How the Story Is Told

Step

get off me man
stop worryin me
stop sniffin up ma drawers n
grinnin in ma face
climbin in ma mouth twistin words inside out
oh what you sayin is…

get off me man
get
yr hands off ma ass
yr eyes out my back
yr mouth out ma ears
talking crooked call it straight

brush off me man
brush off step back step off jump     back
i said get off
here

leave me to walk this street in peace
I got places to go
n you
fuckin wit ma step.

— Ruth Forman

_____

In today’s Daily News there are two articles about relationships in which domestic violence led to murder.  That’s all these articles have in common.  Their size, placement, visual aids and headline choices all differ.

The first story is a pair of double two-inch columns in an inside corner by the fold.  No photo.  The smallish headline typeface says: “Brooklyn Man Arrested in Wife’s Fatal Beating.”  Online you can find an accompanying photo showing the lower body of a police officer and a stretch of police tape.

The second story is a larger-than-half-page full-color piece with a large white typeface blaring the headline down one side of the royal blue background: “Slowly Getting Her Life Back after Killing Hubby.”  There’s a large photo of a happy-looking black woman striding confidently off of the background and into the article.  Online you can find two additional pictures of her.

So.  What do you suppose has me annoyed?

Could it be that all we know about the man is his name and what neighborhood he lives in while the woman’s photo is shown repeatedly, and the story even tells us where she lives, where she works and what her job is … while at the same time saying she’s trying to quietly get back to her life?

Could it be that the man killed his wife, but the headline can’t bring itself to call him a killer, almost makes the “fatal beating” sound like something that belongs to the wife that he’s being made responsible for … while in the other article, the man who had battered the woman for ten years is made to sound sweet and cuddly by the headline’s use of “Hubby”?

Could it be that the man is described as having “a stormy relationship” with his wife as if domestic violence is just a little drama between husband and wife … or that the murdered husband is described as being drunk and high the night he was killed, as if that should help us excuse the fact that had beaten his wife to the floor and was strangling her when she killed him?

Could it be that the article purports to be about how she’s pulling her life together after her acquittal six months ago … but that the article makes such a point of telling us how she lied to police about the murder weapon when they were first investigating the crime?

Yeah, it’s all these things that make my eyes itch, make the hair on the back of my neck stand up.¹  This is that “fair and balanced” journalism I’ve heard tell about.

_____

In nove otto land, I’ve hit some rough terrain.  Three relatively easy days made me a little cocky.  Today put me in my place.

I say I know what I would do,
in my arrogance, thinking too:
here’s what I’d say, here’s how and why.
What I really know is nothing —
my own story ran following
stars I didn’t want to steer by.
I tell myself I’d get out.
I believe, but I also doubt.
Too easy for my “truth” to lie.

__________
¹ Sadly, my being annoyed extends a little to the woman’s lawyer.  He says he can’t understand why his client was prosecuted in the first place.  After all, she “is a woman who had no record, who goes to church every Sunday and Fridays, too.”

Seriously?  She did kill her batterer.  I’m glad she was acquitted, but the idea that she should have not had any kind of legal proceeding at all seems a little insane.

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4 thoughts on “How the Story Is Told

  1. Aauuughhhhhhh so infuriating!!! I have been reading a book on women and creativity, and a big part of it is about how women and men are socialized and perceived differently. Your post makes me think: how can we hope to gain strength in something so subtle and personal as art, when we can’t get fair treatment in something so blatant and obvious as murder? Well, maybe it’s the other way around — the subtle fight shifts the obvious fight. I’ll hang on to that hope.

    What I really know is nothing –
    my own story ran following
    stars I didn’t want to steer by.

    I loved how these words fit together before I even digested their meaning.

    1. I love your idea of the subtle fight shifting the obvious one. I’m going to hang onto that hope, too. And thanks so much for the encouragement with my “dumbly and divinely stumbling” nove ottos.

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