||[Sep. 2nd, 2006|06:21 pm]
Bellwether: The Safe Zone Discussion Group
I'm going to say something else about discourse, history and "erasure."|
First, I attended Scripps College in Claremont, CA. This is the only remaining women's college on the West Coast. I am grateful for this experience. At that time, I gained exposure to and knowledge of lesbian, bi, and transgender people and their points of view and feelings of being marginalized.
My college years were in the 80's, where people were having difficulty with, and struggling with, issues of diversity, and when I, for one, absolutely was interested in not only my own academic and intellectual development, and in "becoming a writer," but also in the degree for which graduates of my school were also well-known - the "MRS." Graduates of Scripps were known to marry graduates of the nearby Claremont MENS College, which had recently been made coed and named Claremont McKenna College. I dated top students from both CMC and the other nearby school, Harvey Mudd College (for engineers).
At this time I confessed to my fiance, who was the top student at Harvey Mudd, that I loved science fiction, and wanted to be a science fiction writer. Pete, who I don't mean to ascribe sexism or anything bad to, responded immediately by saying, "But you have to be smart to write science fiction!"
I never forgot this, and the tale is recounted in the intro. to my first collection, WITHOUT ABSOLUTION.
But these issues - a girl, not a man. "Dumb," not smart. Popular and "normal," not a "geek." THIS IS MY LIFE. This is my writing.
I have worked for more than ten years to assist homeless families. These are primarily single, minority parents, mostly mothers, with very young children. I worked in Redlands, successfully, and now work in downtown Los Angeles, for an innovative, nationally-recognized organization. The world does not recognize these women - at all.
When I say "erasure," I experienced this not only myself, but in my own family. My mother was, among other things, the first female editor and publisher of the college newspaper at the University of Redlands -- the Bulldog, just as 40 years later, I served that role at my own college. After college, she attended Chouinard Art Institute, which became Otis-Parsons, and is now Otis College of Art and Parsons Institute of Design. She went to work for Disney as an art director, and left after one year, exclusively due to extreme sexism and bias against many diverse people. Her working partner throughout her career was Bill Melendez. Bill is over 80 now, but well-known as one of those who brought Peanuts to the animated screen.
My father said to me that my mother "Could not have made it as a fine artist." I have a degree in Studio Art, as well as British-American Literature, from Scripps (and an MFA in Creative Writing from Chapman). He was wrong. That was a sexist comment. And I know he loved her and adored her and respected her. It took me five years to forgive my father for that comment.
My mother throughout her career as an art director of animated films worked for UPA and Playhouse Pictures, and at the end of her life, had gone to work for Charles Schulz. She won two Academy Awards and five Golden Palms. Her work was "erased." She died of pancreatic cancer in 1962. Her work, which involved creating the appearances of and natures of cartoon characters we know and love today, notably Mr. Magoo, who was based on my father, was appropriated by any man who had the ability to do so in the intervening years. The studio owners, the producers - anyone. Today, a book called CARTOON MODERN is being published, that tells the true story of my mother, and three others whose work was also appropriated, stolen, and falsely credited to others. These others are men so this cannot be credited exclusively to gender bias and sexism.
That said, I have fought my way up in this field, that I chose.
You want to talk about painful? I know that people are crude, rude, selfish and inconsiderate in this field. I know that their worldviews encompass the very small boxes in which they live. I've always known this. I know I could write the absolute best thing in the world and some of those in this field would ignore and denigrate it because I'm a woman - a "girl."
If they can, people will take it. Appropriate it. Erase it.
We have to make each other strong - help each other to be strong. Speak so loudly and clearly that no one else can have any doubt. Yes, do speak out, do say "No more!".
Maybe in the end, in the final sense, if Harlan can see that this helped good things happen in the long run, it will be okay. Because I know he has always stood for that, and taken action on that. I am not the most aggrieved, by a long shot. I am guilty of not speaking out on many occasions in the past.
But we have also suffered greatly, in my line. It has never been easy, as a woman working in a "man's world." I am speaking out because I am not afraid. After the death of my son, there is nothing that truly "scares me." The sexual harassment and comments are terribly wrong. The marginalization is deeper, and far worse. And the "erasure," with such ease, is the worst of all.