punished for what she did, but also for what she didn’t do
January 10, 2018 8:52 AM   Subscribe

She is Tonya Price but you cannot deny that she is also Tonya Harding. This is basically how this entire story goes: There are facts, and then there is the truth, and you can’t let one get in the way of the other or you’ll never understand what she’s trying to tell you. But therein lies the problem: Whatever her name is, she looks an awful lot like Tonya Harding. So even when she meets a stranger and says, “Nice to meet you, I’m Tonya Price,” the person will narrow his eyes and say, “Wait, aren’t you….?” Tonya Harding Would Like Her Apology Now. Taffy Brodesser-Akner, NYT
posted by everybody had matching towels (55 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
I just want to say right off before reading this that I, Tonya was SO GOOD and everyone should go see it. Thanks.
posted by phunniemee at 8:55 AM on January 10 [16 favorites]


Tonya Harding has always broken my heart. After reading that article, it seems she would not want to hear that because she does not belong to me. And she's right, I suppose. I'm glad our culture is learning to get past those shitty Right Kind of Girl-Wrong Kind of Girl narratives.
posted by crush at 9:08 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


“I moved from Oregon to Washington because Oregon was buttheads,”

Quoted for truth.

Also, unrelated, I still love you, Tonya.
posted by elsietheeel at 9:13 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]


It's a beautiful, empathetic piece, has me looking for what else Brodesser-Akner has written, who else she has profiled (quick look shows she has recent pieces on Don Lemon, Marie Kondo, and Kesha, for starters).
posted by PandaMomentum at 9:17 AM on January 10 [6 favorites]


Yes! Taffy Brodesser-Akner is one of the all time profile greats. She is so talented, so skillful. As soon as I saw her name on this I knew I had to read it right away.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 9:25 AM on January 10 [2 favorites]


Taffy is the best profile writer. I recommend last year's Tom Hiddleston profile in which he dumps out his purse in the most embarrassing way. Props to her for not screaming with laughter, which I would definitely have done.

As for Tonya: I was a junior in high school when all this was going down, and I reflexively though of her as being trashy, perhaps as a self-defense mechanism because at the time I lived in a double-wide in rural East Texas. I still feel a little squicky about her rehabilitation and would like to hear Nancy Kerrigan's thoughts on the film.
posted by orrnyereg at 9:31 AM on January 10 [7 favorites]


Ms. Harding sporting unicorn purple nails with glitter particles that she swears are not fake.
posted by defenestration at 9:34 AM on January 10 [2 favorites]


Thanks for those links, Panda. I have a pet peeve with interviewers who make a story about them. Brodesser-Akner deftly inserts personal detail only so far as it brings her subject into sharper focus. It really is impressive.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 9:42 AM on January 10


I was always more pro-Tonya--Nancy Kerrigan was off-putting to me--but then the attack happened, and, well.

In some ways, it sounds like she's actually come out better than Monica Lewinsky, who was indeed treated very badly by the media for a much lesser offense but is still to this day hung up on the fact that she didn't get to step directly into the upper-class life she felt entitled to despite the extreme mediocrity of her accomplishments pre-WH internship. Harding had more modest ambitions for her life despite being far more talented in her chosen field, and it sounds like she's done a decent job of finding satisfaction in it. Which certainly at this point she is entitled to.
posted by praemunire at 10:10 AM on January 10


Now we need a buzzworthy biopic about groundbreaking black figure skater Surya Bonaly, who also challenged the "slim pale ice princess" ideal of what female skaters should look like, and who remains the only Olympic skater to land a backflip on one skate.
posted by nicebookrack at 10:17 AM on January 10 [56 favorites]


I was like 13 when all this happened, so to me, everyone involved was just an adult. I just saw I, Tanya and was amazed to find out that Harding was 23 years old. I can't imagine having my whole life be about a decision that my dumb 23-year-old self made, but I also can't imagine participating in the most consequential event of my professional life at 23.
posted by Ragged Richard at 10:21 AM on January 10 [7 favorites]


She faced Paula Jones in a celebrity boxing bout in 2002

My country is so weird.
posted by munchingzombie at 10:22 AM on January 10 [10 favorites]


Of all the working class people to give an image makeover to, why Tonya Harding? I never liked the fact that the media made zero effort to separate their disdain for her crime and their disdain for her background. To them, those two things were inseparable, and that's textbook classism, but I'm not buying her story. Even if she's telling the truth, her complete lack of shame, and decision to stay in the Olympics, is more than enough reason to feel no pity for her at all.

I admit that I only got a few paragraphs into the article and couldn't stomach reading any further. Perhaps I will try again later and see if it changes my opinion of her, but I seriously doubt it.
posted by Beholder at 10:24 AM on January 10 [6 favorites]


and decision to stay in the Olympics,

I've dedicated literally my entire life to achieving at this particular sport and have earned my place in the most universally acknowledged competition available for this sport after many years of hard work that I've pursued to the exclusion of any other measurable life skills, and there's nothing waiting for me at home if I don't make it to this next level, but fuck it some people don't like me so I guess I'll go die and hide forever.
posted by phunniemee at 10:31 AM on January 10 [50 favorites]


For what its worth, Kerrigan was not really the person the media portrayed her to be at the time:
It's important to remember that this was not a class war between an upscale princess with lots of money for training and costumes and a downscale working-class family. Kerrigan's family was not wealthy, and until it was trained out of her, she was also a tomboy who mostly cared about jumping and not grace. "She really wasn't all that interested in being artistic," her coach says.

This became Princess versus Trash largely because that was convenient and made a good story, not because it fit either one of them comfortably.
If you have a chance to watch ESPN's 30 for 30 episode "The Price of Gold" (the focus of that NPR article I just linked), you'll get a fairly balanced view of the two competitors.
posted by Joey Michaels at 10:34 AM on January 10 [28 favorites]


I admit that I only got a few paragraphs into the article and couldn't stomach reading any further. Perhaps I will try again later and see if it changes my opinion of her, but I seriously doubt it.
Pretty much the underlying theme of the entire article.
posted by chococat at 10:35 AM on January 10 [11 favorites]


I never liked the fact that the media made zero effort to separate their disdain for her crime and their disdain for her background. To them, those two things were inseparable, and that's textbook classism, but I'm not buying her story. Even if she's telling the truth, her complete lack of shame, and decision to stay in the Olympics, is more than enough reason to feel no pity for her at all.

What, precisely, did she have to be ashamed about? That she chose poorly when it came to a boyfriend and (briefly) husband? That he beat her? That he rolled over on her to reduce his own sentence? Or that, confronted with the truth about the attack on Kerrigan by her former abuser, a few weeks before the most important contest of her athletic career, she clammed up, at least for a short while? Sheesh, break out the torches and pitchforks.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:50 AM on January 10 [22 favorites]


I grew up one town south of Nancy Kerrigan’s hometown, close enough to the city line that my school bus had to be rerouted during the Harding/Kerrigan news cycle so the news crews wouldn’t make us late to school. I loved I Tonya, but watching a film where one of the major conflicts took place in my hometown during what was a turbulent time for me was a bizarre experience.
posted by pxe2000 at 11:00 AM on January 10


Well at least the media learned their lesson and stopped manufacturing narratives around Olympic athletes.

lol jk
posted by ckape at 11:41 AM on January 10 [7 favorites]


From the article, and comments here sure make it seem pertinent:
This has nothing to do with exoneration; it hasn’t for a long time. Her side of the story is not about guilt or innocence — the discussion over guilt and innocence ended right about the time she completed her community service, as far as she’s concerned — but about the finer points of being Tonya Harding: respect, mitigating circumstances, how we treat people and what we expect from them in the first place.
posted by palomar at 11:46 AM on January 10 [5 favorites]


What, precisely, did she have to be ashamed about?

If she is actually guilty of what she pleaded guilty to—an indictment I don't feel the need to have an opinion on beyond the stated facts of the record—then that would, traditionally, be a matter for shame. That said, she's made her amends and there's no reason for her to continue to feel shame now or for anyone to try to continue to shame her. But I don't think that entitles her to any kind of general apology, either.
"The reason she loves the movie is because it conveys something she doesn’t feel was ever conveyed before. There were mitigating circumstances. Her life was terrible. She was beaten. She was threatened. You don’t get this way unless you were counted out completely. Her own mother didn’t seem to love her. The only time in her life she ever got anywhere was when she circumvented the rules and took for herself what appeared to be given to the Nancy Kerrigans of the world."
That may be a bit of hyperbole on the author's part. It's hard to say. But if it is an accurate account of Price's attitude, then she is a perfect hero for the times because that sounds like every Trump voter's apology, too.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:58 AM on January 10 [8 favorites]


Tonya Harding is being rehabilitated because it's entertainment. It fits the time.
posted by bongo_x at 12:06 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


The only time in her life she ever got anywhere was when she circumvented the rules and took for herself what appeared to be given to the Nancy Kerrigans of the world.

As Joey Michaels pointed out, Kerrigan didn't have anything given to her that Harding didn't. Harding's attitude, if accurately expressed in that quote, is not persuasive of her having taken any responsibility for what happened.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:11 PM on January 10 [7 favorites]


That may be a bit of hyperbole on the author's part. It's hard to say. But if it is an accurate account of Price's attitude, then she is a perfect hero for the times because that sounds like every Trump voter's apology, too.

The hell that it does.

Why should she have to keep apologizing for a crime that she fucking paid for, inasmuch as she served the terms of her sentence?

Have we made every Trump voter serve a criminal sentence for their actions? No? Well, then maybe we should demand shame from them. But someone who has literally served their time for the crime for which they were convicted, a crime that happened in circumstances so acrimonious that their career and entire life were derailed forever?

What apologies does she owe us? She's already paid. She is still paying: she can't even make a career out of teaching children how to skate like she can. What more do you want, blood?
posted by sciatrix at 12:34 PM on January 10 [22 favorites]


What, precisely, did she have to be ashamed about?

The fact that she conspired to injure another skater who had never done anything to her? Unless you think there was a innocent reason that she was busy calling around to identify Kerrigan's physical location right before there was a failed attack at the location she identified.

Now, there are people who will say "well, she was forced into by her abusive ex-husband", but a) this has never been Harding's version of the story, she has claimed she had nothing to do with the planning at all, and b) it doesn't preclude a share of moral responsibility. If you allow your child to be abused because you are afraid of your spouse, you still owe that child apologies and regrets.
posted by tavella at 12:36 PM on January 10 [3 favorites]


(I haven't seen I, Tonya, but I desperately want to. I was much too young at the time to have any memories of the media circus--four year olds tend not to be watching much in the way of figure skating news--so this is one of those historical stories that is new enough that it's been missed as history in my education and pop culture access, and which is old enough I haven't personally lived through it in a way I can remember. I'm fascinated by the reverberations of the story I'm seeing now, mind.)
posted by sciatrix at 12:36 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


I don't know. For me, there's a point of public demand for extended shame at which you stop caring about what the public thinks of you; after all, there seems to be no level of apology that will satisfy others. And the more you pay in actual lived consequences, the less I care for the public performance of apology and shame. If she wanted to draw more attention to herself by publicly proclaiming her sorrow, I suppose that might... do what? Would it exonerate her, in your mind?

At some point, a price has to be paid. What is the line where you can exist as a human without performing shame? Has she paid her price to avoid public obeisance?

It was twenty years ago. I don't know that I'd think her ledger was still owing if I was her, either. And I have sympathy for the pressure of the abused--especially as Kerrigan wasn't exactly a child she owed responsibility for.
posted by sciatrix at 12:43 PM on January 10 [12 favorites]


Now we need a buzzworthy biopic about groundbreaking black figure skater Surya Bonaly, who also challenged the "slim pale ice princess" ideal of what female skaters should look like, and who remains the only Olympic skater to land a backflip on one skate.
Wow. That's... I didn't even know that was a thing people did.

I know you're not supposed to read the comments, and Youtube is like... the very archetype of Do Not Read The Fucking Comments... but I am weak, and I read them, and there are people going on about how "ladies" figure skating needs to be "artistic" rather than "powerful", so I guess a hefty dose of straight-up undisguised gender essentialism to go with it.
posted by inconstant at 12:53 PM on January 10 [4 favorites]


At some point, a price has to be paid. What is the line where you can exist as a human without performing shame? Has she paid her price to avoid public obeisance?

This.

She always was fairly self-centered (had to be, IMO, since no one else really ever gave a shit about her, and those who claimed to seemed to all fuck her over in some way eventually). So from the get-go, she was never a person who understood the currency of empathy or apology. No one ever modeled it for her.

She barely managed to handle the outcome of the situation back when it happened. You think now, all this time later, she has changed? If anything, I expect LESS empathy now. She's lived her life resenting the world. Why in hell would she choose to "perform shame" (love that concept) so long after the fact?

Everyone wants a redemption arc except for Tonya.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 1:02 PM on January 10 [3 favorites]


In some ways, it sounds like she's actually come out better than Monica Lewinsky, who was indeed treated very badly by the media for a much lesser offense but is still to this day hung up on the fact that she didn't get to step directly into the upper-class life she felt entitled to despite the extreme mediocrity of her accomplishments pre-WH internship. Harding had more modest ambitions for her life despite being far more talented in her chosen field, and it sounds like she's done a decent job of finding satisfaction in it. Which certainly at this point she is entitled to.

I have no idea what you're talking about. Are you only able to approve of one woman at a time?
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 1:05 PM on January 10 [11 favorites]


What apologies does she owe us?

Oh I don't think she owes me, you, or any of us a damn thing. She's made amends for whatever she did or didn't do. Except in the abstract a tiny little bit, I don't even really care if she was actually guilty or innocent. And she didn't deserve to become the butt of a decades-long joke. But her rationale in my quoted paragraph—if that is indeed an accurate account of her beliefs—is basically "I was hurt so breaking the rules and hurting others was the only way to get what I was entitled to." I see a remarkably similarity between that and the resentments that seem to power politics in the Trump era.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:18 PM on January 10 [4 favorites]


Unless you think there was a innocent reason that she was busy calling around to identify Kerrigan's physical location right before there was a failed attack at the location she identified.

I don't know. Maybe there are only so many Olympic-class figure skating rinks in the country, and she wanted to make sure that she didn't work on her routines at the same time as Kerrigan. It seems more likely than that she would throw the one piece of evidence that could tie her to the conspiracy in the trash whole, rather than, say, burning it. Regardless, as sciatrix has noted, she paid in full long before now.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:19 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


But her rationale in my quoted paragraph—if that is indeed an accurate account of her beliefs—is basically "I was hurt so breaking the rules and hurting others was the only way to get what I was entitled to." I see a remarkably similarity between that and the resentments that seem to power politics in the Trump era.

I get what you're saying octobersurprise, but: is it possible to not compare this woman, an actual victim of a hell of a lot of violence from her mother and now-former partner, to "every Trump voter?" I don't think that is a very fair comparison.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 1:42 PM on January 10 [8 favorites]


Particularly when so many of Trump's base aren't hurting at all, relative to the rest of America; not economically, and not socially.
posted by sciatrix at 1:44 PM on January 10 [3 favorites]


I don't know anything about Price's politics and I'm even happy to pretend that Price didn't say what the story reports. I was drawing a comparison between attitudes I thought was illuminating. You may, of course, disagree.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:46 PM on January 10


The Lillehammer Olympics were so strange - not just the schedule change (only two years after Albertville!), but figure skating is particularly fascinating. I would love to see a Mark Harris Pictures at a Revolution-style book that follows the preparation of not only Harding and Kerrigan but Bonaly, Torvill and Dean, Baiul, Chen, Urmanov, Stojko, the Monods, all of them.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 2:10 PM on January 10


did she ever apologize to nancy?
posted by pyramid termite at 2:50 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


She says yes. Kerrigan says no.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:09 PM on January 10 [2 favorites]


As Joey Michaels pointed out, Kerrigan didn't have anything given to her that Harding didn't.

I disagree. It's true they both came from working class backgrounds, but what was given to Kerrigan was an image; a reputation that was hugely influential in the stories that were told about her and the scores she got on the ice:

Despite its specific list of requirements—for musicality, use of the rink, deportment, and other qualities—“artistic impression” was a far more elastic score. Judges could allow their scores to be influenced by a skater’s costume, or by a skater’s appearance, or simply by some ineffable quality that struck them, somehow, as “right”—right for the moment, right for the event, right for the sport. Many judges saw these qualities in Nancy. “She’s a lovely lady,” an Olympic judge, who preferred to remain anonymous, told sports writer Christine Brennan. “She was raised as a lady. We all notice that.”

(from the excellent 2014 article by Sarah Marshall in Believer)

What Nancy was given even extended to material things, such as the skating outfits not only designed, but donated to Kerrigan by Vera Wang (not sure if Tonya was still sewing her own outfits at this point, but they certainly weren't being made by a famous designer):
By contrast, Ms. Kerrigan's rhinestone-strewn show stopper is priced at $13,000; her white and black dress is $9,600, Ms. Wang said. The designer has donated both outfits to the skater. She was asked to design Ms. Kerrigan's costumes by one of the skater's coaches, Mary Scotvold, an old acquaintance of Ms. Wang.

It's nice to think that outfits and media narratives don't have an effect on athletics but it's naive, especially when it comes to ice skating. This article by Blair Braverman from as recently as 2014 discusses perception, athletics, and sexuality on the rink:

To insiders, though, it's no surprise that skaters are reluctant to speak out on LGBT rights, let alone come out themselves. Most male skaters and officials are committed to keeping their sport in the closet, whether that means choosing "masculine" music, hinting about a girlfriend, or outright denying any connection to homosexuality. A figure skater can never quite outskate the judges' opinion of him, and judges and institutions, it turns out, are notoriously conservative — as some would say, "family-friendly." At the National Championships, which took place this January in Boston, a phrase I heard often was "don't ask, don't tell."

I don't care what you think of Harding, she's clearly not an easy person to sympathize with, even if she steadfastly maintains she had nothing to do with the plotting. To say that Nancy Kerrigan was given nothing that Tonya Harding wasn't just isn't true.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:20 PM on January 10 [21 favorites]


Ms. Harding ordered a steak appetizer she loves and a drink the owner created just for her. It has vodka, Bacardi 151, watermelon liqueur, orange juice and pineapple juice. It is called the Triple Axel
That definitely sounds like a drink that will turn you around three and a half times.
posted by chrchr at 4:28 PM on January 10 [11 favorites]


To insiders, though, it's no surprise that skaters are reluctant to speak out on LGBT rights, let alone come out themselves. Most male skaters and officials are committed to keeping their sport in the closet, whether that means choosing "masculine" music, hinting about a girlfriend, or outright denying any connection to homosexuality.

The situation is changing for the better -- 28-year-old figure skater Adam Rippon Is U.S.'s First Openly Gay Man To Qualify For Winter Olympics
posted by Iris Gambol at 6:20 PM on January 10 [2 favorites]


In some ways, it sounds like she's actually come out better than Monica Lewinsky...
posted by praemunire

I have no idea what you're talking about. Are you only able to approve of one woman at a time?
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 1:05 PM on January 10 [7 favorites +] [!]

What's with the shot implying praemunrie has some issue with women? It's a relevant comment regarding an issue addressed in the article.
posted by she's not there at 7:05 PM on January 10


My wife and I were very into figure skating back in the 90s, and of course this was big news. I love both Tonya and Nancy, and was so upset by the attack on Nancy. But honestly, it was such a spectacular scandal! I'd heard vaguely about this movie and can hardly wait to see it.
posted by lhauser at 7:31 PM on January 10


I have no idea what you're talking about.

Respectfully, reading the article might clear up that issue for you.
posted by praemunire at 8:10 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Monica Lewinsky's barely mentioned in the article though? Anyway, reducing her utterly reasonable desire to be able to work a job in her field at some point after being humiliated, bullied and mocked by the entire world all her adult life to being "hung up on the fact that she didn't get to step directly into the upper-class life she felt entitled to" - basically, to being a spoiled social-climber - is a misogynistic trope. And reaching back before her recent activism, her master's at LSE, and yes, her White House internship, all the way back to her life before she was 22, in order to imply that she doesn't deserve to be successful because she went to community college or whatever is poisonous snobbery that keeps people down who have a great deal to offer. Being a bit ordinary when you're 20 is no reason you should never be able to get a job in marketing. There are other reasons that happened to Monica Lewinsky and they have just as much to do with misogyny as anything that happened to Tonya Harding.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 1:37 AM on January 11 [5 favorites]


It is super gross how people are trying to make Kerrigan seem like she deserved the attack because poor little Harding didn't get the attention she did. Kerrigan received the attention because she was good at what she did. She earned that.

She's also earned the right to an apology from Harding.
posted by asteria at 8:18 AM on January 11 [2 favorites]


Who do you think is trying to make Kerrigan seem like she deserved the attack?

Genuine question.
posted by sciatrix at 8:39 AM on January 11 [3 favorites]


in order to imply that she doesn't deserve to be successful because she went to community college or whatever is poisonous snobbery that keeps people down

Sorry, I think it is kind of the opposite of snobbery to believe that a young woman of no particular accomplishment from a wealthy family who got a White House internship through a family connection (are you unaware of this?) did not deserve to walk into a high-powered, well-paid job afterwards. (Can it be social-climbing if you're already comfortable?) The fact that she is clearly living quite a materially comfortable life despite never having had a real career indicates how little danger a person like her was in of having my attitude "keep her down." Honestly, I find it bizarre to complain about snobbery towards a person in Lewinsky's life situation in the context of a discussion of Harding.

Both Harding and Lewinsky took way more shit than they should have because of misogyny (Harding deserved her felony conviction, but not the entire discourse around it). And the fact that neither of them has really been allowed to move on after two decades is unfair. But despite Harding's having done considerably more wrong, I feel more sympathy for her, because, unlike Lewinsky, she isn't still mad about having been denied a particular life she never earned.
posted by praemunire at 8:43 AM on January 11


Who do you think is trying to make Kerrigan seem like she deserved the attack?

Genuine question.


Having read several articles on the subject, I never read any press articles that directly said Kerrigan deserved the attack, but there was a lot of innuendo that made me more and more uncomfortable the more I read. There is definitely a cumulative effect, even if any one article didn't imply it too heavily (and I think sometimes they do).

There seem to be very few ways of performing working-class womanhood correctly. Harding and Kerrigan are avatars of the two ends of that spectrum and both of them are being portrayed as wrong, IMO.

My thoughts about this are not well formed, but e.g. part of the reason I never take up "university outreach to working-class schools!1!!! Successful women, please volunteer!!!" is because I know full well I don't perform working-class womanhood correctly. I don't know exactly what the right way would be, but whatever it is, I'm not it. My self-presentation would negate whatever message I tried to put across.

Both Harding and Kerrigan are getting held up to a standard in all this discourse, and neither of them was ever going to live up to it no matter what they did. It so happens that the pendulum has swung towards Harding lately, and that seems to be a good thing, but just as every story plot ends with "John and Mary die", this game always ends with "woman loses".

Harding deserved her felony conviction, but not the entire discourse around it

Head, nail, hammer.
posted by tel3path at 10:54 AM on January 11 [3 favorites]


There seem to be very few ways of performing working-class womanhood correctly. Harding and Kerrigan are avatars of the two ends of that spectrum and both of them are being portrayed as wrong, IMO.

I agree wholeheartedly with this--at least, the tendency to polarize both women and that being deeply unfair--but I'm not sure how you get around it. It seems to me that 'defenses' (or discussions!) of Harding and the parts of her treatment that she didn't deserve are being taken as attacks on Kerrigan. I don't see that, but I bet you have more finely tuned senses than I do to classism. If you do work out how to articulate your feelings/thoughts/take on the discussion, I'd be interested in hearing it--obviously, no pressure.

I'm not sure there is actually a way to perform working-class womanhood acceptably except, possibly, by erasing all traces of one's upbringing except where convenient. Which necessarily includes the cost of doing that to one's personal history and experience, of course. And then, as I think you're suggesting is happening to Kerrigan, you--what? Get branded a class traitor?

It so happens that the pendulum has swung towards Harding lately, and that seems to be a good thing, but just as every story plot ends with "John and Mary die", this game always ends with "woman loses".

Christ, I hear that. I suppose my question here is, listening to this discussion and reading it... how do we talk about it without demonizing either woman? What I'm observing here in comments is people expressing mixed feelings and opinions about both women. And when I read the article itself, it focuses very closely on Harding herself, with only a few mentions of Kerrigan. Here's the two passages on Kerrigan I found that aren't simply describing facts of the attack:

The only time in her life she ever got anywhere was when she circumvented the rules and took for herself what appeared to be given to the Nancy Kerrigans of the world. Ms. Kerrigan was from a working-class family too, but she was loved. Her parents drove her to practices and cheered for her and cried with joy. She had Vera Wang skating outfits! Tonya had nothing. She had costumes that her mother made with sequins everywhere so that her thighs got cut up; then she had to make them herself, earning point deductions for the quality.

But instead, by the time she [Tonya] got to Lillehammer, the Olympic committee seemed set on punishing the United States for its sideshow. Ms. Kerrigan, who skated a stellar program, even after all that had happened, should (arguably) have won the gold and got silver instead. There was a sense that the judges were sending a message, that the Olympics were no place for American scandal.

One of them takes care to point out that Tonya's relative jealousy wasn't as justified as it might have been for a wealthier girl: it points out that Kerrigan herself wasn't exactly born with a silver spoon in her mouth. In fact, to my eye it's trying and (maybe failing?) to keep itself from swinging to one end of that pendulum or another; trying to remind the reader that Kerrigan didn't deserve that attack, and she had her own burdens to bear.

The other passage, insofar as it's maybe Harding being a touch self-pitying about what actually did happen at the Olympics, actually implies to me that Harding is angry about the Olympics decision because Kerrigan deserved to win and didn't. That she's angry because of the slight to America, not because of the score of her own performance.

I'm really interested in that, actually. It squares pretty neatly with the sense of patriotism Harding mentions elsewhere in the article (in particular her dismay at being compared to Monica Lewinsky), and also casts a complicated light on the conflicts between the two of them.
posted by sciatrix at 2:31 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]


It seems to me that 'defenses' (or discussions!) of Harding and the parts of her treatment that she didn't deserve are being taken as attacks on Kerrigan.

No. It's actually along the lines of describing Kerrigan as a mimsy ice princess that butter wouldn't melt in her mouth. And who got everything handed to her, etc. The more of this stuff you read, the more mocking it seems.

And occasionally you do read comments - always on public boards, not in articles - that say Kerrigan deserved to be taken down a notch with a spot of well targeted violence. For being a mimsy ice princess, for being a hypocrite who didn't always behave impeccably 24/7 and once said something about someone, or otherwise not pleasing all of the people all of the time, etc. Obviously, I'm not going to link to them here, but suffice it to say they exist.

I haven't even really got time to read your comment in full, but thanks for saying it - big food for thought there. More later.
posted by tel3path at 2:48 PM on January 11 [3 favorites]


Oh, and I should be clear, I'm talking about the cumulative effect of all the articles I've read on this topic lately. I actually think the current article is very fair.
posted by tel3path at 2:57 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]


Despite the single appearance of her name in the article, I just really, really don’t get why it’s necessary to shit all over Monica Lewinsky in a thread about Tonya Harding. Unless you just really, really need to shit on some women for not being perfect...
posted by palomar at 6:25 AM on January 12 [3 favorites]


Tonya Harding Just Lost Her Publicist

“Unfortunately, we reached an impasse today, regarding how to treat the press in the future” he wrote. “Her adamant and final position is that reporters must sign an affidavit stating that they ‘won’t ask her anything about the past’ or they’ll be fined $25,000. Obviously, it doesn’t work that way; and therefore I’ve chosen to terminate our business relationship.”

Da fuck?
posted by zakur at 7:35 AM on January 12 [2 favorites]




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