- It’s been a dismal week for women’s rights in this country. In the leaked Supreme Court draft to overturn Roe v. Wade, Justice Samuel Alito relies on the argument that “the Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision.” Jill Lepore of the New Yorker explains to Alito why he shouldn’t be so surprised:
As it happens, there is also nothing at all in that document, which sets out fundamental law, about pregnancy, uteruses, vaginas, fetuses, placentas, menstrual blood, breasts, or breast milk. There is nothing in that document about women at all. Most consequentially, there is nothing in that document—or in the circumstances under which it was written—that suggests its authors imagined women as part of the political community embraced by the phrase “We the People.” There were no women among the delegates to the Constitutional Convention. There were no women among the hundreds of people who participated in ratifying conventions in the states. There were no women judges. There were no women legislators. At the time, women could neither hold office nor run for office, and, except in New Jersey, and then only fleetingly, women could not vote. Legally, most women did not exist as persons.
“Women are indeed missing from the Constitution,” Lepore adds. “That’s a problem to remedy, not a precedent to honor.”
- Meanwhile, the earth-shattering leak, obtained by Politico, has spurred contrasting theories on the political motive of the leaker. Was it a liberal leaker hoping to torpedo the decision or a conservative one plotting to prevent justices from compromising in closed chambers? Ross Douthat of the New York Times explains the logic of the second theory:
All we know right now, from the leak and related reporting, is that Samuel Alito’s draft reflected the breakdown of the court about three months ago, when his draft first circulated — five votes to overturn Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, three votes against, John Roberts in the middle. But plenty of decisions have changed between the initial vote and the final ruling, including the Obamacare decision in 2012 (where Roberts switched sides) and Casey itself (where Anthony Kennedy wrote the decision upholding abortion rights after initially voting to overturn Roe). And in this case, it always seemed imaginable that an initial stark split would give way, through some kind of intra-judicial persuasion, to the kind of minimalist ruling that Roberts in particular favors.
So if you were simply following a crude strategic logic, the fact that what’s been leaked is a draft from months ago might suggest that a leaker on the conservative side hopes to freeze a wavering justice — Kavanaugh being the obvious candidate — into their initial vote, by making it seem like the very credibility of the court rests on their not being perceived to cave under external pressure.
For support for this theory, look no further than an editorial last week in The Wall Street Journal, warning that Roberts might be “trying to turn” some of his colleagues toward a more modest ruling, one that would uphold Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban without explicitly overturning Roe. The Journal editorial page is well sourced inside the conservative side of the Supreme Court; one of its editorials accurately foresaw that Roberts and Neil Gorsuch would join the liberals to expand the Civil Rights Act’s protections to gay and transgender Americans. So its warning last week could supply a direct conservative motive for a leak.
- Not unrelated and equally disturbing, read Susan Dominus’s heartbreaking report in the New York Times about the suffering of Ukrainian surrogate mothers during the war.
- Los Angeles Times art critic Carolina A. Miranda reviewed the exhibition Traitor, Survivor, Icon: The Legacy of La Malinche at the Denver Art Museum, which examines the myths around the enslaved Indigenous girl who served as Hernán Cortés’s interpreter during the Spanish invasion of Mexico. Miranda writes:
The Denver Art Museum’s exhibition charts the ways in which the narratives that surround Malinche have evolved. She was an Indigenous girl who, through no choice of her own, found herself at the center of historic events, only to later have her role in those events marginalized by both artists and historians. Over the years, her profile has been resuscitated in various guises: as Eve to the modern Mexican nation, as a traitor on whose shoulders lay the devastating legacies of colonialism, as a figure of reclaimed feminist histories.
It’s a lot for a woman whose own voice remains muted by the vagaries of history.
- Have you seen NYC Mayor Eric Adams’s outfit at the Met Gala this week? I guess that’s what he calls “swagger.”
- Adams’s divisive Culture Commissioner, Laurie Cumbo, said yes to a surprise wedding proposal on that same red carpet.
- Also, check out this Twitter thread reimagining some Met Gala attendees as professors and students in a university English Department.
- A Russian physicist argues that Leonardo da Vinci’s “Rule of Trees”, by which the combined thickness of a tree’s branches is equal to the thickness of the trunk they sprouted from, is wrong. James R. Riordon reports:
The multitalented, Renaissance genius wrote down his “rule of trees” over 500 years ago. It described the way he thought that trees branch. Though it was a brilliant insight that helped him to draw realistic landscapes, Leonardo’s rule breaks down for many types of trees. Now, a new branching rule — dubbed “Leonardo-like” — works for virtually any leafy tree, researchers report in a paper accepted April 13 in Physical Review E.
“The older Leonardo rule describes the thickness of the branches, while the length of the branch was not taken into account,” says physicist Sergey Grigoriev of the Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute in Gatchina, Russia. “Therefore, the description using the older rule is not complete.”
- Scientists say there’s an “Anti-Universe” out there mirroring ours but running backward in time. According to Caroline Delbert of Popular Mechanics, the new theory could explain the presence of dark matter:
Could it be that a newly discovered “anti-universe” might run parallel to our own universe, but backward in time? If so, it would essentially spread out “backward” in time, prior to the Big Bang, in the same way our universe progressed “forward” in time. In a new paper, published last month in the journal Annals of Physics, researchers from the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Ontario, Canada, suggest that the Big Bang might have been smaller and more symmetrical than we think.
“Among other things, we shall describe in detail a remarkable consequence of this hypothesis, namely a highly economical new explanation for the cosmological dark matter,” the researchers write.
One cool thing about this model of the Big Bang is that it removes the need for what scientists call “inflation,” a period of time in which the universe massively expanded in order to account for its size soon after birth. Instead, the matter could have naturally expanded over time in a less forceful way, which could simplify our explanation for what happened.
- And finally, here’s a romantic picture of the Eiffel Tower during construction (click on the tweet to see the full image):
Required Reading is published every Thursday afternoon, and it is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.
Once denounced as “women’s work” with no artistic merit, embroidery is experiencing a revival, with a feminist punch.
Inspired by the journey made by the epic hero Homer’s Odyssey, a show at Villa Carmignac combines myth with contemporary issues.
This new kunsthaus in Potsdam shows modern and contemporary works of art from East Germany in what was once a terrace restaurant.
Courtney Stephens’s documentary on women’s travels from the 1920s to ’50s presents not just personal glimpses into daily life a century ago but also documents of colonialism.
Laura Larson’s City of Incurable Women draws from archival materials to speculate on the lives of women who were famously hospitalized for hysteria throughout history.
The Philadelphia organization offers artists on-site access to recovered materials, studio space, construction equipment, a $1,000 stipend, and more.
The company is asking users to verify their bank details via Plaid, a fintech company that recently settled a privacy class action lawsuit.
Each artist will receive $190,000 in cash and benefits from the Tulsa Artist Fellowship over a three-year period.
Drawn to Life at the Ackland in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, showcases 17th-century Dutch drawings of landscapes, portraits, preparatory studies, and biblical and historical scenes.
The 1,000-year-old Cañada de la Virgen ceremonial site will be protected from encroaching development.
A total of 24 board members stepped down from their posts after the art center’s parent company allegedly attempted to terminate 12 of their colleagues.
A group of artists and writers denounced the center for hosting Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., son of the country’s former dictator.