October 31, 2014

Rape Culture and Alt Lit - The Sincere Pose - Sarah B. Boyle

One of the biggest selling points of the roman a clef is the reader's salacious desire to suss out who is who: which real person are we getting an illicit glimpse of? Alt lit plays on this desire in its routine conflation of fiction and non-fiction. But how does flattening real people into fictional characters affect how we interact with those people in real life? --SBB

The Sincere Pose: What Happens When Everyone is a Character

An Exercise in Art of and from the Internet

Definitions of alt lit vary widely—as anyone who’s ever tried to learn about it from the outside can attest. Here’s my own working definition of the movement: an exercise in creating art that is reflective of and derived from the internet. Existing just outside the mainstream, the writer of alt lit is self-aware, introspective, and sensitive. This writer delights in the banal and the personal: a navel-gazer just as interested in the lint as the personal revelations. That persona often discloses personal shortcomings and humiliations to gain the reader’s trust. In the best of the genre, you the reader aren’t just a voyeur watching from a distance, you’re engaged personally with the writer.

Alt lit says what it means directly. Often the only ornamentation is the misplaced punctuation and a near total lack of capital letters that is common of internet speak. The result is writing that is so personal it risks the sentimental and occasionally confronts the grotesque. And it is hard to turn away from such frank descriptions and such feeling, even if you want to, because those personal disclosures are worth wading through the flood of details that make up the writer’s everyday life.

What makes the writing of alt lit different from personal blogs or status updates is the very label “lit.” The writing is presented as art and so it is—for better or worse. The writers of alt lit, unlike the writers of blogs and status updates, choose those excessive details. The work is the result of deliberate and aesthetically motivated choices.

Considering a piece of writing as “art” usually forces a reader to separate the “speaker” in the writing from the author. But here alt lit is funny. It erases this distinction by creating literature that reads as non-fiction or memoir but is deliberately labeled fiction, leaving the reader to doubt if there is any separation between speaker and author. This flattening of speaker and author is further complicated by its presentation almost entirely online. We know the internet is a place where we can never trust a person to be who they claim to be. Reading alt lit, who is to say what is real and what is fiction?

It’s not just the frame of “art” that complicates the distinction between the real and the fictional. Many writers in the alt lit scene use pseudonyms: xTx, Beach Sloth, Marie Calloway, Peter BD.  Many name their characters after celebrities: Adrien BrodyDakota Fanning—or other writers. Just as author and speaker are flattened into a single persona, so supporting characters and the real people they are based on are flattened into a single persona, as well.

Though the literature is personal and self-aware, that self-awareness is derived from the act of turning life into art. The status updates, the tweets, the tumblrs, the memes, the published stories and poems: all are the literature of the movement. This extreme pose, collapsing the real and the fictional into one, forces the reader to take everything as performance, because the alternative—that everything is real—beggars belief. Ultimately, the reader knows the writer is posing but takes those poses as true expressions of the writer’s self. We are left with a seeming paradox: a sincere pose.

As we see with the assault, abuse, and rape charges in the alt lit community, art on and of the internet works the same way as the internet. Predators masquerade as friends and gain trust—trust that they later exploit. And the flattening of person and character lets both the writer and the reader off the hook. The writer can pretend that whatever she or he writes is only art and can’t hurt anyone. The reader can pretend that they aren’t complicit in the exploitation of real people because this is only art and not really about anyone in particular. Thus the tropes and aesthetics of alt lit enabled predators by giving them a pose that both masked their actions from their community and obscured the reality of their acts from themselves. Just as rapists distance themselves from their actions by dehumanizing their victims, so the predators of alt lit distanced themselves from their actions by turning their victims into supporting characters in a fictional tale where the only three-dimensional—and thus fully humanized—character was the predator himself.

Reading the Apology as a Sincere Pose

After Sophia KatzTiffany Wines, and E.R. Kennedy made their stories public, the men of alt lit apologized. We need to read these apologies as literature, applying the tropes and aesthetics of alt lit to our analysis, as alt lit uses status updates, tweets, and blog posts as literature and employs the everyday media of the internet in the production, distribution, and promotion of said literature. And, indeed, each apology fits neatly within the alt lit trope of the self-reflective writer who reveals his peccadilloes in order to gain the reader’s trust. They use that persona to mask the truth from themselves and (attempt to) hide it from us. Let’s look at them one at a time.

Stephen Tully Dierks wrote:
(Screen cap from Gawker.)

I’ve read this thing dozens of times. I believe he sincerely feels bad and wishes things were different—he is sensitive, aware, and hopes to become in the future to be “only a positive, cautious, loving presence.” That said, I also hear some serious bullshit. For instance: “consent seemed to have been given.” Really? “[S]eemed to have been given?” Seriously, dude: anytime you need a verb phrase that convoluted, you aren’t being honest. And how about those passive verbs: “what has happened,” “the toxicity of our society’s patriarchal structure has led me”? That’s dodging responsibility, too. Man, and he actually blames alt lit for making him this horrible person when he regrets how “writing, editing a magazine, and participating in this social group” led him down this dark and twisty path. The only remedy Dierks proposes to the situation is improving himself, retaining himself as the protagonist of this story—not Sophia Katz, not Tiffany Wines, not the alt lit community. The question I want answered: is he lying to us or to himself? Those slippery passive verbs help him mask his actions to readers and attempt to keep us under the spell that casts him as a misguided soul who admits his mistakes in order to learn from them. But if he is sincere in his apology, as I believe he is, then he is also lying to himself about who he is.

Next up, Tao Lin:
 (screen cap from Gawker)
Just like Dierks, Lin is hiding behind the sensitive, introspective writer persona: “I try to be open about my negatives as a person, and examine these negatives for example in Richard Yates and in my other writing.” In other words, Lin’s past crimes shouldn’t matter anymore because he knows he behaved poorly and is working through his issues so he can be a better person. Sounds pretty nice on the surface, until we remember an actual person got hurt in the making of this very important lesson for Tao Lin. Lin’s openness about his misdeeds does shit all for E.R. Kennedy. Just as the writerly pose of alt lit allowed Lin to distance himself from the worst of his own behavior by fictionalizing it in Richard Yates, here it allows him to distance himself from that same behavior by acting as though his self-reflection and actions in the present—such as his self-important offer of giving Kennedy “all the royalties to RY,” as though that is what Kennedy wants—excuse him from behaviors in the past. Again I ask, does he use this persona to lie to us or to himself? I venture he’s lying to us about how much he has done to make amends with E.R. Kennedy and lying to himself about what a nice guy he is because he is “open about [his] negatives.”

Ultimately, the goal of these apologies is to regain the reader’s trust. Offer unto us a confession and promises to learn from past mistakes that we may all move on from this nasty business. Taking these men at their word is what they want us to do, as they know how to use words for any purpose they please. Enabled by the aesthetics of alt lit, these men honed writerly personas perfect for obscuring predatory actions. And here’s the really fucked up thing about these apologies: by confessing, these men only strengthen that sensitive writer persona. The apology doesn’t serve to humble them, as a real apology would, but to strengthen their position as protagonists in worlds of their own creation.

After the Assault: Two Paths

Statistics show that most rapes are committed by acquaintances and not by strangers with knives and guns, but the image of the rapist as a masked offender we can file away as “bad guy” and think no further about persists. In fact, it turns out men will admit to committing rape as long as they don’t have to use the word “rape” to describe their actions. The stigma attached to the word is so powerful that it scares even admitted rapists. Rape is so powerful a word that even its victims are afraid to wield it in the fight against rape culture. So long as we believe rapists are outliers, scary sociopathic bad guys, we won’t call the majority of rapists out on their crimes because they are people we know and like and have beers with. And so they continue forcing themselves on unwilling sexual partners without societal repercussions. All because we as a society cannot confront the evil that lives next door.

Even as Dierks and Lin address accusations of rape head on, they don’t see the connection between their actions and the label “rape.” And though they claim to understand their roles in perpetuating rape culture, they either blame that culture for making them monsters or believe their desire for rehabilitation necessarily lifts them above those who are trulycomplicit in rape culture. They want to confess their sins, but cannot bring themselves to face how terrible those sins are. For me to believe any apology—or statement—from these men, they would have to acknowledge that their actions make them guilty of rape and guilty of perpetuating rape culture, not the victims of a fucked up patriarchal world that chews everyone up equally. (Please.) The word “rape” is powerful—and explosive—and asking these men to acknowledge that the stigma attached to the word is a stigma now attached to them as well is only appropriate.

I see two paths open to these men. Path one is a circle back to the beginning, a field trip around a land where they are unique and precious snowflakes, forever the protagonists of their own stories. This is the path foreshadowed by Dierks’ and Lin’s apologies. On this path, self-reflection stands in the stead of punishment. As Dierks said, in private messageswith his then-girlfriend Isabel Sanhueza, “i know i can educate myself and change how i act and be accountable.” Lin similarly holds up his own self-reflection as his defense, and he offers to give E.R. Kennedy all the money from the book he wrote about their abusive relationship. Both Dierks’ desire to pursue education and Lin’s promises of money are hollow gestures offered in lieu of punishment. The path of self-reflection and education allows predators to bypass connecting their actions with rape and rape culture, offering only a surface corrective to a deep-seeded ill.

On path one, Dierks’ and Lin’s self-reflection is the pivotal moment of the story—not the assault itself. The people they hurt are in the past. They are props, and forgotten props at that. Shifting the climax of the story to education and rehabilitation ensures Dierks and Lin continue to be the heroes of their stories. It plays directly on alt lit’s trope of the introspective writer. The apologies acknowledge personal humiliations and/or shortcomings to regain their readers’ trust—without ever confronting the consequences of their actions—and allow them to continue authoring the story, retaining and potentially growing their audiences.

On path two, the accused stands trial for his crime. Admittedly, this path is wildly unrealistic because, unfortunately, rape victims often choose not to press charges and even when they do those charges rarely lead to conviction. But on this path, we puncture that writerly pose and find the real person underneath. This is exactly what Dierks is afraid of. In his conversation with Sanhueza, he says, “if someone pressed charges and i was facing jail time i would kill myself . . . if anyone is willing to do anything to let this be a non-legal repercussion it would be the greatest mercy of my life . . . and i would remain accountable and i would still be punished as i am (reputation compeltely [sic] ruined) and i would work on myself v hard to make sure i never hurt anyone again.” This would be a “great mercy” to Dierks because it would not only keep him out of jail but also allow him to continue to deny that he is a rapist. And isn’t his reticence—and Lin’s reticence—to confront to true terror of their crimes and the concomitant label just further proof of how heinous those crimes are?

Followed to its conclusion, path two sees the accused investigated by the police, put on trial, and sent to jail. His intentions no longer matter more than his actions. It doesn’t matter if the accused is really a good guy deep down; what matters is what he did. Unlike on path one, where the climax turns on the protagonist’s own actions towards rehabilitation, on path two the climax is in the hands of the people—literally, The People versus Stephen Tully Dierks (or Tao Lin). Standing trial and going to jail takes the story out of the hands of the writer. These men can no longer be the stars of their own stories because they lose control of the narrative. The survivors, the police, the lawyers, the correctional officers now share authorship.

Facing jail time forces a connection between the accused’s actions and the (legal) definition of rape. It forces the men who assaulted and abused others to realize the world will forever see them as transgressors against the people they victimized and against the community—whether they ever do or not is now beside the point. How they tell the story is no longer relevant because, suddenly, Dierks and Lin are that guy, the “bad guy” they never thought they were. This path stretches the sensitive writer pose to its breaking point. While on path one, confessing to the transgression allows Dierks or Lin to show how brave he is for admitting his ill deeds, on path two society tells him he is a rapist. This is the point of no return: they cannot flex their chops as writers to manipulate the story once society attaches the stigma of “rape” to their actions.

Importantly, path two does not preclude path one. Ideally, the perpetrators of assault, abuse and rape should reflect and seek out education to make themselves better in the future—as should all people guilty of crimes against their communities. But that education is no replacement for punishment. To suggest that education could replace criminal punishment is to suggest that the crime under consideration—rape—really isn’t so bad. But the lengths rapists go to in order to avoid the words “rape” and “rapist” prove that the crime is as horrible as crimes come. For Dierks and Lin to suggest that they could avoid punishment by education and/or monetary reimbursement is hubris at its worst. It reveals how deeply male privilege informs their world views and how dissociated they are from their crimes. Anytime we fall for this argument, that the abuser has learned from his mistakes and is going to change, we are enabling rapists and rape culture to continue hurting very real people.

Closing the Gap between Perception and Reality

This, then, is the problem: these men are content to pursue path one (and asking them to voluntarily walk path two is unrealistic) and seem to sincerely believe that learning from their past mistakes is enough. That sincerity derives from millennia of male privilege. For haven’t men always been the protagonists, the stars of the story? Why shouldn’t Dierks and Lin expect path one to be sufficient? Abandoning control of the story is antithetical to everything they’ve ever known.

This blindness prevents many men from being true allies in the fight against violence against women. But is it unique to alt lit? A gatekeeper taking advantage of the neophyte is hardly new. Nor is a criminal denying responsibility for his actions. But I’d argue that the alt lit practice of flattening the distinction between character and real person enabled predators to better stalk the alt lit community while hidden in plain sight. And the aesthetic of the sensitive, self-aware writer trading on his own failures was ripe for exploitation. Which isn’t to say there are more predators in alt lit than other communities, just that they had better tools at their disposal for getting away with it.

I’m aware that the likelihood these men will ever face trial is slim at best—and that prosecuting rapists on the whole is woefully difficult. So, how do we close the perception gap—if not the legal gap—that lets men like Dierks and Lin believe they aren’t, at heart, bad guys and thus shouldn’t be held accountable—even when they commit unspeakable (literally, see above) crimes?

Shame is an excellent tool for closing the gap—and sometimes the only weapon we have as a society when victims choose not to press charges and are often denied justice even when they do. And Dierks is already feeling the sting of that weapon, with his “reputation compeltely [sic] ruined.” Lin likely is, too, from where he stands hidden behind his lawyer. Shame will certainly (hopefully?) push these men outside of the communities they preyed in, but it doesn’t necessarily puncture the creep’s positive conception of himself.

We could start communities without men entirely. Though this, too, seems insufficient. Such self-imposed boundaries also allow the gap to persist, just outside the bounds of the sanctuary. This isn’t to say there is no place for clubhouses with “no boys allowed” signs nailed to the door—just that they cannot solve the problem, only provide temporary respite from it.

Just as the most powerful weapon in the men of alt lit’s arsenal (after their penises, apparently) is their art, so could the most powerful weapon in our arsenal in the fight against rape culture be our art. Perhaps it is the hubris of the artist to believe that art can change the world—but what else do we have? If the courts cannot help us, cannot irrevocably label these men “rapists” or criminals, then it is our job to make those labels stick. We cannot let such creeps regain control of the narrative. And so we must flood the world with the storiesby and about women and LGBTQI individuals and minorities. Not just survivors of abuse and assault—though we need more of those—but stories that show not-white-men doing whatever the fuck they want to. The more stories of not-white-men, the more examples men have to see that they are not the default setting on literature—or the world. That anyone can and should be a hero.

Simultaneously, we must continually hone our bullshit detectors. Writers are really good at making horrible things sound nice. We have to be on the lookout for anyone abusing the art to advance violent ideas or mask violent tendencies and reveal the untoward motive lurking beneath the beautiful surface.

I’m loath to see the actions of a few (and more) bad men spell the end of alt lit. The movement prizes self-aware consideration of one’s own faults. It loves the ordinary and the everyday and the banal. It embraces the grotesque alongside the sentimental. It is democratic in its embrace of self-publishing. Just as it enabled the predators, alt lit is uniquely built to produce and deliver stories of women, minorities, queer and genderqueer and nonbinary people, and anyone else who feels shunted to the sidelines by the mainstream. It’s time we put these tools and tropes to use in building a new canon that challenges and ultimately dismantles the narratives at the heart of rape culture.

Have something to say? Email comments, questions, responses, links to relevant articles elsewhere, and submissions to: rapeculture.and.altlit [at] gmail [dot] com. For the original call for submissions, see here. To read all the essays in the series, click here

Sarah B. Boyle is a poet, activist, mother and high school teacherHer work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Menacing Hedge, Sugar Mule, Cheat River Review, and elsewhere. She has an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. 

October 26, 2014

Rape Culture and Alt Lit - Smart People Writing Elsewhere

A look at what people have said elsewhere on the internet about the rapes and assaults in the Alt Lit community.

From Stop Denying and Unseeing Rape Culture, by Carolyn Zaikowski:
It should go without saying that writers are good at language. Poets, novelists, and other types of writers, when they are abusive, often use language in extremely complicated ways that cover up, erase, and promote literary rape subculture, whether it is in private conversations with the abused, or in public conversations on message boards, Facebook posts, in classrooms, or at conferences. At worst, this manifests as abusers actually making poetry or novels out of the “material” of their abusive exploits.
From Why the Alt Lit Rape Scandal is a Hidden Opportunity, by Emilie Friedlander:
Jon Caramanica once wrote that “the avant-garde need not be moral.” I tend to agree with that statement—at least inasmuch as it suggests that art can be moving, or even politically meaningful, without seeming to abide by the rules of socially scrupulous behavior. But when the line between life and art becomes very blurred, as it seems to in the writing of Tao Lin, I wonder if you can continue to separate the ethical shortcomings of one from the ethical shortcomings of the other.
From A Review of Rape Culture in the Alt Lit Community, by Dianna Dragonetti:
I would also like to draw attention to the fact “We’re Fucked” was published (sometime between 6 to 8 months ago) without first seeking the consent of everyone whose likeness was used. Thus, not only was I re-traumatized learning of my inclusion in this text, compounded by the fact that I am already a survivor of sexual abuse and violence, but the inadvertent manner in which I found out exacerbated this. I am certain that many others have experienced a similarly horrible arc, given the commonality of trauma.
From From the Mouth of a Survivor: An Open Letter to Elizabeth Ellen's Open Letter to the Internet and the Conversation Surrounding, by Sarah Certa:
It is clear that he is scared, doesn’t deny what happened, yet still says “idk if it is legally what they say it is,” meaning: he doesn’t know if he “legally” raped or, just, I don’t know, casually? I’m actually not sure what Stephen means. He is most likely in denial. And he is definitely unaware of what rape is, which is, perhaps, one of the biggest problems in responding to a victim’s story with “What about him?” Many men accused of rape aren’t going to say that’s what happened because they don’t know what rape is and that is because they are so deeply entitled to women’s bodies. They have very little concept of rape or sexual abuse because such violence and entitlement has been normalized. 
From On Deciding What Counts: Elizabeth Ellen and What Makes a Victim, by Mallory Ortberg:
A woman who says “No thanks, I’ll sleep on the floor”; a woman who freezes up and tenses at your touch; a woman who says “I really don’t want to” and “We really shouldn’t” and “We can’t” and “Please at least wear a condom” is not saying yes to you, and if you would like to pretend that that is unclear, you are a liar, you are being disingenuous, you are lying and you know it.
From When "No Means No" Doesn't Quite Fit, an interview with Sophia Katz by Flannery Dean:
It’s rape because I said no…I said no many times. That is what assault and rape is…People like to think about rape as a violent physical forcing of a body onto another with one body not consenting to it. And while that is rape, there are unfortunately many different kinds. And one of the more insidious kinds is the kind that I experienced, where the person being raped or being assaulted, even themselves isn’t sure if it’s rape because the rhetoric being forced upon them is so intense.
Have something to say? Email comments, questions, responses, links to relevant articles elsewhere, and submissions to: rapeculture.and.altlit [at] gmail [dot] com. For the original call for submissions, see here. To read all the essays in the series, click here

October 21, 2014

Alt Lit and Rape Culture - Suffering the Inheritance of Cultural Narratives - Andrea Baker

The history of rape, unsurprisingly, is as old as humanity. Andrea Baker explores that history in her forthcoming book Famous Rapes. In this excerpt, she looks at the string of assault charges that tore through the internet community surrounding Don't Forget to Be Awesome records this past year and the 2012 Steubenville, Ohio rape case. She argues that one problem we encounter when discussing high-profile (and low-profile) rape cases is our impulse to flatten the men concerned into an easy binary of "good" and "bad." And that division excuses us from looking at the larger cultural phenomena that keep rape culture humming along. SBB

Suffering the Inheritance of Cultural Narratives

I was born in 1976 and grew up believing that history was contained by a thing called the past. Like many young people, I also held the belief that my choices and behaviors existed in the vacuum of my own being. It wasn’t until my life came crashing down around me that I came to understand that my boundaries were poorly constructed, that my mind was less in charge than I thought it was, and that I was suffering the inheritance of both a personal and a cultural narrative.

Now, I don’t think there is anything unique about me. And I don’t think there’s anything unique about anyone else either, regardless of whether they find themselves in the role of victimizer or victimized. While I am not suggesting that individuals are not culpable for their choices, I am suggesting that beyond the realm of the individual something is going on and that it is in everyone’s best interest to try and understand that something

From an energy that I can only term what-the-hell-just-happened, I wrote a book, Famous Rapes. I learned that, in order to preserve her honor, in 510 BCE Lucretia stabbed herself after being assaulted by Sextus Tarquinius, the son of the ruling tyrant. And I learned that attitudes hadn’t changed much by the time the D.W. Griffith made his 1915 film, Birth of a Nation. In the film, a young woman throws herself off a cliff because she is being chased by a man whose affection she does not desire. As she dies, a title card tells us that, “For her who learned the stern lesson of honor we should not grieve that she found sweeter the opal gates of death.” 

On a conscious level, feminism has rewritten our assumptions. If we look, though, at phenomena we see evidence of beliefs we didn’t know we held bubbling up and manifesting all over our collective behavior. The recent alt.lit transgressions are but a single example. Last year an almost identical set of incidents shook another Internet-based community, the fans and content creators of Don’t Forget to Be Awesome [DFTBA] records. When I was finishing up my book I looked at the DFTBA incidents within the context of the now infamous 2012 Steubenville, Ohio rape case. The parallels were interesting because the Internet figured prominently there, too. The Steubenville case, though, allowed a sort of splitting where the bad behavior was easily pushed into the realm of other—the jocks, the coach, the small town... 

The following excerpt from my book Famous Rapes delves into these parallels.

From Famous Rapes:
In the Steubenville case the Internet first provided a platform for the perpetrators to further traumatize their victim, then it provided a platform for individuals to bring attention to a crime that they believed would be minimized if not scrutinized by the public eye. Then, it provided a platform for outrage over the mainstream media’s handling of the news to be aired. Overall, though, Steubenville’s players were fairly stereotypical—the jocks were exposed as, to say the least, insensitive and unreflective. Ditto for the mainstream news.

Social media, however, also provides platforms for the online persona that is sensitive, nerdy, and socially conscious. Such a community exists on YouTube...
...around Don’t Forget to Be Awesome Records (DFTBA). YouTube, with its user generated content offers an implicit promise of equality. Everyone is invited; everyone participates on equal footing, and unlike in the offline world, creators and users may also easily interact with one another.

However, most of the musicians of DFTBA are young men in their 20’s, and most of their fans are teenage girls. Men and girls are not equal. And a disturbing number of these cool, quirky men in T-shirts have recently been implicated in a cluster of crimes known as the DFTBA Sexual Abuse Scandal. 

In 2012, Mike Lombardo...
...was convicted of soliciting explicit photos from an underage fan, a crime for which he received a five-year prison sentence. 

In 2014, a teenage girl used Tumblr to expose Tim Milsom.
He had entered into a “relationship” with her when he was 22 and she was 15. During this time he was abusive and sexually coercive.

Then, within days of the revelation about Milsom, a third DFTBA musician, Alex Day...
...volunteered that he didn’t know what consent was, implying that he had behaved abusively, or, at least coercively, toward sexual partners.

 All three men were dropped by DFTBA and label co-founder, Hank Green quickly posted a video...
...in which he ultimately compares contemporary American culture’s relationship to sex with that of predator and prey, which he then attempted to make cute by comparing male sexual advances to the work of cruise missiles, and female attempts to dodge the cruise missiles as the work of scared kittens.
Though DFTBA did respond, and respond quickly, depiction here never transcends the realm of quirk. Green’s only reflection on how this cluster of abuse may have been enabled was that, “When we are set up to assume that the kitten is going to run, whether the kitten wants the cruise missile or not, that enables abuse.”

The issue of adults and teenagers mixing freely, as if the two were in any way equals, remains unaddressed.  Green’s response does, however, represent a radical departure from the past.

More Complicated Than Good or Bad
Though no one from alt.lit has gone to prison, the details of behavior within the two cultures are eerily resonant.  The smart people, the clever, the nerds, we have the same cultural inheritance as everyone else. We aren’t unique. And we aren’t always aware of the cultural dynamics influencing our behavior. I assume that before these recent wake-up calls most of the individuals within both cultures believed that sexual assault and sexual coercion didn’t really happened within their set. In fact, I bet that a good number of individuals within both cultures held the conscious belief that sexual assault and sexual coercion didn’t really happen within their set while also participating in behavior counter to that belief.

This is where Steubenville remains an interesting point of reflection, not only because it shows us other incidents of the Internet effecting culture, but also because it so eloquently serves up the jocks as bad guys, affording us the opportunity to believe that the bad and the good inhabit discreet domains. We need to see ourselves holding that belief, we need to see that the belief we hold is not true, then we need to notice that in place of moving toward understanding, we have developed a sort of two-party system of the mind. 

When it comes to the alt.lit men, much of the behavior that has come to light is criminal, and perhaps they should be held legally accountable for their crimes. Individuals can and do make decisions, and those who violate legal and ethical obligations are responsible for their actions. But, as bystanders, we will not progress when we spend our energy dividing good guys from bad. Understanding of where we are on the ribbon of time’s progress is what is needed.

Those of us born after both the first and second wave feminists impacted the status quo were born into a world that, we were told, had solved the former problem of gender inequality. But the present does not reside in a vacuum any more than then an individual resides in a vacuum. The past is at work now. 

We ought use this opportunity to reflect on how relatively recent it is that society has even granted women ownership of their own bodies; how recent it is to consider surviving an assault an unquestionably good thing.  And how it is still, emergently, healing for us all to hear from those who chose to speak to their own experiences.  The alt.lit transgressions have generated a fresh round of energy and outrage. Focusing on our cultural inheritance instead of focusing on the offenders does not mean that we approve of or excuse what these men have done; it does mean that we recognize that we aren’t going to get anywhere if we attempt to use these individual offenders as easy containers for a bad that is, at time, ambiguous and cannot so easily be contained. 

Have something to say? Email comments, questions, responses, links to relevant articles elsewhere, and submissions to: rapeculture.and.altlit [at] gmail [dot] com. For the original call for submissions, see here. To read all the essays in the series, click here

Andrea Baker is a poet and writer. She has two books forthcoming in 2015: Famous Rapes from Water Street Press and Each Thing Unblurred is Broken from Omnidawn. She is also the author of Like Wind Loves a Window (Slope Editions, 2005) and the chapbook gilda (Poetry Society of America, 2004). Visit her on the web at andreabaker.us.

October 19, 2014

Alt Lit and Rape Culture - The Male Literary Canon is Fired - Sonya Vatomsky

"If men shoplifting from American Apparel and contemplating the cold/boring universe and (statutorily) raping their romantic partners is so obvious and commonplace and everyday that it does not even warrant a shrug, where are the counterpart stories, the obvious and commonplace and everyday narratives of victims and survivors that, too, should not feel one bit out of the ordinary in such a climate?" Sonya Vatomsky asks in this essay about the literary canon, alt-lit, and her own struggles finding a voice in a literary climate hostile to anything but a male protagonist. And it is an excellent question. SBB
The Male Literary Canon Is Fired: Sexual Assault, Alt-Lit and the Casualties of the Male Narrative
I first loved Tao Lin when I was 21 and he came to Seattle to read from Bed and Eeeee Eee Eeee. I had spent that entire year writing short, disaffected prose pieces about sex and Facebook Scrabble and existential despair, so to say that Tao Lin's style resonated is an understatement. He felt, honestly, like the first peer I had in published writinga kindred spirit. It was the very same excitement I felt when I discovered the male authors and protagonists who influenced and inspired me during childhood, and I was equally disheartened to have to come to terms with the same one-sided literary camaraderie again.
Bookish and alternative teenagers, in retrospect, are exposed to manliness levels exceeding those of the standard literary canon by a factor of (at least!) three. You have first the classics: Salinger, Hemingway. Then the alternative classics: Burroughs, Nietzsche. Then the alternative-alternative classics, as you veer into sci-fi or fantasy or magical realism or alt-lit: Murakami, Lin. Whatever you are reading, it is probably by men and about men and you might think that you are allowed to empathize and identify with these men but only until the first time you actually discuss a book with a man. Then, the realization is fast and sharp and disarming: a blank look from him, indicating quite clearly that you seeing yourself in these literary heroes is as preposterous as you being a Ninja Turtle during recess. You, obviously, are April. It's coded into your body, simple as anything. Charming side-plot, certainly. Ravishing muse, if you want. But protagonist? No. Not you, not ever.
Earlier this year, literary magazine n+1 published a fantastic book called No Regrets, a dialogue by women about the formative novels and stories pushed on them during adolescence. Everyone shared the experience of feeling indescribably barred from communion with these male narratorsthese worshipped heroes of their own storiesand of grappling with the certainty that their male peers were easily identifying with them and simultaneously writing the women of their lives into whatever limited side-roles were offered by these male-dominated plots, no exceptions. The famous old script is that the male story is universal and the female story niche, but the reality of it is that the male story is not universal but dominantand this distinction means that it is not a story a woman can ever aspire to living or to writing.
As a teenager and 20-something who wrote both fiction and the despondent, life-chronicling semi-fiction alt-lit is known for, navigating these male voices while trying to explore (and chronicle) my own identity fueled a strange little dance wherein I felt inadequate at performing the roles assigned me and excluded from those I wished for. I eagerly read through Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash and Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum, and, at age 17, journaled my fury at wanting to be the in-progress, curious protagonist while feeling conscribed to an eternal pantomime of the infinitely-wise, earthy-yet-virginal woman-guide: "But I'm not Casaubon's Lia or Hiro's Juanitait's too much responsibility; I can't. I can't. I don't even want to, often, though I spend enough minutes sitting and staring at my hips."
If there is something I can ask of a prophetess, it is: how damaging is it for women to grow up reading narratives in which they are relegated to the sidelines? It is: what is the total effect of a literary canon that prohibits women from seeing themselves as protagonists and keeps them aspiring to be, at best, muses. It is: where do we go, when our personalities are shaped by female characters in male-authored novels, and the inability to fully portray that which is ultimately based on a false perception of us causes discord between what we are and what we think we are and what we write we are. We're looking for reflections in mirrors designed to fail us – we are staring into the shitty abyss until the abyss stares back, and then writing down its words as ours.
When the first alt-lit rape news was published, I avoided it. I’d experienced sexual assault a year prior, and the way that it had overwhelmed me and swallowed up my writing and worn my body like an ill-fitting suit still felt so profoundly murky and muddy that I scrolled past the articles every time. After a week or two, I saw Tao Lin’s name attached to them and felt both queasy and unsurprised.
“I did not realize that this alt-lit rape thing was about Tao Lin,” I Facebook messaged my boyfriend.
A minute later: “Oh, no, woops, there are TWO alt-lit rape things this week.”
Truthfully, there’s nothing unusual or shocking or profound about there being rapists in any scene, creative or not. What’s unusual here, as Lauren O’Neal tweeted, is that “it’s all compulsively documented, alt-lit style.” She goes on: “Most rapists/abusers aren’t part of a scene based largely on documenting all your own thoughts and actions.” What’s worrisome is not so much that a writer managed to publish an entire novel depicting his abuse of someone considerably younger – and to critical acclaim and praise from his artistic communitybut that this community is not similarly overflowing with the stories of abused, assaulted and mistreated women. If men shoplifting from American Apparel and contemplating the cold/boring universe and (statutorily) raping their romantic partners is so obvious and commonplace and everyday that it does not even warrant a shrug, where are the counterpart stories, the obvious and commonplace and everyday narratives of victims and survivors that, too, should not feel one bit out of the ordinary in such a climate?
Where are these stories going?
My feeling is that it’s actually worse than the usual guess, the common and frequently-accurate assumption that female narratives are just generally talked-over or otherwise dismissed in favor of male narratives to such a degree that they might as well not exist. My feeling is that the meeting of alt-lit and sexual assaultthe meeting of compulsive documentation and rape cultureis creating a whirlpool into which the words of women are being sucked and drowned.
There is something terrible in feeling that your own narrative is now a response to someone else’s. Women in the literary community have spent lifetimes battling for a right to be heard, and in alt-lit their stories are literal side-plots in someone else’s work. Your sexual abuse is a side-plot. The rapist is the protagonist. And then your own writing is overwhelmed by this thing that happened to you that you, firstly, cannot talk about (because nobody wants to talk about rape – “why would a man want to talk about rape,” a friend’s boyfriend once asked me, confused, at happy hour) and then, secondly, cannot write about. It is, however, the only thing you can think about. And so here we are.
It’s beyond telling that when we think of men’s stories and women’s stories about rape, the men’s stories are the literature – the novels, the poems, the chapbooks – and the women’s stories are Tumblr posts and blog entries and confessional-but-definitely-not-"literature" writing. In later-deleted tweets about Tao Lin, E.R. Kennedy said that “what use[d] to be my greatest escape, writing, instantly became my worst nightmare.” It is a double-silence, this kind of abuse. You are silencing both the victim-as-a-person and the victim-as-a-writer, and shutting down entire trails and rivers and oceans of narrative.
The question we should be asking isn’t how alt-lit has become a flashpoint for sexual and emotional violence, but what we can do to highlight the stories from the other side. To encourage women to keep writing, even when their every poem is an iteration on the stupidest, ugliest moment of their life and every short story is the most transparent, puerile metaphor and every novel is just THIS REALLY FUCKING SUCKED over and over and over again for 500 pages. To give power to side-plot narratives. To re-shape what a story is, what a life is, who a protagonist is. And to fill the eyes and ears of alt-lit readers with this furious noise until something, profoundly, shakes and shifts and moves. It’s not what we’re doing currently, but it’s an alternative.

Have something to say? Email comments, questions, responses, links to relevant articles elsewhere, and submissions to: rapeculture.and.altlit [at] gmail [dot] com. For the original call for submissions, see hereTo read all the essays in the series, click here

Sonya Vatomsky is a Moscow-born, Seattle-raised writer and poet. An introvert, she balances her time between being active in several (online and local) feminist communities and cooking elaborate five-course dinners for herself, alone, in the dark. She is interested in how a nearly all-male literary canon has shaped the worldview and affected the self-actualization of women and works to add her own voice to the noise, proving that women can aspire to something other than side-plots and muse-hood. She tweets about feminism and depression at @coolniceghost and once killed a social gathering in under 15 minutes by answering “name one thing that men are bad at discussing” with “rape.”

October 17, 2014

Alt Lit and Rape Culture - Separation of Art and Hate - Stacia M. Fleegal

Stacia M. Fleegal was distraught to see her literary community--which she had previously considered open-minded, loving, and safe--laid low by the torrent of rape allegations that whipped through Alt Lit this past month. Contrary to Elizabeth Ellen at Hobart, who scolded the community for publicly shaming and shunning Tao Lin and Stephen Tully Dierks, Fleegal suggests public shaming and shunning could be a concrete tool we can use responsibly within our communities to reclaim them as safe places for the creation of art. --SBB

Separation of Art and Hate: Abusers, stay out of lit or be shamed

Yes, I did hear someone say “Haters gonna hate” in defense of Tao Lin’s abuse of a 16-year-old girl.

This person then proclaimed his love of Lin’s fiction and proceeded to trot out example after example of artistic geniuses—Miles Davis, Roman Polanski, Woody Allen, Amiri Baraka, among others—whose work he would remember and whose abusive behaviors he would forget.

Good for him.

But it got me thinking of that old standby of studying creative writing, about divorcing the art from the artist. In workshops, we were told not to assume the speaker and the author are the same, and for the purposes of uncensored creative expression, that advice has merit. A teenager writing grim murder stories is not necessarily the next school shooter in training, for example; nor is the fact that someone only writes happy poems about birds and flowers necessarily indicative of sainthood. That’s one of the great things about art, right? It can show us the full spectrum of human nature, for better or worse, and in so doing, facilitate growth, change how we think and feel, and encourage us to appreciate our lives more. We as artists must be free to make our art communicate whatever we wish.

In a piece for Pacific Standardwriter Jake Flanagin presents Scottish psychiatrist Ronald Fairbairn’s theory about “splitting,” a defense mechanism that results from “an individual’s failure to incorporate both positive and negatives aspects of the self or others into a more realistic composite.” Flanagin relates Fairbairn’s theory to explain how we ignore an artist’s personal shortcomings and instead focus on his art: “Because we don’t typically maintain personal relationships with the artist, the art suffices as representation of him or her. So if we hate the art, we devalue the artist. If we love the art, we idealize the artist.” We do so because, apparently, we are under-developed children who insist on dividing the world into good-bad, into binaries that tend to fall in line with social norms. 

But what if we no longer value the artist?

What about when a living writer is publicly accused of, and publicly admits to, abusing, bullying, raping, or assaulting someone? What if we try to be good little writers and keep the art and the artist separate in our minds, continue to appreciate the art itself, but we just can’t? Are people outraged at abuse in the lit community within their rights to assist in the dismantling of an abuser’s literary career? Is that activism or vigilantism?

When Amiri Baraka died earlier this year, I wrote a quick post for a poetry blog I was running for a newspaper in south central Pennsylvania, something to the effect of “This writer was controversial but legendary, check out his work if you don’t know it.” I remember a close writer friend reminding me that “Baraka was a wife-beater.” I remember being torn about how to talk about that, or whether to talk about it at all. I ultimately decided that, at least for me, there would be no solace in lambasting the dead for past offenses, no women were anymore in need of protection from him, and Baraka’s words had done good work in raising consciousness about race issues.

And I stand by some of that, but I feel differently now. I wouldn’t blog anything but a block quote from the AP obituary if it happened today instead. Tao Lin, Stephen Tully Dierks, and Kirk Nessett changed the game this month.

“Granted we don't want to perpetuate the careers of monsters, but I don't think blamelessness ought to be a standard we're looking for in an author. If we did, the canon (and the contemporary lit world) is going to be a pretty small company of saints.” Writer and editor Brett Ortler said that to me in a private Facebook message, and I reprint it here with his permission because, while I knew I would write something in response to the alt lit abuse epidemic, it was this statement that brought focus to this gestating essay for me because…how is this ok? 

I believe that bad people can make good art. I also believe that people who object to bad behavior can choose not to consume the art made by the person behaving badly. I believe that’s activism, and that art is a place for activism, as well as a place for compassion. I believe art is and should be a place that always has its doors open for the outcast, the abused, the silenced among us. It should be a safe, well-lit place that, if it were a city, women would feel comfortable walking through alone at night. Call me a dreamer.

“When you learn that these people are orbiting in the circles in which you feel safe, you suddenly feel a lot less safe, period … I think we have the right to expect better. I don't buy the argument that ‘well, it's just a microcosm of the larger world, you see this in every segment of society.’ This is our community and we can all do better and demand better.” Writer and editor Kelly Davio made this comment on a Facebook thread about Lin (also reprinted with permission), and she is making a call to all of us take ownership of the literary world. Why accept the “standard” of every other segment of society? Every other segment of society also doesn’t read poetry or try to write a novel in a month, but we do that differently here, don’t we? We make our own rules and create a subculture in which to abide by or break them. On separation of art and artist, is the “rule” we’re going to choose to uphold one that helps people or continues to hurt them? 

One of the most popularly repurposed of E.R. Kennedy’s tweets about Tao Lin was: “everyday I see you fucking monkeys support tao lin support the man who raped me and stole from me and feel alienated, excluded.” Can art please be a place where, if anyone is to be excluded, it’s a rapist? (And if your urge is to stop reading here because I’ve used the word “rapist,” please only stop reading this essay—don’t stop reading discussions about what constitutes consent or about affirmative consent movements on college campuses across the U.S.)

So how do we exclude rapists and abusers, not from a place of vengeance but as a form of activism? Well, Elizabeth Ellen posted an "open letter" at Hobart that I’ve seen blasted from every corner of the web (except at Hobart, which closed the post to comments), and she says the public shaming has got to stop, that we should not exclude these men from our community.

“To publicly humiliate and shun and incriminate someone to the point his career and public life is over, you better have more evidence than this,” Ellen declared, seeming to forget or to have never known that Lin himself penned a statement acknowledging the abuse charges Kennedy leveled against him were accurate (though he has clearly taken issue with being called a rapist—see Jezebel’s updated article. Words are powerful, aren’t they?)

As if countering herself, Ellen continues: “And since when is emotional abuse grounds for public shunning?” Well, maybe it fucking ought to be. Studies show that verbal and emotional abuse and manipulation, while often dismissed or deemed “not as bad” as physical or sexual abuse, are actually difficult to quantify, document, in essence prove, and so further enshroud the victim in stigma and secrecy. They also carry longer-term risks than physical or sexual abuse. The last couple of years have seen increased awareness of the dangers of bullying, which is certainly a form of abuse, and that movement has been successful in its attempts to use shame to increase awareness. Does turning shame back onto abusers or bullies make them reconsider their behavior, or make them more defensive and aggressive? I don’t know. But we have to try something new.

Women and victims continuing to keep their mouths shut is not working, and in fact, is further damaging and isolating them. And keeping their mouths shut to protect their abusers from being shamed? Fuck that. I say we need MORE public shunning. 

What’s crucial to this call for more public shaming is that those of us doing the shaming don’t backslide into being abusive ourselves. I don’t mean to suggest that every jackass who calls someone a jackass should cease making art and self-flagellate or be ripped apart online; I do mean that every abuser who uses his/her strength, will, and position(s) of power to demean or control another individual should be pointed at and called out and held accountable. Should change. Should strive to become a more compassionate person.

Studies also show that domestic violence is up (one in four American women will be a victim, and one in seven men) and the number of rapes that have gone unreported in the last two decades is estimated to be over a millionMs. Magazine recently published a story on rape kit backlogs that claims, “an estimated 91 to 95 percent of rapes are committed by serial rapists—and serial offenders commit an average of six rapes each—so stopping them after the first offense could prevent untold numbers of crimes.” I’ve written a bit about victim-blaming, how the burden of proof seems, in the media and in the courtroom, to lie with victims and not alleged criminals. I’m not suggesting we go all Boondock Saints on every writer accused of sexual misconduct. But since rape, assault, battery, and abuse seem so difficult and nebulous and hard to “prove” in our justice system and just getting the word out seems to be enough to spawn outrage, more public shaming might let potential victims know who in our community can’t be trusted and could actually bring about acknowledgment and redemptive action from the accused (again, both Lin and Dierks responded to their respective allegations). So I’m on board with the people who want to put public shunning back on the table. Can anyone think of anything else that’s working?

"I think ultimately, the problem I have had this week with the way things have been handled is the lack of humanity that has been shown throughout,” Ellen writes in Hobart. True, I was also deeply affected by the outpouring of anger from both sides of the ensuing debates online—but I think much of the anger from the side supporting the victims was justified and coming from a good place. I did see humanity, from Davio and Ortler (the latter went on to write a piece for The Barking against the Internet jury culture and a piece for The Nervous Breakdown in defense of Ellen’s right to pen her (flawed, unsourced, meandering, arguably rape-apologist) piece, and both are thoughtful additions to this conversation), and from others I haven’t named or quoted who want to see rape within the literary community extinct. Because the thing is, mob rule and democracy are two different things. People speaking up and being outraged about abuse within their communities is democratic, not anarchic. Name me one worthwhile revolution, one that changed the world for the better, that didn’t start with outrage. Hell, outrage even brought back "Family Guy" and the McRib. “Mob mentality” is a trigger word that seems to run rampant whenever one group of people is trying to keep another in check because the first group has something to lose. In the cases of Lin et al., they might be afraid of losing royalties and notoriety, but no one’s calling for an executioner here. We just want writers to stop raping and abusing other writers. 

“What it seems like Kennedy wants (admittedly based on what she's [sic] tweeted) is acknowledgment that Lin’s art and status had a human cost, namely a teenager's well-being.” In a piece for New York Magazine, Kat Stoeffel, though mis-identifiying Kennedy with a feminine pronoun, addresses the touchy issue of calling rape rape and concludes—in her title—that “It Doesn’t Have to Be Rape to Suck.” Further, Stoeffel makes a key statement about what might be desirable and supportive recourse for victims of abuse: “It seems like every time someone explains that women and men do not always meet for sex on equal footing, the conversation collapses into a black-and-white debate of Was It Rape—one that, paradoxically, serves to protect men … Women shouldn't need greater justification for testifying about sexual encounters—good, bad, coercive, or rape—than the fact that they happen. But what it seems most women want is to warn other women about a category of jerk courts have no name for: a guy who can’t be trusted not to exploit his power over her.”

Now I know that men can be victims of abuse and assault, too. But there’s a gender-specificity to so many of these recent offenses that aligns with other issues of gender disparity in lit, plus a general heinousness that I can’t ignore, won’t shut up about, and am determined to try to change, and I’m not above resorting to some public shaming to do it. Black Lawrence Press, after Ellen’s Hobart piece was published, removed her story from an upcoming anthology: “This is not the kind of provocative Black Lawrence Press wants associated with this anthology and the press.” That’s activism. Alexandra Naughton and Dianna Dragonetti have started a Tumblr to name names and publish or re-publish survivor lit. That’s activism, and empathy. More, please. 

As I said before, we make the rules here. At the risk of over-romanticizing art, I think I am drawn to creating things because the world of creators seemed always to be open-minded and accepting of individuality, and so, a loving and even safe place. I’ve never believed all artists are wonderful people. I recognize that as a straight white female from a working class background, I had some struggles but also certainly enjoyed some privileges that made it easier for me than for others to study and publish writing. But I was floored this fall by back to back to back reports of abuse, rape, and exploitation of women and children, and things don’t feel so safe anymore. And I was ripped apart inside when I read anything in defense of the abusers, whether I ever read and enjoyed their work or not. But I wouldn’t rather not know. This is my community. If someone’s raping or abusing people to whom they have access via our community, I want to know. Tell me, E.R. Kennedy and Sophia Katz and Kat Dixon and all the others. And if the perpetrators are shamed into admitting their wrongs, as Lin and Dierks both were, then all the better for society. This call for more public shaming has redemption firmly set as its end goal. 

Still, if the perpetrators are shamed into silence, retiring from art, and withdrawing from our community, then I say, at least it isn’t the victims. I say, good riddance. I say, unapologetic and willfully ignorant abusers, stay out of lit.

I acknowledge that there are dangers—risk of slander, libel, and vigilantism—inherent in this kind of messy and complicated conversation, but I think those dangers might be outweighed by the risk of further silencing and shaming victims. Being afraid to say the wrong thing for fear of being yelled at isn’t a way to live in a relationship and it isn’t a way to live as a writer, either. We can and must know the facts before shaming anyone because we can and must understand that people’s reputations and livelihoods could be at stake. I believe that writers might be The Ones who should be having this messy talk, out in the open of the web, because most of us are thoughtful about what we say. I don’t fear being criticized for writing this without having all the answers; I fear not being able to add productively to the conversation—and abuse continuing to plague my community.

Can we, in good conscience, and must we always, truly separate the art from the artist? Is holding fast to that ideal doing a disservice to the higher purposes of making art? Is it bordering on censorship or merely a matter of personal taste to decide to dislike a piece of art because the artist is a criminal or sociopath or a person full of hate and ignorance? I can’t tell you what to do or feel; you need to draw your own lines. But I know that reading excerpts from Richard Yates made me feel ill after I read Kennedy’s tweets and Lin’s response. I felt ill again when my various feeds became choked with the back-and-forth of the outraged vs. the apologists. More than ill, I felt myself slide backward into a life where I was yelling for help in my front yard while an ex broke my phone, then tackled me to the ground, in plain view of neighbors, and no one came. All the properly placed trigger warnings on the web couldn’t have prevented that wave of nauseous despair. 

The point is, it feels wrong to me to celebrate and promote even the beautiful, even the crafted and transcendent, creation of an abuser. It’s a heart thing. It’s like finally deciding you don’t love the person who hit you anymore, can’t recognize what they’re offering to you as love, as a profound or beautiful thing that can help you evolve or appreciate life. Can’t recognize it as art.

I’m seeing more and more personal narratives from survivors of domestic violence and partner assault/rape all the time. An anonymous piece published at XOJane in September really spoke to me: “As a community we must be loud, we must be vocal, and we must be active. We must be willing to keep each other afloat, at all costs. We must empathize with the psychological warfare being perpetrated against these victims everyday. We must present ourselves publicly and with pride, and we must create a long term safety net for these men and women to land in when they get too tired to fight. We must be here for one another, side by side with neon signs flashing ‘You are not and have never been alone. Did you hear me? You are not and have never been alone.’”

I look at all the books by living writers on my shelves and wonder how many were written by perpetrators of those one million unreported rapes. I really wish I knew. Let’s keep this conversation going. Let’s take ownership of our community and try new things, even controversial things, to keep it a safer place, as free of hate as possible, no matter which side of the rape/abuse culture debate you make your own.

Have something to say? Email comments, questions, responses, links to relevant articles elsewhere, and submissions to: rapeculture.and.altlit [at] gmail [dot] com. For the original call for submissions, see hereTo read all the essays in the series, click here

Stacia M. Fleegal is the author of two full-length and three chapbook collections of poetry, most recently antidote (Winged City Press, 2013). Her poems have appeared most recently in Knockout, North American Review, Fourth River, Best of the Net 2011, and more, and have been three times nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her first published essay, a personal narrative on domestic violence, recently appeared at Luna Luna Magazine. She is co-founder and editor of Blood Lotus and an online writing instructor and social media coordinator for the Elizabeth Ayres Center for Creative Writing.