Tuesday Reads

Leon Kroll, Nude Woman Reading a Paper

Leon Kroll, Nude Woman Reading a Paper

Good Morning

A quick update: I think I’m beginning to recover from my pain flare-up. I’ve found a good book on dealing with chronic pain along with an chronic pain app that is helping me better understand what is happening in my body and brain. I’ve been working on slowing down my breathing and letting go of my fear of the pain. So I’m working on being proactive.

Here are some stories that have captured my interested this morning:

The ACLU has apologized for it’s offensive editing of a famous quote by Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The New York Times: A.C.L.U. Apologizes for Tweet That Altered Quote by Justice Ginsburg.

Anthony Romero, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said Monday that he regretted that a tweet sent out recently by his organization altered the words of a well-known quote by the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The A.C.L.U. tweet, which was sent out Sept. 18, changed Justice Ginsburg’s words, replacing each of her references to women with “person,” “people” or a plural pronoun in brackets. Justice Ginsburg, who died last year, is a revered figure in liberal and feminist circles and directed the A.C.L.U.’s Women’s Rights Project from its founding in 1972 until she became a federal judge in 1980.

The tweet by the A.C.L.U. occasioned mockery and some anger on social media from feminists and others.

“We won’t be altering people’s quotes,” Mr. Romero said in an interview on Monday evening. “It was a mistake among the digital team. Changing quotes is not something we ever did.” Mr. Romero first noted his regrets in an interview with Michelle Goldberg, The New York Times columnist, who wrote a column that spoke to the danger of trying to “change the nature of reality through language alone.”

From Michelle Goldberg: The A.C.L.U. Errs on R.B.G.

Recently, on the anniversary of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, the American Civil Liberties Union set out to pay tribute to her pro-choice heroism, and ended up making the sort of self-parodic blunder the right salivates over.

One of R.B.G.’s iconic quotes came from her 1993 Senate confirmation hearings, when, instead of shying away from commenting on reproductive rights like most Supreme Court nominees, she made a forthright case for their indispensability to human flourishing.

Interno (1921). Luigi (Gigi) Chessa (Italian, 1895-1935)

Interno (1921). Luigi (Gigi) Chessa (Italian, 1895-1935)

“The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her well-being and dignity. It is a decision she must make for herself. When government controls that decision for her, she is being treated as less than a fully adult human responsible for her own choices,” Ginsburg said.

In a ham-handed attempt to make the quote conform to current progressive norms around gender neutrality, the A.C.L.U. rendered it this way in a tweet: “The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a [person’s] life, to [their] well-being and dignity … When the government controls that decision for [people], [they are] being treated as less than a fully adult human responsible for [their] own choices.”

This was a mistake for two reasons, one that’s easy to talk about, and one that’s hard.

Goldberg explains:

The easy one is this: It’s somewhat Orwellian to rewrite historical utterances to conform to modern sensitivities. No one that I’m aware of used gender-neutral language to talk about pregnancy and abortion in 1993; it wasn’t until 2008 that Thomas Beatie became famous as what headlines sometimes called the “First Pregnant Man.” There’s a difference between substituting the phrase “pregnant people” for “pregnant women” now, and pretending that we have always spoken of “pregnant people.”

What’s more difficult to discuss is how making Ginsburg’s words gender-neutral alters their meaning. That requires coming to terms with a contentious shift in how progressives think and talk about sex and reproduction. Changing Ginsburg’s words treats what was once a core feminist insight — that women are oppressed on the basis of their reproductive capacity — as an embarrassing anachronism. The question then becomes: Is it? [….]

A gender-inclusive understanding of reproduction is in keeping with the goal of a society free of sex hierarchies. It is one thing to insist that women shouldn’t be relegated to second-class status because they can bear children. It’s perhaps more radical to define sex and gender so that childbearing is no longer women’s exclusive domain.

Yet I think there’s a difference between acknowledging that there are men who have children or need abortions — and expecting the health care system to treat these men with respect — and speaking as if the burden of reproduction does not overwhelmingly fall on women. You can’t change the nature of reality through language alone. Trying to do so can seem, to employ a horribly overused word, like a form of gaslighting.

“One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman,” Simone de Beauvoir wrote. You can interpret this to support the contemporary notion of sex and gender as largely matters of self-identification. Or you can interpret it as many older feminists have, as a statement about how the world molds you into a woman, of how certain biological experiences reveal your place in the social order, and how your identity develops in response to gender’s constraints.

Seen this way, a gender-neutral version of Ginsburg’s quote is unintelligible, because she was talking not about the right of all people to pursue their own reproductive destiny, but about how male control of women’s reproductive lives makes women part of a subordinate class. The erasure of gendered language can feel like an insult, because it takes away the terms generations of feminists used to articulate their predicament.

Read the whole thing at the NYT.

The Bookseller's Son, by Chad Gowey

The Bookseller’s Son, by Chad Gowey

The Washington Post reports on a “revelation” from the new book by former Trump WH press secretary Stephanie Grisham: Trump played tough with Putin when cameras were around, while Putin toyed with his insecurities, a new book says.

Little is known about what happened in the 90-minute conversation between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Osaka, Japan, two years ago. But as journalists were quickly ushered out of the room at the 2019 Group of 20 Summit, Stephanie Grisham once again found herself with a close-up view of the action.

She saw Trump lean toward Putin that day and tell him: “Okay, I’m going to act a little tougher with you for a few minutes. But it’s for the cameras, and after they leave, we’ll talk. You understand.” [….]

Raw Story on what happened next: 

Trump then “quickly” and “playfully” told Putin not to meddle in U.S. elections, USA Today reported at the time.

“Don’t meddle in the election, president,” Trump said in a joking manner, wagging his finger at Putin.

“When an interpreter translated Trump’s ‘request,’ Putin laughed,” USA Today reported.

Seriously: was anyone taken in by that? I doubt it. More on the Grisham book from the WaPo article:

Her 352-page book — obtained by The Washington Post — alleges a litany of misdeeds by the 45th president: from ogling a young female staffer, to orchestrating lies for the public, to attempting to ban the news media from the White House compound. It also gives a rare firsthand look at Melania Trump, who craved her privacy, and a blow-by-blow of how she wound up wearing that “I Really Don’t Care, Do U?” jacket.

Grisham even claims to know dirt on Trump’s hair, which she says he cuts himself with “a huge pair of scissors that could probably cut a ribbon at an opening of one of his properties.” [….]

A major theme of the book is the culture of lies that pervaded Trump’s administration. “Casual dishonesty filtered through the White House as if it were in the air conditioning system,” Grisham writes.

For example, in 2019, Trump went to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center without disclosing to the media that he was going, or why.

It was a days-long mystery in the national news, but Grisham’s book strongly hints that the president went for a simple colonoscopy, without actually using the word. (She wrote that it was “a very common procedure” for which “a patient is sometimes put under” and that George W. Bush had one as president, too.)

As for the elaborate concealment — Grisham writes that Trump was resistant to having Vice President Mike Pence in power even for a short period of time, and he didn’t want to be “the butt of a joke” on late-night TV.

Alice, by Sir John Lavery 1856-1941

Alice, by Sir John Lavery 1856-1941

Grisham on Jared and Ivanka:

She is particularly negative about the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, and her husband Jared Kushner — both of whom held senior White House positions. She wrote that the first lady and White House staff called Ivanka “the Princess” who regularly invoked “my father” in work meetings, and Grisham dubbed Kushner “the Slim Reaper” for his habit of inserting himself into other people’s projects, making a mess and leaving them to take the blame.

Tellingly, Grisham writes that Ivanka and Jared tried to push their way into meeting Queen Elizabeth II alongside the president and first lady, a wild breach of protocol on a state visit, but were thwarted when they couldn’t fit into the helicopter. “I finally figured out what was going on,” Grisham writes. “Jared and Ivanka thought they were the royal family of the United States.”

On Melania’s I don’t care jacket:

The first lady had been upset by the situation her husband’s immigration policies had caused and wanted to see it for herself. For reasons that still remain a mystery, she’d ordered a $39 jacket online from Zara. Grisham said she was on her phone ironing out details for the trip and missed the chance to stop Melania Trump from wearing it.

It was just a jacket, Melania said, as she huddled with Grisham for a damage-control session on the plane. As they arrived back at the White House, an aide told them the president wanted to see his wife in the Oval Office. It was the first time he’d ever summoned her in such a way in front of staff. He yelled and asked “what the [expletive]” they thought they were doing. Then just as quickly he came up with a solution. He would tweet out that the jacket was a message to the Fake News Media.

So that’s your daily dose of gossip.

More stories to check out today:

The New York Times: As Sinema resists the budget bill, she is set to raise money from business groups that oppose it.

Insider: The former Fox News editor who called Arizona for Biden says the Cyber Ninjas audit was meant to undermine trust in elections.

CNN Politics: ‘We won’: Trump and his allies barrel ahead with election lies despite Arizona review confirming his loss.

Steve Benen at MSNBC: When Trump says the U.S. ‘will not survive,’ don’t look away.

Adam Serwer at The Atlantic: The Lie About the Supreme Court Everyone Pretends to Believe.

The vaccine misinformation is happening in Canada too. Global News: Edmonton family with father in ICU for surgery complications witnessed ‘surreal,’ horrific scenes.

Fiona Hill at Foreign Affairs: The Kremlin’s Strange Victory. How Putin Exploits American Dysfunction and Fuels American Decline.

What stories are you following today?


18 Comments on “Tuesday Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Have a nice day Sky Dancers!!

  2. bostonboomer says:

  3. bostonboomer says:

    • Enheduanna says:

      Ummmm….except we all sat here watching it on teevee, idiot.

      My sister in SFO and I texted each other right after things got wild that day and all we said to each other was….WTF??!!?? No need for any other comments at that moment.

  4. bostonboomer says:

  5. dakinikat says:

  6. dakinikat says:

    They’ve also dismissed all women students and faculty at Kabul University.

  7. dakinikat says:

  8. dakinikat says:

  9. NW Luna says:

    Sigh. Goldberg has never read de Beauvoir in the entirety. 99.9% of those quoting this out-of-context sentence haven’t either.

    “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman. No biological, psychological, or economic fate determines the figure that the human female presents in society: it is civilization as a whole that produces this creature, intermediate between male and eunuch, which is described as feminine.”

    When you read the quote in its context, it’s obvious that what de Beauvoir means is that “the figure that the human female presents in society” is not determined by biology, etc., but is made by “civilization as a whole.”

    Goldberg writes, apparently without sarcasm, that “there are men who have children or need abortions” (assuming ‘have children’ = ‘gestation and birthing’), making one to wonder how much of anything she writes is true. As a healthcare practitioner, and a woman, I am sick and tired of this absolute bullshit being taken as reality.

    Also, enough with the misleading ‘gender neutral’ euphemism. “Gender neutral” = “Mixed Sex”

    • dakinikat says:


    • quixote says:

      The other tip-off that Beauvoir isn’t talking about biology is that “civilization” produces a “creature, intermediate between male and eunuch, which is described as feminine.”

      Not a breath about biology having anything to do with it. Quite the opposite, in fact.

      The comprehension-challenged TRAs apparently struggle with her ability to use “woman” both to mean the real human being and what’s left after socialization has erased most of her. In the Old Days, we had no trouble understanding which was which from context.

    • bostonboomer says:

      I’m getting sick and tired of the very real discrimination and violence against women being minimized in this rape culture we have to live in. This is another instance of women being told to step back and wait for change because the needs of men who want to be women are more important.

    • darthvelma says:

      It’s also a shit translation of what she wrote in the original French. But the English publisher of The Second Sex allowed it to be translated by a man with no education or experience in translation, French, or philosophy.

      Can you imagine them allowing that for the work of a great male thinker?