Dayenu at Yale

by Corey Robin on November 3, 2013

A womanless conference at Yale two days ago inspires this little variant on the classic Passover songs Chad Gadya (“One Little Goat”) and Dayenu (“It would have been enough!”)

Had He only convened a conference on the Age of Revolution at Yale—Yale!—it would have been enough. Dayenu!


Had He only convened a conference on the Age of Revolution at Yale—Yale!—at which there were no women panelists, it would have been enough. Dayenu!


Had he only convened a conference on the Age of Revolution at Yale—Yale!—at which there were no women panelists, and called the center that organized the conference “The Center for the Study of Representative Institutions,” it would have been enough. Dayenu!


 

{ 34 comments }

1

P O'Neill 11.03.13 at 9:30 pm

Womanless conference — Ma Nishtana.

On the same problem, the IMF has having their annual research conference this week. It’s been made an event in honour of Stanley Fischer and so it’s a signal of who that extended clan thinks is important. The conference features just 2 women, and one of them — governor of the Central Bank of Israel — is only there because of a slight misunderstanding over an item at the Hong Kong airport duty free.

2

Kevin 11.04.13 at 12:19 am

For those who aren’t already aware, feminist philosophers have been working on this for several years now. They run the Gendered Conference Campaign which identifies and contacts upcoming philosophy conferences which have no women, and offer suggestions for rectifying that. It’s been enormously successful as a consciousness raising effort.

http://feministphilosophers.wordpress.com/gendered-conference-campaign

3

Mao Cheng Ji 11.04.13 at 9:05 am

GCC’s FAQ says: “All-male events and volumes help to perpetuate the stereotyping of philosophy as male.”

Isn’t it likely that their campaign may create a far more harmful stereotype?

4

dk 11.04.13 at 10:11 am

Mao Cheng Ji @ 3:

No.

This has been another edition of…

5

currants 11.04.13 at 11:51 am

6

ZM 11.04.13 at 12:19 pm

Perhaps they ought to have extended the themes of the conference out to be more representative of people of the time.

I believe Paine knew Benjamin Franklin, who – those conference oragnisers must be surprised to know – happened to have a mother and some sisters, one of which was called Jane, about whom the historian Jill Lepore has written (and – oh, boy – she happened to have had a mother too). (Apologies to those who’ve already read the article or book).

“I wanted to study war. I wanted to investigate atrocity. I wanted to write about politics. Really, I wanted to write about anything but Jane Franklin.
“What about beauty?” my mother pressed. I kept making excuses. I was pregnant. (“Edward Mecom Born on Munday the 29 March 1731.”) I was too busy. (“My mind is keept in a contineual Agitation that I Don’t know how to write,” Jane once apologized.)….I felt rebuked, even by Jane herself. (“I was almost Tempted to think you had forgot me but I check those thoughts with the consideration of the dificulties you must labour under.”) I hadn’t forgotten her. I just couldn’t bear to think about her, trapped in that house.
But Benjamin Franklin: I adored him. He was funny and brilliant and generous and fortunate. Every year of his life his world got bigger. So did mine. When he had something to say, he said it. So did I….
Jane’s baby, Abiah Mecom, died within the year. So did Abiah Franklin:
my dear Mother Died May 8 1752
She loved her; she washed her. She buried her. But it was Benjamin Franklin who paid for a gravestone, and wrote an epitaph:
Josiah Franklin
And Abiah his Wife
Lie here interred.
They lived lovingly together in Wedlock
Fifty-five Years

From this Instance, Reader,
Be encouraged to Dilligence in thy Calling,
And distrust not Providence.
He was a pious & prudent Man,
She a discreet and virtuous woman.
Their youngest Son,
In filial Regard to their Memory,
Places this Stone.

This book of remembrance was a monument, not to his parents but to Franklin himself: prodigal son.

My mother’s heart began to fail….All I wanted was to be there, with her, but that only made her remember going home to watch her mother die. “See? I’m fine,” she’d say. “Now. Please: go. You have things to do.”
I decided I had better read whatever of Jane’s letters had survived….
Dear Sister
for so I must call you come what will & If I dont Express my self proper you must Excuse it seeing I have not been acostomed to Pay my Complements to Governor & Baronets Ladys I am in the midst of a grate wash & Sarah still sick, & would gladly been Excused writing this Post but my husband says I must write & Give you Joy which we searly Joyn in; I sopose it will not be news to you, but I will tell you how I came by it …. Pardon my Bad writing & confused composure & acept it as coming from your Ladyships affectionat Sister & most obedient
Humble Servant
Jane Mecom”

7

Map Maker 11.04.13 at 2:03 pm

Yawn, New Haven in late fall is a colorless mix of white, off white and grey … just like many of their academic conferences.

Don’t even get me started about whether women with androgen insensitivity syndrome count as male (XY chromosome), female, or female trans-gendered. Ah, glad i’m in doors and can spend time worrying about this…

8

peep 11.04.13 at 2:22 pm

1) I don’t see what Chad Gadya has to do with this

2) Since He convened the conference, it would be impious to question His choice of panelists.

3) Just wondering — were women allowed to attend?

9

Rakesh Bhandari 11.04.13 at 2:45 pm

Will Wollenscraft’s replies to Burke be discussed? Or Burke’s role in what UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks has called the scandal of Empire?

10

adam.smith 11.04.13 at 3:20 pm

peep @7

1) Corey takes from Chad Gadya the structure of each verse adding one line to the preceding one. (“cumulative song” I believe is the technical term)

11

sash 11.04.13 at 3:32 pm

I don’t suggest trying to sing these songs unless you are well in your cups.

12

peep 11.04.13 at 4:10 pm

You’re right, Adam Smith! Dayenu doesn’t keep accumulating that way.

“Achad, mi yodea” is also a “cumulative song”.

13

Main Street Muse 11.05.13 at 1:06 am

Why is this a “womanless conference?” Women weren’t invited? Or chose not to go? Or something else?

14

Neil Levy 11.05.13 at 4:31 am

“Why is this a “womanless conference?” Women weren’t invited? Or chose not to go? Or something else?”

Ooh, I know the answer to this one!

Because the organisers did not invite enough women.

15

Meredith 11.05.13 at 8:09 am

ZM, thank you.
I’ve spent the last couple of weeks, when I should have been using my leave toward quite other purposes, exploring the Mass. Bay Colony in its first few decades. (Motivated by Craig Wilder’s Ebony and Ivy. Long story.)
It’s daunting to scan those lists of children, 6, 9, or more, not including the articled servants some women also tended. While the men went off and ran the line and otherwise played the part of Zeal-of-the-Land Busy. Good for them.

16

ZM 11.05.13 at 9:06 am

Thank you, Meredith. I guess not all men were runners, some were used close to fodder. Near here we have an old Welsh mining village ruin, which is heart rending. The “Taffies” were known as good miners because Wales was being mined already. Not only did so many die on the long walk from Melbourne to here, but they turned the landscape into some strange cut up and brung up thing, and in this village left behind the stone foundations of their homes – so small it seems like it would have been a village of stone one man tents.

I went to Taffy’s house, Taffy was not in;
Taffy came to my house and stole a silver pin.
I went to Taffy’s house, Taffy was in bed;
I took up a poker and threw it at his head.

17

ZM 11.05.13 at 9:20 am

I guess, i mean fodder in the sense of some of them (that came here) being forcibly conscripted through various means into often being agents of a destruction that had already been visited on them.

18

LFC 11.05.13 at 3:08 pm

@Main Street Muse
Why is this a “womanless conference?” Women weren’t invited? Or chose not to go? Or something else?

It’s a one-day conference w/ three panels (iirc; looked at the poster yesterday). There are no women panelists or speakers — no women giving papers or commenting on papers or whatever. That’s what Corey means by a “womanless conference.” (It does not mean that women can’t attend or that if a woman shows up to attend she will be turned away by a guard at the door saying “sorry, men only.”)

19

ZM 11.05.13 at 8:34 pm

Mods, can someone take my comment at 16 out of moderation please if you have time? Thank you.

20

bianca steele 11.05.13 at 8:47 pm

Is it Passover already? Then why are my fingers so cold?

Having attended a few Saturday morning services recently after many years, in different parts of the country, what happened to the singing? “If He had given us a two-hour service and no group singing, . . . a two hour service with a sermon about support for patriarchy in the story of Noah and no singing, . . . a three hour service, . . . a three hour service with Ayn Kelohenu at the end . . . , a three hour service with Ayn Kelohenu at the end and a half-hour sermon about Israeli politics . . .” I remember three or four songs or hymns, at least, being the norm.

21

yalie123 11.06.13 at 4:16 am

I don’t get it. Someone please explain to me why having a woman for the sake of having a woman on a panel is necessary?

22

ZM 11.06.13 at 9:27 pm

yalie123
Sure I can. Sure I can.
Can you explain to me why having a panel for the sake of having a panel on the age of Revolution is necessary?

It is not necessary as such, to have a woman for the sake of having a woman on a panel – it would have been, however, just, fair, interesting, eye-opening, and even chivalrous or good mannered – in the way someone might hold open a door for another.

23

Helen 11.07.13 at 2:41 am

Chivalrous? Ugh. No. Women are 51% of the population and, in recent generations, have been outperforming men in education in a way which has provoked a moral panic among many conservative commentators. This has no way diminished the myth that there are just no qualified women out therewhen it comes to picking panels or job applicants.

The idea of the project is to alert the selectors to their unconscious bias.

24

Helen 11.07.13 at 2:42 am

Chivalry: Patriarchy’s consolation prize.

25

ZM 11.07.13 at 4:38 am

Sorry Helen, it was kind of meant to be a joke relating to strands common (and poined out by another commenter) to Henry & Holbo’s posts on thrift and utilitarianism.

I happen to like Middle English, and I remember my women’s studies lecturer saying something along the lines that women were probably/possibly freer before the Renaissance and Enlightenment. Although she was possibly thinking of the Anglo-Saxon period.

Also, I guess it’s probably important to note (as another commenter did with I think a note on a satire (???) about two knights one from east one from west) that it was as much about standards amongst men as between men and women.

I think it’s just good manners sometimes to open doors for people to help them out or be generally welcoming.

chivalry
► noun [mass noun]
1. the medieval knightly system with its religious, moral, and social code.
■ the combination of qualities expected of an ideal knight, namely courage, honour, courtesy, justice, and a readiness to help the weak.
■ courteous behaviour, especially that of a man towards women: he still retained a sense of chivalry towards women.
2. archaic knights, noblemen, and horsemen collectively.
chivalric adjective.
Middle English: from Old French chevalerie, from medieval Latin caballerius, for late Latin caballarius ‘horseman’ (see chevalier).

26

Mao Cheng Ji 11.07.13 at 8:34 am

“…have been outperforming men in education in a way which has provoked a moral panic among many conservative commentators”

Could you link to some of the many panicking conservative commentators, please. I’ve never heard of this panic.

Also, it seems to me that the fact that women “have been outperforming men in education” (how is this a competition?) doesn’t guarantee that there must be women among the top experts on any particular topic. Or men, for that matter.

I understand that you believe that there is unconscious bias, but if that’s true, it would be demonstrated much more convincingly by specific cases of discrimination.

27

ZM 11.07.13 at 12:16 pm

“I understand that you believe that there is unconscious bias, but if that’s true, it would be demonstrated much more convincingly by specific cases of discrimination.”

Allow me Mao Cheng Ji, I place myself at your service.

To assist and strengthen you upon starting out on your quest to seek out Specific Cases of, and then, of course, flay, the cruel and petty Demon of Unconscious Bias and Discrimination, posters at this very site have offered you their gleanings of wisdom:

http://crookedtimber.org/2013/09/26/there-are-men-eating-menstrual-pads/

http://crookedtimber.org/2013/03/08/giving-women-in-academia-genuine-equal-opportunities/

http://crookedtimber.org/2013/06/06/they-then-chuckle-together-in-a-self-congratulatory-academic-manner/

http://crookedtimber.org/2012/09/14/if-you-cant-whip-out-a-boob-in-an-anthropology-class-where-can-you/

28

Corey Robin 11.07.13 at 3:27 pm

It just so happens that there are many qualified women who could have easily served on these panels (Linda Zerilli, Elizabeth Anderson, Virginia Sapiro, Marilyn Butler, Jane Hodson, Vanessa Ryan, Eileen Botting, Nadia Urbinati, just for starters, not to mention any number of women faculty at Yale, in both poli sci and English, who could have served as commentators.) Whether they were invited and chose not to come, I have no idea.

And while I didn’t think I had to dwell on this — I thought it was obvious from the OP — there seems to be a special irony in the fact that a Center for the Study of REPRESENTATIVE Institutions should convene a conference that is so unrepresentative of the field.

29

Mao Cheng Ji 11.07.13 at 5:34 pm

Yes, if there are so many well-qualified women, then their absence on the panel seems difficult to explain. But maybe the organizers would have something to say.

The irony thing seems weak, though. I don’t see why a bunch of Martians, for example, wouldn’t study representative institutions on Earth, and discuss them at their Martian conferences. So what.

30

godoggo 11.07.13 at 5:45 pm

Cause there aren’t any martians.

31

ZM 11.07.13 at 6:00 pm

“The irony thing seems weak, though. I don’t see why a bunch of Martians, for example, wouldn’t study representative institutions on Earth, and discuss them at their Martian conferences. So what.”

Um, my other comment to your previous comment on this thread is in moderation for some reason – but regardless I’ll bite.

Your Martians, not being human Earthlings and all, might study and discuss the topic in a somewhat disinterested manner – and would not be like, say, those pesky unrepresented womenfolk, who might be somewhat miffed at the chaps involved in making up the Representaive institutions in question getting all declarative with being down with the human earthlings and their rights and so forth, only to find out that, oh gosh, the chaps had redefined the idea of “human earthlings” to strictly and specifically exclude them and others.

I don’t really know what was discussed at the panels specifically, other than Burke and Paine and what not, or the numbers of other past excluded folks represented on them, but the inclusion of your Martians on the panels may not have had the potential to disrupt a certain kind of narrative and bonhomie in the way as that the includion of those non-human-earthlings human earthlings might. Although surely Yale would be better than, right????

32

Mao Cheng Ji 11.07.13 at 6:07 pm

I dunno, if it was The Representative Center for the Study of Institutions, that would’ve been ironic. But the way it is, it doesn’t seem to be. Anyway, you see the irony, I don’t, who cares.

33

godoggo 11.07.13 at 6:18 pm

I liked my answer better.

34

ZM 11.07.13 at 6:29 pm

Maybe it’s more that its unreflexive rather than ironic then?

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