So what is the VIDA count and why does it matter?

VIDA is a group devoted to Women in Literary Arts. In 2010, in response to clear evidence of a great lack of women being published and promoted (such as the 2009 Publisher’s Weekly “Best of” list including NO BOOKS BY WOMEN), VIDA decided to do a systematic count. Their first report was issued in 2011, and their second in 2012.

It’s more than dismal out there, and putting out the hard numbers pushed some to reconsider their work and others to dig in their heels, with the all-too familiar whine that “men simply write better books.”

You can report the report yourself at: VIDA: The Count.

Go and learn, young grasshopper. Then go and make it different!


The tale of the accidentally all-women’s issue

I have three pieces coming in the next issue of the small literary journal Armchair/Shotgun. It’s a young journal, this is only issue #3, but it’s already gotten great reviews. They have a “blind” admission process, which means each piece that comes in is given a number, and names aren’t attached again until the final pieces are chosen. For this issue, ALL of the contributors turned out to be women, in a literary world where women are consistently proportionally underpublished.

This is great news, and it’s gotten some amazing coverage. The first blog to pick this up was The Millions, and then The Atlantic Wire: An accidental all-female issue

Then the editors at Armchair/Shotgun wrote this great explanation of how the issue came about: Women’s Work. The whole essay is worth reading, but here’s a great excerpt:

Because as the VIDA count demonstrates each year, many more men than women get published in literary journals, reviews of books, and other lit-type magazines. More short stories by men, more reviews by men, and more male-authored books that get reviewed. The only category in which women tend to have the edge is poetry.

There are a lot of discussions about why this might be. One theory says that a lot more men than women submit their work–either because there are more male writers or because they are more aggressive at self-promotion. That’s certainly plausible. Could our all-female issue just have been a fluke of submitter demographics?–did vastly more women than men submit their work to us this time? Nope. When we looked back at all the submissions, we saw a lot more traditionally-male names there than female.

The women’s work was just better this time.

THEN a blogger at the Poetry Foundation picked up the story at Way to Go, Ladies!

Press! Press! Press! And the first piece in the issue is by Yours Truly. You can buy a copy online here Armchair/Shotgun

Armchair/Shotgun #3

Further Comments on “Without Consent, It is Abuse”

I love having such smart and passionate friends, commentators, and critics!

A few responses, with thanks for pushing my thinking:

My working definition of pornography—this isn’t so outlandish as comments on the original post suggest. It may not be in the dictionary, but it comes from years of work in anti-pornography groups. My thinking has evolved so much over the years, and I short-cut it here because I was writing about something else. Essentially, I (among others) have been thinking about the way that defining porn only around sex makes everyone crazy, since our wider culture has a definite thought disorder about sex. When the definition is all about sex, the arguments tend to focus on 1st amendment/freedom of speech. About which three points:

1. As a sister activist from Madison used to point out, the 1st amendment was written by slave-holders, so clearly was deficient in its understanding of the ability of speech to oppress and silence.

2. as Andrea Dworkin used to say, “Take the gags out of those women’s mouths and then we’ll talk freedom of speech.”

3. The porn industry is hardly free, but is a multi-billion dollar industry, so you can bet they do massive market research and hone their message and content just as intentionally as any other multi-national corporation. I don’t think that porn producers are using “freedom of speech” anymore than I think mega-banks or drug dealers (legal or otherwise) are using freedom of speech; I think they are making and marketing a highly profitable product.

But within this understanding I felt an inherent tension about those times when expressing sex and sexuality is a right, a pleasure, a joy, a challenge to the powers that be, a true expression of freedom. So slowly I evolved a way of thinking about porn that focused on the exploitation, the profit, and the shaping of an intentional point-of-view about sex and gender and race. Therefore the definition I used in my original post, and phrases such as “pornography of profit” and “pornography of righteousness.”

About Outing—Thanks, Loretta, for your discussion of this. I agree that the little rush of joy we might get when some gay-bashing politician is revealed to be gay (or to be having sex with men, regardless of self-identity) is probably not our most moral moment. For me, though, the act of revealing these people isn’t about buying into cultural shame around being gay, but is about exposing hypocrisy, and therefore undermining the arguments said homophobe had been making. So I stand by my support of some kinds of outing, but also respect the analysis that it isn’t a good idea, ever. Understanding the moral lines in political battles is never precise, and we all change over time, so who knows where I might land on this issue in five or ten years.

About famous/public people and privacy—again, this is a place where my opinion has changed and I’m feeling my way toward an analysis/explanation. We all “know” that being famous, or being a “public figure” means you give up some right to privacy. But why is that? Why don’t we question that more? Yes, I think we should see the tax returns, court records, etc of elected officials, because we vote for them to run our government. That seems like a valid need. But does that mean that someone who chooses to work as an actor has no right to get coffee in the morning without photographers haunting them, taking photos that are then sold for profit?

At some level, the argument that “being a public figure means you give up privacy” feels a lot like the ridiculous argument that a woman working in prostitution can’t be raped—if you “give it” away, or sell it, then, the reasoning goes, it can’t be taken by force. I am NOT claiming that the use of Dr. Ride’s image is the equivalent of rape in any—of course it isn’t, and I don’t use rape as a metaphor for anything else—but the structural logic of the two lines of reasoning seem dangerously close to me. Is there an inherent reason why people who follow their passion to be musicians or athletes or astronauts must give up rights the rest of us consider to both basic and constitutionally protected?

For me, there’s a moral litmus test here. Even though the Sally Ride Foundation website has many images of her and states that they may be used, how would we feel if those images appeared on some repulsive Facebook ad claiming that “Space Travel is a fake and a lie perpetrated by the liberal elite and the gay agenda”? Or an ad saying “See how masculine she looks? Going into the sciences and competing with men makes women become rabid feminists who divorce their husbands and become lesbians”? We would be appalled, and I’m thinking that Dr. Ride’s foundation would be none too pleased.

If that’s true, is there ultimately any kind of ethical difference between a right-wing organization slapping an image of this woman onto their political campaign within days after her death and a left-wing organization that did exactly that?

One blog commentator suggested that perhaps the organization in question had entered into conversation with Dr. Ride’s partner. If so, there is NO evidence of this on their site, no mention of Dr. O’Shaughnessy anywhere to be found. While I’d be happy for proof otherwise, I most strongly suspect that when the news about her identity as a lesbian came out upon her death, this group, already at work on issues of gay marriage and civil rights, and decided to use her image, and a fact about her life, in their ad campaign.

So here is round two of the discussion. I welcome more thoughtful feedback and conversation. Thinking hard about how images are created and used is urgent in a world driven more and more by highly-manipulated photos and graphics, and the questions we ask about that as feminists or other activists for social change are WAY behind the reality shoved in our faces every single day.

Without Consent, It is Abuse: Or “Do you have Sally Ride’s permission to use that photo?”

Thoughts on the use and misuse of images for the pornography of righteousness
Elliott batTzedek

But first, my definition of pornography

Pornography is the use of images for a commercial, social or political effect, when those images:
1. are not of the one using the image
2. are used for goal or gain of the image maker, not that of the person/people in the image
3. are intentionally framed or manipulated to create a desired effect in the viewer
4. are used to produce social, political, or economic capital

In short, what I mean by pornography has nothing to do with explicit (or implicit) sexual acts and everything to do with exploitation

1. The Pornography of Righteousness, a Case Study

On Mother’s Day in 1988 in Madison, Wisconsin, we decided to take direct action against Mall Books, a porn and peep show store on State Street. All of us had been in there, many times, leading Tours of Pornography for women, to try to break through the mental barrier of “Playboy, just sex, no victims, you prudes” by showing what the materials in the store actually were, including photos of bound women submitted without their consent by husbands or boyfriends, women who were obviously way too high or strung out to be giving consent, dildos with spikes that popped out, and on and on and on. We decided to push this point by taking a photo from a “pregnant and bound” photo spread and reproducing it on flyers with the text “Happy Mother’s Day from Mall Books.”

We put these on poles and other signs all around Madison’s large Farmer’s Market on the Saturday before Mother’s Day, then watched. As we expected, women, especially pregnant women or women with kids, would draw close to the image to see what was being sold/promoted, then turn in horror, usually to the man with them—the man who would be unable to meet their eyes, or to answer the question “what the hell is this?” and would hurry the women away. Consciousness Raised! Go Activists.

And then, later, a sick feeling in my stomach—who was that woman whose picture I had used utterly without her consent in order to push my agenda? That I felt I was acting righteously on her behalf was pointless; the patriarchy was always claiming to be acting to protect the interests of “women and the family.” I had made myself a participant in the marketplace of porn by profiting in some way from that image.

2. Fat Girl, Watching Local News, Dreams of Class-Action Lawsuit

You know those news stories, the ones that come on nearly every day, in between commercial for high-calorie, no nutritive-value, processed foods? The ones where a skinny young thing reporter begins to reveal the results of the “latest study” about weight loss or obesity, and the video cuts to a street scene where fat people are walking—usually women, and usually women who are clearly poor or working class. The camera zooms in to close-ups of their bellies and breasts, seeking a place where a roll of fat is obvious or even revealed by a loose shirt or poorly-fitting elastic waist pants. The video feed is always careful not to show the faces, so that they don’t have to get consent to use the footage.

That is, the video is shot in such a way that it can be used, without the consent of those people in front of the camera, in order to make economic or political gain for the people behind the camera. And the smugness of the camera crew, the video editor, the reporter—they are so righteousness, so pleased at sitting in judgment, at making a point, at putting The Bad People on display in all their sloth and wickedness.

Watching, I want to see the faces. I want the names. I want a class-action lawsuit on behalf of every fat woman whose body has been photographed or filmed and then exhibited without her consent to prove that she is bad or horrid or nearly unthinkable. I want the Pornography of Righteousness to be illegal, for without consent it is abuse. And just walking down the street is NOT consent. Consent is the saying of “yes,” not being denied the right to say “no.”

3. Dr. Sally Ride

I assume most anyone who reads my blog has followed the controversy about how and when Sally Ride came out as a lesbian, and has seen this image:

Image created by The Courage Campaign

About the former controversy, I’ll say only this: while I strongly believe in outing people who are actively prosecuting any minority or oppressed group, I also believe in the right to privacy. My wish that my heroes would be open, would embrace the rich tradition of lesbian culture, is exactly that—my wish, not someone else’s agenda. And do you actually remember the 1980’s? What it would have meant for a female astronaut to have come out? Or for a male astronaut to have come out? When you ask, “why didn’t she come out?” you are essentially asking, “why wasn’t she willing to flush her career?”

But this image is another matter entirely, for it has nothing to do with privacy and everything to do with exploitation. Do you think Sally Ride gave her permission to have her photo used, her name used, her relationship leveraged to meet the agenda of the Courage Campaign? Have you yet stopped to ask, “Hey, who’s behind this? What is The Courage Campaign? What do they hope to gain from this?”

Why haven’t you asked this? My theory—because one of the main ways that pornography functions is by avoiding the part of our brain that asks questions. The images porn creates goes right to our lizard brain, both the fear and the pleasure centers. This image does both, by triggering our fear of having our relationships not counted and our pleasure at seeing a familiar face with all kinds of positive emotions adhered to it. The image isn’t even logical—the party being harmed in the argument the text makes isn’t Dr. Sally Ride, but her partner Dr. Tam O’Shaughnessy, the one is now being denied benefits. Or at least that’s the claim of the poster, a claim made on Dr. O’Shaughnessy’s behalf with NO evidence that she played in role in the creation of the image nor that she had absolutely anything to do with this. For goddess sake, her partner of 27 years just died, and now they are both expected to be poster children for other people’s agendas?

Consider the full obscenity of this—less than a week after Dr. Ride’s death and her life and her partner are being used for political/economic gain without their consent. Feel that, then ask yourself, “Why are people so upset at her for not coming out sooner?” Honestly, would you want your life splashed across the internet for someone else’s purposes?

Then ask this—what exactly is “The Courage Campaign”? Who are these people? What do they want? I spent a little time on their web site this morning; they are “an online organizing network that empowers more than 750,000 grassroots and netroots activists to push for progressive change and full equality in California and across the country.” Which makes them the good guys, right? Guys being an operative word here; less than 20% of the staff listed on the web site are women. And, no surprise to me, the staff leadership all have backgrounds in film, which matters because of a decision made when photography was invented that the pictures, and later the film footage, belong to the people behind the camera rather than the people in front of it.

Don’t get me wrong—I love a good movie, and I deeply appreciate the power of an image or film to tell a truth, reveal a story, create beauty, and be profoundly important art. But there is nonetheless something disturbing about that the fact that I can take a photo of you and own the image the and right to the image—in a very real sense, I am “taking” your image. And that sense of “owning” an image creates the groundwork for both the pornography of sexual violence and the pornography of righteousness. Once Dr. Ride was outed, the people at this “equality campaign” felt they had the RIGHT to use her image for their purposes. No need for her consent, no need to consult her partner, just grab a stock image and open up InDesign and slap on some text and let viral marketing do the rest.

Do you feel the obscenity of that assumption? How this group used Dr. Ride’s life, our pride in her, and our fear about right-wing assaults on our lives to market their agenda? They hit our pleasure center and our fear center simultaneously, and wow did we ever respond, “sharing” their creation over and over and over and feeling SO righteous about how “they” would dare deny anything to Dr. Ride.

But the Courage Campaign denied her right to privacy, her right to self-determination, her right to control how and when her image, which represents her life’s work, is used.

So that image doesn’t make me feel righteous. It makes me feel sick, in that place that opened inside me when I realized how I had used another woman’s image to make myself feel Righteous. The same place where I feel sick when The Huffington Post makes millions of dollars in advertising by flaunting photos of famous women drunk or high and/or in mental/emotional breakdown . The same place where I felt sick upon learning that the Murdoch clan had hacked the voice mail of a girl who had been murdered in order to sell more papers.

There’s no real difference between the pornography of profit and the pornography of political righteousness, not when understood from the point-of-view of the person being used without their consent.

When you see an image and don’t see consent for the image to be used. you are witnessing exploitation. Every time. Even in the service of what you say you believe.

This is what it feels like to be made to want to die

At the ice cream parlor, reading the local paper, Sandusky trial all over the front page.
I want to die. I just want it all to go away. Please, just let me die.

At the computer, reading and reading and reading trial coverage.
There’s no way out. Please just let me not wake up.

In the kitchen.
What if I cut my arm, would I die?

In the car.
What if I just drove into something very very fast?

In the yard.
Would the poison hurt if I drank it, or would I just die?

The bathroom.
How many pills?

In the everywhere anywhere nowhere nowhere nowhere of the hell of being a child trapped, held down, no way out. In Sandusky’s basement, where no one can hear you scream.

All those weapons, all those ways of thinking how to be dead, but somehow one thought not allowed:
How can I make him die? Or Please, God, just make him die.

Which is also what it means to be a child raped by an adult who sometimes says he loves you, sometimes opens to you a world of desperately wanted Things, a Wonderland of special privileges, sometimes threatens to kill your family.

The logic here is so simple: Something bad, wrong, awful is happening. If something bad is happening, someone must be to blame. The rapist gives gifts, is like a father (or is a father), and also terrifies you, so you can’t blame him. Ergo, the one to blame must be you. Ergo, the way out is for you to die.

Anyone who doesn’t get that, who refuses to get that, who dares ask, Why didn’t these young men stop this, or tell someone? is either a perpetrator masking crimes, or so dangerously ignorant as to be a direct threat.

In either case, I wouldn’t let anyone who asks such questions anywhere near any child. Would you?

In which I let Rabassa and Barnstone duke it out about memory, error, and the ethics of translation

In his book If This Be Treason: Translation and Its Dyscontents, Gregory Rabassa asserts lots of interesting and valuable stuff, then this clinker on pp. 61-62:

The completion of work is best done in translation, where the translator can work at things denied the author in his own language, even the way Saint Jerome mistakenly implied the cuckoldry of Moses which Michelangelo then wrought in enduring stone.

In case you don’t spend hours a day considering the history of Christian Anti-Semitism, Rabassa is referring to St. Jerome who mistranslated the Hebrew word for “ray” to mean “horns,” leading to a tradition of picturing Moses with horns coming out of his head, which Michelangelo then made flesh (marble flesh) in his famous statue of Moses. Horns on the head are, in some pagan traditions in Europe, understood to mean than the man wearing them has been cuckolded—that is, his wife has had sex with other men.

That cuckold charge, which is not common when discussing Jerome’s “horns,” is not as important to me as Rabassa’s assertion that the mistranslation which came to be both a statue and a common, enduring myth that Jews had horns was a good thing, a “completion” of something the original text could not say. Huh?? The issue is that the Hebrew “couldn’t say” that Moses had horns, or that his wife/wives were not faithful? Are you kidding me? And that’s without understanding that plenty of Christians see those horns as images of the devil, not images of a cuckold.

While translations do build on each other across time, this is not, by far, always a positive thing. Mistranslations, for nefarious, controlling, purposes, can be introduced into texts and mutate from there until the product people “know” is more a history of prejudice or ignorance than a translation. For a crystal clear example of this, I turn to translator Willis Barnstone’s The Poetics of Translation, to his sub-chapter “How through False Translation into and from the Bible Jesus Ceased To Be a Jew.” While his argument, incredibly well-documented, is lengthy, these little excerpts carry the spine of it:

Since early Christian leaders, saints, and followers were both Jews and gentiles, pursuing the Jewish dream of an announced Messiah, how could two thousand years of Christian anti-Semitism be based largely on their Scriptures, that is, on the New Testament, a collection of revolutionary texts born from the depths of the rabbinic tradition?

By sleight-of-hand editing and translating, only certain figures of the Christian Scriptures remain clearly identifiable as Jews—not John the Baptist, not Mary, not Jesus, nor James and Paul: even their names are not Biblically Jewish. This disguise is in place by the time of the Greek Scriptures and is reinforced in translation into other languages. […] The Christian scriptures are different because, in the Jewish world that they describe, all the good people are Christians and the evil ones Jews. […] How could Jewish authors produce such a fearful world of fatal hatreds? They did not. The original stories, in the process of telling and writing, redaction, and translation, were transformed to produce a narrative that excluded Jews from the messianic happenings in their land.

Barnstone continues, showing how yeshua (Joshuah) became Jesus, mashiah became Christ, and rabbi became Master, all intentional mistranslations to erase Jews from the text, and how “Jew” was slyly transformed description to the name of the enemy. Eventually, Barnstone says, the people who are allied with Jesus are just people, while the people who oppose him are “the Jews.” As Barnstone summarizes,

Christian anti-Semitism begins with and derives historically from the New Testament, from the falsifying translations into and out of the Christian Scriptures in which Jesus ceases to be a Jew. The result of this transmission of the history of Joshua the Messiah has been two millennia of hatred and extermination, from diasporas and ghettos to pogroms and holocaust.

So what has that to do with Rabassa’s St. Jerome saying “something” in translating that the original text “couldn’t say”? This: translating matters, and because it matters, it must be aware of culture, bias, social power, linguistic power, prejudice, hatred. To assume that my job as a translator is to say what the author couldn’t say in her/his culture seems dangerously arrogant, especially since I am the citizen of a (declining) superpower and the speaker of a language whose culture is an invasive species, wiping out native tongues and cultures daily. My job is NOT to say what some other culture couldn’t say, but to show, value, bring into my language what their culture CAN and DOES say, know, value, communicate, worship, want, need. The line from scriptural sources to St. Jerome to Michelangelo was not a good thing for my people, the Jews, which is certainly one big understanding I carry into this new skill I am building.

Against Rabassa’s assertion of finishing an author’s work by adding what a different culture knows, I assert Barnstone’s linguistically AND socially responsible analysis of the power of language to be used as a weapon:

The primary method of destabilizing and deracinating a people is to rename them and their land. Consequently, the first strategy of the recorders and translators of the Christian scriptures was to remove Jesus from his Jewishness.

Note from my own political life: one of the first actions of the Zionist government in the new state of Israel was to erase all Arabic village, street, and place names and replace them with Hebrew names, thus trying to physically erase Arab/Palestinian history from the land itself. For more information on this, see the wonderful Israeli activist group Zochrot (Remembering). In the photo below, Zochrot members are restoring the name of a Palestinian mosque in Arabic and in Hebrew.

Tisha B’Av in Palestine

Tisha B’Av in Palestine
Elliott batTzedek

Homes destroyed.
Orchards flattened.
Buses and markets and buildings
         and children
Water tanks overturned,
and water, the breath of life to the desert,
spilled into the cracks of the dry and desperate Av earth.

May I build a house on my land?
May I travel from here to here
without fear?
May I have any assurance that my children will grow up
to be neither killed nor killers?
May I demand any way other than defend or destroy,
pillage or starve?
How many times did Pharoh say
before he became irrelevant?

Destruction after destruction after destruction;
It is time for history to record
someone saving Jerusalem.

This is one small part of an entire Tisha B’Av liturgy I’ve created that combines Jewish, Arab, and Palestinian voices all reflecting on the experience of exile. In the pieces, poems and liturgy speak back and forth to one another until the voices blend, a chorus of loss, yearning, and dreams of home. If you’d like a copy, drop me a note or post here.

On Casey Anthony and Incest Statistics

On Casey Anthony and Incest Statistics

Look, I don’t know what happened in Florida years ago. A child is dead. I wish for her sake that the death was a painless accident, one with no fear, violence, terror. I am not being callous when I say that so many many children are dead, ones the press never describes as pretty, beautiful, precious, cute, tragic — ones the press never describes at all, like all the Pakistani and Afghani children killed by drones which are, by definition, heartless, soul-less, premeditated murders.

I do know this: while most everyone I know claims to “know” the statistics about rates of incest, “know” that men rape and terrorize and murder children every single damn day, when any one woman stands and says, “This happened to me” she is immediately disbelieved. As if “those children” child rape happens to are aliens, out there, somewhere. As if the adults who rape children are even more alien, evil outsiders, half mythological boogeymen.

Since none of us know what happened, how has the press created a narrative so strong that hundreds of thousands of people are ready to lynch this woman? The 13 people that did get to see and hear what exists of the evidence said, quickly, that it was not enough to prove anything.

Since none of us know what happened, let’s try on a different narrative, one that all kinds of official FBI statistics and years of sociological and therapeutic studies say could be true. Casey Anthony, as a girl, was raped, humiliated, and terrorized by a father obsessed with controlling everything about her. Her brother was, on occasion, part of this abuse. She therefore grew up in a web of fear and lies, probably with a high level of dissociation, one that would allow her to live through hell at night and get up and go to school as if life were normal in the morning. Both the lying and the dissociation became habitual, such that even Casey’s closest friends had no idea what was true. When Casey became pregnant, she at first “didn’t know” for many months, and then never told a consistent story about who the father was. With no real life skills, and under her father’s obsessive control, she continued to stay intertwined with her family, ensuring the lying and dissociation remained uninterruptable. She was, her friends report, an extremely loving and attentive mother. But then again, her friends were also always being lied to about basic details of her life.

Then, at her parents’ house with her mother gone, something happened, which resulted in her father saying that Caylee was dead and that they would have to cover up the death. How did Caylee die? Casey reported that her father reported the girl had drowned. If so, why not call an ambulance, call the police, report the horrible accident?

Exactly. Without really knowing what happened, let’s suppose, as we’re supposing all of this, that Caylee died the way plenty of girls have died, while being orally raped by an adult male. (Sorry if even reading that upsets you, but reality is reality and it ain’t pretty or easy or nice.) Or maybe she died some other way under this man’s hands – since the body was missing for so long, we may never know. We do know that the body, when found, had been treated the exact same way Daddy George buried family pets, mouth and feet duct taped and the body then wrapped in a blanket. And we do know that Casey pretty much lost her mind at that point, descending in a dark fantasy world where the child had never existed, then, pulled out of that world, into a pathetic, amateur web of lies.

(Here’s where I can’t agree with the press conclusion that’s she a classic sociopath – she just doesn’t seem that smart or calculating. Latina nanny is right up there with Susan Smith’s black car jacker. And need I remind you that Susan Smith’s daddy started raping her as a young teen and continued into her 20’s?)

Why did the story of the incest, her father’s “discovery” of Caylee’s body, the cover-up, only come out at trial? One proven theory – that, after three years in jail away from her family, Casey finally had enough distance from the terror to begin to move out of the lying and dissociative breaks. One theory, but it’s been true plenty of times in the history of incarceration, including folks who finally get sober, finally are safe from some kinds of violence (and victim to others in the horror that is our prison system), finally stop running and begin to have their lives catch up to them.

I’m not asking you to take this as truth, or to take it whole-cloth. I’m only asking that you hold this story up to the story the press has been telling, and measure for yourself the gaps, the unlikely moments, the prejudices, of each. I’m very clear about my prejudices and assumptions here, as an incest survivor myself. My great-uncle would sometimes call me by his daughter’s name, making me wonder if Daddy George knew the difference between Casey Anthony and Caylee Anthony. I know that incest survivors, as young adults, often drink, sleep around, take stupid risks, and get into to awful situations way over their heads, and that this is a pattern started by the abuse.

Who in the press will be so honest about the assumptions driving THEIR version?

But he could not stretch her spey, her spey, he could not stretch her spey

A slightly late International Women’s Day post – lest we forget that we are never the first generation of women to resist, to make our resistance public, and to celebrate it. This has been recorded by many of my favorite singers – Alix Dobkin, Peggy Seeger, and Karan Casey, whose version you can hear here.

Now go resist! And then sing about it!

Eppie Morrie

(Trad Arr. Karan Casey/John Doyle)

Four-and-twenty Highland men
Came from the Carron side
To steal away Eppie Morrie
Cause she wouldn’t be a bride, a bride
She wouldn’t be a bride

Then out it’s came her mother then
It was a moonlit night
She couldn’t see her daughter
For the moon it shone so bright, so bright
The moon it shone so bright

They’ve taken Eppie Morrie
And a horse they’ve bound her on
And they’re away to Carron side
As fast as horse could gang, could gang
As fast as horse could gang

And Willie’s taken his pistol out
And put it to the minister’s breast
O marry me, marry me, minister
Or else I’ll be your priest, your priest
Or else I’ll be your priest

Haud away from me, Willie
Haud away from me
There’s not a man in all Strathdon
Shall wedded be by me, by me
Shall wedded be by me

Then mass was sung and bells were rung
And they’re away to bed
And Willie and Eppie Morrie
In one bed they were laid, were laid
In one bed they were laid

He’s taken the shirt from off his back
And kicked away his shoes
And thrown away the chamber key
And naked he lay down, lay down
And naked he lay down

He’s kissed her on the lily breast
And held her shoulders twa
But aye she gat and aye she spat
And turned to the wa’, the wa’
And turned to the wa’

They wrestled there all through the night
Before the break of day
But aye she gat and aye she spat
But he could not stretch her spey,
He could not stretch her spey

Haud away from me, Willie,
Haud away from me
There’s not a man in all Strathdon
Shall wedded be by me, by me
Shall wedded be by me

Then early in the morning
Before the light of day
In came the maid of Scallater
In gown and shirt alone, alone
In a gown and shirt alone

Get up, get up, young woman
And take a drink with me
You might have called me maiden
For I’m as whole as thee, as thee
For I’m as whole as thee.

Then in there came young Breadalbane
With a pistol on his side
O, come away, Eppie Morrie
And I’ll make you my bride, my bride
And l’ll make you my bride

Go get to me a horse, Willie
Get it like a man
And send me back to my mother
A maiden as I came, I came
A maiden as I came

Haud away from me, Willie
Haud away from me
There’s not a man in all Strathdon
Shall wedded be by me, by me
Shall wedded be with me

Haud away from me, Willie
Haud away from me
There’s not a man in all Strathdon
Shall wedded be by me, by me
Shall wedded be by me

More on Earth day

Bees are disappearing, dying in mass numbers from a disease that’s spread around the world. Bees are a main pollinator of many of food crops. Without them, blooms do not become food. To quote my friend Lierre Keith, “if you are putting the pieces together, you are starting to feel the cold chill of horror up your spine.”

Do you know that scientists studying native species of plants and animals go through cultural relics, such as poems, songs, tapestries, old recipes, to see what species were present and known to people at any one point in history?

I thought of this today, coming across these lines from Tennyson’s “Come Down, O Maid:”

…the children call, and I
Thy shepherd pipe, and sweet is every sound,
Sweeter thy voice, but every sound is sweet;
Myriads of rivulets hurrying thro’ the lawn,
The moan of doves in immemorial elms,
And murmuring of innumerable bees.

Will this one day soon be evidence of when such a thing was possible, along with thousands and thousands of poems about songbirds? Where I grew up, in Illinois, the immemorial elms were only bits of remaining rotted stumps and street names of treeless streets by the time I was a child, the Dutch Elm canopies only a story my dad told me, like the hillside that had been huge walnut trees before they were all ripped out to make rifles for WW II.

When is the last time you heard the murmur of innumerable bees? Have you ever, walking through a clover field, or lounging in the grass near wild flowers or fruit trees in the spring?

Do you, can you, notice the silence that is absence of presence?