Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Censored in Fargo

© 2010 Karen Van Fossan

It's not the worst thing that ever happened to me – or “The Group That Opened the Box,” as a matter of fact.

Still, the girls in “The Group” were shocked. Disappointed. Angry.

They had planned to share pieces of the play we wrote together. They had planned to tell stories of teenage sexuality, BFFs, pregnancy, and sexual orientation – all with a glimmer in their eyes.

But then I got the call.

Our interview on “The Flag,” AM 1100, had been cancelled.

In fact, all the guests who'd been invited to reflect on women's lives and women's struggles – they were uninvited, too. No more show on women's issues. No more show on girls' desires.

Cancelled. Uninvited. These are euphemisms I use for the real situation:

We were censored.

By now, this is old news. It happened last Friday night, the evening before The Group's rousing performance at MSU-Moorhead.

I'm late getting the word out because of an unrelated event.

Our beloved family cat, Butterfly, died on Sunday morning. I mention Butterfly now, not because I'm asking for your compassion (though, if you have some, we would welcome it). I mention this because her death has shown me the nature of censorship itself.

In mourning the death of Butterfly, we long for many things – to feel the sweet coarseness of her fur again, to see her mottled face again, to hear her scrappy voice again.

Because our cat has died, we can no longer hear her voice.

To the living at least, the dead appear to be voiceless.

When we hear each other's voices, we affirm that we are alive. But when we are censored, when our voices are made voiceless, something within us dies.

“Ignore it, and it will go away,” as the saying goes. Ignore us, and we die, at least a little.

It is long past time for girls' voices to be revived.


JGH said...

I am saddened and disappointed with the radio show. In the year 2010 we are still censoring the feelings and sexuality of women. I think you should t-shirts with the censored picture and sell them for a fundraiser. I'll be the first in line to buy one!

The show, by the way, was truly amazing!!

blogslut said...

It was a great show that the world should see; I have a feeling it will...

Rae Abileah said...

Hi Karen,

Really moving piece. I'm so sorry to hear that your cat passed on and send well wishes of love and healing to you and your feline friend's family. I think that even in death we can hear the wise words of those who have passed on, and see them in the stars (check out the poem below, which was the inspiration for a mosaic mural that we installed in Gaza City, made by artist from California.)

But when we silence the voices of the young women of the next generation, we wipe out future galaxies of thought, whole planets of ideas and the possibility to navigate between them. Please let me know if there's any effective action we can take from afar - writing a note or calling the censors, etc.

In solidarity, and above all sisterhood,

"My Grandmother in the Stars"
It is possible we will not meet again
on earth. To think this fills my throat
with dust. Then there is only the sky
tying the universe together.

Where we live in the world
is never one place. Our hearts,
those dogged mirrors, keep flashing us
moons before we are ready for them.
You and I on a roof at sunset,
our two languages adrift,
heart saying, Take this home with you,
never again,
and only memory making us rich.

by Naomi Shihab Nye

Karen Van Fossan said...

Thank you, my dear, sweet, friends,

What a blessing you are!

If you would like to share your disappointment with the radio station, you could contact Dustin Moore at Dustin can forward your email to Scott Hennen, station owner.

In peace and sisterhood,

Hannah Balaban said...

To AM 1100, "The Flag":

I am writing to express my disappointment in your station's decision to cancel the show/uninvite/censor, the segment on women's issues featuring parts of the play written by the talented young women in the group "Out of The Box".

These young women have used their past hurts, their hearts and their talent as writers to grow to be able to give voice and life to the issues that affect them, and all of us, every day. The issues of sexuality faced by all women young and old could have been given voice, could have been shared, could have been open for understanding and dialogue...but you have chosen to close that possibility for your listeners.

By closing down communications such as these, your station has failed to do it's job to inform, educate and communicate with the people of Fargo and of North Dakota as a whole. By first inviting, then "uninviting" these girls you have reinforced the image of ND as a place that is unaccepting of differences, closed to open discussion of important issues effecting our youth, and afraid to open up to those who are unique and brave enough to embrace and celebrate their femininity.
I would strongly request that you apologize to this group of young women and that you beg them to consider an appearance after all. Please reconsider this short sighted decision and allow the people of ND to hear from ALL walks of life.

~Hannah Balaban
Bismarck, ND

Randy Van Fossan said...

Butterfly has spread her wings and flown off in eternity. Girls' voices have been denied but will be heard again in their eternity. Where is their eternity? In the voices that yet echo in our minds, like the memories of Butterfly who was and forever will be.
Take courage,
Love you, Dad

Karen Van Fossan said...

Thank you for your powerful and meaningful letter! Thank you, also, for taking it upon yourself to write to the station -- and giving me the idea to spread the word.
What a strong advocate you are!

Thanks for your poetic words. Big hugs to you...


Caitlyn Taix said...

Karen, I'm so sorry about Butterfly.
I think it's really awesome how you were able to pull that kind of message out of her passing though.
Thank you for sharing our situation and your situation with people, it brings a lot of encouragement!