As allegations of Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexual assault and abuse of power are revealed, I despair.
It’s not just that the reports coming out of Hollywood – and, you know, every single other industry – are so awful, but that the response to them is so predictable. Why didn’t the women speak up earlier? they ask. About these men, whose stories we are forced to endure not because they are more important, but because women’s stories need to be corroborated. Because women on their own can only tell ‘one side of the story’ – women’s side – by its nature (allegedly) subject to hysteria, outbursts and irrationality. Women did speak up earlier. In 2005, Courtney Love warned actresses about working with Weinstein. Why didn’t anyone listen? Because the men were silent.
This is the garbage world we live in. At its helm are governments full of permission to ‘other’. They encourage the use of hate speech, of aggression, to oppress already marginalised groups. They legislate it. The Australian government has asked oppressors for their opinion on LGBTQI relationships. The US government has rolled back women’s autonomy through birth control and abortion law, while popularising sexual assault via Donald Trump. When athletes took a knee in protest of police brutality against black communities, the head of state publicly roasted them. Twitter has suspended users for swearing at ‘blue ticks’ but not for inciting racial violence, directly and overtly threatening to rape, or declaring literal nuclear war.
I am a queer disabled woman. When I was sixteen I was diagnosed with multiple mental illnesses. When seventeen: I experienced domestic violence for the first time. Eighteen: sexually assaulted while I slept. Nineteen: institutionalised. Thirty-four: angry. But I am lucky, because I am white. I am lucky, because I have a platform for my story. I am able to talk about these things and the way they have affected me and (so far) they will not render me unemployed, homeless, or dead. Yet most of me is hidden.
When I thought about what I hoped to publish in Overland – a publication that already does much to support the work of marginalised people – it was ‘own stories’. I wanted to create a space, instead of filling it. I wanted to reflect stories back to people who are not always represented, or who are appropriated by others. I wanted to use my privilege to amplify great and important voices that should be published again and again.
Submissions for the fiction edition are assessed blind and I worried when I wrote the callout that I wouldn’t know whether writers were ‘staying in their lane’. But I needn’t have. Although they covered vast territory, the truthful pieces all said the same thing: see me. See me. So, I tried. I saw bits of myself in some of them, and I saw lots of what I am not and have no ownership of, stories that cover great multitudes of experience that isn’t published, that isn’t relayed, and that isn’t recognisable or even present in our media. I took bits away. I learned. And I realised, again and again, how vital it is to recognise our own role in hate, and our responsibility to speak out against it from places of privilege.
I was delighted to learn that I had, without knowing, chosen four pieces by female-identifying writers, and I’m so pleased to share them with you.
Paola Ferrante’s story, ‘Cobwebs’, suffocated me as soon as I read it. She captures – beautifully and poetically – what it’s like, as a woman, to have a singular perceived purpose. It is insidious, creeping, suspenseful. I’m a great lover of metaphor anyway, but this one really shook me out.
Then, I fell in love with Jessie Berry-Porter’s ‘the evolution of a very intimate love affair as told by the object of desire’. There, I found the experience of objectification, of vulgar, grotesque ‘love’, of being at someone else’s mercy, of the anatomical and mental morphing that happens with abuse. I found it very hard to read at first, and then when I had read it four or five times more, I had dug myself all the way into it.
Ladi Opaluwa captured a whole saga in a short story. Her piece, ‘June 8 Chronicle’, brims with fear, terror, violence and war. Set on the day of Sani Abacha’s death, it relates the impact of the Nigerian head of state on the ‘little people’. There is great tradition in this piece and its use of imagery and language, but it will also punch you right in the heart with its frank testimony.
Finally, I chose Claire Varley’s ‘Tumble’. This is a different thing from the others, with a lovely contemporary voice that belies the truth of its characters. It is a nomadic story – a wandering, reflective and dangerous piece. In this piece I saw what I had wanted to see in the people I have loved and the veil that passes across them.
This is their hour. I hope you take the time to enjoy, appreciate and applaud the voices of people who are not protected by a maintained status quo. Voices who have to fight – a little, or a lot – to be heard. Amplify them, share them, use what you have to open up and stand against dickheads like Weinstein by making a really loud noise.
Read the rest of our Spring Fiction edition: