On this week’s Past Present podcast, Nicole Hemmer, Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, and Neil Young discuss Jeb Bush and the history of frontrunners, the modern period, and trigger warnings.
Jeb Bush was the presumed frontrunner for the Republican nomination for president in 2016, but he’s quickly lost the top spot in the campaign. Frontrunners have often been unable to secure their party’s nomination. Neil tracked “frontrunner” on Google’s Ngram Viewer and found it was first used in 1924, but until 1960 it was mostly used in the context of horseracing. Niki noted that the jump of “frontrunner” language from horseracing to politics after 1960 was in keeping with what a 2012 Atlantic article had called the “Sports Center-ization” of political journalism.
The Modern Period
Menstruation has a long history. Some women are practicing “free bleeding” as a feminist project to reclaim the period from its history of shame and taboo. Natalia recommended Lara Freidenfelds’ history of menstruation in the twentieth century and an Atlantic article about the history of the tampon. The marketing of tampons and other feminine hygiene products have changed remarkably in recent years, perhaps most clearly in the humorous Camp Gyno ads for the tampon subscription service, HelloFlo.
The controversy over “trigger warnings” on college campuses today has become a hot media topic, but is it a real phenomenon? A recent Atlantic article by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt lamenting the “coddling of the American mind” certainly seemed to think so. While liberal students in the 1960s protested for greater free speech on campus, liberal students today have called on universities to limit and publish offensive speech for the purposes of ensuring a “safe space.” Natalia noted this had also transformed how college students are dealing with sexual assault on campus, holding universities more accountable for these crimes than the perpetrators, a development Natalia has written about for the Notches blog.
What’s Making History
- Natalia discussed SeaWorld San Diego’s decision to end its killer whale performances after protests following the release of the 2013 documentary “Black Fish.”
- Neil commented on the defeat of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) last week, a nondiscrimination measure that opponents termed the “bathroom bill.” Neil wrote for Slate last week that conservative activists have used fears over public restrooms to defeat equal rights measures since the 1970s.
- Niki shared an article that asserted the ballpoint pen, rather than the computer, was what killed cursive writing.