M. Rickert’s short story “Evidence of Love In a Case of Abandonment,” drew me in immediately with its slow, mysterious tone, steady character development, and themes of government secrecy and conservatism.
In the future that Rickert imagines, America has undergone “a conservative revolution,” with “harsh rules for women, and a strict delineation of acceptable behavior.” Acceptable behavior for women in this fictional society includes: surrendering their reproductive rights, their careers, not having an abortion, and shaming any woman who acts outside of these constraints.
Women caught in nefarious acts would simply be executed. In an arena (or in this town’s case, their high school football field, as they were small and could not afford a stadium). In front of an audience of their neighbors and peers. And broadcast on live TV for those who had the misfortune of not being able to attend the live performance.
While reading “Evidence of Love,” I found I was waiting for my own kind of evidence. Evidence that this was, indeed, a fictional world. Instead, what I found was evidence that while Rickert may have created a fictional world, she did not need much more than talent in precise writing, plot consistency and a knack for figurative language. The circumstances surrounding her characters, although exaggerated and spooky, are not unknown to certain citizens of the United States.
Like in Rickert’s fantasy world, our media, government, law enforcement, and the general sociopolitical systems are flawed, corrupt.
Our modern media – liberal and conservative sources alike – is shrouded in bias; gender, class, racial, and sexual stereotypes are perpetuated and seen as normative, or worse (re: the only kind that exists or should exist) by most; law-makers, political candidates, and other leading faces seem unaware or unconcerned about exactly how dangerous the sociopolitical climate is for minorities; people of color, women, the gay community, transgender men and women, non-binary folk, the elderly and disabled, (the list grows and lives on) have absolutely no real standing in our nation; as a citizen, becoming educated about rape culture, the school-to-prison-pipeline, police brutality, systemic racism, sexism, and other important issues and -isms has become a task for us to learn on own or through grassroots movements not in school or through the allegedly well-informed and meaning media.
Grassroots movements such as #BlackLivesMatter go through treacherous lengths to garner support and disperse information through local rallying and social media outreach but with little or no real political support from the general media, government, or public officials. However, with enough public support from peers and like-minded people, transformation and change can and will be seen, slowly, and at a price.
Adams’ introduction echoes in my mind and in the minds of minorities across the globe:
“Be a good girl – or….”
“Be a good boy – or…”
“Be a good Black, Hispanic, Asian, etc – or”
“Be a good homeless person – or…”
The echoes go on; live on.
However, reading Rickert’s story, I was constantly questioning. Where are the people of color? The gays? The queers and the activists? Has her white, heterosexual privilege led her to write a story where only white victims exist (read: matter) in this American tale?
The only mention of possible activists in her story is in the notion of “missing women” of the town who, rumor has it, have gone off to start an army of sorts.; their own grassroots movement.
But still. Where are my non-white activists at?
I believe her privilege plays a large role in why she views her tale as “fantasy” and in why, generally, many view Rickert’s story as an important piece of feminist literature in the dystopia/utopia genre.
But more on this last bit in a (possible) later piece.
I am more than happy and willing to praise a piece of feminist literature; however, it is my self-professed and self-assigned duty as a writer to raise questions and awareness. When my social justice-based goals are achieved, I’ll move on to defending all feminist literature.
Could the white-washing in this story be intentional? I suppose it could. One could argue that Rickert’s “fantasy” revolution lead by the oh-so-Righteous Right wiped out all those despicable minorities.
However, it’s an absolute stretch. To say it was intentional would imply poor writing, and would be a disservice to Rickert’s work, which I characterize as carefully crafted with cohesive plotlines and twists, and with a precise use of language. But without any direct or indirect commentary from the narrator (or author herself), subtle hints through diction, or even a small mention of another race – I’m going to say it’s highly unlikely that Rickert had much more in mind than her own, personal, white feminist agenda.
And for some, that is enough.
But for me, it is simply another echo of John Joseph Adams’ introduction—
“Be a good feminist voice – or don’t get published.”