The last several weeks have not been pretty, to say the least. It seems every other day a new scandal breaks about some bastard in the creative world who is verbally, emotionally, sexually and/or physically abusing women (some of them very young women, i.e., children)—be it out in the open, behind closed doors, or while hiding behind twitter handles or anonymous screen names. I could list them all here and link them and on and on but my god there are just so many all of the sudden, so I’ll let you Google names like Kirk Nesset, Stephen Tulley Dierks, Ed Champion, and self-described “horrible person” Tao Lin, and any other piece of “alt-lit” trash who is exposed by the time I finish writing this sentence. My two cents are as follows…
First, this kind of behavior has to end, full stop, and we men need to stand shoulder to shoulder with women throughout the literary world and become extremely active in making it known that this treatment of women is no longer tolerable, will no longer remain hidden, and that the kind of mindset that excuses this behavior is as out of date as male-only voting and slaves in the field. The world is moving on, and there’s no room for misogyny, especially in the arts.
But even more, in each of these stories I read that the victims were afraid to speak out, or that they sought help and people refused to say a word because these men were “influential” in the scene. Influential? Jesus, I haven’t heard of any of these pricks until these stories broke. I don’t involve myself with many literary circles, so when I hear about some ‘zine editor holding sway over young female writers for his own sexual gain at their psychological expense, I’m a little perplexed. I assure you, the people who you feel are influential are not widely known outside of your circle and fearing for your career MUST not stop you from standing up for yourself. I know that’s easy for a guy to say, especially one who has never really been victimized like this, but there must be something we writers, men and women, can do to develop the kind of atmosphere where women feel comfortable about speaking out. We need to make it known that we are here to HELP one another, not cower in fear because “that guy” has a book deal and so we should just sweep this under the rug. Fuck that guy with a book deal, and screw that guy who runs a popular blog, and to hell with the other pig who wins award after award and thinks women (under-aged or otherwise) are there for his amusement and pleasure. None of the accolades and influence means anything if you’re a misogynist asshole, and that has to become Writer 101 basic knowledge for this to stop.
I hate to see these terrible things happening but I am encouraged to see more and more women speaking up. Maybe the support we are now showing (and must continue to show) will embolden more women to speak up and influence more men to take action and police ourselves more vehemently to eradicate this kind of unacceptable, evil, disgusting behavior and mindset. I don’t know what tangible steps we can take, maybe tie in the various artistic groups that try to expose this behavior or stand up for the rights of female artists, maybe create some sort of wide-reaching organization or union that people can safety turn to for help. I don’t know, but I do know that there are a ton of men and women in the literary world who would help a fellow writer at the drop of a hat if he/she finds themselves in a situation where they don’t feel safe, so we need to make it easy for all of us to reach out, help, and expose this kind of behavior without any fear of retribution. I don’t have the answers, but we’re a big community and I’m hoping we’ll come up with an appropriate and effective solution.
One way we can assure this behavior won’t continue, gentlemen, is by making it clear to each other that we cannot, cannot, cannot allow other guys to act this way. Zero tolerance. I can begin in my own small circles, and maybe if we all do our part, we can eradicate literary assholes once and for all.
Stay strong, ladies, and don’t take any guff from these swine. We’re with you.