That time, I was speaking to a male reader and he said, you know I think she’s garnered so much attention because of her good looks. He was talking about Taiye Selasi, a renown writer who I’ve witnessed police her own tone when responding to people who criticize her thinking without seriously engaging her work. (Sometimes I want to scream on her behalf!)
That time in workshop, I had to ask the writer if the only female character in his story was in fact a child or if she was an adult woman being referred to as a girl
That other time, in another workshop where the only male participant glared at each of us as we gave our feedback on his work
That time when I was speaking to another male reader about a new book from a woman we both know and he thought he was being funny when he said, it’s not like that one book we read, all that romance and whatnot, is it? (then there was that time months later, when I caught myself seeking approval from this same person of some programming work I’d done)
That time when working within a creatives collective, I had to vociferously defend my ideas against dismissal by a man whose writing resume pales in comparison to my own and I can still see the other women in the room sitting quietly but wanting to speak
I have written about this recently. The dismissal of women’s work enrages me. And today is one of those days where it is so clear that the experience of doubt is so layered for women making art. Yesterday, I read a collection of testimonies – women revealing experiences of abuse by someone of prominence in the black poetry community. I don’t know the abuser but I have often seen his name and his photography. After reading the testimonies, I searched Facebook and Twitter for responses. I saw a few men making proclamations to “believe women” or “listen to women” or otherwise issuing statements of solidarity. I can never be sure if these are performances or if these men are looking to be held accountable. In any case, it generated some thoughts about how we don’t listen to women: not when we, as individuals, reveal someone as an abuser and not when we are sharing ideas or work, contributions to community.
I don’t think any of the men I’ve mentioned in my list would actively refute these women testifying to their experiences of abuse but I also don’t think any of them regard our encounters in the same way I do. So I’ll offer some acts of solidarity until the next incident of abuse is revealed: read women writers and thinkers (I offer my Twitter and Goodreads accounts as resources); make a serious effort to engage their work; when you find yourself on a panel or in a decision-making space where women are absent, don’t just speak up, make it so your participation is contingent upon the inclusion of women; pay attention to @VIDA_lit, @blkwmndirectors, @directedbywomen, and other women-focused initiatives throughout the year; be supportive of our fight against whiteness in women-focused spaces; be creative and think of other acts of solidarity to add to this list; get uncomfortable and confront your bias…
Today is Wednesday, a writing day for me, and because this issue was nagging me, I am writing this instead of trying to get through some blocks in one of my works-in-progress. So yes, sexism is a real distraction from the work.