Operation Oysterhood: 26 February

OYSTERHOOD is reclusiveness or solitude, or an overwhelming desire to stay at home.

— @HaggardHawks

A morning in bed, reading about the different levels of abuse and discrimination women face in their lives. First, the next chapter in Rita Colwell and Sharon Bertsch McGrayne’s A Lab of One’s Own. It’s not that any of these stories are entirely new to me. None of them shock me. But reading about the unabated discrimination women in the sciences (and everywhere else) have been dealing with for centuries and still have to battle every bloody day of their lives makes me tired, and angry. And it strengthens my resolve to work with more women, support more women, tell more women’s stories and walk proudly with my head held high, because, goddess knows, I have witnessed and experienced the misogyny, the sexism, the bias – conscious or not – all myself in one form or another – all my life.

And then, a manuscript. A story about abuse. I finished reading it today. Incredible, beautiful, powerful writing which somehow manages to reveal, hold and transcend a story of horror. Even though we have met several times at literary occasions, I don’t really know the writer personally, but I have been reading her work for a while now and have become a fan of her prose. What I did not know, but what the manuscript revealed to me, is that over a decade ago, the two of us have shared the pages of the POWA anthologies, Breaking the Silence. These were some of my earliest published stories, for which I also won prizes. Our lives touched back then already and, years later, here we are: a gentle trust of sharing established. To write a manuscript like that you have to make yourself vulnerable beyond most people’s comprehension and you have to summon a courage from somewhere deep inside that you usually don’t even know is possible. And somehow words spill onto a page, reach someone else in the early hours of a morning, and transform, as if by magic, into the tears of compassion, understanding and, most importantly, healing. These are the stories that make you feel less alone in the world, make you comprehend that all your brokenness, shame, loneliness and hurt have been felt before. And that they have been overcome. That there is a light at the end of this particular tunnel. Often, all it takes to reach it is “breaking the silence”.

It was another full day of work and stuff, but nothing as important as this morning’s reading. I did get a lovely phone call from a friend, and my love stopped by for a HARU takeaway dinner. I am going to spend the rest of the evening watching TV and sipping a nice wine. My wild Friday nights.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

“Physical distancing remains one of the key strategies to curb this pandemic.”


(P.S. Yes, my name has been completely misspelled in one of the anthologies, but it is still me.)

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