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The Women Who Hate Me was first published as a chapbook in 1983 when Dorothy was 34; it was expanded and published in the form being reviewed here in 1991. Her short story collection Trash was first published in 1988 and an expanded version was published in 2002. She received mainstream recognition in 1992 when Bastard Out of Carolina was published.The Women Who Hate Me: Poetry, 1980-1990 is available used at www.alibris.com .An informative and fascinating interview with Dorothy Allison in 1995 is available on the web at http://www.tulane.edu/~wc/zale/alliso.... The following is a lengthy portion of the interview about The Women Who Hate Me poetry.THE WOMEN WHO HATE ME is a series of poems most of which were written in 1982, and the summer of 1981-1983. First, the book was published in 1983, the first edition. Most of the poems were written following the Barnard Conference on sexuality in April, 1981. I was part of a panel there. The conference was designed to look at a complicated notion of sexuality and the whole design was about pleasure and danger, so they wanted to talk about all of the harm and the danger that exists around sexual issues for women. And they also wanted to talk about why sex and sexuality could be a source of power, authority and pleasure. Well, this was also 1981 and that was exactly the part of the discussion that was not supposed to be happening. When the Womens movement was essentially, the ---- was the anti-pornography movement. And it was not simply that there was a ---- of notions of what you were supposed to be saying about porn or anti-porn or any of that. The dominant notion was that we cant take care of all that until we take of this problem. Therefore, we cant talk about lesbian relationships, or incest. Everybodys gonna have to refrain from enjoying sexuality or womens pursuit of sexual pleasure, or heterosexual women teaching heterosexual men how to actually make them have an orgasm. We cant talk about any of that until we stop pornography and stop violence against women. These are the only two subjects we can discuss about sexuality. Thats what happened at the Barnard Conference because the conference opened a whole range of discussion and the New York chapter of Women Against Pornography picketed. Not only did they picket, they published leaflets which named eight of us as being essentially anti-feminist terrorists. Not only did they distribute leaflets with our names and addresses and phone numbers up and down Broadway, they called each of us, the people we worked for and reported our various deviations in an attempt to get us fired. They called the Universitys development committee, you guys got a university, you know what happens when all of a sudden what is the equivalent to a Christian riot walks in and says ------all these lesbians and perverts and child sexual molesters over there talking. The day the conference happened, the program for the conference was confiscated and burned by the university officials, because they had some many interesting phone calls the week before. It turned into a nightmare. I know people who lost their lives because of that conference. A lot of people lost their jobs. Plenty of people had nervous breakdowns, left town, disappeared. I wrote poems. I wrote a series of poems. I left my lover, I stopped having sex, I went home and told my mother I want a real mastectomy, so then I wrote another series of poems. The book is largely about that. And a lot of us lost our religion. Jesus had turned out to be not what we thought he was. The Womens Movement was not the safe place we imagined it to be. Open discussion was not the rule as we had imagined. A lot of us had to hold back, hold ourselves up, and think very seriously about what we had been doing. It wasnt so easy as to say, Yknow, I got the answer. Im a feminist. Im going to change the world. It is very simple. It aint simple. And it is extremely complicated for working class women, because we tended to be the ones whose sexuality was not as --- as a lot of the middle class women who were at that conference, and who were perfectly willing to say, oh well wait. Well do anti-porn first. But as a working class lesbian, the one thing you learn is that if you dont kill yourself, you do not drink yourself to death, if you do not find a girlfriend who will literally bash your head in, if you survive, one of the things you learn is that sexuality is the place where you cannot compromise, because it is so dangerous. That you cant always just talk about the bad side, you have to go over and find out why, why if sex is so dangerous, youre still gonna look for the one who can do it right for you. So, the poem THE WOMEN WHO HATE ME is essentially aimed at the women I couldnt speak at, couldnt speak to at the Barnard Conference because they were screaming at me. And it starts out, The women who do not know me.The women who, not knowing me, hate memark my life, rise in my dreams and shake out their loose hair throw outtheir thin wrists, narrow theiralready sharp eyes and sayWho do you think you are?Lazy, useless, cunt sucking, scared and stupidWhat you scared of anyway?Their eyes, their hands, their voices.Terrifying.The women who hate me cut meas men cant. Men dont count.I can handle men. Never expected betterof any man anyway. But the women,shallow-cheeked young girls the world was made forsafe little girls who think nothing of bravadowho never got over by playing it tough.What do they know of my fear?What do they know of the women in my body?My weakening hips, sharp good teeth,angry nightmares, scarred cheeks,fat thighs, fat everything.(but the women who hate me cut me.)Dont smile too wide. You look like a fool.Dont want too much. You aint gonna get it.Say goddamn it and kick somebodys assthat I am not half what I should be,full of terrified angry bravadoBRAVADOThe women who hate medont knowcant imaginelife-saving precious bravado.The fight you have with the people that you need are the most intense.
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