I have an irrational problem with edits to my work.
I have always been a bit of a control freak when it comes to creativity. Group projects were my ultimate nemesis; I remember getting into arguments at a young age with kids who called me “too bossy” (a title I have since learned to reclaim as “leadership skills”), and nitpicking over details in order to hand in a perfect assignment. Since graduating college, I haven’t been reconnected with this issue until very recently. I have begun to professionalize my hobby of writing by polishing off the articles that have been sitting in the confines of my computer, and submitting them to online blogs and newspapers.
When my online debut of writing about women’s issues was first published, the excitement I felt was quickly clouded with discontent. The title of my article had been altered to something that I felt didn’t completely fit with my message, and wasn’t as strong of a title. Although it was a small edit, I was completely bothered by the fact that something with my name on it was changed without my permission. I had already cut my original article by at least 20% to fit the 800-word limit. Now my work was edited further?
This is obviously something that I need to get over as a writer. If I submit something that another organization is going to publish on their site, they ultimately (and rightfully so) have control over the content. In addition, although being a boss is something I take pride in now, I also have to remember to be a team player. I am consistently trying to catch myself so that my bossy attitude doesn’t become an overbearing demeanor, especially because I don’t always have all of the right answers. No one does. Compromise and understanding is almost always better than “my way or the highway.”
However, I feel the need to put my foot down with my latest article submission, “I Thought About It,” posted on the National Organization of Women (NOW) NYC Chapter blog site. A couple of Saturdays per month, I volunteer my time as a clinic escort for a healthcare organization that provides abortions. Escorts are necessary because the clinics themselves oftentimes experience extremely aggressive, overzealously religious protestors who scream at, follow, and harass women trying to get to the clinic. They hold signs that equate abortion to the Holocaust, recite Bible verses on a sound-amplifier, and try to intimidate women out of seeking treatment. They also refer women to local crisis pregnancy centers, which is another article in and of itself for another day. I wrote “I Thought About It” based on an experience I had while escorting at a clinic in Queens.
Like the first article I had written that was published, my excitement was quickly diminished when I read the last paragraph of my essay. However, unlike the first article, this time I had felt deep frustration when I saw exactly how much the content of my essay had been changed.
When I had submitted my essay for the first time, the editors of the blog had asked me to change the last paragraph in my essay. The paragraph was focused on the religious hypocrisy that ensues when pro-lifers (or anti-choicers) protest outside of abortion clinics in the name of God. The editors said that they didn’t want to make pro-choice feminists who share the same religion as anti-choice protestors feel alienated. My intent is never to make people feel alienated or targeted, however, I feel that beating around the bush to a very direct source of a lot of societal misogyny is harmful. I reworded some of what I wrote, but insisted on keeping the content about religion. After all, anyone who has been paying attention to the controversies surrounding Planned Parenthood and reproductive health legislation in general knows that these issues are religiously-charged. The editors thanked me for making the changes, and I figured my work would be published as submitted.
However, the last paragraph ended up being completely diluted. My very direct message against outdated religious hypocrisy was watered down into a statement that completely skips over the underlying problem. I appreciated that NOW published my work and gave me a platform to discuss my experience. Nonetheless, the paragraph that was altered formerly tied all of the ideas in my essay together. More so than the title change of my first published article, I felt that the paragraph no longer fit.
Nowhere in my original essay did I say “All Catholics and Christians are the problem.” However, I did quote various parts of the Bible to suggest anti-choice contradiction. I don’t think it is possible for someone to stand outside of a clinic for 4 hours, hear various Bible verses shouted at them, hear that they’re going to Hell 57 times, have rosaries shoved in their face, and for that person to come back and say that this issue has little to nothing to do with religion. I’m sorry, but we cannot be afraid to criticize these things to avoid hurt feelings. The harshest legislative attacks on women’s healthcare come from religious legislators. The harshest attacks on clinics come from fundamentalist religious civilians. This does not mean that religion is inherently bad, and this does not mean that there aren’t fantastic people who practice religion and do so without harming their fellow citizens. However, there is an obviously clear correlation between how literally people take their religious books and discrimination against women, homosexuals, birth control, and the like. While we’re sitting around trying to water down our message, there are legislators out there with a Bible in one hand and a pen in the other writing horrific bills through Congress with no regard for our feelings, and at that, our reproductive freedom. Contrary to the published, “I cannot imagine religious morality endorsing the acts of following scared young women down the sidewalk…” I can imagine it. Clinics see it every day. Women across the world see it every day. This isn’t just about my essay. This is about the larger problem that social justice has with censorship. We can’t be afraid of analyzing and criticizing that which is directly part of the problem.
So, this blog is going to be for the posts that are hard to swallow. It’s going to be for the posts that don’t fit the 800-1200 word count. It’s for the issues that people are afraid to talk about, and the criticisms that people are afraid to make. Our movement is getting drowned out by our own echo chambers. We are hurting ourselves by avoiding hard conversations. I’m not here to watch Congress take away our reproductive freedom while we’re struggling to discuss the reasons why it’s happening.
Stay tuned for more unadulterated feminist content.
In the meantime, if you’re interested, this is the paragraph that I originally submitted:
I could take the easy way out and tell you that your outfit, which consists of a sweatshirt and jeans, is just as much reason for you to burn in Hell, according to the Bible (Leviticus 19:19). I could tell you that God says not to oppress a stranger (Jeremiah 7:6) or to judge one another (Matthew 7:1, Luke 6:37, Romans 14:10). I cannot imagine Jesus Christ following scared young women down the sidewalk and screaming at them to the point of tears. I cannot imagine that traumatizing someone, on what is already one of the most difficult days of her life, is something that He would do. If your interpretation of the Bible is right, then sure, I will burn in Hell for all of eternity. But if you’re wrong, the sin you commit every Saturday is the outright intimidation and harassment you commit against women just trying to go to the doctor. To me, it seems that your concerns are less about loving God, and more about controlling women. You claim to be compassionate towards the unborn, but where is your compassion towards fully developed human beings? Your kindness and understanding for people seems to end with the cutting of the umbilical cord.
Thank you for reading.