WOMEN
01/09/2014 09:51 am ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Tonya Harding, Nancy Kerrigan, And The Spectacles Of Female Power And Pain

VINCENT ALMAVY via Getty Images

You don’t have to listen very closely to realize we’ve been wrong for all these years. It’s not a difficult phrase to remember, and she repeats it again and again and again, clutching her knee as she rocks back and forth like a child hurt on a playground. It is, in fact, not a phrase at all, but a word—just one—and though we hear it mostly as a keening, inarticulate wail, it’s also impossible to mishear. The word is why.

In the video—which will be shown on the news again and again in the weeks that follow the incident—she says the word three times, stopping only when she is spirited away from the cameras in her father’s arms, her face pressed fearfully against his. She looks, in her lacy white costume, like nothing so much as an anxious young bride being carried over a threshold she isn’t quite sure she’s ready to cross.

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