Via social media recently, The Standard has come under scrutiny for a letter to the editor we published in the Feb. 12 edition. The letter from one Ms. Barbara MacKinnon spoke on the importance of a mother figure and those who have chosen to devote themselves to serving their families in the 1950s, white, colonial mid-upper-class sense before it took a screaming hairpin turn into saying U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris was unqualified for office due to her stance on abortion.
The aim of publishing this letter, like any other that comes up, is to give the public their opportunity to make their voices heard to a wider audience, so long as it does not run up against the boundaries of libel or hate speech. Were Ms. MacKinnon’s opinions controversial? Yes. Could it have been worded in a much less inflammatory way? Absolutely.
Letters to the editor may be edited for clarity, length or legal reasons. If we rewrote her opinion any further, it fails to be her letter anymore and misses the point of the opinion page. Per the tradition of any newspaper part of the National News Council, the letters page is designed to be a venue for public comments on current events, community issues or to salute or criticize public institutions. It’s a refined and precious barometer of public opinion.
Publication of any given letter is not an endorsement by myself, The Standard or Black Press of the letter writer’s opinions. This policy gives some letter writers wide latitude to express views that might be seen by some as hurtful, problematic or offensive. We’re not here to condone the views of letter writers but to offer a platform to all viewpoints as a matter of professional responsibility.
For the record, I disagree with Ms. MacKinnon, as many of you do. While there are those who wish to be homemakers and are privileged to have the means to do so, that absolutely should not be the life for everyone who identifies as a woman. Women have that freedom to do anything they choose under the law and should be celebrated in that fact.
My own spouse is an award-winning business owner and one of the hardest-working women I know. She does still take care of the house in her way, and I share that responsibility. We are a team. Equals. And I would not have it any other way. If she woke up tomorrow and decided she wanted to dedicate her life to traditional housewifery, should money be no object and should it be what sets her soul ablaze with passion, I would support her transformation into June Cleaver without a second thought. I love her and I want nothing short of her achieving her wildest dreams.
Ms. MacKinnon’s letter also fails to take into account single women. I’ve known plenty of women in my life who are not in a situation where they can assume that so called “coveted” role of housewife whether by choice or circumstance. I think that’s fine, personally. I’ve known single mothers, those who live alone or with roommates, those in “non-traditional” families that have careers and lives and have done amazing things with their time on earth. They are no less valid and no less loved than you or I and deserve their place in the sun along with those who choose a more old-fashioned lifestyle.
The letter also failed to recognize a single-income household is no longer the norm due to the way the economy and capitalism has evolved. Even during the heyday of traditional housewives 60 to 70 years ago, that idyllic, single-income, picket-fenced acre with 1.5 kids and a dog lifestyle was available to a smaller subset of people than Ms. MacKinnon may be led to believe.
It’s a fine line to walk, selecting what letters go in the paper. As a wise colleague of mine once said, we must be careful in stopping free expression, even if it’s bad free expression. Under the Charter of Rights, opinions do have the right to exist and be published whether we like it or not. While journalists keep the gate to publication and filter out dangerous or hateful messages, the beauty of free press, in the end, is allowing for the exchange of all ideas.
Let’s continue to speak responsibly and keep the conversation going.