Sunday, December 27, 2020

Heavy Lifting


The other evening a familiar local logo caught my eye on Twitter: Howard County Progress Report.

What prompted this? I wondered. Aha. There it was.

I had to think for a minute because this year has been so long that I thought perhaps that Howard Progress Report had been going for a whole year now and I’d gone and missed its first anniversary in the blogosphere. 

I felt a twinge of something. It took me a moment to realize what it was. I thought of how I recently took the time to mark the blogging anniversary of The Merriweather Post in this space. 

I don’t regret that, but the truth is that men get a lot of free publicity and incidental promotion on social media and women don't. Somehow people extend a little extra this and that, uncritical mentions, or make helpful connections which set men up to get the win. It happens all the time.

And they don’t do it for women. Women don’t get the mention, or it comes with qualifications or skepticism or backhand praise that drains its strength and mocks their legitimacy.

So despite the fact that Howard County Progress Report was responding quite appropriately to the prompt, I looked at this post and thought: how many of us locally have lifted up an account like The Merriweather Post (Jeremy Dommu) but Howard County Progress Report (Jenny Solpietro) has to lift herself up?  

Isn’t that typical. Woman always end up having to do all their own heavy lifting. 

And then:

Where am I on this? Why haven’t I done better?

I know why, because at first I found Howard County Progress Report and its accompanying Twitter account abrasive and off-putting and sometimes mean-spirited. I didn’t know how to embrace the rights of the writer to engage the community because the prickliness of the tone got in the way for me. I’m of a different generation: remember that I still find it deliciously bad-ass when Shirley Temple skewers her nemesis with words like: It’s too bad, Mary Anne, that your mother didn’t bring you up to be a nicer girl.

And there you have it, the excuse writ large: oh, I do support women, they just have to be the right sort of woman. She mustn’t be angry or outspoken or speak candidly about offensive subjects. She mustn’t make people uncomfortable and, above all, she mustn’t be fully confident in her own powers and competence. Oh yes, we absolutely support women in Howard County, but that sort of woman must be mocked, harassed, censured.

That’s a lot of mileage I got out of that one tweet.

Here’s the deal with Howard County Progress Report:

It begins like this, on April 28 of this year, with a post entitled The BOE Partisan Debate. And since that date it has covered a huge amount of ground, examined a variety of difficult and sometimes extremely complex subjects. It has sometimes made me laugh, often made me squirm, but always made me think.

And, in a time period of only eight months, Howard County Progress Report has grown and deepened as a well-researched yet also unflinchingly compassionate resource on local issues. What have the rest of us been doing for the last eight months?

Well, as it turns out, if you’d like to share that with the rest of us, you can do what Ms. Solpietro did and tweet it with this prompt.

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