How I Feel / Towards Women / Our Portals / The Realities of Physical + Verbal Abuse / Perpetuated
Our literature community and its support was my shadow school / my relief / my home throughout a great deal of the more difficult and horrific parts of graduate school, and that’s what I want it to feel like for other young women. A blossom haven. A thing that has the potential to free you.
However, I think I sometimes forget how tangible / bloody it is that though poetry taught me how to finally speak, it also showed me, vividly, how I would be killed / how so many bodies are killed. As artists / humans who believe in the totality of language’s possibilities and are no strangers to the notion of language as an explosive, fluctuating medium / tool, we have to believe there are real parts in language and real parts in practitioners / teachers / communities of language that have consistent potential to fester / harm / damage / kill.
I’m buying the Emily Dickinson Tarot Card deck today and writing more because I want to believe we can divine, shed, ribbon, glitter, howl, burn, converse through this as slowly and painfully as we need to. The edge of danger is always looking different and endless to me, and I am always afraid / aloud / turning to you.
Undercurrent: I found out I won’t be paid for adjuncting until I have worked for ten unpaid weeks. And then, I will only be paid for four. I’m tired / sad in ways I’m not sure how to cope with / unravel (even now, I’m saying to myself: you sound whiny, you sound ungrateful, what if phD schools read this.) I’m teaching two classes Lidia Yuknavitch’s “Explicit Violence” on Wednesday, and I’m v. scared. What many of you have been saying has been one of the only things keeping me brave. I don’t know. Red vibes. Red sand. Thank you for working yourself into me.
About a month ago, Sophia Katz told me she was raped by a former friend and roommate of mine when she visited New York this past May. Yesterday, she published a piece chronicling the sexual abuse she experienced that week, using a pseudonym for her rapist. I shared the piece on multiple platforms and commended her bravery. I said, “This is very important, everyone should read this.” I said “We need to protect and support rape victims, defend young girls in the indie lit community against predatorial, privileged men.” Other people liked the post, shared it, added more supportive comments. But by the end of the day, there was no further discussion about it. No one asked who he is, even though he is an editor within a community we all participate in.
And then I realized, I hadn’t either.
I had felt afraid of ‘starting that war’ against him. I realized that maybe people were afraid to ask who he was because they already knew. Maybe he was someone they considered a friend. Maybe identifying him as a rapist made them uncomfortable and sad. Maybe they didn’t believe it.
I lived with this person for a year. I listened to the way he spoke about his exgirlfriend after she broke up with him. I listened when he told me he “didn’t see the point of hanging out with any of his female friends” because at the end of the day he doesn’t get to fuck them. I pulled my piece from his magazine that he had solicited me for because I no longer wanted to support the career of a casual misogynist.
We shouldn’t be afraid to discuss this publicly when Sophia has been brave enough to call out her abuser in a community where he has immense support and friendship. Stephen Tully Dierks should not be shielded because he is or was our friend. We should hold our friends as accountable as we hold everyone else, if not more.
Having to cajole someone into sleeping with you doesn’t mean you had consent. Especially if you had power over them (the ability to kick them to the curb in an unfamiliar city, for example).
To all the men out there: Read Katz’s story. Don’t just admonish Stephen, push yourself further. Think about your own past. Think about what consent has meant to you in the past and what it means to you now. Look at the standards you’ve set for yourself — were they enough? Are they enough? Do you need to hold yourself and others to a higher standard?
I’m tired of being brave
This happens all the time. I’m upset that it happens. I’m upset that the men who do this don’t even realize what they are doing is rape. It would mean you have gone from a man to a rapist and this is to be resisted for as long as desire and silence breathe in the same space as disgust and silence. Our actions do define us sometimes, even and especially when you would believe they wouldn’t, couldn’t.
I went on my first OkCupid date in 2009 with a man whom I had briefly encountered months earlier at a party. I believed that this first date would certainly be a safe first date. He was responsible, well-liked, wore designer glasses, spoke Mandarin, looked like a movie star. And when I was no longer held down by booze or his body I left and it was 5 AM and I vomited in a garbage can and this dirty man on the street called me a thing I forget how to repeat because of how repetitive this thing I am appears in eyes of men and when I got on the train with his stuff still drying on my stomach and when I could not go back to sleep and let myself say to the walls “I let him do that” and when I could not go back to sleep he texted me to say he had a great night and if I had interest in dinner. If he could not see the wrong that was done then certainly, I thought, no wrong was done to me. I had a crisp notion that my body was again a thing to be entered and so what was the harm. I didn’t go on a second date with him. I ignored his texts and eventually he went to China.
I wanted to say something else when I started putting words down about this. There is a disconnect in perception to what happens when we find ourselves in intimate quarters with somebody else. This membraneous skin forms over these types of sexual encounters so that when one person exhibits signs of discomfort and when the other person only views this discomfort as potential rejection, this is to be resisted for as long as it takes to remove the potential rejection from the equation. As if fucking is the sole balm against present insecurities. My way of dealing with these bad memories has always been to intellectualize them, which now I see is one more form of repression. I’ve settled for a long on this notion that I should be compassionate towards those who have done me harm because how they perceive what they did to my body and how I perceive what was done to my body are vastly different, pleasure and harm on opposite ends of a spectrum, never touching, never grazing. So then I/we settle again on words fed by the patriarchy like “overblown,” “dramatized,” even “attention-seeking.” They move to China, they invite you to their wedding, they send you Linked In emails. But then Tiffany but then Sophia, they say Yes This Happened and Yes It Was Wrong and Here They Are, They Who Did This. I don’t give a fuck about being brave. I care about speaking. These strong women, they spoke the very hard language of their damage. They spoke to their communities, to several communities, and thank fucking god people are listening.
"In the context of these influences, what allows women to become free of concerns about the reactions they or their work will provoke? I’ve found that the fundamental shift for women happens when we internalize the fact that all substantive work brings both praise and criticism. Many women carry the unconscious belief that good work will be met mostly — if not exclusively — with praise. Yet in our careers, the terrain is very different: Distinctive work, innovative thinking and controversial decisions garner supporters and critics, especially for women. We need to retrain our minds to expect and accept this."
"Poetic knowledge is born in the great silence of scientific knowledge"
— Aime Cesaire (via iqblog)