Thursday, April 13, 2006

I Am Woman - Hear Me Bitch


  • Poetry Off the Books


  • Jessica Smith

  • Seth Abramson

  • Craig Teicher

  • Josh Corey

  • Anne Boyer

  • Reb Livingston

  • Wow! Once again, sexism rears its ugly head. On the 'Net, no less - where no one even knows for sure how short the skirts are - or how big the appendage.

    I've got to admit - it mostly bores me. Been there, done that, got over it. It's interesting enough to read that I've included an equal mix of male/female opinions (wasn't that extremely non-sexist of me - the equal number thing?) but its value, other than entertainment, is nil. I've worked in a male-dominated profession for more years than I care to think about and I know for a fact that nothing gets solved by arguing or name-calling or accusation-throwing. On the contrary, it usually only serves to make thing worse. The blogging poetry world is fragile enough - wouldn't a united front make it that much stronger?

    For one thing, Craig is entitled to read whatever blogs he reads and to write whatever truths he sees - doesn't make it gospel, just makes it his particular view. Last I heard, there was no law which said you had to be gender-equal in your opinions, your articles or your reviews. If he likes Josh Corey and Ron Silliman enough to mention them then he does. That's his prerogative. It's also his prerogative to use them as examples of what he likes and not to be expected to include a female just because there are female blogger/poets to choose from. It's not life, it's not death, and frankly, it's not important. It's also not sexist. It is what it is - an honestly written article - the exclusion of a woman example doesn't make it sexist. I'll go a step farther and say that the inclusion of a female might have been even more sexist. Any time you're forced, by public opinion or fear of public opinion, to be "equal" the forcing party automatically becomes unequal due to the nature of the force. If I'm going to be included in something, I damn well want to be there because I was wanted, not because I'm there as an afterthought simply to satisfy some imaginary quota.

    Speaking as a woman, we'll never be equal until we learn not to whine. "Equality" is something we can prove, not something we can demand. When I joined the fire department, I took the same test and I passed the same physical that the men took. I didn't grumble and groan (well, I did groan a little while I was hanging upside down with my knees hooked around the ladder-rung with the blood rushing to my head and the goddamn airpack slipping down and hitting me in the back of the neck cutting off my oxygen supply) but it wasn't because I didn't think I should be forced to take the same test - it was because I was dying.

    Same thing with poetry....or blogging...or blogging about poetry. It's not going to do me any good to jump down someone's back because there aren't any women being mentioned somewhere - the only thing that's going to do me any good is to write better and to be more interesting and more consistent. I want to be noticed as a writer, as a poet, NOT as a woman. I can get noticed as a woman any time I want to - I don't need the poetry world to recognize me because of my physical equipment - I need them to recognize me because of my carefully metered brain - and I don't want my brain to have a gender identification card attached to it.

    Sometimes we make our own beds and then we cry because we have to lie in them. No one has any problem with "Woman's" groups or "Woman's" sites.....I'm listed on one of them - WOMB and I belong to one of them - Formalista (Although, I hasten to add, Formalista not strictly for women only - and we do have a few male members - brave hearty souls that they are) However, if the high-heel was on the other foot, and there was a "Male" group or a "Male" site, many (most?) women would be appalled and outraged at their exclusion. How many men have railed against their exclusion in "Womb?" Please, don't get me wrong, I like the idea of being recognized as a "Woman Poet" - simply because I like being recognized as a poet at all......and I love WOMB and what it does and what it's trying to do, but it does bother me a bit to be classified as a "woman poet" and not just as a "poet." My point is, by virtue of these exclusive (and thereby excluding) groups, it's the women themselves who are automatically classifying themselves as somehow different by their very gender. How then, realistically and fairly, can they become upset about it when they feel they have been intentionally or unintentionally excluded from something by a male? Shit happens...sometimes it's not even deliberate.

    Demand or Deserve - which works? Which works best? Which one would you choose as a means of getting recognition? Is it possible for women to get what they think they deserve without their first demanding it? And if not, is it worth it? Is it even valid at that point?

    Does it matter?


    Charles said...

    I understand where you're coming from, and to some extent I do agree that including women for the sake of including women is indeed sexist (and silly), but I think women's groups (and other such groups) are important because they offer something other than the status quo. Is it "separate but equal"? I'm not sure.

    I think it's good to ask these questions—who is included and excluded from anything—especially in light of the explosive dialogue that resulted. Imagine if no one had said anything. What would that have meant?

    I want to write more, but I'm already spinning off into non-sequitors, I think.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

    Lo said...

    Thanks, Charles...for the "thanks.: :)

    As to "separate but equal" - no thanks. At least not for me, personally, anyhow. Why would I want to be separated from anything or anyone? The way I see it, as soon as I am separated from something, I am automatically being considered either "not good enough" or "too good" to belong. I'd rather be considered unequal but a part of something than not to be a part of it at all.

    However, like yourself, I am glad that all of the dialogue that ensued, ensued. I wish it hadn't gotten so heated, but maybe that's just the way of the world....passionate people react passionately.

    And, if nothing else exists in common, poets are all passionate people.

    RHE said...

    "My point is, by virtue of these exclusive (and thereby excluding) groups, it's the women themselves who are automatically classifying themselves as somehow different by their very gender."

    This is a long-standing argument, and it applies to more than just feminist studies and organizations. Long, long ago, I had a college friend who formed a White Studies Program to make a satirical point about what he perceived to be the implied racism and unwise exclusionism of Black Studies. Needless to say, no one found any humor in his suggestion. Plus ca change....