Photo: Danny Molyneux

Women We Read This Week

Sarah Galo’s “Up in Arms, Sarah Galo Interviews Molly Crabapple” in Guernica

I can’t get enough of artist and journalist Molly Crabapple and her feminist as fuck reframing of the world order. In this interview, she touches on her new book Drawing Blood and issues ranging from violence, sex, and virtue, to using Kickstarter to fund projects. Crabapple’s work has taken her all over the globe, and she often works in conflict zones. When Galo asks her about how she deals with the threat of violence, Crabapple responds, “We live in a violent world. I mean, how do you fucking get up, walk down the street in a woman’s body, and not be aware of all the violence around you?” Crabapple also speaks powerfully and openly about sex and virtue and how women continue to be valued for their innocence and inexperience.

I think it’s very telling that when virtue was spoken of in the classical sense, for men, it always meant bravery or protecting others or being an adventurer and going out into the world—whereas a woman’s virtue meant keeping her legs closed. What a horrifying concept, that you start in some sort of state of nullity. You start like a white blanket and you have to preserve that, and each year that you live chips away at your essential value.

I am thankful to Crabapple for her honesty, her grit, and her continued courage to take on ideas that confine women to unlived lives.


M.R. O’Connor’s “Hidden Damages” in The Atavist Magazine

In 1995, a Palestinian terrorist group blew up a bus in the Gaza Strip, killing eight passengers. One of those passengers was Alisa Flatow, an American college student studying in Israel. Alisa’s father turned that devastating loss into decades of work—which resulted in legislation and legal precedent for international parties to be held legally accountable by American citizens who’ve lost love ones at the hands of terrorism. This stunning, deeply reported piece of longform journalism begins with a long, painstakingly detailed recounting of the events of the attack that killed Alisa, and continues to tell a riveting, emotionally charged, and poignant story of one father’s harrowing fight for justice that is at once heartbreaking and hopeful.

His determination to wring some meaning from his daughter’s ordeal would force American lawmakers to develop new tools for pursuing state sponsors of terror. His extraordinary quest, aided by two brilliant Washington lawyers, has provided families whose loved ones died at the hands of ISIS in Paris and in Syria a chance at recourse. And because of Flatow’s unyielding obsession with justice, the governments of Sudan, Iraq, Jordan, and Libya have been successfully sued in American courts, with judges awarding almost $20 billion in damages, each verdict a testament to a father’s devotion to his child. But before all that, he was just a father rushing to his daughter’s side.

Andrea Wulf’s “The Woman Who Made Science Beautiful” in The Atlantic

In this fascinating historical profile, Wulf offers a look at the life of little-known German naturalist Maria Sibylla Merian. Born in 1647, as a young girl Merian painted flowers before becoming obsessed with caterpillars and metamorphosis. Before Merian, insects were depicted on blank backgrounds as specimens. Her books showed them in their natural habitats; how plants and animals were connected. She was illustrating ecological communities before the term “ecology” was coined. Wulf describes Merian as “curious, intelligent, and independent-minded.” She left her husband and raised their two children alone. She supported herself by selling her paintings. Merian spent two years traveling in South America visually cataloging every insect she could find.

The result of this expedition was Merian’s magnificent Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium, written in Latin, the international language of science, and a lavish folio edition of 60 stunning copperplate engravings that brought the exotic world of the rainforest to the damp drawing rooms of Europe. The drawings were exquisite. Azure blue butterflies hovering over delicate blossoms, moths unfurling their proboscis, fat frogs together with their eggs and tadpoles, dazzlingly striped caterpillars munching on leaves and leggy ants crawling up branches. Merian’s nature was beautiful, but true-to life. Her blossoms had holes, her leaves were half chewed, and her blooms had lost their petals.

It’s disheartening, but not altogether unexpected that Merian isn’t more widely known. Her work was revolutionary, and it informed the later, much more famous, male naturalists. Wulf gives her the credit she deserves, showing us just how important her work was and what a fabulously independent and talented woman she was. And the paintings of hers that accompany the article are simply spectacular.



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