Caught up among the activists,
Attis heard the feminists
decry the evils of male power
till, after six or seven hours,
convinced by all their arguments
that being male is violence,
he rushed up front and jumped onstage,
where, seized by self-directed rage,
he shrieked “sic semper tyrannis”
(all the Latin he chanced to know,
which, happily, was a propos),
grabbed up a handy pair of sciss-
ors, hastily pulled down his pants
and, crazed as the ancient Corybants
who danced all night in frenzy’s grip,
cut his balls off with one snip
and threw them out above the crowd.
(A toddler in a pussy hat
watched where they dropped and stomped them flat.)
Stunned silence—then a cheer so loud
Attis trembled—then laughing faces,
tears, high fives, sudden embraces
as everybody (as they should)
welcomed her to womanhood.
She led the protest and they all
went rushing through the lecture halls
and chanted till their throats were numb:
“All men are rapists!” “Cis-het scum!”
and “Fuck the patriarchy”
and “Toxic men have got to go”—
slogans that, just a day ago
she would have called malarkey.
When darkness fell at last they went
back to their camp and found a tent
where, on a soft and jumbled heap
of blankets, Attis fell asleep.
Morning: the university’s
buildings awakened to the light
that touched the windows silver-bright
and greened wind-troubled tops of trees.
All year the campus had been riven
by fierce political division,
and two tent cities had sprung up
each one housing a rival group:
here, warriors for diversity—
“That’s what you claim, but not
diversity of thought”—
so said the other side, the free
speech advocates, while in between
the riot cops patrolled the scene.
Attis came out to face the sun
and asked herself, What have I done?
He’d had the option to enjoy
the life of unearned privilege
that starts with the doctor’s “It’s a boy!”
and swaddles you to the grave’s edge.
He’d never asked if this was fair
but just accepted it, like air.
In fact, he’d never thought beyond
his little frat-boy demimonde
where he was one of the elect.
But now he saw what he had wrecked:
he could have had a man’s life, blessed
with almost effortless success,
where the good luck of being male
ensures that, even if you fail,
you always fail towards the top.
But now she’d given all that up
and felt a sick lurch of distress
to realize she’d joined the oppressed,
doomed to be much less than she’d hoped—
no more the groper but the groped.
How unthinkingly she had hurled
herself into this bleak new world,
where men will circle her like vultures
riding the thermals of rape culture.
She sank beneath these strange new fears,
her vision blurred by sudden tears.
At last the other women rise
and, seeing tears brim in her eyes,
they hurry over to remind her
that she’s left her old life behind her,
and any qualms or second thoughts
will wither in the certainty
of their ideology.
There’s so much hate speech to be fought,
and now that she’s seen (at the least) as
feminism’s new high priest(ess),
what inspiration she can bring!
Today they’ll be deplatforming
some scientist whose harmful views
have recently been in the news.
Will Attis come? Eager to please
her new companions, she agrees
and soon reveals she has a flair
for ideological warfare.
She hasn’t read the proper books—
no Greer, de Beauvoir, no bell hooks,
no Judith Butler, Audre Lorde
or any of that feminist horde—
but, despite her wasted youth,
now feminism’s central truth
strikes her as by divine afflatus:
all the problems that come at us
in this imperfect world, our home,
are caused by the Y chromosome.
She quickly learns how to disarm
anyone who’d disagree
by shouting, “Stop gaslighting me!”
or, “Speech is violence—you’ve caused harm,”
and how to stoke the righteous rage
that currently defines our age
and grips the university,
where scions of the bourgeoisie
although the world has hardly kicked them
learn that it pays to play the victim
and factions of oppression vie
to see whose claims will be heard first,
whose sufferings have been the worst,
while trigger warnings multiply…
But now, to reach a quick conclusion:
Attis still fights against exclusion—
a former bro who laughed at jokes
about queer, trans, and BIPOC folx
is now her college’s VP,
Inclusion and Diversity.
She’s happy, so I’ll leave her there
and offer up one final prayer:
inspire, spirit of equity,
such deeds in other men, not me.
—after Catullus 63