“A Diatribe Not Worth Reading”: How Women are Silenced Every Day (By Seemingly Well-intentioned Men)

So this fun little exchange cluttered up my inbox for a while the other day…I am leaving out names, because, what’s the point, my corresponder clearly is not open to dialogue…

EMAIL #1

Subject:Watch a highly skilled woman answer questions about networking [PROMISING, NO?]

Hey, Caroline

A bunch of you have been wanting to know which books I read and who I talk to, so I recently did a Q&A with Amanda Steinberg from DailyWorth. People loved it, so I wanted to give you a “softer” side of money and career material.

Today’s topic: Networking. Amanda is a master networker, plus she has an interesting perspective as a woman.

Honestly, if I were a woman for a day, beyond the seriously sordid things I would do, I would want to go into a business meeting, make a really good point, and see how people treated me. Would it be different because I was a woman? How would people react?

I point this out because some of you may have seen my recent tweet about how in early testing, 100% of my female Dream Job students who went out for networking “coffee meetings” got hit on. Clearly, there is a lot going on when it comes to gender + careers.

I found this hilarious, then sad. So today, I asked Amanda to share her stories about networking.

ATTENTION: THERE IS SOME TOUGH LOVE IN THIS INTERVIEW. If that bothers you, please go away.

Check it out (below).

R: You’re a great networker. One of the challenges many of my female Dream Job students have faced is that they get hit on when they’re networking with men. Have you noticed this in your networking?

A: Yes, it’s been a constant my entire career. And, it most likely won’t ever go away. So, women who want to be powerful executives can’t be surprised or even offended by guys who hit on us. It’s a fact of work–we have to learn how to navigate it with class, confidence and maturity. [OK, THIS IS WHERE I STOPPED READING AND STARTED GLOWERING AT MY COMPUTER SCREEN. BUT FEEL FREE TO KEEP READING, OR SKIP AHEAD TO MY RESPONSE BELOW…]

Yet, easier said than done. At a recent business dinner, a very powerful exec tried to pressure me into doing tequila shots. My first “no” was brushed off with a laugh. At dinner! It was intimidating. But I managed to hold it together and end the dinner professionally.

If it’s coming from a direct boss or someone who can fire you, that’s another story — THAT’S an abuse of power. I’ve mostly been my own boss so the hitting on usually happens inside business networks I belong to or with potential customers.

R: How do you deal with this when you’re networking?

A: Most of the dudes who hit on me aren’t clueless and sleazy — they’re top executives. It’s not just with networking — it happens with all types of deals and business relationships. I always keep the end goal in mind: long term, professional relationships. Since you love scripts — I’ll share with you the script I generally use:
“I’m so flattered that you feel that way — thank you (sincerely)……. but our business relationship is really important to me. I’m concerned that if anything happened, things would eventually get really weird between us, so I have to say no. I hope you understand.”

And they do. I like to believe that because I state it with confidence, but also warmth, I don’t lose the relationship. So far, it’s working.

R: When you were first starting out, how did you approach people? Many people don’t think they have anything to offer, so they just keep to themselves. They’ll say, “I don’t have anything to offer that guy! Why would he meet with me?”

A: OK, I’m going to sound like a big nerd here, but it’s true: I love people. Drop me into a room with 1,000 people I don’t know anytime. I go to events to meet other people and learn about them. I’m seriously just wildly interested in people’s dreams, new projects, business concepts or career aspirations. So I make friends. And then we facebook or linkedin eachother. And then, when I have a need, suddenly I have thousands of people I can email to ask. I don’t show up at events looking for anything (except back when I was raising capital — I was asking everyone for money — probably even you, Ramit) — I just go to have FUN. Conferences are so fun. And then you make friends, which very easily become business relationships when there’s a need.

R: Do you have any go-to networking scripts that consistently open doors for you?

A: Easy: “What brings you here?” Boom. Done. It takes on a life of it’s own. Recently I’ve started playing with “energy” — I look for the person in the room who emits the happiest vibe and I go directly for them. It’s a game to play — keeps me amused. I also always try to meet the organizers and thank them for putting the event together. Events are a pain to run. I’m excited to speak in two weeks at the Money2020 conference in Vegas. Not sure I should ever attend a “business event” in Vegas, but I’m committed.

R: What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made while networking? What did you learn from it?

A: Oversharing. People don’t need to know every detail of my life. And yet, too often I think they do. Discretion has merit. I’m still learning about that.

R: If you had to rebuild your network from scratch, would you approach your networking any differently?

A: Never. It’s not linear. It’s totally random, chaotic and energizing. My friends are my colleagues are my friends are my investors are my biggest supporters and cheerleaders. Business rules when you have a huge posse of loosely associated people rooting for you. And you do the same for them.

We all have gifts — everyone. If you don’t see your gifts — take a self-help course and learn how to quiet your harsh super ego. Self deprecation isn’t real — it’s a learned pattern. I’ll leave you with my favorite quote from Marianne Williamson:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do.

_________________

EMAIL #2 – MY RESPONSE

Re: “I found this hilarious.”

Sexual harassment in the workplace is not hilarious. Sexual harassment anywhere is not hilarious. Being flip about it is not hilarious. Addressing it as a serious issue of gender inequality, one not to be “put up with” but one to have open dialogue about so that both genders come to a better understanding of it and its implications, and maybe work past the point where any person of any gender thinks it is okay to hit on someone they are interviewing, networking with, talking to, etc–that would go a long way in making it easier for women to get ahead in business.

Create a work climate, a culture, a society, a global economy, where women are, by default, given the same respect, attention and consideration as men enjoy (by current default), and we will make great strides.

Create a society where women are NOT treated–by current default–as a joke, an object for lewd fantasies, a marginalized segment of the workforce to be hit on instead of to be taken seriously.

Who starts these dialogues? People with influence. People like you.

Chose to ignore it, or joke about it, and you lose my respect, and the respect of a lot of women, because you have just dismissed a major issue which effects over 50% of the population every day.

As a woman who works in the field of gender equality on an international level, for a well-respected organization which has been fighting gender equality in all its forms for the past twenty years (and even so, our Global Director still must deal with getting hit on whenever she networks with high-level men), I ask you to listen to *my* expertise and experience, and listen carefully, when I tell you–it matters. It cannot be ignored. It cannot be marginalized, dismissed as “women’s issues.” I have seen the extremes to which gender discrimination, woman hating, can go. It starts with a lack of respect, with not taking us seriously.And I have worked mentoring young high school girls who, in order to succeed in life to their fullest potential, need all this societal brainwashing leeched out of their hearts and minds. It matters to them. It makes a difference. In the program I mentored for, with many of our young ladies coming from at-risk situations, many of them also first generation Americans, many of them first in their families to complete high school–we have a 100% college acceptance rate. (And in 2009, we were recognized by Michele Obama with a Coming Up Taller Award from the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, distinguishing us as one of the top 15 after-school programs in the country.) It matters.

Let me say it again–it matters.

We owe it to the next generation–not just young women but young men–to be better at talking about gender issues in the workplace and in the world in general. Everyone benefits from having these conversations about outdated, misogynistic gender roles and stereotypes.

Men should not be made to feel like they need to always dominate the conversation, and that they cannot show emotion.

Women should not be made to feel they need to “act like a man” to get ahead, and ignore sexual harassment because “it’s a fact of work.” Amanda’s comment that “we have to learn to navigate it” is the wrong approach, and no solution. It puts the burden on the victim rather than addressing the actual problem, which is that it is 100% not okay for a man to hit on or otherwise harass a woman. Ever. When you advise a victim to change his or her behavior, instead of asking the perpetrator to change his/hers, that is dangerous territory. That is victim blaming. That is, quite frankly and pardon my language, f*ed up.

If you were a woman for a day, would people treat you differently? Can you have any doubt about that? If you do, I assure you that you would be horrified at how you would be treated differently as a woman.

Change starts small. As with anything. And, as with anything (again, society’s default), conversations about these things are not taken seriously by other men (and honestly, a lot of women) until they are started publicly by a man with power & following & influence. I don’t like that that’s the way the world is, but that’s the way the world is (for now).

You know how you can help people on your mailing list lead more successful, financially sound lives? Start that conversation. Or at least don’t ignore it, and don’t be flip & dismissive about it. You do a disservice to your audience by doing so. This is not something to be treated lightly. And by adding your own attempt at lewd humor (“If I were a woman for a day, beyond the seriously sordid things I would do…”) in even introducing the topic, you unfortunately negated any positive influence you had the admirable opportunity to present your readers with in that moment. Shame on you. You have a lot of interesting things to say, and I have enjoyed being on your mailing list. This, I cannot abide by, however, and I shall be unsubscribing, as you clearly have no concept of how to treat women with respect in this format.

_________________

EMAIL #3 – HIS RESPONSE – [HERE’S WHERE IT GETS FUN]

Hi Caroline,

Thanks for your note.

I’m a little surprised, since I’m pretty sure I don’t dismiss this issue considering I’ve written dozens of posts about gender, careers, and money. [WAVES FEMINIST FLAG]

If one line in one email offends you, [OH NO, IT WAS THE WHOLE THING, NOT JUST ONE LINE] that’s up to you. However, writing posts with long diatribes about gender and how things “should” be would result in exactly 0 people reading it. [SO NOT TRUE. MY FRIEND MICHELE READS *ALL* OF MY RANTS. BECAUSE SHE’S NICE & SHE LIKES ME & SH*T LIKE THIS PISSES HER OFF, TOO. SO THAT’S ONE, AT LEAST.] Sorry to see you go but I agree we’re probably not right for each other.

_________________

EMAIL #4 – MY RESPONSE TO HIS RESPONSE

Ahh, the male “expert” dismisses the female’s thoughtful response [HAD HE ACTUALLY READ MY EMAIL, HE MAY HAVE BOTHERED TO REALIZE THAT I AM AN *ACTUAL* EXPERT ON THIS TOPIC] as a “diatribe” not worth reading. Thanks for confirming my decision to leave your mailing list. Clearly the advising only goes one way. Simply writing an occasional post about gender doesn’t make you open-minded, much less any sort of feminist. If you are not willing to take into account *how* you are writing these posts, or how your (female) readers are responding to them, you are part of the problem, not the solution.

_________________

And so it goes…if this fella really wants to know what it is like to be a woman in a man’s world, as he claims he is curious about, he should put himself in my shoes in that email exchange, and that would be a start.

Every day, my expert opinions are dismissed as “feminist diatribes.” Every day, men look at me as an object to be leered at and cat called, and I just want to scream in their face, what gives you the right? Leave me the f* alone! Every day, my voice is silenced by the blathering men around me. Every day, legislators are trying to get all up in my vajayjay and tell me what I can and cannot do with it. And my opinion is written off, ignored, made to seem unimportant. Every. Day. A girl gets a little frustrated with that, you know.

Sadly, my nameless corresponder is yet another pontificating man of privilege who just wants to engage in self-congratulatory blather couched in the form of an advice column to a captive audience which he would rather didn’t talk back (or at least the ladies with their silly diatribes, responding to A POST SPECIFICALLY ABOUT LADIES).

I blocked his email. End of conversation (for him, but maybe not for some more enlightened folks currently reading this diatribe not worth reading…)

Hope and Despair: On Being Women

So I haven’t yet gotten around to writing my 2009 rant about the state of publishing, society, and mainstream media in regards to how all of the above tend to shit on women, but, big surprise, my rant from *two* years ago still applies (okay, except maybe some of the Hillary for President stuff, but, you know, Secretary of State ain’t so shabby either.) So, here ’tis, your slightly recycled but still relevant rant of the day from yours truly…

February 2008:

And now, ladies and gentlemints, as promised, a little HOPE, a little DESPAIR . . .

HOPE
It seems like a nice thing to do to start of with a smidge of hope, before delving into despair, but, don’t worry, little chickens, I will end with hope, the extended version.

But for now, chew on this, which is taped above my desk, as of yesterday (acquired at AWP at the Kore Press booth. Lovely press. Do check them out.):

“For a very long time everybody refuses and then almost without a pause almost everybody accepts.” — Gertrude Stein

DESPAIR
I have just emerged from the land of AWP conferencing (Association of Writers and Writing Programs), which, in a nutshell, is basically a bunch of despairing writers/publishers/editors/et cetera looking for a little hope. I did indeed find some much needed hope. There are a lot of excellent small presses and literary organizations and individuals who are trying to change the world, one book at a time. This gives me hope. I was especially delighted to hear Johnny Temple of Akashic Press inform a crowded room full of writers that what his press was all about was publishing the books that get passed over by gargantuan giant mega publishing houses; that, though agents are lovely, he actually prefers to work directly with authors; that his main goal is to see to it that his authors love every minute of the editing & publishing & book birthing process; and that if a manuscript is part of a bidding war, eh, he’ll pass. That ain’t his thing. He just wants to publish the books that deserve to be published, but that no one else will publish. So, before I start my general rant at the state of publishing, hats off to Johnny, and hats off to Akashic and all the other fantastic small presses out there who are doing the good work (Graywolf, Kore Press, Orchises Press, Wolsak and Wynn, Host Publications, Four Way Books, Fence, Wave Books, Counterpoint, and Soft Skull to name a few, not to mention the hords of university presses, god bless ‘em.)

That said, I am now quite ready for my rant. Ready? Good.

Slight apologies to poor, dear SS, who happened to be the first of my friends to email me this morning (by which I now mean yesterday morning) and so got the first wave of THE RANT. But now, I cut & paste it here, for all of you. It starts off as a rant about the publishing industry in relation to women writers, which emerged out of a most excellent panel I attended (having meant to attend the Charles Baxter panel but having once again ended up in the wrong room) called THIS IS NOT CHICK LIT: THE BRANDING OF WOMEN’S FICTION, but, stay tuned, it kind of opens up into a more general rant about the branding of women in general. And if you happen to not like the words “fuck” or “fucking,” well, fair warning, moral outrage gives me quite a potty mouth:

I’m tired, too. [He was tired, this friend of mine.] This conference I have been attending for the past 3 days was exhausting, but also amazingly GOOD!! Now I just have to find a way to productively channel my rage at the publishing industry, who thinks of male writers just as writers, but when it comes to women writers, the marketing dept. ain’t happy until they’ve pegged us into the “appropriate” box. Chick Lit. Woman Writer.  Southern Woman Writer. Southern Lesbian Woman Writer. Et cetera. The result of which is that, wherever they decide to “place” us, we get shoved in some obscure corner of whatever bookstore is carrying our book, and no one can find our books, so no one can read our books, and no one of intelligence would necessarily know to pick it up, cuz it’s got a goddam chick lit-esque cover on it, or some other thing that is truly degrading and/or wrongly stereotypical that has absolutely nothing to do with what’s on the INSIDE of the book . . . but, sadly, people do indeed judge a book by its cover. I do. We’re just hardwired that way. It’s a shortcut to sorting information.

And of course, the audience for this particular panel was 99.9% female. Men just don’t give a shit. Why should they? They don’t have to deal with any of this. They are just “writers.” Even if they write fucking chick lit.

It’s bullshit, I tell you. And it’s not just publishing where this happens, women face this, on some level, in every fucking industry, in every fucking aspect of their lives. I mean, look at Hillary for fuck’s sake. Is there any greater current example of a woman hitting the glass ceiling, a woman who is profoundly overqualified, but is being poo pooed as “uncharismatic” or “cold” or “fake” while people fawn over the new, pretty, shiny, smooth talkin Obama. And I LIKE Obama, I do, but GWB has so, so, so fucked up our country and the world that we CLEARLY need someone who can step right on day one with her sleeves rolled up, ready to do the good work. Instead, she fucking has to answer questions about whether her “emotions” will work for or against her in her campaign, and is attacked whenever she stands up for herself in response to Obama’s attacks on her (how very unwomanly of her), and has to answer stupid ass questions about her husband, who is, for the record NOT running for president, people. And this whole business of being seen as “fake.” Oh my god. Don’t even get me started. Every fucking woman in the world, every girl, everyone you know, everyone I know, EVERY female HAS to “fake” it sometimes to get by in this world, because it is so much still a man’s world, and for now, it’s the only way we can get by.

Sorry for ranting in your general direction . . . those rants have been building up over the past few days/weeks and I only now have moments to verbalize them and put them in writing . . .

[end of ranty email to poor dear SS]

Ohhhkay. I think we can get back to HOPE now . . .

So, yeah, sucks to be a woman. Sucks to be a writer. But as I mentioned earlier, there is hope to be found in small presses who actually care about books, and I suggest we all head over their way en mass, and leave the major mega publishers to their chick lit, their non-fiction best sellers, their mass marketed paperback piles of crap. (No offense to the authors who do manage to publish with the big ‘uns. Good on ya for actually making some $$, if you have actually managed to make some. You deserve it. I hope your cover art was not too atrocious, and your book was well place in B&N.)

But here’s what else I have to say about HOPE which relates to my favorite rant topic, the trials and tribulations of owning a vajayjay.

1.
We have an opportunity to elect a female leader of the free world.

Because the world at large tends to not hear women, let me repeat: We have an opportunity to elect a female leader of the free world.

As someone deeply involved and committed to female mentoring, particularly in my puppy dog, full-on slathering, sloppy love of and involvement with Girls Write Now I have witnessed first hand the power of a strong female role model in a young girl’s life. 100% of our girls go on to college. 100% of our girls own their voices. They are strong, bold, powerful, intelligent, sexy. But they are also awkward, shy, and think too much about boys (or girls, if that’s their druthers). The same is true for their mentors, though they may not know it at first, or ever, because they look to us, and they think we got it goin on, and got our lives together. What they don’t often realize is that we are looking at them, thinking the same things: Damn, this girl is only 14, and she got it goin on, and she’s got her life together, and goddamnit if she isn’t a better writer than me to boot!

So, this gives me hope, and Hillary Clinton gives me hope. Because if nothing else, she knows from personal experience how fucking hard it still is to be a woman or a girl, and how even intelligent men (and women) will still give you a fucking hard time and make you constantly have to explain yourself and justify your (unwomanly) existence and ambitions and qualifications, and they will judge you for the choices you make in life, and who and how you sleep with, and who you happened to be married to, and they will judge you for showing emotions, and they will judge you for not showing emotions, and they will continue to polish the glass ceiling above your head that gives you all those internal bruises, and they will continue to ignore you, put you down, refuse to listen . . . but Hillary, if you can just make it to the White House, there will be a new well of hope in the hearts of young women everywhere, across the globe. And yes, this gives me hope. A lot, lot, lot of hope.

2.
And so, now, my final story of HOPE. An inspirational tale. I’ll try to keep it short, because, little chickens, if you are still with me this far down in this excruciatingly long blog entry, you deserve it.

The setting is the Girls Write Now end of year reading at Astor Place Barnes & Noble. The voice is that of Jessica Valenti, who is reading from her newly published (by a small press, of course) Full Frontal Feminism. She, too, develops a potty mouth when talkin up the moral outrage. So at the end of the reading, this teacher who had brought along some of her students to the reading (I think maybe 5th grade, but don’t quote me), checked in with them, wanting to know if they had any questions or concerns about the reading. She thought they might be offended or shocked or at least blushingly giggly about the potty words, and so she wanted to give them the chance to voice their thoughts so she could properly respond to them, reassure them.

They didn’t give a fuck about the godddamned potty words. (Why would they, really. Surely they’ve heard them before.) This is what they asked their teacher:

“We want to know more about this word, ‘feminism?’”

So there you are, folks. Short and sweet. There is still HOPE in the world. For women, for writers, for future generations.

As the Dixie Chicks say (ahhh, remember when they were lambasted and labelled “unpatriotic” for saying something not glowingly positive about GWB? Like, that maybe he should not have dragged our country into war so quickly. You know, that war that has been going on for umpteen years now, in which thousands and thousands of people have died. For . . . what exactly? Really, what were they thinking, those Dixie Chicks? Clearly unwomanly thoughts. Not very dixie or very chicky of them to dare to open their pretty, painted mouths other than to sing pretty, happy, i-love-my-country songs).

Ohhh, look how I got one last little rant in there. Wahoo!

But back to hope, for real, and cowboy hats off to the Dixie Chicks, and all other female artists who won’t keep their pretty mouths shut:

Sunday mornin’, heard the preacher say, Thou Shall Not Kill.
I don’t wanna hear nothin else, ’bout killin, and that it’s God’s will.
‘Cause our children are watching us, they put their trust in us, they’re gunna be like us.
So let’s learn from our history, and do it differently.
I hope for more love, more joy and laughter.
I hope we’ll have more than you’ll ever need.
I hope we’ll have more happy ever afters.
I hope we can all live more fearlessly.
And we can lose all the pain and misery.

But no, I can’t just leave it there. I have to leave it here, circle back around to my own voice and the voices of the women and girls who inspire me and give me HOPE every minute of every day, the women and girls of Girls Write Now. Yes, indeed, something was in the air on May 19, 2007:

3.
Straight Outta Workshop…
An Exercise from the Creative Nonfiction Workshop

Normally, we just feature a few outstanding pieces from a GWN workshop. But something was in the air on May 19, 2007. Mentors and mentees had such incredible responses to this exercise, we couldn’t resist sharing many more.

Enjoy! — Write On, Girl! (official GWN newsletter)

Turn off your logical brain that says 1 + 1 = 2. Open up your mind to the possibility that 1 + 1 can equal 48, a Mercedes-Benz, an apple pie, a blue horse. Don’t tell your autobiography with facts, such as “I am in sixth grade. I am a boy. I live in Owatonna. I have a mother and father.” Tell me who you really are: “I am the frost on the window, the cry of a young wolf, the thin blade of grass.” — from Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg

Jeanette Anderson: I am the body that rolls over drunk with harsh shots of morning air. I am the crack in the window letting bits of Brooklyn in. I am the hands on your hips discovering you like a tourist on Broadway. I am the wine who rivals her sister Red. I am my mother’s coffee cups left in the bathroom after a shower, waiting. I am the plane you almost missed as socks spilled from your luggage, hungry to escape.

Grace Bastidas: I am your favorite t-shirt, an unexpected wink, that cherry on top, a sneeze in the morning, and a single white cloud coasting on a blue sky.

Caroline Berger:I am the sun bleeding into a cool Bed-Stuy morning as seen from my fire escape. I am my grandmother’s wedding ring, which I wear around my neck. I am the cat who waits patiently by the door for you to come home so I can swat playfully at your dangling, homemade scarf.

Nana Brew-Hammond: I am a raised fist shaking with conviction and fear. I am an overflowing waffle cone of vanilla ice cream. I am the song I sing in a 20-minute shower.

Kerri Davidson: I am the dust that dances in the light of a sun-filled window. I am the thought that has yet to be written, the sand on a California beach, held in a souvenir bottle.

Sami Diaz: I am a plague upon existence, the black ink in the felt of a Sharpie, the pixilated picture on myspace. I am made of real hair and eyelashes and nails. They call me Sami Cyanide, the poison that stops your mitochondria. The instant death, the sound of your computer starting up, headphones on your dresser, your posters, your idols smeared with black eyeliner. That old book smell that keeps you going, the turn of the page, bad handwriting, your flaws and imperfections, the holes in your stocking, the poison, the zombie. The girl.

Jazmine Gray: I am the perfect verse over a tight beat, I am the one pink rose in the midst of weeds, the dream that never came true.

Lauren Gurfein: I am a single leaf caught in a swirl of wind, lost and free, the sticky air that surfaces when summer rain meets pavement.

Mona Haddad: I am a collection of other people’s stories, ice cream in the freezer, the surveillance camera outside, a half-cracked glass, a hidden jewel. I am the thing that can only be felt, not seen or named.

Stephanie Huancas: I am…the first snowflake that falls on a warm face, the adorable laughter of a child, the twilight breeze through your hair, the encouraging smile you anticipate.

Sarah Jang: I am the “Oh! What’s in this?” the overly curious newborn puppy, the soft light that reflects the white wall, the huggable plushie.

Phantasia Johnson: I am the letter-creating words that make sentences into a story. I am the colors of a rainbow that represent gay pride. I am the eyes of an observer that see everything but says nothing.

Lisa Ko: I am a wound watch, ready to turn. I am the still air before a summer thunderstorm–weighted and expectant. I am the lion hiding in the grass, biding the time, catching her breath.

Ebony McNeill: I am an angel flying through the sky, dancing among the twinkling stars. I am the clouds bursting with chocolate strawberries. And I am the chocolate strawberries that fill your mouth with joy.

Zaedryn Meade: I am one solid tree in a field, I am the blenny fish in the tidepool after you’ve overturned the rock, I am caught sheep’s wool on a wire fence.

Rhonda Palacio: I am the sun while it’s at ease. I am the rainbow after a sun shower, I am like burnt bread, crispy on the outside, soft on the inside.

Mary Roma: I am the Wonder Woman on Halloween and all other days (but I’m just not wearing my costume), a human library of celebrity parentage and sob stories, a dream of guppies.

Catherine Shu: Appearances can be deceiving. People tend to think that I am very sweet and polite but, in reality, I have a mouth so filthy that being force-fed the entire contents of a Bath and Body Works distribution center wouldn’t clean it out. I am so deceitful that I make Dick Cheney look like Little Lord Fauntleroy. I have so little self-control that I make Mary Kay Letourneau look like Martin Luther.

Erica Silberman: I am that frisky horse that runs away on the first beautiful day. I am the scent of hyacinth remembered from a long time ago. I am a hurricane that rattles things and chairs up your deep desires.

Michele Thomas: Who am I really? I am the last grain of sleep before you wake up, I am the scent of your favorite dish, I am the friend you forget you know, but have always really liked.

Natalia Vargas-Caba: I am a blood spurt from an open-heart surgery, the neglected shirt hanging behind his bedroom door. I am the stitches on an animal in laboratory testing. I am the sunrise, watched by another male.

Briana Wilson: I am the chores your mom makes you do, I am the guilty conscience, I am the crack in your mirror, I am the addiction you can’t break, I am the white lines on your bathroom sink.

Rashri Shamsundar: I am a hurricane, the twisted tornado jumbled up, the quiet right before the storm.