Recent Must Reads: A Weekly Roundup

Agamemnon to Joyce
The hardest part of being here
in Hades’ far reaching shadow
is not recognizing the dead. When
life goes, memory wanders also.

My one hope, as my wife tightened
the rope around my robe and Aegisthus
played his knife across my neck,
was to reach my first born daughter,
slaughtered at Aulis. Despite my disgrace,
I prayed to spend eternity lit by the flames
of the underworld’s sun, hand in hand
with Iphegenia as the reckless jump into the Styx.

Once I knew I’d never find her, I turned
my attention to the living, where I heard
you curse me, enraged at my decision, but
wouldn’t you, didn’t you, do the same as I?
If your daughter had lived, wouldn’t you have
sacrificed her to the goddess of the young?

Isn’t it true, woman, didn’t you know it well,
those years of swords and threats,
that house where bruises ringed your neck,
your arms? Joyce, you knew as well as I.
There’s no safe place you could have hid her.

(by Joyce Hayden)

I’ve loved Greek Mythology as long as I can remember. In Junior High I played the part of my favorite Goddess, Persephone, in a home movie my classmate’s father filmed. I wore a long red dress and walked through a golden field of grasses on my way to the Underworld, in Fairmount, NY. Later, I saw myself as Antigone, willfully breaking Creon’s edict while seeking honor for her two deceased brothers. And as an adult, I recognized my plight, and that of so many other girls and women I knew, in the senseless death of Iphegenia: sacrificed by her father to quell the anger of an army.

In a class discussion of Agamemnon, I argued vehemently at his cowardly actions. I was infuriated at his willingness to lure his daughter under false pretenses of a marriage, and then to allow her to be sacrificed to the gods so that wind could carry his angry men to war. I was beyond angry for years, for decades. I hated Agamemnon. The Misogynist. I started questioning why my hatred was so fierce. And after many long walks in the woods and many pages of journaling, I realized that I would have acted similarly in his situation. He could not have successfully hidden his daughter. He was not able to alter the minds of the male mob, the Greek Army. He and his daughter would have been hunted down and murdered. In the end, he told her the truth and she accepted. There is power in that. There is some comfort in that. And, in some versions of the tale, Iphegenia is in fact spared by a Goddess.

I wrote the poem above a few years ago based on a time when I was pregnant, in my late 20s. I was living with an abuser. Because of the physical treatment I experienced at his hands, I was terrified to have a child. This man was not going to “step up” and get a job to help support us. He was not capable of getting his emotions or behavior “under control”. I would be working full time, with him home attending to the baby. I could foresee bruises on her little biceps, as he shook her to silence her. I planned to have an abortion, but mercifully miscarried before the procedure was necessary. I was relieved, because, like Agamemnon, I could not have kept that child safe. I couldn’t even keep myself safe. Every few months, I was threatened or beaten into silence and submission.

In her recent New Yorker article, Emily Wilson, first female translator of The Odyssey, says, “The silencing of female voices, and the dangers of female agency, are central problems in the poem.” These issues have been prominent in human existence for centuries. I believe that is why many women connect so deeply with these ancient stories. I, we, belong to a sisterhood of women in a world, much like ancient Athens, that is as Wilson believes, “a complex and truthful articulation of gender dynamics that continue to haunt us.” What was so true in Athens eons ago, can shadow our accomplishments even now. While changes have begun to occur in certain circles with women speaking out, I see these steps as a momentous beginning of a necessary evolution, with much more work to be done. However, in an Atlantic article titled “The Growing Partisan Divide Over Feminism”, we may find some real hope. To see why, please read my first article posted here.

Other stories this week cover issues of Native Women at Standing Rock; education of foster care students; the political and moral issues of poverty; the necessity of Unions for women; and a list of ways to assist women of color in 2018. So, for these and other stories, Please Read On! Your comments are always welcome!


  1. Holding other factors constant, they found that between 2004 and 2016, support for feminism—belief in the existence of “societal discrimination against women, and the need for greater female political power”—grew increasingly correlated with support for the Democratic Party. The correlation rose earlier among feminist women, but by 2016, it had also risen among feminist men. A key factor, the authors speculated, was Hillary Clinton. A liberal woman’s emergence as a serious presidential contender in 2008, and then as her party’s nominee eight years later, drove feminists of both genders toward the Democratic Party and anti-feminists of both genders toward the GOP.
“The Growing Partisan Divide Over Feminism”/ by Peter Beinart/ The Atlantic/ December 15, 2017

 


2. It’s hard to understand the diversity of Georgia if you don’t understand the size. We have 10.5 million people! Because people are not aware of our state’s racial diversity and size, they can be surprised by the idea of an African-American woman becoming governor. I think one mischaracterization is that as an African-American woman, I must only be able to engage people who look like me, which is deeply offensive. We have to acknowledge race and gender—it’s disingenuous to ignore either—but it is problematic if we then constrain expectations because of those issues. I’m Southern and Georgian, and I possess a broad capacity to speak to a wide constituency.
“Stacey Abrams Would be More Than Our First Black Woman Governor”/ by Brittany Shoot/ DAME Magazine/ December 28, 2017

 


3. “We were shocked. I mean, tears flowed,” says Janis Avery. For more than two decades, she has led a nonprofit called Treehouse, dedicated to improving the lives of foster youth. In fact, Treehouse had been pushing for the state to break out educational data about kids in foster care. And the data, when it came for the first time, was a wake-up call.
“Why Foster Care Students in Seattle are Beating the Odds”/ by Anya Kamenetz/ NPR/ December 27, 2017

 


4. According to the New York Times, “Other parties, including Peabody Coal and two other corporations, want[ed] the water for ranching, farming and coal mining operations.” The corporate interest in the water was not new or surprising, yet it heightened community outrage and protest. Fortunately, the bill was never enacted. As a high-desert community that already lives with natural conditions of water scarcity, Diné people have developed traditional ways of honoring and conserving water. Yet they continue to be beleaguered by threats of contamination, waste, and legislative robbery of what little water they have.
“Women and Standing Rock”/ by Layli Long Soldier/ Orion Magazine/ December 2017

 


5. Policies stacked against the poor are, according to the report, driven by “caricatured narratives about the purported innate differences between the rich and poor.” The rich are depicted as industrious and responsible, the poor as wasters, losers, and scammers. This picture is pushed by politicians to justify slashing funds for programs that provide for the basic needs of the poor, cutting holes in an already tattered safety net. Behind this strategy, Alston observes, is a racist agenda which suggests, by innuendo, that the poor who are depleting the country’s resources are African Americans or Hispanic immigrants.
“Poverty is Both a Political and a Moral Choice Made By the Powerful”/ by Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi/ Common Dreams/ December 25, 2017

 


6. The protests this year weren’t just historic for their ambitious scope and persistence, they were also indicative of a new era in disability rights activism—one that centers the experiences of multiply marginalized groups. “For far too long, disability rights have been a white man’s game,” said Woodward. “And it’s time to take it forward and get a lot more people involved, including a lot of women’s voices and people of color and other marginalized communities [who] need to be a part of not only participating, but really planning the strategy of the disability rights movement.”
“The Women with Disabilities Who Fought for Your Health Care This Year”/ by Robyn Powell/ Broadly./ December 20, 2017

 


7. It’s a curious paradox. Portland, like many other liberal cities, was blanketed after Trump’s win with signs such as, “All Refugees Welcome.” But in the months after the election many immigrants, refugees, and Muslims I met in the food industry said the best way I could help them was by concealing their identity. This was especially true for those from countries covered by Trump’s travel ban.
“Dining While Muslim—Eating Out in the Age of Trump”/ by Zahir Janmohamed/ Feet in 2 Worlds/ December 12, 2017

 


8. Women who are either covered by a union contract or members of a union are more likely to have a pension and get health insurance benefits through their employer. Keep in mind that the recently passed tax bill basically blows up the individual insurance market, which means you need to have a job that pays you health insurance. Three in four unionized women get health benefits, but only half of non-unionized women do.
“What Will Women Lose if Unions Fail?”/ by Lisa Needham/ DAME Magazine/ December 26, 2017

 


9. Many Black women are survivors of police brutality and domestic violence, and are disproportionately affected by these issues because of their multiple marginalization. As an ally, you can use your privilege to raise awareness about these issues, practice bystander awareness and intervention, and shelter or otherwise physically protect women who are in harm’s way.
“11 Ways to Support Black Women in 2018”/ by Katie Mitchell/ Bustle/ December 27, 2017

 


10. Many of the solutions I heard in that room and other rooms like it were “non-racist” subtle processes and practices meant for well-meaning whites to let themselves and other “good whites” off the hook for their complicity in systemic racism. Their participation in this system, they believed, was mostly subconscious. So, by opting out of explicit involvement in that system, many concerned white people believed they were doing (some of) “the work.” The expressions on most of their faces when I spoke up that day showed that actively disrupting the racist modus operandi and intentionally divesting from systems of white supremacy was a foreign concept. Like the teens I had spoken to a few weeks before, they seemed confounded at the role they could play in this ongoing process. They were overwhelmed by “the work” required to both confront the systemic oppression faced by others and reckon with their own oft-hidden entanglements in that system simultaneously.
“Doing the Work: White People Must Invest in Anti-racism”/ by Jenn Jackson/ bitchmedia/ December 26, 2017

 


11. I read Homer’s great poem as a complex and truthful articulation of gender dynamics that continue to haunt us. The Odyssey traces deep male fears about female power, and it shows the terrible damage done to women, and perhaps also to men, by the androcentric social structures that keep us silent and constrained. Birds in Homer are the ultimate image of speech and of freedom. Athena repeatedly transforms herself into a bird of prey, whooshing up to the rooftops or surfing across the waves of the sea. The silenced slave girls are “like doves or thrushes,” caught in a hunter’s net. Penelope, meanwhile, is like a “pale gray nightingale” who “sits among the leaves / that crowd the trees.” She can’t fly, but her warbling amounts to a “symphony of sound.”
“A Translator’s Reckoning with the Women of the Odyssey”/ by Emily Wilson/ New Yorker/ December 8, 2017

 


Joyce Hayden left her university teaching job two years ago in order to pursue her own artistic work. An assemblage artist, painter, and writer, Joyce is currently in the process of acquiring an agent to represent her memoir, The Out of Body Girl, which describes her 8 year relationship with a charismatic gambler and the dangerous road that eventually led to her freedom. Her chapbook of poems, Lost Handprint, is forthcoming from Dandelion Review. A freelance editor and writing coach, Joyce’s writing services and a selection of her artwork can be found at her website joycehayden.com. Joyce is available for commission art work, including celebration shrines for loved ones and pets.

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