A New Comfort Zone: Taking a Risk by Having a Voice
My journey as a blogger began when I was adopted by a number of wonderful sites and offered a safe haven to learn, to grow, to laugh, to express my frustrations, and sometimes, my childlike sense of justice. I became a citizen pundit of sorts. I figured out how to write a news article by writing one. Well, okay…hundreds. And I learned how to write a book by writing a book.
When I first began researching Dirty Words on Clean Skin, chronicling the demeaning treatment of women who dared to defy the "highest, hardest glass ceiling," a friend from the trenches urged me to start my own blog. It only took four years to take her advice! The time lag must have seemed odd to anyone who knows me. I’m a New Yorker. I have an opinion about orange juice. Then again, another friend is determined that I should run for Congress. Let’s see how long that takes…
My fierce sense of independence shows itself in all things, so it is only fitting that my politics now place me squarely in independent territory, too. The divisive, incendiary rhetoric that is politics today makes me hungry to find the real stuff behind accusatory spin. News junkie that I am, I feel the need to aim a microscope at infotainment that passes as news, opinion masquerading as fact, the self-serving puffery emanating from political operatives of both parties, and the shrill sexism that bubbles unchecked just beneath the surface in our society. Speaking up is a mission worth taking.
Better leadership exists. There are also better ideas and I believe we are ready to hear them -- and to offer them, otherwise current media outlets would not be losing market share by double digits. My growing activism echoes a nationwide trend. I do not wish to settle for the status quo or to be drowned out by it. 2008 was the year that broke my heart, but without the fury I felt at the treatment of women in that election year, I would not have found this purpose or feel compelled to draw a line in the sand.
It is my goal to grow the debate, particularly on women’s issues. We still inhabit an environment where name calling, smear and preoccupation with appearance sing louder than a woman’s qualifications. A new study, Silenced: Gender Gap in the 2012 Election Coverage, shares that even on matters of women’s health or her right to choose, men are consulted and quoted in news articles by a ratio of five to one over women. That explains a lot. As fellow traveler, Mona Gable, put it, “if you want to know what women think, ask men.” Um. No. While men’s opinions will always be welcomed, I have my own. And they deserve equal time.
Respect has always been the most important word to me. Probably because I saw my mom never get any, or give any to herself. So the granting of respect and the pursuit of empowerment resonates on a cellular level.
If I have one goal in life it is to defy expectations, and preconceived notions. People have long passed judgment on who I am based on the way I walk into the room, or sound when I speak. To see them realize I am often more or less or different than they thought is a treat. Just as many are discovering, twenty years later, that Secretary Clinton is not the horrid person they assumed she was, there’s so much out there to learn about our neighbors, so I am working to leave contempt prior to investigation outside the door.
At first, going public with my many opinions was a terrifying exercise, so I found comfort in the blogger alias, Ani (my mom’s nickname for me), that took me several years to feel safe enough to drop. Staring at this page, I can’t help but say out loud, if you told me five years ago that doing this would be the driving passion in my life, I’d have said you were whacked.
The journey that brought me to this day has been alternately gravel-chewing and nifty. The fun part was in learning that the limits are not where I thought they were, that common ground is possible through spirited, and hopefully civil, conversation. As Stephen Covey wrote in the Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
I have found joy in meeting someone I thought would dismiss me, only to find that if I was brave enough to share what mattered, more often than not, I’d receive a fair hearing from an unexpected place. Like the conservative talk show host who stayed on the phone to exchange ideas long after our interview had ended; or a woman whose need to disagree with me was only trumped by her sense of competition. She, too, knocked me for a loop by cheering my efforts. Or the inquisitive nineteen-year-old college student who joined the feminist club at his college because he felt so strongly about making known the plight of Afghani women. Damn, he had a lot of questions – and a lot of information!
Or even my dear, late father-in-law, the staunch Republican, who received links to all my blog articles supporting Hillary Clinton and then forwarded them to his hundred plus Republican friends – he was too proud of me to keep quiet.
In the interest of getting to know my new (and old) mates, I’d like to ask you where you feel challenged to expand into a new zone. Is there anyone you’ve encountered who taught you something new about yourself? Or an instance where you chose to dive in to some deep, dark adventure or discussion and found someone you didn’t expect sitting across from you?
Discovering something new and making noise about it sends a message to those in charge that our ideas have value and deserve equal time, too. And a lot of noise is required!
Since this is my first day, I’ve sharpened all my pencils and I’m sitting at my desk with my brand new unopened tablet. Despite having been a great student who never missed a deadline, new beginnings are still daunting. But we can hold hands and dive into the deep end of the pool together!
Thank you for joining me on my maiden voyage. I invite you to stick around for the ride. I look forward to sharing with and learning from you all.
Talk to me…
Cross-posted from Ani's Blog at www.anitafinlay.com
Anita Finlay is the author of Dirty Words On Clean Skin.