Jane Eaton Hamilton

"I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year’s fashions.” – Lillian Hellman

Tag: misogyny

Sharon Olds: Can She Write, or Is She Just a Woman?

Over at Read It Forward, Jonathan Russell Clark talks about the phenomenon that is Sharon Olds in The Poetic Persistence of Sharon Olds: Why critics can’t handle the poet’s honest depictions of life, death, and women. The critical response to her work has leaked its hatred of women–of their embodiment, of their insistence for indulging this,for demanding a place at the table of letters. But literature snubs its nose back at them. Sharon Olds has been persistently successful as an American poet, in 2013 winning the Pulitzer for Stag’s Leap and this year winning the Wallace Stevens Award carrying a purse of $100,000. And she will be forever revered for teaching many of us how to think about intimacy and the domestic, how to approach it honestly, with our pens drawn, with an analysis of rounded character, with our politics in our pulsing blood, in words.

The Female Hat-Wearing Dog

Oh yeah. Raquel D’Apice over at the Ugly Volvo.

The Female Hat-Wearing Dog

 

Standing Against Hate

I despise what’s going on. I stand against it without reservation. I support the LGBTQIA, disabled, women’s and POC communities, and call for y/our lives to be made safer by the continuation of legal protections, Planned Parenthood and the ACA, and the de-militarization of police. So much has gone wrong in a week’s time, but most of it was well seeded earlier.

We feel anxious, frightened and uncertain about what’s coming next. On Friday, immigrants and refugees from seven targeted countries were banned from entering the US, throwing individual lives and entire communities into crisis and destabilizing the planet. My Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, has spoken of Canada’s open shores, and I trust that he and his ministers will work tirelessly to ensure refugees and immigrants already in detention in Canada are released into community, and new refugees and immigrants are welcomed immediatey.

Tonight terrorists opened fire at a mosque in Québec City, killing five. I send condolences to the victims’ families and friends and to their religious community, and continue to stand against violence and hatred. Muslims are important and welcome members of my community.

I am buoyed by the push-back of citizens. Protesters are marching, lawyers and protesters are occupying airports, airlines are reversing ticket charges, companies are taking stands to hire refugee workers, and thousands of people on social media are decrying these regressive, dangerous acts and thinking up new ways to make global citizens safe. Each one of us will play a part in de-activating the virus spreading through N America.

We are stronger together, just as Hillary said. Join hands, my friends, and join solutions.

“Friends don’t let friends drive rape culture”

I am embarrassed and ashamed of my colleagues who’ve signed a letter called “An Open Letter To UBC: Steven Galloway’s Right To Due Process.” They say this is not about Steven Galloway, but a complaint about “process” at UBC, although its title belies this.

As I have stated, I don’t know the particulars of this case and I don’t know Mr Galloway, but what I do know is rape culture. What I’ve said on FB and repeat here now is: Just because someone is nice in your presence does not mean anything about their behaviour when you’re not around. It is not a ninety percent indicator of the unlikeliness of a crime or misdeed. It is not even a one percent indicator of an unlikeliness of a crime or misdeed. If you think you can disprove, say, battering, because a certain person was really kind when your mom died, or loaned you money for your dog’s surgery, or was your friend since childhood, or wrote a great book, or is warm and friendly around you, and you know them to be compassionate and giving, and funny, you are naive. I understand the impulse–you love or like or admire somebody. But you don’t know them around the complainant unless you are the complainant or a first-hand witness. Period. You don’t.

I’ve heard a lot of statements similar to “We just need to give him/her/them the benefit of the doubt. The process was bad and they’re a friend.” I hear “Innocent until proven guilty.” But this was and is not a court of law. This was and is an employment contract. I hear “Due process,” but the right to due process doesn’t actually exist outside the legal system. I hear grave concerns about UBC process but then I discovered UBC process is actually underway now, and not complete.

Women have been proved to lie about sexual assault in fewer numbers than those that lie about house break ins or thefts; depending on the study, between two to eight percent, which means of course that about ninety-five percent of sexual assault allegations are true, and statistically, it would very much beggar belief if in cases with multiple complainants there appeared multiple liars. Margaret Atwood’s comment, over at The Walrus, in saying that “To think that members of a group called “women” are always right and never lie does a great disservice to accusing women and abuse survivors is bloody insulting–to vulnerable peoples’ struggles to be heard when they speak against abuse of power, and to intelligence.” For Margaret Atwood to say, “If it’s a matter of rape, then it should be a matter of jail,” flies in the face of all knowledge about Canada’s dangerously flawed sexual assault system–more than a half million assaults yearly with 1400 convictions. It’s against everything that feminism, no matter your brand of it, stands for. And to say an “unsubstantiated” complaint is necessarily untrue? Have we learned nothing? Is this the Twilight Zone? This letter yanks Canada’s understanding of rape culture back fifty years. I ask again, as others ask: Why on earth doesn’t the presumption of honesty follow complainants?

Please. Disagreeing with signatories is not a “witch hunt” and not a “lynching.” How disgusted and livid would I be if I had had an ancestor burned at the stake or hung from a tree? How trivializing. Her rants are on Twitter. With the real threats to the marginalized coming fast and furious in the US, and more slowly here, you’d expect hyperbole like this would be met with aghast outcries from signatories. That Atwood further makes a veiled threat about the “consequences” of disagreeing with the signatories in her Walrus letter is unsettling. How are marginalized/dissenting writers supposed to trust, now, that their manuscripts will be adjudicated by these signatories on merit?

Thankfully, more than a dozen people have pulled their names from that letter, and Camilla Gibb has done so with thoughtful, genuine remorse while speaking of painful assaults in her academic career. She sees that the letter’s intent did not match its damage. Her efforts are appreciated.

If you are looking for more information, you can consult the Globe and Mail, Twitter, Quill and Quire, Bookriot, FB and The Walrus. Dorothy Palmer has written important FB posts explaining process at UBC that I suggest everyone avail themselves of.

Context

In thinking how to help with my limited resources, I noticed Doretta Lau’s generous offer to mentor UBC students. I never went to UBC, or indeed to any writing program, but I can throw my skills into the hat, in order that I am doing something and not just yapping, and offer to mentor a queer/disabled UBC student (or someone who yearns to be one) working in short forms. Someone, please, who couldn’t afford such consultations on their own. There won’t be a charge. Please pass that around.

There are more of us in the rest of CanLit than there are in the signatory list of the CanBully letter. That letter is just the last gasp of an ossified system–you can hear the thing wheezing. We support you, complainants, and we salute your bravery and courage, and we apologize for all the pain and repercussions you’ve had to suffer.

“Friends don’t let friends drive rape culture.” -Dorothy Palmer

In the words of Nancy Lee:

cxb3vr5wiaaoxtg

 

Fear and No Fear

I am sixty-one years old. I’ve been telling everyone all week that love has to be twinned with action. And so, I acted at the launch for the anthology “Boobs” on Saturday night.

“I want to talk about the Pulse nightclub massacre. The queer community is reeling from these homophobic and racist attacks. 102 people have been shot, their names publicly listed online even though many of them have been living closeted in fear of coming out.

Which is effectively painting a target on their shirts.

Please join me in mourning this hate. I could spend a long time talking to you about while this slaughter belongs to queers of colour, particularly the Latinx community, it touches all queers, but I have an essay here on my blog that does that and little time tonight. But please stand with Orlando and say so on your social media and reach out to soothe a queer friend. As Holly Near sang in It Could Have Been Me:

You can’t bury youth, my friends, youth grows the whole world round.

To which I might add: You can’t bury queers my friend, queers grow the whole world round.

But I also want to tell you about this piece I’m going to read, which is quite short. It is, regrettably, a true story of the young me trying to come to grips with and fight back against misogyny and, even then, transphobia. For all that fierce summer I refused to wear a shirt because boys didn’t have to.

I never dared fight back again.

The event I wrote about for the anthology “Boobs” from Caitlin Press was a highly traumatic event for me because although I didn’t know any of these dads who stopped by our corn stand, I knew their children—went to school with them, played with them. These men were coming home from work in Hamilton, ON, to the safe homogenized suburb of Ancaster to lead their homogenized Disney happily-ever-after lives, but they felt so aggrieved by a little 7 year old child without a shirt that they felt it was okay to be assholes.

It cowed me back into shirts. I don’t know if anyone else even noticed, but I noticed, and I never stopped noticing.

More than those dads wanted the sex they oozed that afternoon, they wanted to push me back into line—the line being the script written from the womb for girls and women—and they succeeded. That was the exact moment that my defiance and grit drained out of my foot. The grit and defiance I have worked with limited success to get back.

I am here to say that however our bodies are displayed, whatever clothing we do or do not wear, ever, is nobody’s business. It does not invite salaciousness. It does not invite rape. It does not invite anything but respect as another mammal in this teetering world. Our bodies, and indeed our boobs, if we have them or we’ve chosen to have top surgery, if we are breastfeeding in public, if we’ve had breast cancer and lumpectomies or mastectomies or reconstructions without nipples, if we are tatted or scarred, are not yours—are never yours–to ogle and comment on.

Those 54 years ago, I caved. I put my shirt back on. And never took it off in public again, not even at Pride.

Tonight, at 61 years of age, I’m finally, in rage and defiance of the events this week that seek to tell us we can only be small and vulnerable and scared, not brave and huge and celebratory, am stripping it off.”

 

knobs

 

we sold corn from a card table at the end of the driveway

a man snapped out of his car like a measuring tape in a tie wrenched

from his neck top button undone sweat stains under his armpits

i refused to wear a shirt because it was unfair

he said, you sure you want to show off your knobs, girly?

i looked down at my knobs, across at my brother’s identical knobs

working out the difference

he said, you go to church yesterday, honey? did you pray for forgiveness?

he bought five ears, revved away but

another dad squealed in to take his place

long appreciative wolf whistle

exhibiting your titties today?

give you a dime to turn around and pull down your shorts

mister, i said, do you want corn?

he bought seven ears and tooled away in a caddy

a new man slid in, sweat beading his forehead

he said, what you sellin’, sweetheart? sure it’s corn on the cob?

i looked down at tassels ejecting from the ear so soft

said how many you want mister?

he said i want to shuck every last one hard and fast

his tongue came out pink and thick

like he needed a salt lick

i said 5 for 25 cents

green leaves and corn silk

dark yellow niblets

he grinned and leaned over, flicked my nipple

he said, i will give you 50 cents if you sit in my car

voice hollow my brother said, 25 cents mister, take them all

you can have them we don’t want them

he took the corn and he was gone, turquoise fins waving blue plumes laying rubber

you only get 5 cents said my brother cause you’re a girl

i get half i said

nu-uh he said

uh-huh i said i thought of how many wagon wheels i could get for half of seventy-five cents

which didn’t divide: eight

i thought of how many wagon wheels I could get with a nickel: one

he said just put on a shirt

 

The Preludes to Assaults

Feel free to share. Note this essay and my other essays on violence are collected here at the site on my page: On Violence.

#gomeshi #ghomeshi #ibelievelucy #IStandWithLucy #BillCosby #hairextensions #truthmatters #rapeculture #cndjustice

Jian Ghomeshi, you [redacted]. I don’t know you very well, but I know this: one night in early 2004, after I’d been awarded a writing prize in Ottawa, you followed me to a side room annexed to the main hall, where I’d gone to get away from the crowds, and while my (then) wife was in the bathroom or off getting another drink, I’m not sure, you put your hand on me. That hand. One of the very hands that is being discussed in court this week. You closed the distance between us and you massaged my shoulder/neck while talking to me about how I needed to relieve the stress of my big win. Eventually my (then) wife returned, you dropped your hand (that hand), and we smiled politely and “uh-huh’d” while you bashed the Rockies, BC and, in particular, Vancouver.

You didn’t ask me if you could massage me. I guess you assumed you could touch me. The way men, the entitled 50%, have always assumed they could access women’s bodies at will. You were a star, and your status helped me to tamp down my resistance. I don’t know why the hell you picked me, as I had just been on stage thanking my (then) wife; I was obviously queer and out and significantly older. Maybe I was just the only woman alone during that function? I do know that a number of other men, and people elsewhere on the gender spectrum, have previously in my life singled me out for non-respectful interactions. The truth is, I did not step back, Jian Gomeshi, you [redacted], and I excoriate myself for that now. I should value myself more.

I was taught to be polite. I was taught to smile and nod and always, always be friendly. I was told that friendliness could get me out of pinches, even save my life, and indeed, through the years, this mostly proved to be true. Doing what men tell you to do is just a good idea. Not doing what they tell you to do can be disastrous.

I wish it weren’t so, because they would be illuminating, but stats for close calls don’t exist. The binds we’ve escaped because of our own instinct or intelligence or cunning remain undocumented.

Let me talk about what you touching me was and was not, Jian Ghomeshi, you [redacted]. Because you had followed me and waited until I was alone to approach, what you did was strange and mildly unsettling. I felt a sense of disquiet. But given my sexual orientation and marital status, I also didn’t take what you did particularly seriously. That night I stayed up with another Canadian literary luminary getting drunk and laughing until 4 a.m. He certainly didn’t massage me and I’ve never written a post about his bad behaviour, nor would I. Guess why? There wasn’t any.

Okay, Jian Ghomeshi, you [redacted], I get that what you did to me was not a charge-able assault, or, arguably, even an assault. I didn’t take it as one, then, and I don’t now. But I’m going to tell you what it was. It was the something else that so many of us experience 1000 times a year as Canadian people assigned female at birth, and trans–and let’s name it for what I now believe it was: the prelude to a potential assault.

The preludes to potential assaults are these: language or behaviour or touching that create in their  targets vague senses of unease that we “get over” as the day or week wears on. There is so much of this kind of crap slung in women’s directions in the average day that often we don’t even bother mentioning an encounter. We don’t tell our spouse. We don’t tell our employer. We don’t call a friend. Because these little infractions against our sovereignty, these thousands of small infractions, intended to train us to patriarchy, are par for the course. But we all understand what they’re actually telling us: they’re actually reminding us about what could happen.

If, say, we get uppity. If, say, we say no. If, say, we fight back. If, say, he woke up on the wrong side of the bed.

A year before you massaged my back, Jian Ghomeshi, you [redacted], you allegedly hurt Lucy de Coutere. And there were alleged other victims, too. With that same hand you extended to me. With that very same hand you used to caress me. If the allegations are true, you wrapped that hand around victims’ throats and choked them. If the allegations are true, you used one of your hands to slap and punch your victims.

But guess what, Jian Ghomeshi, you [redacted], let me tell you something about society. There are lingering effects to minor harrassment. Harrassment is a bridge built of a substance called continuum that Canadian women walk over every day of our lives from the day we are pushed into our pink worlds to the day we close our eyes the last time. And on that bridge are guys, nice guys, scum nozzles, and turds rolled in sprinkles. On that bridge of spectrums are guys (and some others) with their hands out, fingers waggling. Guys demanding we pay the toll. We’ll let you cross, they say, but only if you’ll smile. Only if you’ll give us a little kiss. Only if you’ll stop a minute and chat. Only if you’ll go home with us. If you want an “A.” If you want that promotion. Only if you get scared, because we appreciate scared. Only if we get to bash you in the head, throttle you, rape you and leave you for dead.

They say, We know you like it. They say, You asked for it.

You know what this mountain of harassment (and worse) does to the harried? It makes us queasy. It makes us question our interpretations. It makes us question our importance. It makes us scared to go out at night. Nervous to walk our own streets. Careful to lock our windows. It makes us tamp ourselves down.

It does all that because it’s meant to do all that. That’s exactly what it’s for.

The truth is, we aren’t fully enfranchised members of society, Jian Ghomeshi, you [redacted].

This all has a name, this systemic oppression. It’s called misogyny, and in Canada we need an inquiry* to untangle its octopedal arms so we can root it the hell out of our country, and unfasten our institutions from it. Imagine the productivity here if all our population was equally enfranchised. Not 50%, or 60%, or 80%, but 100%?

Really, Jian Ghomeshi, you [redacted], I want you to stop and think about that. I want you to imagine a different world, a world where one class of people can’t get away with (allegedly) treating another class of people violently.

Because right now, in part because of you, Jian Ghomeshi, you [redacted], we people who’ve experienced violence are triggered. We are not just thinking about your behaviour, and your lawyer’s behaviour, we are thinking of so many other times in our lives where someone else has behaved badly, where someone didn’t respect and honour us.

Jian Ghomeshi, you [redacted], this is all coming back up for us, all at once, until it pools like another Canadian ocean under that bridge men have been having us walk, tying us together across the country in one collective wave. We are thinking about times someone followed us onto the bridge. Times we were groped. Times we were pressured. Times we were coerced. Times we were held against our will. Times we had brusies. Times we were battered. Times we were raped.

This collective will says, We are mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore.* Pretty soon, if we have our way, you guys with your baitings and assaults are all going to tumble off that bridge and drown in a big cold ocean of women rising up.

Jian Ghomeshi, you [redacted], ours is a world that celebrates the male. You know what else is part of our oppressive system? Not letting women drive, or vote, or own property, or go out without male accompaniment. Saying that girls are not good at math, giving girls passive toys, not letting women go to unversity, glass ceilings, few female politicians, women earning less than men for work of equal value, women bearing the brunt of child-rearing and housework, women who perpetuate stereotypes even as they obtain jobs where they could change them.

All that stuff we call sexism? That is just misogyny written in semen. Men like you built the world. You built it to work for you. And it works for you most of the time.

We are mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore.*

Some men are up in arms this week, cautioning Canadian women to calm the fuck down. Don’t get your sweet little heads all in a tizzy, they say, in Canada we have something called due process. This is supposed to happen to complainants in court. Ultimately, it protects all of us.

In Canada, during due process, victims get psychologically battered, and we, the potentially violated, are standing upright while court is in session, quite out of order, and questioning that. We are saying This is not okay. This is an abridgement of Canadian values and Charter freedoms.

We are saying to the survivors of spectrum violence and to the brave, fierce women in court: We believe you and we stand with you and our support will never waver.

Jian Ghomeshi, you [redacted], isn’t this quite the amazing system men have developed for themselves over the centuries? This system where women are achingly vulnerable, taught from a young age to submit, while the other half of the population (and a few strays from our side) takes advantage? Because let’s face it, what our patriarchy requires more than convictions, and we all know it, is an intact status quo.

So Jian Ghomeshi, you [redacted], thanks for the back rub. But just so’s you know: I’m an anti-fan.

 

 

*A Canadian inquiry on misogyny is the idea of barbara findlay, QC

*adapted from “Network,” the movie

Canada is Raping You

This talk talks about violence as a men’s issue and I recommend it highly: Jackson Katz’s Ted Talk

If you are trying to understand abusive minds, I recommend this book highly, whether your abuser is a man, a woman or someone on the continuum: Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men, by Lundy Bancroft

Here is a very good blog post about this situation: Bone, Broth and Breastmilk

For people worrying about due process, this article, citing rape conviction stats in Canada: 1 in 1000:

What’s Really on Trial in the Jian Ghomeshi Case by Anne Kingston

The Oracle of Chappell Street

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25 Things About Sexism and Misogyny in Publishing

25 Things

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