Political goings on from across the pond, as well as those closer to home, have brought women’s and minorities’ rights to the forefront once again. Amidst the chaos, one Linen Press author has thrown herself into the fight.
Lindsay Parnell, author of the stunning short novel Dogwood (‘Raw and violent, yet passionate, lyrical and beautifully written’ — Vesna Goldsworthy, author of Gorsky and Chernobyl Strawberries), writes with the same clear-sighted despair, anger and conviction about the need for women to march against Trump.
When dictators assume power, a provocation and ultimate abolishment of the media is expected. It’s no surprise that journalists find themselves in the first-tiered attack on truth, logic and language.
Next, they burn the books. Fiction and poetry, scripts, all of it, because that’s where the ideas are kept. You aren’t supposed to trust a journalist, are you? But a writer… The rot sets before ink dries.
He’ll burn the books, that President Fuck, because he’s scared.
On January 21st in Washington D.C., Boston, New Orleans and Atlanta, in all American states and their concrete veins, and in Berlin and London, a mass of bodies were moving and standing. Voices speaking together. Pedestrian walkways and city streets overflowed with foot traffic in the hundreds of thousands. There were families who shared the likeness of face and families who did not. Painted placards of hope and of anger, a collective demand to be heard. A call to speak, to revise, to act. But mostly, there were bodies. Gloria Steinem called the crowd an ocean. Lynn Michell said it was a flood.
Over a fortnight has passed, since I attended the Women’s March on Washington D.C. and still, I find myself without words or sentences. No definitive statements, nothing deserving of those I stood with and for those who I marched. For them I feel inadequate but what it was a profound honour of closed-fist combat, devastating intoxication. The most powerful sense of gravity I have ever felt. It was these things, wasn’t it?
I figured that with passing days would come a clearer understanding of that Saturday, and of myself. But between the Women’s March and the night I finally stilled myself to write came a series of executive orders authored by President Bannon’s fifth scotch. They showcased to cameras by a string-free real boy whose smug presentation earned him a Q- on Betsy Devos’ grading scale: the first of many throat throttles to women in the ‘Global Gag Order’ a Muslim camouflaged with anti-terror travel restrictions, and the restoration of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. It takes a lot of words to be this gutless but this is the con of the opportunist; they’ll never stop looking if you never stop moving.
When the currency is misogynistic narcissism, moral bankruptcy need not be claimed – there’s a business man in the White House. An outsider and gunslinger. A racist whose intersections are hate speech and ignorance. A rambunctious undertaker spewing a tyrannical soliloquy. There’s a rapist in the White House.
Sexism in the workplace only exists if you’re a bitch. The defunding of Planned Parenthood only punishes a slut. Trump in the Oval Office is a problem only if you’re a nasty woman. He is the tarnished coin of currency I thought no longer exchanged with the dead weight of Nazi gold. A denier of truth, logic and seemingly, breath. The president of the United States is a coke-starved narcissist, propaganda wielding Anti-Christ. A juvenile delinquent who hates Muslims and women and those his Other. This is not a political current it is a totalitarian riptide.
Trump’s electoral victory solidifies not only the existence, but the celebrated promotion of the things I ignore so I can pay my rent. This is the rot.
There’s an office park that sits in the bowels of an ill-kept alleyway. Two summers ago, a crow wrapped in its own wings rotted atop the roots of a sapling planted in concrete. The rats are well fed, anxious on Wednesday nights for the straggling parade of curb-side rubbish bins. Folks smoke by the garage door in winter because the pillars block the wind. They stand in slats of sunlight across the street during spring. You have to take the lift to get to the place where I go to be spoken at. A toddler runs my workplace as a toddler runs my country. Short-fingered and smirking.
Their obsessions are corporal but they will not forget that intelligent women are the threat of all threats. A man-child oscillating from boardrooms to White House corridors, searching for silent playmates. He hears silence as surrender. Consent. Truth provokes frustration, an attack of his ego. Between them they are the Lost Boys, liars with soft palms. They whose ‘tolerance’ is sold in matters of self-convenience and immediacy – they say they can’t be misogynists because they collect wives and daughters. Their fragility of self will kill us all. A toddler runs my country as a toddler runs my workplace.
We are his clerks and secretaries who are required to fascinate while planted in his sanctuary of open air cubicle blocks. Each weekday is an inauguration of Big Boy pageantry and solicitation of praise. There is a marriage contract because he says it is so.
We coddle him in his mistakes, throat clucks and stutters. If you do not smile you are reminded that you are flawed and at fault. Employed from lust and boredom and the spaces that are both, we are his witches to burn. We are his favourite instruments, chosen receptacles. This is the rot.
His boys, a cabinet assembled, scoff and smirk, our speed-fueled valedictorians eyeing a senate seat and sniffing midnight rails. Like throngs of cicadas resurrected from the earth, noise mongering and eyes bulging, they shed skins in the places their cocks once were. They are rewarded in six-figures and offices with doors for ill-kept promises but this is a place built by the hands of women, by the minds and words of women. They are persistent and creative with positive return, and so they are rejected from debate and silenced. Terror-causing bitches. Whores with A-line hems, huh? It’s why dictators burn the books.
He says he’d teach me things if I’d let him. He says I should be grateful in the moments he designates me an extension of himself. This is the wonder of what is deserved – not as a cure for an adolescent or depressive state, not a season of growing pains, not as the necessary experience to stimulate personal enlightenment – but to question, as a woman, am I deserving of this? This is the rot and it takes a lot of words to be this gutless.
I was angry about the human talent that was lost just because it was born into a female body, and the mediocrity that was rewarded because it was born into a male one.
—My Life on the Road, Gloria Steinem
When your mother is a strong woman who was raised by a strong woman, you have no choice but to chase them. Women like that, I have been Her kind. And when trailing women like that, you’ll find yourself among heroines.
My boss is a child but my leader is Female. She who is a senior official and a respected counsellor. She whose ability and gain is unflinching. She who speaks from the floor and She who persists. She whose sentences are a clean, sequence never broken. Her words ones of encouragement and challenge, expectation. Result at 75 cents to the dick’s dollar. Working for and among her I count a privilege of my life. In her I am reminded that strength is not an inheritance, but a conscious choice and chosen pulse.
On January 21st in Washington D.C., we were gridlocked in bodies, standing together and restless. Unable to move. They currently estimate it was a half a million people. I have never been so happy to stand still.
The first time I read Dorothy Allison and Kathy Acker I could not move. Lynne Tillman and Heidi James: I had never been so proud to hold novels in my hands, to feel greatness in the tangible weight of a paperback. They speak of the things which define my own desperate search for courage and voice and story. Esther said Doreen spoke from her own bones – for me they must always speak.
They will persist and we will move forward. I write and resist because the voices and stories of marginalised writers are not favourable in the counterattack against Trump’s bigotry in all its forms and serpentine tongues, they are required.
Trump’s administration infects our homes and our offices and our schools, our places of worship and so we must alter the conditions.
Because Eve was framed.