Tag: politics

The Trump Administration Wants to Define a Person’s Sex at Birth. It’s Just Not That Simple

A memo circulating through the Trump Administration proposes that several government agencies should define sex as “a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth,” according to the New York Times. This definition is a blunt instrument that, along with its cruel dismissal of the transgender population,… Read more →

“Hateful, Un-American Ideas!” Gender, Race, and Politics in Cold War Romance Comic Books

In the October 1949 issue of the romance comic Hollywood Confessions, the protagonist of the story “Too Ugly to Love” describes himself as so ugly that he resembles a “menace from a horror picture.”1 Jon Koslo has “accepted … [his] ugliness philosophically!” when a film producer spots him and “exploits [his] ugliness” by giving him… Read more →

Women’s Liberation, Beauty Contests, and the 1920s: Swimsuit Edition

For several years, I’ve had a wall decoration in my office: a panoramic photo of a 1920s beauty contest. I was surprised to come across it at a discount home furnishings retailer and bought it on impulse. After all, how often does a cherished primary source present itself as a consumer good? From its inception,… Read more →

The Weight of the Presidency

In early January, President Trump had a physical exam at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, a periodic rite for US presidents in the modern era. The results were made public a few days later, with fevered public interest from popular media and television commentators. Was the President, with a height/weight ratio that put his BMI… Read more →

Let’s Say “Happy Holidays” and Share Hope, Joy, and Light in the Darkness

“Merry Christmas!” It was the standard December greeting in the New Jersey town where I was raised. New Jersey is diverse as a whole, but it is made up of a patchwork of small towns, many of which have historically been ethnic enclaves. I took for granted that dried pasta had its own aisle at… Read more →

The Black Politics of Eugenics

Eugenics is still a dirty word. It makes us think about science gone horribly wrong. It reminds us of the ghosts of Nazis past. The specter of eugenics is invoked when discussing new genetic technologies, often serving as a warning that engineering humanity can go too far. It wasn’t always like this. For much of… Read more →

For the Love of Data: Science, Protest, and Power at Love Canal

For many environmental activists and scientists, the phrase “Love Canal” remains indelibly marked in the imagination. A toxic waste site that pitted scientists and citizens against the government, it is heralded as one of the first successes of the environmental movement in holding the state accountable for the public health of its residents. In 1896,… Read more →

Andrew Jackson’s Love Letters

In our era of political “bromances” between leaders who value aggression and belittle sensitivity, it’s easy to forget that expectations as to how men should interact with other men are always changing. In the 1820s, President Andrew Jackson, whose legacy Donald Trump has embraced, fashioned himself as one of the most virile men of his… Read more →

Empty Chairs at the Cancer Center: The Threat of ACA Repeal

I spend a lot of time in the place no one wants to be — the cancer center. Every two weeks I’m there with my husband. He is the patient; I am the partner. Sadly, it is always crowded. The chairs are filled and it is hard to find a place to sit, but eventually… Read more →

Referendum on a Life in the Woods

For three decades, my dad’s brothers framed houses. The three of them had a small construction business in rural Connecticut. The eldest sometimes led projects as a general contractor, and other times they worked as subcontractors. With their skills and their self-made business, they also built cozy, modest houses for themselves. That part of Connecticut… Read more →