Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha’s poem Dirt River Girl focuses on how pollution effect the body making people sick and blames them for being sick even though it is not in their control. This poem supports many of ideas presented in class about cure culture and how, as a society, we try and categorize or label differences and problems in our society. This categorization fogs perspective and creates a bias, However, while reading Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha’s poem I had a different interpretation of what the poems overall theme was discussing.
This poem reminded me of the MeToo movement. This movement is a fight against sexual harassment and abuse, that took place over social media in order to draw attention to the epidemic. Specifically, with the events that I had experienced at the Society of American Anthropology (SAA) conference in New Mexico. The Monday before the conference an anthropology professor had been charged with sexual harassment suit and had been dismissed from the various archaeological societies in his area as well as the university he taught at. It was assumed that the SAA board would bar this professor from attending the conference. However, on the Wednesday of the conference the professor walked in and registered for the conference. Over the next couple of days, it was pure chaos with the trying to get information from the SAA bored on what they were going to do. With a news reporters social media crusade against the professor, and the hostility that surrounded the MeToo movement at the conference. This event, in my opinion was not handled with the most grace by either of the parties.
While the Dirty River Girl poem focuses on how environmental pollution causes sickness, I felt that after reading this poem and with my experience at the SAA that the term pollution has a broader meaning. Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha’s poem’s states:
There is an underground river that whispers: // Abuse survivors are the ones who get weird disease. // The ones who were raped and touched to young, // us whose bodies tell terrible stories, horrible lies. // Our bodies’ walls cave in on the stories they hold that there are too much swell for our banks in a flash flood
I drew parallels to sexual harassment as a form of pollution. Both effect our society causing people to become sick, Pollution physically and Sexual harassment mentally. The poem highlights how people who have been affected by pollution are the ones that get blamed. Society believes it was the victim’s fault for causing the certain events to occur when in reality, it is not the fault of the victim but the form of pollution that came into contact with them thus leaving them in this incapacitated state that society has defined for them. This is a very similar mentality to how people approach sexual assault and harassment. The victim is typically scrutinized for clothing, actions, or both. It isn’t there problem but actually societies actions towards these events.
Through this is not the correct interpretation of Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha’s poem, I feel that it is an interesting one in the fact that it provides a new wave of thought when reading this poem and looking at what we categorize as pollution in both the natural and physical sense.