Tuesday, October 31, 2017
To say I forgot may be going to far. Indeed I do acutely remember the incident and my whole feelings about it. More accurately, I put it out of my mind as being "not as bad" as plenty of other events in my life. I thought I might be overreacting.
Two adult male students called me vile names that no one should ever call women. And they did it in an email.
That's the problem with #metoo. Women chalk up a lot of events to not being a big deal. No one showed me their penis or invited me to their private room or chased me.
I could say that in one way this was kind of worse. It attacked me inside my house with all my doors and windows securely locked. It brought up all the mistreatment I suffered at the hands of the perpetrators that were just minor skirmishes on the very real "war on women," in the society as a whole.
And it's "just an email."
A brief background for context, I went back to college at 31. I took a magazine writing class and while I did learn some valuable things, the best part was meeting a sweet linguist in her 60's with a passion for words. Felecia dragged me into taking more journalism.
I didn't like newspapers and I didn't want to work for one. I liked magazines and she asked me to take a class on that at the same time. That I LOVED.
I also really liked the journalism instructor for her no nonsense approach to teaching. I wrote a couple of stories for the paper as part of the class and made good grades.
I signed up for the newspaper class with the intent to see how I could do something with the Internet. In 1996, not that many newspapers were online. I almost dropped out in the beginning, but the adviser asked me to stay and work on the web aspect of news.
I came up with a plan for a free page and started publishing about a month into the semester. The publication site had a feature to add more data for $5 a month and my journalism instructor thought that was worth the money. I had to take the pages home to upload because there wasn't student access to the net at that time. I spent several hours on publication days collecting stories and eventually photos and arranging them for web based publication.
I started asking for the print page editors to make sure to leave their disks behind so I could collect the stories without having to hunt for the information. Some editors resented this. I also asked to be put on the masthead as web editor and pushed my way onto the editorial board. Also tense.
I hung around the newsroom on print production day to help with copyediting (looking over stories for errors) and to remind editors to leave their disks. One male page editor griped at me so harshly I left the room in tears. I don't remember what topic set me off, but I do remember it was something about my competence.
All the women in the room chased after me including the instructor. They all told me that kid had made every one of them cry. I still feel bad that "I let people get to me like that." Like I'm weak (I'm not), but that's the feeling.
I don't think I have ever really thought about how this all went down. Working on a college paper is like trying to bail water out of a leaky boat. It's crazed and maddening under the best of circumstances, add a handful of testosterone addled males with a shitty attitude and it just sucks.
Three of those semesters I edited the opinion page from a computer in another room. I am thankful for that separation. I'm also thankful I wasn't trying to create the web publication on the same day.
Keep in mind I taught myself every single aspect of web editing. I had some help with print page editing from an awesome fellow student, but none of them could tell me out to move a story from the desktop publishing software to a text file. I was on my own.
Once I figured out how to make a text file, I had to solve a confounding mystery that they would crash the web editor every time I copied the text onto them. I figured out the desktop publishing software inserted a new paragraph code and so I had to remove them with a plain text editor before using the story. Even with search and replace, 20 some files had to be opened, searched and saved.
I asked students to help, but they rarely showed up. At one point, one of the photo students came in to help scan photos and that cut a big chunk of my time. Lovely young Asian gal, I wish I could remember her name.
So here was my day on average. Arrive 10 a.m.. Collect disks or search computers for the page files, download stories to my own disk naming them to the order, page 1 story a etc. takes about 45 minutes. Strip codes & add title and byline an hour. If I have to scan photos, 5 minutes each to scan, crop & add caption canvas to the image. Even if it's just a tiny image on the page, it still takes all those steps.
Oh, and the scanner is on Mac and the web editor is on PC. Back then, I had to make sure the file name was done precisely, no spaces, or the PC wouldn't read it. After I had the images, I would take them to the PC make the caption canvas part of the image black in color, add captions to it. This took another hour. We're about 4 hours in and haven't even opened the web editing software.
About another hour to move all the text into the web editor and get it in order and connect images to stories. Then I go home and upload and test and adjust.
Okay, typing this all out, I'm super pissed off right now. I worked my ASS off. Virtually alone and those kids had the FUCKING AUDACITY to question my competence. Two years of my life I spent and I came in summers and did it for NO CREDIT.
So the end of my last semester, I have a conversation with my adviser about who will take over the reigns of the web page and how they want to do it for next year. Some of the students had complained that I wouldn't let anyone "help" which was a bold faced lie. My adviser suggested that I invite them to come in on the last day and learn how it's done and I did that. No one showed.
She told me that they would have to work on their own and I agreed.
I wasn't even taking any journalism classes the next semester. I started writing for a local weekly and got a cover story. Things were going well.
I don't recall what was going on, but the college wanted to stop paying the $5 monthly fee to the page hosting site and move to a different server. I emailed the instructor that they'd lose the archive and she said she'd look into moving the old stories. I was busy doing other things and I didn't pay much attention to the issue.
I believe it was even Halloween night I see a strange email and I was way more trusting back then, I decided to open it. Someone from the journalism department started out saying I'll be found out for the horrible a person I was. How I'd fooled "Mrs. B"(journalism adviser). They were gonna make sure she knew. Then they used several vile words, the tamest being bitch.
I did a search for the email address and traced it to the mother of one of the students who constantly harassed me in the newsroom. My guess that he and his buddy (the one who made me cry) got drunk and were pissed off at me over the loss of the newspaper archive.
I printed a copy and took it to the journalism adviser, the photo adviser and the head of the student's services department. Mrs. B's anger surprised me with it's ferocity and she took it up with campus police. I just wanted someone to talk to those guys and maybe give them some kind of reprimand.
The college's excuse was that it was sent to my private email. So nothing was done other than a little hand wringing.
One of the guys disappeared for the rest of the semester, but he came back the next. I went to Europe to study so I just let it alone. Even when he got selected to be editor of the magazine I edited twice. I let it alone.
A few years ago, the guy who made me cry sent me a friend request on Facebook. I'm not sure if I actually messaged him or just thought it, "You're fucking kidding me right??"
#metoo for realz.