Robin Morgan’s “Arraignment” as it was published in 1972 in The Feminist Art Journal.

Robin Morgan’s “Arraignment” was originally published in her book Monster in November 1972. Morgan wrote the poem in response to the death of the well-known feminist poet Sylvia Plath. Plath committed suicide in 1963. Her suicide occurred after a lifetime of mental health struggles and also, importantly, after her husband, Ted Hughes, left her for another woman. “Arraignment” became a symbol for the feminist movement, republished in periodicals all over the country. 

Morgan’s poem is an accusation. The poem’s title refers to charges being read to a defendant in court. In the first stanza of the poem, it becomes very clear what these charges are. Morgan states “I accuse / Ted Hughes / of … the murder of Sylvia Plath,” and later “real blood on real hands,” leaving no room for question about who she feels is to blame for Plath’s death (Morgan 4). Morgan also makes sure to emphasize within this first stanza that she feels Hughes’ role in Plath’s death has been covered up to a certain degree. She states that Hughes’ “murder” is something that “the entire British and American / literary and critical establishment / has been at great lengths to deny” (Morgan 4). This inclusion is pertinent because it shows how Morgan’s choice to write about Hughes in a negative light is going against popular media at the time; she is choosing to call out a man to whom the rest of the world appears to have turned a blind eye. Morgan’s choice to speak out when no one else did highlights her direct approach to attacking the issue of domestic violence. 

An important clarification is that Morgan is not accusing Hughes of physically murdering Plath. Plath’s death by suicide occurred after she had separated from Hughes; she had physically moved apartments away from him with her two children and was alone when she ultimately ended her life. Rather, Morgan implies that Hughes’ abuse throughout their marriage contributed to Plath’s mental illness and eventual suicide. In her second stanza, she makes this explicitly clear, proclaiming “not that it isn’t enough to condemn him / of mind-rape and body-rape” (Morgan 4). Here, Morgan alludes to both physical and emotional assaults on Plath by Hughes. She insinuates that even if Plath had not killed herself, Hughes would be a villain solely for his behavior in their marriage. The Guardian published an article in 2017 supporting Morgan’s claims of Hughes’ abuse; the article brings to light recently found letters between Plath and her therapist in which she states that Hughes beat her before she miscarried their child and “wanted her dead” (Kean). The context of Morgan’s argument running parallel to Plath’s is important because it gives more validity to “Arraignment” in that Morgan is not speaking for Plath so much as amplifying statements Plath already made. Thus, a big part of Morgan’s role in pushing back against domestic violence is through a type of elevation of female victims’ voices and a refusal to be intimidated by the fact that no one else seemed to be speaking up for Plath.

A photo of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. This image is from the Boston Globe article “The Last Days of Sylvia Plath.”

Morgan goes on to accuse Hughes of not only crimes of domestic violence, causing Plath’s death, but also “hiding of her most revealing indictments / against her jailor” (Morgan 4). The inclusion of the word “jailor” in reference to Hughes refers to Plath’s poem “The Jailor” which discusses an abusive relationship through the metaphor of a prisoner and a jailor. Furthermore, after Plath’s death, Hughes was given the rights to her work due to their still technical status as a married couple even though they had been separated. So, what Morgan is referring to in the quotation is that because Hughes had the rights to Plath’s body of work, he also had the power to remove or refuse to publish certain aspects of it in a self-serving way. For example, according to Sady Doyle’s in her book Trainwreck “her journals were released–but Hughes admitted to burning or losing the ones from the last months of her life and the edited ones were full of [OMISSION] marks” (Doyle). So, Morgan is making the claim that the journals which Hughes admitted to destroying likely contained more evidence of his abuse. The line “and making a mint by becoming her posthumous editor” refers specifically to the omission marks aforementioned (Morgan 4). Morgan is portraying Hughes as not only an abuser but also someone who attempted to leech off of his victim after causing her death–the ultimate villain. Through demonizing Hughes to the degree that she does, Morgan successfully fights back against a culture that previously failed to condemn domestic violence, a culture that assumes male superiority and turns a blind eye to injustices. She makes an example of Hughes through the statement that she will not allow his crimes to go unnoticed or unpunished.

Morgan’s poem does not focus solely on Plath, a very well-known figure, but also seeks to bring justice to Hughes’ second wife, Assia Guttmin Wevil. She states “and / if he’s killed one wife / he’s also killed two / the second, also, committed suicide” (Morgan 4). Her choice to include Wevil’s story makes her argument against Hughes more powerful because it highlights Hughes as a common denominator in two cases of extreme mental illness to the point of death. She sarcastically states “what a coincidence,” in reference to both of his wives committing suicide, underscoring her earlier assertions of Hughes as abusive by implying that these events could not be coincidental (Morgan 4).

Morgan’s poem was especially effective in outing Hughes as a villain because her poem was aggressive enough to cause him to sue her (Doyle). She anticipated this, ending her poem with “in the meantime, Hughes / sue me,” making the fact that Hughes actually did sue her almost comical; she anticipated his very move and therefore he essentially played into her hands (Morgan 4). Hughes sued in an attempt to not let the poem be seen but his choice had the opposite effect. Feminist periodicals all over the country started to publish the poem as a result because they felt that Hughes’ attempt to cover it up was further evidence of the truth in the accusations of abuse it contains. 

Morgan’s bold choice to call out Hughes directly is symbolic of a larger statement. She refuses to allow victims of domestic violence to be ignored; in an originally somewhat solitary stance, she highlights the power of the individual voice. Morgan’s poem began as her own statement on domestic violence and abuse and grew to become a part of the larger feminist movement. 



Doyle, Sady. Trainwreck. Melville House, 2016.

Kean, Danuta. “Unseen Sylvia Plath letters claim domestic abuse by Ted Hughes.” The Guardian, 2017. Accessed December 2021.

Morgan, Robin. “Arraignment III.” The Feminist Art Journal, vol. 1, p. 4.

Morgan, Robin. “Arraignment III.” The Spokeswoman, vol. 3, p. 5

Rollyson, Carl. “The Last Days of Sylvia Plath.” The Boston Globe, 2013. Accessed December 2021.

The Feminist Art Journal, vol. 1, Issue 2, September 1972

The Spokeswoman, vol. 3, Issue 6, December 1972


The Feminist Alliance Against Rape Newsletter

The cover of the January/February 1977 issue of the Feminist Alliance Against Rape Newsletter.

The Feminist Alliance Against Rape Newsletter began in 1974, turning out monthly issues with resources and opinion pieces aimed at combatting rape and rape culture. The issues both suggest new ideas and critique flaws in the entire anti-rape movement. The January/February 1977 issue is particularly poignant. The issue focuses on the problematic nature of the criminal justice system and the police being the first place victims of assault are told to go for help. It seeks to explain why this encouragement to always go to the police is not necessarily beneficial to the movement or to victims and further attempts to provide alternative resources for victims. 

The layout of the issue is simple; it does not seek to draw any reader in who does not wish to use its resources. Its simplicity is highlighted especially through the cover. The editors chose to use black and white text, an image of a documentary it will review, and text explaining upcoming conferences. The cover thus jumps right into the content of the newsletter. So, logically, the only people who are going to be drawn to the newsletter are those in need of resources who are looking for it; the newsletter does not want to attract masses of people, necessarily, but rather seeks to be a resource for victims who need it and allies/feminists who want to engage with the movement more intentionally.

The header of the criminal justice segment of the newsletter. It reads "Feminists Critique Anti-Rape Movement."The first piece in the newsletter is “Feminists Critique Anti-Rape Movement,” by Robin McDuff, Deanne Pernell, and Karen Saunders. The bolded font is eye-catching, as is the title. The idea of a publication, focused on fighting rape and rape culture, critiquing the very movement it is a part of is a daring way to begin the publication; it draws the reader in intentionally. The newsletter has already targeted a very specific demographic, victims and allies, with its cover and so the daring first piece serves to keep that demographic engaged. The focus of the article, explicitly in an open letter format to the entire anti-rape movement, is to “address the issue of the relationship of the anti-rape movement to the criminal justice system” (McDuff). The reason the authors see this relationship, one which encourages women to immediately go to the police when they have been assaulted, as problematic is because it is often the only option presented to victims. The authors clarify that they “support the right of individual rape victims to go through the criminal justice systems,” but specifically dislike the idea of a woman being “forced to do anything” in regards to her deeply personal experience with sexual assault (McDuff). So, their first issue with the criminal justice system is that it seems to be the only resource available to women. Furthermore, they claim that the overall “sexist and racist nature of the criminal justice system only makes the problem [of rape] worse, citing “hostile” and unsupportive” treatment of rape victims by the system (McDuff). In addition, the authors frame the criminal justice system as taking the power over her experience away from the victim as well as often failing to convict rapists even when women come forward. So, part of the way The Feminist Alliance Against Rape Newsletter seeks to further the fight against rape culture is through identifying parts of the movement that can be worked on in order to make it stronger and more supportive for victims as a whole.

An advertisement for Inez Garcia found within the newsletter.

The issue further provides examples of the corruption of the criminal justice system. It includes the stories of women who are on trial or in prison for killing or injuring their abusers/rapists. Each story is also an advertisement because it tells the reader how to donate to the cause of helping the woman affected. An example of such a story is that of Inez Garcia, a woman “in the midst of her second trial for killing a man who helped another man rape her” (The Feminist Alliance Against Rape newsletter). This inclusion is relevant because it highlights the hypocrisy of the criminal justice system which is willing to punish women for fighting back but not willing to punish rapists. It also tells the reader how to help, giving specific calls to action to fight rape culture on an individual basis. 

This is an advertisement for “Nutcracker Suite” found within the Feminist Alliance Against Rape Newsletter. This advertisement is another example of the resources the newsletter provides.

Furthermore, the newsletter provides concrete resources for victims and potential victims of sexual assault. For example, it includes an advertisement for the self-defense school’s “summer training program for women” (Feminist Alliance Against Rape Newsletter). The inclusion of resources such as the self-defense class is important because it means that the newsletter not only critiques the idea of the criminal justice system being the only resource offered to victims but also offers alternative resources. This backs up the earlier point that the anti-rape movement can and should move away from the criminal justice system as its go-to resource. The Feminist Alliance Against Rape Newsletter pushes back against rape culture in that it focuses on building the movement in new and innovative ways. The editors look at the big picture of the movement and include both theoretical critiques and concrete, action-driven ideas and resources. The newsletter thus serves to create both short-term and long-term change within the movement. 



Feminist Alliance Against Rape Newsletter, May 1997.

Poem About My Rights

Final version of Poem About My Rights. This was published in Essence Magazine in 1978.

“Poem About My Rights,” By June Jordan. The poem was published in Essence Magazine in 1978.

“Poem About My Rights,” by June Jordan was published in Essence magazine in 1978. Jordan combats rape culture by sharing her personal experience with the world. The poem takes a stream-of-consciousness-like form. For example, the opening lines read “even tonight and I need to take a walk and clear / my head about this poem about why I can’t / go out without changing my clothes my shoes” (Jordan). Here, she uses no punctuation when she changes the topic. The lack of punctuation is a phenomenon that continues throughout the poem. The lack of punctuation, free verse format, and Jordan’s highly personal reflections make the reader feel as though they are seeing the world from Jordan’s point of view. Through describing her own life, Jordan highlights how rape culture affects women’s and especially women of color’s everyday lives. 

The poem specifically highlights the prevalence of victim-blaming towards women of color. Jordan proclaims “and if after stabbing him if after screams if / after begging the bastard and if even after smashing / a hammer to his head if even after that…then I consented and there was / no rape” (Jordan). In this example she clearly does not consent; she fights back to the best of her ability. She uses this heartbreaking example in order to assert that even when a sexual assault case seems clear cut, even when a woman does everything in her power to fight back against her assaulter society will find a way to blame her; society will find a way to say it was consensual. 

This is an early edition of “Poem About My Rights” published by the Harvard Radcliffe Institute. The draft is not extremely different from the final product but it is interesting to see Jordan’s process.

Throughout the poem, Jordan labels her various identities and attributes as “wrong.” She states, directly describing the rape aforementioned, “they fucked me over because I was wrong,” drawing a direct parallel between her identity as a Black woman, something society sees as lesser or “wrong,” and the likelihood that she will be assaulted (Jordan). This parallel is important because it brings to light the fact that women of color are at higher risk for sexual assault than white women; she brings awareness to the issue using her own experience. Further, she is highlighting that within society women of color are faulted for simply existing. It follows that they will be faulted for their own victimhood because society blames them for their very existence. This first time she labels herself as wrong it is more general; she is stating what she has been told as a woman of color in society. Later in the poem, she is more specific: “it was my father saying I was wrong saying that / I should have been a boy” and “it was my mother pleading plastic surgery for / my nose and braces for my teeth” (Jordan). Jordan is using the personal example of her parents criticizing who she is and the features she possesses, aspects of her life that are out of her control. She is not criticizing her parents specifically, but rather exposing to the reader all the small comments that were made throughout her childhood as a woman of color that led her to feel inferior, to feel “wrong.” 

June Jordan

Feeling “wrong” is not specific to Jordan. She states “I am the history of rape / I am the history of the rejection of who I am” (Jordan). Jordan is asserting that the pattern of women of color often being victimized by rape and rape culture is not new, it is part of history. Furthermore, this victimization causes women of color to reject themselves, to blame themselves because society tells them they are wrong. Using herself as an example, Jordan seeks to break this trend, to break the historical pattern to which she too has fallen victim. She concludes the poem by flipping the narrative, stating “but let this be unmistakable this poem / is not consent I do not consent” (Jordan). Here, consent refers to societal perception; Jordan does not consent to her experience being defined by anyone but herself, does not consent to rape culture, does not consent to be complacent in rape culture. She then takes her rejection of societal imposition a step further. She speaks from her current perspective, saying “I am not wrong: Wrong is not my name,” refusing to buy into victim-blaming. She elaborates “my name is my own my own my own,” asserting that she defines who she is and what has happened to her; the repetition of my own is very intentional in underscoring her agency over her own life and how she describes it. Finally, she ends with “I can tell you from now on my daily resistance…may very well cost you your life”(Jordan). This ending is so impactful because she speaks directly to society; she speaks to the people who have tried to tell her that being raped is her fault and challenges them. Her words fill the reader with a sense of empowerment, rejecting any notion that rape culture is valid and implying that the reader too should resist the systems and mindsets that allow rape culture to continue. 

June Jordan reading “Poem About My Rights.”



“‘A Language to Hear Myself’: Feminist Poets Speak.” Harvard Radcliffe Institute, 2016, Accessed December 2021.

Jordan, June. “Poem About My Rights.” Essence Magazine. 1978

Women and Violence

Photo of Melanie Kaye

This is a photo of Melanie Kaye which embodies her spirit as a fighter for the women’s movement beautifully.

The header of Kaye’s “Women and Violence” as it appears in the periodical Sinister Wisdom.

Melanie Kaye’s “Women and Violence” was written in 1979 and published in Sinister Wisdom #43/44 in summer 1991. Kaye, a prominent Jewish and feminist activist, was also an editor for Sinister Wisdom from 1983-1987. “Women and Violence” is a theoretical piece aimed at discussing the reasons that rape culture persists in the US and suggests ways women can combat it collectively. Kaye quotes Ellen Willis before beginning: “men don’t take us seriously because they’re not physically afraid of us” (80). Kaye’s inclusion of this quote is very intentional; “Women and Violence” uses examples of men assuming power over women in order to make the broader claim that women should fight back against men whenever possible in order to dismantle the power hierarchies that allow rape culture to thrive.

Kaye makes her case by highlighting the battle-like nature of gender dynamics in the United States. She states that “yesterday in Portland between 2-20 women got raped,” “between 6-60 women got beaten,” and “every day in this country a woman gets raped every minute,” using horrifying statistics to then ask the question “what am I counting if not causalities of battle?” (Kaye 81). She uses the metaphor of a battle, comparing rape culture to war, in order to emphasize how urgent it is that individuals take action to stop it. Then, she states: “rapists and batterers are the military arm of the patriarchy” (Kaye 81). Here she is implying that abusive men are the visible part of a system that oppresses women but they are not the only people contributing to and benefiting from that system. All men, not just those who abuse women, benefit from the power dynamics rape culture affords them, from feeling safe walking alone at night, and from being able to form friendships with other men without immediately fearing an ulterior motive. The idea of all men being on the beneficial side of rape culture further backs up Kaye’s idea of US gender dynamics as a “war.” If all men are on one side then all women, by default are somewhere on the other and what is this if not a war.

Upon setting up her view of rape culture as war, Kaye moves into her proposed solution. She believes that “our task” is to “make abuse of women more and more risky; something men can’t get away with” (Kaye 82). She clarifies what she means by “risky” by listing names of women who have killed their abusers and claiming that the list continues to grow, that these women represent the resistance to rape. She believes that only if men are “afraid of women” will their “consciousness change” (Kaye 83). So, Kaye intends to fight rape culture by literally fighting men; she intends to flip the power dynamic. Through her essay, she is attempting to empower more women to physically fight men. She is urging a violent revolution. Her approach to fighting rape culture is very broad; she wants to help women change their mindsets in relation to men as a group. “Women and Violence” is an attempt to make sweeping changes to gender dynamics in America. It does not urge specific action but attempts to empower women to fight back in any way that they can. 


Sinister Wisdom, vol. 43/44, Summer 1991

Kaye, Melanie. “Women and Violence.” Sinister Wisdom, vol. 43/44, p. 81-84.