I’ve only ever had two magazine stories killed – one of my very first, and one last year. It was just a sidebar. The magazine paid me for it. They ran something else in its place – something that fit alongside my feature story better. It made sense, on an editorial level. I wasn’t mad.
But I was quietly disturbed.
I’d agonized over that sidebar. Those 200 words gave me a lot more grief than the 2000 word feature had, than anything I’ve written in a while. I wrote, rewrote, edited, rewrote the piece a dozen times, trying to get the tone right. When I submitted it, I told my editor that I’d struggled with it.
When the magazine came out, and the sidebar was missing, I wondered: how do we shine light into these dark places? How do we speak of what is so unpalatable? How do we sing through that lump of rage in our throats?
I’d spent so much time on those 200 words, trying to get the tone right – trying to whisper and nudge when I wanted to rant and rail and scream and cry and kick things.
The sidebar was about sex. Sex in mountain towns.
Which, when I did some research and interviewing, I discovered, is often a story about sexual assault in mountain towns.
I spoke with Shannon Cooley Herdman, the Sexual Assault Response and Prevention,
Coordinator and Advocate from the Howe Sound Women’s Centre. I read reports and presentations. I read statistics. I felt sick.
In the sidebar, I wrote: “Date rape, drink spiking and sexual offences are widespread in Whistler, attributed mostly to the young transient population – occurring at two to three times the frequency as in nearby urban centres such as Richmond or North Vancouver.
“It’s been challenging in the past to demonstrate to some folks in Whistler that sexual assault is an issue,” admitted Herdman, “but the climate is shifting. Over the last two years, several key employers including Whistler Blackcomb have arranged for Sexual Assault Prevention training for their bar and pub staff.””
The FBI says that a rape occurs every 4 1/2 minutes. In Washington State, one in three women will experience sexual assault in their lifetime.
I didn’t know how to turn those numbers into a story, a sidebar, into coffee-table reading, into art.
All I could think was: What the fuck is wrong with these attackers? Why do they think they can get away with it?
Oh. Because they do.
And it makes me feel sick that the President of the United States is a proud and serial abuser of women.
I can’t even repost Trump’s pussy-grabbing quote, which just skimmed across my facebook feed. I don’t want to give his words or his thoughts any more airtime.
Today, women and their supporters and fans and lovers and partners and kids are marching. And speaking their truest words. And waving signs that are creative and funny and heartwarming and outrageous. And some are singing.
And it reminded me, about that killed sidebar and my struggle to put rage into bite-sized sentences.
We’re looking for better ways.
A better way of being. Better ways of leading. Better ways of being a society, of speaking about people, of responding to neo-fascism and ignorance and hate.
Better ways of treating each other.
Better ways of responding to all the scary shifts that are happening in the world right now – our climate, the economy, the whole seismic deal.
And in response to the fear-mongering and hatefulness I hear come from one man’s mouth, and what he is gathering around him, I am seeking refuge in creativity and love.
In queer dance parties outside Mike Pence’s house. And artists making their art available for tshirts and posters.
In radio programs like This American Life that commission songs to express how people feel about the election and result in masterpieces like this:
In the Coaster Project, conceived by a curatorial collective from Toronto, aisle 4, who asked four artists to create drink coasters designed to spark conversations in bars around consent, harassment and assault.
It feels as if there is a creative uprising fomenting out there.
I hope so.
If ever there was a time for creators and lovers to rise up, it’s now.
We can protest all that’s wrong in the most beautiful ways we know how. As outraged as we might be, the world needs more beauty, and thoughtfulness, and earnest conversation.