Surprisingly it isn’t the outright hassling by other poets that a gal needs to get accustomed to, it’s the silence. It’s being ignored in conversations. Not having one’s ideas picked up on… It’s scanning the mastheads and seeing no women (another kind of silence). It’s reading an introduction to an anthology and realizing that even when women are included in the broader category of poetry, or art, etc, most male editors see the world in terms of other males. It’s realizing that even when they respect a female poet, she’s just that, a female, something a little different, a little outside the frame. Someone to learn from, sure, but not to remain in conversation with…
So, in the face of the silence? Just enter into the discussion. When you get ignored, just keep responding. It reminds me of my instistance on joining a football team in elementary school. I loved football. I wanted to play, and the only team at my disposal was the guys. Coach made me run laps. And laps. And laps. He humiliated me in practice. I assume he did this hoping I would give up. No one would pass to me. Finally one day I was glaringly in the open and the quarterback threw to me. It was a long, long, pass. I sprained a finger catching it, but I caught it, I made the play. Not a touch down, but a nice play. It didn’t change much in terms of the guys not wanting a girl on the team. No Hollywood ending there, just more of the same. But it let me know that I could do it–that if I wasn’t part of the team it wasn’t because I couldn’t keep up.
So when you’re feeling that you’re invisible? Not getting passed the ball? Just keep playing. Keep playing defensively but also offensively. Make opportunities for yourself. Do your job well. Be ready for the ball. (Happily a younger generation of poets is reading this and thinking, huh? Not in my world, and I hope that things progress that way.) But in hindsight, it wasn’t necessarily the guys on the team (we played together off the team quite well otherwise…). No, it was something else.
Or start your own game? Personally, I would rather play a non-gendered league. And I kinda like the tackle.