We acknowledge that, even in the instance of the statement below, when men make a collective vocal stance against injustices that women have been, for a long time, living with and speaking out against, privilege allows us an audience. Therefore, to those reading this statement: this should in no way be treated as the center of a conversation. We are also aware that abuse amongst men and people with male privilege is common in our community, and although that is not this statement’s focus we do acknowledge its importance.
We are a group of Black writers and artists who are Men or people with Male Privilege (MMP). We stand against violence against women. We write in public defense of all those who endured abuse or silencing by the very communities built to protect them. Our gendered stance is in acknowledgment that the majority of instances of sexual assault, rape, and sexual harassment are against women, women-identified, and femme-presenting individuals and that silence around this abuse is created and enforced by MMP. In doing so, we hope to elevate and further critiques of all literary institutions where rampant sexism disempowers women-identified individuals and presents a physical threat to their safety.
HOW POWER WORKS
A disturbing feature of literary institutions is how they generate and sustain gendered hierarchies. These organizations often place male individuals in positions of extreme power over the well-being and safety of women. Because these institutions lack the incentive to ask questions about how authority circulates within their doors, individuals abusing this power can proceed without scrutiny or reprimand. As a result, many institutionally supported artists do not even consider their actions malicious or abusive, even when the law defines them as such.
As MMP, our silence is a mark of complicity. By not actively pursuing measures to ensure victims receive the proper support they need, we actively participate in the legacy of violence that has long characterized our most necessary social relations. Although we recognize this legacy of violence, we do not accept it as our own. To go one step further, we want to suggest that this lengthy history of abuse women/femmes have endured at the hands of MMP has left the male-identified body as a site of trauma and oppression for many women-identified people.
COLLECTIVE STATEMENT AND QUESTIONS
It is important for us to forgo the victim-blaming response to predatory actions and behavior: we do not believe it is our place to tell women what they could do better to prevent assault, rape, and sexual harassment. Instead, we ask that MMP, especially those who work in or in concert with literary institutions, like ourselves, consider their complicity in the ongoing cycle of sexually charged violence. By avoiding and distancing ourselves from these acts of abuse, we enable predators and the institutions who support them. With this framework in mind, we ask that MMP writers consider the following questions:
– What am I doing to actively create a nonviolent environment for all participants in literary culture?
– Do I use my male privilege to undermine the narratives of women? Do I allow other men to dismiss women who have experiences that differ from their own?
– Do I understand the intersections of gender, race, sexuality, and violence? Am I working to empower all women and women-identified people, especially those most vulnerable to violence based on the intersection of race, gender, and sexuality?
– Do I utilize resources specially created to empower women, such as INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence, to further educate myself on the hardships, violence, and dismissal women face in literary industries?
We believe in the freedom to express, create, and live without fear. Gender equality necessitates the active removal of predators and the complete restructuring of institutions that support predatory behavior. We must dismantle any system beyond repair or salvaging. Assault, rape, and sexual harassment happen to individual people everyday, a fact that we find disturbing and embarrassing, especially when it happens within our community. We would like to highlight the systematic nature of predatory behavior as well as its history within the larger literary community. As a result, we have come together to express our support for survivors in the following ways:
– To make space for survivors to tell their stories with as little resistance as possible. We will directly challenge acts of victim-blaming.
– To firmly and openly call out institutions that hire, fund, or otherwise support known predators including universities, residencies, journals, fellowships, and conferences. We will openly document any organizations that disown individual abusers to pacify criticism without committing to a diligent shift away from enabling abusers.
– To offer active and extremely present support for survivors. We will offer support to survivors as they deem necessary.
– To work to identify the pipeline of power that allows abusers to stabilize and maintain their anonymity. We will share this information with the greater literary community.
– To hold ourselves accountable and open to reproach, understanding that predators often pose as protectors. Survivors should not have to wager their safety and well-being to distinguish between the two.
– To understand that individuals who may or may not identify with masculinity but take up male privilege are also implicated in the culture of violence and misogyny that upholds male privilege.
We’re examining ourselves in this space together with care and in solidarity with others. We recognize that we have flawed ideas, attitudes, and behaviors around gender even as we commit ourselves to a process of self-interrogation and change. We hope that our statement helps to strengthen others and that together we move into a place of respect and love.
A. H. Jerriod Avant
Reginald Dwayne Betts
F. Douglas Brown
Cortney Lamar Charleston
Jeremy Michael Clark
Mitchell L. H. Douglas
Andre O. Hoilette
Brandon D. Johnson
Fred L. Joiner
Robert Jones Jr.
A Van Jordan
Gary Copeland Lilley
Darnell L. Moore
Iain Haley Pollock
Howard Rambsy II
Justin Phillip Reed
Robert Ricardo Reese
Jayson P. Smith
Steven W. Thrasher
Maurice L. Tracy
Marvin K. White
Phillip B. Williams
Keith S. Wilson
L. Lamar Wilson