Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Reflections on the comments section

 A few weeks ago, I submitted a piece on provincial outsourcing policies to an editor.  She responded in a way that made it unclear if she was going to buy that piece.  Instead, she asked something like, 

"Honestly, I'd be more interested in hearing from you in terms of your observations on COVID-19 and anecdotes from the world you are living right now."  

I responded with this piece which an editor bought quickly. It went live over the weekend.  I received multiple private notes and thank you comments from women. Meanwhile, the comments sections of the CBC article (and its facebook repost) were roughly the equivalent of dumpster fires, in another friend's words.

 Multiple surveys and media reports have shown the employment/career issues with the pandemic when it comes to inequality in women's lives. I saw no reason to rehash that. Instead, I provided anecdoctal evidence of the pandemic's effects on women's careers--anecdotes from my life and 5 or so other women's lives (I described them vaguely and with composite vignettes, to preserve their anonymity).  These stories "from the front lines" weren't good enough for individuals who wanted to comment on all aspects of women's personal lives, bodies, marital and reproductive choices.

Nobody commented on my professional work credentials or education -nothing about book publications or degrees, but rather on my reproductive choices and personal blog posts! There were questions on why I'd bothered with graduate education (My undergrad advisors at Cornell thought I should?! It helped me teach at community colleges and universities in the past?) and rude comments about the rug I wove for Sadie's water bowl. It's sort of amazing what people feel emboldened to say online.

This is one reason why I like to write more on ideas/policy...but until then, I need to write what sells, and what I know.  It's not always the most intellectual stuff.  My articles on knitting, canning, baking, etc. sometimes sell faster than more academic or political critiques. People ask more about my children  than about my work...and all this is a sign of how women's work is valued in our society. (This isn't really a measure of my skills, it's about society's priorities for women.)

I'm going to keep posting here about my writing life as well as my 'home/making/creative life.' For me, they aren't really separate professional/personal spheres right now.  (I loved getting comments on the blog when folks used to leave notes!  It was a great way to build bridges.)

Many writers don't ever read the comments on their articles. I hold out hope that the feedback would be on topic and relevant so I read them. (...Although it often feels like self-flagellation.) Then I take a moment to remember something.  If these folks wrote opinion pieces and submitted them rather than filling up the comments section, they could also share their experiences and ideas.  Better yet, I think about the rug I made, or more generally, the work of my hands. I wonder if they are all capable of making rugs by hand when they need them. If not, there's no room to belittle others for their labours.

We can all talk about ideas and agree to disagree in a civil way.  Commenting negatively on people's bodies and choices doesn't push your views, ideas or agenda forward. It casts a shadow--but it's not a reflection of my work.  It reflects on the commenter's character..not mine. 

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Tuesday, September 08, 2020

September happenings

We're slammed with produce in Manitoba in August.  In July, it's a little berry jam warm up, but then by the beginning of September, there may even be frost.  So, this year has been something of a canning frenzy.  I've been canning for sharing, so my shelves are full now.  Some of it is mundane: apple sauce, chutney, cucumber pickles...and some is a surprise.  My kids found these (extremely long in the tooth) okra in a neighbourhood schoolyard garden.  They'd never seen okra before! (haha, I have eaten so much okra during my time in Kentucky and North Carolina...) So, I quickly shoved it into a jar and soon we'll try some refrigerator pickles. 
Meanwhile, I continue to write at night and whenever I can fit it in.  Here's an opinion piece I wrote for the CBC-Manitoba website.
It's fair to say that Manitoba's back to school options have left me very stressed.  We have been offered a "go back to school in person with some safety protocols" or a "withdraw your children and homeschool them."  This isn't a fair choice--we pay for our children's public education and kids with challenges can only get special needs support in school here.  It's hard to find privately and expensive.  There's no remote schooling option.  While I used to teach and hold a Master's in Education, I know when I do not have the training to meet some of my kids' needs.  So, today we sent them back.  I've been doing a lot of cooking to comfort myself.

Stuffed grape leaves from a friend's grape arbor... and pie.  Lots of apple pie from apples we picked at a neighbour's house.

Also, the hundred year old house next door has been demolished and there is excavation taking place for a new house.  There was no architectural salvage done, the shaking has been affecting our house, and the noise and motion have worn me out.  This photo taken from our dining room window is cock-eyed, but it sort of represents how I feel.  (Yes, that digger was 18" from the window.  Maybe 2 feet.  No kidding.)  This just makes me sad.
It's noisy and dusty and dangerous to sit around outside...but this is what Sadie the dog was doing before the demolition hit.  It has made me realize how much the out of doors helped us all this summer...and now who knows how long we'll be unable to use our yard again.
In an attempt to brighten up the inside, I wove this rag mat for Sadie's water bowl.  Making things makes me feel better....and keeps the stress level down.  Perhaps that's why I've been canning, knitting, weaving, baking and more...at this frenetic pace.
Stay well!  Happy and healthy new year to all who are getting ready to celebrate 5781!

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