Deconstructing Racist Gourds
The Perilous Whiteness of Pumpkins
This article examines the symbolic whiteness associated with pumpkins in the contemporary United States. Starbucks’ pumpkin spice latte, a widely circulated essay in McSweeney’s on “Decorative Gourd Season,” pumpkins in aspirational lifestyle magazines, and the reality television show Punkin Chunkin provide entry points into whiteness–pumpkin connections. Such analysis illuminates how class, gender, place, and especially race are employed in popular media and marketing of food and flavor; it suggests complicated interplay among food, leisure, labor, nostalgia, and race. Pumpkins in popular culture also reveal contemporary racial and class coding of rural versus urban places. Accumulation of critical, relational, and contextual analyses, including things seemingly as innocuous as pumpkins, points the way to a food studies of humanities and geography. When considered vis-à-vis violence and activism that incorporated pumpkins, these analyses point toward the perils of equating pumpkins and whiteness.
Leakey Performances: The Transformative Potential of the Menstrual Leak
In this essay I bring fluids into scholarly dialogue with theories of performance, liminality, and femininity to argue for a new, positive cultural understanding of menstruation. Invoking Victor Turner’s theory of liminality, I ponder the source of our fear and subsequent control of feminine leaks in a patriarchal world. Operating on three increasingly abstract levels of leakage, I examine how fluids disrupt our socially constructed binaries and reflect on the positive potential of (menstrual) leaks to create a space for alternative, sanguine epistemology and ontology. I aim toward a scholarly view of menstruation as a positive phenomenon worthy not only of exploration, but also of celebration, and argue the need for more fluid scholarship.
This is how I found out about such admirable scholarship:
Crisis in higher education? What crisis? https://t.co/l3eED80Gfz
— Patrick Deneen (@PatrickDeneen) October 11, 2016
What kind of bubble do you have to live in to believe that any of this matters? I mean, honestly, can you imagine the fruit of years of academic study is obsessing about the meaning pumpkins, and periods?
UPDATE: However, lest you think these crazy people are benign, look at this. Excerpt:
Last week, severalnewsoutlets reported that a student at the University of Tennessee (UT) received a zero on a quiz—a grade his professor justified because he viewed an answer as sexual harassment under Title IX. Now he’s being investigated by campus officials after unidentified faculty saw the absurd interpretation being mocked by entertainment website Total Frat Move.
How might one violate Title IX on a quiz? The first question on the quiz asked “What is your Lab instructor’s name?” and invited students to “make something good up”—that is, a joke—if they don’t remember his or her name. The student, Keaton Wahlbon, couldn’t remember his lab instructor’s name, so he wrote a generic first name, Sarah, and a common last name, Jackson. Writing Sarah Jackson—an altogether ordinary name—landed Wahlbon in hot water with his lab instructor and his professor. In fact, the quiz was returned to Wahlbon with the word “inappropriate” next to his Sarah Jackson answer.
As it turns out, Sarah Jackson happens to be the name of a Canadian actress and lingerie model. It is also a name shared by thousands of other people across the world. Wahlbon tried to explain to his professor that he wrote what he thought was a generic name on the quiz and did not intend to be crass. According to an email screenshot obtained by Total Frat Move, his professor wrote:
I have no way of determining your intention. I can only consider the result. The result is that you gave the name of Sarah Jackson, who is a lingerie and nude model. That result meets the Title IX definition of sexual harassment. The grade of zero stands and will not be changed.
Read the whole story. Basically, when the whole damn thing falls apart, it will be an improvement.