Misogyny in Literary Criticism: Ed Champion Blackmails Porochista Khakpour with Private Sexual Info (Part 2)

If you’ve read part one of my article detailing the misogynistic, threatening, and psychologically unstable rants of literary critic Edward Champion, you probably figured he’d have enough, if not sense, at least commitment to his mental health, to stay off the internet for a while.

Unfortunately, Champion is in the news again for yet another attack against women: this time against Iranian American author Porochista Khakpour. In the days since, supporters have rallied around Khakpour and her strength has encouraged many others harassed and outright threatened by Champion to come forward.

On September 25th, Champion tweeted that if Khakpour did not apologize to him, he would release the name of the man who photographed her nude.

Khakpour’s crime? She deleted a nasty comment he’d written about Dan Kois (an editor at Slate) from her Facebook page — which makes perfect professional sense, because Khakpour is a contributor there. Champion didn’t appreciate that, so he calmly called her, had a fair and rational discussion with her, and the two agreed to disagree as friends.

Just kidding, as you might have heard, that’s not what happened at all. Taking the healthy route has never been Champion’s strong point, but his response took the misogynist cake, which I’d imagine tastes like dollar store aftershave mixed with male tears, and is decorated with the phrase “But I’m a Nice Guy.”

Porochista Khakpour (image via blip.tv)
Porochista Khakpour (image via blip.tv)

Champion tweeted, “If (Porochista Khakpour) does not apologize to me before 11:00 PM, I will reveal the name of the man who photographed her. The choices [sic] is hers.”

Author’s note: What a complete fucking psychopath.  What ensued was some sort of psychotic episode in which Champion tweeted a kind of countdown: “Let’s be public about the way that Porochista Khakpoour [sic] is an awful narcissist who squeezes everything she can from you and then dumps you.”

Then: “fuck Porochista Khakpour. I busted my ass to push her books, and she invents conspiracy theories in lieu of seeking therapy.”

Later: “Five minutes. Who is the man who photographed (Porochista Khakpour) in the nude? I’m not afraid, and I won’t be intimidated?” He won’t be intimidated?

He closed with the bitter and telling, “The publishing industry had [sic] done ZERO for me. Fuck you. Fuck all of you. Here it is.”  He then apparently published the name, which I have zero interest in finding out and even less in reprinting.

And people wonder why he was never able to publish a book.

Here’s where it gets even crazier: if you somehow managed to survive reading all 11,000 words of the June essay, you’d know that Porochista Khakpour actually took Champion’s side against Gould, and the two exchanged a few biting (since deleted) tweets that only the most rabid literary gossip-mongers would care about. She later apologized to Gould and others for her “silence and sympathy that day. ”

While Champion was making all of these threats, Khakpour tweeted out a series of heartbreaking messages:

khakpour first threats

She also tweeted: “Oh god please if anyone knows any lawyers, anything.i can’t do this. my life is very hard. i am very poor & work very hard.i can’t take this”

Thankfully, her pleas for help didn’t go unnoticed — many reported the harassment to Twitter, getting Ed’s handle blocked. More importantly, her actions inspired an astounding amount of other people to come forward and speak out about the harassment and outright threats they’d suffered at the hands of Edward Champion.

 

 

levi asher

 

kev and dwight

Among the many others who have come forward on Twitter: Dwight Garner (who tweeted he’d “taken enough crude, sinister abuse from Ed Champion over the years,”) Levi Asher, (“I’m speaking up because my silence has been interpreted as complicity. It’s not…”) Kevin Nguyen (“Once Ed Champion tried to get me fired because I subtweeted him,”) Ron Hogan (who tweeted that Champion threatened him “with physical assault”) and Michelle Filgate (who also said that he “told Emily Mandel to kill herself” — good thing she didn’t because she just got nominated for the National Book Award).

Maud Newton, Nicole Cliffe, Jennifer Weiner, Rachel Fershleiser, and Connor Goldsmith (again, among many others) all tweeted their support for those harassed and threatened by Champion. Many held his partner Sarah Weinman (influential editor at Publisher’s Lunch) equally responsible — especially since she’s also an editor at edrants, as noted by Mallory Ortberg on Twitter.

For her part, Weinman tried to brush the whole thing off as “internet drama” and tweeted to Khakpour: “That’s odd, apparently you couldn’t wait to ‘go public’ even though I was in the middle of replying to you? I am quite baffled.”

My question is why the hell, when there’s a threat made against you and the person making it knows where you live, would you feel the need to “wait” before doing anything?  And certainly Champion didn’t plan to “wait” for an explanation to release the name of the man who had photographed Khakpour.

Weinman later tweeted, “I don’t know what’s going to happen.” This is similar to her reaction in regards to the Emily Gould debacle, where she victim-blamed and held everyone but Ed responsible for his actions.

Ron Hogan tweeted later that “You can’t tell the full story of Ed Champion’s abuse and intimidation without discussing how Sarah Weinman enabled & abetted it.”  He also tweeted she’d “tried to discredit” others who had spoken out against him.

GOLDSMMITH QUOTES

Khakpour ended up going to the police. She was told she had a case against Champion and filed a harassment police report at the 28th precinct in Harlem. She has tweeted that she has been nervous about leaving her home, and that she has had to cancel teaching some classes as well as several literary events she had planned. Fortunately, it sounds as though Khakpour has a very dedicated and physically present support system, as well as an outpouring of support from the online literary community — and nonliterary people with common sense and compassion.

Emily Gould also wrote a post about everything, entitled “This Wasn’t Something that ‘Happened on the Internet'” where she made clear that what happened was far from “a ‘subtweet war’ or a ‘literary feud.’  It was none of those things. It was an attack on women, meant to make us feel threatened and fundamentally unsafe in the online and physical spaces we inhabit.”

There’s a rumor circulating that Champion may have been the reason for the Manhattan Bridge shutdown on September 26th, as well as a few reports that Champion has been checked into Bellevue for evaluation and, hopefully, treatment. The last anyone heard from Champion, as of this writing, was the following update on his Facebook page:

CHAMPION UPDATE SEPT 26

Khakpour has tweeted that “There are some details about Ed’s past & history w/ this behavior that many of you don’t know. I think I can’t legally get into it. But some of us are commenting about this knowing them well–and we can’t say more. But just know it’s very, very serious.” She’s also tweeted that “16 individuals who have been seriously attacked by EC have written to me.”  And that number keeps climbing.

It’s clear that Champion needs serious help, and has for quite some time.  But what about sexism in the publishing industry as a whole? We’re all tired of the White Male Novelist, how men in MFA programs write female characters, and how women writers of color have been marginalized or silenced altogether (though certainly, that kind of institutionalized racism is not exclusively directed towards women.)

It’s clear that making waves and speaking out against sexism and racism in any industry can result in unfair and often illegal consequences, which often intimidate people into silence. I can certainly understand that fear, and commend those who have put their personal and professional lives on the line in exposing the harassment they faced at the hands of Edward Champion.

Equally upsetting is the trend in these rants that pit women writers against one another, and the fact, of course, that Weinman herself is a woman who presumably read through (as an editor) many of Champion’s previous misogynist ramblings and didn’t see any issue – or simply didn’t care.

Say what you will about “middling millennial” women writers, Ed — but as evidenced by their powerful social media response to your actions, they certainly know how to stand by and support one another.

So what can we, readers and perhaps writers ourselves, do to support these women?  For starters, you can buy their books (can I make another plea that you do so from your local independent bookstore?) Emily Gould’s works include Friendship, And the Heart Says Whatever, and her blog EmilyMagazine.com. Porochista Khakpour is the author of Sons and Other Flammable Objects and The Last Illusion. You can also follow them both on twitter at @EmilyGould and @PKhakpour to stay attuned to what they’re up to.

Most importantly though, you should just read books you like, decide for yourself why you enjoy them, and not really concern yourself with anyone else’s lowbrow despicable opinions of their author’s private lives.

Firinn Asch
Firinn Asch is the pseudonym of a Southern-born, Manhattan-based writer. She is pursuing her Master's in Creative Writing and has a particular interest in cults, extreme religious sects, and translated literature. She also really appreciates a good Bloody Mary.
http://www.firinnasch.com
  • botenana

    Oh my gosh this is ridiculous. I thought only children were supposed to act like children.

    I’d be inclined to agree with yours (and many others) that Champion is, well, mentally ill, or unstable at the least. I’m glad others are pointing out the Borderline behavior of manipulation and using self-harm as leverage.

    Ugh.