Are You Judging Me Yet?, by Kim Moore, is a remarkable collection of essays and poetry that explore, as the tagline suggests, everyday sexism. The book started life as the author’s PhD thesis before being transformed into this reader-directed text. The innovative structure invites the reader to move between sections in a non-linear fashion, following ‘desire lines’ of interest. I chose to read it cover to cover and this worked for me.
In the essays, Moore offers a forensic examination of her encounters with sexism at poetry readings and in her personal life. There may be academic undertones but the writing remains humane and accessible. The author questions others’ behaviour towards her – male and female – and her immediate reactions. She then goes on to consider why what was said might be deemed socially acceptable. Included are poems that generated the responses detailed, and poems that were inspired by these.
Discussed are such issues as woman as a body. After the readings of her work, men approach to offer compliments on how she looks rather than commenting on what she read. These are small moments, perhaps not recognised by the perpetrator as sexist and dismissive. Women are expected to smile and accept, not make a fuss or complain.
“when you expose a problem, you pose a problem”
Not all encounters are what may be considered by many as benign. In writing about an experience of assault or more overt sexism, the author gives shape to the situation and its aftermath, rather than passively enduring.
“You pretend that nothing has happened,
you turn it into nothing, you learn that nothing
is necessary armour you must carry with you”
Women will recognise the ‘everyday assaults on integrity and personal safety’, how they are expected to listen without feeling attacked, to keep any discomfort to themselves. The essays herein offer intelligent and carefully considered thoughts on the sexist behaviour inherent in male and female relationships. When challenged through Moore’s poetry, men will often attempt to turn the tables, become defensive, accuse the author of treating them as she is claiming they treat her. The deconstruction of encounters includes attempts to pin down what is meant by words used, such as sexism and objectification.
As a female poet performing her work at literary events the author becomes the focus of attention – her as much as her words. She also discovers aspects of her poems she had not recognised before reading them aloud and observing reactions.
She writes of desire and is judged for this. She writes of violence and is blamed. The essays are interesting, detailed and thought-provoking. The poetry is incredible – mind altering and piercing.
A powerful and, in many ways, provocative book written with both rigour and empathy. The acuity is breath-taking. A recommended read.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Seren.