Wednesday, April 28, 2010
The Jackson Free Press has been a strong supporter of The Women's Fund—including giving proceeds raised by our production of "The Vagina Monologues" this year to the group. We applaud the Fund for tackling the issue of domestic abuse and, like the JFP, focusing on tackling the systemic causes of the epidemic rather than just the outcomes.
We were also pleased to see The Clarion-Ledger run a guest column by The Women's Fund last Sunday that started with the story of Adrienne Klasky, who was brutally murdered by her stalking ex-husband in Pascagoula in 1989. This story always helps answer the blame-women response of "why does she stay?"—because he might just find her and kill her if she doesn't.
But the end of the column was factually challenged and a serious disappointment. The worst factual error was the statement that "our state" has pardoned or suspended the sentences of five men, four of whom had killed wives or girlfriends. That statement is grossly unfair to people of both parties in "our state"—from the lieutenant governor to the speaker of the House of Representatives.
Gov. Haley Barbour, and Barbour alone, signed executive orders freeing those four killers, as the JFP exposed two years ago. (More here.) Trying to spread the blame around so as not to offend—donors or whomever—is not the way to educate our populace about the serious problems we are facing with domestic abuse. There are many abuse stories: Use one you are comfortable telling accurately.
The other factual issue with the column speaks to a serious problem in Mississippi—the tendency not to acknowledge the hard work of women in our own state. The column attributed the exposé of Barbour's pardons to Reason editor Radley Balko, who wrote a recent column blasting Barbour for the pardons. But in his column, Balko was ethical and credited the Jackson Free Press for reporting that Barbour was pardoning domestic murderers all the way back in 2008.
Now-managing editor Ronni Mott and then-intern Sophie McNeil spent days digging through state archives and calling small newspaper editors around the state to figure out the crimes of those Barbour let off easy. To this day, we have seen no other state media outlet even report this information—although national outlets such as Slate and MSNBC.com have picked it up, crediting the JFP for our work. It is a slap in the face of Ronni Mott—who has done the hardest-hitting domestic-abuse reporting this state has seen—for the "Women's" Fund to act as if it took a man halfway across the country to bring this vital news to Mississippians when it happened right here in Jackson. If they read his column, as they purported, they knew that this fact was exposed in Mississippi. By women. When it comes to improving the status of women in our state, we won't get there by back-peddling or political pandering. The Women's Fund should set an example and find their voice when addressing injustices against women—and not commit their own in the process.
Note: The Women's Fund column also ran in The Hattiesburg American with the same inaccuracies.
There is no limit to what we can accomplish if we do not care who gets the credit.
Funny, Jackson, that's what women are *always* told when someone takes credit for our work. And when we don't stand up to it, it hurts our "status"--which is something The Women's Fund publicizes as a goal. Women do not get anywhere by allowing other people to take credit for our work (or give it away). And here in Mississippi where the status of women is so bleak, it's especially vital to look out for our own interests. I certainly do not apologize for doing that on my own behalf or that of the women who work hard here trying to expose injustice in our city and state. Had The Women's Fund not credited anyone for the story, that part wouldn't have been such a slap at the women who did the work. But they intentionally gave the credit to a man in another part of the country (a man we admire, run every Tuesday in the Daily and who has the class to give credit where it's due). This was certainly not his failing.