I’ve written this post 1000 times. I think I can finally publish it. I’m putting it here because it’s what writers do: new portals to compensate for traditional sinking ones. I originally designed it as a Twitter essay but Twitter is a nightmare for hit and run vitriol; conversations that end unremarkably once the person on the other end tires of your reasoning; and the Brain Dead Megaphone, which is how George Saunders described the modern crisis by which the loudest person has their point heard above all others. I’m also posting the Bikini Kill song because it’s a great song, but also because it screams the way my writing has been screaming over the past week after all that has gone on in the Canadian writing community. I’ve toned down my emotions to post this piece. But I’m angry at everything, at a lot. Anger is ok until it’s not. Here, though, some reflection, and some ideas.
1. This might take a second, bear with me. Thank you to KF for her help.
2. This is my letter to the victims, all victims.
3. It goes like this:
4. I’m sorry.
5. I’m sorry that people were hurt, damaged. Bad shit happened. Women writers were victimized. It’s been terrible.
6. Anyone who has even been assaulted asked themselves about why these writers were ignoring them. It’s a fair question. Why did we?
7. People rallied around the victims. Swords were drawn. Things got savage, bloody, personal. There are some people I can’t ever look at the same way again. Friends who called me out publicly. “Friends”.
8. It started with Steven Galloway, then UBC, then came the letter. Victims– and their right to due process– were left out.
9. The letter was written by Joseph Boyden; my friend. I signed it.
10. Joseph: who has worked constantly to bring light to Truth and Rec and M&Murdered Indigenous women.
11. Joseph: crossing the country, tirelessly, raggedly. Going north– way north– fighting against injustice and misogyny
12. Then Atwood spoke.
13. She suggested transparency. Fairness. But she angered a lot of people.
14. People called her insensitive. My friend said she had a “tin ear.” She pointed back to the letter.
15. There were 88 writers. Many were called-out: cold-hearted, rotten. I was called a rape apologist. Am I?
16. People said I was part of the elite, the Literati. I’d never been called that before.
17. In the end, 88 writers ignored the struggles of victims. This was not the intention. I’m sorry this ever happened.
18. I’m also sorry that men destroy women’s lives through domestic and institutional violence. This must be stopped. It must.
19. We need to look at ways in which we are all complicit. We need to think harder about this.
20. The letter didn’t help, but neither did UBC.
21. They fucked up.
22. Fuck them. Fuck hiding. Fuck secrecy.
23. No one is better for this. We, as writers, aren’t better. People have been hurt.
24. Go and read a Canadian writer’s twitter feed.
25. Sit in your soft chair, UBC, and read:
26. Art vs art, artist vs artist, man vs woman, queer vs str8, old vs new, young vs old
27. You’ve divided us.
28. You’ve divided us IN CANADA: small, close, breathing down each other’s necks.
29. We try to get along, mostly.
30. There’s not much here for us, but we try. We really do.
31. There are some demons and some assholes and some fuckwads, but we try. There’s little money and less praise.
32. Some people mock us; society asks when we’re going to get a real job. Still, we wrench out whatever we have to give.
33. We’re thin, and the work is hard.
34. But we try. And now we’re at each others throats.
35. Someone wrote to tell me: I am never reading another book by a Canadian writer. Canada vs Canada. In Canada.
36. Canadian writers assailing Canadian literature. Tearing it apart. Fuck you, UBC. You helped no one.
37. You caused the letter and the letter caused this. It should have said: let’s destroy misongyny. DESTROY. IT.
38. But let’s get along. Let’s try.
39. Let’s tell whatever powers run institutional literature and writing: Fuck this. No more. Never again.
40. Find out what happened. Get to it. Finish it. Then let’s repair it, if that’s possible.
41. In most instances, women are ridiculed, men walk free. But maybe not here. We’ll never know.
42. Writers in Canada rely on universities, their programs. They’re a fatter crumb. They’re usually good places.
43. The apparatus has to be set in place so that women and all students can feel safe. Teachers have to know that, too.
44. Safety, love, respect.
45. I can hate your book, you can hate mine. We can sit at opposite ends of this godforsaken lifeboat.
46. But in these times– in our times– and probably in coming times…
47. There will be far more nefarious and evil forces wanting to tear us apart, push us under. Muffle us. Mute us. All of us.
48. It’s coming. We’ve seen it happen elsewhere.
49. Let’s not let them do it to us.
50. But let’s not do it to each other, either.
51. That’s my letter, m*therfucker.