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Jan 13
Her eye on the news
Self reflection

Emma Watson has opened up about being labeled a “white feminist” in a letter introducing her book club’s first read of 2018, Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race.

“When I gave my UN speech in 2015, so much of what I said was about the idea that ‘being a feminist is simple!’ Easy! No problem!” wrote Watson, according to W Magazine. “I have since learned that being a feminist is more than a single choice or decision. It’s an interrogation of self. Every time I think I’ve peeled all the layers, there’s another layer to peel … When I heard myself being called a ‘white feminist’ I didn’t understand (I suppose I proved their case in point). What was the need to define me — or anyone else for that matter — as a feminist by race? What did this mean? Was I being called racist? Was the feminist movement more fractured than I had understood? I began … panicking.”

Despite feeling confused, and attacked, by being labeled as a “white feminist,” Watson said that having her expectations challenged in such a way helped her to reconsider her own preconceived notions about what being a feminist meant — and to embrace a conversation that she initially didn’t even know needed to be had.

“It would have been more useful to spend the time asking myself questions like: What are the ways I have benefited from being white? In what ways do I support and uphold a system that is structurally racist? How do my race, class and gender affect my perspective?” Watson wondered. “There seemed to be many types of feminists and feminism. But instead of seeing these differences as divisive, I could have asked whether defining them was actually empowering and bringing about better understanding. But I didn’t know to ask these questions.”

Read the full story at W Magazine.

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Say what?

President Donald Trump ignited international outrage on Thursday after reportedly making a vulgar and racially-charged remark about immigrants from Haiti, South American and African nations during a closed-door meeting with lawmakers at the White House. The president reportedly questioned why the U.S. should accept more immigrants from Haiti and “shithole countries” from Africa and South America. On Friday, as the firestorm over his language engulfed the news cycle, Trump admitted using “tough” language, but denied using the profanity, The Associated Press reported. But U.S. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois insisted in an interview on Friday that Trump used the vulgarity and said other “hate-filled things” during the negotiation over an immigration deal.

Women and men from across the political spectrum denounced Trump in the wake of the shocking comment. Two examples that caught our eye on Twitter were remarks from Chelsea Clinton and Mia Love, a congresswoman from Utah and a rising star in the Republican party.

Mr. President,” the former first daughter wrote, “immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti and the 54 countries in Africa likely helped build your buildings. They’ve certainly helped build our country.”

Love, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, posted a longer statement in the form of a screen shot embedded in her tweet.

“The President'[s] comments are unkind, divisive, elitist, and fly in the face of our nation’s values. The President must apologize to both the American people and the nations he so wantonly maligned,” Love said before invoking her Haitian heritage. She said her parents, “proudly took an oath of allegiance to the United States and took on the responsibilities of everything that being a citizen comes with. They never took a thing from our federal government. They worked hard, paid taxes, and rose from nothing to take care of and provide opportunities for their children. They taught their children to do the same. That’s the American Dream.”

And by Friday afternoon, outrage at the comments was far from abating. Below, watch some more people vent their frustrations with the president.

Redemption

Tonya Harding has been inescapable lately. Seemingly everywhere you look, there’s Tonya! For weeks now, ABC News has been running promo clips on TV and social media for its two-hour special, Truth and Lies: The Tonya Harding Story, that aired Thursday night. The movie I, Tonya recently hit theaters nationwide. Oh, and if you were watching the Golden Globes on Sunday, there she was yucking it up with Allison Janney, who won the best supporting actress award for her depiction of Harding’s mother in the film.

It’s clear the two-time Olympian, 47, is trying her best to seize the moment and make the most of her shot at redemption. She speaks extensively about numerous aspects of her life in the ABC News special and is the subject of a major profile by Taffy Brodesser-Akner in The New York Times this week. And, as the network’s footage of her on the ice proves, she can still skate with much of the grace and power that made a her a world champion, almost a quarter of a century after the scandal that brought her down.

But is something more than that going on with the Harding P.R. blitz? Is Hollywood going out of its way to rehabilitate Harding — and fudging the facts while doing so?

USA Today columnist Christine Brennan, a veteran and award-winning journalist who has written several books on competitive figure skating, has been highly critical of the way Harding is being portrayed in the media all these years after she was a central figure in one of the biggest scandals and media frenzies of its time.

Brennan has gone so far as to suggest that Hollywood is trying to “rewrite” Harding’s biography in a less than factual way. In her latest column, Brennan points to Janney’s acceptance speech at the Globes in which she said, “I don’t think the figure skating world embraced her or wanted her to succeed because they didn’t think she represented the kind of woman they wanted to represent the figure skating community, that they wanted to represent America.” Brennan urges Janney to revisit the facts, noting that Harding competed in two Olympics, a rarity, and was given enthusiastic support by U.S. figure skating and the Olympic committee and the judges who sent her to the Olympics with the hopes of her being successful.

A teary Tonya Harding appeals to judges to skate her whole routine again because her boot lace broke at the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics in Norway, Feb. 25, 1994. (Barton Silverman/The New York Times)

“Hollywood’s attempt to rehabilitate Tonya Harding is fascinating,” Brennan said in a post on Twitter, and ridiculous.” She told ABC she knew the knuckleheads around her were going to attack Nancy Kerrigan and didn’t stop it. She doesn’t deserve an ounce of sympathy.”

Brennan also highlights some facts that the filmmakers conveniently left out of the movie. “As you laugh at the “I, Tonya” movie,” Brennan wrote in another tweet, “remember that Tonya’s knuckleheads talked at one point about killing Nancy Kerrigan. Yes, killing her. The movie just happens to leave that fact out,” she said, with “knuckleheads” being a reference to Harding’s ex-husband Jeff Gillooly and his associate, Shawn Eckardt, who pleaded guilty for their involvement in the case. Brennan echoed that sentiment in an interview onThe Skating Lesson podcast hosted by Jennifer Kirk and Dave Lease, worrying that key parts of the film were dramatized to make the audience feel sorry for Harding.

And that brings us to Kerrigan. Last year, she said Harding has never afforded her the courtesy of a face-to-face apology. This year, she seems to be over it all. When reached by Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe this week, Kerrigan told him, “I really have nothing to say about it. I haven’t seen anything. I haven’t watched anything. I’ve been busy. I was at the national [figure skating] championships this week so I didn’t watch the Golden Globes. I haven’t seen the movie. I’m just busy living my life.’’

Tonya Harding, left, and Nancy Kerrigan work on their routines during their second practice session at the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics in Hamar, Norway, Feb. 17, 1994. (Barton Silverman/The New York Times)

Shaughnessy then asked her how she feels about Hollywood’s depiction of Harding. Kerrigan seemed to suggest that the narrative seemed to be overlooking who the real victim was.

“I don’t know,’’ Kerrigan replied. “At this point, it’s so much easier and better to just be … it’s not really part of my life. As you say, I was the victim. Like, that’s my role in this whole thing. That’s it.  “It is weird, that’s for sure. A bizarre thing. The whole thing was crazy, being that it’s a story. I mean, come on.’’

Harding is certain of how she feels about her newfound fame. She loves the movie — she described it as “magnificent” — that finally materialized after she sold the rights to her life story for $1,500 and a cut of the profits. But, like Brennan, she has some factual quibbles with the film. “Trust me, I don’t say the word [expletive] 120 times a day. That might come out once in a while when something really bad happens or I hurt myself. I mean, the movie portrayed me as this person who cussed every 10 seconds and I don’t cuss like that,” Harding said.

Harding, meanwhile, is happy to strike a defiant tone in the interviews she’s been giving. “I moved from Oregon to Washington because Oregon was buttheads,” she said in the Times interview, discussing the difficulty she’s had shaking her public image. Akner then reports that Harding put on a mocking tone and added, “I disappointed them. It’s like, how can I disappoint a whole state? Wait a second, how can I disappoint a whole country?”

What’s clear is that Harding is and will forever be a complex figure. And as Brennan quipped to The Washington Post, “This might be the one story in the 20th century that did not need Twitter or Facebook to make it as crazy as it was.”

Below, watch the ABC News documentary and decide for yourself.

CORRECTION: The Skating Lesson podcast is hosted by Jennifer Kirk and Dave Lease, not former Olympic skater Brian Orser as a previous version of this story suggested.

Related

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Unforgivable?

A French woman who traveled to Syria and became a prominent ISIS propagandist and recruiter is now asking to be allowed back into her home country, creating a complex dilemma for the French government.

Emilie König, 33, had converted to Islam as teenager and began wearing the black abaya and veil. König, who has claimed she began suffering discrimination after she began wearing the veil, later abandoned her husband and two small children to join the extremist group in Syria. König was taken into custody by the Kurds following the fall of ISIS’s self-proclaimed capital, Raqqa, in October, and revealed in a video that she is now being held in the legally gray Kurdish controlled region of Syria, a self-governed area whose autonomy is not technically recognized by France or any other country. In Syria, König could potentially be faced with an unfair trial and the death penalty, but, if she were to return to France, prosecutors could struggle to charge her for the crimes she’s accused of committing while in Syria and Iraq.

“She would like to come back; she has asked for pardon from her family, her friends, her country,” said König’s mother in an interview with Ouest-France, who explained that she had received a telephone call from her daughter two weeks ago.

An estimated 690 French foreign fighters — 295 of whom are believed to be women — still remain in Syria, according to Paris prosecutor, François Molins. The French government, unsurprisingly, is uneasy at the potential security risk that would be posed by allowing any of them to return home.

Watch video of König below.

Read the full story at The New York Times.

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‘Destroyed everything’

Dan Harmon, the creator of popular TV shows Community and Rick and Morty, has apologized to a former writer on Community who called Harmon out on Twitter for sexually harassing her, and then exacting petty vengeance against her when she spurned his advances. Writer Megan Ganz had told Harmon on Twitter that his behavior had forever stained what should have been positive memories of the first episodes she ever wrote for TV, and left her unsure of her own talent and “afraid to be enthusiastic” at work for years, “knowing it might be turned against me later.” Harmon had responded that he deeply regretted “abusing my position, treating you like garbage,” and that he was planning to issue a proper apology on his podcast.

About 18-and-a-half minutes into the podcast, Harmon went into excruciating detail about his behavior, including how he first began feeling attracted to Ganz while he was in a relationship with another woman. Harmon said he began hitting on Ganz, despite his position as her boss, and even declared his love for her after he and his girlfriend eventually broke up. After Ganz refused his affections and told him that his pursuit of her was interfering with her work, Harmon said that he grew resentful, and began publicly undermining her as a writer. Both she and the show, he admitted, suffered as a result of his behavior.

“I lost my job. I ruined my show. I betrayed the audience. I destroyed everything, and I damaged her internal compass,” Harmon said. “I moved on, and I never did it before and I’ll never do it again, but I certainly wouldn’t have been able to do it if I had any respect for women. On a fundamental level, I was thinking about them as different creatures. I was thinking about the ones that I liked as having some special role in my life. I did it all by not thinking about it.”

“I did it by not thinking about it, and I got away with it by not thinking about it. If she hadn’t mentioned something on Twitter, I would have continued to not have to think about it,” he added. “If you don’t think about it, you’re going to get away with not thinking about it, and you can cause a lot of damage that is technically legal, and hurts everybody.”

After listening to the podcast, Ganz appeared to be moved deeply. She shared a link to it on Twitter, describing it as “a masterclass in How to Apologize,” and told Harmon that she forgave him.

“What I didn’t expect was the relief I’d feel just hearing him say these things actually happened,” she wrote. “I didn’t dream it. I’m not crazy. Ironic that the only person who could give me that comfort is the one person I’d never ask.”

Read the full story at Vulture.

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01.13.18