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In Memory of Cheryl Hanna

In Memory of Cheryl Hanna

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Professor Cheryl Hanna (Vermont) has died.

Vermont Dean Marc Mihaly sent an email to the Vermont Law School community earlier today.  It stated in part:

It is with the most profound sorrow that we announce the untimely death of our dear colleague Professor Cheryl Hanna.  

Professor Hanna was a beloved teacher, a role model to many within and beyond the Vermont Law School community, and a powerful force for innovation. We are heartbroken. She will be deeply missed.

A graduate of Harvard Law School, Professor Hanna was an expert in constitutional law, the United States Supreme Court, and women and the law. Her scholarship has been published in leading journals, including the Harvard Law Review, Yale Law Journal, and Michigan Journal of Gender and the Law. Professor Hanna was also a frequent media commentator, including on Vermont Public Radio and WCAX-TV 3.

She consulted on constitutional cases and represented public interest organizations through the filing of amicus briefs in cases before state and federal courts. This included the amicus brief she and Vermont Law School students wrote on behalf of the Vermont Commission on Women in Dreves v. Hudson, the first case implicating Vermont’s Equal Pay Act. The book she co-authored, Domestic Violence and the Law: Theory and Practice, was the leading casebook on violence against women.

Professor Hanna is survived by her husband and two children.

The Burlington Free Press has coverage here.

I will pass along more information as I receive it.

May her memory be a blessing.

-Bridget Crawford

Feminist Law Professors

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Daily Feminist Cheat Sheet

Fast food workers are going to start using civil disobedience in their fight for a living wage.

Some good reads from Byron Hurt and Dave Zirin on the reaction to NFL-er Ray Rice’s domestic violence.

On tech’s gender problem.

The question should be, “Did she want to have sex?

The majority of female voters wouldn’t vote for a politician who supported the Hobby Lobby ruling.

Ten Native American tribes have legalized same-sex marriage.

The US is locking up pregnant immigrants despite policy against it

According to official Immigration and Customs Enforcement guidelines, pregnant immigrants aren’t supposed to be detained except if they pose a public safety threat. ICE officials have claimed this is such a rare occurrence it’s not even worth asking about. 

But an investigation by Fusion found that 559 pregnant women have been detained by ICE in just six facilities since 2012. Unsurprisingly, given the inhumane conditions in many ICE detention centers, activists say pregnant detainees have been underfed and denied medical care, and at least 14 women had miscarriages while locked up.

(h/t Colorlines)

Take Action: tell President Obama to eliminate ICE’s incentive to deport
GOP: Preventing violence against women in detention centers is a “luxury”
Dream 9 exposing horrifying conditions in immigration detention

I’m a Shark

With the frequency of my visits to the dentist, you’d think I have several rows of teeth, like a shark.

I have so much work to do, research, syllabi, tenure dossier, translation, supervising the contractor, sending out the book, etc. But instead of doing all this, I have to spend 5 hours in the dental chair. Grrrrrr.

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New Favorite Tumblr: Confused Cats Against Feminism

Depressed, disturbed, almost-but-not-quite-amused by the “Women Against Feminism” phenomenon and Tumblr? There’s an antidote for that: Confused Cats against Feminism.

Like many of the women featured on the Women Against Feminism Tumblr, these cats don’t seem to really get what feminism is. Here are some great ones. Upload your own images. I would. But I don’t have a cat. Plus I’m allergic. 





 Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 11.13.50 PMKatie Halper is a writer, comedian, and filmmaker who is allergic to cats. But she likes dogs and LOVES pigs!

Trial is underway for Renisha McBride’s shooter

The trial of Theodore Wafer, the Dearborn Heights man who shot 19-year-old Renisha McBride in the face when she knocked on his door for help after a car accident, started last week. He faces charges of second-degree murder, manslaughter, and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony after he responded to McBride’s knocking by opening his front door and shooting her through the screen door.

Wafer’s attorney said in opening arguments that Wafer panicked, thinking intruders were trying to break into his house, and shot at the “shadowy figure” on his front porch. Wafer told police immediately after the shooting that he didn’t know the gun was loaded and that it discharged accidentally. His lawyer said at the time that evidence would prove the shooting was justified, so theoretically the trial will reveal whether it was accidental or justified. That evidence will not include selfies showing McBride posed with a gun, marijuana, and cash and other evidence that his lawyers said would demonstrate “whether Ms. McBride had a character trait for aggression“; Judge Dana Hathaway panned that argument and ruled against including the photos.

“Our defense is blown to pieces if you don’t allow me to argue to the jury that she could have been up to no good,” said defense attorney Cheryl Carpenter. A woman who tried to help, rather than kill, McBride that night said McBride said repeatedly that she just wanted to go home.

The Detroit Free Press is liveblogging the trial.

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According to a recent survey, 82% of people in Russia believe that Ukrainians have been brain-washed into not noticing “the bloody crimes of the Kievan Junta.” Since it’s impossible to prove a negative, there is no way for Ukrainians to demonstrate that there is no Junta in Kiev. Especially since it’s so convincing for Russia to believe it exists.

I really wish more people realized what unsolicited efforts to “help” really conceal.

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Feministing Readz: Insel

Insel coverYou could probably count on one hand the number of novels that have taken up great platonic male-female friendships as their theme. The republication of Mina Loy’s Insel, by Melville House Publishing’s Neversink Library this past May, is a refreshing, challenging, and brilliant addition to this intimate pantheon.

Loy’s only novel, Insel is the portrait of a starving German surrealist, as told by his patron and friend, Mrs. Jones. Mrs. Jones is the quasi-fictional avatar of Loy herself; Insel, a loose construction drawn from Loy’s strange and euphoric friendship with the German painter Richard Oelze.

A luminary of transatlantic modernisms, Mina Loy worked across as many media as she did cities. Her itinerant artistic career occupied the capitals of the turn of the century’s avant-gardes: from Futurist Florence to Dada New York to Surrealist Paris — with cameos in Weimar Berlin and Freud’s Vienna, among many other places, in between. Insel’s republication, which includes a thoughtful and contextualizing introduction, afterword, and appendices, marks another occasion: to remark on Loy’s indisputable relevance to literary history, and literature’s futures.

Until recently, her reputation as a poet eclipsed greater critical recognition of her plural, sustained, and collaborative practices as a painter, actor, designer, playwright, inventor, and novelist. Then, as still now, her activities as an author and theorist were plagued by the neglect attending women writers, especially those working in experimental modes.

Revisionist histories of modernism’s legacy have since challenged understandings of Loy as a minor, peripheral figure. The republication of her out-of-print written works in the last two decades, along with growing recognition of her visual art, have illuminated her work as a central creative collaborator, contributor, and critic of the pre and postwar art-worlds.

Though her novel is set in the same cafes and flats of the 1930s Paris where it was composed, it was not published before Loy’s death in 1966. Insel did not first appear until 1991, at which point it was rightly compared to Djuna Barnes’ Nightwood (1936) and Andre Breton’s Nadja (1928). Like the acclaimed novels of her contemporaries, Loy’s novel is a byzantine maze of references and allusions to the Parisian surrealist scene, rendered in Latinate, often baroque, prose. Even the simplest of her sentences shines — “At length we arrived at the gleaming water bearing so lightly its lazy barges with their drag of dancing diamonds.”

The book hovers, electrically, at the borders of a Künstlerroman, roman  à clef, and modernist prose-poem; its generic indecipherability feels intuitively appealing, given its subject is the inchoate, eclectic form of Insel himself, whose work she at one point describes as “too surrealistic for the surrealists.”

If the novel had a plot it would be Mrs. Jones/Loy’s obsessive and repetitious record of her attempts to capture in words her friend Insel: because is not so much a man as he is a specter, and not so much specter as he is pure light. Given that Insel is, literally and metaphorically, a phosphorescent “man-of-light”, Loy might have had an easier time photographing the sun. But perhaps it is with respect to these ambitions that Insel is, in the end, a love story: the story of Loy’s passionate affair with aureate, visionary language.

While she originally sets out to write a biography of Insel’s life as a starving artist , her efforts are soon derailed by the intensity of his psychic energy, not to mention his basic material needs. She finds his desolate, diaphanous, and manipulative genius totally hypnotizing. This intense power that his aura holds over the sympathies of Mrs. Jones is both the source of the novel’s inspiration, and the impetus for its insistent digressions.

As in “the confusion of uneasy dreams,” the “leaking” of Insel’s surrealist consciousness into Mrs. Jones’ own gives rise to a series of psychic power plays that constitute what would be called the novel’s action. From their encounters emerges a painstaking, at times cryptic, detailing of their relationship’s subtly shifting fields of power.

Its climax (which does not seem like a spoiler when the story is so much in the service of the prose) is simultaneously its denouement: the novel closes with Mrs Jones departure for America and with Insel’s bittersweet goodbye. “Thanks for everything,” he tells her. The story’s energy turns on this refracted recognition of the other: the electrically comatose Insel finally recognizes Mrs. Jones as a fascinating subject in and of herself. But what are we to make of a novel constituted by this moment of recognition — in which a woman sees herself as a man sees her?

For its reversal of the traditional gender roles of the muse-patron dynamic, the novel has been read as a feminist work. It’s worth wondering, though, whether the flipping of polarities around an already problematic axis is little more than a trick or perhaps, even, a game.

Loy’s other feminist works often took the form of pointed satires, directed at the Futurist’s machismo, the misogyny of the Dada-ists, the exclusionary intellectual practices of the modernists, and other artistic communities. She openly identified as a feminist, often remarking on her liminal position as a non-male artist making rigorously experimental work. But her attitudes, as expressed through her more polemical writings, such as the “Feminist Manifesto,” and “Aphorisms on Futurism,” can seem contradictory, and at times, outright offensive or outdated.

In “Feminist Manifesto,” enclosed in an unpublished 1914 letter to a friend, Loy put into dialogue the cultural opposition of masculine impersonality to feminine personality, public invisibility to private visibility. The polemical dialogue borrows from futurism its aggressive fusillade form and typeset but also, at times disturbingly and perhaps unconsciously, its eugenicist, and violent ideals. Traces of these ideas do not disappear in later works like Insel, where her patronizing descriptions of black sex workers remain outwardly racist. In the “Manifesto” she calls, in part provocatively, “for the unconditional surgical destruction of virginity through-out the female population at puberty–.”

It’s hard to know what to do with these positions. Loy, for her part, seems to have wanted to distance herself from some, writing of the manifesto: “There is no truth—anywhere.” But some of her non-truths are historically persistent problems: they can’t just be written off as unfortunate “products of her time,” or fictional constructions.

Some of her provocations, insinuations  and views could and did rub against those of her contemporaries’, and even against her own; they still do rub against our own. The hope is that this friction is productive. For this reason it might be useful to read Loy not for her sympathetic political agenda but for her poetic and polemical plasticity: her ability to produce new forms — for thinking, as thinking, instead of thought.

In a fragment appended to the novel called “The Visitation of Insel,” that may or may not be the book’s final ending, Loy herself gives the best working explanation of the novel’s necessarily provisional project. “Now I was engaged with a kind of surrealist man,” she writes, “Constructing, demolishing him kaleidoscopically, hoping to demonstrate how he ‘worked.’” To construct a ghost is always also to dissolve him.

Maybe just as Loy was haunted in her lifetime by Oelze/Insel’s ghostly visitations so too will the legacy of her literary celebrity. If so, this would be a good thing.

Ava Kofman is a freelance journalist. She is a guest contributor to Feministing. 

Cuteness Inspired Aggression is Widespread

Don’t you want to pinch it and squeeze it and bite its little face off!?


You’re not alone.

Rebecca Dyer and Oriana Aragon, graduate students in psychology, brought subjects into a lab, handed them a fresh sheet of bubble wrap, and exposed them to cute, funny, and neutral pictures of animals.  Those who saw the cute ones popped significantly more bubbles than the others.

Cute things make us aggressive!  It’s why we say things like: “I just wanna eat you up!” and why we have to restrain ourselves from giving our pets an uncomfortably tight hug.

Which one do you want to hurt the most!?


An aggressive response to cuteness, it appears, it “completely normal.”

The authors suggest that humans non-consciously balance extreme emotions with one from the other side of the spectrum to try to maintain some control and balance.  This, Aragon explains at her website, may be why we cry when we’re really happy and laugh at funerals.

In the meantime, if this makes you want to inflict some serious squishing, know that you’re in good company.


All pictures from Cute Overload.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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Watch: Video mocks the old boys’ club of the Supreme Court

Supreme Court: No Girls Allowed from Funny Or Die

The Supreme Court’s recent decisions have been depressing and disturbing, to say the least, especially when it comes to reproductive rights. But why not laugh instead of after you cry? In this Funny or Die exclusive “Supreme Court: No Girls Allowed” video, we get a behind-the-scenes look at the old boys’ club of the court, as the male justices try to keep the ladies our of their blanket fort. The amazing Martha Plimpton (of Feministing Five fame) stars as Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

You may have noticed that the Supreme Court has been getting all up in people’s business, when it comes to contraceptives. Interestingly enough, the male Supreme Court justices are especially comfortable legislating ovaries, which is particularly ironic for the more conservative jurists who favor a small government, just small enough, I suppose, to fit comfortably in a uterus. In the infamous Hobby Lobby case, for example, five male judges were fine with telling women that their bosses could decide whether they were entitled to birth control, thank you very much, while the three female justices, and Justice Breyer, didn’t think that was such a good idea. In Wheaton College v. Burwell, it was even more divided by gender: the three female justices ruled that the evangelical Protestant college did not have the right to deny coverage for contraception; the six male judges disagreed.

In aftermath of Hobby Lobby decision, major LGBT groups withdraw support for ENDA
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Breaking: SCOTUS rules that your boss can deny you birth control coverage

Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 11.13.50 PM Katie Halper writes and films and standups.