Who will believe thee, Isabel?
My unsoil’d name, the austereness of my life,
My vouch against you, and my place i’ the state,
Will so your accusation overweigh,
That you shall stifle in your own report
And smell of calumny. […]
As for you,
Say what you can, my false o’erweighs your true.
—Measure for Measure
“A story like this is a password. Once you say it out loud, doors start to open,” wrote Toronto poet Emma Healey recently, on telling her friends about her experiences with a predatory male professor.
I heard stories from other students, other friends, people in the same literary community as me. A few of them were about this person, but most were about other men across the country in the same loose network – writers, editors, teachers. I heard about rapes and assaults. I heard about violations of trust and instances of gaslighting. I heard about men who had threatened women with legal action to stop them from talking about what had happened between them.
Without exception, every single one of these men is still working—writing, publishing, editing, teaching—today.
In her recent Globe and Mail piece, fellow writer Stacey May Fowles explains,
These conversations are not new. It’s just that we’re finally having them out in the open. While some of these predators have been operating for years without public acknowledgment or punishment, there has long been a shared back channel amongst women in Canadian literature – coded warnings relayed privately, chatter about who can be trusted and who is safe to be around.
She continues: “Is there something so broken in our literary culture that it encourages, sanctions and protects this kind of behaviour?” Continue reading