Moira Donegan

  • Jane’s World

    THE PATIENT was a twenty-six-year-old mother of two, and she had just been sterilized. After getting a diagnosis of Hodgkin’s disease, a lymphatic cancer, during her second pregnancy, the young woman had realized that giving birth again would likely kill her. She had harangued a doctor for months, until he finally agreed to schedule a tubal ligation. When the anesthetic lifted, the first voice she heard was the surgeon’s. “The sterilization procedure was a success,” he said. “And congratulations, you’re eight weeks pregnant.” 

    The young woman asked her hospital for an abortion; her doctors

  • When the Shirt Hit the Fans

    THE BALL SLINGS INTO THE NET, and by the time the camera pans back to Brandi Chastain, she has whipped off her shirt and is twirling it in the air above her head. Then she drops to her knees. For about six seconds, she is alone with her accomplishment. That’s the time it takes for her teammates to run to her from the center line, engulfing her in a raucous, cheering group hug. Chastain had won the 1999 Women’s World Cup—only the third ever such tournament—for the United States, on a penalty kick. 

    In the video of Chastain from this moment, her joy has an almost blinding force. Satisfaction,

  • Wimple Pleasures

    THEY APPEAR TO HER in the middle of the woods. Marie, the heroine of Lauren Groff’s novel Matrix (Riverhead, $28), is hard at work with her nuns building a labyrinth that will make their twelfth-century English convent impenetrable to intruders, when she has a vision. “I fell to my knees, for standing in the place where the road was to be made in the forest were two women whose holiness shone so brightly their radiance made me hide my face from them.” It is the Virgin Mary, together with Eve, the Biblical first woman. They bear matching wounds. On Mary’s chest, “there bled a wound large and

  • interviews October 14, 2021

    Raising the Bar

    In many ways, Alexandra Brodsky’s new book, Sexual Justice: Supporting Victims, Ensuring Due Process, and Resisting the Conservative Backlash, is a breath of fresh air. Skipping many of the moral debates surrounding sexual violence, Brodsky, a civil rights lawyer, looks for solutions. With a survey of the past and present of sexual abuse adjudication procedures, she looks at what’s working (very little), why sexual violence is treated so much differently than other kinds of harm, and what a viable reporting path for survivors might look like.

    Brodsky hasn’t always been so deep in the procedural

  • How to Survive a Movement

    ONE NIGHT IN 2010, the writer Sarah Schulman was at the Manhattan gallery White Columns for the opening of a show she had helped create about the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power, or ACT UP, the AIDS-activist organization she was a member of from 1987 to 1992. In her 2012 book The Gentrification of the Mind, Schulman writes of the evening as a kind of reunion for the group, with the ACT UP-ers, mostly in their fifties and sixties, “laughing and smiling and hugging and flirting,” all wearing the scars, physical and psychic, of the traumas they had endured together during the worst of the AIDS

  • Oh, Mercy

    SEVEN YEARS AGO, Aaron Coleman, who is currently twenty and a candidate for the Kansas state legislature, attempted to extort nude photos from a thirteen-year-old. When she refused, he circulated another nude photo of her in retaliation. Around the same time, he started bullying another girl, and persisted until she attempted suicide. Last December, months before he came to national attention, he hit and threatened a third woman, then his girlfriend, choking and slapping her in a hot tub after she joked about breaking up with him. After two of the women made their stories public, Coleman found

  • Sister Act

    EVEN AS A LITTLE GIRL, Benedetta Carlini, born in a Tuscan mountain town in 1590, had the kind of persuasive charm possessed by politicians and good salesmen. When she played with a feral dog and it attacked her, she told her parents that the dog was the devil, come to earth to torment her. When she was caught playing with a nightingale, then thought to be a dangerous symbol of sensuality and lust, she explained that the bird was a guardian angel. After Benedetta joined a convent of Theatine nuns in 1599, she began having revelations from God. In one vision, Benedetta was again attacked by

  • Sex During Wartime

    EVEN BEFORE her death from myocarditis in 2005, Andrea Dworkin was more read about than read. She had become less a public thinker than a symbol, an embodiment of feminism’s missteps and excesses. The right parodied her with the viciousness reserved for misogyny, mocking her overalls, frizzy hair, and excess weight. The left aggressively disavowed her, with other feminists going out of their way to contrast her opinions with their own. Almost fifteen years after her death, her exile from the sphere of acceptable political thought is near-absolute. It is still more common to see her ridiculed

  • Lavender, Menaced

    IF YOU WERE STRAIGHT in 1968, you would have had no idea the United States was on the cusp of the Stonewall riots. Gays were largely invisible, closeted, and discreet, and their appearance in public was checked by violence and vice squads. The gay organizations that did exist, loosely affiliated as the homophile movement, emphasized respectability and assimilation. There was only one organized lesbian group in the country, the Daughters of Bilitis, and it was named after a collection of nineteenth-century French poems written by a man. Originally intended as an underground social club, a less

  • The Bad and the Ugly

    Ottessa Moshfegh always wants you to know when one of her characters is ugly, outside or in. The unnamed narrator of "Malibu," one of the stories in her first collection, Homesick for Another World, fixates on his pimples and demands money from his sick uncle, who has to wear a colostomy bag. "I still had the rash," he says at one point. "There was nothing I could do about it before my date that night with Terri. I lay on my bed and reached down to the floor and picked little crumbs and hairs out of the carpet." Terri, his blind date, turns out to be fat. "Her chest was large but looked like