November 26, 2014

Alt Lit and Rape Culture - Contextualizing the Assaults in the Alt Lit Community - Further Reading

The rape and abuse allegations inside the alt lit community were not isolated incidents. Inside this year alone, Dylan Farrow wrote an open letter reminding the world that her father, Woody Allen, molested her when she was a child. Jian Ghomeshi and Bill Cosby were both outed as rapists. Colleges and universities across the country botched sexual assault case after sexual assault case. Unrelated to sexual assault, but just as damaging to the voices of women, Gamergate spewed rank misogyny all over Twitter, threatened the lives of prominent female video game critics, and doxxed any who dared take a stand against the movement. 

A sampling of news stories about and commentary on the patriarchy in 2014:

So imagine your seven-year-old daughter being led into an attic by Woody Allen. Imagine she spends a lifetime stricken with nausea at the mention of his name. Imagine a world that celebrates her tormenter.
Are you imagining that? Now what's your favorite Woody Allen movie?
Take these pills and be quiet.
You can talk about “it” in therapy.
My personal favorite: Forgiveness.  Shut your fucking mouth already, you’re the one who is making it worse for yourself, just move on and forgive.
Let’s get one thing straight as a Lanister’s arrow: No one asked for my forgiveness.

I can’t remember when I first heard these accusations but it has been many years. I’ve always believed these women but I have struggled because The Cosby Show meant so much to me. That episode, the one where Theo tries to prove he is independent and has to learn a life lesson about money? Classic. This is the pernicious trap a man like Bill Cosby has created. He believes his artistic legacy will absolve his criminal behavior. It cannot. We have to say enough. We have to stop implicitly or explicitly supporting Cosby. We cannot justify our fondness for him any longer. We have to demand that his show be taken off the air. We have to stop supporting any of his endeavors. His art does not absolve him. Art is nothing compared to humanity, nothing at all.

What Greg did to me, well, is something I'd prefer no one ever have to experience, and the literary community, in all its insularity, is particularly inclined to foster this sort of behavior—or, at the very least, to shut down discussion of it under the guise of some grand separation between so-called art and artist. In the case of Greg, who exploits his relationships for his work and uses his professional status to prey on women, allowing this false separation comes at a detriment to all women, and it sends the message that the lives of the women he has already victimized are of lesser value than his final product.
Sign the petition to get Oprah to pull Greg Sherl's book from her Book Club. 

Bay Area Writers speak out against sexual assault in their community:
We are speaking out because we want to protect ourselves and our friends and share information that might make it easier for other people to do the same. We have not always done a great job with this, but we want to do better. We want to make sure that as new people (not just women) enter our communities and attend readings, they will have the information necessary to make informed decisions. We want organizers of reading series and public event spaces to have this information, too.

Enough is Enough Community Meeting Handout
, courtesy of Jennifer Tamayo:
PRELIMINARY suggestions for making our spaces safer, more equitable, and more liberatory:
  • If you hear of an incident of sexual assault in your space, address it publicly and in a timely fashion, expressing genuine concern and soliciting feedback about how to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Use all of the platforms on which you typically advertise your events and activities to spread information and seek suggestions from the community.
  • If you are in a position of hiring or promoting and you are made aware of wrongdoing (assault, harassment, discrimination, etc.), be prepared to take steps that could be publicly messy in order to make change. There are people who abuse positions of power, who still get invited to do readings, to teach, to publish, to mentor, who still have careers, because of a status quo silence or worse, fear or passivity. Are you willing to fire someone or otherwise refuse to bolster the career or legacy of an abuser? If not, consider whom and what you are protecting.
  • Consider your relationships with people who have been accused of sexual assault, abuse, and/or misogyny. Do you want to continue curating them into your series and allowing them into your spaces? If so, why? Whom might you be excluding by working with and supporting these individuals?

With the Johns Hopkins case, though, more information is available. It's a sadly typical--and typically infuriating--story of institutional ineptitude and negligence, of a school intentionally and enormously failing a sexual assault survivor and the campus as a whole. According to CBS, Johns Hopkins failed to alert the student body about a "drug-facilitated gang rape" that took place at the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity house in the spring of 2013. In punishment, though, the frat was suspended for an entire year!!!! That definitely showed them! Throw the book right at them, Johns Hopkins!

A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA, by Sabrina Rubin Erdely:
One need only glance around at some recent college hijinks to see spectacular examples of the way the abasement of women has broken through to no-holds-barred misogyny: a Dartmouth student's how-to-rape guide posted online this past January; Yale pledges chanting "No means yes! Yes means anal!" And despite its air of mannered civility, UVA has been in on the naughty fun for at least 70 years with its jolly fight song "Rugby Road," which celebrates the sexual triumphs of UVA fraternity men, named for the very same street where my guides and I are now enveloped in a thickening crowd of wasted first-years. Through the decades, the song has expanded to 35 verses, with the more recent, student-penned stanzas shedding the song's winking tone in favor of something more jarringly explicit:
A hundred Delta Gammas, a thousand AZDs
Ten thousand Pi Phi bitches who get down on their knees
But the ones that we hold true, the ones that we hold dear
Are the ones who stay up late at night, and take it in the rear.
In 2010, "Rugby Road" was banned from football games – despite a petition calling it "an integral part" of UVA culture. But Wahoos fearing the loss of tradition can take heart that "Rugby Road" verses are still performed on campus by UVA's oldest a cappella group, the Virginia Gentlemen.

Editor's note: In the weeks that followed this post, Sabrina Rubin Erdely's 9,000-word powerhouse of an expose disintegrated in epic fashion. Erdeley and Rolling Stone made critical errors in reporting, and as a result, Jackie--the women whose gang rape serves as the centerpiece of the article--and her story have been torn to shreds. Read How Rolling Stone Failed Rape Survivors, by Miri Mogilevsky for an overview and copious links:
Nobody has won in this situation. Not Jackie, not Rolling Stone, not anti-rape advocates, and certainly not other survivors themselves. With more careful reporting—or at least a more careful retraction—much of this fallout could’ve been avoided. An understanding of how trauma and memory work would have helped shed light on the “inconsistencies” in Jackie’s story; without that, she has been painted—like so many survivors are—as a liar.

Mattress-Carrying Rape Protesters Take Columbia by Storm, by Katie Van Syckle and Amy Lombard:
Hundreds of Columbia students darted across Amsterdam Avenue in the rain yesterday evening to stack 28 soggy mattresses at Columbia president Lee Bollinger's doorstep. (They left a little room in front of the door, so as not to create a fire hazard.)
"Presbo, Presbo, you can't hide ... Be the leader on our side," they chanted, as they taped a list of demands for how Columbia should reform its sexual-assault policies to the president’s door.
The action was one of approximately 130 similar protests taking place across the globe, from Hungary’s Central European University to Berkeley, to raise attention to the struggles of sexual-assault victims on campuses and beyond. The mattresses represented 28 complainants in Columbia’s Title IX case, and were inspired by Emma Sulkowicz’s senior thesis project, Carry That Weight. Giving an outlet to ongoing frustration among Columbia and Barnard students, as well as providing support for Sulkowicz, Wednesday's event had the tagline "Carrying the Weight Together."

One of the new women to come forward is a woman in her mid-20s who was a CBC producer in Montreal who dreamed of being on Q . He met her at one of his book signings. Ghomeshi allegedly took her to his hotel room, threw her against the wall and was very “forceful” with her. She said she performed oral sex “to get out of there.” The woman, who still works in the media but not at CBC, said she decided not to complain about his behaviour because she feared he was too powerful.

It Happened to Me: I've Been Forced Out Of My Home And Am Living In Constant Fear Because Of Relentless Death Threats From Gamergate, by Brianna Wu:
I have to be honest. A mob telling you they will castrate your husband, make you choke to death on the parts, murder any children you might have and then rape your ass until it bleeds has a way of scaring the hell out of you.
But, you know, because I am the Godzilla of bitches, by Saturday morning I was pissed off. I’m talking Jack Bauer pissed off. So, I decided I was going to do everything in my power to stop these fuckers.

Gamergate in Posterity, by John Herrman: 
The ideology that leads a young fan of Call of Duty to tweet threats of violence at women who dare make or write about video games is old and broad and thoroughly rotten. His venues, however, are new: They lower the bar for participation, bringing words that would have been shared in private out into the open, on the internet, turning cruel jokes shared between gamers on the couch into real and terrifying threats posed in public.
The urgent consequence is that this private speech projected into public is harassment. 

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