by Katharine Daniels
-The WIP Director-
This winter I read Saru Jayaraman’s Behind the Kitchen Door. Part investigative journalism, part narrative, Jayaraman exposes the discriminatory, exploitative and often unsanitary labor conditions in one of the largest and fastest growing sectors of the U.S. Economy.
Since reading Behind the Kitchen Door I often think of what Jayaraman calls her “matrix moment” as a restaurant patron. Most Americans pay little attention to restaurant workers who “perform the most intimate acts for us – cooking and serving our food, typically an act reserved for a parent or partner.”
Since recognizing this truth in my own life, I make sure not only to look into the eyes of the men and women I come into contact with on a daily basis – servers in the restaurant industry, clerks at the check-out of my local super market, guards at the gate of the Presidio where my son attends daycare – but also to create a memory in my mind of the individual, recognizing each as unique, with a life interconnected with my own.
Today, February 25, 2014, The WIP is launching as a publication of the Monterey Institute of International Studies. If there is a way to look deeper into the eyes of the women and men whose stories we share on The WIP, to etch a more permanent record in the annals of truth, today’s launch is a major step toward achieving that goal.
For me, publishing stories the past seven years has been a rewarding yet lonely journey. I am clear the severe injustices facing human beings and the planet worldwide are on The WIP community’s minds the majority of time. But unfortunately, in the dominant media culture that prevails, what we consume in the mainstream rarely mirrors what we talk about on The WIP’s pages.
On a cold morning in January, I began the day packing up the one-room office The WIP has occupied since inception and moved our boxes – the collection of writer files, posters from past events, and the books our writers’ have published – four blocks eastward and onto the campus of the Monterey Institute of International Studies (MIIS). Although the distance is minimal, it was a great leap forward for our vision of media as an instrument of change.
With our move to the MIIS campus and onto the Middlebury server, we are formalizing a relationship that began seven years ago. Since The WIP and MIIS began collaborating in 2007, close to 100 Institute students have had articles and research on policy issues published on The WIP. Approximately 30 students have served as interns over the years. Professors Moyara Ruehsen and Pushpa Iyer have published feature stories that have generated rich online conversations within our global community. Several of our live events have been held on the MIIS campus. And one of our original interns, Marianne Taflinger (MPA ’08), has single-handedly fact-checked most of the 850 exclusive feature articles we have published.
At MIIS, graduate students are encouraged to “Be the Solution” by claiming professional degrees that will translate into work on “some of the most critical issues of our time.” Our vision at The WIP is for every woman, man, and child (and the planet) to have the opportunity to live free from bondage – whether that bondage is poverty, discrimination, slavery or violence. Together with MIIS, we will forge new ground for media and social change by not only telling the human rights stories that rarely get the coverage they deserve in the dominant media, but also by diving even deeper into the critical work of solution-building.
In addition to the platform The WIP provides for publishing articles about critical policy issues from women’s perspectives, we are now becoming a platform for MIIS students, faculty, and alumni to publish their work in areas such as international policy and management, sustainable development, and non-proliferation. Where leaders from MIIS intersect with the women and men of the grassroots, far removed from the dominant media’s traditional reporting, something very profound is born.
While writing this post, my twin sister reminded me of The WIP’s March 2012 International Women’s Day keynote address delivered by journalist Maria Hinojosa. She spoke about how the media suffers from “head in the sandness” – the media chooses not to tell critical, relevant stories when their exclusive focus is on the bottom line. With MIIS, The WIP’s ability to tell more of the stories that go untold and to expand on our leadership potential in the media has strengthened considerably.
Within the first couple years of this partnership, The WIP hopes to translate our content into multiple languages. We plan to expand our ability to offer writing support to our non-native English writers so that no writer is turned away solely because of her English language proficiency. And with technical support, The WIP’s ability to connect and engage with you, our readers, will grow in ways that will make our voice for change stronger, louder, and more effective than before.
Whether you are a former WIP community member or a MIIS or Middlebury faculty, student or alum – or if you have just come across our news service for the first time today – I invite you to make The WIP part of your journey to solutions for the critical issues important to all of us.
Create a blog on The WIP Talk and find readers you may not have found on your own. Share your environmental and political concerns and connect with us through online commentary and online events. Post the arts and culture stories you do not want the world to miss, or worse, to forget. Stop by daily for our hand picked selection of news headlines that go beyond the sensational and the popular. And every week, be sure to read our exclusive feature articles written by our growing global collective of over 250 women writers.
Together we will combat “head in the sandness,” together we will be the solution, and together we will never forget to look every one and every story in the eye to remember the interconnectedness of our lives.
About the author: Kate Daniels is the founder and director of The WIP, a publication of the Monterey Institute of International Studies.