On March 8th, the Culture Desk at the New Yorker ran a piece about the Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience, a piece on the wardrobes of Sara Berman and Arabella Worsham on display at the MET, a piece on Mary and George Oppens, a piece about documentaries, a daily cartoon, a satirical piece about Trump and fascism ruining our Instagram aesthetics, a piece on the late L.A. artist Jason Rhoades, and The Life of an Instagram Poet. There are a lot of things to nitpick here like running an article about Game of Thrones with its repeated reliance on rape to propel the plots of its female characters, or the one piece specifically about women being about their famous wardrobes. What stuck with me, though, as a poet myself, was the last one: The Life of an Instagram Poet. Okay, I thought. This is okay. There are so many up and coming, empowering female poets these days and it’s refreshing to see them recognized. Even if it’s just one and she’s recognized for her Instagram following and it’s only happening because it’s on International Women’s Day and they had to fill a quota or something.
I was, as you have probably deduced on your own, incorrect to assume they’d run a piece on a woman.
Yes, you read that right. An editor at The New Yorker sat down and thought, “How can I best celebrate women today?” and decided on celebrating a man who’s built a career out of self described “feminist poetry.”
Look, don’t get me wrong, I love romanticizing men chasing emotionally vulnerable girls as much as the next person—or wait. Let me try that again. As a feminist, I love perpetuating the narrative that only women who behave a certain way are deserving of respect and that there’s only one way to be a real woman, because as we all know, those are definitely feminist, pro-women concepts. Concepts you want your daughter to read, right? Did I get that wrong again? I’m just so confused because I thought we were here to celebrate an amazing male feminist poet.
Remember ladies!!! Your worth is defined by your ability to be respectable, valuable, loving, strong, intelligent, and beautiful. You are apparently inherently none of these things simply by virtue of existing on this cursed planet and putting up with men who, under the guise of feminism, still think they can tell you what you need to be.
Hold on for a second here. I need a minute. I’m still thinking about “encouraging women to be valuable.” Let’s unpack that. Is it my fault, as a woman, if you don’t value me? Is it my job, as a woman, to encourage you to treat me like a person? Why do I have to be valuable anyway? Why are you equating women with money? Just going out on a limb here but maybe you don’t need to encourage women to be valuable and respectable. Maybe you need to sit down and consider why you don’t think women already are worth your respect. There’s a reason, when people talk about being an ally, that they talk about uplifting marginalized voices instead of using a platform to amplify your own voice. It’s because you say the wrong shit and you hurt people.
Maybe if you want to be an ally to women, you need to consider your own misogyny.
Maybe you need to teach other men about their behavior and point out injustice when you see it. Maybe you need to stop thinking it’s your right as a “woke man” to instill confidence in teenage girls. Women and girls believing their worth is defined by men is part of the problem. Dressing it up in poetry doesn’t make it a solution. If you want to help women, don’t patronize them and then pat yourself on the back for it. Male-centric feminism is just patriarchy calling themselves good men for not hating women.
Remember ladies!!! There’s no right way to be a woman. Or a man or a non-gender conforming person, for that matter. There’s no right way to exist. You are not defined by your beauty or your capacity for love. Ugly girls, I’m here for you. Angry girls, I’m here for you. You are inherently valuable and worthy of respect. There’s nothing you were meant to be other than what you are.
But if you do need a little encouragement, here are five inspiring female poets the New Yorker could have interviewed for International Women’s Day.
1. RUPI KAUR
2. WARSAN SHIRE
4. LANG LEAV
This is all I want to leave you with: pay attention to the media you’re consuming; be critical of what your favorite artists are saying with their work and on their social media; remember that your experiences and your stories are valid and worth telling yourself; and be wary, just like in general. Everyone’s out here living to try your patience.