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Jacqueline Alnes

Roses are Red, Violets are Blue, Here’s a List of Longreads about Love for You

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Valentine’s Day always brings me back to the halls of my high school, which, on February 14th each year, teemed with roses by the dozen, glittery cards taped to lockers, oversized teddy bears, and prolonged goodbyes between couples before every class. As a shy high school student, I was more interested in the characters in the novels I read than pursuing my peers, but the holiday always brought an intense anxiety. Even when I told myself I didn’t want a cache of hot pink roses from the Kroger down the street, and even when I convinced myself that the holiday was a celebration of consumerism, I still felt like I was missing out in some way.

When I look back, I’m able to realize that my sense of loneliness didn’t come from any true sense of isolation, but rather the fact that I only recognized one type of relationship being celebrated, a kind I didn’t fully believe in, romances that relied on public gestures as proof. The essays I curated for this reading list are intended to be inclusive of all kinds of love. These writers explore what the landscape of relationships might look like in the age of robots, how one community of queer and trans women healed after Hurricane Harvey, and what pigeons might teach us about our own capacity for love, just for starters.

1. The Love Story That Upended the Texas Prison System (Ethan Watters, October 11, 2018, Texas Monthly)

Fred Cruz, imprisoned for 15 years for a robbery in Texas in the 1960s, was known for his calm manner, his study of law, and his practice of Buddhism. When Frances Jalet, a lawyer who moved to Texas because she was told it was a place where she could best fight for civil rights, met Cruz, the two hit it off. Jalet and Cruz, through years visitation and discussions of law in their letters to one another, fought for prisoners’ rights in Texas.

‘I know how deeply you love your son,’ Jalet wrote to Cruz’s mother that spring. ‘I have grown to love him also.’ Just what kind of love she was professing was unclear, perhaps even to her.

2. Love in the Time of Robots (Alex Mar, October 17, 2017, Wired)

What are the differences between humans and androids, and can the differences be “solved” through research? Can a relationship with an android stave off loneliness? What are the ethical considerations of trying to create an android so close to a human that the differences are difficult to perceive?

Alex Mar, in this riveting piece, addresses these questions, and also writes about the motives of Hiroshi Ishiguro, a man in Japan who regularly produces androids.

3. They Found Love, Then They Found Gender (Francesca Mari, October 21, 2015, Medium)

‘Gender identity typically develops between the ages of two and four, and sexuality emerges between ages eight and 10. ‘But if you’re not allowed to explore gender and sexuality and yours happens to be different than what’s culturally expected,’ Dr. Colt Keo-Meier, a trans man clinical psychologist practicing in Houston told me, ‘yours will be delayed, which is why you see people transitioning at 30, at 55.’ In Texas, he said, this is particularly true, thanks to the state’s stifling religious, cultural, and conservative forces.”

Settled into married life with her husband, with two children between them, Jeannot Jonte realized over time that she needed more. She asked her husband to open their marriage, and subsequently met Ashley Boucher at Sue Ellen’s, a famous lesbian bar in Dallas. The two connected. Their romance led to Jeannot divorcing her husband and allowed space for Jeannot — now Johnny — to explore gender identity in a safe space for the first time in their life.

4. After Divorce and Postpartum Depression, Work (and Bees) Brought Me Back to Life (Christine H. Lee, January 8, 2019, Catapult)

Christine Hyung-Oak Lee’s husband was allergic to bees but, after he left, Lee ordered her own nucleus and began tending to them. In this poignant essay — one that’s part of a series called Backyard Politics — Lee uses bees as a metaphor for the ways in which she learned to build the kind of life she wanted after postpartum depression and the dissolution of her marriage.

“It is no wonder that I am so in love with my bees. They live by structure and routine, but they are also resilient. They fight for their lives.”

5. India’s Golden Chance (Meera Subramanian, January 6, 2014, Virginia Quarterly Review)

Meera Subramanian visits Bihar, India to “find out what it means to be a girl turning into a woman in today’s India.” She is met with startling statistics.

“For every 100,000 mothers who give birth, 261 die—​more than ten times the US figure. Though it is an illegal act, nearly 70 percent of Bihari girls are married before their eighteenth birthday, and well over half of newlyweds have their first child by nineteen. The average woman in Bihar bears 3.7 children over the course of her lifetime. Of those, nearly 5 percent die within the first year.”

Subramanian writes about the efforts of a woman named Pinki Kumari, who’s involved with a program called Pathfinder International, which seeks to educate people about reproductive health. The training also seeks to empower women to make choices that might lead to a brighter future, such as resisting arranged marriage, birth control options, achieving economic stability on their own, continuing education, and speaking out against pervasive issues such as sexual violence.

6. How Queer and Trans Women Are Healing Each Other After Hurricane Harvey (Yvonne S. Marquez, October 25, 2017, Autostraddle)

After Hurricane Harvey ravaged Houston, many LGBT and undocumented Houstonians struggled to heal, and were left without access to resources to do so. In this longform piece, one that is a testament to the power of love that exists within community, Yvonne S. Marquez shares the efforts of people like poet Tiffany Scales, who is part of the T.R.U.T.H. Project, a project that organizes uplifting and educational performance art events for LGBTQ communities and their allies; Ana Andrea Molina, founder of Organización Latina de Trans en Texas (OLTT), who used her resources and connections to open a nonprofit where undocumented queer and trans people receive support; and Jessica Alvarenga, a queer Salvadoran photographer who hopes to “capture a truer narrative of her community to counter anti-immigrant narratives spewed by conservative politicians who depict all Central American immigrants as members of the dangerous MS-13 gang.”

7. Politics as a Defense Against Heartbreak (Minda Honey, February 2018, Longreads)

A decade away from her last long-term relationship, Minda Honey arrives to a party celebrating her 33rd birthday without a date. After a friend gives her a tarot reading and suggests Honey will find a man, Honey reflects on the way she has evolved throughout various encounters with men, and discusses the way she now uses “politics as a barometer for the caliber of person” she dates.

“But I wish there were space in our culture for single women who are unhappy with their status to say so without being pitied, and without the pressure to break out into the Independent Woman song and dance. I can have a happy, fulfilling life and still long for romantic love. Two things can simultaneously be true.” 

8. What Pigeons Teach Us About Love (Brandon Keim, February 11, 2016, Nautilus)

After observing a pair of pigeons for a spring — birds he names Harold and Maude — Brandon Keim ruminates on what we know about how animals conceive of love, and how their interactions as couples reflect on how we as humans engage in relationships.

“Part of the reluctance to talk of bird love, I suspect, is rooted in our misgivings about our own love’s biological underpinnings: Is it just chemicals? A set of hormonal and cognitive patterns shaped by evolution to reward behaviors that result in optimal mating strategies? Perhaps love is not what defines us as human but is something we happen to share with other species, including the humble pigeon.”

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Jacqueline Alnes is working on a memoir about running and neurological illness. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter @jacquelinealnes.

‘Pain is Weakness Leaving the Body’ and Other Lies I’ve Been Told: A Reading List on Mental Health and Sport

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Over two miles into my first Division I cross country race, I felt buoyant. My legs turned over like a well-oiled machine and my chest fluttered with promise: as a freshman, I was in third place for my team. I dug the metal teeth of my spikes into dirt and focused on maintaining an even clip. Lost in the reverie of the race, I almost didn’t see my coach standing on the sideline, her blond hair pulled back, face shadowed in a hat.

“Get your shit together,” she seethed as I ran past. Focused and faster than anyone anticipated, I glanced over at her, unsure whether she was speaking to me or someone else. But I was alone. “Move your fucking ass.”

The feeling of calm in my chest dissipated with her words, as if a balloon had been pricked, all the air let loose. Rather than ruminating on the strength in my legs, the smooth swish of my uniform against inner arm, my mind reeled. What was I doing wrong? I was already on pace for a significant personal record — was I supposed to be running faster? Had I appeared unfocused as I ran past?

When I look back at that first race, I always remember those words, the way the tension crept into my limbs. And the feeling stayed throughout the season. Nothing ever seemed good enough for Coach — she’d tell us we were a fucking shit show as a team when we didn’t run as fast as anticipated or when our outfits didn’t match or when we took too long on warmup. Before a race, we could either be a fucking hero and get our shit together or not. There was no in-between. I was 17 years old at the time, adjusting to life halfway across the country from my family, new food, a new sleep schedule, higher mileage, and learning the contours of socializing with my team, but those were not factored into my performance, nor was there any acknowledgment that adjusting to college — especially as a Division I athlete — can be a difficult, and stress-inducing situation.

My coach’s words were not unfamiliar to me. As an athlete, I’d been told iterations of get your shit together my entire career. In high school, no matter what our emotional state was, we were trained to say every day is a great day! The phrase, one my coach used to yell into the sunrise while he biked next to me, is scrawled all over the margins of my training journals, even when the descriptions of my runs read “hurt a lot,” “windy,” or “bloody toe.” Shirts at cross country meets featured sayings like pain is weakness leaving the body; champions train, losers complain; and seven days without running makes one weak. These slogans, intended to be humorous in some cases, emphasized the mentality that many sports do: athletes should be tough enough to overcome anything. If you don’t, it means you’re weak.

I internalized that way of thinking while growing up. I’ve been competitive as an athlete since I was in third grade, and I learned to ignore my emotions, focusing instead on external measures of time, pace, and mileage. My strategy earned me respect from coaches as someone who would train through anything — sickness, shin splints, a bone that grew threw my big toe — and place well in races, no matter what was happening in my personal life. When I placed well, I told myself I was satisfied. And when I didn’t, my entire sense of self-worth came tumbling down. I’d vow to work harder in practice, and the whole cycle would repeat itself ad nauseam; I was always chasing an invisible goal that remained just out of reach.

Midway through my freshman year, I began experiencing neurological issues. As I’d learned to do throughout my years of training, I tried running through the symptoms. Even when this ended in me collapsing on the track, I’d try and try again. To quit seemed unthinkable, but eventually I did. I experienced an acute bout of depression. Without running, who was I? Why hadn’t I been strong enough to push through? I berated myself for being weak, for symptoms out of my control, for losing a sport that had been my entire identity.

Eight years have passed since then, and I am finally learning to run in a way that honors both my physical and emotional health. I am growing more comfortable talking about my experiences with depression, and the way that running played a role in my self-worth for such a long period of time. In speaking about it, I have also realized that I’m not alone. Many athletes struggle with mental health issues, but the culture of sport — especially at the top tiers of competition — often emphasizes physical performance over holistic wellbeing. The culture is changing in ways, yes, but the rhetoric of athlete’s “overcoming” anything is still deeply ingrained in the language of coaches, and the way athletes speak to themselves.

In the following essays, athletes testify on their experiences with mental illness, factors that exacerbate mental illness in sport, and ways that we as a culture can begin to change our language and training in an attempt to support wellness emotionally as well as physically.

1. When athletes share their battles with mental illness (Scott Gleeson and Erik Brady, August 30, 2017, USA Today)

As Scott Gleeson and Erik Brady report, nearly one in five Americans experience some form of mental illness and, for athletes, because of the stressors of the sport, experiences with injuries, and overtraining, the percentage may be even higher. Testimony from a range of athletes — Michael Phelps, Jerry West, Brandon Marshall, Allison Schmitt, among others — about their experiences with mental illness and sport are featured in this piece, all of them urging athletes to speak up about their experiences, seek professional help, and change the culture of sport for the better.

“Sometimes, I walk in a room and regret being so naked and vulnerable, but this is bigger than me,” Imani Boyette says. “I believe my purpose is to talk about the things that people are uncomfortable or afraid to talk about.”

2. Everyone Is Going Through Something (Kevin Love, March 6, 2018, The Players’ Tribune)

On November 5th, at a home basketball game against the Hawks, 29-year-old Cleveland Cavalier Kevin Love began to experience what he now knows was a panic attack. In the days and weeks that followed, after medical testing and conversations with his team, he began to see a therapist, which is something he never envisioned himself doing, particularly because of his identity as a pro basketball player.

“Nobody talked about what they were struggling with on the inside. I remember thinking, What are my problems? I’m healthy. I play basketball for a living. What do I have to worry about? I’d never heard of any pro athlete talking about mental health, and I didn’t want to be the only one. I didn’t want to look weak. Honestly, I just didn’t think I needed it. It’s like the playbook said — figure it out on your own, like everyone else around me always had.”

In this candid and moving essay, Love breaks the silence surrounding mental health, particularly in regard to sport, and, as the title of his essay makes clear, recognizes that “everyone is going through something.”

3. U.S. Athletes Need Better Mental Health Care (Martin Fritz Huber, May 16, 2018, Outside)

After DeMar DeRozan of the Toronto Raptors tweeted about his depression and Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers penned a viral essay about his experience with panic attacks, the NBA, as Martin Fritz Huber reports, created a position for a director of mental health and wellness.

“I think that’s the biggest burden on American sport culture,” says Brent Walker, an executive board member with the Association for Applied Sport Psychology. “I’ve heard repeatedly from professional and elite athletes how they don’t want to admit having to having a weakness—mental [illness] being one of those.”

Huber breaks down how other countries approach mental health in relation to sport, and asks what it might take to adjust the current system in the U.S. so that athletes are supported.

4. No, Running Isn’t Always the Best Therapy (Erin Kelly, July 23, 2018, Runner’s World)

“Phrases like ‘Running is cheaper than therapy!’ and ‘I run because punching people is frowned upon,’ are routinely splashed on running-themed bumper stickers, social memes, and apparel, and reinforce the idea that running offers a healthy mental outlet.”

Though studies show that running has positive benefits on wellbeing and mood, Erin Kelly, in this well-researched personal essay, pushes back against the notion that running can cure everything. Instead, she advocates that athletes reflect on why they’re participating in sport, and seek therapy when needed in addition to logging miles.

Related Read: When a Stress Expert Battles Mental Illness (Brad Stulberg, March 7, 2018, Outside)

5. The WNBA Needs Liz Cambage, but She May Not Need It (Lindsay Gibbs, August 20, 2018, The Ringer)

As Lindsay Gibbs reports, toxic effects of systemic racism, unequal pay in the WNBA, and a string of losses left Australian Liz Cambage, who plays for the WNBA’s Dallas Wings, depressed.

“When she returned to Melbourne, Cambage ghosted almost everyone in her life and retreated into a world of depression and anxiety. She said she heavily self-medicated with prescription pills and alcohol. She said that she isn’t surprised by her on-court success this season.”

Cambage credits honesty — with herself and others — as the reason she’s emerged from the dark place where she was.

6. Split Image (Kate Fagan, May 7, 2015, ESPN)

Social media allows us to curate images that tell a certain narrative — one that’s not always the most honest. As Kate Fagan reports, Madison Holleran, formerly a runner at Penn, seemed like she had the perfect life based on her Instagram and texts.

“But she was also a perfectionist who struggled when she performed poorly. She was a deep thinker, someone who was aware of the image she presented to the world, and someone who often struggled with what that image conveyed about her, with how people superficially read who she was, what her life was like.”

After Madison committed suicide, her family and friends scoured old posts and texts for clues about what was wrong and the warning signs they missed. Ultimately, this piece asks us to consider what lurks beneath the surface of social media’s veneer.

Related read: Are Female Long-Distance Runners More Prone to Suicidal Depression? (Emily De La Bruyere, February 3, 2014, The Daily Beast)

7. Talent. A Football Scholarship. Then Crushing Depression. (Kurt Streeter, November 15, 2018, The New York Times)

“What experts know is this: Recent studies place suicide as the third leading cause of death for college athletes, behind motor vehicle accidents and medical issues.

And nearly 25 percent of college athletes who participated in a widely touted 2016 study led by researchers at Drexel University displayed signs of depressive symptoms.”

In this profile of Isaiah Renfro, a top freshman wide receiver at the University of Washington who attempted suicide, Kurt Streeter writes about the pressures placed on NCAA athletes, what it means to quit sport after building an identity as a high-performing athlete, the important role that coaches play in supporting athletes off the field and on, and the hope that Renfro now feels for his life after seeking treatment.

8. Sports Stats May Be an Ideal Measure of Mental Health (B. David Zarley, October 17, 2016, The Atlantic)

At the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health, associate professor Daniel Eisenberg is leading a team of researchers at Athletes Connected in order to help athletes understand mental-health problems and track concrete data on the subject. As B. David Zarley reports, Eisenberg and other researchers collect weekly mental-health surveys which focus on academic and athletic performances and levels of anxiety and depression in order to pinpoint connections between the two.

“I think sports and celebrity are two places where we can begin to lift the mental-health stigma, by showing that real people who perform, and who are well valued by society through their athletic contributions, do also suffer from symptoms of ill mental health,” says Chris Gibbons, a post-doctoral fellow and the director of health assessment and innovation at the University of Cambridge’s Psychometrics Centre.”

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Jacqueline Alnes is working on a memoir about neurological illness and running. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter @jacquelinealnes.

Revisiting the #MeToo Movement: A Reading List

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In her TED Talk “Me Too is a movement, not a moment” at TED Women 2018, Tarana Burke paces across the stage, saying, “I’ve read article after article bemoaning wealthy white men who have landed softly with their golden parachutes following the disclosure of their terrible behavior. And we’re asked to consider their futures. But what of survivors?”

Burke’s TED Talk, which took place in late November 2018, came just after the one-year mark of the #MeToo hashtag going viral, giving Burke — and others — a chance to reflect on the history of the movement, and whether or not it’s headed in a direction that supports Burke’s original intent.

“This movement is constantly being called a watershed moment, or even a reckoning, but I wake up some days feeling like all evidence points to the contrary,” Burke says. She pauses, shaking her head. “We have moved so far away from the origins of this movement that started a decade ago, or even the intentions of the hashtag that started just a year ago, that sometimes, the Me Too movement that I hear some people talk about is unrecognizable to me.”

Roxane Gay, in a piece for Refinery 29 at the one-year mark of the #MeToo hashtag, expresses how the movement has diverged from the heart of Burke’s work, asking, “What will change for women? What, especially, will change for the most vulnerable women among us — the undocumented, women of color, working class women, single mothers? What will change for women who cannot afford to come forward when they are harassed or assaulted? As I consider this past year, what strikes me is how #MeToo has mostly benefited culturally prominent, mostly white women.”

Burke’s movement, which originally began in 2006, was originally intended, as Abby Ohlheiser reports in The Chicago Tribune, “to help women and girls — particularly women and girls of color — who had also survived sexual violence.” Beyond the one-year mark of the hashtag going viral and the decade of work Burke has done to support survivors of sexual assault, there exists a history of black women activists fighting against sexual violence. As Danielle McGuire writes in her essay “Recy Taylor, Oprah Winfrey, and the long history of black women saying #MeToo” for The Washington Post, “stories of subversion date from the 1830s, when Harriet Jacobs, an enslaved woman in North Carolina, lived in a crawl space for years to escape her owner’s sexual abuse.”

And Burke, in her TED Talk, emphasizes the true purpose of the #MeToo movement, which is “a movement about the far-reaching power of empathy. And so it’s about the millions and millions of people who, one year ago, raised their hands to say, ‘Me Too,’ and their hands are still raised while the media that they consume erases them and politicians who they elected to represent them pivot away from solutions.”

This erasure from media is noted by Salamishah Tillet and Scheherazade Tillet, in a recent opinion piece for the New York Times, “After the ‘Surviving R. Kelly’ Documentary, #MeToo Has Finally Returned to Black Girls.” Tillet and Tillet note, “even today, as #MeToo continues to dominate headlines, black girls have been invisible in the movement.” While the release of Surviving R. Kelly has pivoted attention toward black women, Tillet and Tillet write, “our optimism is tempered by history, which shows that social justice movements rarely center, for any meaningful period, on black girls, or anyone who has survived sexual violence. That’s because black girls experience racial, gender and economic oppressions at the same time, a phenomenon the law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw calls intersectionality. As a result, their voices and experiences do not neatly fit into a single-issue narrative of gender or race.”

The collection of essays below seeks to heed Burke’s call for inclusivity and her vision of #MeToo as “a movement about the one-in-four girls and the one-in-six boys who are sexually assaulted every year and carry those wounds into adulthood. It’s about the 84 percent of trans women who will be sexually assaulted this year. And the indigenous women, who are three-and-a-half times more likely to be sexually assaulted than any other group. Or people with disabilities, who are seven times more likely to be sexually abused. It’s about the 60 percent of black girls like me who will be experiencing sexual violence before they turn 18. And the thousands and thousands of low-wage workers who are being sexually harassed right now on jobs that they can’t afford to quit.”

1. The Sexual Assault Epidemic That No One Is Talking About (Aviva Stahl, July, 25, 2018, The Village Voice)

Iffat and Mariam (second name changed for anonymity) are two New York City residents who have experienced Islamaphobia firsthand; both women have been assaulted while using public transportation. In this piece, Aviva Stahl reports that more than “one in four” “Muslim Arab hijab-wearing women…had been intentionally pushed or shoved on a subway platform.”

The #MeToo movement has brought new attention to street harassment of women, but Ahmad says she doesn’t think it’s done enough to address the experiences of Muslim women. “I don’t think they’re doing anything” to address gendered Islamophobia, she says. “As a survivor of that specific kind of [Islamophobic] violence, I don’t see myself in that movement. It doesn’t seem connected to the realities of Muslim women.”

2. Hotels See Panic Buttons as a #MeToo Solution for Workers. Guest Bans? Not So Fast. (Julia Jacobs, November 11, 2018, The New York Times)

After Ms. Melara, a housekeeper in Southern California, was accosted by a guest who exposed himself to her, she locked herself in a nearby room to escape, but wasn’t given assistance until nearly twenty minutes later. Her story is not an anomaly; many workers in the hotel industry are sexually assaulted and harassed by guests. Julia Jacobs reports on panic buttons, a solution proposed by the hotel industry to protect workers.

3. We Need to Include Black Women’s Experience in the Movement Against Campus Sexual Assault (Candace King, June 15, 2018, The Nation)

Only a few weeks after Venkayla Haynes received a rape whistle at her Spelman college freshman orientation, she was raped by a football player. Though Haynes reported the rape to a Dean at Spelman at the time, her situation was complicated by “institutional realities. Both Haynes and her assailant are black.”

Haynes believes the way college administrators responded to her assault reflects longstanding tendencies in the black community to shield black men from interactions with authorities.

“We always come to these situations where we can’t come forward because we want to protect black men or protect our black brothers because they’re already fighting against a system that further criminalizes them,” Haynes said.

4. #NotInvisible: Why are Native American women vanishing? (Sharon Cohen, September 6, 2018, The Associated Press)

 

Ashley HeavyRunner Loring has been missing since June 2017, and her family has embarked on around 40 searches in attempts to locate her. Ashley is one of many missing or murdered Native American women and girls, as Sharan Cohen reports in this piece, though the precise number is difficult to establish because “some cases go unreported, others aren’t documented thoroughly and there isn’t a specific government database tracking these cases.”

On some reservations, Native American women are murdered at a rate more than 10 times the national average and more than half of Alaska Native and Native women have experienced sexual violence at some point, according to the U.S. Justice Department. A 2016 study found more than 80 percent of Native women experience violence in their lifetimes.

5. In The #MeToo Conversation, Transgender People Face a Barrier to Belief (KC Clements, April 18, 2018, them.)

Much of the narrative about #MeToo has revolved around sexual assault between cisgender heterosexual people, and too many still believe that it is only experienced by conventionally attractive cisgender women, or that is only perpetrated by “bad” cisgender men.

I’ve wondered where exactly I fit into this dialogue, because I’m a nonbinary person who was assigned female at birth, and, well, #MeToo.

KC Clements recalls their own experiences with sexual harassment and assault, presents testimonies from other trans people, and urges inclusivity, emphasizing the need for more resources, support, and materials for trans survivors of assault and harassment.

Related Read: Trans Women and Femmes Are Shouting #MeToo – But Are You Listening? (Meredith Talusan, March 2, 2018, them.)

6. When will MeToo become WeToo? Some say voices of black women, working class left out (Charisse Jones, October 5, 2018, USA Today)

After being sexually harassed by coworkers at McDonald’s, her place of employment, Kim Lawson, along with nine other employees, filed a harassment complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

An analysis by the law center of complaints filed from 2012 to 2016 with the EEOC found that black women working in the private sector lodged sexual harassment charges at nearly three times the rate of white women.

While the media has focused extensively on the #MeToo movement in Hollywood, Lawson, as well as other activists, emphasize that the #MeToo movement needs to include women of color, particularly those working lower-wage jobs.

7. The Sexual Assault Epidemic No One Talks About (Joseph Shapiro, January 8, 2018, NPR)

In February 2016, Pauline, a 46-year old woman who lived with a longtime caretaker, was raped by two boys who were part of the family. In this piece, the product of a yearlong investigation by NPR, Joseph Shapiro details the staggering statistics related to sexual assault for people with intellectual disabilities, including the fact that women and men with intellectual disabilities are seven times more likely to be sexually assaulted than people without disabilities.

The federal numbers, and the results of our own database, show that people with intellectual disabilities are vulnerable everywhere, including in places where they should feel safest: where they live, work, go to school; on van rides to medical appointments and in public places.

Related read: The #MeToo Movement Hasn’t Been Inclusive of the Disability Community (Emily Flores, April 24, 2018, Teen Vogue)

8. R. Kelly and the Complexities of Race in the #MeToo Era (Jelani Cobb, January 11, 2019, The New Yorker)

 

Jelani Cobb opens this piece with a memory from childhood of a woman with a black eye who visits his mother. Cobb’s mother later tells him that the woman had been abused by her husband, and Cobb recalls the moment being a “lesson in the consequences of male brutality. It was an implicit instruction in how I was not to behave as a man.” By putting his personal experience in conversation with the recent public response to Surviving R. Kelly, Cobb delves into complexities of race and reporting violence, and what it means to bear witness to brutality in the era of #MeToo.

There’s a gulf between the accusations directed at Harvey WeinsteinMatt Lauer, and Les Moonves—wealthy white men whose alleged excesses were understood as a perquisite of their status—and those directed at Bill Cosby and R. Kelly, black men for whom success represented some broader communal hope that long odds in life could be surmounted. Cosby and Kelly know this, which is part of the reason that they were so effective at manipulating public sentiment around their various accusations.

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Jacqueline Alnes is working on a memoir about running and neurological illness.

“I wanted to be someone else”: A Reading List about Con Artists, Grifters, and Imposters

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The documentary film The Imposter (2012) opens with footage from a handheld video camera. This is Carey’s room, a child’s voice narrates. This is the birthday girl’s mattress, and she even got a TV in her room, ain’t she lucky. The camera, tilted, focuses for just a moment on a girl who smiles widely, tossing back her teased shoulder-length hair. Ain’t she beautiful. The camera whirls away to a blur of lamp and wall before settling close up on the face of a blond boy who looks amused. The narrator introduces him, saying, and here, is our brother, Nick.

The screen fades to black, and text appears: In 1994, 13-year-old Nicholas Barclay disappeared from San Antonio, Texas.

Three years and four months after the disappearance, in Linares, Spain, a tourist couple called the local police station to say they’d found a kid, who they presumed to be about 14 or 15 years old, no I.D. or documents on him.

In documentary-style interviews years after the events, Nicholas’ remaining family — his mother, Beverly Dollarhide, his sister, Carey Gibson, and his brother-in-law, Bryan Gibson — remember their reactions to hearing that Nicholas had been found alive, in Spain.

“Of course it was mysterious,” Bryan says. “It was exciting, worrisome, it was all mixed emotions.”

“Ecstatic, bewildered, you know, Spain?” Carey wonders. “How did he get there? You have a hundred thousand questions that you want answered immediately.”

“I felt wonderful,” Beverly says.

After the title credit, the documentary rewinds to the moment when the police were first called. In a re-enacted scene, rain pours over a dimly lit street. Someone huddles with their knees pulled to their chest in a phone booth, face obscured by a hood. Police remark that “he seems very young,” “he’s very scared,” and “we tried to get him some food, but he doesn’t want it.”

The scene cuts to a man being interviewed alone, his brown eyes expressive. “From as long as I remember, I wanted to be someone else. Someone who was acceptable. The most important thing and what I learned very fast was to be convincing,” he says with a French accent. “When the police arrived, I have immediately to put into their minds that they have a kid in front of them, not an adult so it was very important for me to behave like one. I wanted to provoke on them a sense of guilt, of being adults that close to a kid who is that scared. When you see a kid that have nervous reflexes, you can’t touch him, you can’t approach him, then you understand that something is wrong,” the man says. He stares directly at the camera for emphasis. “I was not the one telling them I’ve been sexually abused — I had them asking me that. By my attitude, by my way of doing things they were the ones who were thinking about it, and that gave me power.”

The man being interviewed for the documentary is Frédéric Pierre Bourdin, a man who viewers later learn was a serial impostor, someone who frequently stole the identities of missing children. What’s interesting about the documentary, is that Bourdin narrates the reasoning behind his decisions while the events of his impersonation are re-enacted onscreen. As the events of the documentary unfurl, questions are raised. Who would steal the identity of a missing child? What family who lost a slender blond 13-year-old from the U.S. would accept a 23-year old man with a dark five-o’-clock shadow and an unshakeable French accent masquerading as their own 16-year-old family member just three years later? What is so appealing about adopting an identity — and a family — so far from one’s own? Who is harmed by an act of impersonation?

These questions are not unique to The Imposter. The following essays about con artists, grifters, and imposters are compelling in their attempts to answer why and how people deceive others.

1. Who is Anna March? (Melissa Chadburn and Carolyn Kellogg, July 26, 2018, LA Times)

Anna March — or a woman who goes by Anna March — who portrayed herself as a “spunky, apologetic, sex-positive feminist ready to raise hell” began to raise the suspicion of the literary community with her outlandish events and mysterious generosity. Melissa Chadburn and Carolyn Kellogg, in an immense feat of reporting, uncover Anna March’s past identities, reveal her significant debts, and detail how she harmed others through her deception.

2. The Secret Life of a Con Man (Dustin Grinnell, August 12, 2014, Narratively)

For a price of $75 and under the condition of anonymity, Dustin Grinnell interviews “GM,” who he describes “a con man with a conscience.” GM divulges how he came to be a grifter, his methods, and his anxieties.

“GM once spent three weeks casing a mother of three, learning everything he could about her life, routine and preferences. When he finally found a way in, he robbed her of over $1,000. It was a good score. And because she was a piece of shit, GM concluded, the crime was justifiable.”

3. The Rise and Fall of Toronto’s Classiest Con Man (Michael Lista, May 29, 2017, The Walrus)

Michael Lista, in this fascinating piece, exposes the breadth of James Regan’s swindling, which reaches many years back in time and covers a wide array of establishments.

“Regan is a man at war—with landlords, car dealers, courts, hotels, clubs, and civic institutions. He is at war with the NHL and the Catholic Church. He is at war with law, at war with facts, at war with human nature. He’s even at war with gravity—as his cons come crashing down, he refuses to do anything but pretend to rise.”

4. The Lives and Lies of a Professional Imposter (James C. McKinley Jr. and Rick Rojas, February 4, 2016, The New York Times)

Jeremy Wilson — if that’s even his real name — began his life as a con man in high school, when he showed up to class in a wheelchair in order to solicit money from peers. Since that time, he has assumed an alarming number of identities, leading to comparisons between his case and that of Frank Abagnale Jr., “the notorious con artist whose life was chronicled in the 2002 film ‘Catch Me if You Can.’”

“Investigators say Mr. Wilson is a professional impostor and a skilled forger. Though fraud has become an increasingly invisible offense in a digital world, Mr. Wilson has stuck with a decidedly old-fashioned approach, stealing checks and creating new personas, occasionally with accents and falsified papers, the police said.”

5. How Anna Delvey Tricked New York (Jessica Pressler, May 28, 2018, The Cut)

After Anna Delvey checks into 11 Howard hotel in Soho, New York for a month-long stay, she quickly makes an impression with her money, handing out $100 bills to nearly anyone who crossed her path. She befriends — or at least spends significant time with — Neffatari Davis, who goes by “Neff,” the concierge at the hotel, who became privy to Delvey’s wildly extravagant lifestyle, one that included $4,500 spent on a personal trainer, dinners with Macaulay Culkin, and party after party. In this widely-shared and captivating essay, Jessica Pressler unveils Anna Delvey’s elaborate money-related schemes and what happens when Delvey’s lies — and lifestyle — begin to collapse.

“WANNABE SOCIALITE BUSTED FOR SKIPPING OUT ON PRICEY HOTEL BILLS, blared the headline in the Post, which referenced an incident in which Anna attempted to leave the restaurant at Le Parker without paying. “Why are you making a big deal about this?” she’d protested to police. “Give me five minutes and I can get a friend to pay.””

Related Reading: “As an added bonus, she paid for everything”: My Bright-Lights Misadventure with a Magician of Manhattan (Rachel DeLoache Williams, April 13, 2018, Vanity Fair)

6. The Great High School Impostor (Daniel Riley, May 1, 2018, GQ)

At the age of nineteen, chasing his idea of the American dream, Artur Samarin paid an American couple two thousand dollars, changed his birthdate so he would appear five years younger, and just a few months later, started his first day as a freshman at Harrisburg High, in Pennsylvania. The ruse continued until just three months of Artur’s senior year, when police entered his classroom and escorted him away. In this riveting account, Daniel Riley explores the complicated relationship between Artur and the American couple who initially supported him, Artur’s intentions, and the legal issues that arose as a result of Artur’s deception.

“There was a suggestion that a sort of transference had occurred, a blurring of the lines between the real person and the fake, a sense that Artur Samarin actually was Asher Potts.”

7. A Con Man Reinvents Himself…As a Reality TV Magician (Jess Zimmerman, October 13, 2015, Atlas Obscura)

After spending five years in federal prison as a result of illegal schemes carried out as a con man, Aiden Sinclair asserts that he has changed his ways. Sinclair claims that, in place of deception, his only tricks now are acts of magic, ones he performs on stage at America’s Got Talent. But rather than accept Sinclair’s new life at face value, Jess Zimmerman, in this compelling piece, asks, “Sinclair has made his “grifter magician” background part of his performance persona, but is it just a performance? Can con men really change?”

***

Jacqueline Alnes is working on a memoir about running and neurological illness.

Never Again: A Reading List About School Shooting Survivors

Students hold their hands in the air as they are evacuated by police from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14, 2018, after a shooter opened fire on the campus. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

I don’t remember anything of the day leading up to the moment when, in Spanish class, the schoolwide PA system crackled to life. There was a brief moment of static. Then, an administrator — maybe our vice principal — said something like lockdown, lockdown, this is a lockdown, this is not a drill. There was a terse quality to his voice. My teacher turned out the lights, crawled toward the windows I suddenly realized spanned from floor to ceiling, and closed the blinds. I, along with the rest of my classmates, crouched in the corner of the room. We kept close to one another, closer than we ever would be again, the rise and fall of our shallow breaths like a subdued chorus of fear.

The PA system remained silent. We looked at one another with eyes wide open, ears pinned back. My phone off and in my backpack, I sent mental messages to my parents and brother: I love you. I hope you can hear me somehow. Just days before, on the news, an expert on how to protect yourself during a school shooting had said that throwing textbooks or scissors at a shooter when they first stormed the classroom might help disrupt their shooting patterns. I whispered the idea within the huddle, and our teacher crawled to retrieve a box of Fiskar scissors, ones that were “safe” enough to be approved for classroom use, meaning the blades were dull, the plastic light. We pulled textbooks from the baskets beneath desks and held them. My palms sweated.

I do not know how much time passed. I do not remember if I heard the shot or if I only heard about the sound in the hallway in the days that followed. I do not remember if I cried. The thuck-thuck-thuck sound of a helicopter broke the silence, and we peeked through the blinds to watch it land somewhere near the school. My classmates texted messages to their families. We whispered about what might be happening, whether we were safe. No sound emerged from the PA to relieve us. Instead, as time passed, we watched as cop cars and news vans arrived. Parents texted classmates to say we were on CNN. From messages, we learned that someone had been shot on school property. In my mind, I sent another slew of silent messages to my family: I’m alive, I’m alive, I’m alive.

Long after the whir of the helicopter receded, someone, over the PA, told us we would have an early release from school. They didn’t say anything about what had happened, only that we were now safe. I retrieved my phone, called my mom, and wept when I heard her voice on the other side of the line.

The next day at school was supposed to be the statewide standardized test. I thought the administration might find a way to cancel the test, or even school. But they didn’t. Instead, in the halls before the first bell rang, rumors swirled: the student with the gun had ammunition in his backpack; there had been a chase; he had committed suicide because a girl he liked turned him down. I stress that these are only rumors — they have always remained rumors to me, because no administrator ever spoke openly about what happened. Even now, when I look at newspaper clippings of the event, nothing much is said other than that a student shot himself on campus and later died after being Life Flighted to a hospital. I can imagine that part of the reason why information was suppressed was because I went to a school that was only two years old in an affluent part of town.

That morning, instead of handling the subject with sensitivity, instead of reassuring the student population of our safety, instead of pausing standardized testing to talk about gun control, instead of taking time to mourn a member of our school, the administration sent us to our alphabetized classrooms, where a package of off-brand goldfish rested upon each clean desk. And over the PA, the same system that had carried the sound of a breathless warning the day before, James Brown’s I feel good (whoa! I feel good, I knew that I would, now) began to play. I bit my lip to stop myself from crying.

Then, and still now, that song blaring over the speakers strikes me as abhorrently insensitive, as does the way the administration failed and refused to openly discuss the incident with students. We had all crouched in dim corners. We had listened to each other’s shallow breath. We had murmured prayers and sent messages to who we loved. But we were expected to move on as if nothing had happened. To pass our standardized tests. To forget the fear of those moments when we didn’t know who might barge through our classroom door.

In the years since then, I have felt in some ways as though part of me is still there, frozen, like an animal of prey. When I teach, I survey each room for exit points or furniture I might use to block the entrance. I want to tell each student in my class that I will protect them, but I want more safety for all of us than just the promise of my own words. I do not want to see any more school shooting headlines. I do not want students to have to show their bravery after unspeakable horrors. I do not want them to carry that trauma.

Rather than ignore what has happened — and is still happening — to students in too many high schools as the administration at mine did, I believe in the importance of stories of students, teachers, staff, their families, and communities who have borne witness to tragedy, who will carry the weight of their experiences with them for the rest of their lives, and who are advocating for stricter gun laws as a means of sparing others from the same. We must listen.

1. Columbine, five years later (Peter Wilkinson, April 20, 2004, Salon)

At a news conference held just shy of the five-year anniversary of the Columbine High School tragedy, all evidence, “every bomb and bullet,” was placed on display. Peter Wilkinson maps the trajectory of the investigation in this piece, but emphasizes the experiences of survivors such as Brooks Brown, a student who experienced PTSD after the shooting, and Richie Castaldo, a student who was paralyzed because of a bullet that struck his T4 vertebra and “shattered his spinal cord.” Wilkinson chronicles how their lives — and others at the school — were impacted by that traumatic day.

“Ireland was paralyzed on his right side for months after the attack. He walked again in June 1999, though he’ll always carry a bullet in his brain from Klebold’s shotgun.”

2. After Newtown shooting, mourning parents enter into the lonely quiet (Eli Saslow, June 8, 2013, The Washington Post)

Six adult staff members and 20 children were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary in December, 2012, their families left to grapple with unspeakable loss. Eli Saslow tells the heart-wrenching story of Mark and Jackie Barden, whose Daniel was killed that day.

“Nobody had touched the foosball table, because Daniel had been the last to play. His books and toy trains sat in their familiar piles, gathering dust. The basement had always been Daniel’s space, and some days Mark believed he could still smell him here, just in from playing outside, all grassy and muddy.”

3. Chardon, Ohio (Libby Copeland, November 18, 2018, Esquire)

Six years after a school shooting at a high school in Chardon, Ohio, Libby Copeland shares the stories of Danny Day, a high school student at the time whose best friends were killed, Brandon Lichtinger, a teacher, Jen Sprinzl, the principal’s secretary who confronted the shooter in the hallway, and others within the community in order to convey the myriad ways that trauma can warp and change a life.

“That was when I started to understand just how deeply something like a school shooting could affect people—people who weren’t even in the school or who didn’t lose someone close to them. That it could be a kind of earthquake that still reverberates, six years later. That a whole town could be marked by this day and could send its young into the world marked, too—some of them drinking, depressed, cutting, suicidal.”

4. The Class of 1946-2018 (As told to Jared Soule and Amelia Schonbek, October 28, 2018, New York Magazine)

Through a portfolio of photographs and a collection of testimonies from survivors of school shootings, Jared Soule and Amelia Schonbek “wanted to conduct an exercise in remembrance…What, we wondered, could their memories teach us about our inattention? The people whose bodies — in many cases — won’t let them forget.”

“There was a girl who was praying in Spanish, and I thought maybe I should pray too. This is a time when you pray. So I did, and then I looked over and saw one of my classmates with her head down. Then I sort of realized that she wasn’t alive anymore.” –Isabel Chequer

“Somebody was running past me and I asked them real quick, “Whose blood is this?” And they said, “It’s yours. It’s yours. You have a bullet hole in your neck.”” –Rome Schubert

“Fragments of bullets are still getting pulled out of my body.” –Colin Goddard

5. The School Shooting Generation Has Had Enough (Charlotte Alter, March 22, 2018, Time)

Charlotte Alter writes about how, after the tragic school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, a group of students organized in the hopes of decreasing gun violence.

“How a movement catches fire is always a mystery, but the Parkland kids seem matched for this moment. They’re young enough to be victimized by a school shooting, but old enough to shape the aftermath.”

Alter notes that the “U.S. only has 4.4% of the world’s population, yet it accounts for roughly 42% of the world’s guns.” Up against startling statistics such as that, through social media engagement, meetings held at a pizzeria or the windowless rooms of the #NeverAgain headquarters, and with a fervent desire for change, Emma González, Jaclyn Corin, David Hogg, Alex Wind, and others hope to change the current state of gun violence in the U.S. through reform.

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Jacqueline Alnes is working on a memoir about running and illness.

The Need for Distance: Jaclyn Gilbert on Writing and Running

Mikolette / Getty

Jacqueline Alnes | Longreads | December 2018 | 11 minutes (2,773 words)

Early in the morning, the light soft and warm and the air cool after yesterday’s thunderstorms, Jaclyn Gilbert runs a new route. From Grand Army Plaza she makes her way toward the Green Wood cemetery, hugging it through the second mile. Around the fifth mile, she passes over a parkway through a cylindrical barbed-wire tunnel, peering down at cars whirring by on their morning commutes, before continuing down Tenth Avenue back toward the park, finishing at Grand Army for a clean seven miles.

“New routes are always my favorite for the maps they form inside me: a series of sense impressions that filter through my memory as the day passes on. When I sit down to write again, these impressions reappear as remnants of light, color, or feeling, making their way into the imaginings of my characters,” Gilbert writes to me in an email. Though we live half the country apart — she in New York, I in Oklahoma — I feel a connection to her. Both of us are former Division I athletes turned writers. And both of us still run, frequently testing our limits; our writing processes are informed by our fastidious need for distance. Read more…

From the Sidelines: A Reading List on the Need for Female Coaches

Arizona Cardinals training camp coach Dr. Jen Welter poses for photographers after being introduced, Tuesday, July 28, 2015, at the teams' training facility in Tempe, Ariz. Welter is believed to be the first female to hold a coaching position of any kind in the NFL and will be member of the Cardinals coaching staff throughout training camp and the preseason, working with inside linebackers. AP Photo/Matt York

After playing one season for the Dallas Cowboys and one for the New England Patriots, I huddled up for a third season with the rest of my flag football team wearing a uniform that simply read “NFL Flag.” The uniforms were relics of a world far from mine. I lived in Indonesia at the time; what I knew of football came from my dad wearing his Packers shirt around the house after work, where he discovered the scores of games played twelve hours and nine-thousand miles away from our dial-up computer.

As little as I knew about the NFL, my participation in flag football was never a question. I loved sports so much that I joined soccer, baseball, basketball, the swim team, and a running club where we ran at least five kilometers every Tuesday night. Because our school was so small, each team was co-ed. Athletes were known for their skills rather than separated by gender, which is a quality of those early years that I still treasure. Looking back, perhaps I idealized athletics, believing that sport could erase the expectations of gender placed upon me in other ways. On the field, I imagined myself not as a girl, but as a twirling blur of muscle and breath.

This illusion was punctured in a huddle during my third year of flag football. My coach that year was a man with a reputation for calling his sons “sissies” if they showed any sign of exhaustion on the field. He glanced around the gleaming faces of our team, signaling off starting positions. When he got to me and another girl, the only other on the team, he said “bench” to us both. I stood on the sidelines, cheering my team toward a touchdown, and waiting for the signal to tag in. There was an unspoken rule within our league that teams should be fair to both boys and girls by giving them equal playing time, and my coach gave a chance to the other girl, who was older, but quickly took her out again when he thought someone else could do better. When his son showed up to half-time sweaty and lagging, I thought I might have my chance, but he told him to “man up” and sent him back in. As the game stretched on and the lowering sun colored the sky a dusky blue, I remained sidelined. When I got home that night, I wept. I knew I was fast, knew I could hold my own — as I had for three years — against anyone in the league, and knew I cared enough about my teammates to run fake routes without a chance at the ball. But none of that was enough. To that coach, I was a girl. Someone who could watch the game, but not participate.

I won’t say that after that moment I began to negotiate gender and sport, but something in me shifted. I quit playing flag football after that season. Wondering if I would always be categorized as a “girl,” I pushed myself to the absolute brink of what was possible in every other sport I played, ensuring, for example, that when I crossed the finish line of the mile first, before all the boys, that I was acknowledged for my prowess and not my gender.

I competed in multiple sports for almost all of middle school and high school, and then went on to run for a Division I team. When I look back now, I’m amazed to realize I can count two female coaches across a lifetime, plus a handful of female assistant coaches. I’m not the only one to experience this inequality. The 2017 College Sport Racial & Gender Report Card, which assigns grades to sports based on a comprehensive evaluation of gender and race, notes that white men “dominated the head coaching ranks on men’s teams holding 86.5 percent, 87.8 percent, and 91.6 percent of all head coaching positions in Divisions I, II, and III, respectively.”

I’m not insinuating here that female coaches are superior to male coaches or vice versa, but I’m wondering where these discrepancies come from. Are the factors that lead to highly disproportionate numbers of white male coaches somehow related all the way back to childhood athletics, during which young female athletes are told that they belong on the bench? Or are there other factors at play? Female coaches are earning positions in sports previously coached only by men — Jen Welter became the NFL’s first female coach in 2015, and, in 2016, the Arizona Coyotes hired Dawn Braid as the first female coach in the NHL — but the fact that these titles are newsworthy indicates that we have a lot of work to do to diversify coaching staff not only by gender, but also by race.

1. College Athletics’ War on Women Coaches (Pat Griffin, March 8, 2015, Huffpost)

In 2015, Shannon Miller, who coached women’s ice hockey at the University of Minnesota Duluth, was notified by the university that her contract would not be renewed at the end of the season because of concerns that she was being paid too much for her work.

“Placed in the context of a disturbing trend in the diminishing number of women coaches and the treatment of the women in athletics over the last several years, this decision has more far reaching consequences for college women’s athletics.”

Pat Griffin summarizes a list of troubling action taken toward female coaches from 2007 to 2015 and argues that “the public rationale offered by athletic administrators for their decisions in each of these cases masks a deeper and more fundamental problem in college athletics: misogyny, sexism, and homophobia.”

2. An Open Letter About Female Coaches (Pau Gasol, May 11, 2018, The Players’ Tribune)

Pau Gasol of the San Antonio Spurs, in an open letter, not only successfully dismantles others’ arguments as to why Becky Hammon should not be head coach of an NBA team, but also urges the NBA — and fans of the NBA — to advocate and work toward a more inclusive league as a whole.

“Let’s recognize that one protest does not mean we have solved the problem of racial inequality in this country. One parade doesn’t mean we’re doing everything we can for the LGBTQ movement. And one coaching interview doesn’t mean we have solved the issue of gender diversity in our workplace.”

(Related: read Sidelined by Matthew J.X. Malady in Slate.)

3. American Running Needs More Female Coaches (Erin Strout, September 14, 2018, Outside)

By examining the sport of running as a focal point in this piece, Erin Strout illuminates the reasons why women are less likely to become coaches, interviews women in coaching positions to understand their challenges, and wonders about the future of women’s coaching and how more women in coaching positions could impact sport.

“Whether at the professional or collegiate level, Hogshead-Makar says that adding more female influence within the sport is crucial—not only to advance gender equity but also to provide a safer environment where athletes can thrive.”

(Related: read Reem Abulleil’s Why aren’t there more female coaches on tour? published by the Women’s Tennis Association.)

4. Where Are The Women? (Rachel Stark, Winter, 2017 NCAA Champion Magazine)

“In 1972, women coached more than 90 percent of collegiate women’s teams. Today, they coach fewer than half.”

In this 2017 piece for NCAA Champion Magazine, Rachel Stark investigates the effect that female coaches’ visible representation has on younger athletes who play sports, and also provides a number of resources such as “How to Support Young Coaches on the Rise,” “How to Strengthen Your Contacts,” and “How to Deepen the Candidate Pool” as a way to encourage more women to apply for coaching positions, and to open the conversation about gender, race, representation, and coaching within college sports.

(Related: read Number of Women Coaching in College Has Plummeted in Title IX Era by Jeré Longman published in The New York Times.)

5. The Field Where Men Still Call the Shots (Linda Flanagan, July 28, 2018, The Atlantic)

In this deeply researched essay, Linda Flanagan argues that a dearth of female role models in sport can negatively impact female athletes in several ways, such as leadership styles, lack of participation in sport, and an inability to visualize themselves as future coaches.

“According to a 2009 study by the sociologists Michael Messner and Suzel Bozada-Deas, men typically coach, and women typically serve as “team moms”…In the researchers’ view, this imbalance stems from “institutional gender regimes” that divide the work between men and women based on traditional roles.”

6. The Rise of Women Coaching Men (Michael LoRé, April 26, 2018, culture trip)

When Natalie Randolph tells a man at the bar that she’s a former football player, he barrages her with questions.

“Wait, you played football? Did you wear pads? A helmet? Was it the Lingerie Football League? And you coached? So then, what’s a spread offense? Do you know the 3-technique?”

This instance, as Michael LoRé reports, is representative of the kind of frustrating and discriminatory reaction Randolph encounters frequently when she talks about her experiences as a woman of color who is both a football player and female coach of a male football team. And her story is not an anomaly. LoRé, using Randolph’s experiences as a thru-line throughout the piece, discusses the current state of coaching and weaves in stories from other female coaches.

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Jacqueline Alnes is working on a memoir about running and neurological illness.

Home Again, Home Again: A Reading List

Getty Images

“Home, I began to feel, was the half-formed beliefs you fashioned in the middle of all you didn’t and couldn’t understand, a tent on a wide, empty plain.”

-Pico Iyer

Nine or 10 months after I was born in Anchorage, Alaska, my parents packed up all of our belongings in a Mazda 323, and drove us away from my natal home. My parents took the Alcan highway through Canada, and then made their way down to Texas, where we lived for a couple of years before moving again. There are photos from that initial journey. In some, I am lolling on a viewing platform in Yellowstone National Park, and in others, I’m bundled up in a snowsuit, unnamed mountains behind me. My parents tell me I remained watchful in the backseat, my eyes trained on the scenery as it flushed from snowy white to green.

After Texas, we maintained a peripatetic existence, moving to Louisiana, then back to Alaska again. Though I learned early on in my life that we didn’t live anywhere long enough to change the walls from sellable beige, the idea of home didn’t concern me until my first-grade year, when my parents suggested we move to a small seaport city on the edge of Borneo, the second-largest island in Indonesia. We spent six years in Indonesia, only moving once from Borneo to Java. It was the longest I lived anywhere. Not knowing as an elementary schooler the layers of privilege that complicated my presence there, I allowed myself to feel as though I had found a home. I learned to pull nectar from the pink flowers outside my front door, speak Bahasa Indonesia, and scooter past the monitor lizards on my way to school. America — the country people often reminded me I was from — became the other end of infrequent long-distance phone calls, during which I’d listen to the crackling, faraway voices of people I loved. When we returned to the States once a year, well-meaning family and friends would always say, welcome home or I’m so glad you’re back. I felt, in those moments, as though there were two of me, both versions shimmering and illusory. I didn’t fully belong in Indonesia, but I also couldn’t understand how I fit into the landscape of technicolor grocery-store aisles and the dazzling suburban asphalt streets of a country that others called mine.

My family found out we were moving from Indonesia while on summer leave in the U.S., so I never got the chance to return or say goodbye. My memories from the formative years I spent there are buried somewhere deep within me — for years, I have felt too homesick to let myself remember. It is only in certain moments — the voice of a woman speaking Bahasa Indonesia rising from a crowded venue in Oregon, the echo of an adzan from a mosque — that I allow my memories from those days to unfurl like lush rainforest leaves, broad and green and glossy, beading with dew and bursting with song.

I move every two to four years now, and I am always filled with anticipation, hoping for a place that will hold me. I feel rootless, capable of fitting in anywhere, but not truly belonging. Most of the time I carry these thoughts quietly within myself, but I have found comfort in the way others voice complications with the idea of home. How much of who we are stems from the places that bear us? What does it mean to long for a home that doesn’t exist in the way it once did? What memories rise to the surface when you return to a long-forgotten place? What does it mean to be unable to return?

1. Reading ‘The Odyssey’ Far From Home (Azareen Van der Vliet, March 10, 2018, Electric Lit)

When Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi moves to South Bend, Indiana, she feels unmoored.

“Given the disorienting cartography of my life, there isn’t a singular home for me to return to. I am from nowhere; or, perhaps, I am from a constellation of places which habits and social codes violently contradict one another, leaving me empty handed.”

Van der Vliet Oloomi reads The Odyssey in Indiana, which helps her better understand her own nostalgia for an intangible place. Her encounter with the tale serves as an example of the power that literature, like place, has in offering an intersection between reality and possibility, solace and hope.

2. Baby Boy Born Birthplace Blues (John Jeremiah Sullivan, December 6, 2016, Oxford American)

When John Jeremiah Sullivan was young, a local paper in his hometown of New Albany, Indiana, ran an article about a boy who discovered a passageway that had once been part of the Underground Railroad. By researching old newspaper clippings reporting on runaway slaves, instances of racial violence, and the origins of blues music, Sullivan unravels myth to reveal truths about the complex and rich history of the place he “was raised in and where occurred the events that most shaped and damaged me as a human being.”

3. A Map of Lost Things: On Family, Grief, and the Meaning of Home (Jamila Osman, January 9, 2017, Catapult)

While watching salmon return to the site of their birth to lay thousands of eggs of their own, Jamila Osman feels a pang of jealousy at the certainty of the fish, their ability to find their way back to a point of origin. In this lyrical, haunting essay, Osman chronicles her parents’ journey from Somalia to Canada to Portland, Oregon, and reckons with grief after the death of her sister, the shortcomings of maps, and how her own identity has been shaped significantly by loss and place.

“A country is impossible to contain; a people are impossible to boil to the silt of parchment. A map is only one story. It is not the most important story. The most important story is the one a people tell about themselves.”

4. Enduring Exile (Alia Malek, October 15, 2013, Guernica)

When Anto’s neighbors warn him that he’s no longer safe in northwestern Syria, he heeds their warning, quickly shuttering the windows of his restaurant and inn, and selling what possessions he could. Alia Malek not only tells the story of Anto’s displacement in this harrowing journalistic essay, but also writes about the devastating effects of the Armenian Genocide and the way Anto’s family’s relationship to the idea of home was permanently altered as a result.

“He was curious to visit Armenia, even if it wasn’t really Armenia, and he wasn’t really from this Armenia.”

5. Fountain Girls (Samantha Tucker, Fall/Winter, 2016 Ecotone)

“There are Fountain girls who try to leave, but cannot outrun their hometown legacy; there are Fountain girls who never even stumble upon the chance to try.”

By deftly weaving together her own personal narrative about her upbringing in Fountain, Colorado and the death of her brother Ronnie, with the death of a “Fountain girl” named Tara, Tucker illuminates how a place can hold you in its grasp, even after you’ve physically left it behind.

“Where, in our reach for something better—an enlistment, an education, a steady job, a family, the dream—where do we, instead, cycle back, or discover our beginnings have inevitably been our end?”

6. Looking for Home in the Palestinian Diaspora (Marcello Di Cintio, September 24, 2018 Hazlitt)

Over 70 years have passed since Palestinians were first displaced by the Palestine War in the late 1940s, and many of the refugees living in UNRWA-administered camps have not been able to return to their ancestral homes. After Palestinian author Mona Abu Sharekh guides Marcello Di Cintio through Shati refugee camp in Gaza, Di Cintio begins to wonder “about the descendants of refugees who live far from the villages their grandparents lost — not just across a fence, but across an ocean.” Di Cintio meets with several Palestinian poets in Brooklyn in order to bear witness how both literature and heritage inform their conceptions of home.

“‘My father infected in us a nostalgia for Palestine,’ Hala said. Though she’d never seen Palestine, she came to love the place because of her father’s love.”

7. A Woman’s Choice — Sexual Favours or Lose her Home (Jessica Lussenhop, January 11, 2018, BBC News)

Broke and homeless, newly released from prison, Khristen Sellers was offered an abandoned trailer under the condition that she’d clean it herself. She did, but when the inspector came by, he “asked her if she ‘gives head’” and implied that “his signature on the inspection was the only thing standing between her and a place to live. Sellers is not the only one to experience this kind of harassment.

“In a post-Harvey Weinstein and #MeToo world, most people are well aware sexual harassment occurs in the workplace. But across the US, women are subjected to it in a far more intimate setting – their homes.”

In this piece, Jessica Lussenhop chronicles the experiences of sexual harassment that many women tenants have experienced, the flaws in the system that allow for such egregious incidents, and related legislation.

8. Home by (Chris Jones, Jaunary 29, 2007 Esquire)

After the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated before re-entry in February, 2003, Donald Pettit, Captain Kenneth Bowersox, and Nikolai Budarin were left stranded in space. Through interviews with the crew, and research about the surrounding circumstances, Chris Jones, in this moving piece of longform journalism, writes about what it means to be suspended far from Earth’s comforts and minutiae, not knowing when — or how — you’ll be able to return.

“And sometimes you’re no longer a month away from home–you’re suddenly much farther, although you’re not really sure how far, because the miles are meaningless.”

* * *

Jacqueline Alnes is working on a memoir about running and illness.

I Believe Her: A Reading List

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On September 27, 2018, I sat home alone at my kitchen table, my laptop open to Christine Blasey Ford delivering her opening statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Outside, the neighbor’s dog barked and a truck throttled down the street, but as Dr. Ford uttered the phrase, “but his weight was heavy,” the world around me, the one I have built for myself here and now, seemed to dissolve. As she testified about Brett Kavanaugh and Mark Judge’s laughter, “pin-balling off the walls,” I wept. My body tensed. I was no longer seated at my kitchen table, but waking up instead on the cold hard tile of my college dormitory, my assaulter and my best friend both standing above me, laughing.

During the second semester of my freshman year of college, my mattress had been placed directly on the floor because a neurological illness had stolen my ability to safely climb into my lofted bed. The man who assaulted me was a friend. The night of, he kissed my roommate goodnight before making his way down the ladder of her bed. He crawled on top of me, using his body weight to pin me down. His breath smelled like beer. With one of his hands he pressed hard against my collarbone, and with the other he groped me beneath my shirt. When he at last fell asleep on top of me, I squirmed away. Not knowing where else to go, I found a spot on the tile floor and curled up there for the rest of the night.

There are more details but, even in saying this much, my voice quakes. I have seen what happens to women who offer testimony. Leigh Gilmore, in her book Tainted Witness, writes about “how women’s witness is discredited by a host of means meant to taint it: to contaminate by doubt, stigmatize through association with gender and race, and dishonor through shame, such that not only the testimony but the person herself is smeared.” Women who report sexual assault are asked, what were you wearing? Why didn’t you tell someone? How hard did you fight back? During her Senate testimony, Dr. Ford was asked, “So what you are telling us, this could not be a case of mistaken identity?” “You would not mix somebody else with Brett Kavanaugh, correct?” “You do remember what happened, do you not?” And in 1991, when Anita Hill faced the Senate Judiciary Committee to offer her testimony of Clarence Thomas’ sexual harassment, she was asked, “Are you a scorned woman?” and “Do you have a martyr complex?”

Watching Dr. Ford on the stand, and remembering with respect Anita Hill who testified before her, it is clear to me that both women’s testimonies represent much more than simply the confirmation of a Supreme Court nominee. In their stories, I hear my own, of which I am usually reluctant to speak. And in the voices of people who disbelieve both Ford and Hill, I hear my worst fears vocalized. In the days that followed Kavanaugh’s confirmation, all that held me were the words of writers who skillfully dismantle harmful rhetoric, expose systems of privilege and power, illuminate the stories of vulnerable others, and bravely voice their own.

I believe Dr. Ford. I believe Anita Hill. And I believe in the power of our collective witness as a way to make change. As Tarana Burke, Amanda de Cadenet, Glennon Doyle, Tracee Ellis Ross, and America Ferrera wrote recently in their open letter to Dr. Ford,

“You’ll see it when we march, when we walk out, when we show up.

You’ll see it in the voting lines that go on forever.

You’ll hear it in our reawakened voices.

You’ll feel it in our strengthened siblinghood.”

1. “One Year of #MeToo: The Legacy of Black Women’s Testimonies”(Allyson Hobbs, October 10, 2018, The New Yorker)

By writing about the fragmented nature in which memory of her own sexual assault emerges, chronicling historical incidents of black women such as Harriet Jacobs, Harriet Simril, and Betty Jean Owens bearing witness against their attackers, and examining the context surrounding Anita Hill’s testimony, Allyson Hobbs illuminates why it is so difficult for women — particularly African American women — to share incidents of sexual violence. She emphasizes that to move forward we need to stop privileging the voices of white women, and create a narrative that’s more inclusive.

“To do better by all women, we must listen and recognize the historical and contemporary circumstances that shape their experiences and have real consequences on their lives.”

2. I Rewatched Anita Hill’s Testimony. So Much Has Changed. So Much Hasn’t. (Liza Mundy, September 23, 2018, Politico)

Liza Mundy writes about Anita Hill’s 1991 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, providing valuable context for how incidents within the 1991 hearing can be reframed based on our current knowledge of sexual harassment. This piece was published before Christine Blasey Ford testified, but Mundy offers insight as to how Dr. Ford’s testimony might be received differently based on changes in the digital age, the presence of female members on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the influence of the #MeToo movement.

“Even now, even given the remarkable climate-change wrought by the #MeToo moment, we are seeing in real time how women can be intimidated by everything from the attacks they face to the constrictions placed on how they can tell their stories.”

(Related: read Exclusive: we re-ran polls from 1991 about Anita Hill, this time about Christine Blasey Ford by Dylan Matthews at Vox.)

3. And You Thought Trump Voters Were Mad  (Rebecca Traister, September 17, 2018, The Cut)

Studying historical instances of rage in relation to both race and gender, Rebecca Traister examines the ways in which anger can be progressive or a means of maintaining harmful institutions of power.

“This fight has been against an administration with virtually no regard for women, for their rights, or for the integrity of their bodies, either in the public or private sense. The point should be obvious, yet the anger of the female protesters has repeatedly been cast — as Ford’s story quickly was — by those threatened by it as desperate and performed.”

4. What Do We Owe Her Now? (Elizabeth Bruenig, September 21, 2018, Washington Post)

On September 21, 2018, Donald Trump tweeted, “I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed,” which immediately resulted in a viral #WhyIDidntReport hashtag on Twitter. There are a slew of reasons why women don’t report, one of them being the way that sexual assaults are treated by both authorities and communities.

Elizabeth Bruenig, in a tour de force of literary journalism, writes about a woman named Amber Wyatt who reported her rape 12 years ago to both friends and authorities in Arlington, Texas, only to be harassed and shunned by her peers to the point that she had to leave school. Authorities, even though they were in possession of a rape kit and Wyatt’s testimony, chose not to prosecute, saying “it was a ‘he said, she said’ thing.”

“Making sense of her ordeal meant tracing a web of failures, lies, abdications and predations, at the center of which was a node of power that, though anonymous and dispersed, was nonetheless tilted firmly against a young, vulnerable girl.”

5. What Kind of Person Makes False Rape Accusations? (Sandra Newman, May 11, 2017, Quartz)

On October 2nd, 2018, to the cheer of a crowd in Southaven, Mississippi, Donald Trump mocked Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony, saying, “How did you get home? I don’t remember. How’d you get there? I don’t remember.” He lamented, saying Kavanaugh’s “life is in tatters. A man’s life is shattered,” insinuating that Dr. Ford contrived her story of sexual assault.

While I am reluctant to engage with Trump’s abhorrent mockery of Dr. Ford, his unfounded claim that Dr. Ford made up her assault feeds into the extraordinarily harmful narrative that men’s lives are being ruined by women. Sandra Newman addresses this claim in her extensively researched essay, “What kind of person makes false rape accusations?” Point by point, she breaks down commonly made claims such as innocent men facing rape charges, false reporting, and who falsely reports, and counters each with data from a variety of unbiased studies.

6. Speak Truth to Power  (Lacy M. Johnson, September 24, 2018, Longreads)

“It seems impossible to speak about rape precisely because this threat of violent retribution is real, whether explicit or implicit, but also because of the widespread belief in our culture that rape is an aberration: a violence so unthinkable, so unfathomable, so taboo as to render it unspeakable.”

Through examination of Philomela’s rape in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the Steubenville, Ohio rape trial, Bill Cosby’s trial, the 1 is 2 Many campaign, Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, among others, and by integrating her own experiences as a survivor of rape and sexual assault, Lacy M. Johnson, in an excerpt from her book The Reckonings: Essays, elucidates how women’s testimonies are perpetually ignored, silenced, shamed, trolled, and threatened. Johnson advocates for women to speak their truth — and publically — even in the face of fear.

7. Gabrielle Bellot: The Story I Kept Hidden (Gabrielle Bellot, October 11, 2018, LitHub)

Gabrielle Bellot, in addition to voicing her own experiences with sexual assault, writes about the history of trauma women have endured as a result of harmful patriarchal systems, and emphasizes the importance of telling true stories as a way of fighting back.

“When I hear the President of this country ask, dismissively, why women would wait to come forward and call women who make allegations “really evil people,” it feels like a slap in the face. And then it reminds me why so many women never speak up at all, even now, but instead let our memories curl up into a deep place inside us, until we can almost believe we’ve forgotten them.”

* * *

Jacqueline Alnes is working on a memoir of running and illness.

On Being an Ill Woman: A Reading List of Doctors’ Dismissal and Disbelief

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Just months after I turned 18, I sat on the white crinkly paper of a patient bed, waiting for my first neurology appointment. I repeated, I am a Division I athlete, as if reminding myself of my athleticism would somehow erase the strange symptoms of fainting, blurred vision, and dizziness that had plagued me for the previous few weeks. The illness, like a flower from concrete, seemed inconceivable. I had been healthy my whole life.

The doctor rapped on the door, entered, and shook my hand before taking a seat. “The doc at your school called. Thinks you had a bad reaction to medication,” he said, referencing antibiotics I’d been prescribed for bronchitis. “He says you’ve had blurry vision, vertigo, two episodes of syncope.”

“Is syncope fainting?” I asked, feeling as though the language of my body had been translated into something incomprehensible. I wanted to snatch it back.

“Yeah, yeah,” he crooned. “You been running?”

“I’ve been trying,” I told him. Each attempt ended in a swell of vertigo and subsequent collapse. The assistant coach carried me to my trainer, who took my blood pressure and pulse, always murmuring, “you’re fine.” The athletic doctor assigned to our team, after performing several tests, had told me that I presented no abnormalities; he encouraged me to run.

The neurologist pulled out a mallet and tapped my knee. My lower leg reacted as it should, swinging forward like a pendulum. He told me to walk, and watched as I made my way from the bed to the door, and back again. “It’s fine for you to run,” he said, scribbling down notes. “I don’t see what’s holding you back.”

I left the appointment with a sense of unease. If the athletic doctor, a trainer, and a neurologist had seen me and told me I was fine, then was I really sick? At the time, I didn’t know how to advocate for myself while in the position of patient. I felt alone with my illness, scared of my own body.

Eight years have passed since then and, in my own continuing journey toward a diagnosis, I have felt a strange mix of emotions when reading narratives of other women being discredited by medical professionals. I feel outraged when I read about their attempts to voice symptoms, only to be silenced. Guilt — and a desire to work toward reforming our current medical system — washes over me when I am reminded of the extent of my own privilege.

The essays below are both a salve to the years of dismissal from doctors and a call to action. I’m inspired by other women’s efforts to advocate for themselves, practice radical empathy, change policy, and create resources so that other patients don’t endure the same harrowing experiences. When I hear my voice in chorus alongside them, I feel as though I’m somehow part of a community, or at least not alone anymore.

1. “PCOS. POC. Poetry. & Pilates” (Tiana Clark, Lenny Letter, April 13, 2018)

Tiana Clark tries to ignore symptoms of panic attacks, hair loss, brain fog, and more, until her ovary throbs with an excruciating pain that forces her to the walk-in clinic. There, a doctor waves Clark’s symptoms away with painkillers and, at an appointment with a white female gynecologist soon after, Clark’s self-diagnosis of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is initially belittled.

Her casual dismissal of my problem reminded me of what I’d so often seen living as a black woman in America: an erasure of my distress.

In this incisive, empowering essay, Clark highlights researched material about black women’s health care in the U.S., relays her own harrowing experiences with medical professionals, and emphasizes the importance of learning to advocate for herself.

2. “Memoirs of Disease and Disbelief” (Lidija Haas, The New Yorker, June 4 & 11, 2018)

By examining female narratives of illness ranging from Virginia Woolf’s essay On Being Ill, Jennifer Brea’s documentary film Unrest, Susan Sontag’s canonical Illness as Metaphor, and Christina Crosby’s book A Body, Undone: Living On After Great Pain, among others, Lidija Haas reviews Porochista Khakpour’s Sick with an eye toward how storytelling can affect treatment, act as a form of escape, and undermine dangerous expectations of what a patient should be.

(Related: read an excerpt of Porochista Khakpour’s Sick here at Longreads.)

3. “Doctors Told Her She Was Just Fat. She Actually Had Cancer” (Maya Dusenbery, Cosmopolitan, April 17, 2018)

After experiencing coughing fits for three years, Rebecca Hiles visits the doctor, only to be told her condition is “weight-related.” Hiles is not the only one to be dismissed in this way; in this insightful and eye-opening essay, Dusenbery collects stories of women who have been fat-shamed by doctors rather than being treated with care, resulting too often in dangerous downward spirals in illness.

4. “The Reality of Women’s Pain” (Rachel Vorona Cote, The New Republic, March 7, 2018)

Rachel Vorona Cote situates Abby Norman’s Ask Me About My Uterus: A Quest to Make Doctors Believe in Women’s Pain, a book about Norman’s arduous experiences receiving treatment for endometriosis within a long history of “wild theories about female anatomy” such as the “wandering womb” theory of Ancient Greece, Freud’s dismissal of patients as hysterical, and others.

As Norman communicates so powerfully, a woman’s relationship to her pain is a snarled coil of memory and socialization.

(Related: read Abby Norman’s Women’s Troubles, from Harper’s.)

5. “On Telling Ugly Stories: Writing with a Chronic Illness” (Nafissa Thompson-Spires, The Paris Review April 9, 2018)

Nafissa Thompson-Spires not only chronicles the emergency room visit and appointments that led to her initial diagnosis of endometriosis, but also writes about what it means to be a woman with an invisible chronic illness, and her identity as a black woman within the realm of the medical world.

In Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism and Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black, bell hooks problematizes the persistent myth of the strong black woman. This myth contributes to real-life consequences in medicine and elsewhere.

6. “Checkbox Colonization: The Erasure of Indigenous People in Chronic Illness” (Jen Deerinwater, Bitch Magazine, June 8, 2018)

When Jen Deerinwater visits the doctor, her identity as “a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma” is erased by problematic intake forms that only include the options of “American Indian” or “Native American,” and she is often asked “degrading and humiliating questions” by medical professionals. Deerinwater lists a litany of ways in which Native people are ignored and mistreated by the healthcare system, resulting in lack of access to resources and treatments, shortened lifespans, and a host of other harms.

(Related: read other essays from the 15-part “In Sickness” series from Bitch Magazine.)

7. “Health Care System Fails Many Transgender Americans” (Neda Ulaby, NPR, November 21, 2017)

As of November 2017, 31 percent of transgender Americans lacked regular access to healthcare, due in part to how difficult it is for transgender people to find jobs. Neda Ulaby notes that “insurance companies and many medical professionals still treat them as though their bodies don’t make any sense,” which causes anxiety for trans people when visiting physicians, something Planned Parenthood is trying to ameliorate through staff training.

(Related: read Making Primary Care Trans-Friendly by Keren Landman, from The Atlantic.)

8. “A Matter of Life & Death: Why Are Black Women in the U.S. More Likely to Die During or After Childbirth?” (Meaghan Winter, Essence, September 26, 2017)

When Fathiyyah “Tia” Doster was pregnant, she began to feel bloated late one night. Luckily, she visited the hospital, where she safely delivered her baby. A diagnosis of hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, low platelet count (HELLP) syndrome left her hospitalized for more than three months, but alive. Other pregnant women are not so lucky. Meaghan Winter explores the historic backdrop of healthcare for black women, the current political climate which is threatening women’s access to insurance and clinics, and bias within hospitals, all of which have contributed to rising rates of maternal mortality.

The complex web of causes — which includes genetic predispositions, chronic stress, racial bias and structural barriers to health care — contributes to the racial disparity in maternal health.

In the end, Winter offers strategies for health providers, reformers, and patients and their families to implement necessary change.

Jacqueline Alnes is working on a memoir of running and illness.