Dingus of the Week: Elizabeth Holmes’ Father-in-Law

Plus, book snacks!

Hi! Welcome to the Weekly Dingus, my Friday newsletter, where I round up my internet reads, share a drink, and yell about a dingus. Is that dingus a politicianA boat in a canalMy dog? Or maybe it’s just pants. You can read about past weekly dinguses in the archives.


This week, Nicki Minaj forced people to talk about her cousin’s testicles for 20 whole news cycles, and it’s still not over. The singer’s tweets about the COVID-19 vaccine possibly causing the testes on someone she doesn’t know to swell were so bad that the White House offered her a doctor as a consult.

But we can’t talk about this story anymore because Ted Cruz made a joke and ruined joke Christmas.

And the Wall Street Journal, a previous Dingus Award Winner, keeps trying to convince us that ruining the environment with our cars so our bosses can surveil us in the office is a great idea. 

And the GOP spent millions on a recall vote in California that was a catastrophic failure of time, energy, resources, money, and the value of Trumpism. But it did provide us the benefit of making some professional pundits look very, very, very silly. And so for that, we thank you.

And then, a bunch of people got mad at AOC for wearing a “Tax the Rich” dress to the Met Gala. And I’m not even doing a run-down of the exhausting criticisms. The dress was either too socialist or not socialist enough. It was either an empty gesture or it was the threat of communism on our shores. In response to the criticism, AOC wrote on Instagram, “I and my body have been so heavily and relentlessly policed from all corners politically since the moment I won my election.” And truly, she cannot win.

AOC’s unruly body and beauty are always uncomfortable for white male pundits, who pivot to criticizing her politics as if her body, her clothes, her hair aren’t an inherently political space. But the ire she invokes speaks to the discomfort America has with the body that does not conform to what we think of bodies, of what we expect of bodies, and what we want from a woman’s body. And the punditry around AOC’s looks and how she dresses often feels like the puss of misogyny escaping the boil of our society. Good, white, liberal men really will sit there and tell us how a woman should dress.

I think a lot about the essay Tressie McMillan Cottom wrote last year about AOC and beauty, noting:

I believe that in this worldview, which is the dominant one, beauty is seen as the only legitimate capital that women are allowed [to] possess. But beauty is supposed to serve power’s interests. When beauty occurs in an “unruly body”, such as a non-white person’s body, then it is an existential threat.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot recently. About how beauty is capital for women and how we conform or not, or evade those standards, is just as political as taxing the rich. And how uncomfortable society is with women who understand this and use this as part of their power. 

But those are just runners-up to the incredible dingus this week: Elizabeth Holmes’ father-in-law.

Elizabeth Holmes was the girlboss hero of the start-up Theranos, who everyone loved until she allegedly did an entire con. Oops, how could that have happened? say the credulous tech investors who are now pretending they don’t know her. Now she’s facing trial. The trial began last week, and already it’s a circus. MSNBC has a good recap of the trial.

Noting:

Facing the possibility of up to 20 years in federal prison, Holmes has been charged with 12 felony counts including wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and defrauding patients and investors. She has already previewed her defense in court filings: She alleges that Theranos — the blood testing startup that she started at the age of 19 after dropping out of Stanford University — was a complicated business but was not a fraud, and that she was emotionally, physically, and sexually abused by her former business partner and boyfriend, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani.

But the trial for fraud has gotten off to a start with another fraud. Bill Evans, the father of Holmes’ partner, Billy Evans, spent the first week of the trial cozying up to reporters and telling them he was just a normal guy named Hanson who fixed up old cars for a living. Under the guise of Hanson, Evans the Elder told reporters that no one knew the true Elizabeth Holmes and that she was maligned by the press. He wore a baseball hat and a puffer jacket and ate a Rice Krispie bar very loudly in the back of the courtroom.

The fraud wasn’t a good one. According to NPR, several reporters thought he was a mole or a plant and asked him point-blank. He also had his real name on his Starbucks cup and shuffled around in Salvatore Ferragamo loafers, which are not the shoe of an everyman. It’s good that some of the media is elite because I actually would not have known that. I don’t know what rich shoes look like. But I would have caught him by the purchased Rice Krispie treat. Real ones always bring a treat from home.

But the jig was up when he walked into court with Holmes this week along with the rest of her family. And when reporters asked him about it, he basically was like, “People have nicknames.” And walked off.

This family is truly banana pants. And it’s making the rest of the professionally dysfunctional families in America quake in fear. My own family wonders, what will be our identity if we are no longer the weirdest? My hairstylist-turned-parole officer sister shudders. My brother-in-law, who several times tried to start a cricket farm quakes. My sister who spent a good half dozen year molding a series of charming vignettes for clay snakes shrieks.

But what I also want to point out is that, in this family of wealth and influence, this was the best plan they could come up with? We have to stop thinking of rich people as better or more deserving.

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What I Am Reading:

This week, I read Lauren Groff’s book The Matrix about an abbess who attempts to create a feminist utopia. It’s a book that reads like a golden fever dream, awash in image, sensation, love, and ambition. The book midrashes religion, cutting off god from man and handing her over to the hands of women. God is a hen and the eggs it lays are life. A postulate preaches Song of Songs to the bees. I was breathless reading it.

I also read Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy, which is a story of sisters and wildlife and violence. It was a lovely and a fast and fierce read, but it got a little nutty at the end. I love stories with big, thick plots, but I judge them harshly when the plot spirals. This plot absolutely spirals. But it’s fun. Also, wolves.

Watching Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney, and Maggie Nichols testify this week, reminded me, once again, how disposable our society treats women’s bodies. And how much we expect of women who are fighting for their justice. Read Kerry Howley’s story from 2018 on how Larry Nassar escaped justice for so long.

An Iowa judge put a temporary ban on Iowa’s ban on mask mandates. I interviewed one of the women who brought a lawsuit against the state. And this week, I wrote about learning to fix things and the dads of YouTube. And, because of that essay, I am now signed up for a home construction class in January. For the Riveter, I wrote about not believing in motivation. Just work.

ALSO, I WILL BE AT THE LUTHER COLLEGE WRITING FESTIVAL! COME SEE ME!

Plus, my friend Jenny Colville started Porch Light, which is a new literary center in Iowa City, and you should support it/check it out.

What I Am Drinking:

Last week’s Gold Rush cocktails were an absolute delight. Just smashing all around. Like little boozy lemonades. I highly recommend it. And this week, I found a very ambitious spiced bourbon pear situation that I might try. Or I’ll just drink some red wine around my fire pit. 

Also, this week, I was realizing that now that I am deep, deep into book writing (drafting the halfway chapter now!), that each of my books has been written with a different snack/drink combo. Most of them were born out of necessity/desperation/availability. But I also cannot eat these items now without thinking about the physical sensation of writing those books.

God Land: Bai drinks and Starburst jellybeans. This was because I wrote most of that book in one month at the St. John’s campus during a residency, where Bai drinks were, for some reason, supplied in all the common areas. And I had packed a lot of Starburst jellybeans, because that was the snack that kept me going during grad school.

Belabored: Hot tea and shortbread. This book I wrote mostly at night, and I needed a drink to keep me awake but not too awake so I couldn’t sleep later. So, I’d make a mug of tea and grab some shortbread and go to town. There was no specific brand of shortbread; it began as Girl Scout shortbreads and devolved from there.

This American Ex-Wife: So far, a lot of the book has been written during the day. A true revelation for me! And I’m not much of an iced-coffee drinker. And I’ve been writing out and about at my favorite writing spot, which only has Pepsi on tap for sodas. So, Diet Pepsi is fine? Even though I’m devoted to Diet Coke, I am also lazy and I take what I can get. Also, I’m really watching my carb intake (truly the most obnoxious sentence), so my snacks have been little cheeses and pepperonis. So, unless it changes, the snack/drink combo for this book is looking just as dumb as the other ones.

Have a wonderful weekend.


Men Yell at Me is a newsletter about the places where our bodies and politics collide and yes, the occasional yelling man. Learn more about it and me (Lyz) here. You can sign up to receive the free weekly email, which includes interviews, essays, and original reporting. The Friday email is a weekly round-up of dinguses, drinks, and links. On Monday I have a subscribers-only open thread where we discuss politics and our bodies and more.

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