Tangled Up in Bleux: Atlanta society re-imagines literary canon

Amy Stufflebeam, co-founder of the Bleux Stockings society, stands in front of The Highland Inn where their next showcase will be, March 6th, Friday, 2016 Photo by Jason Luong | The Signal
Amy Stufflebeam, co-founder of the Bleux Stockings society, stands in front of The Highland Inn where their next showcase will be, March 6th, Friday, 2016
Photo by Jason Luong | The Signal

In mid-18th century England, there was an educational revolution for women to expand their mind, referred to as the Blue Stockings Society. It was a discussion group where arts and literature were explored, something seen as unfit for a woman in that time.

In Atlanta, Amy Stufflebeam and Ellaree Yeagley have founded The Bleux Stockings Society, produced as an answer for the new age of women writers. The literary society consists of showcasing cis-women, trans-women, and non-binary scribes.


What does that mean?

Cis-women: Women who were assigned female at birth and continue to identify as such.

Trans-women: Women who were assigned male at birth, but identifies and lives with the female gender.

Non-binary: Non-binary individuals are those who have a gender identity that doesn’t conveniently fit into the binary of “male” and “female.” This can entail identifying as androgynous, genderfluid, or more.


Amy Stufflebeam initiated the idea after reading about the original group during high school, and she came face to face with the Atlanta live literature scene.

“Everyone was super welcoming and eager to hear fresh voices. Finding new people and getting them on stage isn’t always easy. Speaking as a relative newbie, it can seem pretty scary to get up in front of all those people,” Stufflebeam said. “We wanted to make it less intimidating for writers to start performing by providing a place that felt safe and comfortable for them.”

Shortly after, The Bleux Stockings Society was conceptualized and begun the beginning of this year. Due to Yeagley and Stufflebeam’s priority for “safe spaces” to exist, the importance of having female and non-binary voices became the goal. Safe spaces are a term used for a place where a marginalised group can be where they aren’t in direct associating with any of the standard mainstream stereotypes, prejudice or marginalisation.

Yeagley is the creative mind behind the blog and the zine that goes along with it, a self-published work that can have poetry, prose and art. She also created the portrait of Josephine Baker that accompanied the inaugural show in January as the “Patron Saint of the Month,” where the artists can be inspired and reminded of a feminist icon.

For the Stockings, a live literature event is held every month on both a public and safe-space location that alternates, so members get a chance to perform their work in an environment they prefer. The work can range from fiction, poetry, personal essay and more. Spoken word artists are something that’s encouraged for future performances.

“Our first show was in January; we had roughly 90 people attend, and raised over $200 for Planned Parenthood,” Stufflebeam said. “We were really pleased with the turnout, and our February show was even larger.”

The first month’s show was hosted by the Downtown Players Club off of Broad Street and February’s was held at 7 Stages. The Bleux Stockings Society is still in search for a permanent dwelling.

“We’d like to keep getting an influx of new writers, as well as putting out zines or blog posts of their work and providing resources for continued creative skill development,” Stufflebeam said. “We have a few irons in the fire, including a net-based and physical library of important works by women and non-binary writers, a comedy show, and larger one-off events in combination with other Atlanta lit shows. Really, the sky’s the limit.”

Most of the discussion and meeting within the society happens on the private Facebook group where members congregate. A lot of expertise and advice is asked group members themsevles when discussing themes and topics.

“The shows are a place to hear some excellent writing, support each other, and have a good time,” Stufflebeam said.


Why create the safe space?

While people who search for safe spaces may understand the concept easily, it’s a common reaction for the non-invited members to feel left out and not privy to the purpose of having such groups.

“Even among feminist-identifying male allies, voices and opinions often default to male. It’s not intentional so much as it is ingrained,” Stufflebeam said. “We understand that some people may take offense by the fact that cis-men are asked not to attend the safe-space events. We hope that those who feel hurt or defensive about this, utterly essential aspect of Bleux Stockings’ mission, will consider the needs and feelings of the people the show is meant to encourage and respectfully support them by attending the public shows.”

Stufflebeam and Yeagley’s mission is not one of exclusion, but including those who haven’t been regularly.

“Amy and I continue to agonize over verbiage like ‘no men allowed,’ because that’s not what we want people to take away from our mission statement, but the fact remains that mainstream art has been and continued to be white and cis male-dominated,” Stufflebeam said. “There’s no doubt that the literary canon is important, but white and male hardly encompases the breadth of human experience. The canon set the standard; it determines what writing has value, and that’s extremely problematic because white and male as a creative baseline excludes so many talented voices, viewpoints and literary traditions. The literary center needs to become more fluid.”

Stufflebeam and Yeagley themselves have performed numerous work in the past, but have no immediate plans to feature their own work in Bleux Stockings and instead will focus on exhibiting other creatives. Other members’ work is published on the website and shared periodically on social media.

“We’re just happy to orchestrate a time and place to listen to our badass writers,” Stufflebeam said.

While inspired by the early century literary group, the Bleux Stockings Society was named in opposition to some of the features found in the original group. While progressive in that time period, the Blue Stockings incorporated wealthy white women.

“We wanted to pay homage to the original group and their willingness to push back against patriarchal norms without excusing their exclusivity. We wanted to take what was a promising, if limited, idea and create a better, broader, intersectional redux,” Stufflebeam said. “So, we altered the name to an amalgam of blue/bleu/deux. Deux as in the French word for the number two, because we’re the second generation. Our goal is to incorporate intersectionality in every aspect of the show, and we felt our name change was an interesting way of reflecting that.”

This narrative pairs with the Bleux Stockings Society logo which is of an ouroboros, a serpent or a dragon eating its own tail, symbolizing self-creation and recreation. In each cycle, every iteration gets closer to perfection.

The Bleux Stockings Society’s place within the Atlanta art scene is a rather new one, but picking up so far each month. Stufflebeam calls the Atlanta literary community, “thriving.”

“It’s amazing how chock-full of talent this city is. Ellaree and I are just honored to be a part of it,” Stufflebeam said.

The main desired outcome is the creation of a assembly for artists to find a home.

“We want to provide a forum for members to grow as artists and have their creative voices heard without feeling pressure to only write a certain way or to present themselves as something they’re not in order to fit mainstream expectations,” Stufflebeam said.

Members involvement in the society is up to the member, being able to choose how active or inactive they want to be.

“Amy and I are limited as producers insofar as we hail from a predominantly white, cisgender writing environment,” Stufflebeam said. “One of our first goals is to reach more people in non-white, non-cis writing spaces. Word-of-mouth has worked well for the group thus far, but we can and should do better.”


Put on your stockings

For interested creatives who identify with any of the required groups, there is both a private and a public Facebook page to join and read.

In the private page, prompts, articles of interest, art opportunities and other things are posted. The public page is used as a tool for promotion and to show the projects of the joined writers.

Any additional questions can contact the founders at BleuxStockings@gmail.com


Meet them in March

The first performance’s theme was “comfort” and the second performance’s theme was “strange.”

For the month of March, which happens to be Women’s History Month, is themeless. The event also happens to be one available to the public.

On March 28, at 8 p.m. the third event will be held. The location is TBA.

Each performer gets five to seven minutes to read their piece. There will be a $10 cover charge, $5 for students. All proceeds go to cover the cost of the venue, the zine and the drink tokens for the performers. Any extra funds will be donated to Planned Parenthood.

Submissions are open currently, with the cut off date on March 10.