The N Word (and the C Word and the A Word)

The kerfluffle about Jen Dinoia’s blog being removed from the State Department website due to her use of the word NIPPLE (yes, that’s right, NIPPLENIPPLENIPPLENIPPLE!!)  seems to be over. But wow, what a ride.

You might wonder: what is the big deal here? In fact, my husband asked me just that. After all, I had already told him a while back that knew I wasn’t listed on the State Department page in question, and frankly didn’t care.

But, I’ve been around a while. Let’s say I have not been. Let’s pretend I am the fresh-faced spouse of a potential new hire, and in my charming naiveté, I actually think the State Department has posted this page of blog links in order to give me a realistic idea of what my life may be like in the Foreign Service.

I don’t consider the fact that their desire to recruit my partner into said service might influence the selection of blogs on the page. I don’t know, for example, that AAFSW has a much more comprehensive and growing list of FS blogs on their website. I don’t know about Real Post Reports, or any of that other useful stuff (yes, there are actually people like this.) Most importantly, I don’t know that this list is maintained by a civil service employee who is not actually in the Foreign Service.

In that case, if I don’t see a link to one of the most prolific, straightforward bloggers in the Foreign Service community on that list, then I could be missing some essential information. All because on her blog she chose to write extensively about the major life event of losing a breast in her late thirties to cancer IN ADDITION TO writing about all her various Foreign Service experiences. And in course of that happened to mention her nipple.

Well, that would be pretty silly, wouldn’t it? All because of the N-word.

I have heard the C-word pop up here and there in the discussion, but I don’t actually think this was a case of censorship. After all, no one told Jen to shut down her blog. And, technically, the State Department can put whatever it wants on its own website. What we bloggers were calling them on was not censorship. It was stupidity!

The thing is, we already put up with a lot of stupidity. From the Fly America act, to ugly furniture shipped from some North Carolina hotel supplier all over the world, to an increasingly Kafka-esque bidding process, to the persistent lack of online information for family members, to the Iraq Factor (’nuff said.) So, for me, anyway, this was just one more dumb thing that I felt like I could call actually them on and maybe someone would listen for a change. Apparently, a lot of other spouses, and a few officers, felt the same way. Jen has listed some of their posts on her blog.

And people did listen! The story was picked up by The Washington Post, Boing-Boing, Jezebel, The Raw Story, and many more news outlets and blogs. It was amazing. I almost feel sorry for the employee who removed Jen’s blog. She probably spent most of yesterday hiding under her desk.

Now to the A-Word.

An even more amazing thing happened. Someone at the State Department actually apologized for screwing up!

Well, sort of.

From the Careers page:

As you can see, we have re-linked to Jen Dinoia’s blog and sincerely regret any offense we caused. We appreciate all your efforts to share your personal Foreign Service experiences (writ large) and are pleased to offer them a wider audience. We will certainly try to be more sensitive in future decisions regarding placements. Thanks again for your efforts and your service 

– Jeff Levine, Director of Recruitment, Examination and Employment

Let me put my musty, dusty 20-year plus veteran hat on and tell you: this almost never happens. It really, seriously, never happens in writing. Shipment delayed for three extra months because someone forgot to send it to post? No apology. Paycheck missing hardship differential or COLA for several months for no apparent reason? No apology. Travel orders missing until the very last possible minute? No apology. Left off the promotion list due to a paperwork error by someone in HR that was not in any way your fault? Forget about it, ain’t no one going to apologize for that.

OK, this apology does not actually include the words “sorry” or ‘apologize.” In fact, it’s more like: “If I had known what a total pain in the rear you FS bloggers could be, I never would have let this happen, trust me.” But that’s OK, it’s still progress, and remarkably fast movement on an issue for the State Department. I’ll choose to believe that Mr. Levine understands on some level why this was important to so many people. (Hey, maybe he has a Foreign Service spouse all his own to explain it him!)

I still don’t really care whether my blog is listed on that page. But I’ve applied for it to be added now, just because. Anyway, I can’t think of any reason why my blog wouldn’t be listed, can you?

By the way,



  1. The ‘apology’ is nice to have received. You are very right in that it is rare. As far as listing blogs, mine isn’t listed either. I never wanted it to be, though, and still don’t -especially with the vague guidelines for supporting or destroying same. I figure I am out there if someone is looking, but I don’t want the job of poster plug. For those who are braver and sign up for inclusion, my hat’s off to you.


  2. “If I had known what a total pain in the rear you FS bloggers could be, I never would have let this happen, trust me.”

    Oh yes. And if I had known that you might fling eggs publicly and actually get the attention of the a national media outlet, I would have backed away from the issue holding a cross up in front of me.


  3. Love it! I’m taking it as an apology, which I did not expect. I also did not expect (or ask) to be relisted. However, I am grateful, and you are correct…something like this is nothing short of a miracle/amazing!


  4. Thanks for your view on this, Kelly. Frankly, just like your husband, I was wondering what the big deal was. I guess I have been around so long that I am completely jaded. Putting on the newcomer’s hat gives a new perspective.


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