Eaton Hamilton

"I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year’s fashions.” – Lillian Hellman

Tag: harrassment

“On Assault and Harassment in the Literary World”

After Bonne Nazdam’s recent article in Tin House (Experts in the Field) today’s compilation on LitHub talks about the murky, damaging world of sexual assault and harrassment in the US lit world, with writers like Anna March, Roxane Gay and Porochista Khakpour.

Lit Hub

 

The Weekends

jehreading2015

The cabbie called to say he was in the alley and 10 minutes later he dropped my bag outside Pacific Central Station before I had even unlocked my seat belt, which in Vancouver’s theft-frenzied city was crazy, and while I sat in front of the train station getting myself together I thought about how I had seen F- for the last time when I dropped her off exactly here, and I thought about the monument to the women massacred at École Polytechnique, the commemorative benches I could see across in the park where geese had shat into their bowls of tears, and how somewhere my name was etched into one of the stones, linked to a woman who had long been violent with me. I wondered what the engineers who had been killed would be facing now in their lives if they had lived through that day’s hell of misogyny. As I write this, it is almost an anniversary … this year, the 27th. My life, already strangled my disability then, has had its twists and turns. As those women were being slaughtered, I happened to be in Victoria shopping for my kids’ holiday gifts, and when I got back to Salt Spring Island, where I lived, I found the TV on in the living room blaring the shattering news. No woman alive was unaffected. We had all been harrassed, or raped, or battered, or bullied, or denied opportunities in our lives. There was at most three degrees of separation between us and the victims. They were living the dreams my generation had fought for, and they had been killed for them. We knew. We felt the truth move through us like scurrying rats.

I call October Hell Month because a friend was slaughtered in cold blood in October, shot to death during a custody dispute with an ex. I call November the month of twelve months. 2016 has been scarcely anyone’s friend.

There is always pushback when fighting for civil rights. We got same-sex marriage then Harper. The US got same-sex marriage then Trump.

There is always pushback, but we already know how to fight. We’ve done it before. We’ve won before. We will rise steadily to our feet and fight again. Every day we see the truth of this. We see harshness and harm. We see damage and death. We see our friends attacked. We see women losing abortion rights. We see people harmed by police. We wail and mourn. We kick back. We pull our hair. We long for bigger arms, more resources, a longer life to fight. We long for greater and greater capacities. But we also see desegregation, pipelines defeated, inquiries called, universal medicare, HIV drugs developed, poverty dealt blows, women elected, misogyny challenged, constitutions changed, glass ceilings blown to smithereens.

It takes a village, yes, but we are a village, a global village. And we are mad as hell and we aren’t going to take it anymore. We are mad as hell and we aren’t going to take it anymore.

I went indoors and waited on a hard bench for the train to Seattle, and then in a long lineup. In my ankles, blood was pooling, compliments of heart failure. I proferred my passport and the customs officer questioned why I was returning on Sunday. I didn’t know how to answer. Because two days is enough time with someone I’m just starting to date? He was suspicious. He looked at me for a long time before making his decision about me. I’m queer and not a snappy dresser; I was sending up his alarms. But he let me go forward when the press of people behind me got longer. I had brought editorial work for the ride, but when I started it, I got motion sick, and this made me close my computer. I thought about a dawn train to Seattle with my friend L-, how the frost had filligreed the grass down the coastline. I remembered how dawn had cracked on the eastern horizon so heavily it stained even the sky on our western side of the train pink. I thought about how, that earlier time, I’d just had a big surgery and how all day she’d pushed me around in a wheelchair looking at art. I hungered after art; I particularly recalled the work of Yayoi Kusami and Romaine Brooks, neither of which I’d seen in person before. The Elles exhibit was my first time with many artists whose work I had admired in reproduction. I loved Suzanne Valadon, whose work I would later search out in Paris to much frustration (she wasn’t represented with a painting even in the house she once owned, now a Montmartre gallery, or at the Pompidou, which owned the one piece in the Elles show).

When the train pulled in to Seattle, F- was there in her snazzy car and my heart lit up just a little and I wondered what kind of time we would have together. On Friday night we gazed at the Space Needle from her apartment; behind us was a desk so huge it took up nearly half her living room, a family heirloom or maybe lodestone. In the morning, F- went out for croissants and we sat in her dining room with thick coffee and the NY Times Book Review.

After our weekend ended, another weekend began, and during this one I had four readings, two of them up-coast. F- and I didn’t know each other well. I was suddenly sicker than I could remember having been before, and indeed I then had a mini-stroke while performing in Fanny Bay (as pictured). The next day, when I should have been in hospital getting cardioverted, instead we took ferries to Hornby Island for another reading, me hanging on to F-‘s elbow like the cripple I’d become. I remember the time there only in flashes: my host’s beautiful garden, my difficulty breathing, my cardiac asthma, my horrible A-fib, lines from my co-reader’s poetry, being convinced I would die, trying to sleep sitting up, imagining/yearning for MediVacs. I just couldn’t see over the mountain of my illness into love. I would get back to Vancouver and go to the ER, while F- would drive back to Seattle and consider becoming part of Hillary’s administration. I wouldn’t end up with a cardioversion, but I would get a far more daunting cardiac ablation from which I’d recover, more or less. I’d publish that quickie novel I’d been finagling, and take up with a couple cute kids who called me “Nana” and landed me right back on Salt Spring Island after all those twenty-seven years.

Time threads you through the tiniest needle hole into your own vein, loops you around to your own past, to your own youth, to your own remembrances of women past. If there is one thing I’ve learned in this life it is that love is not enough. To make change, love has to be paired with action.

A Muslim youngster in Hamilton was brutally assaulted. The east and west have been postered with neo-Nazi fliers. Friends report queer attacks. POC friends report slurs, break-ins, attacks. The disabled are more frightened every day as their basic right to exist is challenged. Women report more public harrassment, a new level of anger in the attacks.

Time is a village we occupy. Rise, friends. Rise with me in power and patience and fortitude and intent. Together we are stronger.

 

 

 

The Preludes to Assaults

Feel free to share. Note this essay and my other essays on violence are collected here at the site on my page: On Violence.

#gomeshi #ghomeshi #ibelievelucy #IStandWithLucy #BillCosby #hairextensions #truthmatters #rapeculture #cndjustice

Jian Ghomeshi, you [redacted]. I don’t know you very well, but I know this: one night in early 2004, after I’d been awarded a writing prize in Ottawa, you followed me to a side room annexed to the main hall, where I’d gone to get away from the crowds, and while my (then) wife was in the bathroom or off getting another drink, I’m not sure, you put your hand on me. That hand. One of the very hands that is being discussed in court this week. You closed the distance between us and you massaged my shoulder/neck while talking to me about how I needed to relieve the stress of my big win. Eventually my (then) wife returned, you dropped your hand (that hand), and we smiled politely and “uh-huh’d” while you bashed the Rockies, BC and, in particular, Vancouver.

You didn’t ask me if you could massage me. I guess you assumed you could touch me. The way men, the entitled 50%, have always assumed they could access women’s bodies at will. You were a star, and your status helped me to tamp down my resistance. I don’t know why the hell you picked me, as I had just been on stage thanking my (then) wife; I was obviously queer and out and significantly older. Maybe I was just the only woman alone during that function? I do know that a number of other men, and people elsewhere on the gender spectrum, have previously in my life singled me out for non-respectful interactions. The truth is, I did not step back, Jian Gomeshi, you [redacted], and I excoriate myself for that now. I should value myself more.

I was taught to be polite. I was taught to smile and nod and always, always be friendly. I was told that friendliness could get me out of pinches, even save my life, and indeed, through the years, this mostly proved to be true. Doing what men tell you to do is just a good idea. Not doing what they tell you to do can be disastrous.

I wish it weren’t so, because they would be illuminating, but stats for close calls don’t exist. The binds we’ve escaped because of our own instinct or intelligence or cunning remain undocumented.

Let me talk about what you touching me was and was not, Jian Ghomeshi, you [redacted]. Because you had followed me and waited until I was alone to approach, what you did was strange and mildly unsettling. I felt a sense of disquiet. But given my sexual orientation and marital status, I also didn’t take what you did particularly seriously. That night I stayed up with another Canadian literary luminary getting drunk and laughing until 4 a.m. He certainly didn’t massage me and I’ve never written a post about his bad behaviour, nor would I. Guess why? There wasn’t any.

Okay, Jian Ghomeshi, you [redacted], I get that what you did to me was not a charge-able assault, or, arguably, even an assault. I didn’t take it as one, then, and I don’t now. But I’m going to tell you what it was. It was the something else that so many of us experience 1000 times a year as Canadian people assigned female at birth, and trans–and let’s name it for what I now believe it was: the prelude to a potential assault.

The preludes to potential assaults are these: language or behaviour or touching that create in their  targets vague senses of unease that we “get over” as the day or week wears on. There is so much of this kind of crap slung in women’s directions in the average day that often we don’t even bother mentioning an encounter. We don’t tell our spouse. We don’t tell our employer. We don’t call a friend. Because these little infractions against our sovereignty, these thousands of small infractions, intended to train us to patriarchy, are par for the course. But we all understand what they’re actually telling us: they’re actually reminding us about what could happen.

If, say, we get uppity. If, say, we say no. If, say, we fight back. If, say, he woke up on the wrong side of the bed.

A year before you massaged my back, Jian Ghomeshi, you [redacted], you allegedly hurt Lucy de Coutere. And there were alleged other victims, too. With that same hand you extended to me. With that very same hand you used to caress me. If the allegations are true, you wrapped that hand around victims’ throats and choked them. If the allegations are true, you used one of your hands to slap and punch your victims.

But guess what, Jian Ghomeshi, you [redacted], let me tell you something about society. There are lingering effects to minor harrassment. Harrassment is a bridge built of a substance called continuum that Canadian women walk over every day of our lives from the day we are pushed into our pink worlds to the day we close our eyes the last time. And on that bridge are guys, nice guys, scum nozzles, and turds rolled in sprinkles. On that bridge of spectrums are guys (and some others) with their hands out, fingers waggling. Guys demanding we pay the toll. We’ll let you cross, they say, but only if you’ll smile. Only if you’ll give us a little kiss. Only if you’ll stop a minute and chat. Only if you’ll go home with us. If you want an “A.” If you want that promotion. Only if you get scared, because we appreciate scared. Only if we get to bash you in the head, throttle you, rape you and leave you for dead.

They say, We know you like it. They say, You asked for it.

You know what this mountain of harassment (and worse) does to the harried? It makes us queasy. It makes us question our interpretations. It makes us question our importance. It makes us scared to go out at night. Nervous to walk our own streets. Careful to lock our windows. It makes us tamp ourselves down.

It does all that because it’s meant to do all that. That’s exactly what it’s for.

The truth is, we aren’t fully enfranchised members of society, Jian Ghomeshi, you [redacted].

This all has a name, this systemic oppression. It’s called misogyny, and in Canada we need an inquiry* to untangle its octopedal arms so we can root it the hell out of our country, and unfasten our institutions from it. Imagine the productivity here if all our population was equally enfranchised. Not 50%, or 60%, or 80%, but 100%?

Really, Jian Ghomeshi, you [redacted], I want you to stop and think about that. I want you to imagine a different world, a world where one class of people can’t get away with (allegedly) treating another class of people violently.

Because right now, in part because of you, Jian Ghomeshi, you [redacted], we people who’ve experienced violence are triggered. We are not just thinking about your behaviour, and your lawyer’s behaviour, we are thinking of so many other times in our lives where someone else has behaved badly, where someone didn’t respect and honour us.

Jian Ghomeshi, you [redacted], this is all coming back up for us, all at once, until it pools like another Canadian ocean under that bridge men have been having us walk, tying us together across the country in one collective wave. We are thinking about times someone followed us onto the bridge. Times we were groped. Times we were pressured. Times we were coerced. Times we were held against our will. Times we had brusies. Times we were battered. Times we were raped.

This collective will says, We are mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore.* Pretty soon, if we have our way, you guys with your baitings and assaults are all going to tumble off that bridge and drown in a big cold ocean of women rising up.

Jian Ghomeshi, you [redacted], ours is a world that celebrates the male. You know what else is part of our oppressive system? Not letting women drive, or vote, or own property, or go out without male accompaniment. Saying that girls are not good at math, giving girls passive toys, not letting women go to unversity, glass ceilings, few female politicians, women earning less than men for work of equal value, women bearing the brunt of child-rearing and housework, women who perpetuate stereotypes even as they obtain jobs where they could change them.

All that stuff we call sexism? That is just misogyny written in semen. Men like you built the world. You built it to work for you. And it works for you most of the time.

We are mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore.*

Some men are up in arms this week, cautioning Canadian women to calm the fuck down. Don’t get your sweet little heads all in a tizzy, they say, in Canada we have something called due process. This is supposed to happen to complainants in court. Ultimately, it protects all of us.

In Canada, during due process, victims get psychologically battered, and we, the potentially violated, are standing upright while court is in session, quite out of order, and questioning that. We are saying This is not okay. This is an abridgement of Canadian values and Charter freedoms.

We are saying to the survivors of spectrum violence and to the brave, fierce women in court: We believe you and we stand with you and our support will never waver.

Jian Ghomeshi, you [redacted], isn’t this quite the amazing system men have developed for themselves over the centuries? This system where women are achingly vulnerable, taught from a young age to submit, while the other half of the population (and a few strays from our side) takes advantage? Because let’s face it, what our patriarchy requires more than convictions, and we all know it, is an intact status quo.

So Jian Ghomeshi, you [redacted], thanks for the back rub. But just so’s you know: I’m an anti-fan.

 

 

*A Canadian inquiry on misogyny is the idea of barbara findlay, QC

*adapted from “Network,” the movie

Canada is Raping You

This talk talks about violence as a men’s issue and I recommend it highly: Jackson Katz’s Ted Talk

If you are trying to understand abusive minds, I recommend this book highly, whether your abuser is a man, a woman or someone on the continuum: Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men, by Lundy Bancroft

Here is a very good blog post about this situation: Bone, Broth and Breastmilk

For people worrying about due process, this article, citing rape conviction stats in Canada: 1 in 1000:

What’s Really on Trial in the Jian Ghomeshi Case by Anne Kingston

The Oracle of Chappell Street

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