Knox College has a unique radio station (WVKC) in that it is completely student run and any student can apply to become a DJ and with some training, put on a show that is broadcast to thousands of listeners. Kate and I thought that this would be a great idea for helping inform people about feminist issues in the news and in our lives.
The Female Impersonators Radio Hour lasted four terms (ten weeks each), and we did not miss a single show. For the first two, we got our top choice of time slot, and once a week we prepared feminist news and music to bring to our listeners. Our third term, we didn't get any of our top six time slots, but we got a spot that (barely) worked for us. Our fourth term, we again did not get any of our top six requested timeslots. It was explained to us that a record number of people had applied for shows, although this shouldn't have effected us as we had several terms under our belts. The real issues began for us when, on the winter 2009 program schedule was sent out. Our listing (here, Mondays at 8:00pm):
Nate Robbins & Amelia Garcia
Issue one: Who's Nate?
Issue two: We had clearly labeled our genre (not an easy thing to do) as "Feminist talk/music" and we somehow ended up with the genre label of comedy.
It should be noted that WVKC has always (in our experience) been horrible with typos in DJ names (and often times show names - note that ours was incomplete). They also seem to assign very random genres, even when they ask DJs to specify their genre. But Kate and I found comedy to be highly offensive and completely inappropriate to our show because we often discussed serious topics ranging from sexual harassment to rape. There was no room to confuse our show with a comedy show, especially since we specified our intended genre. We felt that the comedy label was not only misleading to new listeners, but was also a personal slight because we take our work of informing people about sexism very seriously. It's nothing to laugh about.
Kate and I never contacted the station staff about this, and this is something that I have regretted. We should have held them accountabe immediately, but we did not. We continued with our show throughout the term, and the next term we applied once more for a radio show. This time, after two terms of mislabeling our show and not giving us time slots even remotely near to what we had requested, we did not get a show.
This time we were moved to act. For the spring 2009 term, brand new shows appeared in time slots that Kate and I had requested, which should not have happened since we were closed out and had some seniority. We wrote an e-mail to some of the station staff, outlining the issues summarized here. And we waited.
The first, brief reply we got from WVKC's Online Director who was not responsible for the scheduling. He did, however, take time to point out that the name of our show could easily be interpreted as comedy, and that it was likely that the scheduling staff made an assumption, since it's difficult to know the content of a show from the outset.
This made me mad. There was no excuse for the staff to not know the content of our show if they took the time to read our application. "Feminist talk/music" pretty much sums up our show, and I am still lost as to how that can be confused with comedy.
Also, the idea that "female impersonators" are somehow inherently funny was offensive to me, as someone who sees validity in all gender expressions. I saw this as a show of ignorance that, when used to defend the actions of the station staff, merely made me believe that I was right to be upset with them.
We later got a response from one of the station's general managers, who apologized for us not getting a show and our feelings of being disrespected. These were, according to the e-mail, not intentional doings. The reason we were given for not getting a show? Our application was lost, and apparently we were not the only DJs this happened to. There was more apologizing, more explaining that the job was difficult. I don't doubt the job of running a radio station as a student is difficult. Not at all. But it is a job that is taken on willingly, and when it appears that severe disorganization and major ignorance combine to not only offend DJs, but keep dedicated feminists with a real goal off the airwaves, something needs to be done. Making excuses won't cut it. I want to see real change.
When the general manager offered to try to find a spot that worked for us, Kate and I decided we didn't want to go that route for the time being.