Dear Women's Education:
I'm writing in regards to your Spring 1988, Vol.6, No.2 issue, "Prison, Art and Some Myths". I don't understand why the article, "Prison, Art and Some Myths" was credited SOLELY to Persimmon Blackbridge in the Table of Contents, and to Persimmon Blackbridge WITH Lyn MacDonald and Michelle Christianson in the article.
The article was written by all three of us independently. My
words are my own, I am entirely capable of writing about my own experience
without anyone's help. You seem to imply that Michelle and/or myself are
side-kicks in the stories of our own lives. I know this wasn't simply
oversight, as Persimmon had not put WITH when she mailed the article. So, it
was added for a reason. If you don't mean to imply that I am somewhat
incompetent, I'd like to hear why my name and Michelle's don't appear side by
side with Persimmon's. I also think it's a shame that you cut some of
Michelle's strongest words regarding relative lack of racism in Canadian
prisons, and particularly in the last paragraph, which you simplified
incredibly, instead of allowing Michelle to tell your readers what she really
wants them to know about women who've been in prison.
Dear Women's Education:
Thank you for asking me for comments about the editing of our article, "Prison, Art and Some Myths", in your spring 1988 issue. I'm pleased that you realized I might have some comments and that you wanted to have them and would be willing to share them with your readers. It shows an integrity and sensitivity that I appreciate. Articles have to be edited for length and clarity sometimes. It must be a hard process, with writers mourning every fallen word. I'll try to spare you that. But I want you to think about 2 ways in which you changed the content of our article. The most outrageous change was at the very beginning. Why did you credit the article to "Persimmon Blackbridge WITH Lyn MacDonald and Michelle Christiansen" instead of just using our three names together as it was in the copy I sent you? Adding "with" neither shortens nor clarifies anything. Adding "with" subordinates Lyn and Michelle to me, makes their participation of lesser importance. But in fact we all three wrote the article, there was no "with" about it. I was surprised and angry. I had talked to your editor exhaustively about how I didn't want to be given more status or credibility than Lyn and Michelle. She suggested several changes to the article which separated me from Lyn and Michelle and I explained again and again how that fed into classism, racism, and the marginalization of prisoners. Is it still unclear? Do you see how you have given a white middle class woman more credit for something that she did equally with a working class white woman and a working class woman of colour? I feel like I'm repeating myself, but I don't know how many times I have to say it to make you understand.
The second change that bothered me was at the end of the article. In the version we sent you, the last section is as follows:
Michelle: There are women in this world who due to various circumstances are put into jail and upon their release have little or no support from the women's community. I would like to know why. I know women in the feminist community who, when they saw me working the street, didn't even acknowledge my existence. I wasn't ashamed.
We apologize for the error in not fully crediting the article in the Editorial, the Table of Contents and the by-line; no implications of incompetence were intended. The correction has been made, along with others from the Spring issue, on page 34. As regards editorial procedure, CCLOW policy has always been to retain final discretion in editing for style and length. However, the policy is continually evolving and, in the difficult work of providing for women an uncensored voice while at the same time maintaining editorial direction, your comments are appreciated. We have in fact recently made some refinements which take into account concerns such as you raise in your letters.