By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
BEYOND THE PALE
In Jerry Saltz's review of Vanessa Beecroft's photographic installation VB 45, Kunsthalle Wien, Austria ["Pudenda Agenda: The Shaved-Vagina Monologues," April 16], he notes that Beecroft's "latest images show groups of more than a dozen models, all white in one performance, and all black in the other." A few lines later Saltz writes, "Beecroft's regimented models, and her predilection for beautiful, blond Aryans, have always made us think beyond the nude, to type; now she introduces race."
Huh? I hate to go all the way back to Post-Colonial Studies 101, but here goes: What Saltz wrote makes only a pretense toward sense if you take the nonsensical position that "blond Aryans" are raceless, and therefore Beecroft's work couldn't have anything to do with race unless some of the models are black. What, after all, are "blond Aryans" if not racial types? Once again, whiteness is reinscribed as the unspoken norm while the highly charged "significance" of blackness is trotted out to deflect attention away from the con game and denials upon which the idealization of white identity relies.
Re Pudenda Agenda: The Shaved-Vagina Monologues: good, punchy subhead except that women don't shave their vaginas. They might shave their vulvas, pubes, mons, or labia, but the vagina is inside the body. Am I right in thinking it's mostly men who are confused about this?
2002: A SPACE ODYSSEY
Erik Baard wrote a comprehensive and thoughtful article on National Aeronautics and Space Administration's outreach to African American and Latino students in New York City ["Brothers to Another Planet," April 23]. As an employee of NASA's Minority University Research and Education Division, the office that funds the programs described in the article, it was gratifying to see the impact our projects have had on students who have traditionally been excluded from math and science disciplines. It also was neat to read Baard's statement that educators believe "the simple act of displaying the NASA logo on a classroom door opens young people's minds to careers they were once shut out of." Just seeing the logo every day has a great impact on NASA employees as well.
Although the first African American astronauts began at NASA in 1978, officially the first black astronaut was Major Robert Lawrence Jr., who was selected in 1967 for the Air Force's Manned Orbiting Laboratory Program, and was killed in the crash of an F-104 fighter in December of that year. The Air Force officially confirmed Lawrence as an astronaut in January 1996. The first Hispanic astronaut was Franklin Chang-Diaz, selected in 1980.
At NASA, we know we must reach out to all students to keep this dream alive because in reaching for the universe, we improve the quality of life on earth for all humankind.
Mary Anne Stoutsenberger,
University Program Manager
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Chisun Lee's latest article on the treatment of nannies in her series "Women Raise the City" was very interesting ["The Heart of the Work," April 23]. I recently returned from a trip to Hong Kong, where the treatment of nannies is far worse than in the United States. Nannies there are imported from the Philippines, where the pittance they make working 60-hour weeks is a king's ransom in their native land. The small population of American and European transplants in Hong Kong hand their children over to their nannies and expect constant care of them, house cleaning, cooking, and on late nights there is a mattress in the kitchen, bathroom, or a closet for them to sleep on.
Parents there also share the confusion about what to pay someone who is practically part of the family. The family I stayed with stated that they paid their nanny more than most simply to ensure the good care of their child, yet grudgingly admitted it was still well below a decent wage.
A day's labor should be worth a day's wages. Nannies, like at-home mothers, fathers, and teachers, are unsung heroes of society. They mold children into adults, yet they are under-appreciated and underpaid. When you hire a nanny to do such important work, you should expect to pay more and provide decent living conditions.
LETTERS TO ISRAEL
Sylvana Foa, who probably fancies herself a liberal on the Israeli political spectrum, wrote an interesting "Letter From Israel" in your April 16 issue headlined "The Filthy War." While I agree with some statements she made, she mimicked the basic fantasies about what Ehud Barak supposedly offered Yasir Arafat at Camp David, which skewed the context of the current conflict. Barak most certainly did not offer "all of the West Bank" to Arafat. In fact, the West Bank areas offered to Arafat were non-contiguous cantons, divided by several Jewish-only bypass roads (along with Israeli sovereignty over illegal settlements in the West Bank).
In an earlier piece ["Complaining to Naomi," February 5], Foa excitedly told readers about her meeting with Naomi Chazan of the Meretz Party in Israel, remarking that "it only takes an hour to drive from Jaffa to Jerusalem." Had the Palestinian state been based on the Barak plan, it would have taken Palestinians several hours to get from Ramallah to Hebron, for example, because of the bypass roads.