Over the past few years, reports of sexual misconduct/abuse have increasingly permeated conversations about and within creative writing departments. Much of the discussion indicates that the problem of male privilege and abuses of power pervades most Canadian writing communities. In particular, it was the comment “WHERE ARE THE MEN ON THIS?” that mobilized the three of us—Rob Budde, Phinder Dulai, and kevin mcpherson eckhoff—into considering our silences and our potential decibels. As a first-step, we have drafted the following statement in consultation with both CWILA and the CCWWP equity committee. The statement’s purpose is to articulate our values, guide our actions, replace our silence with a clear consensus driven voice that fosters solidarity, and encourage accountability. We invite writers who identify with its tenets to add their names.
A Statement Against the Culture of Male Privilege and Abuse of Power in Canadian Creative Writing Programs
We are men, people with male privilege, and people who male-identify, and we write this letter in collaboration with CWILA and CCWWP. We stand against violence against women. We write this letter in public support of women who have endured and continue to endure abuse, discrimination, or silencing by creative writing communities within post-secondary institutions. It is our contention that male inaction and silence is complicity. This letter is not the center of a conversation, just one element of the conversation that has been silent/absent. The majority of cases of sexual assault, rape, and sexual harassment are against women, people who female-identify, and femme-presenting individuals. We also contend that silence and inaction around this abuse is created and enforced by a culture of male privilege in these communities.
It is clear that these institutional environments create and maintain gendered hierarchies; they lack the will to question and act against these destructive power dynamics and those individuals abusing their power. Nuanced forms of gender inequity inform these behaviours: intimidation, exclusion, gender shaming, pay inequity, the ‘glass ceiling’, uninvited attention, and sexist classroom dynamics. Such behaviours may seem subtle, isolated, or unintentional, but can accumulate to create a harmful culture of exploitation and abuse and need to be addressed directly and thoroughly.
Furthermore, there exists interrelated discriminations against trans women, queer women, genderqueer and non-conforming folks, disabled women, Indigenous women, and women of colour, and the intersections among these categories must be addressed institutionally. Gender discrimination and violence is often intersectional and ‘male privilege’, in this document, includes ‘white hetero cis male privilege’ and a host of other markers of entitlement that relates closely to ‘male privilege’.
As well, we argue that the systemic nature of predatory behavior has a long history within post-secondary literary communities. We ask that men, people with male privilege, and male-identifying people in creative writing institutions, like ourselves, consider their complicity in the ongoing cycle of sexual discrimination and violence.
With these premises in mind, we support those who have endured and endure systemic misogyny and gender-based violence in the following ways:
- – we believe survivors and encourage them to tell their stories with as little resistance as possible, and will denounce any acts of victim-blaming.
- – we challenge institutions that support and have supported known abusers (including universities, residencies, journals, fellowships, and conferences) to develop concrete policies to create a safe environment for women.
- – we hold ourselves accountable and we will work to address male privilege within our own practice and spheres of influence.
- – we call for gender sensitivity and equity training and clear statements of codes of conduct surrounding sexual abuse in creative writing programs and institutions.
We hope that this statement will help to create real cultural change for the health and safety of all, to affirm principles of equity, responsibility, and care.
If you would like to add your name, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “statement.”