On this week’s Past Present podcast, Nicole Hemmer, Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, and Neil Young discuss the Zika virus, Beyonce’s “Formation,” and Hillary Clinton’s feminism problem.
Here are some links and references mentioned during this week’s show:
- The mosquito-borne virus is ravaging Brazil, but starting to spread globally. Natalia pointed to how rubella outbreaks in the 1960s helped change European abortion laws, a relevant historical precedent considering Brazil’s restrictive abortion laws. Neil traced the history of Zika since its discovery in Uganda in 1947.
- Beyonce’s Super Bowl performance and video for her new single, “Formation,” have drawn controversy for their references to the Black Panthers, the Black Lives Matter movement, and issues of racism and police brutality. Natalia noted critics on the left also have accused Beyonce of representing a “corporate feminism” that is uncritical of capitalism, something the Combahee River Collective Statement of 1977 made central to its definition of black feminism. Niki noted the historian Jim Downs’s essay for We’re History interpreted “Formation” as an artistic expression of black women and black middle class culture instead of the more common pop cultural representations of African-American history as a story of subjugation and discrimination.
- Does Hillary Clinton have a problem with women voters? Controversial comments from Madeline Albright and Gloria Steinem certainly haven’t endeared women voters to Clinton’s candidacy. Natalia argued the controversy exposed longstanding generational divides within feminism, something she noted Gloria Steinem had written about in her recent memoir that detailed her spars with Betty Friedan during the 1960s. Neil cited Carly Fiorina’s exit statement from the Republican presidential race for how it asserted a conservative version of feminism and encouraged women to not let anyone tell them how to vote.
In our regular closing feature, What’s Making History:
- Natalia recommended Aidan Donnelley Rowley’s new book, The Ramblers, as participating in the tradition of the New York novel.
- Neil discussed a history of subway etiquette campaigns from CityLab.
- Niki shared what 74 years of crossword history show us about the language we use.