The Larry Nassar Sentencing: One Year Later

Survivors of Nassar’s abuse are awarded the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYs in July 2018.

One year ago Larry Nassar was sentenced to, or as Judge Aquilina stated, given “his death warrant”. The largest sex abuse scandal in sports history now has over 500 survivors. What have we learned? What has changed?

Judge Aquilina in 2018.

While Nassar is behind bars for the rest of his life, it is important to remember that both the culture and institutions that allowed him to abuse hundreds of girls over twenty years remain intact. Nassar didn’t act alone. People in positions of power helped cover up his abuse and silence victims. We still have a long way to go to change these institutions and hold enablers accountable.

Part of creating change is to continue to talk about it. Warning: this a wordy post but let’s get up to speed with the hot mess that is Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics.

Michigan State University

Banner at MSU supporting survivors of abuse.

Insanely enough the backlash against MSU has grown due to continued missteps by the institution. Let’s update their latest disasters:

  • Special counsel Bill Forsyth, tasked with investigating MSU, stated that “nearly a dozen MSU employees learned of Nassar’s abuse from the victims themselves. It said employees were aware of the abuse allegations as far back as 1998 and as recently as 2015. But in nearly every case, the employees — who included coaches, athletic trainers, fellow doctors and the school Title IX office — did nothing…”.
  • President John Engler resigned last week amid even more statements against survivors of abuse at the university. Remember that Engler was the interim president after Lou Anna Simon was forced to resign following reports of the administration’s failure to hold Nassar accountable surfaced. Engler has continued to speak negatively against survivors, first by offering $250,000 to Kaylee Lorincz and lying that others had accepted cash. Then, just this month, he accused survivors still working for change as “enjoying the spotlight.” Engler also canceled an issue of the campus alumni magazine that detailed the abuse and made seriously questionable decisions regarding hiring. He released an 11 page (!!) letter along with his resignation. Also important to note that if he did not resign, the board would fire him.
  • The Healing Assistance Fund, put together by MSU to pay for survivor counseling, was closed in July of 2018 amid concerns over fraud. The alleged fraud never materialized and the fund was not reopened. Then-president John Engler wrote that the remaining balance of the fund could be used pay out the lawsuits brought forth by victims of sexual abuse (classy right?). The university recently voted to establish a new fund for mental health services, but details have yet to be released.
  • Former president Lou Anna Simon was arraigned in November for two felonies and two misdemeanor accounts of lying to police.
  • Former coach Kathie Klages was arrested for lying to police and currently awaits trial. If convicted, she faces four years in prison.
  • William Strampel, former dean for the College of Osteopathic Medicine (and Nassar’s direct boss) will go to trial for four criminal charges: felony misconduct for using his position to “harass, discriminate, demean, sexually proposition, and sexually assault female students”, a sexual assault charge, and two counts of willful neglect of duty in relation to the Nassar’s 2014 Title IX investigation.
  • Michigan State University will pay the legal fees for Klages, Simon, and Strampel as the institution has a policy to “support trustees, officers, faculty, and staff who were acting in good faith with the university.” All of the legal fees incurred by Klages and Simon (both charged with lying to police) will be paid for by the university. Strampel, who is currently awaiting trial for sexual assault allegations and misconduct, will have his lawyers and civil lawsuits footed by the university as well as 50% of his criminal defense.

USA Gymnastics

Sure, USAG. Sure.

Similar to Michigan State University’s stumbles, USAG continues to crash and burn rather than actually work to create tangible change:

  • Former CEO Steve Penny was arrested for removing documents from the Karolyi Ranch connected to Nassar’s sexual abuse; he has pled not guilty. The felony charge means that if convicted, Penny could face ten years in prison. Remember he pled the fifth to the Senate last year.
  • USAG’s Chief Operating Officer Ron Gallimore resigned in November. Gallimore was one of the largest holdovers from the Nassar era and held his position even after the CEO and Board of Trustees were replaced. He was one of the officials that provided Nassar with a cover story in 2015 while he was under investigation. Rather than explain why the former team doctor was not at competitions, Gallimore and others maintained that Nassar was ill. He continued to abuse patients during this time (remember that USAG and MSU both employed Nassar and separately investigated him).
  • Debra Van Horn, a former trainer for USAG, was indicted on one count of second-degree sexual assault of a child. She was charged as an “acting party” with Nassar.
  • The United States Olympic Committee filed to revoke USA Gymnastics’s status as the governing body for the sport in November 2018. However, it is important to note that there is evidence that the USOC also knew about Nassar’s abuse as early as 2015 and did nothing. Too little too late USOC. You don’t get to be the good guys in this shitshow.
  • In December 2018, USA Gymnastics filed for bankruptcy. With over 100 lawsuits representing 350 individuals, the decision could potentially mean less funding for victims (although the organization stated that their insurance is still intact) as well as maintaining documents that could protect USAG. The filing also includes a “restructuring” that delays the decertification process brought on by the USOC.
  • Documents published on January 18th, 2019 show that USA Gymnastics paid former CEO Penny $470,000 in severance. These payments were made even after he was arrested and included a check for $36,666 days before filing for bankruptcy. Survivors of abuse have yet to receive a payment. YIKES and DOUBLE YIKES.
  • Additionally, several other severance payments were made in late 2018: $425,000 to former CEO Kerry Perry, who held the position for 8 months before being forced to resign and $18,000 to Mary Bono, who was in the role for less than a week after also being forced to resign.
Anyone else relate to this gif after reading this?

I know there is a long way to go and a lot more people that need to be held accountable. Keep holding their feet to that dumpster fire.

Currently–

Reading: Josephine Baker’s Last Dance (Sherry Jones)

Listening: The Teal Album (Weezer)

So It Goes: Dresden, Germany

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I’m incredibly thankful to have the opportunity to visit Dresden with a group of friends last autumn. On the quest to visit the town where my friend was born, we had quite the adventure as a group wandering the streets (and festival foods) of Dresden.

Embracing my inner book (and history) nerd, Dresden has always been one of the cities I hoped to visit while in Europe. Get ready for #allthethings Kurt Vonnegut and WWII debates (or just keep scrolling).

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Me while packing my bag for the trip.

Where are we?

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Dresden is the capital of Saxony, a state in Eastern Germany. The first settlement in the area is thought to have been established in 7500 BC by Slavic people, then grew due to the an influx of Germanic populations. The name Dresden (Drežďany) is Old Sorbian and translates to “people of the forest”.

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The landscape and population of the city drastically changed during WWII. From 1935-1945, the Jewish community fell from over 6,000 to 41 due to Nazi persecution and migration. Yeah, you read that correctly: 41. By the time of the US and UK bombing in 1945, the city housed over 600,000 refugees, nearly half their population.

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Between February 13th and 15th 1945, British and American forces dropped 1,181 tons of incendiary bombs and 1,477 tons of high explosive bombs on the civilian city of Dresden. The combination of the bombs both damaged the city’s buildings while also burning their wooden structures; the historic inner city was destroyed and scholars estimate that 25,000-35,000 civilians were killed:

“Victor Gregg, a British para captured at Arnhem, was a prisoner of war in Dresden that night who was ordered to help with the clear up. In a 2014 BBC interview he recalled the hunt for survivors after the apocalyptic firestorm. In one incident, it took his team seven hours to get into a 1,000-person air-raid shelter in the Altstadt. Once inside, they found no survivors or corpses: just a green-brown liquid with bones sticking out of it. The cowering people had all melted. In areas further from the town centre there were legions of adults shrivelled to three feet in length. Children under the age of three had simply been vaporised.”

Even today, seventy years after the bombing, many argue whether the event constitutes a war crime by the Allies: the city held no military significance, caused thousands of civilian casualties, and had no real impact on the war. Kurt Vonnegut, an American POW who survived the bombing and later based the novel Slaughterhouse Five on his experience stated in an interview:

“VONNEGUT: . . . Only one person on the entire planet benefited from the raid, which must have cost tens of millions of dollars. The raid didn’t shorten the war by half a second, didn’t weaken a German defense or attack anywhere, didn’t free a single person from a death camp. Only one person ‘benefited’ — not two or five or ten. Just one.

INTERVIEWER: And who was that?

VONNEGUT: Me, I got three dollard for each person killed. Imagine that.”

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A digital composite image of the Theaterplatz Square in 1946 and in 2015 (via The Atlantic)

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The city center in 1945 and 2015 (via The Atlantic).

Regardless of how you align in the debate, the bombing did impact the way we define “legitimate use of violence” in war. The history, culture, and rebuilding of Dresden are truly incredible. Our few days wasn’t nearly enough to explore everything.

The Sites: 

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Dresden Frauenkirche has one of the largest domes in Europe. Originally built as a symbol for remaining Protestant under a Catholic rule, it is now a sign of reconciliation between the two religions.

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The church was destroyed during the bombing and the ruins served as a war memorial until the reunification of Germany. From 1994-2004 the church underwent reconstruction.

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Dresden Kreuzkirche (Church of the Holy Cross) is the largest church building in the Free State of Saxony. The southeastern corner existed as far back as 1168.

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The interior of the building was destroyed in 1897 and again suffered fire damage during the bombing of Dresden.

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One of the oldest buildings in the city, construction on Dresden castle began in 1533 (!!). The castle has now been connected to the Dresden Cathedral.

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Katholische Hofkirche (Dresden Cathedral) is one of Dresden’s most important landmarks. The church was founded in 1739 and was rebuilt after the bombing of Dresden and further restored in the 1980s and early 2000s.

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Dresden Castle

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Kunsthofpassage was one of my favorite spots! The pipes on the outer wall “sing” when it rains. A location outside of the historic part of the city, but definitely worth the short tram ride. Also the site of an AMAZING craft beer shop on the first floor. 

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The five courtyards are now an art experiment known as the Ginkgo Project and are filled with adorable shops and art installations.

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The Panometer is an absolute must visit! This display is held in an old telescopic gas holder (built in 1879) and is 89 feet high and 344 feet around.

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There are two displays: Baroque Dresden (which depicts how Dresden may have looked in 1756) and Dresden 1945 (showing the city after the bombing).

(via Panometer)

The Food:

Dresden Farmers Market:

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We stumbled on this gorgeous farmers market our first day in Dresden. There was a ton of amazing cheese, meat, and vegetables for sale.

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Technically not food, obviously, but how adorable are these?

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Happiest Ashlyn is post-farmers market (via Kristin Ariel Photography)

Cafe Toscana:

Brunch at Cafe Toscana was amazing and the perfect way to start our trip to Bayreuth. I ordered an omelet with homemade vegipan, a seeded bread that is perfect with butter and coffee. Thankfully, a friend and I went halfsies on porridge and it was one of the best ones yet.

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Cutest coffee timer EVER.

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The most gorgeous porridge on the planet.

German and Hungarian Festival:

How lucky are we that a German and Hungarian fall food festival was taking place while we were visiting? We ate here at least twice and the food was amazing.

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So cute! (via Kirstin Ariel Photography)

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Hi, I’d like all the potatoes and mushrooms you have. Extra garlic sauce please. The woman who served me definitely remembered us the next day when we stopped by for breakfast.

Slaughterhouse Five:

Technically this should be listed under “sites” and it certainly is, but my love of the book requires me to give Vonnegut his own section. Slaughterhouse Five inspired me to study history and political science.

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I first read the novel in middle school and was immediately enthralled with the structure and writing of the story. The life of Billy Pilgrim, an American soldier during WWII, is described by the narrator non-linearly, jumping back and forth in time (and space as Pilgrim is abducted by aliens). Pilgrim (and Vonnegut) survive the bombing of Dresden by taking cover in Schlachthof-fünf, or Slaughterhouse Five, an underground meat locker.

The first description is described as:

“The Americans arrived in Dresden at five in the afternoon. The boxcar doors were opened, and the doorways framed the loveliest city that most of the Americans had ever seen. The skyline was intricate and voluptuous and enchanted and absurd. It looked like a Sunday school picture of Heaven to Billy Pilgrim.”

I can second the loveliness of Dresden. The landscape and buildings are absolutely gorgeous to the point where you can imagine the cast of a Disney movie stepping onto the stone walkways. Pilgrim later emerges from the locker and found the previously “heavenly” skyline to look like “the surface of the moon… the entire city was gone.”

Today, there is a small Google Maps marker for the location of Vonnegut’s shelter. Completely destroyed during the bombing, the site is now a sports complex on top of the former underground meat locker.  The basement houses a small memorial to Vonnegut.

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Unused nearby building.

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Miraculously, the statue of the bull survived the bombing. The sports complex (back) now sits on top of the old underground meat locker.

Slaughterhouse Five is a novel and very much so. The point of the book isn’t the number of bombs dropped on the city or the number of people who died. The point is that the destruction of Dresden is just another massacre. It’s not the first, it certainly wasn’t going to be the last. One of the greatest aspects of the novel is simply the humanity of it.

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(via Kristin Ariel Photography)

Currently:

Reading: The Souls of Yellow Folks (Wesley Yang)Ashlyn (2)

Watching: Outlander Season 2 (Netflix)

 

Check out my girl Kristin’s beautiful photography (so many photos featured here!) on her site.

Further Reading:

Overy, Richard. 2006. “The Post-War Debate.” in Firestorm: The Bombing of Dresden, 1945. (editors: Paul Addison and Jeremy A. Craig). Ivan R. Dee: Chicago. 123-142.

Taylor, Ann. 2015. “Remembering Dresden: 70 Years After the Firebombing.” The Atlantic. Available here.

 

Year in Review: 2018

How is it already January? Anyone else feel like the winter Olympics were last month (probably just me)?

November and December have been absolutely crazy months for us. We were in six different countries (seven if you count a week in the UK during mid-October) including about a month away from home. I’m REALLY far behind on updating everyone on the amazing places we’ve been this year, along with the continuous atrociousness that is USA Gymnastics, Michigan State University, and the USOC (spoiler alert: it’s even worse if that’s possible, but I’m sure you already guessed that). 

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Because we’re in a new year and I love making lists, this post will include 2018’s #allthethings : life things, my favorite things, traveling things, food things. You know, my usual rambling.

Here’s the Thing: Sometimes Life is Good and Bad.

Like most things, 2018 was both wonderful and terrible. This year I was forced to really start to put a lot of my own experiences in perspective; a combination of the #metoo movement, Nassar victim impact statements, and constant discussion of abuse made avoiding my own history inescapable. I learned that I need to start taking my emotional and mental health more seriously rather than continue my usual tactic of ignore, ignore, ignore.

I learned that I’m not alone.

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Bratislava, Slovakia: One of the best memories of this year is streaming the Larry Nassar sentencing from my phone with a friend in a Slovakian speakeasy. A pretty perfect representation of my 2018.

This year I laughed until my stomach hurt, sat at the edge of the world, and ate an obscene amount of sweets with my coffee. I was able to see my family, my friends, and experience new places with the people I love. I had carrot cake cheesecake for my birthday, walked Prague with two of my favorite boys (Ike and Chris), won a fantasy football true crime league, and hosted more get-togethers than I can count.

Looking back, my heart is both broken and full. I’m so incredibly thankful for everything I have and accomplished this year.

There is pressure during the new year to make a fresh start. In a lot of ways a new beginning sounds great, but in a lot ways it doesn’t.  I’m in a sort of weird in-between limbo right now. And you know what? That’s fucking okay. I am striving to just be content with where I’m at rather than put pressure on myself to move too quickly (one of my intentions for 2019).

Saying Goodbye:

Ike in 2016.

Before I start my lists, I want to take a moment to speak on one the hardest months of my life. In January Ike was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given weeks to live. We were completely devastated. At only eight years old and in great health, the diagnosis came as a complete shock.

My little bandit.

Ike came from a longggggg line of Boston Terriers; we adopted his grandad Skittles when I was in middle school. He (and Porkchop) have always been such a constant in my life that letting him go was one of the absolute most difficult things I’ve ever had to do.

Thankfully the diagnosis proved to be incorrect in that the masses on his liver and pancreas weren’t in fact cancer. That news however, was coupled with the fact that the small mass in his chest (right between his lungs and heart) could prove to be fatal.

Best of brothers.

After two months of chemotherapy, I had high hopes that he could recover. Ike was a tough and stubborn dog; his abdominal masses were shrinking and he was doing great. When he started having issues breathing I hoped it might just be due to the change in the weather. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. The mass in his chest was growing. And there was nothing we could do to stop it.

Look at these babies! Ike was constantly judging everyone.

The vet told me this was a difficult way to pass away… and we would know when the end was here. We didn’t want our best boy to suffer. Even now, I can’t even talk about that day and the morning I had to make that decision, never knowing if it was right. I’m just so incredibly thankful to Chris, my friends here in Papa and far away, my family, and of course,  Porkchop and Arya.

Ike and his new sister Arya in 2017. She actually found the skin issue on the back of his neck (you can see it here in the picture too) that led to us beginning the tests.

I still expect him to grumpily come inside out of the rain or itch his face on the covers every morning. Chris still looks for him when he comes back from traveling for work. Arya and Porkchop were both really confused at first, but I think are doing better. PC really misses his little brother. We all miss this little guy.

Ike’s favorite pastime: sunning himself. On his last day with us he had all the sun.

I don’t really know how to end this except to say how heartbroken I still am. Some days are easier. Other days are really hard. If you’re reading this and are working through something difficult that happened to you this year, just know that you’re not alone. And its 100% okay to feel sad or guilty or angry or a combination of any and all the emotions. 

Best Places of 2018:

This year we saw incredible new places and had the opportunity to visit old favorites.

The Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland

Places we visited in 2018:

  • Belfast (and the coast), Northern Ireland
  • Berlin, Germany
  • Budapest, Hungary
  • Bratislava, Slovakia
  • Charleston, USA
  • Cleveland, USA
  • Dresden, Germany
  • Dublin, Ireland
  • Kethely, Hungary
  • Edinburgh, Scotland
  • Lisbon, Portugal
  • Peniche, Portugal
  • Prague, Czech Republic
  • San Francisco, USA
  • Seville, Spain
  • Vienna, Austria
  • Zagreb, Croatia

I’m extremely thankful to have the chance to visit a couple of our favorite spots with friends and family who made the leap over the ocean to spend time with us in Europe.

Fisherman’s Bastion, Budapest

Choosing my absolute favorite places is virtually impossible. Taking into account a number of factors, here are my picks for 2018 (in no particular order):

Coast of Northern Ireland

Christmas in Zagreb

Seville, Spain

Edinburgh, Scotland

Honorable mentions go to Budapest because of so many reasons, but specifically the Budapest Beer Week that was absolutely awesome.

Favorite Concerts of 2018:

This year was THE year of shows for us. We saw a ton of our usual musicians (Pokey LaFarge) and a couple of new ones (FINALLY Flight of the Conchords went on tour). Here’s a list of everyone we saw live in 2018:

  • A Perfect Circle
  • Flight of the Conchords
  • Franz Ferdinand
  • Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three
  • They Might be Giants
  • Jack White

My favorite shows of 2018:

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Middle school Ashlyn was absolutely ecstatic to see Franz Ferdinand. They were great–full of energy and fun–and sold out a huge space. 100% recommend. (Prague, Czech Republic)

Flight of the Conchords at Capitol Theatre

Finally saw Flight of the Conchords in real life. (Dublin, Ireland)

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Of course Jack White is at the top of the list. He was amazing (as always) and just as incredible as when we first saw him play in 2005. (Edinburgh, Scotland)

Special shout-out to Jane Goodall, who spoke in Budapest this year. Technically not a band, but it was truly a dream come true to see her in real life.

Favorite Books of 2018:

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via Cutiosities on Etsy

This year I surpassed my goal and read 41 books! 2018 was definitely a year of nerding out both in fiction and non-fiction. I joined a couple of book clubs (one here in Papa that connects readers from all over the world, Now Read This! A NYT/NPR collaboration, and of course Emma Watson’s Our Shared Shelf). My favorites are definitely influenced by a lot of the personal struggles I had this year. Here are my top books published in 2018:

#8. Things We Haven’t Said: Sexual Violence Survivors Speak Out (Erin E. Moulton): An anthology of stories of sexual assault, Things We Haven’t Said is a powerful book on why survivors struggle with speaking out on their experiences through providing an outlet to victims who typically don’t have one.

#7. Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny (Kate Manne): A professor of philosophy at Cornell University, Manne states that misogyny is “a social and political phenomenon with psychological, structural, and institutional manifestations” that enforce gender roles that continue to influence society today. Detailing the impact of these ideas both culturally and institutionally, Manne’s book provides context on why we expect (and allow, and in some ways, forgive) actions of one group of people over another. 

#6. Heart Berries: A Memoir (Terese Marie Mailhot): Mailhot’s memoir is raw and at times difficult to read. A Native author, this beautifully written book details her life in crisis: poverty, overcoming multiple disorders, losing custody of her child, growing up with an absent mother, and life on the Seabrid Island First Nation Indian reservation in British Columbia. 

#5. A Perilous Path: Talking Race, Inequality, and the Law (Sherrilyn Ifill, Loretta Lynch, Bryan Stevenson, and Anthony C. Thompson): This slim book (128 tiny pages) is a discussion on race in America by the leading civil rights leaders in the field. Their conversation on inequality and changing culture and institutions was one of my favorites this year.

#4. Where the Crawdads Sing (Delia Owens): Owens’ first novel, Where the Crawdads Sing is a gorgeously written story of a girl growing up alone in the marshes of North Carolina. I adored not only the descriptions (it reminded me so much of Charleston) but also Kya’s story of persevering on her own and in her own way.  

#3. Educated (Tara Westover): I finished Tara Westover’s memoir in two absolutely brutal days. Educated tells the remarkable story of Westover’s life from being born (sometime, her actual date of birth is unknown) to survivalist parents.  Their mistrust of medicine and education meant that she had very little experience of the outside world. Her desire and determination to leave home for education (eventually a PhD and at the disapproval of her family) is one of the most incredible (and impressive) stories I’ve read all year.

#2. One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression is Destroying our Democracy (Carol Anderson): Anderson discusses the implications of the 2016 election–the first in fifty years to be held without the complete protections of the Voting Rights Act–and how voter suppression systematically blocks the ability of many Americans to submit their ballots. Her work details the impact of Jim Crow and voter requirement laws implemented after the abolishment of slavery, the systematic disenfranchisement of black voters leading up to the Civil Rights Act, and the continuous suppression through various laws and redistricting today. 

#1. I’ll be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer (Michelle McNamara): My favorite book of 2018 is McNamara’s account of her obsession to help catch one the of the most horrifying rapists and murderers in United States history, the Golden State Killer (a name she coined). I’ll be Gone in the Dark is so well-written that you feel her passion and dedication to find the man who assaulted more than fifty woman and killed ten people on each page. The chilling final chapter–McNamara is speaking directly to GTK–and her prediction of how he might be caught is eerily similar to way it actually happened in reality, although she passed away unexpectedly before he was arrested.

There are also a ton of great books I read this year that were published before 2018 including Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward, Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram W. Kendi and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. 

Favorite Brunches of 2018:

It’s no surprise that brunch is my absolute favorite meal. Here are my favorites from 2018:

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#8. Blueorange (Vienna, Austria): This everything bagel from Blueorange was one of the best breakfast sandwiches I had in 2018 (a big accomplishment considering Chris is the king of making them). Brie, honey, walnuts, and greens… what else do you need in life?

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#7. Munchy Food Truck (Zagreb, Croatia): Who says it isn’t appropriate to order a homemade waffle covered in Nutella and bananas at 10am? If you dip it in coffee, it counts as breakfast.

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#6. Holy City Brewing (Charleston, SC): It’s no secret that HCB has my favorite brunch in Charleston. My last minute visit meant I had only one Sunday for brunch and this crunchwrap was absolutely the best decision I made all summer.

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#5. Urban House (Bratislava, Slovakia): The best Bloody Mary of 2018! Look at this amazing spread. My favorite dish is their vegetarian English breakfast–the greens are the tastiest part of the meal.

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#4. Maggie May’s (Belfast, Northern Ireland): Maggie May’s has the absolute best diner food. A small, cash-only restaurant in Belfast, their menu is extensive and the food is so genuinely good.

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#3. La Jeronima (Seville, Spain): This croissant was stuffed with roasted eggplant and honey marinated tofu (I can feel the collective “ugh” from meat-eaters reading this and the “ooooh!” from my veg friends haha). This tiny cafe in Seville had such a unique menu that I wish we were able to have breakfast there every day.

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#2. Copenhagen Coffee Lab & Bakery (Lisbon, Portugal): So here’s the thing–I love a solid avocado toast and this was hands-down the best I had all year. Heather and I chose this PLUS sweets with no regrets. Not pictured is the hot ham breakfast sandwich that Chris ordered that smelled so good, Karl had to get one for himself (second breakfast for the win).

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#1. 3FE (Dublin, Ireland): Look at this scotch egg! These hash browns! In addition to their amazing menu 3FE also hosts coffee tastings and training for those interested in learning more about roasting their own blend. This tiny cafe earns my favorite brunch of 2018.

Favorite Podcasts of 2018:

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I love podcasts. Sometimes I don’t turn on our TV for what feels like weeks because (nerd alert) I’ve discovered a new show and binged all the episodes in a few days. Similar to my book choices, my favorite podcasts are heavily influenced by a lot of my personal struggles and growth this year. Here are my favorite podcasts published in 2018:

#8. Believed (National Public Radio): The goal of Believed is to answer the question so many people have asked: How did Larry Nassar get away with decades of abuse to hundreds of girls and women? Their interviews with survivors and parents can be an extremely difficult listen, but necessary if we want to learn how to change the system that allowed for this abuse to occur for so long. 

#7. Keep It! (Crooked Media): Keep It! is my weekly guilty pleasure podcast. Hosted by Ira Madison III, Kara Brown, and Louis Virtel, they hilariously discuss the intersection of pop culture and politics. Kara also has my favorite frustrated statement of 2018: “people just need to read!”

#6. Uncivil (Gimlit Media): The only reason Uncivil isn’t number one on my list is because  most of their episodes were published in 2017 and therefore didn’t qualify as a “2018” show. Discovered late this year, this was one of my binges of 2018. Each episode “ransacks America’s past” and tells an untold story related to the Civil War.

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#5. My Favorite Murder (Exactly Right): My favorite true crime podcast, MFM is hosted by Karen Kilgarariff and Georgia Hardstark. Each week they share stories of murder, cults, and hometown stories from listeners. Not only discussing true crime, Karen and Georgia are also super open about their own struggles with mental health, finding time for self-care, and sparked a million taglines including the famous “stay sexy and don’t get murdered”, “you’re in a cult, call your dad”, and my personal favorite: “can’t you see from my really thick black eyeliner that I’m no one’s mother?”

#4. R U Talkin’ REM: Re: ME? (Earwolf): As stated by Scott Aukerman, it truly is the year of R U Talkin’ REM Re: Me. Hosted by the superfan Adam Scott Aukerman (Adam Scott [Parks & Rec] and Aukerman [the hugely underrated Comedy Bang Bang!]), this podcast discusses the impact of R.E.M.’s music album by album. Their banter is hilarious and each episode is filled with smaller episodes (“Is this an episode of ‘I Love Films?'”) that Chris and I always played during our hours on the road this year. 

#3. GymCastic: The Gymnastics Podcast (Gymcastic): Definitely a niche podcast for fans of the sport, Gymcastic makes the top of my list not only because of their analysis of the sport (and mostly hilarious takes on competition, scoring, and love for the athletes) but their unrelenting dedication to discussing the Larry Nassar abuse that finally began to garner mainstream media coverage this year. Each week hosts Jessica and Spencer held MSU, USA Gymnastics, and the USOC accountable and provided an outlet to athletes and survivors. Their coverage of not just the abuse, but of the cover-up and mismanagement makes Gymcastic one of the my favorites this year. 

#2. Serial Season Three: The Cleveland Court System (This American Life): Rather than focus on one particular story (unlike seasons one and two) season three instead tells the “extraordinary stories of ordinary stories” taking place at a courthouse in Cleveland. These  largely untold narratives of people working through the complicated (and convoluted) justice system was one of the most frustrating and heartbreaking podcasts I listened to in 2018. 

#1. Scene on Radio Season Three: Men (The Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University): I loved season two (“Seeing White” featuring Dr. Chenjerai Kumanyika, host of Uncivil) so I was really looking forward to season three of Duke University’s podcast. With the goal of discussing “How did we get sexism, patriarchy, misogyny in the first place? How can we get better at seeing it, and what can we do about it?” hosts Jown Biewen and Celeste Headlee tackle a topic each week and provide feedback on how we can combat these systems. The episode “Himpathy” was the most difficult and impactful for me; it featured input from Kate Manne on not only why survivors of abuse feel sympathy for their abusers, but also how society does as well. 

Extra love to Pardon My Take and Fantasy Football Focus, which I binged throughout the entire NFL season. 

Favorite TV Shows of 2018:

This year I hardly watched any new shows (too much reading and podcasting I suppose) so my list is embarrassingly small. But here are the shows you absolutely need to watch:

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#5. Ballers Season Four: If you know me, you’re not surprised by this choice. Listen, I love the Rock. I love Rob Cordray. I love football. Is this a ridiculous show? Yes. Do I love it? Yes. Does the plot matter? Nah, not really.

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#4. Better Call Saul Season Four: One of my favorite shows continues to get better with this newest season. Bob Odenkirk and Jonathan Banks are still absolutely amazing as Saul and Mike. The return of Gus Fring (one of the best characters of Breaking Bad) makes this season binge-worthy for sure. The season finale nearly gave me a heart attack.

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#3. End of the F***ing World: Technically the show premiered in the UK in 2017, but it wasn’t picked up and added to Netflix until 2018, so it counts for me. I loved this show. Jessica Barden and Alex Lawther are superb as Alyssa and James. Their relationship is endearing, odd, and their adventure to find her birth father completely drew you into the show; the final episode was amazingly filmed. I’m so glad it was picked up for a second season.

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#2. Game of Thrones Season Seven: Finally, this year I got into GOT. I always begrudgingly sort of paid attention to the show over the years but never committed (why is everyone so dirty?) until this year. Maybe call it the revenge of Arya Stark or the undeniable affection I have for Tormund, but I’m 100% in moving forward. Better late than never.

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#1. Sharp Objects: Yep, Sharp Objects beats Game of Thrones for me. The combination of Amy Adams, Patricia Clarkson, and Eliza Scanlen gives me LIFE. Incredibly creepy and at times jarring, Sharp Objects was my favorite show of 2018. Closer was my favorite episode that also creeped me out the most.

Here’s to 2019!

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Currently Reading: My Sister, the Serial Killer (Oyinkan Braithwaite)

Currently Watching: Ozark Season 1 (Netflix)Ashlyn (2)

 

 

 

Octavia E. Butler

Welcome to the inaugural Queens You Should Know post! This is where I’ll discuss a woman you SHOULD know but for patriarchy reasons, maybe haven’t heard of yet.

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The QUEEN Octavia E. Butler

I first learned of Octavia E. Butler in 2011 when one of her novels, Kindred, was assigned in my Political Science capstone. My professor studied dystopian fiction and the course, my final Political Science class of undergrad, was centered around the intersection of politics and literature. Kindred tells the story of a woman who travels back in time to the plantation owned by her white slavemaster ancestors. The book is great and I highly recommend reading, especially for young adults.

Butler herself was an amazing woman and an absolute genius; she’s the only science fiction writer of any gender or color to be awarded the MacArthur Fellowship, literally known as the “genius grant”. The “grand dame” of the genre, Butler inspired countless writers of color through her work. Her stories center around a strong female lead struggling to overcome the world around her, very much a reflection of Butler’s own life.

 

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Google honored Butler on her 71st birthday this year with a doodle.

“I began writing about power because I had so little,” Butler notes in The Science Fiction of Octavia Butler by Carolyn Davidson. Born July 22, 1947 in Pasadena, California, Butler’s parents were a housemaid and shoeshine man. Her father passed away when she was young and as a result, Butler was raised by her mother and a strict Baptist grandmother. Both women greatly influenced how Butler saw the world: she grew up learning stories of the blatant racism shown to her mother by her employers.

As a young girl, Butler described herself at the time as “ugly and stupid, clumsy, and socially hopeless” (which honestly haven’t we all felt that way at least once in our lives?)  and grew to love reading and writing because of her shyness and dyslexia. Spending most of her time at the local Pasadena library (a woman after my own heart), Butler decided she wanted to become a writer. This choice was met with harsh criticism, not just from society–but from her own family as well. Her aunt told a young Butler: “Honey, Negroes can’t be writers” a reflection of generations of structural racism and segregation experienced by women of color.

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via Etsy

Butler could not be deterred from pursuing her dream of writing. While many science fiction authors use the genre as an escape from reality, Butler instead wrote “as a pointed reflection of the most minute and magnified experiences that frame and determine the lives of those who live in black skin.” She attended Pasadena Community College, enrolled in writing courses at UCLA, and participated in numerous workshops before selling her first story, “Crossover” in 1971. Harlan Ellison, a famed author at the time, purchased Butler’s stories for two anthologies.

However, Butler’s success was not immediate. She worked temporary jobs that allowed her more free time to write. As she grew older and more experienced, Butler became increasingly irritated at the lack of female representation noting in “Octavia E. Butler: Telling My Stories”:

“Why aren’t there more sci-fi black writers? There aren’t because there aren’t. What we don’t see, we assume can’t be. What a destructive assumption.”

Finally, Butler was able to write full-time following the publication of Patternmaster (1976) and the prequels to the novel, Mind of My Mind (1977), Survivor (1978), Wild Seed (1980), and Clay’s Ark (1984). Kindred, the novel I read in my Political Science capstone, was her first mainstream success. Inspired by comments made by a classmate regarding the history of subservience of black ancestors to white people, Butler hoped Kindred would tell the story of a “silent but courageous survival”.

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In 1984 and 1985 Butler won the Hugo Award for her short stories, along with the Locus Award and the Science Fiction Chronicle Reader Award for Best Novelette. She then published the Xenogenesis trilogy: Dawn (1987), Adulthood Rites (1988), and Imago (1989). The Parable novels were published in 1993 (Parable of the Sower) and 1998 (Parable of the Talents). The story of a girl escaping a society torn apart due to climate change, shit governance, and wealth inequality, the Parable novels “effectively cemented Butler’s place in the upper echelons of science fiction.” I read Parable of the Sower this summer (thank you Colleen!) and it truly is an amazing story.

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Butler’s notes for Parable of the Sower (1989) on display at the Huntington Library, Art Collections.

In Parable of the Sower, again Butler lets us all know that we are not alone in our sometimes negative feelings about ourselves; she describes herself in the author section as:

“Who am I? I am a forty-seven-year-old writer who can remember being a ten-year-old writer and who expects someday to be an eighty-year-old writer. I am also comfortably asocial — a hermit.… A pessimist if I’m not careful, a feminist, a Black, a former Baptist, an oil-and-water combination of ambition, laziness, insecurity, certainty, and drive.”

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Hell yeah.

While Butler hoped to continue the Parable series with four sequels, she found the research too depressing to finish. In 2005 she published her final novel Fledging, a work that combined Butler’s unique sci-fi with vampire lore.

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A collection of Butler’s novels

Butler used her wealth not only to help others but also, and for probably her most radical resolution, to do what is right. In “Break in Case of Emergency: Octavia E. Butler’s Legacy” Gary Dauphin notes:

“that resolution is not just in her framing of personal wealth and fame as means to ameliorative largess — ‘I will send poor black youngster to Clarion or other writer’s workshop. I will help poor black youngsters broaden their horizons. I will help poor black youngsters go to college.’ — but in Butler’s daily commitment to the details of her life.”

In 2006 Octavia E. Butler passed away at the very young age of 59 in her Washington home. Her novels and simple passion for doing what is right continues to inspire writers and performers today. While “doing what is right” may be simple in words, it is not always easy in practice. For Butler, growing up in a segregated America with little representation of women, especially women of color, she dedicated her life to combat structural racism and show that yes, we are here and have the right to occupy space too.

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A slide from the 2016 conference on Butler’s work, Shaping Change. via Instagram.

Embrace your inner Octavia and support your local library, do what is right, and be your best self, even if that means embracing all your qualities that may annoy you (just like Octavia did). You can learn more about Octavia and her work online and at her’s estate’s display at the Huntington Library.

Ashlyn

Sources:

Brown, Mike. 2018. “Octavia E. Butler: How Science-Fiction Author Battled Racism in Her Works.” Inverse. Available here.

Dauphin, Gary. 2017. “Break in Case of Emergency: Octavia E. Butler’s Legacy.” KCET Online. Available here.

Ngangura, Tari. 2018. “Octavia Butler and America as only Black Women See it.” SyFy Wire. Available here.

Sommerlad, Joe. 2018. “Octavia E. Butler: Who was the Black Science Fiction Writer who Overcame Prejudice and Poverty?” The Independent. Available here.

Vonn, Kodi. 2018. “The Forgotten Genius of Sci-Fi & Feminist Author, Octavia E. Butler.” Medium. Available here.

 

Queens You Should Know

For a number of reasons (mostly patriarchial but that’s for another time), our history books and literature are dominated by white men. By omitting the contributions of women, we are essentially erasing their impact; this is particularly true for women of color. Sure, it’s great to know the societal contributions of men (give us the ENTIRE story though), but that occupied space is at the expense of telling the stories of women who have also shaped our history and culture.

Don’t believe me? Let’s check:

  • How many female scientists can you list?
  • Are there any historical women you can name that are noteworthy not only because of who they are married to (bonus points if you have examples that are not popular because of their beauty/sexualized version)?
  • Name five female literary authors that are also women of color.
  • What is the percentage of women serving in the United States government? How many of THOSE women are POC?

Huzzah to you if you were able to answer even one of these questions because according to one study, women make up 50% of our population but yet only .5% of our recorded history. Research conducted in 2016 found that 40% of respondents thought women did not impact history as much as men. Ahem.

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The purpose of  QYSK is to tell those untold stories of women who have contributed to the arts, sciences, politics, justice, AND THE WORLD that were left out of our history books. We’ve always been here; you probably just haven’t heard of us. In the words of the Spanish protestors during the first International Women’s Day: “If we stop, the world stops.”

Post-Nassar Fallout Continues: October Updates on MSU and USAG.

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The US Women’s Team (from left to right) Ragan Smith, Morgan Hurd, Simone Biles, Kara Eaker, Riley McCusker, and Grace McCallum

This week the United States women and men compete at the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Doha, Qatar. These athletes are competing amid new controversy and unrest (what a surprise, oh wait, no this is the new norm) surrounding the leadership at USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University.

Here we go:

Larry Nassar recorded himself drugging and raping a student-athlete; MSU covered up the abuse.

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Larry Nassar in 2018.

As the September 10th deadline for lawsuits approached, a shocking (or at this point is it?) account was filed that detailed the drugging, rape, and as a result, impregnation of former Michigan State University field hockey player Erika Davis by Larry Nassar. The assault occurred in 1992 and the university, even when presented with video evidence, not only refused to fire Nassar, but also forced Davis and her coach to resign.

Davis was 17 when she was seen by Nassar for “treatment” after injuring her knee. Nassar, not a licensed physician at the time, was working as an athletic trainer and a student at MSU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine. During her examination, he used his mouth and hands on her breasts while be recorded by an unnamed man in the room. At the following appointment, Davis states that she was given a crushed pill without explanation; this made her immobile and. a short time later, realized that Nassar was raping her.

Davis then reported the rape to two close friends and her coach, Martha Ludwig, who confronted Nassar in May of 1991. George Perles, the Athletic Director for MSU at the time, forced Ludwig to return the tape, drop her complaint, and sign a non-disclosure agreement. Davis then reported the abuse to a “dorm mom” after realizing she was pregnant with Nassar’s child as a result of the rape. Following a miscarriage, Davis, along with two friends, reported the rape to Michigan State University. According to the lawsuit:

“The police told them that since she was an athlete, she had to report it to the athletic department. The detective explicitly told them that he was powerless to investigate anything that takes place to the athletic department and to go to the athletic department.

Davis also alleges that the sergeant who gave her this information called Perles a ‘powerful man’ and suggested she drop the issue. Perles took over as the university’s athletic director in 1990. He stayed on as the football coach through 1994, but stepped down from his post as athletic director in May 1992, around the same time that Ludwig approached him, according to the lawsuit.”

Davis lost her athletic scholarship shortly after reporting the abuse. Ludwig was forced to resign. Perles is currently a trustee on MSU’s Board. In August, the NCAA cleared Michigan State of any violations after allegations of assault were made against the university’s football and basketball teams (see this post for more information on those claims).

MSU Victim Fund Temporarily Halted

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Michigan State University established a counseling fund for the survivors of Nassar’s assault in early 2018. Former MSU student-athletes, health clinic patients, and parents of survivors had access to the fund to pay for counseling, mental health services, as well as reimbursement for past appointments. This counseling fund is separate from the settlement made by MSU to the over 300 survivors.

Payments from the $10 million fund have been halted after a concern over “possible fraudulent claims” were made in July. Details on the alleged fraud, how the investigation will be carried out, and the length of time payments will be unavailable were not made public. Survivor Trinea Gonczar stated:

“’It’s almost like we’re back at square one, and you feel like you’re starting over and you’re re-victimized and you’re back in the trenches all over again,’ said Gonczar.

University officials said in July they’re stopping payments from the healing assistance fund over fraud concerns.

‘There’s no allegation that’s actually a victim, or a survivor,’ said MSU Interim President John Engler.”

Former & Current MSU Employees Under Investigation

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A protest outside of Michigan State University

A number of current and former Michigan State University employees are under investigation for their involvement with Nassar’s abuse:

  • Former MSU Psychologist Gary Stollak surrendered his psychology license after failing to report Nassar to authorities following a 2004 session with survivor Kyle Stephens. After telling her parents about Nassar’s molestation in their family home, Stollack brought Stephens, her parents, and Nassar into a session in which her parents were convinced that Kyle, six years old at the time, was lying. Nassar abused her for the following six years. Her father later committed suicide. One of the few women abused in a non-medical setting, Kyle was the first survivor to read her statement during Nassar’s hearing.
  • Sports Trainer Lianna Hadden is under investigation while still employed at the University. Two survivors (Tiffany Thomas Lopez and Jennifer Rood Beford) reportedly spoke of Nassar’s abuse to Hadden in the 2000s.
  • Destiny Teachnor-Hauk (still an athletic trainer for the gymnastics team) and Dr. Brooke Lemmen, (no longer employed) are currently under investigation as they contributed to the 2014 Title IX complaint against Nassar. Their medical testimonies helped clear the former doctor of any abuse. Lemmen also removed patient files from Nassar’s work computer.
  • Dr. William Strampel, the former dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine and Nassar’s boss, was charged with felony misconduct, fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, and two counts of willful neglect of duty that occurred while Nassar was being investigated.
  • Kathie Klages, former Head Coach for the women’s gymnastics program, was arrested for lying to police during the Nassar investigation. Klages has also been accused of failing to report Nassar’s abuse on multiple occasions: two women told investigators that they informed Klages of the molestation in 1997. During the investigation, Klages told the mother of a survivor that the thousands of child pornography images found on Nassar’s computer was planted, as well as forced her athletes to write the former doctor a support letter after he was arrested.

More Survivors Come Forward

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Tasha Schwikert is the tenth Olympian to come forward as a survivor. From left to right, top to bottom: Tasha Schwikert (2000), Jordyn Wieber (2012). Aly Raisman (2012 and 2016), Jamie Dantzscher (2000), Simone Biles (2016), McKayla Maroney (2012), Madison Kocian (2016), Gabrielle Douglas (2012 and 2016) and Kyla Ross (2012). Not pictured: Morgan White (2000).

Last week Olympic and World medalist Tasha Schwikert came forward as a survivor of Larry Nassar’s abuse. The 2000 Olympian tweeted:

“’After months of grappling with the decision, I have decided to come forward as a victim of Larry Nassar. I want to join my former teammates and fellow survivors to help enact REAL change at @USAGym and @TeamUSA. #MeToo.

“I refuse to remain a victim. It is time for @USAGym and @TeamUSA to come clean and be held accountable for the toxic environment that enabled Nassar’s abuse. Only then will we see REAL change.”

Tasha’s sister, Jordan,  a former USA Gymnastics athlete and UCLA Bruin, also stated that Nassar abused her as well.

Schwikert is now the second member of the bronze medal-winning Olympic team to come forward; she was the youngest athlete to compete for any sport at the 2000 Olympics.

Schwikert noted that former USAG president and CEO Steve Penny pressured her to publicly support USAG while the Nassar abuse story began to gain traction with the mainstream media:

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Tasha’s statement posted on USAG’s Twitter account at the same time her former teammates were interviewed by 60 Minutes.

There are now more than 333 survivors that have publicly come forward.

Interim CEO Mary Bono Resigns

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Former California Representative Mary Bono.

Interim USA Gymnastics CEO Mary Bono resigned last week after only five days in the position. The decision to appoint Bono as CEO was problematic as she formerly worked for Faegre Baker Daniels, the law firm that represented USA Gymnastics against the athletes that filed charges against the organization during the Nassar investigation.

The decision outraged many former and current gymnasts including Aly Raisman:

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While the law firm is global and represents a number of clients, the choice to appoint a former attorney that worked for an organization paid to cover up Nassar’s abuse proved to be too big of an issue to overcome.

In addition to the concerns over her work with Faegre Baker Daniels, Bono also tweeted her opposition to Nike’s decision to create a campaign with former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who started the civil protest of kneeling during the national anthem to raise awareness for racial injustice and police brutality. In her tweet, Bono posted a picture of herself covering the Nike swoosh with a permanent marker.

Simone Biles, in her first year competing since the 2016 Olympics, is a Nike representative, survivor, and current National Champion. She tweeted:

“’mouth drop don’t worry, it’s not like we needed a smarter usa gymnastics president or any sponsors or anything.’

USA Gymnastics has been without an apparel sponsor since Under Armour announced that it was ending its partnership with the organization in December.”

Bono resigned less than a week after being named to the position.

Former USAG CEO Steve Penny Arrested

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Steve Penny’s mugshot following his arrest.

On October 18th, former president and CEO of USA Gymnastics Steve Penny was arrested after a grand jury indicted him for tampering with evidence related to the Nassar investigation. The third-degree felony states that Penny ordered documents from the Karolyi Ranch (the US Olympic Training Center) illegally be removed and brought to USA Gymnastics headquarters in Indianapolis:

“The removal of the documents was done for the purpose of impairing the ongoing investigation by destroying or hiding the documents.

[…]

The Texas Rangers and the detectives believe that those records are material to their investigation and that the removal of the records by Penny prevented them from reviewing documents that would have helped in their investigation of Nassar as well as assisted with the investigation of other offenses that may have occurred at the Karolyi ranch.”

Penny, who resigned from USA Gymnastics in March 2017, received a severance package from the now near-bankrupt organization of over $1 million dollars. When testifying before the Senate earlier this year, Penny pleaded the fifth and walked out of the hearing. Former Senior Vice President of the Women’s Program, Rhonda Faehn, also testified at the hearing; she stated that medical records had been removed from the Karolyi Ranch. Former World, Olympic, and National Champion Jordyn Wieber stated in her lawsuit against USAG that her medical files were missing.

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The US women compete in the qualifying competition of the 2018 World Championships tomorrow and are expected to win. If they do, they will have done so despite their governing organization, which has proven repeatedly that they are incapable of appointing qualified leaders to the highest positions.

Simone Biles has proved to be the most important person in USA Gymnastics and has seemed to find her voice in this role. During the National Championships, Simone publicly criticized then CEO Kerry Perry for her lack of leadership while also wearing a teal leotard to support victims of sexual assault. As the greatest gymnast of any generation, she singlehandedly closed down the Karolyi Ranch as the National Training Center. On how she disagreed with the appointment of Bono as the interim CEO Biles stated: “I said what I said. Maybe after Doha, I’ll be open to more questions about that.”

The fact that the team is currently at the World Championships, training well and seemingly positive, while the chaos of USAG ensues, is a testament to their mental and emotional strength. Regardless if they win gold or finish last, this is a team that has persevered.

Currently Reading: Praise Song for the Butterflies (by Bernice L. McFadden) Ashlyn

Currently Listening: Sharp Objects Season One Soundtrack

South City Center & Dublin Bay

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Oh Dublin. You lovely, gorgeous, and fun city. We visited Dublin three times this year to see They Might Be Giants and Flight of the Conchords and fell in love with everything Dublin has to offer. From the great whiskey, to the boxty restaurants, and the amazing views, the city is a must visit for me.

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This is part 2 of our Dublin adventures and I’ll be highlighting our stops in the Southern part of the City Center as well as Dublin Bay.

The Sights:

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View of the River Liffey from the Ha’Penny Bridge

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Dublin City Hall was built from 1769-1779.

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Dublin Castle

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Dublin Castle, the location of the inauguration of the first President of Ireland in 1922.

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Chris: “I need to charge my Nintendo Switch.”

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Dublin Castle

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Dublin Castle

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The gardens at the Castle were absolutely beautiful.

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A building I loved.

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Near Temple Bar.

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View from the North Wall.

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St. Andrew’s Church

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Ballsbridge, Ireland

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View from the North Wall

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View from the canal

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Bay of Dublin

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Queen of Dublin Bay

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The tide was out and I joked about bringing Porkchop, Ike, and Arya here. Ike absolutely hated the beach but I thought he’d enjoy trotting around while avoiding the water.

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The Famine Statues commemorate the Great Famine of the mid 1800s when over one million people died and over a million Irish emigrated from Ireland. The Famine was caused by a potato disease that decimated the potato crop in Ireland. This was further exasperated by political, social, and economic factors that in turn saw the population of the country drop by 25%.

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Via the Irish Times. Hodges & Figgis is an amazing bookstore that I highly recommend. 

The Restaurants & Bars:

3FE:

3FE is an absolutely amazing coffee and brunch spot located near Grand Canal Street. They specialize in coffee and even host classes and subscriptions for customers hoping to bolster their coffee game. In addition to their great coffee, 3FE also has an ever-evolving brunch menu which featured a giant Scottish egg and broccolini when we visited.

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HerbStreet:

Just on the banks of the Grand Canal, HerbStreet is a solid brunch restaurant with Irish menu options and desserts. Bundled in blankets even under the sunshine, we ordered breakfast and enjoyed the beautiful location. Our server was a little shocked that I ordered both sweet (banana pancakes) and savory (forest mushrooms) but I couldn’t help but order #ALLTHETHINGS

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Best mushrooms ever.

The Farm:

The Farm is located right across from my favorite bookstore (again, you see a theme here and also why my love for Dublin is so great) and boats a small, but awesome menu. Even though I’m generally meh about salads, I had to order this “everything and the kitchen sink” salad that was probably one of the best meals I’ve had in Europe. Chris had the burger and loved it.

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The Porterhouse (in Temple Bar):

The Porterhouse in the Temple Bar was Dublin’s first craft beer bar and opened in 1996. They have a ton of taps and a solid menu including burgers and nachos. With two different levels and multiple bars, this is a great stop if you’re exploring the City Center.

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Elephant & Castle and Gallagher’s Boxty House:

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Located right next to each other!

Elephant & Castle:

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Located in Dublin’s Temple Bar region, we had lunch at Elephant & Castle on a super rainy Irish afternoon and loved it. Known for their wings, Chris and I surprisingly ordered soup and sandwiches, which were great. The cafe is small but lovely if you’re in the area (get their homemade soup!)

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Gallagher’s Boxty House:

For Gallagher’s Boxy House, their motto is “the humble spud made beautiful” and wow do they deliver. Not only do they offer boxty dishes as pancakes and pasta, but they also deep fry their boxty dough as frites (all the hearts for eyes emojis)! I ordered the fall special which featured sweet potatoes, kale, and sage. AMAZING.

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Visit Dublin!

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Watching: Student Athlete (HBO Documentaries)

Reading: A Perilous Path (Ifill, Lynch, Stenvenson, Thompson)

A Good Story Has to Be Distilled: North Dublin & City Center

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This year Chris and I traveled to Dublin three times: for the Flight of the Conchords (postponed), Flight of the Conchords (rescheduled), and to see a They Might Be Giants show. All three visits were amazing and I am thankful for the opportunities to explore Ireland while also seeing two bands that I have loved for literally ten years.

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Binary solo

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Chris: “Can I play Switch here?”

Due to the sheer gorgeousness and amazing food the city has to offer, I’ll be dividing up our Dublin adventures into two posts: North of the City Center/City Center(ish) and North Wall/Dublin Bay. These divisions are extremely geographically scientific (not) and based mostly on how we explored the city.

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Dublin is the largest and capital city of Ireland. Established in the 7th century (!!) by Celtic speakers, Dublin was later expanded by the Vikings in the 10th century and remained under their control until 1169 when the Norman invasion of Ireland began from Wales. Divided by the River Laffey, the city is also near next to Dublin Bay, an inlet of the Irish Sea. The Easter Rising of 1916, the Irish War of Independence, and the Irish Civil War all contributed greatly to the destruction of Dublin.

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While the British crushed the Irish uprising in 1916, the support for an Irish Free State, free entirely from British rule, grew until civil war broke out between the two groups. In May 1921, Ireland was partitioned by the British, resulting in the creation of Northern Ireland, which remained under British rule, and the Irish Free State, which later became Ireland. Gaelic originated in Ireland and remains the national and first official language of the city.

The Sights:

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St. Mary’s of the Angels

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National Library of Ireland 

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Mural of characters from James Joyce’s Ulysses by Irish artist James Earley. 

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Dublin’s Grand Canal

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The Jameson Distillery! Definitely take the tour if you have a chance. Their tours are fun, interactive, and include a free drink. 

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A tasting comparing different types of whiskey. 

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The Garden of Remembrance (via Culture Trip) commemorates those who gave their lives for the Irish fight for freedom. A poem by Liam Mac Uistin at the monument includes the final line: ‘Bondage became freedom and this we left to you as your inheritance. O generations of freedom remember us, the generations of the vision.’

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Via the Irish Times. The Winding Stair is an AMAZING bookstore with a ton of options and features a selection of Irish authors.

Restaurants & Bars: 

Brother Hubbard:

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Brother Hubbard North is an amazing middle eastern inspired brunch and dinner restaurant located just a short walk from the river. Chris had a breakfast sandwich and I happily ordered this glorious avocado toast with poached eggs.

Woodstock Phibsborough:

Woodstock is located about a thirty-minute walk from Dublin’s city center and has a ton of great breakfast options. The cafe has a cafeteria-ordering style which means you can get #ALLTHETHINGS plus whatever complete menu dishes you’d like. Again, I went with the homemade toast and poached eggs.

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The Woolen Mills:

So good we had to go twice. The Woolen Mills is located right on the river and next to the Winding Stair, which is perfect for people who love bookstores and changing menus (me). They offer really unique dishes and cocktails, and with the tables in front of the kitchen, customers can watch the chefs as they cook. I can’t recommend the Woolen Mills enough.

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Irish onion squash with Cooleeney cheese, tomato, onion, and sage polenta.

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Irish beef cheek and shin burger

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Roasted mushroom croquette

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Whiskey and marmalade bacon ribs

The Black Sheep:

We loved the Black Sheep! Owned by Galway Bay Brewery, the restaurant boasts a ton of craft beer taps, wings, and a stellar Irish cheese plate. Initially, we thought we’d visit for an hour or two, but ended up staying for dinner. Highly recommend.

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The Bald Eagle:

The Bald Eagle Food & Beer Co. is a great pub located near Woodstock. Super relaxed and with a solid craft beer menu, they also have a great late night “proper food” menu including wings, nachos, and best of all, GARLIC BREAD.

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Stay easy friends.

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In case you needed a reminder today

Currently Reading: Not that Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture (Roxanne Gray)Ashlyn (2)

Currently Listening: Serial Season 3

 

My Travel Map

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Nerd Alert, but I ❤ Maps. I’ve put all our favorite sites, restaurants, tap rooms, and shops in one handy Google Map that you can download and take with you!

How to Use: Just click the link above or on the map below to open the map. If on an Andriod or iPhone, the map will open in the Google Maps app. If opened on a computer, the map will open in your Google account. The map has four separate layers so make sure you have your chosen option is enabled (the box is checked) to view the locations in each city.

MWA on the Go: You can access the Middle World Adventures map later by opening the app, tapping menu Menu, then Your Places, then Maps.

Hope you enjoy it!

Ashlyn (2)

 

The Post-Nassar Dumpster Fire Part 1: USA Gymnastics

Don’t let the pug pattern fool you. I needed a positive aspect to this post.

Ah yes, the dumpster fire that is the aftermath of the Nassar abuse continues to burn. At this point it seems that the leadership at both Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics are adding gasoline, not water, to the situation. When is enough, enough?

Want to recap? I have you covered. But also:

 

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Admittedly, I have been delayed in writing these updates because I realized I actually needed to take a step away for my own mental and emotional well-being. So, we have a lot to discuss. Before we get to the recent events, let’s overview what has happened the past month:

  • Former USAG CEO Steve Penny plead the fifth at a Congressional hearing. Bonus– someone yelled “SHAME” as he exited the room, straight up GOT style.
  • USAG CEO Kerry Perry lies under oath.
  • Tom Forster is the new High Performance Team Coordinator for the Women’s Program (Marta Karolyi’s old position with a fancy new name).
  • Larry Nassar asked for a new trial and Judge Aquilina denied his motion.
  • The number of survivors is now over 400 women and children. This month numerous former and current athletes have come forward including 2000 Olympian Morgan White, Former National Team Members and current Alabama gymnasts Bailee Key and Amanda Jetter, as well as 2012 Olympian Kyla Ross and 2016 Olympian Madison Kocian, who both now compete for UCLA. This means that the entire 2012 Olympic Team and 4/5 of the 2016 Olympic Team are survivors of Nassar’s abuse.

Simone is Back. And She’s Not Here to Save USA Gymnastics.

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Simone Biles at the 2018 GK Classic

The big news this month is that not only is Simone back, but she is better than ever and not taking any shit from her sport’s governing organization. The GOAT of Artistic Gymnastics, Simone won the US Championships with the highest score of this new code of points #casual

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Simone came into Championships with even more upgrades. She was only in the gym for nine months. Is anyone surprised? Simone is even stronger than she was in 2016 and freaking killing it.

Simone gave an interview after the first training day of National Championships where she responded to a question about how she has to carry the positivity of the entire sport on her shoulders:

“No, it’s not fair to me because I can’t carry the whole gymnastics world on me. But I guess it’s kind of exciting I can bring some happiness back to the sport.”

When asked whether she believed USAG CEO Kerry Perry was doing enough to create change within American gymnastics, Simone stated:

“That’s a good question. I’m not so sure yet. Hopefully, it’s going in the right direction but nobody can know until Kerry Perry speaks up. It’s kind of hard.”

Asked if she thinks it’s time for Perry to take on a more public persona, Biles responded simply ‘yes, it’s her job.'”

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In a later interview Biles continued speaking about Perry’s lack of interest:

“She really hasn’t talked to my family too much. We had an interaction in January, but it was like, ‘Hey … just kind of passing through.’ That was it.”

Simone’s face after being asked about Perry’s lack of leadership is really all of our expressions.

Also important to note is that the US Championships were held in Boston, Aly Raisman’s hometown. She was not invited to the event as a guest of USAG; historically, previous Olympians have been invited by the organization to participate in signings and interactions with fans. Aly believed the snub was due to the fact that USAG does not want anything to do with her because she continues to demand change.

Perry did give a “press conference” at the end of US Championships. If you call reading a prepared statement, refusing to allow journalists to record her or ask certain questions an actual press conference.

USAG Hires Mary Lee Tracy. Then Asks to Resign. Or Fires Her. Or ????

Alright, try and follow along with me on one of the most bizarre and baffling developments that USA Gymnastics has managed to fumble as they “try” to “rebuild”.

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#1: USAG Names Mary Lee Tracy the Development Coordinator

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If you are the vintage gymnastics fan (read: born in the 80s and follow the Olympics), you’ll remember Mary Lee Tracy as one of the Head Coaches of the 1996 Olympic Team (along with Marta Karolyi). What you probably don’t know regarding Tracy’s history is her support of Larry Nassar even after FIFTY athletes came forward in 2016 detailing their abuse. On August 28th, USAG named her the Elite Development Coordinator for the Women’s Program. This position primarily focuses on working with junior athletes before they reach the elite level.

Let’s recap: In 2016, Tracy, unprovoked, gave an interview where she not only publicly sided with Nassar, but called him “amazing” the same time he was arrested for possession of child pornography (37,000 images):

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Later, Tracy would take to social media (a trend you’ll see as this shitshow progresses)  to victim-shame Aly Raisman as she talked about the horrible conditions at the National Training Center aka the Karolyi Ranch:

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She later got extremely defensive when Aly’s mom mentioned that Tracy may have had a different experience from the athletes, to which she responded:

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These are the greatest gymnasts in the world who were systematically being sexually and emotionally abused, starved, and put in the most stressful of situations. But sure, be happy that YOU have your own “little space”. Also, it should be noted that Nassar was the only adult allowed in the rooms of the athletes, where he often sexually abused them. So be thankful (#blessed) that Tracy had her own space because the athletes actually did not receive the same luxury.

For the record, two of Tracy’s former athletes have publicly come forward as survivors.

#2: Former Gymnasts Publicly Express Disappointment

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The next day Aly tweeted:

“USA Gymnastics has appointed someone who, in my view, supported Nassar, victim-shamed survivors, & has shown no willingness to learn from the past. This is a slap in the face for survivors, & further confirmation that nothing at has changed. What a profound disappointment!”

Former Cincinnati gymnast and 2000 Olympic Alternate Alyssa Beckerman also posted that both her coach and the gym atmosphere were so abusive needed therapy. She followed up with:

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#3: Tracy Goes on the Offensive, Claims she is being “Cyberbullied”

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Mary Lee responded to the backlash by claiming she iwas “cyberbullied” by the gymnasts and fans outraged that she was given the position:

“I’m at a point where – I’m a strong lady, but I have a great family, and none of this is worth risking my family or watching what my family is going through right now while people are saying these awful things about me.”

Rather than actually take responsibility for her actions, Tracy chose to instead paint herself as a victim…. to the survivors of abuse… that she previously discredited.

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I mean, this is just insanity right? Wait, my friends, it gets better. This is the disturbing response by the High Performance Coordinator (side note: who came up with this ridiculous title) posted to Tracy’s Facebook:

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Look for a future blog post dissecting this patronizing, shitty ass message. “We know these little girls do not understand the sacrifice she must endure to accomplish an ‘Olympic’ dream”? Actually Tom, many athletes, Olympian or not, understand the sacrifice because THEY (read: NOT YOU) have given everything. “Were they damaged?” Yeah, I’d say the team doctor who wasn’t even licensed to practice in the state where the Training Center was located but was able to sexually abuse 400+ girls, is a pretty big miss on your organization. #boybye

#4: USAG Asks Tracy to Resign

The plot thickens.

USA Gymnastics tweets:

“As a representative of the organization, she inappropriately contacted a survivor, who is also a represented plaintiff, in response to that survivor’s public criticism of her. USA Gymnastics decided it would be best to move forward without Ms. Tracy in this role.”

To which Tracy posts:

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So Mary Lee states that she tried to contact Aly (btw this is an edited FB post, she originally misspelled Aly as “Ali” which she later went back and corrected the first misspelling, but not the second) but Aly’s mom stated that Tracy did not contact her daughter. USAG responded that Tracy needed to resign not because the coach has a history of emotional and mental abuse of athletes, or victim-shamed current athletes, or supported a man who had abused 50 gymnasts at the time, but because she contacted Aly, a gymnast who currently has a lawsuit against the organization.

PS This is isn’t illegal! The new High Team Performance Coordinator (I HATE THIS TITEL) sat down with Aly at the US Championships to discuss the state of USAG.

#5: Tracy Resigns… Or Doesn’t… Or… What the Hell is Happening?

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Have you forgotten that you are all adults here? What is happening?

Kerry Perry Resigns

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As if she thought she could remain the CEO after all of this.

The new president of the USOC Sarah Hirshland released the following statement:

“We’ve been following their activity and as we close the day I’m afraid I can offer nothing but disappointment. Under the circumstances we feel that the organization is struggling to manage its obligations effectively and it is time to consider making adjustments in the leadership. We are engaging with the USAG board to offer our perspective, and also our assistance, as they manage the situation. We expect some additional discussions will occur this weekend.”

It’s just so the USOC to show up at the end of a shitshow and say, “well, you know, this is all really bad.” Way to be proactive.

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#ClassicUSOC

This statement was followed up by a vote of no confidence by the US Elite Coaches Association for Women’s Gymnastics.

After nine months in the position, Kerry Perry resigned. The Board of Directors created a management committee to oversee the organization as they search for a new person for the role.

What’s Next?

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Could it get any worse?

From Nancy Armour:

“Without substantive changes, a leadership overhaul at USA Gymnastics will have little more impact than rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, and it will be only a matter of time before a new scandal breaks.”

USAG needs to change. The USOC needs to change.

Here’s the thing:

Nassar is in jail. But the fight and the positive changes that come out that are still happening. And are still relevant. He’s not a “monster”, he was enabled by multiple organizations. To pretend he’s the only guilty person is bullshit.

Maybe it’s time to call it a day and bring in people who not only can put out the fire but also build something new that actually takes care of our athletes (what a concept). These women have sacrificed their physical, emotional, and mental health for their organizations and yet even the simplest changes appear to be too much for leadership at USAG. Even with Perry’s resignation, there are still people working in the administration that covered up for Larry Nassar when he was allowed to quietly leave his position. Clearly things haven’t (and it doesn’t look like it will) change.

The athletes have won despite USA Gymnastics, not because of the organization. They will continue to do so under a new program as well. #decertifyusag

Get ready for Part 2: Michigan State! Spoiler Alert: it’s a dumpster fire there too.

Ashlyn

 

Currently Reading: This Mournable Body (Tsitsi Dangarembga)

Currently Watching: Better Call Saul (Season 4)