Photo by Giuseppe Milo

Women We Read This Week

Jessica Pishko’s “Marrying a Monster” in Narratively

Why would a woman marry a man, nearly half her age, who’d murdered three times? A man she knew would likely spend the rest of his life in prison? In this riveting story, Pishko delves into the marriage of Lyal Northey to Joe Morse, who was serving a life sentence for murdering his mother, sister, and another inmate. It was the 1970s, and Northey was a “do gooder,” and Morse, she insisted, had suffered from lack of love as a child, but was a changed man. Using Northey’s diary and letters that the couple exchanged over the years, Pishko retraces this unusual romance, at times delving deeper into the psychology of why women fall in love with murderers and rapists. Most unusual is how normal the couple seems, at times squabbling and making up–like any married couple. Almost.

Amy Davidson’s “The Supreme Court Reaffirms Marriage Vows” on The New Yorker

A satisfying overview of yesterday’s Supreme Court decision, with an emphasis on Justice Kennedy’s words:

[Kennedy’s] opinion is at once profoundly legalistic and romantic. It is probably the strongest manifesto in favor of marriage—anybody’s marriage—a Court could produce. And Kennedy understood how, as he wrote, “far from seeking to devalue marriage, the petitioners seek it for themselves because of their respect—and need—for its privileges and responsibilities. And their immutable nature dictates that same-sex marriage is their only real path to this profound commitment.” He noted Alexis de Tocqueville’s observation that Americans place a particular value on marriage, and emphasized its relation to the particular value we place on the domestic underpinnings of democracy—the household as a refuge of privacy and deliberation. (And love.) This is why his decision draws on the promise of equal protection and due process under the Fourteenth Amendment.


Roxane Gay’s “Confessions of a Bad Feminist” in TED Women 2015

I have been living in Mexico exactly 14 days, and I have already gotten into an angry discussion with a group of guys who used the term feminazi (and yet, somehow, my explanation of the difference between feminists and Nazis didn’t strike them as rational) and been stalked and harassed on the street as if I had no right to be out in public. By the time I sat down to watch Roxane Gay’s TED Women talk, I was feeling like a beaten down feminist. But, just as in her book Bad Feminist, she manages to be incredibly funny and poignant as she makes feminism, which continues to be maligned in the mainstream media, more human and accessible. Gay begins the talk explaining, “When I was younger, mostly in my teens and twenties, I had strange ideas about feminists as hairy, angry, man-hating, sex-hating women…as if those are bad things.” She discusses the difficulty of being a feminist, because she never felt perfect enough to be a feminist. And she talks about being gang raped as a girl, and how, in the aftermath, she rebuilt her life through words. “None of us are the nothing the world tries to tell us we are,” she said, as if sending a message back in time to her young self.


Roxanne Krystalli’s “Questions on representing atrocities” in Stories of Conflict and Love

Television, newspapers, books – our media is rife with monsters. They’re figures we somehow don’t quite grow out of imagining, though our adult monsters are less dragons and ogres and more terrorists and troubled young men. The problem of course, with the word monster, is it stops these people from being human. No longer human, we need not consider how they became that way, or how they might return. We no longer need see ourselves in them. Krystalli writes:

How does judgment blind us in these settings? What might we lose by being guided by narratives of evil and moral obligation? How might labeling perpetrators of mass atrocities ‘monsters’ limit our thinking? Can we help that reaction? What does ‘monsters’ capture that other words — like ‘perpetrators,’ even — do not?

As you might notice from the excerpt above, Krystalli is not trying to give answers in this piece, but she is asking important questions.



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