Thursday, December 16, 2010

Some poetry, grievances, and activism

I'm in the class that reads through all the national writing submissions for the Prescott College literary journal Alligator Juniper and decides what to publish.

My favorite poetry submissions were written by a female author whose theme was her experiences with patriarchal oppression. It was not decided to publish any of her work. I want to share a poem of hers that was one of my favorites.

Golden Delicious

That’s how the first sin felt.
It wasn’t about eating the apple
or tossing the core in to the garden’s
compost pile. No, God was angry
she’d found her clit and realized
Adam was a sub-par lover.

The only animal that came after him:
her interior was not like
the cheetah or the swordfish, the heron
or the monarch. This Eden—

florid, sunny, all-inclusive tiny umbrella
in your daiquiri resort — left Eve empty
She’d go on her own with a fig leaf
and a satchel of apples. And God let Eve
keep her hands: she’d need them with
or without Adam.

Jessica McFlaherty

Throughout this semester I’ve had issues with my teachers and peers in the Alligator Juniper class about their popular support of offensive material. For example, it’s been decided to publish a nonfiction piece written by a man who writes lines like “my stomach groaned like a worn-out whore.” I voiced my opinion in class about how material like this is offensive, since it’s making humor out of women’s suffering. “Oh really?” one of my classmates said, “I think it’s funny.”

After it was decided by popular consensus that the story would be published anyways, I wrote my teachers telling them that by choosing to publish this story we are legitimizing offensive language, rape culture, and the oppression of women. I reminded them that Prescott College is supposed to be for social justice and it is hypocritical to spread messages that are in opposition to it. I asked them to at the very least take the offensive line out of the piece, or if they refuse, to not list my name as staff on the next issue of Alligator Juniper as I would not want to be associated with such offensive material.

Sheila Sanderson didn’t even give me the respect of a reply. Melanie Bishop and I had a meeting, and she focused on how I had an awful lot of bad things to say about the class, but no good things, which made her feel hurt since she designed the class. This was off-putting since she seemed to miss my point entirely. I never criticized the class, but the content that was decided to be published. She said that I would have to get a consensus from my TA who was editing the story and permission from the author of the story to get the line taken out. I find it do discouraging when people don't recognize the significance of oppression.

We’ve just finished deciding which poetry to be published. The chosen prizewinner is a poem that begins with the line “The Kingdom of Heaven must be taken with violence or not at all.” I think encouraging violence is also destructive messaging. Only one other person in my class agreed with my opinion that that it is disturbing. Again, taking into consideration social justice in deciding what was published seemed to be of little concern. Another poem that has been decided to publish is about lovers and the woman’s dependency the man. It includes the lines:

“The ache of him is painted into the small of her back”
Her body, unfinished
she wants to stay this way after he leaves
so he will come again with his brush dipped in oil”

An ache is a hurt. Why should a woman enjoy hurt? The rest is up for interpretation I suppose, but I personally feel that it is saying that it doesn’t matter if a woman orgasms during sex, all she’ll want is more anyway. UGH. Sheila Sanderson actually mentioned in discussion that she found it slightly offensive as a woman, but it was “such good writing” she supported it anyway.

I am at a loss.


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