In the News: How the media Perception of Polyamory is good, actually.
Ken Briodagh is a storyteller, author and editor. He's been my partner for more than 4 years and polyamorous for some years more than that. He’s been a cook, telemarketer, medical supply technician and mover of the bodies at a funeral home. Most of his exploits are either exaggerated or blatantly false and no one can prove otherwise. As our other guest posters, I will give you the places you can find him at the end of this post.
Hello, friends! This, as you might have guessed, is not Laura. You are far from the safety of her caring and insightful stewardship. Beware: here, there be dragons.
Kidding aside, I’m here to show how the media perception of polyamory is quite good, actually. This is despite the many attempts from some darker corners of the Internet to do the opposite.
To begin, I thought I’d do as little work as possible (don’t tell Laura!) and take stock of a simple Google News search on the term “polyamory” over the last 6 months
First off, please allow me to dispense with the obvious: Somerville, MA. Laura has already written about that wonderfully and you can read it here.
As I scrolled through almost six (6!) pages of news results (I know -- I’m so brave), I noticed a few clear divisions of type of story, which I’ll outline below.
I believe that almost any media attention that acts to uplift the profile of a sub- or counterculture, like polyamory, is net positive. This stands even when the intention of the creator or the portrayal of the subject is negative. Let’s get into it, shall we?
The four main categories of articles I saw, and want to look at, are: Polyamory 101, personal interest stories, Positive columns, and Rejection or Backlash. There is one more that pops up rarely: stories about entertainment properties that center on or cover polyamory, but that’s another article.
Polyamory 101 This is very straight forward. These articles are designed to answer the most basic questions and attract clicks from the normies. This group is important and positive because it’s often the first resource or contact that someone might have with polyamory. It can be a point of common ground or a conversation starter and can ease the way for introducing folks to the concepts in a non-confrontational way.
A few examples: Elle, USA Today, Insider.com.
Personal Interest This category, I think, is very important. It is also, I think, controversial. I like it because it humanizes polyamorous people and relationships and attaches names and faces to the issues. It’s the next step in the normalization process, as I see it.
Think of it as a funnel. We hope to move society from the edge of the funnel (ignorance about or dislike of polyamory), through awareness and tolerance, to the center (acceptance and recognition). If the Polyamory 101 content introduces the topic, then these personal interest stories make the subjects human.
Now, some folks I’ve talked to about this feel that because many of these stories are done as “scandal sheets” or for the titillation (nice), the portrayals reinforce negative stereotypes. That’s clearly a possibility, but only if we assume that the audience is already aware of polyamory and predisposed to be negative. But I’m not thinking of those people.
I’m concerned with the people who are just barely aware of polyamory. Maybe they read a few Polyamory 101 articles (like this excellent one). Maybe they saw a piece on WeTV or watched Jada and Willow Smith at the Red Table. To them, it’s just a (probably) weird concept, not a real possibility. When they see or read a personal interest story about a polycule or (if I’m honest) triad that’s working to make it work, we polyamorous folx suddenly have faces and names... That takes them one step further down the funnel.
Examples: The Guardian, Cosmopolitan, The New York Times
The next two categories are really one, but I divide them up for two reasons. The first is that the “Columns” are typically concerned with the social impact of polyamory and its popularity. Contrarily, the “Rejection columns” always have a mission to persuade against polyamory. The second reason is that the backlash items are trash by idiots and bad people motivated by bad ideas.But I’ll get to them soon.
These columnists are looking at the discussion around polyamory and trying to add their voices and perspectives with the goal, usually, of increasing their click counts. When they write positively or neutrally, these columnists can help to shift bias and debunk the unfounded accusations of the opposition and fears of the misinformed. All of which is extremely valuable when it comes to moving our target audience, those neutral to positive outsiders, ever closer to the center of our funnel.
Example: The Guardian
And finally: The Backlashers and Rejectionists
A note: I am clearly biased here. I have been a career journalist for 20 years and I do not like manipulation and hatred, especially when it masquerades as editorial authority. My loathing and contempt for these professional trolls might show a bit from here on. Additionally, I didn’t include links this time. The ones I read are full of hate and misinformation, and the sites do not deserve the traffic.
This is the dark dregs of the mediascape. The liars and the chumps in these propaganda rags feel their social power and clout slipping away as society realizes by inches that we’ve all had boots on our necks and we’d all really rather they stop.
But how could these unrepentant gobstains and their mewling expulsions of vitriol be positive for polyamory? Simply this: the backlash shows that we are winning. They’re scared. They see us, and all the queer communities, gaining ground in the cultural zeitgeist and they see their own bigotry and ignorance falling back to where it belongs: history.
That’s why I see these articles as positive. Because they mean the people are moving down the funnel in ever greater numbers and the enclosures of hatred are growing ever smaller. And that makes me feel good.
What do you think? Am I nuts? Do you see this differently? Answer in the comments!
Love you all! Don’t forget to love each other.
Now, the link pimping. Ken's new book Stories and Sins is available here. Ken is the creator of StoryPhoenix, which you can visit at StoryPhoenix.com, facebook.com/StoryPhoenixes/, Twitter @StoryPhoenix_ . You can follow Ken @AtlasWriter on Twitter and youtube.com/user/atlaswriter. You can buy his book of poetry Stories and Sins here, and you should, not just because I love him but because I like it.