December 13th, 2013 / 12:24 am
Word Spaces

OPEN LETTER TO HTMLGIANT: THE SEXISM STOPS HERE

zelda

I think everyone has an Internet feud they will never forget. Here’s mine: in January 2010, Jimmy Chen wrote a post for your site (that has since been removed) in which he showed a photograph of Zelda Fitzgerald and “complimented” her cute rolls of back fat. In the comments section, I called out the sexist move of reducing a female writer to the shape of her body, and was immediately dismissed with a “fuck you” and someone asking why I had a sexy picture of myself on my own blog.

And on my blog, Chen told me my life would be easier because my face looks like this.

In an open letter apology (that has also since been taken down), he wrote, in his defense:

“Leah [sic] Stein has a ‘right’ to post a sexy picture of her, and I have a ‘right’ to think her life will be easier because of her beauty than an ugly woman’s which is why she [sub]consciously posted it.”

There is nothing easy about the life of a writer with the face of a woman, especially when men get to tell you what you’re allowed to do with your face. Which brings me to yesterday’s post by Garett Strickland, about how Kate Zambreno humiliated him when she unfriended him on Facebook, taking away his ability “to participate in a conversation I’ve got as much right to as any other human being, regardless of the seemingness of my being white or male.”

Note that both Chen and Strickland are eager to point out their “right” to write whatever hateful, sexist, ignorant thoughts cross their minds, even in the personal spheres that female writers are often forced to create out of necessity for their own safety (Chen was commenting on my blog; Strickland was writing on Kate’s own Facebook page).

In retaliation for his hurt feelings, Strickland goes on to unleash what I can most accurately call a sloppy prose poem about sexual inadequacy, which ultimately turns Zambreno into a doll, “Made by Men,” who arrives in a box. When he pulls the string, she delivers “reactionary polemic” that Strickland can’t understand due to “personal deficiencies.”

Here’s the most significant thing Strickland doesn’t understand, the worst of his personal deficiencies: he doesn’t realize that by objectifying Zambreno and turning her into a doll, he is being aggressively chauvinist. He isn’t participating in a conversation he has a “right” to. Notably, in order to have a conversation, he has had to create a doll who can only spew pre-recorded messages, who can’t actually talk back.

To Chen and Strickland, I would ask: have you ever been reduced to a body and a face? Have you ever felt afraid for your safety because of your body? Has anyone ever trivialized your work because of your gender?

In the summer of 2011, I met with a team of Random House sales reps who would be responsible for bringing my novel and poetry collection to bookstores and libraries around the country. One asked me what kind of cover image I wanted for my novel.

“I only know I don’t want a headless woman on the cover,” I said. “I don’t want my book cover to exclude men from picking it up.”

“Do you really think a man would read your work?”

“Well, a lot of men like my poetry,” I said.

“Only because you’re cute,” I was told. By my editor.

I didn’t know what to say. I like to think that out of the 37 people in the world who read poetry, the men who read mine are finding some merit there, and not just jacking off to my author photo.

Chen has described Zambreno as “a feminist who hosts an irrational hatred of me due to not being able to perceive my misogyny ironically,” but what’s truly ironic in all this is that Zambreno has written an entire book about women who were written off, robbed, and institutionalized for/because of their creative talent, while their husbands and lovers were celebrated. I read Heroines with my jaw hanging open in recognition, especially when I got to page 140. She describes Chen’s Zelda post and the feuding in the comments section:

The snarky dismissal. I answer back with vitriol. It becomes heated, ugly. Personal. Slurs of a sexual nature slung in the comments section, mostly by a chauvinistic supporter of Chen’s. A way to bully, which is to humiliate, to silence, to make a woman smaller whose behavior is seen as outsized. (Won’t she fucking shut up?)

As writers, we know words carry power. I challenge HTMLGIANT contributors to use their power to make this site the weird-ass literary carnival it is at its best, without using discriminatory, sexist, hate speech that objectifies, humiliates, and infuriates their female readership. To quote the Urban Dictionary, please check yourself before you wreck yourself:

Take a step back and examine your actions, because you are in a potentially dangerous or sticky situation that could get bad very easily.

Sincerely,

Leigh Stein

***

Leigh Stein is the author of the novel The Fallback Plan and a book of poems, Dispatch from the Future.

Tags: ,

86 Comments

  1. jereme_dean

      I see you spent a lot of time writing/editing this piece. Seems legit.

  2. Peter Jurmu

      Well said.

  3. Garett Strickland

      WHY DO YOU HATE MEN ????

  4. Garett Strickland

      lol jk

  5. jereme_dean

      Also, big big ups to Roxane Gay for condemning Garrett’s personal attack on Kate while publishing a personal attack on Jimmy regarding an incident that happened four fucking years ago, one he’s apologized over and over about, one Leigh “I’m important damnit!” Stein can’t seem to get over, because–like Garrett–her ego got butthurt.

  6. reynard seifert

      i published this

  7. jereme_dean

      I stand corrected. Big ups, Reynard!

  8. Josh Goodchild

      Thanks for the perspective, sometimes it is non-obvious to me.

  9. lorian long

      it’s stuff like this that infuriates me, as a ‘female reader.’ plz stop. or try to write something as good as a jimmy chen post.

  10. Poires Poires

      ” There is nothing easy about the life of a writer with the face of a woman”.

      The awkwardness of this statement is astounding, truly. Why not just write, “There is nothing easy about being a female writer”.The whole face aspect of this piece is perplexing me–it seems terribly tangential to the Strickland/Zambreno issue, and more in the service of inviting readers to google the allegedly cute Leigh Stein pics.

      Strickland’s post absolutely warrants a critical response (and by critical, I don’t mean criticizing), but this is not it.

  11. Mark Cugini

      Thanks, Leigh. Challenge accepted.

  12. mimi

      your random house/editor story is way more disturbing than anything i’ve ever read by jimmy chen

      did you fire your editor? (i hope!)
      did you leave random house?

      you can’t just talk the talk, you gotta walk the walk

      ps – ‘sticky situation” LOL

  13. deadgod

      I’m an object, as well as a subject.

      I don’t think you can imagine that I’m a subject as convincingly to you as you understand concretely that I’m an object.

      If you think you do, it’s possible you’re right, but I don’t trust that you’re not in the grip of a sentimental hysteria.

      I don’t think most people are as empathetic as they think they are; generally, I don’t trust my subjectivity with you, much.

      In dozens of states, there’s legislative action pending or laws recently enacted to force rape victims to stay pregnant.

      I think compulsory incubation is a tactic in the war on women, and the war on women is part of a war on ‘life’.

      I want life.

      I want life as an object as well as as a subject; I think that that complexity is what’s on offer.

      Radical transformation, so that treating others as ends in themselves becomes normal? A noble aspiration. Waging the war on the war on women seems to me to go some way in that direction; I’m in.

      I’ll take care, mostly, of being a subject, including taking responsibility for treating others as subjects as well as objects; that care is what I want, also, from you.

      I think judging people based on what you can tell of the care they exhibit towards others and responsibility they take for others’ experience of them is fair.

      But judgement is limited to and by perspective.

      Taking that limitation on board is a challenge.

  14. Mike Lala

      fuck yeah leigh.

  15. Christopher Higgs

      While I am an advocate for free speech, dissent, and general disobedience, Strickland’s post unsettled me by the way it treated a writer whose work I greatly admire and because I think perpetuating chauvinistic attitudes toward women damages the relationship the site has with the writing community at large and as you note especially many of the female readership.

      Having been a contributor here for nearly five years, I have witnessed many ups and downs, many disputes. And I have quietly anguished over many disparaging remarks floating around the internet and in face to face conversations referring to this site and its contributors as though we were a homogeneous group. (Things like, “Oh, that’s htmlgiant for you, they’re all a bunch of misogynist assholes” etc.) Many, many times I have found myself thinking, “I have to say something about such and such a post by such and such a contributor because if I don’t then it will seem as though I am complicit with it.” But then inevitably I talk myself out of any engagement whatsoever because the fear of making myself vulnerable trumps my impulse to speak up. Without hesitation I admit I’m embarrassed of my silences in these matters. I know I could do more to foster an environment that cultivates an appreciation and respect for marginalized voices. I know I could be more vocal about how proudly I self-identify as a feminist or as an ally to the feminist cause (as problematic as that label may be), because I believe such affiliation is a necessary condition for a more equitable society.

      All of this to say, I commend you for this response, Leigh, and want to cosign my solidarity with your call for contributors to “use their power to make this site the weird-ass literary carnival it is at its best, without using discriminatory, sexist, hate speech that objectifies, humiliates, and infuriates their female readership.”

  16. deadgod

      Leigh, I agree with mimi: your ‘editor’ might’ve thought she or he was giving you some real talk, man, but, especially in front of marketing foax, that exchange sounds stupid-ugly. You must be able to get much abler collaboration on your writing.

      I’ve read Jimmy Chen here for maybe three years. If I read him on Zelda’s “back fat” – which I think was before I started reading blogicles at this site – , I’d take it as absurdist satire, somewhat at his own expense.

      (I recently responded to some sickeningly saccharine Mandela remembrance (at The Guardian) by attributing a hideous but, I think, hilarious Shoah joke to him. Except for me, people are fucking weird.)

      Nobody has a ‘right’ to force you to accept their sense of humor. Standing on that privilege isn’t always rational.

      I think Strickland is right about there being reactionary feminism. Dogmatists who suck their cheeks and roll their eyes and sigh in furious self-congratulation: ew.

      But I think his tale of Zambreno hatching Francolings was close to the opposite of constructively conversational. I’m sure I don’t have any personal experience of this kind of misjudgment, if that’s what Garret did.

      Why not write the frustration of wanting to talk to someone who you suspect is Nobody There To Talk To without yielding to rage at that person? Probably, don’t ask me.

      Putting people in their place is a low, sometimes irresistible ambition.

      I check myself; I don’t think it’s slowing wrecking myself much.

  17. jeb

      Why do so many people have such an infantile sense or their rights?

      We all have the right to believe what we want and to say what we believe. That right does not obligate others to listen, agree, withhold criticism or provide us with a forum.

      “The notion of feeling obliged to ask permission to express an opinion, no matter who or what you are, is humiliating.”

      Oppression! Swing low, sweet LOL.

      #blocked

  18. Erik Stinson

      can you expand on what is infuriating about it?

  19. Erik Stinson

      imagined this read aloud in a neutral computer voice, seemed cool

  20. lorian long

      i lifted ‘infuriated’ from stein’s quote: ‘As writers, we know words carry power. I challenge HTMLGIANT contributors to use their power to make this site the weird-ass literary carnival it is at its best, without using discriminatory, sexist, hate speech that objectifies, humiliates, and infuriates their female readership.’

  21. lorian long

      but, specifically, it’s bad writing and it makes me embarrassed to be a woman.

  22. di4n4

      Leigh, thank you. I have been generally boycotting HTMLGIANT since the “dressing up” series (which people only decided was fucked up once there was a “Dressing Up Anne Frank”). This title made me read, though.

      If someone were spouting off blatantly racist shit people would in up in arms, but men here are engaging in open misogyny and no one bats a fucking eye. Well, some people do, and are shot down/attacked.

      The comments responding to this are fucking depressing, and don’t give me much hope.

  23. deadgod

      ha ha ha, chill biz bro

      how did you imagine Higgs’s tactical abjection read aloud

  24. Brett

      Ms. Stein’s writing style is irrelevant. We’re not reviewing a goddamn essay. That’s a simple (albeit effective) attack to ignore the substance of the piece, which clearly stands. Women’s voices are marginalized throughout culture, and that’s true at HTMLGIANT. I mean, is that really a question? Look at the comments. Mr. Strickland’s comment was so hilarious, wasn’t it? He might as well have yelled, “Shut up, hussy!”

      And that is the crux of the issue, really: Mr. Strickland, you spoke and a woman de-friended you–a type of speech–and you didn’t like it. Mr. Strickland, why exactly do you think women should have to listen to your opinion? They don’t, of course, especially on their own turf (albeit digital turf in this case).

      Now I can certainly understand that you’d think it’s humiliating, but it’s not humiliating because you didn’t get to talk. After all, humiliation is rooted in power. You were humiliated because you were powerless, if only for a few minutes. If you understand that, I imagine (I’m a white dude) you’re getting closer to understanding what many female authors, Ms. Stein included, are talking about and experience far more often.

      That’s probably what you’re really mad about: In the end, it’s not your call. Your input is not needed, but thanks for playing.

  25. Erik Stinson

      oh

  26. john mortara

      ★★★★★

  27. kelley

      Does anyone know the difference between an opinion piece and a critical essay? Obviously, Leigh Stein is passionately disturbed by her experience with the above mentioned male writers. She also writes poetry and the dramatic feeling is clear in this piece. Sometimes words represent feelings and feelings are not typically linear. I too found parts of this opinion piece confusing, mostly because I don’t know the people she’s talking about and she writes assuming I do, but that is not the point. To me, her point is clear in the deconstruction of her prose, the fact she didn’t edit this to create a “scholarly sounding essay” is the point and her unbridled emotion is left raw.

      Meaning, for all you emotionally devoid drones out there, formality is disregarded to emphasize the emotional impact of being marginalized. Chen’s writing evoked this emotion and we have to wonder if this was his intent. Of course, one could say success is getting any emotional reaction but Chen would have to consider if this is the kind of reaction he wants. Is it his goal to reinforce patriachrical stereotypes? Reinforce gender dominance? Reduce women because he wants to fuck them and not read literature by them? If it’s his intention to make some writers feel less-than based on their psychical appearance and gender then he is useless and we need to cast him aside and more on to someone who deserves our attention. If his only decree is to patronize and reduce and “cyber stalk” then he is far more similar to a playground bully than a writer who could have significance.

      Of course, I should read some of his work…but you know, I’m not too inspired to. Chen, whoever he is, seems like a fraud of a man I imagine lives in his mother’s basement and jerks off to cheesy porno. I’d rather read words by someone who is passionate and brave enough to give something to this shark tank of a site than a coward who hide behind forms they didn’t create to achieve what they have been brainwashed to believe is brilliance, never realizing its superficiality.

      p.s. Was I suppost to edit this comment the same way I would anything else? Perhaps I’d be inspired towards perfectionism if I hadn’t read the comments below that seem to be written by third grade know-it-alls.

  28. disqus_B62jJEdlXn

      “If it’s his intention to make some writers feel less-than based on their psychical [sic] appearance and gender then he is useless and we need to cast him aside and more on to someone who deserves our attention”

      “Chen, whoever he is, seems like a fraud of a man I imagine lives in his mother’s basement and jerks off to cheesy porno”

      So the answer is to make him “feel less-than” and to attack his masculinity in the most base and immature way huh

  29. truemoboy

      Why? You haven’t answered the question. Are you a self-loathing apologist?

  30. BestPizzaInBushwick

      whassup stinson good to see you last night

      i did not expect to see you here

      peace,

      zachary

  31. mimi

      she did answer the question – stinson asked her to expand, she did;

      maybe she’ll give you the same courtesy, and elaborate further

      and i’m hoping that ms. stein answers MY questions

  32. Earl Stamper

      I AM ZELDA FITZGERALD

  33. Leigh Stein

      No, I didn’t fire my editor or leave my publisher. After my agent sent out my novel for a year and I finally found a publisher, walking away would have been career suicide, and the sacrifice of a dream I’d spent years building.

  34. Leigh Stein

      Thank you, Brett. I laughed out loud when someone criticized the syntax of one of my sentences, thereby totally (and conveniently) ignoring the content of my letter.

  35. Leigh Stein

      This is very funny to me because I read your original comment as sarcasm. I’d love to hear what you consider “bad writing” and what embarrassed you.

  36. Brett

      No problem.

  37. mimi

      so, you’re willing to tolerate sexism for the sake of your career – – – – but not at HoTMaLeGiant – – – why?

  38. Reb Livingston

      Is that a serious question? Would any woman have a job or a degree or be published if she walked out every time she faced sexism? It’s rampant. That doesn’t make sexism tolerable — it’s doesn’t mean if you kept quiet in one instance, you have to forever keep quiet.

  39. mimi

      yes it was a serious question

      i’m not suggesting she “walk out”

      and believe me, i’ve experienced it myself

      but i hope at least she gave her editor a piece of her mind

      at least as much as she did us, here

  40. Reb Livingston

      ???!!!??? If you’ve experienced sexism, which I’m sure you have, why are you asking these questions like you don’t know the answer? The editor had power over Leigh’s book and career — and judging by what Leigh wrote above, she didn’t have the luxury of jeopardizing her book deal and alienating the editor. Her two books may never had come out. Which is fucked up–and nobody should ever be in that position, but it’s a regular position women are put in. Sometimes, in some circumstances, it’s more harmful for a woman to speak up. You can recognize that different situations have different things at stake, right?

      If a woman doesn’t always respond to sexism like she’s an invincible super-hero, does that mean she deserves what she gets? Does that give the person committing the sexism a pass? There have been times I’ve been very vocal and assertive when dealing with sexism and just as many times where I’ve remained quiet because I couldn’t risk something (grades/my degree, job security, my physical safety, etc), or I was just too fatigued to effectively respond to it.

  41. mimi

      ???!!! ???
      “luxury” should not be the issue

      of course stein didn’t deserve what she “got” from her editor – Especially from her editor, who, ostensibly, should be on her side

      the person committing the sexism isn’t Given a pass – but the person committing the sexism is certainly Taking a pass – find the cajones to call them on it, sistah – if they’re worth their muster, then hopefully they’ll change to a better way

      sorry you haven’t always been able to Risk

      sorry you’ve at times been fatigued

      and i was sincerely interested in stein’s editor/publisher story and her response(s)

      fight, fight the power

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wO2ebiuV3hU

  42. deadgod

      What’s “serious” about mimi’s question is that “different situations hav[ing] different things at stake” is exactly what she’s raising.

  43. Reb Livingston

      Ok, sincere question to you. Do you always “fight the power”? Consistently? In every situation, no matter what the varying consequences may be? Do you treat a situation where the risk is that you might lose your livelihood or risk your physical safety the same as a situation where you risk being unpopular or mocked? Are these all the same pair of “cajones”?

      Do you not chose your battles?

  44. Reb Livingston

      Maybe I misunderstood Mimi’s question. I didn’t read it as her raising the point, but more like trying to compare two different situations as having equal consequences. Sort of like “hey, if you’re gonna ride a bicycle, why not jump out of a plane.”

  45. deadgod

      The books having come out, Stein has now publicly told this story about the marketing department and her editor. Sort of like jumping out of a plane with a parachute.

      The story is upsetting: somebody who’s supposed to have your back–your editor–makes a joke (?) in front of new collaborators–your sales team–at the expense of your being taken seriously by them.

      At least, that’s how I read the exchange between “One asked me […].” and “I didn’t know what to say.” The reader – this reader – is moved by the weird unfairness at work.

      mimi’s not asking why Stein didn’t smite the dragon, lo! She’s asking if Stein, who’s entitled to go after Chen and Strickland–mutual context for the sexism-in-publishing tale–, felt similarly entitled to protect herself from her editor’s callousness.

      Yes, it’s not hypocrisy, exactly, if someone swallows their righteousness for material and professional survival. Vanishingly few people are privileged enough never to have done so.

      But some people doubt that Jimmy Chen is a destroyer of women, and might wonder if indignant implications so, by way of comparison to this nastily sexist dilemma, are as unreasonable as insisting that a bicyclist jump out of a plane.

  46. mimi

      “Do you always “fight the power”? … no matter what…etc etc etc…”

      i try vey hard to…. be consistent with ‘who i am’ and ‘what i believe in and hold near and dear’ – and the more strongly i feel about something, and the more ‘important’ or ‘significant’ the situation, the more i am willing to stand up and ‘fight the powers’

      now, i am not a young writer trying to get published by random house, nor do i aspire to be, but i do get up and speak out frequently for the marginalized populations i work with daily in oakland and richmond, ca – does my voice sometimes shake? sure – but less and less every time i speak up

      i don’t really worry about being unpopular or mocked (in fact i can appreciate intelligent, humorous ‘mockery’), so i suppose i’d perhaps not ‘fight’ at all – perhaps that’s a ‘different pair of cajones’

      i’ll admit that my question “did you fire you editor?” was a bit obtuse (the “(i hope!)” was meant to be ‘on stein’s side’, tho!) – i could have more mildly and dispassionately asked “did you have a heart-to-heart with your editor about calling you ‘cute’?” but that’s not really my style

  47. Reb Livingston

      Ok. I read Mimi’s comments as trying to point out a perceived hypocrisy.

      I don’t know if anyone has accused Jimmy Chen of being a “destroyer of women,” I’m not sure if anyone believes that. I don’t. But he has written essays that are part of the HTMLGIANT history of sexism towards women writers. Something the Strickland post continues. Their words are being called out. Maybe Jimmy’s is more in the past and maybe he’s become more aware. I don’t know. I haven’t kept up. There’s a lot to keep up with.

  48. Reb Livingston

      Fair enough. Perhaps some of the other comments by others here skewed my reading of yours.

  49. M. Ratcha

      Thank you, Reb. Nicely put. Sometimes you cannot fight or are too unprepared to deal with the endless streams of sexism and violence. Sometimes you go into shock. Sometimes you’re in full possession of your faculties and you decide to put up with this evil crap so you can live your life, get your book published, keep your kid safe, whatever is important to you.

      Some examples from my life: a perv dude was wanking off watching me and my child at the beach one time; I didn’t run after him. A different time, same problem, same beach (and no I don’t go there any more)… this time I had no child with me and tried to run the guy down (I did at least get his photo and posted it online).

      One time, a drunk guy assaulted me on the street and I pulled a switchblade on him. Another time, a guy and I were both high and when he raped me I didn’t kick him in the balls and do a Ninja kick to his face. I just laid there with my arms pinned down and got raped. I was scared for my physical fate… and yes, there is a relationship between being physically and/or sexually attacked/threatened, and being attacked/threatened in one’s career, social life, everyday transactions. Sometimes we can’t be ninjas on it.

  50. M. Ratcha

      For years I resisted the idea of “privilege” in my racial standing, the uneasy sensation that because I was white I was somehow wrong and bad, that I would be lumped in with a group of people and blamed for all kinds of horrible stuff. I’ve never said racist stuff, and my ancestors were having their mostly-white selves colonized like crazy a couple hundred years ago, not buying slaves. So why was I supposed to go around walking on eggshells and being aware and feeling defensive?

      Sometimes I feel like my male colleagues and friends have a similar attitude toward issues around sexism. For me, coming to terms with race issues meant admitting that yeah, in some ways I have an advantage just because I’m white, and importantly, that this advantage, this privilege, doesn’t make me a bad person. Acknowledging that it exists, and learning more about it, were first steps in dealing with it.

      One day, someone explained privilege to me kind of like this: you can only get righteously indignant about your rights if you already have enough privilege to believe your voice will and should be heard. If you’ve been systematically ignored, subtly pushed aside, passed over, or deliberately shut down your whole life, it is harder to stand up for yourself when surrounded by people who happen to occupy a more privileged spot than yours. That’s why a nice white person like me can be shocked to experience aggressive, frightening “reverse racism” if I’m the only white woman on the bus in Oakland. That’s why guys can get so up at arms if they find themselves in one of the very, very few important situations where it’s disadvantageous to be male; I’m not talking about being the only guy at a table of gals discussing penis size, I mean finding yourself discriminated against in a custody case solely because you’re male.

      And that sense of wounded privilege is why some dudes feel all huffy and pissy when a woman posts about her experiences of sexist behavior and sexist speech. They are unaccustomed to being called out, shut down, or pushed to the side, at least to the degree that women are. So they pound their chests.

      And let’s be realistic: some of them have sad, obvious Mommy Issues. I am acquainted with one of the men brought to task in this Open Letter. My impression is that he’s simply fucked up and immature in some ways. Freud would have a ball with him (so to speak). I’ve seen him do it in professional situations and heard him talk about women in ridiculous ways. It comes off as weird and pathetic in person. People are more likely to shake their heads and say, “Poor guy, what’s his problem?” in real life than to take him to task. Just thought I’d throw that in there.

  51. Reb Livingston

      I wish I could say that I was surprised to hear about your experiences, but sadly, I’m not. Some of them I experienced myself and I know women who went through all of them. I think it’s hard for some to understand or emphasize what it’s like to regularly endure that. What struck me most about your comment is that you felt the need to assert that you no longer go to that beach. I understand why you wrote that, because it’s too common for for someone to say, “why did you go there again?” and put the blame right on you, instead of being outraged at those disgusting crimes committed by those men.

      When I come across comments along the lines of “why didn’t you . . .” — it triggers a gut reaction for me, makes me angry that the focus is being shifted from what needs to be addressed. Maybe it wasn’t intended that way in this case. Which is a relief.

  52. gena

      what would happen if one female were to call another female a “cunt”? lol.

  53. jereme_dean

      And cherry picking easy battles has what merit, exactly?

      Like, if you’re not going to fight for the big shit, then you’re bullshit. Come on.

      Leigh made a value judgment that her writing/career was way more important than fighting for a principle.

      That’s her decision. No big deal.

      But…

      She then attacks Jimmy Chen, four fucking years later–after the guy has apologized a thousand fucking times–in a public forum, championing the principle she herself devalued when it suited her.

      She’s no better than Garrett, both are attacking another human being out of a sense of hurt ego.

      Go beyond your genitals and look at it objectively.

      For fuck’s sake.

  54. julwa

      Thank you. You are awesome. Screw the haters.

  55. mimi

      not sure the statement “Screw the haters.” advances any causes other than screwing and hating

  56. Reb Livingston

      How is Leigh “attacking” Jimmy? Is she not simply recounting events? Is she objectifying Jimmy? Is she insulting him? Is she inventing disturbing scenarios as a means to try humiliate him? I remember the backfat article (which I don’t think was the only article that suffered from sexism written by Jimmy that appeared here), I didn’t follow every step after that and if Jimmy did apologize, in a way that didn’t interject Leigh’s “beauty” into the discussion, then that’s great and good for him.

      But yes, let’s be objective for once. Very novel idea. None of the things happened because the writers were women. The comments about their physical bodies and “sexiness” have nothing to do with their being women. It’s all in their heads. Men regularly deal with these same exact issues all the time. It’s all the same. Which women would realize if they spent one second not thinking about genitals. Because it’s just that simple, all this hullaboo is about genitals! Not the specific ways women writers are being criticized and discussed–ways that systematically dismiss and devalue women and their work.

      For fuck’s sake indeed.

  57. villanelle.org » Crimes against women

      […] truth. Esme calls out for radical sincerity. Kate is attacked by a man on a popular lit blog, Leigh defends her, in […]

  58. Leigh Stein

      Twice you’ve written that I’m “attacking” Jimmy. As Reb says, how? All I’ve done is recount events and quote him in his own words, in the context of a larger attack against sexism on this website.

      The only apology I’m aware of is one that appeared on a blog that has since been removed *that I quote in my letter* about my right to post sexy pictures of myself. Jimmy’s never apologized to me.

  59. Leigh Stein

      That’s great that you speak up, Mimi, but your original question (did I fire my editor) seemed pretty naive. As you know, women meet sexist challenges on a daily basis, and must choose how and when to fight back. Accusing me of choosing the “easy” battle of writing this letter to HTMLGiant instead of confronting the editor mentioned in my story is just another tactic to distract from the content of my letter, and my call to HTMLGiant contributors to do better.

  60. jereme_dean

      I like how you think Leigh was just, like, skipping in a field of posies, contemplating the latest YAZ commercial, when big bad sexist Jimmy Chen came along and marginalized her being or something.

      You’re right, though, she was subjectively recounting events.

      Jimmy wrote an essay about Zelda. Leigh attacked him for it. Jimmy attacked back.

      That’s what really happened. It has nothing much to do with gender, really.

      I mean, it sort of does, but not really.

      Jimmy Chen has every right to write a fucking essay about precious Zelda and her back fat.

      Roxane Gay has the same right to write a fucking essay about race/gender every god damn week.

      Both are trying to convey a certain idea, not attack a specific person out of ego.

      If people don’t like that, then don’t read what they write.

      Now, in regards to Garrett’s article, I think it was a really drawn out mono-dimensional attack against Kate. Guessing there’s additional back story of hostilities between the two which isn’t being honestly conveyed. Whatever.

      I completely understand why people feel that what Garrett did is inexcusable. I get that.

      What Garrett wrote has nothing to do with the Zelda piece though.

      Including the two is Leigh lashing out at Chen. She obviously feels, for whatever reason, that he wasn’t punished enough in the past..

      Anyways, the facts: Jimmy said a comely woman’s life would be easier than an ugly woman’s, not “a comely woman has an easy life.” Saying a woman is comely is not sexist. Men who are comely have a much easier life than ugly men too.

      But since Jimmy didn’t make the tacit patent, he’s being perceived as sexist.

      Eh..

      Garrett posts some spiteful, egotistical attack on Kate and Leigh’s response is to somehow include an event from four years ago, one that Jimmy Chen apologized for, and is no way similar to Garrett’s bullshit, for what reason?

      Like, for real, when the fuck IS an apology accepted?

      Should I write some essay about Leigh personally attacking me five years ago when I asked why people were laughing during a video of Tao Lin’s whale poem?

      Should I include how, at the time, I was depressed and suicidal because of the death of my grandmother, quitting oxycontin, losing my childhood home, being unemployed and her unwarranted hostility came very close to putting me over the edge and jumping in front of a bus?

      Nah, that seems really petty. Why would I do that. Plus, it has nothing to do with gender, so, what she did somehow doesn’t hold as much weight.

  61. Reb Livingston

      I agree that people have the right to write and publish whatever essays they want. Just as people have the same right to respond/take them to task for what they wrote and published. If you don’t like your words being repeated and attributed to you, don’t write those words. If you stand by your words, stand by them. If you regret/think better of something you once wrote, be clear and upfront about it. Don’t whine about how your being “attacked” when someone points out something you wrote.

  62. jereme_dean

      Yeah, see, you betray yourself. I didn’t say Jimmy apologized to YOU, just said he apologized.

      I remember him specifically apologizing in the comment thread, and you and a couple others not accepting the apology, just kept bullying him about it.

      Which is why I bullied back.

      Like, if this article was a just a fuck you to Garrett and “sexist” themes on HTMLG, I wouldn’t be commenting.

      Anyways, to answer this question: have you ever been reduced to a body and a face?

      It happens all the time to men. To think otherwise is delusional.

      But in respect to Jimmy, yes, he has. My girlfriend and I are the ones who did it to him. He no longer talks to me because of it.

  63. jereme_dean

      Has jimmy been whining? I missed that.

  64. Reb Livingston

      Just like I missed all the “attacks” on Jimmy.

  65. jereme_dean

      I was being earnest. I haven’t kept up with HTMLG for a long time. If he’s whining, then, yeah, stop whining.

  66. jereme_dean

      Also think all the people who whine to Blake every time something disagreeable is posted to HTMLG, should, like, stop fucking whining too.

  67. columbusmatt

      Oh, nooooooo!

      Boys and girls on the internet
      being upset about
      being boys and girls
      on the internet!!!!!!!!!!!

      Whatever shall we doooooooo?!!?

      ;-)

  68. julwa

      I’d also really like one of the “cool” male writers who are associated with HTMLGIANT to write something really calling out the misogyny… guys, stand up for your female writer friends and call out your male friends when they’re being jerks, both in public and private… I know there are so many guys here who don’t agree with this stuff… I could name so many names, guys who publish women, who think of themselves as progressive, smart, funny “nice guys”… so many of you men who write for HTMLGIANT in posts or in comments… thank you to the handful of you who have stood up… but for the rest of you men, ask yourselves: Why aren’t you taking more of a stance? Why aren’t you sticking up for your female friends as loudly as possible?

  69. mimi

      i did acknowledge that my “Did you fire your editor?” was obtuse. but, “naive”? ermmm… okay

      i’m really, sincerely curious to know, did you ever say anything to your editor? and if so, what? did you have that “heart-to-heart”?

      i’m also curious, is said editor male or female? are they still ‘your editor’? do they still tell you that you’re cute? in meetings with marketing folks?

      it is unfortunate that if, by opining And asking about what i really, truly, sincerely found to be the most “disturbing” (and interesting) part of your post (“your random house/editor story”) you feel that i was trying to use “just another tactic to distract from the content of my letter” – this was sincerely not my intent; that said, i’m not really THAT interested in your “Internet feud (you) will never forget” with jimmy chen – i read it all the first time around; i’ve read lots of jimmy chen since then; i am finding the Strickland/Zambreno issue (and surrounding discussion) interesting, i just didn’t address it in my first, short comment, oh well; i also appreciate (i do! i really do!) your “challenge HTMLGIANT contributors”

      i apologize for making you feel bad (if you feel bad, or mad, or whatever) that i think you “(chose) the “easy” battle” (which i do think, btw – i’m sure it would be very hard to “call out” whomever during a marketing meeting with random house – it’s way easy to call out a-holes on HTMLGIANT – it’s kind of ‘a norm’ – not by Me, mind you, but, it happens on the site. right, fellas?)

  70. Leigh Stein vs. HTMLGIANT: Why We Have To Be Our Own VIDA |

      […] It was titled “An Open Letter to HTMLGIANT: the Sexism Stops Here.” You can read it here. It is to that website’s credit that it published the criticism to begin with, but credit to […]

  71. Electric Cereal

      your editors were definitely wrong about men not wanting to read your book. i recently heard your interview on the other people podcast and immediately put your book on my to-read list.

  72. Mike Meginnis

      Speaking only for myself, I’ve gotten so exhausted with the stupidity posted here in recent months that I don’t plan to write anything here again, apart from maybe commenting on things I do like, assuming I ever read them. That was my feeling before this most recent idiocy and it is doubly so now.

      I imagine a lot of us have given up; this blog didn’t always deserve its reputation, and I think that to some extent its critics have been partly responsible for its rapid collapse (they could have written better things for it back when this venue still mattered), but at this point, it’s dominated by the self promoting bores. The Oelbaums and the Stricklands.

      I will miss the opportunity to address an audience of this size about writing I love, but the writers I love should probably avoid association with this ugliness anyway.

  73. MikeLindgren

      Hear, hear. I stand with Stein and Zambreno and against sexism.

  74. seventytwomosquitobites

      […] the recent HTMLGiant controversy, despite my vow to never read a comments section ever again. I saw Leigh Stein’s post first, and I didn’t feel a need to go back and read Garett Strickland’s original post. […]

  75. kelley

      Four things smart ass:

      1. If you were following my logic then you would be casting me aside and move along to “better” comments that deserve your attention

      2. I never said I was a writer and I don’t think writing a comment in response to an essay is comparable with writing the essay or creative piece. Thus, I am negated from the “literary responsibility” that Chen has by recognizing himself as a writer and regular contributor to this website.

      3. I have never read nor have I seen Chen. This facts stands in contrast to the remarks Leigh reported him making about the photograph of Zelda and his remarks about Leigh directly (after viewing her profile). I don’t know about you but imagining a reality (Chen is a basement covered in his own semen) and commenting on a real one are two different things to me. But then again, I’m not delusional.

      4. There is no bigger attack to his own masculinity then reducing and objectifying women. I merely sprinkled jimmies on his “inferiority complex” cake.

  76. mimi

      so much vitriol and name-calling, so little proofreading (altho do like the “sprinkled jimmies” pun – good work!)

  77. kelley

      Guess I have a penchant for people who comment on comments instead of the article…and I’m a fan of both irony and puns

  78. Resignation | HTMLGIANT

      […] Dena’s facebook, but I clipped it at my essential point. At first, when Leigh Stein wrote her Open Letter — which was enabled by a friend of mine and contributor to this site, Reynard Seifert, whose […]

  79. columbusmatt

      ” it’s dominated by the self promoting bores.”

      So true, so true…

  80. Violenzia | HTMLGIANT

      […] but after the kerfuffle over Garett Strickland’s “The Zambreno Doll” and the following letter by Leigh Stein (plus, Emma Needleman’s variations on a theme and the scores of Disqus comments) I […]

  81. Leigh Stein talks about her open letter to HTMLGIANT and the presence of sexism in the publishing industry for Chicago Literati | Chicago Literati

      […] your recently published open letter to HTMLGIANT, you called the literary website out for its history of misogynistic articles and […]

  82. Leigh Stein talks about her open letter to HTMLGIANT in an exclusive interview | Chicago Literati

      […] your recently published open letter to HTMLGIANT, you called the literary website out for its history of misogynistic articles and […]

  83. truemoboy

      No, she’s infuriated by THIS post, not the Jimmy Chen. Then she says she means infuriated as Stein intends it: infuriated by the use of “discriminatory, sexist, hate speech that objectifies, humiliates, and infuriates their female readership,” while this post is AGAINST all of those things. What’s she mad about then?

  84. deadgod

      Yes, she (Long) is infuriated by this (Stein’s) blogicle, but no, she doesn’t mean “infuriated” as Stein intends it, but rather, she turns Stein’s word against Stein’s usage.

      I think Long is rejecting the claim that Chen’s Zelda Fitzgerald joke is “discriminatory, sexist, hate speech that objectifies, humiliates, and infuriates” that particular female reader, namely, Lorian Long – without that reader (Long) rejecting the privilege of rage against malicious sexism. Long is contradicting the direction of Stein’s fury and so her (Long’s) inclusion in it as a “female reader”. And disdaining the artfulness of its expression.

  85. mimi

      Yes to first paragraph of deaders’ reply – i understood LoLo’s infuriation to be towards THIS post

      and you can add my (mimi’s) inclusion to hers (LoLo’s) in it as a FEMALE reader

  86. HTMLGIANT OBIT — (HTMLEULOGY) —- (by Drew Smith) | HTMLGIANT

      […] have been fights, like this one, in which Leigh Stein aired her complaints against the site’s (and the culture’s) sexism […]