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‘Training Module’ by Elizabeth Crane

— Melissa Mesku

You’re an adult man of indeterminate age in 1967, in between subway cars, and you see a six-year-old girl with her mother. Do you: a) quickly move to the next car, as any sensible person between cars on a moving train might, or b) expose yourself to a child?

Last week, Guernica published ‘Training Module’ by Elizabeth Crane. It’s many things that it also isn’t. It’s labeled as fiction, but arguably isn’t: it reads like a personal account. It is something of a workplace questionnaire—a training module—but isn’t: it’s intentionally colloquial. It’s an indictment of bad men and bad behaviors, but isn’t: it’s also an indictment of self. And it comes close to defining, situationally, what good behavior looks like, closer than anything I’ve seen. But then it undermines itself: “True or False or Trick Question: You’re one of the good ones.”

As a work within the #metoo umbrella, ‘Training Module’ broadens the conversation considerably. Had Crane or her Guernica editors opted to end the piece before the “Extra Credit” section at the end, the work would have had a much narrower focus: that bad behavior is largely predatory, largely sexual, largely male behavior. But by keeping the final addendum, Crane rewrites the equation. Bad behavior is far larger than predatory, sexual, male behavior. By turning the lens on herself, the notion of bad behavior becomes uncomfortably murky. The umbrella of #metoo is already broad, but this work illustrates how it’s not just about protecting yourself from the downpour: rain is falling underneath the umbrella, too.


Guernica