Saturday, May 06, 2006

Ruth's Public Radio Report

Ruth: Where have all the heroes gone? Long time passing. And what of the heroines? Rarely ever mentioned.

That's what Friday felt like. I heard it and my jaw dropped. My grandchildren Tracey and Jayson came over right after school so, while they watched Elijah, I checked my e-mail account. There were a number of complaints and several that can be summarized as "Ruth, I know it's your favorite program but this needs to be noted."

I agree. Friday on CounterSpin, the show began as always with "recent news." It started off strongly. I will let others apply their own term to how it ended. If it helps, I stopped listening after recent news and headed over to KPFA's The Morning Show.

How did CounterSpin start? By noting the lack of women represented on CBS' Face the Nation as well as the lack of people of color. Sound criticism, in my opinion. How did it end? With the clip of Steve Colbert delivering his monologue before the D.C. press corps.

It was as though he were saying, "CounterSpin listeners, let me tell you about your day. You ___ and then you ___, go home, make love to your wife and ___."

Make love to your wife? Well I do not have a wife. I did have a husband -- who passed away and is sorely missed, God rest his soul. If he had said that to CounterSpin listeners, I would have been outraged. The implication would be that CounterSpin only has male listeners. He would be, to steal from Rebecca, rendering invisble all women in the audience.

He did do that; however, he was addressing the D.C. press corps. I will not get into whether he was funny or not -- I know there is pressure on Ava and C.I. to address that at The Third Estate Sunday Review. I will note that the remark was offensive.

It was the sort of remark that one might have heard in the early sixties. Certainly, forty years later, we have progressed, right?

They played the clip and I waited for Steve Rendall or Janine Jackson to make a comment. They did not. There was nothing stated about the fact that his remark was sexist.

That is how recent news ended. Recent news began with them noting that CBS' Face the Nation had very few female guests. They then play, on a show that has too many male guests, the clip where women aren't just reduced, they are rendered invisible.

Did no one see a problem with that? I am having a hard time understanding why.

Yes, CounterSpin is one of my favorite shows. I would have written "my favorite show" until this happened. I discussed it with Tracey and Jayson (and with C.I., Rebecca, Dona, Elaine, Jess, Jim and Betty). Was anyone not offended by it? No.

The e-mails were very vocal about being bothered by the segment.

Some did stay on and listen. Those e-mails noted that possibly the problem was compounded by the fact that there were no female guests on the program. Repeatedly, I was asked to address it here and sometimes I was implored. I do enjoy the program. I did not enjoy that show.

I am old enough to have seen women go from composing a few press tokens in D.C. to a large, though not large enough, body. As offended as younger listeners were, I think I was even more offended because I lived through that change. I know that women were fighting in every profession for recognition. I am sure many younger listeners, male as well as female, are aware of the struggles that took place -- struggles which are not finished today. However, I believe that if you lived through that moment in time when women really grasped that they would have to storm the barricades for themselves, as well as future generations, you especially found the recent news segment offensive.

It is true that I was planning on a simple entry. I will be leaving later today on a road trip with my best friend Treva. I am packed and ready; however, I was hoping to make this report something light. That all changed when the sound clip was played and it was allowed to pass with no effort made by either Mr. Rendall or Ms. Jackson to critique what we had just heard.

Are we so desparate for heroes that we will applaud anything? If it was okay to render women's accomplishments and achievements invisible, is it, therefore, okay to do the same with people of color? How about with gays and lesbians? Exactly where is the line?

For me the line is very clear and I regret that it was not clear for CounterSpin. But in playing that clip without comment, they nullified their first critique -- of Face the Nation's problem in finding women. When you lose women in the last clip, you have torn down your own critique of the lack of women on another show.

For me, that is very clear. If it were another program, would I have been so bothered?

I wondered that. Dalia Hashad has just started her new position at Amnesty so she has been on WBAI's Law and Disorder less of late. Heidi Boghosian had only one remark that I remember from this week's broadcast. But were either or both women were present, I do belive if Michael Ratner or Micheal Smith praised the segment without question, they would raise the issue of women being rendered invisible in the "press critique" that has been so generously praised.

I would hope that either Mr. Smith or Mr. Ratner would point it out themselves. But once I got over my shock that CounterSpin was playing the clip, I was excited. Why? I assumed that they would tackle what few others had either had the guts to address or the ears to notice.

I was disappointed. CounterSpin is not off my listening list. I intend to listen again when I return from my vacation. However, I am so disappointed in Friday's broadcast that I may take C.I. up on the offer to take two weeks off and not just one. The idea of two over-sixty year-old women, long time feminists, tearing up the countryside strikes me as the perfect antidote to what I heard Friday.

I was disappointed and still am. I wonder whether or not I can now expect to hear "firemen,"
"newsmen," "Congressman," "policeman," and more noninclusive terms used in clips that we are supposed to be impressed by?

I was not impressed. I know members were not impressed.

I also know C.I. is on the road this weekend and I had set aside one hour to do write this report.
I said I would have it completed by a set time and I will. That means that the Michael Ratner interview from Thursday's KPFA's The Morning Show cannot be addressed. I will note that he feels things are looking much brighter for the prospects of impeaching the Bully Boy. I was going to discuss that and segue into WBAI's Law and Disorder and then note some other shows.

Such as First Voices Indigenous Radio. Tiokasin Ghosthorse will be on vacation this summer. Mattie Harper is hoping to do at least one show during that time with nothing but female guests. That is an idea that excites me and one I would hope CounterSpin would also explore. This listener and longterm feminist has not been impressed with the coverage of abortion on CounterSpin.

I did not need to hear, for instance, a male tell Ms. Jackson that abortion was a side issue and there were more important issues. A woman's body is an important issue to women. Abortion must be important to many or you would not see the rallies and counterprotests. The next time I remember hearing abortion addressed, again in an interview done by Ms. Jackson, the guest was a woman who did not impress me as she argued that women should be allowed to express pro choice and anti-choice opinions on the op-eds pages of the New York Times. The woman's study had concluded that anti-choice positions were well represented, and then some, by males.
Why we needed the "balance" of hearing women trash choice, I had no idea? (Nor did I have any idea why the guest needed to push the noting of experts on an unlevel playing field.)

I will be fighting for this paragraph to stay in, I know. If you read it, I won. For those who wrote in concerned that I would take a pass on this issue because of the fact that I enjoy CounterSpin, you did not need to worry. I know that if I did not address it, the responsibility would fall to C.I. We already all expect C.I. to address the immigration issue, to speak for the Irish and the Irish Americans in the community who feel that the press is slanted against them, to . . . It is a very long list. I would not add to that list by shirking my own responsibility and telling myself, "Oh well, C.I. can cover it."

CounterSpin went a little loopy. I have no problem saying so. It was disappointing. More so when you realize that women's rights are always under attack by some faction but even more so under the Bully Boy and his administration's disregard for medical science that allows them to push as fact any number of hoary myths -- such as nonexistant link between abortion and breast cancer. Well after pushing the nonexistant link between September 11th and Iraq, are any of us surprised that they would also bend science repeatedly to attempt to bully women as well?

I expect that the attacks will come from the administration. I expect that they will be pushed by the mainstream media. I do not expect that I will have to hear them on the programs I enjoy. Stephen Colbert is young enough to know better. "Young enough"?

Yes, young enough. He did not live through the gender quake of the sixties and seventies. He did not have to reconcile old myths with new realities. Many men my age did have to do that. Some succeeded, some failed. The world really did change, there are many who want to change it back, and did so before Mr. Colbert came of age. This is not a case, as some of us would tell ourselves in the late sixties, "Well, he just doesn't know better. This is all new to him."

His statement was offensive. To broadcast it without calling it out was offensive to me.

Mike and Cedric covered WBAI's Law and Disorder, and did a wonderful job, which I wish I had time to add to. Rebecca covered KPFA's Flashpoints on Wednesday. The Third Estate Sunday Review will be covering KPFA's The Morning Show in a feature tomorrow. Mike also covered WBAI's Wakeup Call Wednesday. (Kat's hoping to cover KPFA's Guns and Butter. today). While I am on vacation, they are going to try to cover shows at their sites. I will be off next week for sure and possibly, after Friday's broadcast, the week after. Furthermore, I will be taking the last week in May off for a family vacation with my children and grandchildren.

This was not the report I was hoping to write. But sometimes the thing that needs said the most is not the thing you wish to speak. That is something I am old enough to know.

Heads up for KPFA's Sunday Salon with Larry Bensky: (9:00 am Pacific time, noon Eastern time)
In our first hour...
From the streets, to...where? A look at what's next for three movements, each of which saw major protests this week in the U.S.: Darfur, Peace in Iraq, and Immigrant Rights. How will activists turn protests into votes, legislation, and results on the ground?
In our second hour...

Between 4 and 5.3 million Americans have lost the right to vote due to felony convictions. Some temporarily, others permanently. The majority of them are Black and Latino men. How does this affect the democratic process in America?