So earlier this week I noticed that John Scalzi posted on his blog Whatever a list, off the top of his head, of women writers whose work had inspired him. It’s a good list, but clearly an impromptu one, and doesn’t include the women writers whose work he’d merely enjoyed, just the ones whose work had motivated him.
Why did he post this list? In response to this article about journalist Gay Talese and his disappointing inability to do the same — despite having worked with Joan Didion.
Again with the dismissive, or even anti-women, nonsense? Alas, yes, again.
Those of you who know anything about me have probably figured out by now that I tend to think the troglodytish idea that men are the superior gender is not only regressively stupid but also violently damaging. I find hope in that so many of the boys and men around me — my students, my colleagues, my son — are feminists, but then I look farther than my own proverbial backyard and see the presidential campaign, and I get kind of sick all over again.
So today I present to you this prose-poem by Tria Wood entitled “instructions.” It sums up just a slice of the unfairness/double standard/misogyny/internet culture/daily life that is still, somehow, being perpetrated in our 21st-century western civilization. I wager quite a few of the women who grew up in the time and place I did will recall the barrage of emails we got in the 90s detailing the instructions artfully arranged here. And just so you’re aware, this piece contains some strong language. This prose-poem was first published in Rattle as part of the “Poets Respond” series; click here to learn more about its genesis.
Check your front porch for potential attackers before you open the door for any reason. Check your back yard for potential attackers before you open the door to let the dog out. Check your front porch for potential attackers before you open the door to go to your car. Lock and unlock all doors quickly before an attacker has a chance to get you while you’re facing the door. Check the path from your front door to your car for potential attackers before walking toward your car. Walk toward your car while checking the yard, your neighbors’ yards, and the street for potential attackers. As you walk, keep at least one key poked through your fist so that you can punch an attacker with it. Check under your car, around your car, and in your backseat for potential attackers before you get too close to it. Lock the car doors as soon as you get into your car. Park as close as possible to the office, the store, the gym so he’ll have less chance to attack. Park in a well-lit area so he’ll be less likely to attack. Park at the end of the driveway nearest the street so that he can’t block your car in. Park at the end of the driveway closest to your front door so that you can get from the car to a presumably safe space as quickly as possible. Set booby-traps at all doors and ground floor windows, even if you feel foolish doing so. Keep the porch lights on, front and back, at night so others can see if someone’s trying to get in. Hope they realize that the person trying to get in is not your husband, your date, your boyfriend, your gay friend, your brother, your father, your uncle, your cousin, your handyman, your landlord, or anyone else who might have a legitimate purpose for being there. Know that it could be, has been for others, a husband, a date, a boyfriend, a gay friend, a brother, a father, an uncle, a cousin, a handyman, a landlord, or anyone else who might seem to have had a legitimate purpose for being there. Take self-defense classes because you hope to be able to fight off any of the above, or anyone else. If anyone attacks you, yell “FIRE!” because people will come running to help put out a fire. Change your habits and paths frequently so that you become harder to track. Don’t take any drinks that haven’t been poured in your presence. Don’t ever stop looking at your drink. Scrutinize your wardrobe and second-guess the fact that you wear makeup. Scrutinize your last few Facebook posts, tweets, and email messages to see whether they could be construed to make you seem insane, prone to lying, or promiscuous. When someone arouses your suspicion, respond politely, lighten up, smile, realize it’s just a joke, get a sense of humor, who do you think you are you fucking bitch? You bitch, you ugly bitch, you fat ugly bitch cunt, you fat ugly bitch cunt who needs to be fucked, you fat ugly bitch cunt who needs a fat dick to shut her up, you bitch cunt so fat and ugly you can’t even get raped.
Tria Wood is a writer and educator whose poetry, short fiction, and essays appear in a variety of publications such as The Texas Poetry Calendar, The Mom Egg, Literary Mama, and Sugar House Review. In August 2012, she was the featured poet for the first annual Emerald Isle Writing Conference in Kodiak, Alaska, and in 2014, she was selected as a juried poet for the Houston Poetry Festival. She lives with her husband, her son, and their rescued miniature Schnauzer.