by Phyllis Chesler
Humidity does not become me. Yesterday was a gray and rainy day in Manhattan—and a very humid one at that. For the second time in as many weeks, I turned quite cranky. My mood brought to mind two of Sylvia Plath’s excellent lines:
“Viciousness in the kitchen!
The potatoes hiss...”
When she wrote this poem, I’m sure she was cranky too, but for other reasons. Her husband had just left her for another woman, and there she was, the genius herself, alone with two young children in the midst of an unusually cold British winter.
In my case, the wet weather, prolonged isolation, and the fact that I can no longer visit the nearby blue ribbon of river, finally got to me. I could just hear my worried son’s questions: “Who touched the bench before you got there? What about the runners, walkers, and work-out artists who will get too close to you? Who has been in the car service before you?”
But I was moody, melancholy, miserable only for a few hours and could not remain in the doldrums for too long. I had online obligations. And they improved my mood enormously.
I had to get dressed, put on lipstick and earrings for a pre-interview via Zoom with two very genial and Christian interviewers at United West: Sharia Crime Stoppers. Girls and women of my generation do Stuff like this—put on lipstick—yes, even if we are firebrand feminists. At least, some of us do. The live webinar will be broadcast tonight at 7pm, and we are going to talk about women living under Sharia law and about my three books on the subject: An American Bride in Kabul; Islamic Gender Apartheid: Exposing the Veiled War Against Women; and A Family Conspiracy: Honor Killing. But one never knows where a good discussion might go.
Take the hour long interview I did right afterwards last night for a Russian documentary via Skype. My interviewer, Olga Cherny, was also a warm and knowledgeable soul. We were supposed to talk about American feminism, and we did, but we also talked about the censorship of thought and speech in America that reminded her so much of the country she left. We talked Orwell, Kafka, Koestler; about how to balance the long overdue and urgent need for justice for victims of sexual harassment and rape over and against vigilante (in)justice, in which verdicts of guilt via allegation alone rule the day.
Men who are innocent as well as guilty have been summarily fired, their reputations wrecked, lives ruined, and all without a trial, a judge, or a jury. And factory foremen, union bosses—those who oversee female agricultural workers, (not to mention the pimps who control prostituted and trafficked women)—all remain unknown and unnamed.
We talked about whether great male artists should no longer be read or seen, their works banished because they committed sexual crimes and were shameless misogynists, both on the page and in real life. Down with Byron! No Dickens! No Genet! No Burroughs! No Hemingway! No Scott Fitzgerald! And definitely no Henry Miller!
I also talked about the disappearance of radical feminist knowledge, generation after generation and in my lifetime, and the ways in which American feminism has radically changed, both in some good ways but in awful ways too.
Cherny was stranded in a hotel in Washington D.C. where the room service had been stopped and the dining room locked. She and her cameraman were buying food outside. She did not seem worried.
Today is a better day. Even though it’s still humid, the sun is shining, the weather is in the mid-40’s and, this afternoon, it’s going up to the mid-50’s. What a day for a walk in the park or for reading in the sunshine on a park bench.
All possible when this monster has been vanquished.
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