Updated: May 31
***A Trigger Warning: Slang mention of oral sex, sexual innuendo and mild cursing***
I want to start by saying there are so many layers to the broadcasting industry for women. It is completely against us. As society starts to chip away at misogyny and patriarchy in Canada, broadcasting is one of the last industries to be recognized as the shame incubator that it is.
I was triggered by Jennifer Valentyne’s public announcement that she’d launched a Human Rights Complaint against a radio station bully. I found myself saying (and posting on her actual post) that finally someone high profile enough, with a long enough career and with enough courage had come forward publicly.
I thought about coming forward many times. I worked in radio as a reporter, newscaster, a morning show co-host and a talk show host. I reached out to a former female station manager and confided in her, and asked why isn’t anyone calling this shit out? I’m not in radio anymore, why didn’t I?
When I was working within it, I was piss poor. I had a roommate and lived close to the radio station at one of my jobs. That building housed 3 radio stations and our local newspaper at the time. The newspaper sports editor co-hosted an hour-long radio show with one of our announcers on the talk radio station, where I did afternoon news and reporting. The sports editor got his hands on a staff list and proceeded to call me (drunk) on Friday nights and ask if he could come over and said to me, “You know you want it.” I didn’t report it. I was making less than $30,000/year and living poor. There was no way I’d chance being out on the street.
At that same job, after working a remote/off site job on a Friday night, the male announcer drove us both back to the station with the station vehicle and when I went to get out, he said, “How about a b*$@job?” I was never alone with him again.
At an FM morning show job, I worked with two men and we did weekly visits to workplaces with gifts for the staff. One of the men would literally LEER at attractive women in the offices and he would say things like, “Do you know who I am?” and make lude comments about them under his breath (loud enough for me to hear). His ego was enormous.
The system itself is completely set up and designed for women to compete with one another. I worked in radio for almost a decade, and each year, the local college and university pumps out broadcasting and journalism graduates, willing to do the work for half my pay. There are far more positions for men than women and everyone is competing.
I have countless more stories about the men, but I had one (younger) woman who produced my radio talk show and desperately wanted to take over the time slot. She made no secret about it. When I went on vacation, she changed the intro from my name, to her own name (the show was named after me) for the entire week. Listeners thought I’d left for good. When I complained to the manager, he said he didn’t know, which was complete BS.
Also, at that time, I was negotiating my talk show contract and had connected with the only other female talk show host in the chain, who had a show, during the day, during the week. She was in Montreal. It was at the tail end of my radio career that we finally confided in each other about our salaries so we could better position ourselves to negotiate.
But let’s not forget that there are other systems in place here including capitalism and white supremacy. We white women had the privilege of even getting and holding a job in radio. People of colour have been speaking out about the lack of representation in commercial radio far more than we have. We have perpetuated these systems because, they did serve us too.
I was complicit. I worked within that system and did not speak up nor against any of it. I was fearful but that doesn’t excuse me. I pushed down my sensitivity and feelings with booze and eating disorders and over exercise. I drank and did the things I thought I needed to do in order to ‘fit in’. Layer in some unresolved childhood trauma and low self-esteem and you’ve got a perfect shame cocktail. And the anger. That only made it worse. It was a confusing, conflicted time for me. But I made my own choices, I blame no one else for those.
Now in my fifties, it’s taken me a long time, a lot of healing, supportive friends and an extremely wonderful spouse to actually deal with some of this anger, shame and regret. And Jennifer Valentyne’s claim has allowed me to deal with even more, so I thank her for her courage.
I didn’t come forward because I was afraid no one would believe me. And I had so much shame.
There is a lot of shame around keeping quiet and not telling anyone. Talking about it was uncomfortable. It’s that fear of being uncomfortable that made us all stay quiet, for decades. Vulnerability shines a light on shame and makes it scurry like a bug.
I’m a whole, flawed, amazing human and now appreciating every second I have left in this old world.