July 15, 2019

Jenny Qi

MACHINE LEARNING

Woman is a machine
of suffering.
—Pablo Picasso

After considering the statements received from both parties,
the Panel found [Man’s] version of the events
to be more credible than that of [Woman].
He has consistently denied any guilt or wrongdoing
because he believes he has done nothing wrong,
and belief in privilege grants privilege absolutely.
Privilege is $34 million in payouts, career sabotage
by espionage, systemic fear—a presidential sum.

*

I told my father that the president
assaulted twenty women.
He said he’s never heard that (because of course
the Chinese news stations wouldn’t report it),
but the women are probably lying
because the president is rich and powerful,
and women will do anything for a bit of money.

**

The Panel believes based upon [Man’s] account
that [Man] had clear non-verbal consent,
that [Woman] indicated non-verbal consent.
The Panel believes the man’s account
of the woman’s actions, having learned
over centuries that Woman is capricious,
hysterical, seductive, shrewd, curious
like a black cat, guilty of original sin
and every sin, Pandora, Eve, witch
who dragged guileless Man
out of the warmth of womb
into a world of pain, built
a machine of suffering.

*

I splutter like a dying engine,
my broken Chinese fuming
from the pipes, insufficient
to express my outrage.

**

The Panel is a machine
that has been programmed
to believe the man’s story,
to believe in the man.
The algorithm tells it that Man has a future
whose brightness must be protected
from the wiles of Woman,
whom the Panel found to be well-spoken
and verbally skilled. Therefore, she could
have said no. Therefore, she would
have said no. There she goes again,
being outspoken, disobedient,
unfeminine. There she goes again,
trying to drag a good man down.

*

In Chinese, all I manage is how can you say that
when you have a daughter. How can you
have a daughter and still respect women so little.
I hate when men say they condemn
sexual violence as a father of daughters,
but how can you condone
sexual violence as a father of daughters.
Probability: If you have four daughters,
one daughter will be raped.

**

The Panel questioned her behavior
after the alleged assault. She continued
to exchange and initiate texts,
invite him to her apartment,
snuggle in bed together.
She continued to love this man
whom she had loved and trusted,
who was now a part of her life,
who had assaulted her.
She thought maybe she was wrong,
maybe she was overreacting,
maybe if she acted normal
she wouldn’t lose everything.

*

Later, sleepless with fury, I imagine
another conversation in which I ask my father,
Did you know that a man assaulted Mom
before she met you? That she loved him?
That she married you to escape
the shame of her violation.

**

The Panel believes
that [Woman’s] verbal expressions
could be considered moaning by [Man],
indicative of non-verbal consent.
A woman’s protests are no match
for a man’s insistence, a man’s influence,
a man’s brute strength. Think of Lupita,
who offered a massage so she could keep
standing, said nothing after, knowing that, too,
would be considered non-verbal consent.

*

I don’t tell my father I panic on the bus
when I realize I forgot my pepper spray;
I named her Hotrod; a man followed me
down a desolate street, and I escaped
into a bar, hid behind a stranger
until I saw him leave; another man
approached me at a bus stop insisting
I was a runaway, offered a mattress and weed,
wouldn’t leave until I lied I had a boyfriend—
he said I don’t believe you, but I’ll go
out of respect for him.

from Rattle #63, Spring 2019

__________

Jenny Qi: “I wrote ‘Machine Learning’ in response to artist Catalina Ouyang’s invitation to create a ‘poetic translation’ of the final section of the Title IX report generated by her university’s disciplinary panel, which found her ex-partner ‘not responsible’ for raping her. When I read the report, I couldn’t help but note the reuse and refinement of victim-blaming language and see parallels between human/cultural learning and computer/machine learning. That association was learned, too, from my training as a scientist and years of living in tech-dominated San Francisco. Catalina’s request also happened to roughly coincide with the rise of the #MeToo movement and a renewed collective awareness and rage. As a woman in this world, I live always in that space between awareness and rage.” (web)

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