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Dunham sibling TMI rivalry: Lena: I had my uterus removed and here’s a photo of it! Cyrus Grace: Well! I had my BREASTS removed!

Photo: People

Nothing like a TMI contest between the scribbling Dunham siblings.

Lena Dunham in the Cut, November 2018:

One morning, about three weeks after we’d first met, Lena Dunham sent me ten text messages in a row. She was in the hospital, recovering from a procedure to remove her right ovary, “which was encased in scar tissue & fibrosis, attached to my bowel and pressing on nerves that made it kinda hard to walk/pee/vamp,” as she’d later explain on Instagram. She sent me a post-op photo of herself in bed, a red bracelet that read NO BENZODIAZEPINES dangling from her wrist, hospital gown hiked up, her medical mesh panties out….

There were photos of all the nurses and doctors and surgeons. A close-up of her pubic area, showing off tattoos and hair and the place where the doctor had drawn incision marks in blue ink….

So by the time we were together again in person and she asked if I wanted to see a photo of her uterus, I barely hesitated. I’d seen so much of her, what was an organ?

She turned her screen toward me and there it was: the uterus she’d had removed during a hysterectomy last year. A bloody, swollen crimson orb resting casually on industrial-blue surgical cloth. It was smaller than I’d expect a uterus to be — more alive-seeming, too, as if it could be plopped right back in and resume its function. “The doctor said he’d never seen a uterus as misshapen as mine,” she said proudly. I leaned in so I could see her Fallopian tubes better. They looked like little outstretched arms….

Okey-doke! But Lena has a sibling–and siblings usually mean sibling rivalry. So….

Cyrus Grace Dunham in the New Yorker, August 2019:

What did I really want? I wanted thicker skin and better boundaries. I wanted bigger hands. I wanted a flat chest and a new car. I wanted to pull my shirt over my head by the collar, the way men in movies did….

In late November, it was still warm enough to sit outside on the balcony at night. I wore shorts, no shirt, put my legs up on the railing. If I didn’t look down, I could summon the sensation of flatness where my chest was. If I couldn’t ignore my breasts, I pushed the extra flesh toward the center of my torso, or to the sides, or over my ribs. I pretended it was butter that I was spreading thin….

In the operating room, the nurses laid me down on a crucifix-shaped table: arms outstretched, legs spread. One friend who had already been through top surgery had warned me it would feel sacrificial….

Fortunately there aren’t any more Dunham siblings–because God only knows what Dunham TMI would be be next.

Posted by Charlotte Allen


Me for Law & Liberty: In “West Wingers,” Obama’s White House staffers prove there’s no such thing as too much sucking up to Valerie Jarrett–or the former president, or Michelle

Image result for obama gautam raghavan
Photo: Wikipedia

These are the first-person memoirs of 18 Obama administration mid-level staffers. But don’t get your hopes up for dirt-dishing about what it was actually like to work for the 44th President, or for his notoriously abrasive and foul-mouthed first chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel (lately mayor of Chicago), or for She Who Must Be Obeyed, a.k.a. “senior advisor” Valerie Jarrett, who not only had unlimited access to the President and First Lady but controlled and patrolled everyone else’s.

West Wingers: Stories From the Dream Chasers, Change Makers, and Hope Creators Inside the Obama White House is not that kind of book. You can open it at random, as I did, and you will read only that the President “earned” his role “by caring for others and listening to the voices of people who often aren’t heard”; that “the thing I loved about Obama was his crystal clarity, his infamous calm, his love and devotion to taking the long view”; and that Michelle Obama always exuded “calm and grace” and “allowed me to live in” the “realm of infinite possibility.”

No way especially will you hear a critical word about Ms. Jarrett in this book, where she is ubiquitous and (ostensibly, anyway) ubiquitously beloved. Among the bouquets for Jarrett scattered throughout was this from Brad Jenkins, describing one of her numerous bailiwicks, the Office of Public Engagement: She led a “scrappy team of community organizers.” She was “so moved by [the] courage and commitment” of the “Dreamers” (the illegal immigrants brought to America as children, for whom Obama controversially arranged deferred deportation in 2012 without seeking congressional approval), says Cecilia Muñoz, a La Raza veteran who became White House director of domestic policy. As a boss, Jarrett “worked hard to create a working environment that was sustainable for parents with children at home,” says Michael Strautmanis, who was her chief of staff.

Jarrett herself, from a blurb on the back cover of this book: It contains “deeply moving stories” that “show us how hope becomes real, sustainable change.”….

Read the whole thing here.

Posted by Charlotte Allen

NYT writer Jennifer Weiner outraged that people aren’t pretending Kelly McGillis is just as sexy as she was 33 years and about 133 pounds ago

Top Gun star Kelly McGillis, 62, spotted at church ahead of long-awaited release of sequel with Tom Cruise
Photos: SunBest
New York Times writer Jennifer Weiner is Very Upset that everybody isn’t pretending that Kelly McGillis is just as as sexy as she was when she was 33 years younger and weighed about 133 pounds less:
There I was, blissfully enjoying Lizzo, when the world had to intrude and remind me that it is still disgusted by normal female bodies.
Actually, it was a very tough summer emotionally for Weiner, what with Trump and that horrible thing that happened in the Bergdorf-Goodman dressing room:
Yes, there were tragedies. Heat waves. Mass shootings. The snap, crackle, fizzle of the Mueller testimony. Another credible allegation of rape leveled at our president.
But there was a silver lining:
If you don’t know who Lizzo is, I’m sorry that you have yet to experience the pure joy of a gorgeous, unapologetically plus-size black woman twerking in a bodysuit while playing the flute. Go Google her. I’ll wait.
Weiner is apparently no slouch in the plus-size department herself–and when you’re plus-size, all the world starts to look plus-size, too:

If I could go back in time, I would inject Lizzo straight into my 14-year-old veins. I would tell my teenage self that she would grow up and see a woman like this owning the stage and not hiding behind anything. I’d tell her that there would be a thing called social media, and on it she could see ads for plus-size swimsuits being worn by actual plus-size women, posing with thinner models like it was no big deal, like having thick thighs was no different from having red hair. I’d explain how she’d be able to load up her Instagram feed with athletes and models and singers and yoga instructors whose bodies all looked, to some degree, like her own and that all of this would help her walk through the world and feel O.K. and hope that things would get better for her daughters.

Then, uh-oh, a pin in the plus-size balloon:

And then the trailer for the new “Top Gun” movie dropped.

57, Tom Cruise still fits into his circa-1986 leather jacket, still rides his motorcycle without a helmet and looks as if there’s just got to be a portrait of his face rotting in an attic somewhere, or as if he’s sold his soul to Xenu. Even if he wasn’t so eerily well preserved, even if he’d aged the way his co-stars Tom Skerritt and Val Kilmer have, he’d probably still be leading the franchise. Men are allowed to age, to wrinkle and gain weight and still make millions starring in tentpole summer films.

Mr. Kilmer, Mr. Skerritt and Mr. Cruise are all reprising their roles. But Kelly McGillis, who played the astrophysicist/Top Gun instructor/girlfriend Charlie Blackwood in the original, wasn’t asked.

Even worse, Weiner discovered on Facebook, people weren’t saying very nice things about McGillis’s physical charms:

“It is a Top Gun sequel not Free Willy,” I read, and “highway to the Burger King” and “she looks like his mother not his girlfriend” and “It’s completely possible to be hot at 60 … sadly usually apathy wins.”

Time for some moral outrage on Weiner’s part:

I’m sorry that filmmakers missed their chance to give Tom Cruise’s Maverick an age-appropriate, normal-looking girlfriend. I’m sorry that President Trump brushed off another rape accusation with a sneering “she’s not my type” and much of the world just shrugged.

That dressing room thing again.

Kelly McGillis, by the way, who has struggled with drinking and poor health, seems to be more sanguine about her fate than Jennifer Weiner:

I’m old and I’m fat and I look age-appropriate for what my age is, and that is not what that whole scene is about,” Ms. McGillis, 62, told “Entertainment Tonight” in a phone interview. “But,” she said, “I’d much rather feel absolutely secure in my skin and who and what I am at my age as opposed to placing a value on all that other stuff.”

Unlike Weiner, McGillis doesn’t seem to need Lizzo to cheer her up.

Posted by Charlotte Allen

My udders, my choice: Gender-studies article claims milk industry forces dairy cows to be “vessels of reproduction”–and they’re also forbidden to “explore their sexuality”

Image result for dairy cows being milked

Photo: Farm and Dairy

What’s even worse than being a female human abused by the patriarchy? Being a female cow abused by the patriarchy.

From Campus Reform:

A paper currently being promoted by a New York university calls on society to consider the rampant “sexual exploitation” of dairy cows by the milk industry in order to “fully fight gendered oppression.”

Specifically, the author compares cattle insemination to “rape” and the milking of cows to “sexual abuse.”

Titled “Readying the Rape Rack: Feminism and the Exploitation of Non-Human Reproductive Systems,” the paper was published Friday in a journal called Dissenting Voices, which is published and edited by the Women’s and Gender Studies program at the College at Brockport State University of New York….

According to the publication, “the dairy industry is a host for sex-based discrimination,” and a “site where sexual assault and objectification based on biological makeup are highly prevalent but ignored as we choose to neglect non- humans with whom we share a planet.”

The paper argues that “in order to fully fight gendered oppression,” society must also address the plight of dairy cows, which it asserts are “still subjects to sex-based discrimination and violence,” despite their voices being “not always lifted or comprehensible….

“If women do not choose to become mothers, they are shamed. If a female cow is incapable of successfully bearing a calf, they are sent away for slaughter. Their reproductive system is useless, therefore, they, as a being, are useless,” [author McKenzie L. ] April notes, arguing that this is indicative of a “double standard,” as civilized society would cringe at the thought of murdering women once they become infertile.

“The outdated stereotype about women being caretakers and most importantly child-bearers remains consistent in the dairy industry, especially when we take into account the means through which these animals are exploited,” April argues, pointing specifically to the insemination of cattle, which she compares to “rape,” the milking of cows, which she compares to “sexual abuse,” “emotional trauma related to pregnancy,” and “nonconsensual hormone treatments.”

The worst part of being a cow, according to April, is that they can’t even have a cow hook-up culture the way humans can on college campuses like Brockport State:

It is important to keep in mind that cows are not encouraged to go “explore” their sexuality with bulls in order to engage in sexual reproduction. Dairy cows become pregnant by humans through invasive, nonconsensual means through both vaginal and rectal penetration (Cochrane, 2010). Dairy cows line up in a circle and are chained to a large round post before the impregnation, also known as the “rape rack” (Butler, 2015, p.40).

But I’ll bet the bulls love it!

April also gets us readers inside the head of a dairy cow at milking time:

When the machines started, we all stood frozen, the concrete floor rumbling below our cold, blistered feet. Our eyes dipped and fell despondent, whispering, “it won’t always be like this” and other sentiments that would once more prove themselves untrue. Sometimes I would even feel guilty for lying to myself; for being what I was and who I was. When the men arrived, we made sure to be compliant. To stand still, upright. It was faster this way. Sometimes, they would slap the top of my head or back as if to say hello. The contact made my skin crawl and the flies around me disperse, only to land on a new part of my rotting pelt, still buzzing the way flies always buzz.

Sort of the way gender-studies students at Brockport State feel when they graduate and actually have to get a job in the real world.

Posted by Charlotte Allen

Jill Filipovic: Trump made me wear a purity ring

Photo: New York Post

Finally: peak Jill Filipovic:

There’s also a deep psychological overlap between evangelical purity culture and Trumpism. Making America great again and forgoing kissing for courtship both promise an easy route to a glorified past. Both come from a fear of the unknown, an aversion to new experiences, a deep disgust at a perceived other attaining equal footing….

In no other pivotal area of life do we insist on the total mindless fidelity that the “send her back” crowd demands. Similarly, for no life-shaping decision do we believe it’s healthy to have the total lack of experience that the “save yourself until marriage” brigade mandates. Team Love It or Leave It also hews to the bizarre theory that less information makes for better decision-making. Both movements are fundamentally invested in embracing ignorance. The flip side to “if you don’t like it, leave” is the suggestion that those who truly love America would never deign to cross its borders, let alone look abroad for valuable lessons. Adherents would rather know less, and as a result risk stagnation and decline, than come into contact with information that complicates their view of America as a red, white, and blue “We’re #1!” foam finger. Virginity-until-marriage proponents offer a similar promise: If you don’t know any better, you’ll never want anything more….

Trump and his chanting fans have zeroed in on four female congresswomen of color because they rightly see that a multi-tonal sea of Americans is rising to contest their long-held grip on power. The fear that this rise will strip away unearned advantages from whites is just as well founded as the virginity-men’s anxiety that sexual experience would make women more romantically discerning.

But here’s the absolute money quote that, yeah, you have to wade through a sump pond of blather to find–but when you come across it you’ll be beside yourself with joy because it’s so rich:

I took off my promise ring because not long after I got it, it became clear to me that the primary beneficiaries of these rules were men.

Mmmm, right. Men just can’t stand it when young women take their clothes off.

Posted by Charlotte Allen

Amnesty International’s “travel advisory”: So, is the U.S. less “safe” or more “safe” for illegal immigrants than Guatemala? Just asking

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The Trump administration is reportedly considering barring anyone who transits through a third country from seeking asylum at the US southern border. Such a policy would effectively block anyone other than Mexicans and Canadians from seeking asylum in the United States. In response, Charanya Krishnaswami, Advocacy Director for the Americas at Amnesty International USA, made the following statement:

“Seeking asylum is a human right, full stop.  This latest policy is a disgusting example of the lengths the Trump administration will go to deny people protection. Instead of taking sensible steps to fix this crisis of their own making, they choose to further their agenda of hate and fear against mothers, fathers, children, and anyone else who has been forced to flee their homes and who have no other way to seek safety. To effectively close the border to Central Americans and the vast majority of people seeking asylum not only violates human rights obligations, but is also fundamentally cruel.”

Amnesty International, August 7, 2019:

Amnesty International today issued a travel warning calling for possible travelers and visitors to the United States to exercise extreme caution when traveling throughout the country due to rampant gun violence, which has become so prevalent in the United States that it amounts to a human rights crisis. It aims to hold up a mirror to the U.S. using the model of the United States Department of State’s travel advice for U.S. travelers to other countries.

“Travelers to the United States should remain cautious that the country does not adequately protect people’s right to be safe, regardless of who they might be. People in the United States cannot reasonably expect to be free from harm – a guarantee of not being shot is impossible,” said Ernest Coverson, campaign manager for the End Gun Violence Campaign at Amnesty International USA.

So which is it, Amnesty International? Is the U.S. safer or less safe than Guatemala?

While the agreement between the US and Guatemala has yet to be disclosed, any attempts to force families and individuals fleeing their home countries to seek safety in Guatemala is outrageous.

Just asking.

Posted by Charlotte Allen

Bad: WaPo publishes error-ridden, fact-check-free story. Worse: The WaPo story is amazingly similar to a New Yorker story with the exact same theme that ran a week earlier

Image result for korsha wilson
Image: YouTube

Pardon my schadenfreude, but it’s Blooper of the Year Time for the Washington Post.

From the Washingtonian:

The correction on Korsha Wilson’s July 23 Washington Post feature about black families trying to hold onto their forebears’ farmland is gruesome. It’s 579 words long, a little more than a fifth of the length of the revised article. It has 15 bullet points. In print, it’s so long it has to jump from the first page of the Food section to the fourth.

“A previous version of this article contained many errors and omitted context and allegations important to understanding two families’ stories,” the correction reads. Among them: Wilson’s article misspelled the first name of a source’s grandfather, credited him with the wrong number of children with his second wife, misstated the number of acres sold in a partition sale, misquoted a source, “omitted key details that affect understanding of ownership of the land,” and on and on.

The errors in Wilson’s story are impressive, all right–but here’s something even worse: That July 23 story of hers looks like a rip-off–or at least a quickie knock-off–of a July 15 story by ProPublica reporter Lizzie Presser (co-published in the New Yorker) on the very same same topic: black farmers in the South who die without making wills, leaving title to their land in a muddle as multiple heirs (and possible freeloaders and squatters) squabble over ownership rights and leave themselves vulnerable to exploitation by developers if one of the heirs decides to sell out.

The big difference: Presser spent around nine months researching and writing her story, which involves a rural black family in North Carolina. I could be wrong because the time frame is short, but my bet is that Wilson spent about a week on hers, which involves a rural black family in Virginia.

Alternatively, of course, the amazing similarity of theme between the stories could be the handiwork of Thomas W. Mitchell, a law professor at Texas A&M who has been pushing a piece of legislation he has drafted which would alter the legal doctrine of “partition” so as to make it easier for heirs to clear title and keep family property in the family. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it turned out that Mitchell had dug up both black families with their sad stories for Presser and Wilson to interview–so as to prod legislators in North Carolina and Virginia to get off their behinds and enact his pet project into law.

Here’s Mitchell in Presser’s story:

Thomas W. Mitchell, a property-law professor at Texas A&M University School of Law, has drafted legislation aimed at reforming this system, which has now passed in 14 states. He told me that heirs’ property owners, particularly those who are African-American, tend to be “land rich and cash poor,” making it difficult for them to keep the land in a sale. “They don’t have the resources to make competitive bids, and they can’t even use their heirs’ property as collateral to get a loan to participate in the bidding more effectively,” he said. His law, the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act, gives family members the first option to buy, sends most sales to the open market, and mandates that courts, in their decisions to order sales, weigh non-economic factors, such as the consequences of eviction and whether the property has historic value. North Carolina is one of eight states in the South that has held out against these reforms.

And here is Mitchell again in Wilson’s story:

Mitchell is also working with lawmakers to introduce the Partition of Heirs Property Act, most recently passed by the New York legislature and introduced in 10 other state legislatures, including Virginia’s. The act would require “tenants in-common”, those living on the property, to come to an agreement about the sale of the property rather than one heir being able to force a partition sale with a developer. The goal is to help black families retain the asset of their families’ land, Mitchell says. “Stripping people of their real estate is stripping them of their wealth,” he says.

The above quotation is from the original, uncorrected version of Wilson’s story (reprinted by the U.K. Independent), so it contains a few errors. From the Washington Post‘s corrections:

A law proposed to protect heirs from losing land in partition sales is called the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act, not the Partition of Heirs Property Act. “Tenants in common” are not solely defined as those living on a property; they are all those who own a share in the property. The act would not require heirs living on a property to come to an agreement before it can be sold, but would instead provide several other protections.

Here are a couple of other choice corrections:

• The first name of Emanuel Freeman Sr. was misspelled.

• Contrary to what was reported in the initial article, Freeman Sr.’s grandson, Johnny, did not refuse to move off a Halifax, Va., sidewalk for a white woman; he was talking to her, which drew the ire of some white locals, including the Ku Klux Klan. When a crowd gathered at the Freeman home where Johnny fled, gunfire was exchanged, and one family member’s home was set ablaze….

• A description by agricultural lawyer Jillian Hishaw of laws governing who inherits property when a landowner dies was a reference to the laws in most states, not more than 20 states. She was also generally describing these laws, not referring to Virginia law.

• A study the article said compared the prevalence of estate planning by older white and older black Americans was published in the Journal of Palliative Medicine, not the National Library of Medicine, and was about possession of advance health directives, not estate planning.

Wilson’s article ran in the WaPo‘s food section–so maybe the WaPo’s food editor, Joe Yonan, was so preoccupied with culinary matters that he didn’t check around to make sure that his stories hadn’t already run elsewhere. Wilson is a widely published freelance food writer whose main claim to fame seems to be complaining that French cuisine isn’t “diverse” enough.

Posted by Charlotte Allen