When I was eighteen I went to an alcohol-fueled party with some school friends, and I kissed and made out with someone for the first time. The boy in question was older than me, hence he was able to legally procure the half a dozen shitty coolers I was drunk on, and it was rumored the whole night that he was high as well as drunk. As a sheltered young woman, that was not a bridge I was willing to cross. When he asked me to spend the night with him, I asked if was true he had done cocaine earlier in the night. As he stumbled over what answer he should give me that would benefit him, I devised a compromise with him; I would stay over but we were not doing anything more physically intimate than what we had already done right now. I wanted him to sober up and I would consider doing more.
Literally thirty minutes later, shortly after I told my friends they could go ahead and leave me there, he tried to force himself onto me naked and told me he wanted a blowjob. I reminded him this was not what we had agreed to and he started yelling at me “I’m a good guy. What’s wrong with you?” He called me a cock-tease and that definitely set off red flags. I managed to hop into my friend’s car, as she was seconds from pulling away.
Then he told our friends at school I had sucked his dick and gave him the worst blowjob he’d ever had.
Edward Champion wrote an essay this week that reminds me a lot of that incident. His anger is directed very specifically at Emily Gould and other female writers who “confuse the act of literary engagement with coquettish pom-pom flogging.”
It takes ‘axe-grinding’ to a whole other level. It reads like a man scorned because he didn’t get something he felt he was entitled to. What that was, I have no idea nor do I much care, but there is a real sense of “I’ll show her” behind every line in it.
There’s definitely history between Gould and Champion; if you Google both of their names you can see these two have referenced each other in back biting pieces as far back as 2007. But this guy next leveled the argument for sure.
He wrote an 11,000 word essay and approximately 9,500 of those words were about how Gould is singlehandedly destroying literature. A good portion of the essay also pointed towards confessional writing, especially by young women, as somehow bringing forth the downfall of Western Civilization. Eleven thousand words; that’s a lot of energy spent.
Picking on women producing confessional writing is nothing new. It’s honestly boring and pretty unoriginal, frankly. As someone who could probably be accused of being a confessional writer, there is a big difference between what Elizabeth Wurtzel has sadly turned into, versus writing by someone like Lidia Yuknavitch or Cheryl Strayed. Those of us women that write about personal topics, those that often make others uncomfortable, hope we fall somewhere on the Yuknavitch/Strayed side of the scale, with the idea that whatever terrible baggage we reveal about ourselves will somehow serve a purpose, and hopefully help someone else feel more connected. Sometimes we wander and we have the ability to get lost along the way. Art is not linear and not a correct answer on a multiple choice test. It can get messy.
There are so many parts of Champion’s diatribe that made me outright laugh when I read them. For one, he calls her a narcissist for titling her blog “Emily Magazine”, which led her to work for Gawker. Keep in mind, his whole 11,000 word gripe-fest is found on his website. The address you type in to get there? Edrants.com. Then, he calls Gould a cowardly writer and yet he refuses to explicitly state the overall message of his rant, but it is implied oh so heavily, especially in the 1,500 words that aren’t directly referring to Gould.
Women writers between 18-35 are shit, unless they write for some of the publications in his chosen golden circle he has deemed “real literature.” He outright names the shit publications as places like The Rumpus, n+1, The Awl, and Gawker. Then for the rest of his essay he dissects basically every media appearance, tweet, piece of her writing and quotes in interviews he can find.
It is thorough and it is disturbing. Honestly, I’m concerned for him.
Later in the day Roxane Gay openly called him out in social media saying, “There is criticism and there is cruelty…this was cruel.”
I actually haven’t read much of her work, and what I’ve read hasn’t floored me. It is fair game to subject a writer to criticism and the media outlets they work for, but this was so much more. If this had been an intelligent critique of her work, her technique, ethics and what kind of marginalized writers are being set aside because of writers like her, that would be a whole other story. A hell of lot of that critique is deserved and Gould has definitely been a part of some questionable actions as a writer/editor at Gawker. Everything finally came to a head when Jimmy Kimmel rightfully called her out for her role in printing salacious celebrity gossip for them in 2007.
Champion even attacks Gould for “playing victim” and revealing in an interview that she suffered panic attacks after the Kimmel incident and went into therapy. No stone is left unturned. He suggests that her father, who has worked in public relations, somehow orchestrated this story. It was all a ploy to gain respect back according to him.
Gould’s experience is a bit too relatable. I bet the scrutiny she faced after the Jimmy Kimmel disaster was a bit more than that. Let’s just say from personal experience that when a woman writer is being lambasted on the internet, the tweets and comment threads get very personal and very rapey very quickly. My twitter account has been completely locked down due to a series of threats I received in 2012 after one of my essays was published. After an essay of mine unexpectedly was picked up by Gawker last year and the trolls rolled out in full force, I got legendarily blackout drunk with a friend and enrolled back in counseling the next week for several months.
First we had #SurvivorPrivilege and I’m just going to start #PTSDPrivilege and tag Edward Champion’s account in every tweet. After all, it’s such a coveted status to be nutso now, apparently.
Oh, another point– plenty of amazing essays and writing in general appear on terrible websites (see: Gawker). But, plenty of shitty writing appears in “legitimate” publications (see: The New Yorker).
The idea that navel-gazing, vapid, mid-twenty year old female writers, with no real back-stories and backpacks full of privilege, are the only women being published on these “hoary outlets” is asinine. The logic that The Rumpus, whose essay section is curated by Roxane Gay (a black woman, who actively tries to represent marginalized authors and experiences with the essays she publishes), is somehow only showcasing white airheads from Brooklyn…well…it’s not logical. Hey, here’s a revolutionary thought: Maybe women writers aren’t airheads at all. Perhaps that’s a convenient excuse you use when you disagree with us.
Nikki Reimer wrote a fantastic essay about the unexpected death of her little brother, and the process of grieving his loss through digital media. Amy Butcher wrote about her mentally ill male friend who’s now locked up in a psych ward for stabbing a woman twenty-seven times to death. Both of these essays (which are on The Rumpus) are unflinching, challenging, painful, cathartic and most importantly they are fantastic. Women of a particular generation wrote these essays and that shouldn’t even fucking matter, but it always does and I kind of feel like it always will.