May 29, 2014
Alex Dally MacFarlane
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Wiscon 2012 – Report – FJ Bergmann harassing Rose Lemberg

This is an email I sent on 15 July 2013 in support of Rose Lemberg’s report about harassment by FJ Bergmann at Wiscon 2012. It is posted publicly with Rose’s permission, in support of this post, which I’ve co-signed.


Dear Wiscon Safety,

With Rose Lemberg’s approval, I am writing a formal report of the incident of FJ Bergmann harassing Rose at Wiscon in 2012, which I witnessed. Rose is copied into this email.

I was at the Moment of Change launch reading that Rose Lemberg hosted, and I heard the poem that FJ Bergmann read. It was an offensive, anti-feminist poem in its own right, nasty about the woman at the core of the poem (surely a very 101-level failure and inappropriate for a feminist, intersectional reading). But as FJ Bergmann read it, I kept hearing things that made me think it was aimed at Rose: the references to Russia (where Rose is from, and Rose has talked about this publicly multiple times in the years before Wiscon 2012), to birds (which feature prominently in Rose’s work), to Siberia (where Rose has lived, although this is not as widely known, but this has also featured in some of Rose’s work). I know there are other details that other audience members picked up on (anti-Semitism, PhD references, accent mockery – all relevant to Rose, who is a Jewish academic with an accent).

It left me with the distinct impression that the poem had been aimed at Rose, down to its minute details, and the nastiness directed at the woman of the poem was thus directed at Rose.

It made me feel very uncomfortable, so after the reading I spoke to several other friends who had been present – and I found that we had *all* felt very uncomfortable and were sure that it had been aimed at Rose: an active attack on her.

I do not think it possible that this was a misunderstanding. It was too specifically targeted at Rose, too nasty and hurtful.

In the interests of disclosure, I was friends with Rose prior to that Wiscon, as were some of the other people I spoke to, but I do not think that coloured our interpretations at all. (I was thinking “Surely this poem isn’t aimed at Rose… surely…” but by the end of the poem I was sure it was, and I afterwards found that everyone I spoke to agreed.)

It was upsetting to witness, and I know it has been deeply upsetting to Rose and still is, and I offer my support to Rose in this situation.

All the best,
Alex Dally MacFarlane

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