#editorsletter is an editor’s letter with a hashtag in front of it.
I hadn’t planned on writing anything for PTL this week. Then I received today’s commentary.
The commentary in question is a first-hand account of sexual assault. It details what it was like for the writer to be sexually assaulted and what after effects they have suffered as a result. Up until last night the piece was going to be published under the writer’s name. Then – just, as we were deciding on a header image to accompany the piece, the writer asked for their name to be withdrawn – to have it posted anonymously.
Anonymous. It’s awful but when I hear that word, I think of internet trolls. I think of people refusing to take ownership of their work and their words. I think of cowardice. All of PTL’s content is published publicly – could I really post an anonymous work on a site which is about proudly and openly discussing life experiences, cultural interests and viewpoints. Could I really post an anonymous piece?
* * *
As many of my editors know, my first question regarding most works submitted into PTL is often: are they personal enough? As PTL has developed our contributors have become more and more honest and open with us. They’ve let us not just into their thoughts but their life experiences too. And, noticing this, I decided way back when that this ‘personal experience’ shtick should be the formula for all things PTL.
However, as my editors are quick to remind me – this is not always appropriate. Back in October 2014, our Editor of FILM, THEATRE & TV, Hannah Oliver, wrote a brilliant #stillshot on the phone-hacking scandal in which naked images of Jennifer Lawrence were leaked. In robot Sam mode I suggested that the piece should be more personal and Hannah was quick to quip – ‘Sam, I have never and probably will never experience anything like this. I wanted the piece to be about Jennifer Lawrence’s personal ordeal, and not turn it into something that reflects back on me. Does this mean I cannot comment on it?’
A similar situation occurred just last week. In honour of Black History Month and in response to Ferguson, all the articles published concerned the ongoing racism which black people face today in different aspects of life. Many of the articles were written by black people and people of black heritage but others were written by white people. People who have never, and are likely to never, face the racism which people of colour undergo on a daily basis. Here, I threw around the word ‘personal’ with regards to a #fivesongsthat by our new Deputy Editor of MUSIC, Elizabeth Clarke. The piece was on the Grammys and the underlying racism which exists within the awards ceremony. Liz is white and, like Hannah, mentioned that although she could comment on this, she felt uncomfortable adding accounts of personal experience to an issue which, yes – angers her personally – but also which she is not personally affected by.
In both cases, anecdotes were unnecessary and, if anything, would have detracted from the pieces in question. In both cases, it was necessary for me as an editor to get over myself, ignore formulas and particular habits and treat the pieces individually.
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I had hesitated but it took mere moments for me to realise that this is beyond PTL. This is beyond ratings. This is beyond preconceived perceptions of anonymity.
Someone has written about their experience of sexual assault. Someone, along with over 400,000 people in the U.K., just this past year has had their body violated sexually. Someone has been hurt. And that someone is sharing their experience with PTL for others who have undergone sexual assault and to make those who haven’t become more aware of it, stop victim blaming and help those in need. That person would like to remain anonymous and it is important to respect that, whatever their reasons.
Yes – a huge part of PTL is shouting out about the things we love, the things we take issue with and the things we’ve experienced publicly but a huge part of it is also treating pieces individually, discussing things through with our contributors and letting people prance on their own terms.
Today someone is bravely sharing a harrowing experience of theirs with the internet. Whether their name is on the piece or not does not matter; the content does however.
In the words of Audrey Hepburn:
As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.
This is not about me. This is not about PTL. This is about today’s writer and anyone else who has undergone sexual assault. The commentary will be live at 17:00 (GMT). I hope that it is of help to those who read it.
Sam is the Editor-in-Chief of PTL. He likes adapting surnames into brand names and pretending to be professional. His favourite novel is Cloud Atlas and he has Madonna marathons on a regular basis. Sam tries to make out that he has his shit together but more often than not can be found crying watching Desperate Housewives reruns. Some episodes are really sad okay.
If you’re interested in getting involved with PTL – drop us an email on firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Header image sourced from: here)
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