Stories and history solidify power, silence
Power is about who tells the story or stories, how often they are able to repeat the story and how many they are able to reach with their version.
Who tells the stories and what they tell is seen today in efforts by some who wish to have libraries and schools restrict access to some books. Some wish to erase part of history, silence visibility and voices of people of different cultures, and ignore relationships that are in our society.
We see that played out in the political field as media gatekeepers tend to focus on the loudest, most controversial and best rate-grabbing voices.
For my thesis in journalism at the University of Oregon, I compared the coverage in the New York Times and Der Kurier, the daily in Vienna where I studied for six months. I tallied what stories were covered and how they were played. My thesis was that we are what we read: our world view is shaped by the media we choose or by the media choices we have available
The difference today is I can go on my phone and choose from a wide array of media, so I can read a range of perspectives. I note that more than half of the stories are labeled as "analysis" or "opinion." It's good they are labeled, but where's the news people hunger to read?
A UO summer course on "Women in Media" in 1978 confirmed my experience: it was hard for women to be hired as reporters, few voices of women were in news or editorial columns, and images of women invited violent and sexualized stereotypes. I joined media literacy efforts to challenge that trend. Today more women—albeit younger beautiful women, not older wiser ones—are visible in media.
I follow also the World Association for Christian Communication, which enables people to be seen and heard. It has done global studies on including stories of women in media.
In addition I connect through the World Council of Churches (WCC) with their emerging understanding of gender violence through the Ecumenical Decade of Churches in Solidarity with Women, the Just Community of Women and Men in the Church and Thursdays in Black.
Inclusion is important in WCC gatherings. People representing diverse theologies, cultures, regions and perspectives meet to share, listen, learn, respect and gain understanding. The goal of encounters is not to persuade or win but to find common ground for common action.
Business meetings operate by consensus. Delegates raise orange cards if they are "warm" to a proposal and "blue" cards if they are cool to it. More discussions deal with reasons people are "concerned" in order to include those concerns. In contrast, in Robert's rules, the majority wins—end of story. Consensus continues dialogue until everyone is heard and included.
Similarly, The Fig Tree seeks to provide credible communication that presents a myriad of voices and stories.
We hope our readers will follow the 11th Assembly to gain insights into the ecumenical movement at oikoumene.org/about-the-wcc/organizational-structure/assembly.
Then volunteer to join in our efforts as part of that worldwide pilgrimage.
Mary Stamp - Editor