Quaint Magazine

A Call to Arms: Bite the Hand that Feeds You

April 24, 201541 Comments

Image credit: flickr.


EDIT 6/3/2015: After receiving a legal threat from lawyers retained by one of the named parties in the Invisibles' letter, Quaint Magazine has elected to redact one of the names on the list. Quaint Magazine and associated staff would like to note that at no point did we personally accuse this individual of anything. We would also like to reiterate, once again, that we are not the anonymous authors of the letter found in the AWP bathroom. May the SEO be with you, sir. 

It has been just over two weeks since AWP 2015 ended. It has taken me two weeks to write this essay. I don’t know what the mental block is. I know exactly what the mental block is. Despite being an active voice in combating abuse and oppression, sometimes I am naïve. Sometimes I am a child. Sometimes I want to cling to the illusion of community, of solidarity, of support, and pretend that, at least for now, we have vanquished the enemy. That we are moving forward. That we are doing better.

My personal AWP experience was without incident, and overwhelmingly very positive. I mostly avoided people I didn’t already know from the internet, and spent the majority of my time with women. I had so many wonderful, empowering conversations about literature, poetry, publication, visibility, and how to combat oppressive systems that silence marginalized voices. I felt untouched by the shadow of abuse that has loomed over the literary community for the past twelve months. I did not feel vulnerable. I did not feel scared. This was my privilege.

On the final day of AWP, on a break from staffing the Quaint table at the book fair, I found the following document in the bathroom. It is reprinted here in full, and no names have been censored. I refuse to couch my choice to reprint this document in legalese and rhetoric that questions and dismisses victims, that shields abusers. For those of you who did not see this circulated at AWP, here it is:

Covey-Letter-Redacted
C360_2015-04-15-20-35-30-925

I did not expect to see the name of my abuser staring up at me from a crumpled white page in a bathroom at the Minneapolis Convention Center. I did not expect to see the names of folks I have been acquainted with, have been friendly with—folks I believed were allies. It was jarring to see those names on paper, to see this message—the same message I had been repeating for the past year—in a tangible form. To know it had been typed, printed, and distributed in physical space, that the hands that had prepared it were likely the same hands that had balled to fists, that had cut fingernails into palms, that had risen to defend themselves against these men.

There was some kind of psychological disconnect. It was strange to see this message in the real world. It was strange to know that some of the men on this list might be only a few hundred feet away, physically present and occupying the same space as not only me, but potentially their victims.

It was a slap in the face: a vital reminder that however comfortable the bubble of digital connection feels, our on-line “community” is illusory and fleeting. It is so easy to retweet, to favorite, to share content. So easy to type a few words of empathy or solidarity, to talk the talk without putting in the hard work it takes to really support victims. It is so easy to play at ally when it suits you or serves your purposes: allyship has become the new networking tool, currency for the privileged to win favor with the marginalized. And it’s trendy, now, to appear outraged. But what happens when the outrage loses its appeal? What happens to the people you claim to support when their trauma is no longer a hot button issue?

Jay Dodd, writing for the Huffington Post, says that “allyship, in its best form, is constant work”—and he is right. The Invisibles are right, when they assert with anger and conviction that “we can only heal once they take seriously our pain”. This is not even an issue of individual victims, individual perpetrators--though it would be wrong to erase individual trauma in the effort to address the broader issue. This is a problem with the climate and culture of our literary community, a community that pays lip service to the ideals of safety and equality, while still being firmly rooted in a tradition that oppresses and marginalizes people of color, women, and the queer community.

Recently, poet Carina Finn penned an impassioned screed on her Tumblr that railed against the fissures she saw developing in the poetry community. Finn, who identifies herself as “a victim of racism sexism rape and other things” is distressed by what she sees as an absence of love and kindness within the community. She decries “call out culture” and “reactionary politics”, while in the same breath discounting anonymous statements by victims as “rumor”, as “oppressive”.

“I will love everybody,” she says—as if this is the answer, as if responding to racism, sexism, misogyny, and abuse with “kindness, compassion, and understanding” is a practical solution to a systemic problem.

I feel for Carina Finn. I want to believe her, to believe that being pleasant and kind to other human beings will solve these horrible, appalling problems not just in the literary community, but in the world at large. The progressive, equitable veneer of her community is peeling away right in front of her eyes, and her response is to cling tight to the lie of allyship and the emptiness of internet empathy. She is angry at victims. She is angry at survivors. She is angry at The Mongrel Coalition Against Gringpo and other anonymous collectives both for being mean (read: angry), and for wanting to preserve their anonymity in a hostile environment.

It is distressing when something you sought comfort in, something you felt was safe, is revealed to be decayed and damaged. It is distressing, being forced to confront the fact that you are participating in and perpetuating that decay, often without even knowing it.

The Invisibles are asking us to examine not only the other guy, but ourselves. They are telling us, in no uncertain terms, that it is no longer okay to be lazy allies—to finger point without self-reflection, to echo the message without adding to the conversation. It is not okay to hold onto friendships and professional connections because to sever them might damage our reputations, might hurt our chances of publication and employment. It is not okay to hide behind neutrality because I mean we just don’t know what happened, do we? We weren’t there.

Carina’s disappointment and sadness, her cry for kindness and love, is not unusual. The Mongrel Coalition, with their unfiltered anger, their refusal to self-police tone, are upsetting the privileged because their manifesto and mission statement do not allow for easy engagement. They are not letting Gringpos off the hook: they are saying “examine yourselves”. They are saying “you are the problem”.

Nobody likes to be told they are the problem. Nobody likes to see the names of their friends and colleagues on a list of alleged abusers, to be told that their silence and denial have made them complicit in that abuse.

And yet, as much as I want to buy into the myth of kindness and love, as much as I want to remain in the bubble that was my AWP experience--the bubble where I felt supported, not threatened, safe and not afraid—I cannot. I cannot be kind to people who have raped, abused, and/or oppressed others. My kindness is not currency: I will not use it to buy favor, to win brownie points. I will not use it to professionally insulate myself when all around me are the walking wounded. I will not. I cannot.

I do not have a solution to this problem. I do not know how to “fix” something as damaged as this--a community with a storied history of silencing, dismissing, and traumatizing minorities. I am not sure how to even begin to posit a solution when the language and culture of English Literature is by its very nature oppressive.

In all facets of life there are those who will use their power to exploit the less powerful. In our community, it has become a troubling trend to dress up this manipulation and abuse as support, as allyship. Some of the names on The Invisibles list are outspoken “feminists”, champions of women’s rights, queer rights, the rights of POC. There are people on that list, and others unnamed, who use their status as members of marginalized communities to shirk responsibility for their actions. And we are told to be kind to those people. To listen. To understand.

This is a call to arms: bite the hand that feeds you. Gnaw at the wrist, chew it off at the elbow crook. You do not need breadcrumbs. You do not need empty kindnesses.

Take your nourishment from the flesh that beats you down.


kia2Kia Groom is founding editor of Quaint Magazine, and an MFA candidate at the University of New Orleans, where she works also as associate poetry editor for Bayou Magazine. Her work has been published in Curbside Splendor, Westerly, Cordite, and Going Down Swinging, and has been shortlisted for several awards including the Judith Wright Poetry Prize. She can be found online at kiagroom.com, and tweets @whodreamedit.

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41 comments on “A Call to Arms: Bite the Hand that Feeds You”

  1. This letter and its phony allegations are garbage. It's nothing less than slander in a pitiful attempt at gaining some kind of collective sympathy for whatever supposedly oppressed group feels the need for attention right now.

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  2. Be sure that everybody can tell your figurative threats from your literal ones. The safety of one of these people's children has been threatened. Threatening children crosses the line. I would suggest giving a lot of thought to who you (pl.) threaten from here on out. Some of us, if you try to bite us, will knock your fucking teeth out. You idiots should know that even poets sometimes are armed and not afraid to blow holes in any would-be radicals, who are a little too high on their own rhetoric, especially when they threaten our family members. How's that for a trigger warning?

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    1. Hi Anon,

      We agree that threats (of any kind) do, absolutely, cross the line. We heard (via the statement made on ■■■■■■■'s Facebook page) that ■■■■■ ■■■■■ and his family had been threatened, and we are appalled. We do not condone violence, in any form. We do not condone threats of violence, regardless of what the person has done or is said to have done.

      We are uncertain what you mean be "figurative threats" and "literal threats"--or rather, we are confused who you mean by "your". Kia, who penned this article, did not threaten anyone--in this article, on social media, or otherwise. None of the Quaint staff have made threats, via this medium or any other. Whoever penned the note/pamphlet/letter that is photographed in this article has, as far as we know, made no threats (at least not in the text of their note, reprinted here). Therefore, we're uncertain to whom you are addressing /your/ threat.

      You can be sure, however, that we take threats of violence, particularly threats of violence against women, very seriously. Your IP address has been recorded, and we've forwarded your message to the authorities. We encourage ■■■■■ ■■■■■ to do the same, vis a vis the threats against himself and his family.

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      1. Perhaps the anonymous poster is referring to the imperatives phrased in terms of violence: "call to arms," "bite," "gnaw," etc.? I hate to agree even a little with someone who threatens violence against women, but I do think you could be a lot clearer about what you mean in your conclusion. What do you want people to do? Why do you think a language of violence is the right way to describe it?

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  3. What did ■■■■■ ■■■■■ do that puts him in this company? Why aren't you being more specific? I've known him for many years and his behavior has always been exemplary. The numbers of women who have come to his defense seem to support my experience with him.

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    1. Hi Marissa,

      We did not author the document. We have only heard second hand the specifics of what ■■■■■ ■■■■■ has done, and even then the specifics have not been particularly specific, presumably to protect the victim's identity. At Quaint, we respect this: the need to remain anonymous in the face of so much hate, public scrutiny, and now (apparently) threats.

      Just because someone has behave in an exemplary manner x number of times does not preclude them from behaving terribly in another instance, with another person. I will grant you that it makes it less likely, but we believe it is a mistake to allow people to hide behind good reputations, behind allyship. However, we also understand why it is more difficult for people to believe victims who choose not to sign their names.

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      1. And yet it's not a mistake to publish an anonymous letter left in a bathroom accusing someone of rape or sexual abuse without any proof, facts or even who the alleged victim(s) is? Let's assassinate someone's character, but we don't know if he's actually done anything, but he sounds like another creepy old white guy, so he must be guilty of something. How this helps the alleged victim(s) or brings about any kind of meaningful discussion about abuse is beyond me. It's simply reckless. Hope you're enjoying another click bait moment, Quaint.

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          1. There was no due diligence here, and Kia makes it clear in the opening graphs that she doesn't care about legal ramifications or whether the accusations might actually be true or not, because to question the accusations dismisses the victims. That is reckless.

            Look what happened with Rolling Stone's investigation into the gang rape allegation at UVa that has now been proven a fabricated incident. Those accused are now the victims. There was no due diligence there and rather than help to uncover the real instances of sexual abuse that happens in academic settings, it becomes another cry wolf story that discredits those who are actual victims as delusional hysterics with axes to grind.

            The list of names on the AWP letter are ■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■ you dig a little deeper and find the accusations against ■■■■■ ■■■■■ being discussed on Twitter. And what are they: "I heard he was a creepy motherfucker" and "I heard he hit on people, but don't know if he raped or abused anyone." Hitting on someone and being perceived as "creepy" is NOT rape or assault. It may be bad behavior, but to suggest ■■■■■ ■■■■■ has raped, abused, drugged, intimidated or any of the other nebulous accusations mentioned in the letter is simple character assassination. As a journalist by trade and education, I can tell you that ■■■■■ ■■■■■ will surely have a compelling case for a libel suit.

            In publishing the AWP letter, there seems to be no interest in facts or both sides of the story. While I applaud Quaint for wanting to give victims a safe space and to advocate for them, a line has been crossed here. And the effect could be chilling.

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  4. Ladies and Gentlemen, no teeth here.
    Nietzsche said "God is dead" in the early 1800's in a Judea-Christian society and world.
    Shut up and how DARE anybody silence anyone's mind about anything, be them any gender. I am very, very sympathetic to Kia's experience simply because merely a century ago, female writers were forced to write under a male pen name or else they would be banned from bookstores and publications.
    This article makes my heart sink and stomach churn.

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  5. Replying to Collin: thanks for your response. Your comment illustrates that there's an important aspect of sexual misconduct that's been missing from the conversation. No, the quotations that you cite are not "rape or assault," but they may be illuminating harassment at best -- which, given the relationship between harasser and harassed is quite damaging. Say it's a professor violating boundaries with a student: flirting, making jokes, gossiping, et cetera. That's professional exploitation:http://www.advocateweb.org/exploitation-2/professional-exploitation/. It is profoundly damaging to the victim. A downfall of the letter's lack of specificity, but yet another reason why it exists in the form that it does.

    Regarding journalistic ethics, you clearly know more than me! So I will take your assessment at face value.

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  6. Also responding to Collin--

    Refusing to "couch my [commentary] in legalese" is not the same as not caring or disregarding legal ramifications. It simply means that I felt it unnecessary to 'cover my ass' by including the standard disclaimer "the opinions expressed in this letter do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of Quaint as an entity/individual Quaint staff members". I find those kinds of disclaimers to be disrespectful to victims, to marginalized voices, as well as being fairly arbitrary. I felt it was obvious (or should have been) that the letter was not written by me, or by my staff--that the letter was an anonymous document that we chose to reprint, without redaction. It was important for me, as someone who advocates first and foremost for victims of abuse, not to erase, minimize, or silence the strength of their words by commenting upon it (one way or the other) right out of the gate.

    You'll notice that I don't, in my article, comment directly on any of the named men in the letter. I do not speculate or pass judgment on Tao Lin. I do not speculate and pass judgment on Kevin Sampsell. I do not speculate or pass judgment on ■■■■ ■■■■■. I merely say (repeatedly, and with great emphasis) that our community is fractured, it is broken, and that those who decry call out culture and the right of victims to remain anonymous are (in my opinion) misguided. I argue for a right to anger. I argue for a right to anonymity. I argue for the creation of a safe space. I am not asking that anyone threaten, harass, or prosecute any of the men named on the list. I am not speculating as to their actions, criminal or otherwise. The letter speaks for itself, in that regard. I presented it, unedited, and then framed the discussion around the action of an anonymous collective penning such a letter (hence my references to Mongrel Coalition, who to my mind are doing a relatively similar thing, albeit toward a different goal, and arguably with more elegance and intellect). I do not mention what anyone might or might not be saying about ■■■■■ ■■■■■ on Twitter, Facebook, or other social media. In fact, I don't mention ■■■■■ ■■■■■'s name at all.

    The reason I leave out speculation as to the veracity of the claims in the letter is twofold: one) my political position--on a personal level--is to always believe victims. My belief of victims is central to this piece on an ethical level, but is irrelevant on the level of specificity: it's not that I, as an individual, am uninterested or lack opinions and feelings about these specific claims. It's simply not what this /piece/ is about. This piece is about our community, the problems that continue to arise in it, the inequities of power, and what we can do to go about making it safer. Two) I am not interested in interrogating victims, particularly those who have chosen to remain anonymous. Perhaps interrogating women and asking them for "the truth" (whatever that means) is somebody's job, but it is not mine. This piece was never intended to be a thrilling, gossipy expose of who did what to whom, when, and how severely. I am not interested in matching crimes/actions to names, and it was pretty clear to me that the letter very deliberately obfuscated that, not in an effort to confuse or imply a harsher crime where some men on the list may be responsible for a lesser transgression, but because to match actions to names would be to surrender a victim's anonymity.

    You hold me responsible for the text of the letter, which I did not write. You hold me responsible for the things people are saying on Twitter about ■■■■■ ■■■■■, which I also did not write (and am not even aware of--most of the discussion around ■■■■■ ■■■■■ that I have seen has involved women--mostly ■■■■■■■ authors--expressing their very intense and profound sadness, confusion, and in some cases anger that a man they know and love, a man they respect, could have been named in a document such as this).

    You editorialize when you suggest that I, or anyone else on my team, published this letter in order to bring down "another creepy old white guy". Those are your words, not mine: I did not, anywhere, speculate as to whether or not the allegations in this list are true, nor did I assert that they must be because "creepy old white guy"!!! Some of the accused on this list are not even white. Most of them are not old. It's my understanding that several of them don't come across as creepy, either.

    While many of the names on the list have been associated with more specific allegations, many of which have evolved into legal action and attempted prosecution, some have not. I recognize this. It saddens me. It saddens me that our community cries out "GO THROUGH THE PROPER CHANNELS!" when the 'proper channels' have repeatedly failed my friends. When the proper channels have laughed in the faces of women who have been raped. When the proper channels have lost evidence, have failed to return calls, have gone on vacation and dropped cases, never to return. It saddens me that the authors of this letter felt this was the only way they could make a grasp for something approaching justice and safety. I see a lot of fear here, on all sides.

    I do not know ■■■■■ ■■■■■ personally. We were Facebook friends for a short time, during which I found him to be pleasant and amicable. He seemed like a true ally. I had a lot of respect for him. I most certainly do not have a vendetta against him, nor any other "old white guy", simply by virtue of their being old, white, and male-bodied. I am simply ethically bound to believe victims. It was shocking to me that his name was on this list. It continues to be shocking to me. But my position is to believe victims even when they do not feel comfortable naming themselves or giving details.

    Is it possible this will blow up in my face, as an ethical standpoint? Certainly. Do people occasionally (very rarely) falsely accuse others of rape and abuse? Indeed. But I would rather be wrong about a victim's statement than I would about the professed innocence of the accused. That's just me. I recognize that it's an easier position to adopt, being as I am not personally acquainted with anybody on this list aside from Gregory Sherl.

    I am sorry you feel that we had no interest in "the facts" or "both sides of the story". This is an opinion piece that uses the framework of The Invisibles letter to comment on larger issues within the poetry community. It was never intended to be an expose about ■■■■■ ■■■■■ specifically, nor anybody else on this list, and I think that should be fairly evident from the manner in which the article was written. Were this an article that sought to expose "the truth" behind the allegations, then yes, certainly, it would be reasonable to ask for "both sides", & "the facts" (though how we can ever, as journalists and writers, uncover 'facts' in cases such as these, I don't know--I was not there. I cannot know). As it stands, this is an article that deals with the concept of victimhood & vocalization. It does not deal in specifics. That is not its goal.

    Thank you for the Journalism 101 lesson, though--much appreciated. And I'll do you the courtesy of not assuming you turned up here to vaguely threaten me with legal action because you're still upset that we called you a broet a month ago.

    Cheers,

    ~Kia

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    1. Vaguely threaten you with legal action? You can call me whatever you like - since you pretty much already have - but I have no interest in suing you. Someone else might, but not me. One of these days, "not dealing with specifics" will turn around and bite you in the ass. As I said, supporting and providing a space for victims is admirable and necessary. Willingly and blindly believing every statement and antonymous letter left in a bathroom stall is irresponsible. You might be interested in this that was just posted at Real Pants, which I think brings a much more nuanced overview of what's happened with this.

      http://realpants.com/speaking-out/

      Cheers,
      Your favorite Broet

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      1. Collin & Kia, I hope you don't mind my entering your thread. Thanks for that link, Collin -- but I'm confused. You realize that it links to this article, right, calling Kia's original post "meaningful"? Isn't RealPants validating the existence of this post?

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        1. I was specifically thinking of this part of the Real Pants piece:

          In our reading, it does not claim to be a statement by, or written on the direct behalf of, an anonymous victim or victims. It may be possible that the writers obtained consent and just didn’t mention that, but there has been no indication of this. The discussions around protecting and believing anonymous victims are only salient if a victim came forward in the first place, privately or publicly. Otherwise, the letter has no connection to possible victims, anonymous or otherwise. Instead, this letter reads to us more like a manifesto.

          I see that the commenter "No one and everyone" has summed up my feelings on this much better than I have. Since I'm traveling and only intermediate access to the internet, I haven't been able to discuss -- or write -- at length on the AWP letter. I will this weekend.

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  7. […] On Friday, someone wrote a meaningful blog post about the ways culture in general, and specifically the literary community, still hasn’t fairly accommodated women and survivors of abuse. Along the way, the writer says that at AWP she took a break from working her table at the book fair and went to the bathroom, where she found a document. The document, signed with “Invisibles,” names several men who had previously been accused as sex offenders, then lists a wide variety of offenses—from assault to claiming photos to be their intellectual property. You can read the post, which includes the letter, here. […]

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  8. "I am simply ethically bound to believe victims. It was shocking to me that his name was on this list. It continues to be shocking to me. But my position is to believe victims even when they do not feel comfortable naming themselves or giving details."

    This is a huge problem, especially in this context.

    Someone who brings forth vague claims and non-specific allegations that can destroy someone's reputation should not receive automatic validation. Nobody has specifically accused ■■■■■ ■■■■■ of anything, yet his name appears on a list of allegations including sexual assault.

    Victims should never be discounted out of hand or gaslit, but you owe it to the accused to use an ounce of common sense before supporting someone's allegations. It is exactly as damaging and dangerous to automatically take the side of the accuser absent evidence or details as it is the accused.

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    1. Hello, "No one and everyone" -- I'm really curious about your choice of that name on this thread. I absolutely understand and respect the desire to remain anonymous online, particularly in this conversation. But your choice implies that you speak for "everyone," which is clearly not the case, and might read to some as an intimidation tactic; you're claiming that "everyone" believes these things.

      Ultimately, though, I wonder why you've come here to tell one woman why she should not hold what she identifies as an ethical belief. Do you think this article is supporting specific allegations? I feel like we're getting lost in the fallout, which is exactly what the Realpants post is arguing we have to avoid.

      I agree that the letter appears to have been damaging, albeit not the kind of damage that has stripped any of the accused of their ability to speak. Though silence from a specific party is one of the results, it's a silence that the victim (?) chose and articulated in his own voice. I disagree that his specific article is at fault for that damage. Let's try to talk about this without telling one another what our own moral imperatives must be.

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      1. I think your choice to feel intimidated by the name I chose to post online is, frankly, weird. My choice implies nothing except what you imagine it implies. It's a vague, poetic gesture. I do not claim to speak for anyone but myself.

        I'm telling one woman why she should not hold an ethical belief because I believe it's an illogical and damaging belief. Her stated ethical policy is to assume truth whenever someone claims to be a victim. I shouldn't have to explain why that's a bad idea, especially when that information comes from an anonymous, crumpled note found in a bathroom stall.

        The silence that ■■■■■ ■■■■■ chose came as a result of threats of violence against his children. Do not minimize or omit that fact. The silence is not just his, but also his publishing platform. All the authors who are published by and receive support from ■■■■■■■ are deeply affected by this. It is a serious blow to modern poetry. And for what? What kind of justice or retribution or advance in discourse has been gained?

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        1. Hello again -- are you really interested in having a conversation about? I'm confused by your response, which is pretty offensive to me, personally. I'm happy to respond to what you're saying, but not if you don't actually intend to listen. Either way, be well.

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          1. Sorry you're confused? No offense meant, I don't know anything about you and nothing I'm saying is directed toward you. I'd love to hear your response if you're willing!

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          2. Actually, no. I realize that some things I am saying are directed toward you in reply to your post. I guess my point is that I am challenging you, which is very different from attacking you.

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    2. Hi Noah,

      I understand why you feel that always siding with victims, even when they are anonymous, is problematic. I can empathize with your position, and I agree that in the context of this letter (which, as many have pointed out, deliberately obfuscates the nature of the crimes and/or actions that each of the accused is alleged to have committed) siding with victims is a radical act. Yes, it is radical to side with a victim who has not made themselves publicly known, who has not (even anonymously) made public allegations. The lack of specificity, too, is problematic--but for me, to demand specificity from a person quite probably dealing with a huge amount of emotional and psychological stress and trauma, is unfair, and is certainly not my place.

      Before I posted this article, I did a lot of deliberating. Behind the scenes, I discussed the decision with my team, with survivors of rape, sexual assault, and domestic violence, and I reached out (as much as I could) to those who had been in contact with the victims of the men named on the list. Some of those victims I was able to reach directly--notably, I am also one of those victims (no, I am not speaking about ■■■■■ ■■■■■ in this instance--let me be clear on that). In other instances, I was put in contact with people in whom anonymous victims had confided.

      Let me be clear on one thing: there are specific allegations. I am absolutely not free to disclose the nature of those allegations, as the victim/s wish/ed to remain anonymous. That, as far as I can tell, is why the note is so vague: names were not linked to specific actions & crimes in order to preserve victim anonymity. Is this problematic for the accused on the list? Yes, it absolutely is. Could it have been handled differently, possibly even better? Sure, I imagine it could have. But I nevertheless completely understand /why/ it was executed in this way. I understand, and I empathize. Again, it is my ethical choice to side with the victim.

      I guess what I'm saying is: yes, I have information that you do not have. I have information that I very intentionally omitted from this article, because it was not my place to share it. Again (as I've said in response to Collin Kelley) I framed my article around a philosophical and ethical discussion of call out culture, anonymity, and victim/aggressor dynamics. I framed it generally, through the lens of the AWP letter and the manifestos published by Mongrel Coalition. This was in an bid to deter people from focusing specifically on the men named on the list, to instead focus on a more productive discussion centering on how we can make our community safer. In retrospect, perhaps that discussion would have been easier to have if the names on the list were censored. But this was a publicly circulated document. I was not the only person to see it at AWP. The information was out there. Had I censored the names, all that would have happened was that the community would have cried out for an uncensored version. And what service does it do, to the victims, to redact that information? Again, this is my position: I privilege victims always.

      I am deeply saddened and regretful that, as a result of the publication of this list, ■■■■■ ■■■■■ of that going around. I am sad that instead of attempting to have a productive conversation, the knee-jerk reaction of certain factions of the internet is to threaten, harass, stalk, and name-call. This is inexcusable, in my opinion, in either direction.

      I sat with the decision to write and publish this article for two weeks. I thought about it long and hard, and I put it to my (much smaller, much more intimate) community to see whether they thought it was a good idea. Did I worry? Yes. Did I question myself? Of course. But ultimately, this felt like the right decision to me. It is important to me to uplift the voices of those who feel they have been silenced, or who are afraid to speak.

      I'm sorry if you find this "illogical", "damaging", and "a bad idea". I would agree that it has been damaging, and I regret that: it was not the intention. But I disagree that my rationale is illogical, and on the whole, I disagree that it was a bad idea. I have received many messages of support from people who felt this was a vital conversation to have, who are grateful to have been given the chance to see this list, this document.

      I have empathy for ■■■■■■■ authors (some of whom I know and am personal friends with), who are understandably having difficulty processing all this. I can tell you that not all Coconut authors agree that this document should have been left in the bathroom, left in the dark. I have empathy for ■■■■■ ■■■■■, to a degree, because nobody should have to suffer threats as he has. That is despicable. And I have empathy for those who were triggered by this letter, those in the poetry community who are friends with the men named, or who hold or have held them in high regard. It is unimaginably difficult to have to see your friend and colleague, someone you respect, accused of these things. It is particularly difficult as a feminist and an activist. None of this is easy. I do not have solutions. I can only say that I am trying to make sense of it all, myself. But once again, I feel I am bound to stand with victims always. I would rather be wrong about them, than wrong about an abuser.

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      1. If you are wrong about a victim who levels allegations against an accuser that are false or unsubstantiated, who is the victim and who is the abuser?

        This is not a binary choice. You don't have to support anyone in this situation, you don't have to take a side, you can voice an independent opinion.

        I agree that this is a valuable conversation, but the context here is that someone published an anonymous note with extremely damaging allegations and left it in a bathroom stall at a writer's conference. This has resulted in a frothing mob slinging physical threats on both sides. In one case, the result of this is the shutdown of an independent poetry press, stranding dozens of writers with books that need support.

        I can't see any situation where it's appropriate to support, endorse or encourage this behavior. The conversation is not worth damaging the careers of writers who may or may not have any interest in participating in any of this. We can have discourse without mudslinging.

        Abusers deserve to be brought to justice. Victims deserve to be heard and supported. You and the people in this thread who have experienced abuse are incredibly brave to come forward and talk about it in public, and you are empowering others by doing so.

        Lumping together a list of names with a non-correlated list of allegations into a manifesto and leaving that in a bathroom is not a method of discourse that should be validated or encouraged.

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      2. Hi, Kia--

        I am finding this conversation insightful in terms of gender politics and the cultural wars. Your default always-believe-the-victim position has me confused, because I can imagine a scenario where you have two victims accusing each other of sexual abuse or violence, and in such a case it would seem by believing one you'd have to not believe the other.

        I'm also wondering if any of the writers at Quaint (or the Invisibles themselves) are mothers, and what if they had a son in ■■■■■ ■■■■■'s position. Would they want to know the specifics of the charges then? Would they be so quick to judge? My hope is that they would want fairness and truth.

        I want fairness and truth. And justice for people who are sexually abused. I also want such things for anyone accused of a crime. To suggest all this must be in opposition is to create a false dichotomy and to use victims' anonymity as a sort of smokescreen. I'm definitely not about "perpetuating a culture of silence"; I well know that SILENCE = DEATH. I've seen the body count. Yet to tolerate a culture that puts anyone in the untenable position of Josef K in The Trial is to perpetuate an additional evil.

        I realize my examples are hypothetical, but I'm sincerely curious to know how you'd reconcile them with your philosophy.

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  9. Responding to NO&E again: first, thanks very much for your response.

    I was confused by your response to my statement about your choice of screen name; if you reread, you'll see that I said it might read to "some" -- not to me, specifically -- as an intimidation tactic. You responded by saying that my personal "choice to feel intimidated [was], frankly, weird." Three things to which I object here: one, you're misrepresenting what I said. Two, you're stating that a feeling is a choice, which it never, ever is, under any circumstance. Three, you said that feeling that way was weird, implying that I myself am weird, as you made it clear that you believe that emotions are choices, therefore "weird feelings" = weird person. So I was confused about why you felt it appropriate to insult me when all I intended to do was ask a sincere question and advocate for sensitivity. To me, poetic gestures are never vague or arbitrary. I understand that my intention may have been unclear, and I apologize if you felt insulted by my question or my statement. I hope this clarifies both my intention and my confusion.

    It frightens me to do so, but I feel it's only fair to admit that, yes, I myself did initially feel that your choice was an intimidation tactic. I saw your post, I wanted to respond, I looked at your screen name and for a few minutes, thought, no, don't do it, everyone feels the way this person feels. But I knew that that particular feeling, while strong, was invalid -- obviously, or I wouldn't have been able to respond to you at all.

    It's even scarier for me to say here, in this space that I don't feel is particularly safe, that the reason I responded emotionally as I did is that I was sexually exploited by a member of the literary community and have spent the last fourteen years thinking -- you guessed it -- that I was weird, it was my fault, I caused it, I could not speak about it. What I'm saying here is that your attitude is a trigger for me, and would be a trigger for many victims. It's one of the reasons why this anonymous letter exists in the first place. I want to be very clear here that I don't know a single person on that list, nor do I have the remotest idea who wrote that letter, nor do I know Kia, nor was I at AWP, nor have I ever publicly named my accuser. I also want to be very clear right now that I am not condoning ANY of the fallout that the letter has caused. I am here to try to explain why it exists. I am here to try to understand how we can make changes that will prevent another such letter.

    So now you know a bit about me. Besides, you also know my name & that I belong to the lit community; you can certainly know plenty more about me if you really want to. I know that I owe you a more detailed response about the rest of your comment, but this is the best that I can do right now. I apologize, and hope we can continue. And I am really grateful for your efforts to be open.

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    1. Thank you for your honesty and bravery.

      I think we fundamentally agree here, and I'm sorry you felt attacked.

      All I'll say is that you talking about your abuse and your experience is powerful, positive and helpful. I hope you continue to do so. I think your post stands in stark contrast with the bathroom manifesto.

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  10. I've been following this thread (and others like it) for a few days now. I've decided to post here both to ask questions and to make an observation or two.

    First, the observations: The tactic used to make these accusations seems troublingly similar to tactics used by governments who claim to be fighting terrorism, but refuse to present the details and evidence sufficient to justify their tactics against those the capture and accuse. They withhold details in the supposed interest of protecting the public's (or individuals') safety, and simply state that the public must trust them, that if we knew what they know, we would understand, etc. Outrage rightly ensues. I am not claiming a total correlation here. The accused men in the list posted above are not being held against their will, are not being tried in court with no representation, and so forth. But the claim to private knowledge that justifies public condemnation with no details or specifics offered is consistent in principle with tactics used by secretive and corrupt regimes. If the accusations are made, they need to be made fairly and in a way that justice can be achieved.

    And now my questions, and I apologize if they seem rhetorical. I only posit answers, and welcome differing opinions:

    1. If the concern for privacy is out of embarrassment on the part of the victim, shouldn't we be striving to do away with this sort of reticence, as it suggests a kind of victim shaming? If this is a call to arms, shouldn't the embarrassment be set aside? Or maybe the caution isn't related to embarrassment at all. But I do speak from experience: When I was 14 years old, I was sexually assaulted by a man in a shopping mall. It was brief, sudden, and only ended when I was able to maneuver away. No words were spoken. It was humiliating. The idea of telling anyone, let alone reporting the man, was unthinkable to me. I wanted to do nothing but hide and forget it. So I understand the feelings of shame, but I also believe that accusations that are made without anonymity, and with more specifics than are offered here, will be more effective in bringing about justice.

    On that issue: In reading about the Rolling Stone debacle, I was struck by an observation by a reporter who was brought in to see where it all went wrong. She stated that if accusers/victims are unwilling/unable to offer sufficient details, a responsible reporter walks away from the story. I think the same principle can be applied here.

    2. If it stems from a fear for the victims' safety, doesn't a more detailed disclosure that can justify the accusations help render the perpetrators all the more helpless? Secretive accusations while keeping a distance would seem to put the victim at more risk. When sexual assault has been committed, the perpetrators know who is accusing them and for what. They, the perpetrators, are left with far less room to maneuver away from and shut down the conversation when faced with the specifics.

    Or maybe I'm being naive. Yes, there is risk. A risk to safety is part of what sexual predators impose on their victims. This is part of the crime. But it seems to me to be more likely thwarted by direct and clear accusations, not vague and anonymous accusations with a plea for trust.

    Full disclosure: I am straight, cis-male, white. I know I cannot speak on behalf of POCs, women, and others outside of of my demographic. But I also want to see this issue addressed in a healthy and productive way.

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    1. Respectfully, I think you've got it opposite. This is more like what Sophie Scholl and others who speak against oppression have done. The only safe thing for her to do was publish anonymous letters and articles to raise awareness against the Nazis, and she was killed for it. I'm NOT saying any situation is comparable to that (nothing can be compared to that!) I'm just trying to point out that oppressed people have done this in different ways throughout history.

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      1. I see what you mean, but the men being accused here hardly have the power and mechanisms of organized force equal to that of the Nazi regime. Look at Bill Cosby: his accusers are speaking out in detail and making themselves known. His empire is crumbling.

        I should also add that I do not seriously doubt the guilt of at least some of those listed. I believe when there's smoke, there's fire.

        But the vagueness and the scattershot method used here is likely to thwart progress rather than bring it about. Or so I would suspect.

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        1. As long as we're on analogies, maybe try this frame: the riots in Baltimore are the act of desperate people who see no other way of making their voices heard. Most lit folks I know are able to view those actions empathetically, not condoning the violence but understanding its perceived necessity. I think the letter is not unlike a riot -- it's caused damage, I'd argue unintentionally (no one, I'm certain, foresaw or would endorse threats against anybody's kids), but it's also started a conversation. I still can't decide what I'd have done, myself, had I found myself in the position of the writers. If I'd been asked if I wanted to out my abuser on that list, I really don't know what I've had said. (I'd probably have said no, but I'm not sure if my reasons would have been ethical or merely self-protective.) But, ultimately, it's not mine to decide, just as it makes no sense for whites to argue about how they'd have handled themselves in Baltimore. The riots are reality, not a hypothetical to be debated. The letter is a reality; it can't be taken back. So where do we go from here, all of us, together? Thanks for your thoughtful, and respectful, responses here -- *this* is where we go, I think.

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  11. Hi, Kia–
    I am finding this conversation insightful in terms of gender politics and the cultural wars. Your default always-believe-the-victim position has me confused, because I can imagine a scenario where you have two victims accusing each other of sexual abuse or violence, and in such a case it would seem by believing one you’d have to not believe the other.
    I’m also wondering if any of the writers at Quaint (or the Invisibles themselves) are mothers, and what if they had a son in ■■■■■ ■■■■■’s position. Would they want to know the specifics of the charges then? Would they be so quick to judge? My hope is that they would want fairness and truth.
    I want fairness and truth. And justice for people who are sexually abused. I also want such things for anyone accused of a crime. To suggest all this must be in opposition is to create a false dichotomy and to use victims’ anonymity as a sort of smokescreen. I’m definitely not about “perpetuating a culture of silence”; I well know that SILENCE = DEATH. I’ve seen the body count. Yet to tolerate a culture that puts anyone in the untenable position of Josef K in The Trial is to perpetuate an additional evil.
    I realize my examples are hypothetical, but I’m sincerely curious to know how you’d reconcile them with your philosophy.

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    1. I feel I've already answered many of these questions, but since I'm apparently not making myself clear enough, this article does a great job of articulating what I, perhaps, cannot: http://entropymag.org/but-we-never-ask-why-rapists-get-to-be-anonymous-guerrillas/

      Further, being asked whether I am a mother by what appears to be a white man (excuse me for making assumptions based on your profile picture) is, I think, a bit rich. Are YOU a mother? And how would you feel if it was not your son accused of sexual misconduct, but your daughter who was the accuser? This argument is circular. It goes nowhere. And it presupposes that mothers are somehow uniquely positioned to feel empathy for others, which is a premise I do not support.

      For the record, though, several women who are, if not on Quaint staff, at least closely linked with our magazine and our press are indeed mothers. And when I reached out to them, they expressed similar views to those that I personally hold: that, for them, believing victims is paramount.

      Thank you for your time.

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