’t that men are swine, and women are naturally more moral. It’s that our structures make it unusual for a woman for Ronell to make into the star space in the first place because of patriarchal suppositions about who is allowed to be on top of anything.

The reason for the “Bunch of Dudes” in the title is that I want to point out, without any real sympathy (or derision) for Ronell (as i don’t know what happened beyond the structure that allowed it because that structure is everywhere in research universities), that male privilege is even at work here. Her disgrace follows her by name because of women’s oppression in these spaces. Her uniqueness means her name and her face are imprinted. But when you are a sexual harasser amongst a big, long list of dudes, you’re just another one of the dudes. You might face some consuquences–you might–but the NYT won’t be all over you the same way, nor will there likely to be one salacious, score-settling article after another one denouncing you. Because the male harassers’ field is crowded, and womens’ is not, well, stand-outs in the second get the full measure of public censure.

It’s important to point out that plenty of us in the academy have both tenure and accountability. As Cassuto points out, the answer is institute genuine post-tenure reviews and systems of accountability that disallow the nonsense that Ronell’s dean let her do–both in graduate advising and everything else. Granted, my dean knew me from when I came up as an assistant, but I can’t imagine in a million years pulling what Ronell appears to have done (and that I have seen white het cis male scholars do all the time) just on an everyday basis without getting hauled over the carpet for it, either by my dean or my senior colleagues.

Regardless of the various salaciousness of the details, students deserve better than the nonsense of hot-and-cold advising, which is at the very least what happened here. If you have a problem with a student’s work, it needs to *be worked out* with you and the rest of the committee. Students should have *multiple mentors* they can rely on for support and advice, including the advice that the academy maybe is not the place for them if they really don’t fit in it, for what ever reasons. And it’s not just students. The rest of us need these things,too.

Even, and especially, stars.