The Puppets of Periodicals


When I was fifteen all of my favorite writers were men. I deliberately shunned writing by women because they were overwrought with sentimentality and flowery feelings. I wanted grit. I wanted edge. I wanted provocative. I wanted to read the works of writing that made me want to throw up my middle finger along with the writer. Of course, only men could have this kind of impassioned prose, hence I only read male writers.

Keep in mind, I was fifteen when I formed this thought process.

At fifteen I watched tons of hockey and wanted to be a sports columnist or sports radio broadcaster, because I was willing to speak my mind and be the kind of gritty woman the sports media machine desperately needed. Men were encouraged to be opinionated in sports media but women were to be adorable sideline reporters.

It would take a few crushing years of being around many of the men in sports radio to see they already had enough assholes and regardless of my gender, I didn’t need to add myself to that pile.

I’ve been spending most of my summer back in Canada and there has been a bit of a trend going on up here for a few years. Old-fashioned print newspapers and magazines are giving women opinion columns. For a moment you see the names on the bylines and feel like the glass ceiling is finally cracking.

Then you read them.

There’s kind of no other way to describe these women other than, well, traitors. They routinely write the most misogynist, oppressive, racist, fundamentalist and flat out insensitive columns they possibly can.

Heading up the callous Benedict Arnold uterus brigade is the Conservative National Post columnist darling, Christie Blatchford. Blatchford must wake up everyday cackling, “who can I offend today?” The answer appears to be everyone with a brain and an ounce of empathy, as she has famously written columns claiming cyber-bullying victim Rehtaeh Parsons wasn’t raped, Aboriginal culture isn’t worth saving in Canada, and when the former NDP leader Jack Layton died from cancer, she proceeded to call out the public mourning and state funeral as being part of a PR spectacle to drum up votes in the next election.

We also can’t forget about Barbara Amiel, wife to media mogul turned jailbird, Conrad Black who embezzled funds from his media empire. She famously drove up Maclean magazine’s website’s traffic when she published an essay about the Steubenville, Ohio rape case that took the term ‘victim-blaming’ to a whole new level, by she suggested the girl’s parents should have grounded her for the weekend rather than ruin the lives of teenage boys with a court case.

And now there’s a new star on the scene. Licia Corbella, a column writer for the Calgary Herald, made herself public-enemy number one in Vancouver when she published an op-ed essentially stating that Glee star Cory Montieth died in Vancouver because it’s home to InSite, a supervised drug injection facility. She spends a portion of her piece speculating about Montieth’s last hours, and hypothesizes that he scored heroin outside of InSite (as they don’t provide drugs for users) and then procured his clean supplies from inside, before going back to his upscale-hotel to overdose. Corbella’s piece is particularly offensive not just because she takes pot-shots at an organization that does really thankless work in a marginalized section of the city, but because she literally shits all over the concepts of ethics, research or fact-checking.

I’ll give you $100 if you can find any part of her piece that actually uses a verifiable fact to make her point.

By the way, America, we’re not much better. See: Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin.

Every year VIDA does its publishing count. It would be so hard to track but I would love a qualitative study of what each woman who was published that year wrote about, especially the essay writers. I’d be curious what topics were deemed publishable.

Every time one of these women publishes again I go through a range of emotions. First is anger. Then I move on to just amusement at their shortsighted view and the hilarity of them actually being published. Next is the hard one, where I actually feel sorry for them, because in essence—they are puppets. They’re only catering to the advertisers and the kind of people that are still willing to spend money daily for a newspaper, magazine or pay to get past a gatekeeping “pay-wall’ on a website. Thus they are told by editors (usually male ones) to step over whomever they can, for a retweet. They’re considered successful because they generate high hit counts on their stories, by doing nothing other than saying the cruelest thing possible.

But the last emotion I usually cycle through is my favorite. It’s the one where I am so happy these women are being handed columns, because by continuing to wage war against humanists and feminists like myself, they are drawing a line in the sand. They are making it so much easier for me to shape my writing, and throwing wood on the fire that becomes my passion to do this for the rest of my life.

I want nothing more these dinosaurs to finally become obsolete and for the bevy of talented women I know to step into their place. I would love for one of these women who really represent what most of us are actually thinking, to be able to support herself monetarily through editorials alone.

When I was fifteen, the goal was to challenge, to say whatever needed to be said to make my point clear, to earn respect amongst my male counterparts and to set myself apart from the rest.

That hasn’t changed.

Oh, and to the fifteen year old versions of me out there now—Roxane Gay, Antonia Crane, Lidia Yuknavitch, and Cheryl Strayed.

You’re welcome.

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