3 September 201822 October 2018 Polemics / Writing / Sexism Invisible, until … On harassment and power in literary culture Marlee Jane Ward I’m friends with this hot young writer. He’s widely published, prodigious, pretty, too. I was at a massive international convention with him earlier this year, sneaking into parties we hadn’t been invited to, the crush of the hotel suites full of conversation with the biggest names in science fiction and fantasy. Standing in the corner with him, sinking free ciders plucked from a bathtub full of ice, when some publisher or big-name writer or other would come and interrupt our conversation to talk to him. Looking over me like I wasn’t even there. The hot young writer would take pains to introduce me. ‘This is Marlee Jane, she’s a famous writer from Australia,’ he’d say, and I’d give him a light punch because I’m not famous at all, but I am a writer, I am from Australia. I am a person whose conversation they’d just interrupted. ‘Oh,’ they’d nod, glancing down in my direction for a split second, then they’d look back over at the hot young writer and keep talking to him. It happened once – okay, fair. Then twice. Five times. Six times. I was invisible. I’m not hot, or young. But I am a writer. The hot young writer wanted to meet his hero, and when I spotted the older man’s nametag I raced over to the young writer and let him know that the hero had just walked in. The writer went over, and the older man said to him, ‘you’re even younger than I’d hoped for.’ They say you should never meet your heroes, and I’m not sure how the hot young writer felt about meeting his, or about what the hero said to him. The hot young writer’s hero came up to me later, stumbling drunk. ‘There’s something about you,’ he said, inching towards me, his eyes a direct line to my tits. Yes, well-respected men often think there is ‘something about’ me, and it’s not my talent and it’s not my stories and it’s not the workings of my brain that I somehow manage to get out onto paper and that people actually pay money for, it’s my tits. I inched away from the young writer’s hero as he stumbled towards me, and when he continued his wavering advance I actually ran away and hid behind a friend. We all laughed at the lecherous old drunk. Isn’t he silly? Even me. I laughed too. I felt complicit. My tits were prominent in my dress, they can’t help but be front and centre. Don’t worry, I’d brought it on myself. During that trip, someone pulled their dick out on me. Don’t worry, I’d brought it on myself. I’d had the audacity to dance with him, had the gall to lie back on the sofa next to him feeling flushed and drunk and kinship. In the low light, he grabbed my hand, put it on his chest. Then he took that hand and placed it on his dick, freed at some point I hadn’t noticed from his pants. ‘No, no, not that,’ I said. I felt so complicit that I didn’t bring it up again and he was so drunk I don’t think he remembers. He passed out minutes later. The convention taught me a lot of things, about writing, about people, about life. But it also let me know that I’m invisible until I’m not, and it’s never for the reasons that I want it to be. My talent, my stories, my brain, the fact that I’m a fucking person who exists and is talking, none of that matters. When I do matter, those rare occasions, it’s my tits. It’s my ability to service your dick. It’s the fact that I’m a random collection of bumps and holes that just so happen to fall into the correct schema to spark desire when someone is drunk enough to not care that I’m not hot or young. And I’m so much more than that. I’m not hot or young, but I’m a writer. And a woman. And I am a fucking person who is speaking. Image: Curved / flickr Marlee Jane Ward Marlee Jane Ward is a writer, reader and weirdo from Melbourne. Her short fiction is published at Apex, Interfictions, Terraform and more. Her debut novella won the Viva La Novella Prize and the Victorian Premier's Award for YA Fiction. She tweets from @marleejaneward. More by Marlee Jane Ward Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places. If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate. Related articles & Essays First published in Overland Issue 228 23 February 202324 February 2023 Writing From work to text, and back again: ChatGPT and the (new) death of the author Rob Horning Generative models extinguish the dream that Barthes’s Death of the Author articulates by fulfilling it. 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