Revised from Status by Ian Aleksander Adams
There was an open letter posted addressing the bay area poetry scene (reposted here on Marie Calloway’s tumblr) about instances of harassment and a generally terrible feel for cis women and trans people who work or participate in the area. I don’t participate in this scene directly but have avoided certain readings because of it and feel I should comment because we’ve held several readings at my home and will be continuing to host them.
I unfortunately don’t have the mental tenacity to discuss this much more past this post - I’ve posted about it in detail in an online lit scene group and another private one and don’t want to attempt to explain the whole recent spark in this space, since only the general takeaways really matter for most other areas. I’m not attempting to subtweet, so will mention that this instance and direct examples below involve Janey Smith, who I’ve now publicly mentioned is not welcome in my home. Janey publishes people’s work and organizes readings in the bay area. He’s a well known figure in the bay area lit/poetry scene as well as online I believe he has a fair amount of influence.
I am not asking other people to blacklist him or implying anyone must take a particular action in response - simply stating what I feel is right to do for my own space.
Now to get broader, addressing the creative industry as a whole. I’m sure I’ve crossed lines in the past myself in terms of consent and appropriateness so I want to continue to examine my actions and those of others, to make an effort to address this kind of thing bluntly and to speak to my direct observations.
I want to note how much this whole discussion and how it unfolds reminds me of classic workplace harassment narratives. No one can ‘confirm’ anything except that someone is known for being inappropriate - then people defend him on this. “It’s his sense of humor! You just don’t get it. He’s /always/ like this!” but that’s exactly the problem.
That kind of inappropriate ‘joking’ is what makes spaces feel threatening and unwelcoming. It increases the feeling that further harassment is likely and that reporting of it will not be taken seriously.
I’m sharing the above screenshot which Janey released among a full chatlog (he acted as if he didn’t get what he’d done that was wrong in it) with the other party’s name blocked out - I removed an earlier instance of the reposting when the other person requested anything he had posted without her consent be taken down.
Dianna Dragonetti reshared this instance of his inclusion in a book by PeterDB and published by Janey Smith expanded from his original fucklist.
I was also in this book, uncomfortable about it, and glad that my name was on the preview page so I did not have to pay what amounts to a ten dollar ransom to see what was written about me. Dianna says "Not only does this entry actually misgender me (I am trans and go by he/him/his pronouns), but it is a violation in the most basic sense—sexual harassment, negated consent—more precisely, there was no consent to negate, as it was not a factor. I must now add this to the seemingly never-ending legacy of times in which my agency—sexual or otherwise—was compromised and abusively dismissed. "
If someone is an editor at a publishing outlet and jokes about sex while asking for submissions, if someone runs a reading venue people need to promote their work and says sexual things about them while introducing them, if someone publishes a list of people they’d like to fuck, if a host just constantly touches strangers without waiting at all to see if they’re comfortable with an arm around the waist - these are all inappropriate things to do in a workplace and the creative industry often gets a pass because the lines are blurred.
Is this a party? Is this a hobby? It honestly is no excuse - these things aren’t acceptable if they are in a casual setting and they aren’t acceptable if they are part of an artistic ‘performance’ by a cis man in a position of power. In instances like this it’s pretty clear cut - there may be no legal case and no one is suggesting one, but it’s well within the rights of involved people or observers to say we’re sick of this shit and shtick or not, being ‘inappropriate’ in these positions of power makes you an asshole.