The Answer is Painfully Obvious
I’ve noticed in the past few months, that even as it is hellish to read accounts of what women have suffered, the reflections women make on that trauma help me to process my own. When I come upon a sentence that encapsulates a feeling or a thought I’ve had, when I read words that succinctly describe the amorphous feelings that these waves of horror incite, I feel a perceptible shift: a string pulled up my back, the shedding of a layer of heavy clothing, a dried scab peeled away to reveal fresh new skin underneath.
On January 23rd, Greta Gerwig was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director, the first woman in eight years to be nominated for the award. Though this is a sobering statistic, reading Gerwig on the subject of her ascension in Hollywood is anything but:
“If I have any virtues, it's that I'm good at walking through doors that are slightly ajar.”
So often, the arts can seem like a closed circuit, an impenetrable maze. And, in many ways, they are! For so long this maze and these doors have been restricted to mostly privileged white cishet men, and the rest of us have been sneaking in through cracks that we find open. As frustrating as this is, there is a legacy: as people walk through slightly open doors, they leave them open so others can follow.
I read Emma Cline in New York Magazine:
“Of course women attempt to appease men who’ve abused them, or try to transform the pain into friendship, blur the sharp edges in their minds into the shape of something manageable. It’s like teaching someone how to play a game and then punishing them when they follow the rules; women would act differently if we believed there was any other way to escape unharmed from the whims of men. We’re navigating a society defined by them, and suffering for it. Yet we’re blamed for our attempts to survive within those parameters. Until the world proves it doesn’t hate women, the silence will continue. I hope it’s changing. I don’t blame my younger self, but I do wish something different for her. I wish for it without knowing whether it is truly possible.”
Art is the language women have to discuss the trauma inflicted by the hands and words of men.
Of course, the concentration of emotions in these moments is far from purely transcendental and light. Just as often as reading helps me breathe easier, it makes me cringe, sob, or in one notable instance, gag on a train.
I read Moira Donegan’s brave and eloquent piece in which she claimed ownership of the Shitty Men in Media spreadsheet. I read a sentence near the end of the piece:
“And this is another toll that sexual harassment can take on women: It can make you spend hours dissecting the psychology of the kind of men who do not think about your interiority much at all.”
I began to cry. I thought of the time I’d lost, speculating about the motives of a fuckboi, time that could have gone to friendship, to art, to making money to pay my rent. Not just that month, that season, but every month, every year, and every year of every woman I know.
If that sounds like an exaggeration, it isn’t. The time that women spend attempting to understand and reconcile the bad behavior of men is impossible to calculate. There is not much good that I can think of that comes from the time we’ve had to spend. But there is one thing.
I don’t know if my ability to be vulnerable on the page technically qualifies as a strength or a weakness; a direct result of the fact that I spend many of my waking hours talking about my emotions with my friends. I’ve become indentured to the fact that some people think of this as socially inappropriate, and chosen to not care. The further that we can push women candidly discussing their emotions, in person or on the page, away from a taboo and into a normal cultural practice, the closer we come to a culture where emotional disclosure is recognized as part of a transformative process rather than an inappropriate spectacle.
A man can reckon with his similarities to Woody Allen in safe seriousness, but why does identifying with Kesha (online or on a date) at best elicit a guilty laugh, or an admission of liking the song Die Young and at worst get me some good old fashioned derision and scorn? Why the fuck did the NYRB dox Elena Ferrante? Why Did Emma Cline have to feel a hand on her ass before accepting an award? The answer to these seemingly disparate questions is painfully obvious, and they’re unified in their answer. We do not hold the same respect for women’s work that we hold for men’s.
For better or worse, the female artists whose work I love the most are well practiced in the art of laying down our emotions on paper and shaping them from something too large to feel, too grotesque to convey, into something that serves as a communion.
This communion that writing and reading offer is, in some ways, the original #metoo. It’s reading something and thinking, oh my god, I had no idea I wasn’t the only one. #Metoo has catapulted that experience into a movement. Alongside month two of the Review, we’re so proud to release to you an anthology of work that we hope encapsulates this moment, the solidarity of women, and the belief that the art we make out of our sorrow is the foundation of building a ground on which to heal. Through Clenched Teeth is an anthology of lyric writing by some of today's most exciting female-identified voices. The pieces are a violent rejection of patriarchal culture and coalesce around anger, resistance, otherness, and shock.
On January 29th, we were so thrilled to gather some of the writers from that anthology for a reading and party to benefit Planned Parenthood. On fire from the words of women who are angry and resilient, we also were able to actualize how strong the communities created by honest work can be. We’re so excited to expand and nourish this creative community with further issues of the Review.
For those men (and, unfortunately, women,) who see #metoo, #timesup, and the long overdue comeuppance of abusers in every tract of life as the end of something: office flirtation, free speech, what fucking ever, let me provide a counter: it is not an end. It is a beginning. It’s the beginning of an age where art as a process of healing is honored instead of shamed, an age where praise walks beside accountability, a time when we value the work of women as the center of the narrative, not a footnote.