I have written about transgressive and subversive writing before. Pardon me while I quote myself from last year:
Essentially, I want my transgression to work harder. Go deeper.
Recently the issue of transgressive writing, censorship, and the like have been popping up in lit land. This time around we have two separate events that both prove my problem with how the idea of transgressive or subversive literature functions in the lit world right now.
I just heaved the biggest sigh.
I have done a lot of reading around the internet lately and a lot of what is being billed as being so transgressive and subversive is just not.
Exhibiting abusive and gross behavior under the guise of “subversion” is not something new, it is not brave, it is not unexpected nor is it clever. More so if this is done in a manner that is traumatic to women and/or a cover for figurative dick swinging sexual harassment.
SO yes, let me say that publishing lists of authors you want to bone is not really that original, it’s not subverting the dominant anything.
More so if part of the schtick is anonymity.
Being anonymous and putting on the face of the dominant voice in literature is not transgressive to me at all. It is playing dress up. It is playing with the position of privilege in a very useless manner.
Literature regardless of what niche genre we’re talking about, is rife with sexism and racism. That is the status quo. That is how it is operated and frequently that is the position criticisms of new forms or language comes from.
Giving primacy to the general white cis male heterosexual is the baseline. Regardless of even the content of the work is a reflection of how things are and have been in Western Literature since forever.
You don’t get cookies for doing the same shit everyone else is doing. You can dress it up in punk rock words and Anonymous yammering but it is still the same goddamn thing.
Can we stop bullshitting each other about that?
Let’s be honest. Do what you wanna do, but stop bullshitting.
The bullshitting is my other problem. Over the past few years I’ve seen some niche lit things gas themselves up so hard as being special.
However, if we peel the initial layers away we see a lot of the same stuff.
The men are front and center. Many behave reprehensibly as we’ve seen repeatedly. The women are often young and attractive, lots of the dudes like to talk about having had them or going to have them or having them then publishing them.
This is followed by women coming forward to say this is some bullshit, this happened to me, I don’t like this, stop this.
Men cry that they are being portrayed badly, they want cookies for not being rapists or behaving semi decently.
Lit scene implosion.
More women talk about what is wrong with how these things go down, shit gets gross.
Now these scenes are often lauded as being different and transgressive and new.
Ask any of the women who have been involved with these incidences as victims or people who’ve stood up and we’ll let you know this is not different, transgressive or new.
This is the same pile of shit wrapped in a new box.
I feel like the whole idea of doing something subversive in the lit world has turned into twee LOOK AT HOW TRANSGRESSIVE I AM, I AM WRITIN ABOUT RAPIN BITCHES OMG LOOK AT ME WTF BBQ!!
The problem isn’t that this type of subversive light literature exists. It can exist, people can write and read whatever the fuck they want.
The problem is that this seems to be among the main modes of subversive literary expression and it’s sad.
As I pointed out in my Open Letter to the Paris Review, when you have a chance take it.
Being actually subversive or transgressive when you are participating in literature happens. If you are a Person of Color, a woman, queer, etc. you are already halfway there.
The other part is that more editors need to use their editorial discretion to go beyond Transgression 101 White Dudes talking shit.
It means you might have to contend with the kind of thing a lot of us marginalized folks deal with on the daily.
It is 2015.
Go the fuck in.
And I don’t mean in the smarmy “Unpopular opinion” type of Liberal nonsense.
Publish the Other voices.
Publish and promote work that is outside of your general literary sphere. Be brave.
Get and stay uncomfortable.
If more of the gatekeepers of generally traditional publishers and indies and the supposedly subversive want to actually demonstrate any kind of commitment to this sort of thing, you have to be uncomfortable. You have to understand that if you’re squirming because the story isn’t the type of story you know, you’re going in the right direction.
And can we move beyond body horror being only equal to EW fat people EW VAGINA, EW BARF. I think we can do better.
If we can step away from using White Dudes Write The Thing as our only barometer of what is and isn’t good or what is or isn’t transgressive it would go a long way.
If more editors could stop with the idea that because they’ve made bad decisions they are gonna get blow back from us non editor peons that’d be great.
Get at that depth of meaning that pokes holes in the Western Literary Canon and it’s bastard kids.
Go the fuck in.
Stop coming at people sideways when you’ve done something not awesome.
Come on y’all.