Congratulations, Martha! Here is the University of Chicago’s story about their faculty member and Public Square author Professor Martha Nussbaum. As editor of the Public Square series, which has won over 17 prizes for only 9 books published over 14 years, I do not find this surprising. After all, Professor Nussbaum’s Public Square book, Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities, was a great success in more ways than one. Not only does her work help democracy by helping to save the humanities, but the book sold exceedingly well. As Rob Tempio, the in-house Princeton University Press senior editor of Philosophy, Classics, and Political Theory, explained it to me: Many philanthropic boards and universities bought copies of Not for Profit for their whole board to make the point that is in the title — Why Democracy Needs the Humanities. It’s a vital message, and I’m glad The Public Square was able to help Professor Nussbaum spread the word.
Top 10, Top 20, Top 100 — you find your list. Or even rely on Richard Posner‘s pre-9/11 list, and public intellectuals who are not SLAMs or SCAMs (and not fiction writers) are not women. They are the default identity: straight liberal Anglo men or straight conservative men — the defaults or the embodiments of the “norms,” the 5 percenters.
I’ve been teaching this in Writing Politics for so many years it gets boring, old, trite, frustrating, maddening . . . oops, now I sound like a w/b-itch . . . something not nice, I suppose. The first repair is please, please, please let’s forget Charlie Rose and Leonard Lopate and John Hockenberry and start filling the NYC airwaves with women public-intellectual interviewers.
The second repair — stop featuring how difficult it is to spot sexual harassment. The definition is very, very clear, and the difference between civil and criminal law is VERY basic, yet even Brian Lehrer seem to have a problem with this.
The first thing is that you can’t say you didn’t know it was happening (male or female bosses either). Indeed, the only reason sexual harassment — not pay inequity, nor paycheck discrimination — has had any impact since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is that the federal courts (including the Supremes) put their employers/managers/co-workers on the hook. The whole head-in-the-sand approach doesn’t work — in CIVIL law (not criminal law, needless to say; criminal law carries a higher burden).
Aren’t we in the Anita Hill moment for public television and public radio, meaning her bravery despite Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas taking a seat was worth it? Without her, NOW would not have increased and sexual harassment would have remained obscure (even though the press still can’t get a definition of it . . . or explain the difference between sexual crimes and civil crimes).
Here’s an exercise. Compare the Forbes 400 with any top list of PUBLIC intellectuals and you might well find yourself on a stick, a broom, etc. You get the idea.
Now, I get it for Roger Ailes/Rupert Murdoch’s baby Fox News(?), but public radio and public television, particularly in New York City, being conducted or run by mainly men?
To be sure, Terry Gross could don a cool cape and fly from station to station, but she’s only one person. . .
Here’s my challenge — don’t submit your pledge until we’ve heard bell hooks, Melissa Harris-Perry, or anyone but Doris Kearns Goodwin* absolutely refuse to interview for these openings. This could be a call-in or petition campaign we might actually win!
* (who signed more than one settlement for more than one case of plagiarism — or one of the ultimate public intellectual civil crimes — unconscionable in my book 🙂 )
Listen to this exchange, elevating and advancing the most significant postwar political thinker – Hannah Arendt — who happens to be a woman in the United States. Indeed, a newly vacant seat is named after her. This woman spoke truth to power in 1963 in The New Yorker, and took a lot of flak for it — so much so that she passed away tired at another venerable institution that hosts her name – Bard College.
What I’m talking about is that Chelsea and Corey got into it this weekend. Chelsea Clinton tweeted that the burning of an LGBT youth center in Phoenix reflects Hannah Arendt’s most famous and infamous phrase — “the banality of evil.” Corey Robin, my esteemed colleague, a full professor at the City University of New York, corrected Chelsea, saying that she had misunderstood and that Arendt was actually saying the exact opposite of what she thought.
Now, no one likes a correction, so Chelsea took Corey’s bait, and they went back and forth at some length, she maintaining that the Arendt phrase was apposite and he maintaining that it wasn’t.
This is, according to two more political scientists (Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler), an example of the “backfire effect” — which is fodder for another blog, so going back to the Chelsea/Corey brainy brawl, Chelsea repeatedly stood up and defended herself, only to be corrected by Corey again and again.
Corey has the better argument, though Chelsea (who initiated the discussion) is doing us a civil service, as Corey points out. Chelsea, as the author of a bestselling children’s book (She Persisted), is really setting the agenda to let women speak as leaders — really saying women are leaders.
How could Chelsea not be right in instigating and showcasing the most heretical political thinker who happens to be a woman in the United States? To top it all off, Hannah Arendt was an immigrant, a refugee, in exile – and she can no longer defend (i.e. correct) how understood and misunderstood is her political thought – though we have all benefited from it and a new book series is launching with other heretical thinkers, men and women alike.
Chelsea Clinton is right. Corey Robin is right. Chelsea is showcasing how women happen to lead. I’m going to get Chelsea’s book, and reread Corey’s analysis.