I was featured in the Washington Jewish Week

Well, I’ve had my day in the sun. This month, the Washington Jewish Week featured me in their “You Should Know…” section. I got quite a rush (and had more than a few nervous moments) at the thought of sitting on the other side of the interview table. The reporter, Hannah Monicken, put me at ease. The result is a laid-back conversation that touches on my passions for teaching and Jewish farming.

Click below to check it out:

Photo by Hannah Monicken, taken in the Gallaudet garden!

“You Should Know … Rhea Kennedy,” Washington Jewish Week

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What I’m Consuming: Women on Screen, Part II

Continuing on from Part I, I give you:

Good Girls Revolt

In the Amazon series Good Girls Revolt, it’s 1969 and News of the Week only runs bylines with men’s names. The media is all about guys like Doug and Randy and Sam. This show, though, is all about Patti and Cindy and Jane. I watched the ten-episode Season 1 soon after it came out last fall, and I’m still thinking about it.

The three main characters work at News of the Week — a fictitious magazine — as researchers and a caption writer, each supporting a man. Patti is a striver whose passion for news wins over her personal life every time. Cindy writes photo captions and feels more at home in the newsroom than at home with her law student husband. Jane was the editor-in-chief of her college newspaper, but now bows to the editorial control of male editors.

The story line clings to those three, but others make welcome appearances along the way. The first cameo is Nora Ephron, who pops up in Episode 1, faces sexism, and … well, I won’t spoil it. Let’s say she’s about nine episodes ahead of her time.

The dialogue moves fast. Patti or Jane talk out who they need to probe, dial a source, and get the job done. They’re the Ginger Rogers of the newsroom, doing everything the men do, but behind the scenes and in huge hair.

Does this sound like a ladies’-view version of Mad Men? If you think so, you’re in the company of many, many reviewers.

Patti, Cindy, and Jane face their own battles and injustices, but with refreshing results: They don’t take out frustration on fellow women. When Nora joins them, Jane gamely shows her around. When Jane hits a wall getting a source to go on record for her reporter’s story, Patti steps in to nab the right interview. Next to these alliances, Don Draper’s friendships with men look downright catty.

I agree with critics who say that the atmosphere is simplified. The race relations, especially, leave me wondering. Could a white man who buys into mainstream culture dig an FBI conspiracy against the Black Panther Party? Would a black woman in an all-white, male-dominated newsroom find her biggest challenge is awkward small talk? The women are also so selfless and forgiving. Crab mentality and gender stereotypes aside, would that come easily to anyone in the competitive world of journalism?

The best part? For me, it’s the DC connection. That comes in the form of Eleanor Holmes Norton. Today, she’s a congressional delegate for DC in her third or fourth decade as a DC statehood crusader and law professor. In 1969, she’s a self-possessed attorney with the ACLU. It is the Norton character who looks into the researchers’ wide eyes and tells them they have a case.

Occasional complications and nuances help move the story along. Patty is a complicated soul, as she grapples with her obsession with getting the story and advocating for herself. She also shows tender feelings for her reporter lover boy while resisting commitment. The male characters are also well-developed. Aside from the chorus of horn dogs and misogynists, several show the pull between the waning ways of the 1950s and the social justice groundswell of the ’60s and ’70s. In another notable twist, the feared and revered publisher happens to be a woman named Bea. She shows up one day to treat the male cadre of reporters and editors to a three-martini lunch. Bea’s appearance shows that gals can be both powerful and sexist.

I haven’t come across a parallel of Erin Ramsey’s essay urging people to see Good Girls. I will give my own endorsement, though. Give the show a chance — especially if you’re a writer, journalist, or witness to injustice.

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CCCC presentation next week!

Join us for a session at the 2017 Conference on College Composition and Communication Annual Convention

 

“Past the Law: Moving from Legal to Just in Disability Accommodations”

 

Thursday, March 16, 12:15-1:30 p.m.

See your #4C17 convention guide for location

Chair: Brenda Brueggemann

Presenters:

Rhea Kennedy

Sushil Oswal

Tonya Stemlau

Description:

Much of the discussion about accommodations to give disabled people access focuses on legal requirements set by laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act. The speakers on this panel will argue that passing laws such as the ADA is not enough; equity and social justice require rhetorics and action that move past the law. Advocacy that fails to move beyond old rhetorics of disability as deficit, of accommodations as an add-on obligation, will fail to achieve social justice; this panel will provide examples of a new rhetoric that focuses on advocacy over obligation and question the ableist discourses of accommodations because these relatively recent bureaucratic disability service discourses, not unlike their predecessors—medical and rehab discourses—are  becoming ipso facto knowledge-bearers of disabled bodies in the academy.

 

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Publication: Abundant Grace

Abundant Grace book cover

I’m honored and thrilled to see my short story, “Digging to Switzerland,” in print. It appears in the anthology Abundant Grace: Fiction by DC Area Women (Paycock Press), edited by Richard Peabody.

 

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What I’m Consuming: Women on Screen, Part I

It’s time for another What I’m Consuming. This is a two-part deal focusing on a recent film and TV show. I dedicate this series to Hillary Clinton.

Women and men in Ghostbuster costumes

Image based on photo by uniquelycat (Cathy Smith)  frin PAX East 2015 [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

For Part I, let’s talk about “Ghostbusters: Answer the Call”

This remake of the 1984 “Ghostbusters” is known for one thing: A ghoul-fighting cadre that is all female. When the movie came out over the summer, reviews sounded like the wheeze of a noisemaker at a lame party. “Ra ra, it’s got a female cast,” critics said. “I wish I liked it more.”

When I finally saw it this month, I was amazed.  In two words: It’s wonderful. Perhaps a cult classic in the making.

The co-star Kristen Wiig plays scientist Erin Gilbert. At Columbia, she’s a physics professor up for tenure. In the world of movie tropes, she’s the cowed loser up for transformation. You can practically see the blinking red arrow over her head, declaring Keep your eye on this one! She’ll change by the closing credits! In an early scene, a male administrator at Columbia advises Dr. Gilbert on strengthening her tenure application. His condescending advice? Get a recommendation from a school more prestigious than Princeton. Continue reading

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NaNoWriMo 2016

A hand holds a pen with ribbon tied to it over a notebook

Ah, November.  A blank page on which to write.

Today marks one week into National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short). This year, I’ve made a commitment to the scribbling craft. The pledge? To write every day.

The force rolling me along is four fellow writers (a.k.a. The Furious 5). Each day, we email the group to report on how much time we’ve written, and sometimes what we worked on. Despite the “novel” aspect of NaNoWriMo, our group sets no requirements for genre. Among our quintet, we’ve already covered fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Timing is also flexible. As one member put it, you can write for “5 minutes or 5 hours.”

If this November is even a fraction as productive as last year, I’ll consider it a success.

What writing commitment could you make for 30 days?

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Rant moratorium?

I see them every now and then – furious complaints or snappy comebacks about student behavior, posted or shared by college professors on social media. Sometimes they’re pretty funny. Overall, though, they bring me down.

Here’s a thought: What if we abstained from posting nastygrams about our students, just for this semester?

Students have thrown some curveballs my way, but many have left me open-mouthed in amazement. I’m talking about students who revealed they were the first person in their family to set foot on a college campus; a student who wrote a gorgeous short story out of the blue, because something in the assignment touched him; students reading ahead in the assigned book because they got so into it.

If I succumb to the seduction of a social media rant, I degrade those stories. I feel only the anger of the injustice and the momentary boost from Facebook cheerleaders.

If you’re not convinced that a rant moratorium has merit, consider this: Acting like a cad isn’t just for students.

In Bad Feminist, Roxane Gay presents a beautifully humble essay on her first year of teaching college students. She writes:

Sometimes, during class, I catch students staring at their cell phones beneath their desks like they’re in a cone of invisibility. It’s as funny as it is irritating.

…Sometimes, when students are doing group work, I sneak a look at my own phone like I am in a cone of invisibility. I am part of the problem.
Continue reading

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