Me and Arianna

Back in 1978, I watched 28 year-old Arianna Stassinopoulos shred an opponent during a Cambridge Union Society debate. I had attended other events at the Union–a screening of Carrie, a lecture on meditation–but the Stassinopoulos performance made by far the deepest impression.

I no longer recall the substance of that debate, but I will never forget Stassinopoulos. What captivated me was her sparkling blend of confidence with an apparent mastery of the topic at hand. Of course there was also that exotic Greek accent, so thick that even if you weren’t persuaded by her arguments, you had to admire her for speaking  before an audience composed overwhelmingly of privileged English students. She deftly skewered her adversary’s claims and tossed them flailing off the stage. At least, that’s how it looked to someone who spent her days in the hermit-like study of ancient documents in dead languages. There was no way the woman wasn’t headed for something big.

Fast forward to 2011. Arianna Huffington had become a household name. And again we found ourselves in the same room, at least figuratively speaking. My second book,  A Home A of Her Own, had just been published by the Indiana University Press. A publicist called to tell me that the Huffington Post wanted to include our book in its list of “Books We Love” and asked for a related essay.  A few months later, the Huffington Post published a grittier piece decrying ridiculously objectified images of women who work in manual trades and professions.

We still haven’t met in person, and we probably never will. But it’s fun to recall the fearless young woman I saw in action more than a quarter-century ago.–Nancy Hiller, author of Making Things Work


11 responses to “Me and Arianna

  1. How interesting. I couldn’t imagine you writing “me and Arianna,” but it’s certainly legit for two life members of the Cambridge Union.

  2. Pingback: The Pencil Today: « Electron Pencil

  3. I love a story with a surprise and of connections. For a brief period Arianna lived in our neighborhood where she gently created a few (much needed) waves. Thanks, Nancy.

  4. I don’t really care about Arianna and how she destroyed someone 25 years ago! We all have our moments of realization, inspiration, and disappointment! I subscribed to learn the craft of working wood and do not really care whether you are man, woman, black, white, red, or yellow! If we are going to keep getting this type of dribble, I need to move on because I am out of place here!

    • You’ll find that posts on the Lost Art Press blog generally focus on woodworking and related culture. This post is related to woodworking indirectly, via the links cited in the post, particularly the one on sexist depictions of women in the trades. If you’re not interested in that dimension of this field, fine; just move on. Many others are interested in it. The great thing about subscribing to a blog is that it’s free of charge. You may read or delete, at your discretion. Most readers pay attention to what interests them and ignore the rest, as with a print publication.

  5. Jaime Guerrero

    I don’t know whar bedrock608 is mad about. I like to know who and what inspires people. Everything can be applied to woodworking, seeing an aggressive informed young woman could have inspired you to go ahead and make something that you thought was beyond your skills. It all depends on how you look at things. Keep telling whatever stories you like thank you.

  6. I did not seek this out! It came into my mailbox via Lost Art Press! I find it sad that you have sexist depictions of women in the trades to worry about! There is truly evil in the world and places where men and women are truly enslaved and are murdered daily! I have spent my life trying to save people and help them! Sometimes with success and sometimes not. I have dealt with the death of good men, women, and children and find that worrying about such mundane things as sexist depictions absurd! I admire your success and wish you as much good fortune as God will allow! There are much more important things to worry about! I will move on, now!

  7. I usually consume sports media because I like sports and there are not a lot of political fodder there. Since the campaign and election of 45, however, there has been a lot of crossover of political stuff in my sports. I have no problem with that because things are different now. I also have no problem with strong, creative, high-achieving women popping up in my woodworking media either. Women have been underrepresented in wood craft so perhaps we are moving into a more balanced condition. Hope so.

  8. I hope this post wasn’t removed from the Lost Arts Press blog because of modern stone-age thinkers (and excessive exclamation point users) like bedrock608.

    • Heh. No, I didn’t remove the post from the LAP site because of those exclamation point-filled comments. I removed it because the opening image was too large and messed up the lovely aesthetic of the LAP blog page. I couldn’t figure out how to adjust the image size once it had been posted, so out of respect for all things Lost Art Press, I simply deleted the post from their site.

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