The Texas Board of Education is currently holding hearings about textbook standards and changes they want publishers to make for their texts to be adopted. Texas and California have great influence over what textbooks contain since they are such enormous markets; while the standards are only specific to each of them, very similar (or identical) versions of the texts are then sold to other states as well.

Here is a clip of standards advisor Don McLeroy explaining that textbooks should recognize the fact that women and racial minorities got more liberties because the majority gave it to them (from TPM):

Technically, he is exactly right: it did take a majority of votes in Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act, and the majority then (and now) was White (men). But to say that the majority did it “for the minority” erases an awful lot of struggle and organizing on the part of disadvantaged groups, as well as the foot-dragging and opposition so many members of the majority engaged in to try to prevent such changes. Before men “passed it for the women,” both women and men worked for decades to get women the vote, often being harassed and even jailed as a result. But to hear him describe it, you’d think the majority just happily passed these types of bills, with maybe just a tiny bit of prodding from minorities.

Here’s a clip of Barbara Cargill explaining that we need to take “negative” elements of American history out of textbooks and focus more on “American exceptionalism”:

Her opposition to the idea that the U.S. ever used “propaganda” is somewhat undermined by her blatant effort to rewrite history texts to be what, if it happened in another nation, we’d call propaganda.

Cross-posted at Montclair Socioblog.

Claude the brand consultant was consulting with me – i.e., he was picking up the cappuccino tab at Starbuck’s. He was about to start teaching a course called something like “Communications and Public Affairs,” and not being an academic (though he’s a really good teacher), he wanted some advice on the syllabus.

We finally got around to the idea that Messages about Issues had to be tailored for specific Audiences or Publics, particularly their Interests and Values. (Those capitalized words were possible major headings in the syllabus.)

I immediately thought of the example of Texas and litter. How could you convince Texans to be more respectful of public places and not toss all that crap out onto the roads they drove on? The Ladybird Johnson approach – “Highway Beautification”?


Wrong audience. The people who were littering obviously didn’t care about highway beauty.

The guy you were trying to reach was Bubba, the classic red stater – fiercely individualistic, anti-government, macho. A slob, and probably proud of it. You couldn’t appeal to self-interest since it’s in Bubba’s self-interest to chuck his garbage out the window. Even hefty fines (and they are hefty) would work only if you could catch litterers often enough – unlikely on the Texas highways.

The best way in was Values. But how? “Don’t be a Litterbug, Keep Your Community Clean” would be noo nice, too feminine or babyish, and, like “Pitch In” too collectivist. Instead, Roy Spence and Tim McClure at the Austin ad agency GSD&M had the Texas DOT go with chauvinism – Texas chauvinism. The idea they played on was not that littering was ugly or wrong or costly, but that it hurt Texas. And thus in 1985 was born one of the most famous and effective campaigns in the history of advertising.


With its double meaning of “mess,” it captured Bubba’s patriotism and pugnacity. The bumper stickers were soon everywhere. The TV ads featured famous proud Texans. One of the early ones (so early, I can’t find it on YouTube) featured Too-Tall Jones and Randy White, two of the toughest dudes on the Cowboys defense, picking up roadside trash.

JONES: You see the guy who threw this out the window, you tell him I got a message for him.

WHITE: (picks up a beer can): I got a message for him too.

OFF-CAMERA VOICE: What’s that?

WHITE: (Crushes the beer can with one fist). Well, I kinda need to see him to deliver it.

JONES: Don’t mess with Texas.

Litter in Texas has been reduced by 72%, the campaign is still going strong a quarter-century later, and McLure and Spence have a book about it. My source was Made to Stick by the Heath Brothers (no, jazzers, not thoseHeath brothers), Chip and Dan.

I’m not from a military family so Memorial Day has mostly been about a three day weekend, grilling, and maybe giving a tiny bit of thought to members of the military who have fought in various U.S. wars. But, in the last couple of years, Memorial Day has taken on so much more significance for me, and it seems rather fitting that this weekend I’m working on my dissertation– writing about the mothers of current U.S. service members who have been deployed in the U.S. war on terrorism.

Mothers, and all members of a service person’s family, often refer to themselves as “the silent ranks.” And they are a key part of the “ranks” of the military in many ways. Next to the troops, family members shoulder the majority of this particular war. Unlike previous U.S. wars (WWI and WWII), the public has not been asked to do much– we are not planting victory gardens, living with rations, working in factories, or collecting scrap metal and even lard for the manufacturing of weapons and supplies.

The military knows how important the families of service members are– for both recruitment and deployment support. You may have noticed the Army recruitment commercials specifically target parents. The Army knows they need parental support to enlist new Soldiers. Often these commercials focus on Army service as an opportunity for training, for an education, for a career, while also telling parents how strong their children will become when they join. Thus the motto “You made them strong: We’ll make them Army Strong.”

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Despite the fact that the military is changing, and more women are joining, homefront support remains largely gendered. The video below “Army Families = Army Strong” is one that the Army put together as a tribute to the work these silent ranks do during wartime.


What is striking (but not surprising) to me about this video tribute is how gendered the home front is. With a few exceptions (a few female Soldiers), this video mostly depicts wives left at home taking care of young children. These families (women and children) need to be strong to deal with the stress and anxiety of having a loved one deployed, and to carry on their day to day lives. The military also needs them to be strong– to hold down the home front, send supportive packages and emails to deployed Soldiers, and to be there for Soldiers to come home to. As the voice over says “they wear a different uniform… theirs is a uniform of strength… the strength of courage, integrity, and sacrifice.” Even if they aren’t deployed to a war zone, families are enlisted to military service along with the Soldiers.

For my dissertation I interviewed 60+ mothers of service members (and hundreds more in online support groups) who also describe themselves as part of these “silent ranks.” I would love to be able to share their incredible stories here, but I only have their permission to write about the for research purposes. So instead I’ll write about what I’ve learned from them about how complicated home front war support is for mothers.

Like other military family members, the mothers of service members also see themselves as members of the military– even when they are more removed from receiving the kinds of benefits a military wife (or husband) would receive. Here are some of the slogans mothers use to identify themselves as a strong, tough, part of the military:


Usually when we think about the mothers of service members, the most publicly active (and anti-war) ones come to mind. Like Cindy Sheehan:



While many mothers of service members take the same war stance as Cindy Sheehan, most have widely different, and often contradictory relationships to war (just as other military family members do, I imagine). My research is about these contradictions. Some mothers disagree with the war, but publicly support their child’s mission– and want the war to succeed. Others disagree with the war but would never say so publicly for fear of being seen as unpatriotic. Some just want the troops to come home safely. Others support the war fully, and some who support the war fully see anti-war mothers like Cindy Sheehan as degrading to the job their children are doing.


Mothers of service members may have opposing ideas about war, but they all feel unbelievable anxiety for their deployed child. They cry in the grocery store when they see their son’s favorite food. They panic every time an unknown car pulls into the driveway, fearing that dress uniforms will show up at their door. And they all feel a duty to their deployed child (to send care packages, buy their child supplies etc.), and feel a sense duty to all the troops and military families– taking part in efforts to make sure the troops and their families feel supported.

Here are some images of different mothers supporting the troops in different ways (these images are all public domain, and none are mothers in my study):






Finally, take a few minutes to watch this video interview with Vicki Castro, whose son was killed in Iraq (“life as you know it stops…”). I can’t embed the video here, but it is worth clicking on and watching.


This PostSecret secret offers me an excuse to go on a rant:

Instead of an opportunity to start a national discussion about class, the recession appears to be stimulating a bunch of nationalist, and obfuscatory, rhetoric about our common condition.

If you listen to most media outlets they say that “America” is in recession.  But not everyone in America is feeling the pain of this economic downturn equally.  I, for example, have not lost my job, have not seen my pay cut, have not lost any benefits, and however much 401k money I’ve lost is rather irrelevant as I’m in my 30s and have no need for it right now.  I am not suffering in this economic depression.   In fact, I’m taking a junior sabattical next year and going half pay BY CHOICE.

Further, I keep hearing things like: “This is a great time to buy a house!” and “Stocks are cheap!  You should invest in [insert random company here]!”  (This advice is lost on a person who comes from humble beginnings and is voluntarily going half pay next year, but I digress.)

So, for many people, this economic downturn is kind of fantastic.  Houses are cheap, stocks are cheap, and companies are offering great deals just to stay afloat.  Plenty of people I know who are upper middle and upper class are considering this a great time to invest (see here for an example).  They look forward to ultimately benefitting from this economic disaster.

Lots of other people around me are suffering.  If you’re already poor or working-class, out-of-work, near retirement or retired, struggling under an adjustable rate mortgage, (and I’m sure there are others I’m forgetting), you may be screwed.

So I wish we would stop talking about how “America” is in recession.  This recession is hurting some kinds of people more than others.  On the whole, those people who were underprivileged before the downturn are taking the brunt of it.


For more on the economy, visit these posts: increases in household debt, job loss and unemployment (herehere, here, and here), cessna responds to the attack on private jet travel, Walmart encourages moms to make the difference, an animated explanation of the credit crisis, images of  the economic depression in Las Vegas (here and here), slumping car sales and overstocked lots, measuring the recession with beer sales, and changes in immigration.

The controversial Minuteman Project encourages citizens to volunteer their time guarding the U.S./Mexico border against illegal immigration.  Well, if you are disinclined to wander the border desert, you can now be a virtual Minuteman.  Sandra H. N. sent us a link to BlueServo where you can click on a series of webcams.  Each webcam is pointed at a spot where there may be illegal border crossings.  Here’s a screenshot of the webcams you can select from:


Here’s a video about the project:


Here’s a description of a virtual border guard from an NPR story:

[He] pops a Red Bull, turns on some Black Sabbath or Steppenwolf, logs in to — and starts protecting his country. “This gives me a little edge feeling,” Fahrenkamp says, “like I’m doing something for law enforcement as well as for our own country.”

This is a fascinating convergence of patriotism, masculinity, class, and (likely) race.   Minutemen protect (white) America by putting their bodies on the border, but now men can do so without the trappings of masculinity that Minutemen can lay claim to.  Instead, if they have a computer with a (quick)  internet connection, they can defend America from behind a computer screen and, perhaps, lay claim to at least some of the masculine capital that Minutemen on the border earn by putting their bodies on the line.

From another angle:  I wish Foucault were alive today.  Any Foucauldians out there who want to comment on this virtual panopticon?

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Burk sent in several Miller beer ads, all directed by Errol Morris, which contain some interesting messages about modern masculinity. Specifically, real men drink beer and don’t worry about stupid things like their diet or health:

This one connects drinking Miller to pro-American patriotism and the value of manpower (and it really means MANpower):

Real men know how to back up Suburbans pulling boats:

Clearly, we’ve lost an important element of manhood when men can no longer do this. Of course, driving a Suburban pulling a boat seems to contradict the whole patriotic non-use of gas element of manhood, but let’s not get into details.

And finally, real men have to restrain themselves while they listen to women:

It’s such a pain to have to interact with gals!

You can find even more here.

UPDATE: In a comment, Chuk says,

In these ads, with the exception of the cyclist, none of the men’s faces are ever fully shown. What if this was a series of adds with images of women? How would the regular poster and commentators normally react to this kind of framing? What would it mean in that context? Does that analysis apply to this context?

I think that’s a good question. One criticism people often make of ads is the way women’s faces are often obscured; this is pointed out as a way of objectifying them, turning them into bodies rather than full people with faces, voices, etc. I certainly think it’s possible to objectify men as well, although it’s also possible to show part of a body because the viewer is supposed to take on the viewpoint of the person in the ad, in which case you can’t, obviously, see the face or head, since you’re supposed to be the face/head. I found the bacon and butter burger ads creepy overall, as well as another one of the Morris ads where a (generally faceless) grandma is cooking for a bunch of men whose faces we never see.

Thanks for the comment, chuk!

Brady sent me a link to a story in the Times Online about a poster put out by the British National Party, a right-wing anti-immigrant political party. Here’s the poster (found at the BNP website):


They’re clearly trying to connect efforts to defend Britain during World War II to the idea of a modern “battle for Britain,” which this time is against immigrants. However, they missed a detail when the chose the image for their poster, according to the Times story:

[The plane] could be clearly identified by its RF marking as belonging to 303 Squadron, an expatriate Polish unit, even though the BNP campaigns against immigration from Eastern Europe.

The BNP claims they knew it all along and did it on purpose; others believe they’re just trying to cover an incident that they find embarrassing.

Regardless, it brings up interesting questions about nationhood and definitions of who can be included in a country’s idea of its history. In the imagining of the BNP, would immigrants’ contributions be erased? Would they be acknowledged, but only as something that was appropriate and welcome in the past? After all, one of the very groups they’re vilifying played a role in defending Britain during the exact era that the BNP is trying to symbolically connect itself to. I suspect they might try to make an argument that the ex-pat Polish fighters were involuntary and temporary refugees that were being protected by Britain during a time of warfare and were in fact fighting to retake their own country, which is different than permanent immigrants who take British jobs and mess up the culture and whatnot, but that’s just a guess.

Of course, this isn’t something unique to the BNP; nativist groups everywhere face the problem of having to erase or explain away the contributions of groups they’re trying to exclude from citizenship.

Thanks for the tip, Brady!

In Race, Ethnicity, and Sexuality, Joane Nagel talks about the role that the intersections between ethnicity and sexuality play in nationalist projects–that is, how they are used as groups define who is and isn’t part of the entity defined as “the nation.” Those who are part of the nation are part of “us,” and those outside it are the Other. She brings up the example of Nazi Germany. Clearly ethnicity played a huge part in definitions of nationhood as the Nazis saw it. But as Nagel points out, it went beyond that; individuals were also included or excluded from membership based on other characteristics, including sexuality. Specifically, homosexuals were marked as unworthy of inclusion and were also sent to concentration camps.

This image, found at The Pink Triangle, illustrates the intersection ethnicity and various categories, including sexuality. It shows the various markers Nazis used to identify prisoners.


The bottom row of seven triangles clearly represents different categories of Jews. The fifth column of triangles (they look tan but they were pink) identified homosexuals. The third column (blue) was for immigrants. I believe the first column (red) was for political dissenters, but I’m not certain. We see other specified groups of Jews in the three partly-yellow triangles at the bottom, as well as triangles for Poles and Czechs. I don’t know enough German to figure the others out.

It’s a great example of a nationalist project: we can visibly see here the clear effort to define some groups as Others and the way that both ethnicity and sexuality (and the intersections) can be an important part of that, and even mark individuals as multiply stigmatized.

UPDATE: In comments philoserine and xac offered translations. Here’s xac’s:

red: political
green: professional criminal
blue: emigrant
purple: Jehovah’s Witnesses
pink: homosexual
black: work-shy Reich (not 100% sure wether the meaning here is “rich” or “member of the Third Reich” – more likely the last one though)
black: work-shy
[I thought I read somewhere that black might stand for antisocial, so maybe work-shy was how they defined that?]
1. row (triangles) base colour
2. row: label for reoffenders
3. row: penal camp
4. row: jews
5. row:
yellow triangle/black bordered triangle: jewish race desecrator
red circle with white border: under suspicion to escape
grey ring: ?? prisoner
6. row: left: Example: political jew, reoffender, penal camp
middle: special campaign Wehrmacht (?)
7. row: Pole


And Zeitzeuge says that “Special campaign Wehrmacht is a deserter from the Wehrmacht.”