Once, when I was in my 20s, I sat at a restaurant after a poetry reading with a small group of writers. The man to my left, quite a bit older and far more successful, ignored any thoughts expressed from my mouth, but had no trouble grabbing at my thigh and genitalia, despite efforts to repeatedly move his hand away. Years later, that man now heads up one of the biggest literary organizations in the country.
As for me? The stories continue. In just the past year I’ve sat at a reading upset and angry as I listened to a male poet read a very problematic piece about rape; I’ve been in a car with a group of poets, discussing feminism, when one of the men in the car ordered me to “shut the fuck up, you talk too much;” I’ve been told by a stranger that I have “the best tits in poetry.” This isn’t anonymous troll stuff, although there’s plenty of that. This is trouble right out in the open. Still.
So here we go. Send us your Reports from the Field (essays, screen shots, whatever) and we’ll try to run as many as possible. We aren’t alone in these experiences and shouldn’t be made to feel that way. Perhaps, as a result of this column, the world of literature will strive to be as progressive as it purports to be. Together we can build a community strong enough and courageous enough to call out sexism and misogyny as we see it. VIDA is fighting for a place for women in the literary arts; we need to make sure that place is respected and safe. Part of creating a safe, respectful place is raising awareness of the pitfalls and discussing how to rectify them.
Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ve got dozens and dozens of stories like those I mentioned above. I’m guessing you do too.
PLEASE NOTE: These pieces are intended as OP-ED and reflect the opinions and experiences of the individual author.