State Dept. snubs blog of Foreign Service spouse in breast cancer treatment for using n-word: "nipple."

My pal Anthony Citrano points to this outrageous story, and says: "The State Department says their staff should blog about 'individual stories', but this bullshit about your new nipple is just too much."

The tl;dr: Jennifer Dinoia, who is married to a foreign service agent, maintained a family blog that was promoted on the State Department website. She wote about her experience in treatment for breast cancer. All was fine with the blog, and its inclusion in the State Dept.'s official blogroll, until she wrote a post detailing nipple construction after mastectomy.

From Ms. DiNoia's blog post, after she realized her story was no longer welcome:

Sunday evening, when I noticed the blog missing, I wrote to the online specialist who had contacted me way back when. The next day I heard from a new community specialist. I was told in no uncertain terms that my blog does not have "content relevant to the U.S. Foreign Service". When I replied back with a description of the content that is more than related, I received a response from yet another new person. The response from that person?

Hopefully, you can understand that some topics covered in your blog are very personal in nature, e.g. nipple cozies, and wouldn’t necessarily resonate with the majority of potential candidates who are interested in learning about the FS life overseas. Through our years of recruitment experience, we found that FS prospects want to learn more about the work that’s conducted, the people and cultures with whom they will interact, the travel experiences, and the individual stories our employees* have to share.

Oh! They want travel experiences and individual stories. I'm sorry, have I not been providing that information?

So you mean describing stories about life after a diagnosis of breast cancer while your FS husband is serving in Iraq on an unaccompanied tour 6,219 miles away is not an individual story? You mean detailing how you got through said issue, how you managed to pick yourself up off the floor each day despite feeling like your world had completely fallen apart (oh, wait, it had) and managed to somehow dust yourself off and keep going with your Foreign Service life is of no interest? Guess that means I am the *only* one who will ever have to deal with such a thing.

Lisa Rein has more at the Washington Post.


  1. It seems clear they’re looking for individual stories about what *foreign service* is like, not about breast cancer. The state department is trying to promote foreign service, and cancer stories are maybe not helpful to that end.

    The outrage here is about as justified as it would be if BB removed the “Tom the Dancing Bug” link on the right because they no longer felt the comic meshed well with their audience.

    1. No. She was absolutely writing about what life as the spouse of a foreign service agent is like. But her foreign service family life just happened to include cancer.

      She had been writing about it in detail for years at this blog, and the issue only became an issue when she recently used the word “nipple” in the context of describing the most recent of many surgeries.

      Read her blog posts.

      And no, your BB/TDDB analogy doesn’t work.

    2. It seems clear they’re looking for individual stories about what *foreign service* is like, not about breast cancer.

      You mean they’re looking for what life in the foreign service would be like for the Cleavers or the Bradys.  In other words, they want free propaganda submissions.

      1. I was going to make a joke where I made up a piece of dialogue for “Leave It to Beaver” where June was calling at Ward (off-camera) that the Beaver had cancer, but I can’t think of anything funny to joke about.

        *canned laugh track*

        1. “Gee Beav, how come your blog got busted?”
          “On account of my nipple and stuff, Wally.”

  2. The next day I heard from a new community specialist. I was told in no uncertain terms that my blog does not have “content relevant to the U.S. Foreign Service”.

    Slight difference, I imagine the truth is not that it didn’t have relevant content, but that it contained content that was not deemed relevant. One strike and you’re out.

    The US Government is the most conservative political body in the country.

  3. Boo hoo, she got taken off a blog roll. I have to say… so what? People add and remove links with and without justification all the time. It’s called the internet, you don’t control what others post, and they don’t control what you post. Why is this story here, maybe because the military are ‘bad guys’ in this lady’s narrative so that’ll play on BB? 

    1. Know what’s also great about the internet? You can learn things like the US Foreign Service isn’t part of the US military.

      1. Good catch, I wasn’t paying attention! But my point still stands. The lady got taken off a blog-roll, it’s hardly news-worthy, and the “little blogger vs. the big bad man” is totally the kind of thing Boing Boing readers love. I love a good David and Goliath as much as the next guy but this just seems like whining to me. How exactly was this lady wronged? Her blog’s still online for people to read, she lost one link, BFD.

        1.  I know, right? People love to hear what you have to say until you start talking about your cancer, and then – of course – they tune you out because no one wants to hear about THAT. Get over yourself and your cancer, lady! It’s the Internet, move on already!

          1. Really, as Xeni said above, it’s more like, people love to hear what you’re talking about (even cancer) until you happen to mention a body part that can have sexual uses (but is also kind of critical for, you know, children surviving infancy), and their puritanical bloomers get all wound up in a twist.

            Lady, you and your nipples are not welcome here.

        2. You may see it as a weaksauce David and Goliath. I see it as some faceless coward thinking of breast cancer like we’re in the 1950s. Wasn’t too long ago that people didn’t even talk about breast cancer because it was too icky. Not to mention that the USFS is supposed to represent American values. One of which, purportedly, is openness. So yeah, I think it’s newsworthy that the USFS performed a triple-axel FAIL here.

  4. I definitely agree the states reasons are bogus — the blog is clearly related to the Foreign Service experience, and I can’t really imagine a more personal, individual story being told.  I imagine the real reason is much more straightforward: talking about cancer makes people uncomfortable, and it’s bad PR for the Foreign Service.  They probably don’t want potential spouses thinking about what it will be like when they have a problem and their partner is on the other side of the world.

  5. Note that the WaPo article referenced at the bottom of the article now says that it has been re-instated.

    Needless to say, the ‘reason’ given for it having been removed seems to be in conflict with the email she had already posted…

    1. The blog post didn’t show graphic photos of anything nipple-related. It was the WORD “nipple” that got censored.

  6. Our State Department houses some of the most noxious and small-minded little shits on the planet. Frankly, the whole thing should be scrubbed top to bottom. The experiment called America is well on its way to becoming an unmitigated disaster that will drag the open society right down the tubes with it and the State Department plays a prominent role in the destruction of the concepts that helped create what we know as the open society.

  7. All this talk about nipple construction got me thinking- surely there must be some non-cancer-having fetishists out there who would pay good money for extra nipples, even purely cosmetic ones. I’d probably Google it out of prurient curiosity if I wasn’t at the office.

      1. It’s a shame that people who have more than they want or need can’t donate them to some kind of nipple bank.

        1. I’m afraid that the supernumeraries don’t come with an areola. It’s kind of hard to distinguish between a supernumerary nipple and a pink raised mole that happens to be in the nipple line. I have one extra for sure, possibly three.

  8. She should be writing WHATEVER she likes, WITHOUT the need to JUSTIFY herself infront of nazi thought police, political police, etc.

    The other day i watched a documentary on the French/German channel Arte about Scientology: they showed a nightmare nazi-like town called Clearwater where countless crowds of thousands of people in brown pants and white shirts uniform were criss crossing streets with videocameras on every corner. 5 mins later they were ordered to stop filming–from the sidewalk!
    This in comparisson with the “nipple” type of censura draws a very very dark picture. I mean, you should experience the sick FEEL of this clearwater shithole place!

  9. Having just completed an Honors Thesis on State Department usage of social media and having spent the last year researching it, I know exactly what’s happened here. 

    The State Department is still boxed in by a paradigm where it desires to control the discussion in an extremely precise fashion, as are all diplomatic agencies. From State’s point of view, you can’t have diplomats spouting off on personal matters when they are effectively acting as representatives of the United States for everyone they interact with. It detracts from your diplomatic message, and may unintentionally alienate the populations with whom you are trying to build relations. This is especially true with the Foreign Service, as F.S. members are having daily contact with foreign citizens. I imagine someone in high command saw she was blogging about Iraq and breasts in the same breath and hit the panic button. 

    But this type of controlled message propagation goes completely against the grain of social media, which focuses on more spontaneous and personal types of interaction. Conflicts like this are only going to happen more and more as State continues to try and make diplomatic in-roads through social media, a process which is already well under way (see the work and statements of Alec Ross, or read in between the lines in the QDDR)

  10. Oh come on! Everybody knows there are no boobs in State.

    All the boobs are over at Homeland Security.

  11. The puritanical reaction from the State Department is one thing, but this article raises another issue for me: I was not previously aware that nipples had to be fabricated.

    I admit I’m not too swift with the nuances of reconstructive surgery, but I’ve seen at least two cases of skin grafts growing nipples in odd places (one on a leg, one on the underside of a foot). I was of the impression that a chunk of skin which once held a nipple would form another one when it got settled in. Making a new one from scratch seems like a lot of work when you could just graft a bit of skin from near the other nipple and wait for it to work its magic. Apparently, it doesn’t work that way.

    Incidentally, it also seems a bit outrageous that mastectomies are often covered by insurance, but reconstructive surgery is not. Reconstructive surgery is often covered for accident and burn victims, so why not cancer survivors? (Men who’ve lost a cojone to cancer also have to buy their own dummies if they want to look normal, but that’s an irrelevant gripe for another thread).

    tl;dr – To hell with those State Department assholes and their Beaver Cleaver aesthetic. I want to see some positive changes in the medical and insurance fields.

Comments are closed.