Addressing Misrepresentation - Embodied Wisdom
Embodied Wisdom

Addressing Misrepresentation

On the 16th February 2019 Genny Wilkinson Priest posted a defamatory post on Facebook, objecting to being quoted in our soon to be published book Practice and All is Coming: Abuse, Cult Dynamics, and Healing in Yoga and Beyond, by Matthew Remski. The post contains both false statements and significantly, relevant omissions. It is important to keep this vital conversation open and fair, so this is my response to her post.  Wilkinson Priest’s original post has been included, broken into sections followed by my responses.
Matthew Remski has written a book about violations of consent in the practice of yoga. In the process, he violated mine.
The book shows the extent of the crimes committed by Pattabhi Jois, and their impacts, and how the Mysore-based Ashtanga community enabled them and silenced his survivors for decades. Because it is about sexual assault, it does cover consent.  By claiming that Matthew violated Wilkinson Priest’s “consent” by publishing her public record comments, she is positioning herself as equal to the survivors of Jois, and comparing the author to an assaulter.  This conflation of the term “consent” is in error.
I wrote to him last year and expressly requested “that anything I have written or said, whether in public or private to you, is not used in your book.” He ignored my request, and exposed his disdain for respecting boundaries.
Remski was contacted on December 24th, 2018, after the final edit of the book was completed.  It is false to say he ignored Wilkinson Priest’s request. Between receipt and response, Remski asked both the editor and I for our decision. After consideration of Wilkinson Priest’s material marked for inclusion and the wider purpose of the book, we agreed it should be included.  Remski responded to Wilkinson Priest in a letter on December 26th, stating, among other things that
let me reassure you that I am not quoting you from any personal conversation or correspondence.  I did not interview you for this book.  However, I am quoting your published journalism in Healthista, the text of the petition to Sharath, and comments you made on Spielman’s and J. Brown’s podcasts about the petition.  I’m also stating that you posted Hamish’s statement.  ...  There are no critical mentions of you or your statements.  If you would like to know more, I can discuss, but need to say that the final pages have been submitted.
Wilkinson Priest did not respond to this letter.
His book undermines his pretense to defend consent on the very first page.
Wilkinson Priest’s statement: “His book” implies she has read the book which appears unlikely at best.  If she had read Practice and All Is Coming, she would know that the first page makes no such statement about defending consent, either explicitly or implicitly.  Wilkinson Priest is not quoted until page 37. 

This is another conflation in error of the word “consent” (purportedly needed to publish public record statements) with the consent needed to touch another’s body. The comparison actually endangers the consent conversation by confusing categories.
I am quoted at length, as I am throughout the book …
Wilkinson Priest is quoted six times in 370 pages, a total of 660 words from a manuscript of approximately 150,000 words.  All quotes are from the public record, and are fully cited.  Ironically, her own public broadcasting about her inclusion in the book is likely to draw far more attention to these small extracts than might otherwise have been the case. 
…which lifts considerable amounts of material from my work without my permission. He might be legally entitled to ignore my request, but his disregard for ethics speaks loud and clear.
This is both an inflammatory and a defamatory statement. Embodied Wisdom Publishing takes very seriously any statement that falsely accuses an author whose work we are publishing, of plagiarism.  Lifting in this content equates to theft.

All quotes are taken from the public record and do not require permission, as per copyright law and fair use of public documents. The amount cited falls under the “fair use” of intellectual property rights: ‘for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship and research”.  As a journalist, Wilkinson Priest would or should be well aware of these fair use laws.
Matthew’s questionable methods and unaccountability overshadow an important conversation. In my position as a female practitioner, teacher and writer, I have always sought to tell the story of how Ashtanga Yoga’s founder Pattabhi Jois sexually assaulted some of his female students.
By Wilkinson Priest’s own admission to J. Brown on his podcast, and in Yoga Journal, she knew about the sexual assaults of Pattabhi Jois in 2001, but didn’t believe them, and didn’t publish on them until December 2017. 
I have tried my best to do this fairly and represent all views. It is important that we as a community discuss what happened, and how to prevent something similar from happening again.
In hosting the panel discussion at Triyoga in March 2018, Wilkinson Priest did not invite any of Jois’s survivors to participate, despite knowing of at least two prominent ones, Karen Rain and Anneke Lucas.  This action of exclusion is neither fair nor representative of all views and is a highly significant omission of fact that undermines her claim.
Matthew's book does not help us to do this. He adds nothing new to the conversation. Rather than adding to that, in the height of irony, he perpetuates the power dynamic that he claims to want to end.
Wilkinson Priest implies she has read the book in full, which to our knowledge has only been made available to pre-reviewers.  The book has already received glowing praise from respected scholars and leading Ashtanga Yoga teachers from around the globe, including the Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies, emeritus David Gordon White who describes the book as  “lucid, measured, incisive and compassionate” and a “road map to self-healing and closure.”

Respected Ashtanga teacher Andy Gill reviews the book by saying: “Matthew has done a great service to Ashtanga Yoga by writing this book. It does not make for easy reading.”

Anne-Sophie Balzer, PhD, a student in Religious Studies has read and worked with this book as an Ashtanga practitioner and teacher and writes:
“As a professional scholar, I cherish the content presented here as a rich source for my own research into the structural similarities of different environments of abuse in spiritual communities. But its value goes way beyond, reaching into what I thought was my very personal corner of practice, both spiritual and somatic. Much like in other areas of life, the personal and private proves to be very political after all.”

We hope that Wilkinson Priest will read the entirety of the book before making further statements
The purpose of this statement is to tell you my experience in dealing with this individual and to set the record straight as to my involvement – or lack thereof. For me it raises issues that I would welcome others’ views on. Is it right to ignore the rights of others to promote oneself?
It is unclear what “rights” Wilkinson Priest is referring to as journalistic ethics do not prevent any author from quoting public record statements of other authors.
Should anyone profit from telling these important stories about abuse in our yoga community?
Wilkinson Priest claims to be a writer early in her post. The implication is this is part of her professional skill set and therefore reasonable to expect she receives payment for this work. Wilkinson Priest has two reports on the topic of Jois and sexual assault, one published by Healthista and the other by Yoga Journal.
It is my belief that his main expertise is in healing his trauma by manipulating others to promote himself. I think he is very clever at doing this and in the process makes money off the stories of women who have been abused.
I don’t want to broaden his reach, and I know I risk an onslaught of trolling -- yet I feel this must be said. Matthew Remski violated my consent. In doing this he ignored basic decency let alone journalistic ethics.
Finally, and most importantly, as a publisher it would be unethical to not quote relevant public record statements, or to remove extracts of the book to appease individuals that feel uncomfortable with their position in the book. Ironically, suppression of information is what enabled Jois to abuse his followers unchallenged for decades.  We consider it a moral act to make this vital information available to the yoga community in the hopes that it will pave the way toward healing and safety in the future.
Posted on 19th Feb, 2019 by:

Nick Lyttle
Embodied Wisdom Publishing