A response to the pushback from last week's piece
I feel you, Jen. In this absolute waste land of cancel-happy uber liberals - and I always considered myself a liberal! - one is now lambasted for most any sort of opinion. The irony.
Nearly two years ago, I last produced a fairly "successful" podcast. A podcast about the craft of documentary filmmaking and best practices for living as a documentary filmmaker. I had on two guest doc filmmakers (two women of colour) whom I respect and whom are greatly respected and well known within the documentary filmmaking community.
This was kind of at the height of both the pandemic and George Floyd. When doc filmmakers were starting to question who had the right to tell people's stories. So on my podcast, I thought it an appropriate time to have a respectful conversation about this very topic. Not only was I quickly shut down from even talking about the topic - "it's time for white men to go and do their own research! Stop talking to us about it!", but I was also told that under no uncertain terms should I - as a white, middle-aged American male - ever be telling stories in other cultures outside of my own. And if there wasn't someone with the knowledge and resources (equipment, finances) to tell the story of a particular culture/community, then it was my responsibility to train someone from said community and provide them with the resources to tell their own story.
I was shocked and disheartened. Putting it mildly. As you know, Jen, I have been making documentary films - mostly in SE Asian cultures like Cambodia and Nepal - for 20 years now. And I have dealt with many a sensitive subject. And I have made a point of working with local crews, forming lifelong friendships with crew and subjects that I have worked with.
It has been my passion and what I thought was my calling for nearly half of my life.
And in one 45 minute "conversation" I was made to feel completely and utterly invalid. I was shamed into questioning any and all of my past, present, future work.
I ended the podcast about four episodes later (total 140 episodes, five years of work). Ended my affiliation with a well known documentary institution. And have been questioning my right to be a storyteller ever since.
It's not exactly what you went through. But it's also not entirely dissimilar. So I feel you, lady. But mostly, Im here to encourage you to keep doing what you are doing. Keep practicing your passion of writing and showing the world where art can and should be an important (critical) part of our society.
You have a Voice. And I - and countless others - yearn to hear it. Please never stop. Even when it's most discouraged. That's when it may be the most critical time to use your Voice.
And I vow that I will try and do the same.
Until next time,
Chris G. Parkhurst
as always, i really appreciate the original conversation and this response. i've been thinking a ton about reverence lately and my ears perked up when you used that word in today's response. i'm wrestling, in life, with how to work with this concept. i remember how torn i was during the act up days as both a christian and a person who was passionate about queer rights & AIDs activism. i came to terms with the actions taken in churches (which were reverent spaces for me...deeply so) since the organization of the church had perpetuated homophobia and the horrible treatment of those with AIDS. this does feel different and you're helping me think about it with complexity which i really appreciate.
Thanks for your heartfelt audio post. I read most all of your posts and appreciate the platform. Keep it up!
Love for the planet, for protest, for art, for people, for activism. I hope everyone listens to the whole recording from this week because its thoughtful message and delivery are sorely needed.
Hi Jen. I wanted to share this article by Liza Featherstone, which dovetails with your points about what makes effective protest. As Liza puts it, “'Raising awareness' of the climate crisis is an idea long past its sell-by date."
Still here, still reading and listening.
It’s hard to be that person who raises the questions. My experience of writing and posting publicly is that most people will engage in respectful dialogue but some few won’t hear other points of view and often respond dismissively or worse abusively. I’ve been put down many times.
But I know the value of putting out reasonable and thoughtful ideas into the ether. Don’t be disheartened by the unsubscribes or the anger, just keep on keeping on. I seek out your posts as a fellow arts writer because there aren’t many genuinely thought-provoking voices out there.
Thanks for the thoughtfulness, vulnerability, and sincerity here, Jennifer. To me, opening dialogue, especially one which seeks to follow such values as these, is always a good thing. And, quite radical, actually.
Thanks for your post last week and for you unfiltered and unedited recording this week. Both are appreciated.
Today on my bus ride home from teaching, I listened to a podcast a colleague-friend recommended, "A Better Way to Worry" on Hidden Brain. It got me thinking about anxiety, and ways to handle difficult emotions. One thing I've noticed about this historical moment we're living through is that folks are stretched so thin that many don't seem able to handle hard emotions and work through them in constructive ways. I often struggle myself with this.
It seems odd to me that your far-from-inflammatory post would garner such extreme responses as being told you're the problem or having someone immediately unfollow you. But such instances are sadly far from rare these days. The uncomfortable feelings--shock that they don't agree with you when they had before, anger at you for having a different take on this situation, anxiety/anger/despair over the climate crisis--are so hard to process that the only acceptable solution seems to be "cancel" you or make YOU the problem. What if a person were to sit with how shitty and sad it feels when you disagree with someone you respect and normally connect with, and then go from there...okay, I don't agree with you on this, but I'm still with you in some ways...I'm sure we still have some overlap...let's keep the conversation going, let's keep trying to connect.