thoughts on tim hunt

Dear Richard Dawkins, I love you, but you’re wrong about Tim Hunt. He’s not the victim of a “feeding frenzy of mob-rule self-righteousness.” He’s a high profile bigot who got exactly what he deserves. Why? Because sexism in science is real, it effects real women, and it’s more important than Tim Hunt’s feelings or reputation. Also, he didn’t actually apologize. An apology includes an admission of wrongdoing and an understanding of the harm caused. Instead, he doubled down on his initial idiocy by complaining that women in the lab can’t handle criticism. I think a lot of female lab technicians would take issue with that casually sexist presumption. But if you really want to know why his comments deserved the so-called “backlash” he received, simply substitute the word “Jew” for the word “girls” and see how it sounds. For some reason, decent people of your generation tend to be sharp as tacks when it comes to calling out racism while taking a decidedly laissez faire attitude toward sexism. But in a civilized society, gender equality must never be considered an optional extra, something to contemplate casually in a jocular manner. Chauvinism is not a quaint foible. It’s a form of bigotry that blights the lives of millions of women—and men, incidentally. Rather than bemoaning the so-called “mob” who had the good sense to prioritize the status of women over the status of a single boorish scientist, you should be joining them.

our adoption journey
Us at the Cape

Us at the Cape

Five and a half years ago, I received a phone call from our adoption lawyer in New York. A couple in Missouri were eight months pregnant and looking for adoptive parents for their soon-to-be-born baby girl. Eight months pregnant! We’d only just completed the paperwork. Would it be processed in time? Was this moving too quickly? Our lawyer emailed us a photograph of the birth parents with their two other children. I burst into tears. The children were so beautiful (as all children are) and she was very pregnant in the photo, which nudged me further to imagine what this yet-to-be-born baby girl would look like. Seeing her two siblings there, I felt as if I were looking into the future.

We sent the birthparents our profile then spoke with them on the phone. They quizzed us on our way of life, our attitudes about education, the traveling we’d done and planned to do in the future. All the things concerned parents would want to know regarding the future of their child. We did our best to make a good impression. We wanted them to like us. But we were realists. We told ourselves not to get our hopes up. The birth parents would be speaking to other prospective adoptive parents too. It was their choice. All we could do was wait.

A few days later, the birthmother called to tell us they’d chosen us! In one month’s time, we would be parents.

That month remains a blur. We bought furniture. We filled out more paperwork. At some point, my friend Megan guided me around Babies-R-Us to buy onesies and diapers. Then somehow I was at the hospital cheering on this gorgeous woman I’d only just met as she went into labor with a baby she was going to give me. It was a white knuckle birth. The cord got wrapped around the baby’s neck. She was rushed into the E.R. For four agonizing minutes, her husband and I paced and fretted and hoped and prayed.

Then a nurse came in, told us everything was fine, and asked if I would like to meet my daughter. I’ll never forget the first time I saw Adelina. She was soft and brown with a shock of black hair. She was perfectly formed and full of life. She lay in a clear plastic crib surrounded by bright warm lights, screaming bloody murder with her tiny hands contracted into hard, stubborn fists. When I went to her side and extended my little pinkie toward her, she gripped it.

That was it. I was hers forever.

The nurses bent the rules to let us stay at the hospital for three nights while the birthmother recovered from the emergency C-section. Then we all went off to court to see the judge. It was a routine adoption. All the paperwork was in place. The birth parents agreed to terminate their parental rights and we were granted custody. After an emotional good-bye to Addie’s birth parents and two siblings, we boarded a plane with our tiny new addition to begin the ultimate journey of our lives.

She’s five and a half now. She’s a spirited, affectionate, spitfire of a girl. She laughs like her father and walks like me. She has the saucy lingo and mannerisms of a North London teenager. She does well in school but has little interest in impressing anyone or performing on command. She’s her own person, a true original. She has challenged us, pushed us to the limits of our patience, thrilled us, shocked us, and made our lives so rich, so joyful, so full of meaning, I can hardly remember who I was before she came along.

I always knew I would adopt. Ever since I was a teenage babysitter, I’ve known how easy it is to fall for a child. For any child. It’s not blood that binds people into a family. It’s unconditional love. When a tiny squalling newborn wraps her tiny fist around your pinkie, she doesn’t care about your genes. She’s telling you she needs you. She’s yours. It’s an invitation.

It’s National Adoption Month. To everyone embarking on this journey–the children, the birth parents, and those seeking to adopt–welcome. And to those just now considering it, who may have doubts and concerns about whether or not it’s the right thing to do, I leave you with some words of wisdom from my five-and-a-half- year-old daughter who looked up at me one morning after a long cuddle and said: “You’re the Mummy I always wanted.”

the people versus woody allen and dylan farrow

I’ve been struggling with my own feelings and opinions on the subject of Woody Allen’s alleged abuse of his daughter Dylan. Like everyone else, I wondered what Cate Blanchett would (or wouldn’t) say about him when she won her inevitable Oscar. I’ve read others weighing in with their opinions, their theories, their advice. None of it has shed a single ray of light.

I’m a big fan of Woody Allen’s movies. I think I’ve seen every single one. His are the only movies I always see in the cinema on the first or second weekend. I even enjoy the not-so-great ones.

Some find it easy to separate the artist from his art. They can love Annie Hall while hating its creator. I can’t do this. I can’t enjoy a man’s work if I know that he is, or was, an abuser of children. That’s a line I can’t cross. In this blog I have written at length about child abuse–condemning both the Catholic Church for its enabling and cover-ups as well as Roman Polanski and his apologists for their glib acceptance of his brutality. But these were easy condemnations. In both cases the perpetrators admitted to the acts–even if they believed themselves above the law.

With Woody Allen it’s different. And this is what makes it so troubling. There is a desire to politicize the issue–to make it about patriarchy, or about privilege, or about the vulnerability of celebrities to false accusations. We might get angry at Cate Blanchett or Diane Keaton for implicitly taking Woody’s side by saying kind things about him in public–and thereby furthering Dylan’s victimization. Or we might get angry at Mia Farrow or Ronan Farrow for continuing to attack Woody on Dylan’s behalf, despite the fact that he has been cleared of all charges the charges were ultimately never pressed.* We want to take sides. But how can we? The alleged incident–a grown man sexually abusing his seven-year-old daughter–is something we all agree is wrong. The problem is we don’t know if it happened. And we probably never will. Either Woody Allen victimized Dylan and continues to get away with it. Or Dylan lied and continues to malign him unjustly. To take either side is to pretend at a knowledge we can never have. Even to engage in a debate about the matter is a kind of offense. Imagine you were wrongly accused of a sexually assaulting your daughter and the whole world was talking about it. Now imagine you were sexually abused by your father and the whole world was skeptical. One of these scenarios is the truth, and we, the observer-debaters, are implicated in it.

I’d rather have justice. But justice requires evidence. And this being the type of crime for which there is rarely a corroborating witness, there is little evidence to work with.

I find myself falling back on the fact that Woody was investigated by the police and cleared of all charges ultimately wasn’t charged*. And, while I know this may have less to do with his innocence than with the difficulty of proving the unprovable, at the very least an attempt at justice was made. This does give me some comfort. Just not enough.

In her open letter published in the New York Times on February 1st, Dylan Farrow asks: “What’s your favorite Woody Allen movie?” She then goes on to describe how he sexually assaulted her. The implication is clear. You might be able to separate the artist from his art. But you shouldn’t.

I agree. I just don’t know what to do about it.

*Thanks to Justine Larbalestier (@JustineLavaworm) for reminding me that Allen was not, in fact, cleared of the charges, but rather a decision was made not to press charges. There’s a difference. It doesn’t change my angst over the whole thing, but still it’s legally different. And whenever possible in a case like this, it’s important to get the agreed-upon-facts-on-the-ground straight.

extraordinary immunity

In light of the Pope’s recent decision to step down, I have been revisiting my all-consuming rage over the Church’s conspiracy of enabling and protecting child rapists within its midst. I’ve re-read a number of articles that came out in early 2010 when a new rash of particularly disgusting threads of this hellacious quilt came to light. What strikes me today, nearly three years later, is that so little justice has been dispensed.

Let’s be clear about something first and foremost. The scandal to which I refer is not the actual rape of children by individual priests (though that is scandal enough), but rather the decision by members of the Church hierarchy to cover up these crimes, transfer known rapists to new parishes they knew would be awash in fresh victims, and openly and unabashedly prioritize the reputation of the Church above the welfare of children.

Here’s a portion of a document that then Cardinal Ratzinger sent to the Oakland Diocese regarding child rapist Father Stephen Kiesle:

This court, although it regards the arguments presented in favour of removal in this case to be of grave significance, nevertheless deems it necessary to consider the good of the universal church together with that of the petitioner, and it is also unable to make light of the detriment that granting the dispensation can provoke with the community of Christ’s faithful, particularly regarding the young age of the petitioner.

Keep in mind that the “petitioner” whose young age Ratzinger was so anxious about, was not one of the victims Kiesle tied up and raped (who in this particular case were eleven and thirteen) but rather Father Kiesle himself who was the tender age of 38.

Kiesle went on to rape again and again and again.

It strains the boundaries of my humanity to comprehend how such a moral calculus was made, how Cardinal Ratzinger could have so brazenly disregarded the welfare of children whom he had to know would fall victim to this serial sadist.

But what depresses me anew is the fact that Ratzinger is now resigning voluntarily from his position as Pope, rather than being dragged from that office in disgrace to face prosecution in any number of jurisdictions. I, like some of the journalists who actually exposed these crimes, was naively under the impression that bringing them to light would motivate people and their legal representatives to take action.

I was wrong.

The truth doesn’t matter. It is merely raw material to be molded and shaped according to our emotional needs. Or ignored if that suits us. We are not, as I once naively believed, a truth-seeking species. We are a comfort-seeking species. And for reasons I can’t fully fathom we are more comfortable with continuing to endanger children than we are with bringing their institutional victimizers to justice. We don’t even bother to dispute the facts. (They are indisputable.) We simply turn away.

Shame on all of us.

cycler audiobook

What’s that you say? Nothing good to listen to? No worries, check out the new Cycler audiobook, narrated by the epically talented Melissa Strom (who plays Jill) and Maxwell Glick (who plays her alter ego, Jack). These two really bring the story to life. So head on over to and snag your download. You can listen to a sample for free!

Oh and check out the new cover too.

Happy listening!

And stay tuned for the sequel, (Re)Cycler.