Call the EPA! There’s something polluting the water of Otter Creek, and it’s affecting the behavior of Middlebury College’s faculty. The evidence is indisputable: first ethics expert Kateri Carmola is busted for embezzlement; next professor of sociology and women’s and gender studies Laurie Essig boldly ventures into the realm of political commentary, a field she amply demonstrates is well outside her area of scholarly expertise.
Or maybe merely demonstrates lack of scholarly expertise in general. The author of American Plastic: Boob Jobs, Credit Cards, and the Quest for Perfection lards her June 14 Chronicle of Higher Education “Brainstorm” essay, “I’m a Husband and a Mother,” with inaccuracies and distortions so profound one can only conclude she’s imbibed of a substance that has destroyed her ability to adhere to the most basic principles of scholarly practice.
Take, for example, how Professor Essig characterizes Michelle Bachman’s autobiographical statement at the beginning of the June 13 Republican candidate’s NH debate: the congresswoman, Essig writes, “introduced herself as a mother and a foster parent,” and compare it to what Bachman actually said:
Hi, my name is Michelle Bachmann. I’m a former federal tax litigation attorney. I’m a businesswoman. We started our own successful company. I’m also a member of the United States Congress. I’m a wife of 33 years. I’ve had five children, and we are the proud foster parents of 23 great children.
What Essig has written, some may argue, is perfectly true; Bachman, after all, did mention her kids in the final sentence of her seven-sentence statement. But it is scarily reminiscent of the bad old days before the second wave of feminism:
Some may also argue that what Essig has written is defensible, since she is extracting from Bachman’s entire statement the information that supports the thesis of “I’m a Husband and a Mother”:
In case you haven’t been paying attention to the past few decades of American Presidential politics, being a “good” husband qualifies you to be the Executive in Chief.
If what Essig contends is true, then she must be hard-pressed to explain the presidencies of John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Bill Clinton. These former chief executives were men of many parts, but one role they emphatically did not excel at was that of “‘good’ husband.” But, like the first few sentences of Bachman’s introduction, the fact of the lack of marital fidelity by one-third of the “past few decade[s]” of American presidents does not support Essig’s thesis, so the good professor simply ignores it. Instead, she lambasts the public, the media and President Obama:
whether it is the Dems or Republicans, the mainstream media or the blogs, all that really matters is whether you are a good husband or a mother, not whether you’re wrong, stupid, and even downright dangerous. That’s why Obama has asked Representative Weiner to resign, despite the fact that Weiner’s leadership on progressive issues is untainted.
It is interesting to note that Essig apparently does not consider former congressman Weiner’s behavior neither wrong, stupid, nor dangerous. Actually, Laurie, according to your own thesis, it was all three. It cost Weiner his job and deprived him of the base from which to pursue progressive issues. Whether sending fulsome pictures of one’s sexual apparatus is inherently wrong, stupid or dangerous, however, I leave my readers to decide for themselves.
Her hagiography of Weiner knows no bounds:
As the Weiner case reminded us, the personal is political when it comes to sexual practices (and somehow only sex—we never ask about a candidate’s food politics, how he or she treats their aging parents or yapping dog, or even whether they are kind to their spouses).
We never ask about a candidate’s “food politics”? Two words, Laurie: farm subsidies. We never criticize a politician’s treatment of animals? Too bad LBJ can’t testify from the grave about the pummeling he suffered from press and public when he lifted his beagle up by its ears in front of the cameras. We never notice whether politicians are “kind to their spouses”? Edwards and Clinton might beg to differ. Gary Hart and Richard Nixon, too.
Professor Essig concludes her lightly reasoned, historically inaccurate essay with a hat trick of egregious scholarly transgressions:
Muslim and homo-hating GOP candidates get taken seriously by the media because of their normative sex and gender roles, as huband [sic], as mother, and possibly as the next president of the United States.
Ad hominem? Check. Hyperbole? Check. Spelling error? Check.
I implore the good administrators at Middlebury College to test the water in Otter Creek. If not for the faculty, then at least for the students.