So to Speak, founded in 1993 by an editorial collective of women MFA candidates at George Mason University, has served as a space for feminist writing and art for nearly twenty years. So to Speak: a feminist journal of language and art publishes poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and visual art that lives up to a high standard of language, form, and meaning. We look for work that addresses issues of significance to women’s lives and movements for women’s equality and are especially interested in pieces that explore issues of race, class, and sexuality in relation to gender.
By Maurice Carlos Ruffin
She had it coming.
She should have known her place.
Sometimes it seems as if women are simply guilty of the sin of womanhood i.e. not being men. Violence against women is on my mind. A few months ago, a man in Santa Barbara, California, went on a shooting spree. After he was shot to death by other men, a manifesto was found. In the manifesto, the shooter named women as the cause of his rage. Chicks didn’t like him. Since he was clearly born superior (i.e. not a woman) that meant they had to die.
Nearly 8,000 miles away in Gonda, India, two young women, Murti and Pushpa, were gang-raped, their bodies strewn from a mango tree like lanterns. Local officials were slow to investigate the crimes as many believed justice was served on the girls; the suspects took the girls lives in deference to the country’s “honour killing” tradition. If those girls were killed because they allowed themselves to be “deflowered,” their murders were not only justified, their murders were praiseworthy. It’s the price our gendered world market will bear for the mistake of falling prey to men behaving monstrously.
Meanwhile, 4,500 miles away down in Borno, Nigeria, hundreds of schoolgirls were kidnapped. Boko Haram, the group responsible for the abductions, apparently justified its actions this way: The girls were receiving an education. Educating girls is a sin because girls have but one purpose in this life—to serve men. We’ve put an end to the abomination of filling their minds with knowledge so that they can be married off to us, the men.
Closer to home, NFL star Ray Rice knocked his then-fiancee unconscious and dragged her body into a public lobby. Although there was video of this event, law enforcement, the NFL, and even the public shrugged its collective shoulders. It wasn’t until months later when another video emerged actually showing Rice’s attack that the NFL suspended the running back. Message: it’s okay to attack a woman as long as you’re gentleman enough to do it off camera. If the second, more explicit video had not come to light, Rice would still be playing ball.
The market for young, female bodies, including sex trafficking and prostitution, is by most measures rampant. Domestic abuse against women—like that committed by Rice—is common enough that if you sit between two women in an auditorium, there’s a good chance that one of the women to your left or right were physically abused by a man at some point. Or maybe you’re the one.
It makes me wonder where the anger comes from. Why are men so mad at people who aren’t men?
Following the California shooting, a hashtag campaign swept the internet. #YesAllWomen would encourage women to tell their own stories about the effects of misogyny on their lives. On one of my satirical Twitter accounts, I posted a comment as if I were POTUS answering questions at a press conference. I tweeted: “Yes. All women deserve our respect. Next question.” The tweet was generally well-received, but I was surprised at some of the responses. One stated, “let’s face it. Some truly don’t deserve [respect].” And another, “respect is earned not granted as a default.” Or my least favorite, “What if (as I know in one case) they destroy 2 marriages, and two bi relationships to get what they want and need?” It’s particularly disturbing to me that some of these comebacks were written by women, but for the purposes of this post, I want to focus on the fellas. After all, talking smack is one thing. But the crimes mentioned above are just a tiny sampling of what’s happening all around the world as you, dear reader, peruse this post.
I don’t mean for this to be a blanket accusation against men since, according to my driver’s license, I’m XY-chromosome positive. However, I can’t help but notice that every time one of these cultural tsunamis wash ashore and people on either side of the debate poke their tongues out at each other there’s something missing: Group reflection and accountability among men. We have plenty of women saying that men suck. But where are the men of good conscience?
If it’s statistically true that men are doing the lion’s share of beating, raping, and killing of women (and quite often men, too), then shouldn’t men be a significant part of the chorus singing that we can do better? Simply saying that #NotAllMen (to quote the now notorious counter hashtag to #YesAllWomen) are vicious abusers is lame. Obviously, not all men go on spree killings or kidnap villages of schoolgirls. But doesn’t it fall on husbands, fathers, brothers, and boyfriends to interrogate our beliefs about women? Isn’t it our obligation to oppose the culture of misogyny on our own?
It’s easy enough for me to sit here and throw bombs at other men. I’m in no danger of losing my man-card and last I checked no one can lock me out of the Man Cave. Yet, I can only offer what I do when one of these terrible incidents occurs. I imagine the girls and women who have been violated are my sisters or aunts. Or better yet, I imagine they are me. Because perhaps at the center of endemic, violent misogyny is the thought that somehow women are “The Other” in the same way that undocumented workers, slaves (both historic and modern), Jews in WWII-era Europe, and any foreign soldier fighting against our military are The Other. It’s impossible to respect The Other because they are subhuman, shameful, and not worthy of humane consideration. For any male out there who metaphorically looks down on women, just remember that you had a fifty percent chance of being born female, too.
You just weren’t that lucky.
Maurice Carlos Ruffin is a graduate of the University of New Orleans Creative Writing Workshop and a member of the Peauxdunque Writers Alliance and the Melanated Writers Collective. His work has appeared in Redivider, the Apalachee Review, and Unfathomable City: a New Orleans Atlas edited by Rebecca Solnit and Rebecca Snedecker. He is the winner of the 2014 Iowa Review Fiction Award and the 2014 William Faulkner Competition for Novel in Progress.
“We are over the moon with joy to announce Rebecca Hoogs as the contest judge of this spring’s poetry contest! Rebecca has published books of poetry on subjects ranging from language play and myth revision, to the self-portrait and personal understanding Such books include Grenade (2005) and Self Storage(2013). She has also closely examined the role of the love poem in Jeremy Richards’ “How to Write Love Poems.”” — A.K. Padovich, StS’s Poetry Editor
Rebecca Hoogs is the author of a chapbook, Grenade (2005), and her poems have appeared in Poetry, AGNI, Crazyhorse,Zyzzyva, The Journal, Poetry Northwest,The Florida Review, and others. She is the recipient of fellowships from the MacDowell Colony (2004) and Artist Trust of Washington State (2005). She is the Director of Education Programs and the curator and host of the Poetry Series for Seattle Arts & Lectures and has taught poetry in Rome for The University of Washington. Read Rebecca’s work here.
We are looking for poetry that formalistically, stylistically, and linguistically engages with the feminist world in some way. Please send us up to 5 poems (not to exceed 10 pages) and a cover letter, through our Submission Manager. The reading fee is $15 and can be paid through our Submission Manager.
All entrants will receive a free copy of our Spring 2015 issue.
Deadline: October 15, 2014
Filed under: Announcements, News, Post by: Paula B, Uncategorized
The sixteenth annual Fall for the Book festival is taking over George Mason University’s Fairfax, Virginia, campus and spreading out onto about two dozen other venues in Virginia, Maryland, and DC, Sept 11 – 18. Check out the following links for a sampling of a promising roster for the reader-writer-human in you.
Saturday, Sept. 13, 4:00 p.m.
An Untamed State. Bad Feminist. Enough said.
Saturday, Sept. 13, 4:00 p.m.
A reading and reception to honor Anne Lesley Selcer, whose collection from A Book of Poems on Beauty won Gazing Grain’s 2014 poetry chapbook contest, selected by judge Dawn Lundy Martin. This event celebrates inclusive feminist poetry and promotes socially conscious work in today’s literary community.
Tuesday, Sept. 16, 3:00 p.m.
Outreach and empowerment.
Tuesday, Sept 16, 6:00 p.m.
On writing. On life. Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life
Wednesday, Sept. 17, 1:30 p.m.
Not a game: Race, Sport, and the American Dream
Thursday, Sept. 18, 12:00 pm
On myths and truths: An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States
Thursday, Sept. 18, 1:30 p.m.
Infiltrating Comic-Con: Black Comics: Politics and Race of Representation
Thursday, Sept. 18, 3:00 p.m.
Spectacular Rhetorics: Human Rights Visions, Recognitions, Feminisms,
Filed under: Announcements, Contests, Fiction, News, Nonfiction, Opinion, Poetry, Starring Local Feminists
Like many people who love school (or have residual nightmares of it), for me, January 1st has never felt like the start of a new year. Rather it’s September, the time of backpacks and book buying, that signals a fresh start. Whether I’m a student, a teacher, or working in a non-academic job, the new school year signals a time for reflection. How do I want to be this year?
Now, as I begin my first autumn as Editor-in-Chief of So to Speak, I wonder, too: what kind of feminist do I want to be? Initially, answers are easy. I want to be a strong feminist. I want to treat others—women who are and are not self-identifying feminists, men, myself—equally and with respect. I want to challenge the patriarchy and stand up for equality. I want to spread the message of feminism with both gentleness and strength, through words, actions, and my own thoughts. I believe that feminism, though often made up of individual choices, is also a communal paradigm, movement, and experience. As with empathy, generosity, and random acts of loving kindness, individual feminism—my feminism, your feminism—increases through being a shared experience. It can inspire others, make them think. That is what I want to do: I want to be a “good, strong feminist,” to inspire others to consider or adopt or increase their own feminist lives. I want So to Speak to do that.
But here’s the reality: all through high school, Septembers passed and I never stopped procrastinating on my Spanish homework. New Januaries turn to Februaries and I never get around to eating more kale. And I know that, most likely, October of this year will enter with its orange leaves and swollen pumpkins and I will still be struggling to be the kind of feminist that I want to be.
I’ve identified as a feminist for going on fifteen years, since high school. I can speak of Helene Cixous and Simone deBeauvoir; I support pro-choice causes; I feel comfortable with the notion that one can be feminist and be a stay-at-home mom, and also that one can be a feminist and burn her bra. The concept of what feminism is, and how open it can be, is not especially troubling to me. What is troubling is doing it: turning beliefs and intellectual knowledge into action and attitude.
I am a feminist, but the other day I still thought nastily that another woman shouldn’t wear her short-shorts because of her body type. I routinely make stereotypical assumptions about what men want women to be—agreeable, needless, pretty objects—which are disrespectful and condescending toward all genders. I catch myself thinking that my female gym instructor is bossy and annoying, while accepting a similarly tough male instructor as motivational. But I want to be better. I want to not have these thoughts, and the first step to not having them is acknowledging that I do.
My point is that being a feminist is a journey. It’s filled with obstacles and struggles. Feminism as a movement struggles, and individual feminists struggle within their own minds. We are all on a journey to be better feminists and better people. As a new (school) year starts, I realize that that’s what I really want to be: someone who takes steps on her journey.
That’s also what I want So to Speak to do. Stories of empowerment and success are always welcome, but so are stories of struggle. I invite you, readers and writers, to share with us your stories of setbacks in your feminist lives. Perhaps you’ve taken steps to overcome your problems. Perhaps you’re just acknowledging them for the first time and beginning your walk toward being the type of feminist, the type of person, that you want to be.
So to Speak is a feminist journal, which to me means that at its core it is a human journal. It is a place that celebrates humanity in its various forms—the beautiful and good, the ugly and difficult. I look forward to hearing your stories and engaging with your art, however it explores the complexities of life, and wherever you are on your own journey.
Our reading period is currently in full swing. Click here for submission guidelines for our blog, fiction, nonfiction, and poetry categories. And don’t forget to enter our Spring 2015 Nonfiction Contest!
Filed under: News, Opinion, Poetry, Politics, Post by: Paula B, Summer Online Issue, Uncategorized, Women's Health
As Americans we like to rage over the outrageousness of news like this summer’s case of a six-year-old in India who was raped by school staff–a security guard and a gym teacher–while on school grounds. It’s a safe kind of rage–much like pretending that longer hems and looser silhouettes protect us from sexual violence, we can huff and puff over treacherous things happening to poor, uneducated, usually dark-skinned folks in some “third” world nation unlucky in their lack of, well, America.
Yet, as a country, we’re still debating whether “no” really means “no.” Especially if the two individuals in question have a sexual history together; especially if she or he “technically” said ”yes” at some point during the act. Sadly, educated young people and university officials in campuses across the nations are apparently among the really confused still. In fact, this past May, the U.S. Dept. of Education named almost 60 schools which investigations of sex crimes had come under close scrutiny.
In California at least, the question of what consent is and isn’t could be cleared up once and for all as soon as September. The state’s senate has passed SB967 and if the governor signs off on it, college students will have to have true ”affirmative consent” before getting on with getting “some.”
“Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time.” — SB967
Until then, I leave you with Laura Passin’s “In Stubenville,” published in our online issue this summer. (Haven’t seen our summer issue yet? Click here. Ready to submit your own feminist poetry, prose, or visual art? Click here.)
They peed on her. That’s how you know she’s dead,
because someone pissed on her.
—Michael Nodianos, laughing
The boys have been boys.
They’ve gone to boy jail.
The girl, they thought as good as dead.
You can do anything to the dead:
we only remember them when they are useful.
But the dead girl was not
dead—she was a girl
instead. To be a girl at a party in Ohio
is to be as good as dead.
The boys will be boys
until they are men.
The girls will be dead.
The girls are anatomical
you dissect the body, here is where
the flesh splits clean open.
Here is where the heart used to beat.
Here are the pearls that were her eyes.
The girl was dead.
The girl was a thing
that once, if you looked at it
from just the right angle,
may have been a person. Not a
boy. The girl was slung
and carried, hands and feet,
The girl woke up naked, shoeless,
in a basement. Surrounded.
The boys were shocked: they had held her
funeral. The boys had been boys.
The girl raised herself up, Lazarus,
She told us what it is like:
It is like being a girl
where boys are boys.
It is any basement,