A punk feminist escapes from Russia and more: the week in commented articles
This weekend, listen to a collection of narrated articles from The New York Times, read aloud by the journalists who wrote them.
Written by Valerie Hopkins and Misha Friedman | Narrated by Valerie Hopkins
Maria V. Alyokhina first came to the attention of Russian authorities – and the world – when, in 2012, her punk band and performance art group, Pussy Riot, staged a protest against President Vladimir V. Putin in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow.
For this act of rebellion, she was sentenced to two years in prison for “hooliganism”. She had remained determined to fight Mr Putin’s system of repression, even after being jailed six times since last summer, each time for 15 days, always on bogus charges aimed at stifling her political activism.
But in April, as Mr Putin cracked down harder to stifle any criticism of his war in Ukraine, authorities announced that his effective house arrest would be converted in 21 days to a penal colony. She decided it was time to leave Russia – at least temporarily – and disguised herself as a food courier to evade the Moscow police.
It’s hard to be a utopian writer, or any type of utopian. Disaster-filled dystopian stories abound in film, television, and fiction; news headlines border on the apocalypse. Other masters of utopian speculative fiction – giants like Ursula K. Le Guin and Iain M. Banks – are gone, and few are filling the void. At the same time, utopian stories have never been more necessary.
At 70, Kim Stanley Robinson – who is widely acclaimed as one of the most influential speculative fiction writers of his generation – is perhaps the last of the great utopians. It can be lonely work, he says. But lately, his writings have had an impact in the real world, as biologists, climatologists, tech entrepreneurs and CEOs of green tech start-ups have looked to his fiction as a possible roadmap to avoid the worst. consequences of climate change.
Written and narrated by Katherine Rosmann
Since last summer, a start-up in beta mode has been asking for volunteers to participate in 55-minute sessions called “gathers”, where strangers discuss their deepest hopes and fears. The start-up, Peoplehood, is led by entrepreneurs Elizabeth Cutler and Julie Rice, who have combined sweat and spirituality in their latest venture, high-end fitness chain SoulCycle.
Ms. Cutler and Ms. Rice see Peoplehood as a natural successor to SoulCycle, which became a phenomenon because it gave its customers the feeling of sculpting not just their bodies but also their selves. Chain devotees wear SoulCycle gear as they pedal in unison on stationary bikes through candlelit halls under the tutelage of gurus-like instructors who shout empowering messages.
Peoplehood is a training-for-the-self company.
Written and narrated by Ruth Graham
For decades, 44-year-old Kevin Thompson was convinced he knew the people of Fort Smith, Arkansas, a small town nestled under a bend in the Arkansas River along the Oklahoma border. He was born in the city’s oldest hospital, attended public schools there, and grew up in a Baptist church that encouraged him to start preaching as a teenager. He assumed he would live in Fort Smith for the rest of his life.
But then things changed. “Jesus talks about how he is the truth, how central the truth is,” Mr. Thompson said in an interview. “The moment you lose the concept of truth, you have lost everything.”
A political moment in which the Supreme Court appears poised to overturn Roe v. Wade looks like a triumphant era for conservative evangelicals. But there are deepening cracks under this ascent.
Across the country, theologically conservative white evangelical churches that were once comfortably united have found themselves at odds on many of the same issues that divide the Republican Party and other institutions. The disruption, fear and physical separation of the pandemic have exacerbated each rupture.
Written and narrated by Jamie Lauren Keiles
Phalloplasty, or surgery to construct a penis, is one of medicine’s most complex procedures. Although it technically refers to one step in a long process – the construction of a phallus from a flap of one’s own skin – the term is used more generally to describe a series of modular surgeries, each occupying a different penile function.
Surgery for trans men and non-binary people — known in medicine as gender-affirming phalloplasty — has been around in one form or another since at least the 1940s, but until recently was rare in the United States. States, where insurance coverage was unreliable and few surgeons cared for the needs of trans patients.
Today, access and attitudes are changing, thanks to peer education efforts, recent advances in surgical technique, and most importantly, the Affordable Care Act, which prohibits health programs that receive a federal funding to discriminate on the basis of certain criteria protected by the federal government. including sex.
With a high rate of complications, however, phalloplasty remains a controversial procedure.
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The Times narrated articles are written by Tally Abecassis, Parin Behrooz, Anna Diamond, Sarah Diamond, Jack D’Isidoro, Aaron Esposito, Dan Farrell, Elena Hecht, Adrienne Hurst, Elisheba Ittoop, Emma Kehlbeck, Marion Lozano, Tanya Pérez, Krish Seenivasan, Margaret H. Willison, Kate Winslett, John Woo, and Tiana Young. Special thanks to Sam Dolnick, Ryan Wegner, Julia Simon and Desiree Ibekwe.