Commentary

Joy 'R' Us, Even at Darkest Time of Year

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Joy doesn't come spilling out of the news these days, especially not the kind that Women's eNews often reports. But Rita Henley Jensen says it's now a good time to pause and relish the joy.

Editor's Note: The following is a commentary. The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily the views of Women's eNews.

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By Rita Henley Jensen<br>WeNews Editor in Chief

(WOMENSENEWS)--Joy. It feels a bit illicit to write it. Might be OK to sing the word out at a holiday gathering, but to write I feel joyful this holiday season feels a bit like I am breaking an unwritten rule of some sort.

To resist the gloom when the Northern Hemisphere is noticeably losing bits of daylight each day and the news seems to get worse each passing day, I attend a performance by a small troupe that sings the Christmas story in Latin. This version includes an aria sung after the Slaying of the Innocents.

As a holiday event, I organize a group of friends and neighbors to attend with me and each year I am delighted anew as, together, we gasp at the beauty of two rich soprano voices joining in a contrapuntal version of the Gloria. Within a minute or two of the duet's beginning, however, I lean forward, away from my companions, to become alone with the music. I quickly become encased in the joy--there is that word again--of being in the same space as these wonderful voices exalting.

For the duration of this portion of the program, I tune out the fact that evil is about to emerge. When that moment comes, tears escape my eyes and I touch a nearby friend because I know that the murder of innocents by those blinded by a blood lust for power did not die with Herod. Right now it's Darfur.

In the Northern Hemisphere, our annual gatherings of friends, colleagues and families at this darkest time of the year bring just enough joy and light, sometimes, to allow us to admit this and make it bearable.

Just yesterday Women's eNews distributed a two-part story on the growing concerns about the female health effects of environmental toxins.

Last week we reported on new federal welfare regulations that make it much harder for women raising children alone to find the time to go to school and advance their careers and increase earning capacities. We also took a look at the difficult and dangerous year it's been for female members of parliament in Afghanistan, where Taliban-style repression and violence are on the rise.

That's the darkness that is familiar to us all. And Women's eNews, like other news organizations, publishes stories about the expansion of darkness and despair.

The Coming of Light and Hope

However, Women's eNews, much more than most news organizations, also produces news about the coming of light and hope as well. For that opportunity I feel each day a sense of joy and gratitude.

Our current cover story, for instance, details the push by women in South Africa to advance in that continent's system of higher education. HIV-AIDS has ravaged the lives of so many African women and girls' education is extremely restricted in the sub-Saharan part of the continent. But here are women who are battling for gender justice, determined to move ahead.

That story demonstrates vividly the stubbornly positive side to human nature, the widespread impulse to push back at evil, to create beauty and work for peace.

Women's eNews is such a pushback. The staff and writers insist that good journalism--one that reports on significant events in women's lives and spreads it around the world almost effortlessly on the backs of electrons linking us all through the Internet--is a beautiful thing.

We are now completing our fifth year of daily reports, producing the type of journalism we all simply love: compelling, factual, focused on real life.

Letters from Writers and Readers

Here is a recent e-mail from one of our former Iraq correspondents, now a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times: "When I first traveled to Iraq as a freelance journalist, Women's eNews quickly became one of my favorite clients. Other news organizations would do an often-generic "state of Iraqi women" story every two months or so--as if there was only one 'women's' story to be told and then updated again and again. "But Women's eNews' appetite for all aspects of the issue demanded far deeper and more varied coverage. I wrote about female activists lobbying for representation in government, about female Iraqi soldiers serving alongside men in the newly reformed army and about a post-Saddam resurgence of religious education classes targeting Shiite women.

"The articles produced by myself and other Iraq reporters for Women's eNews probably constitute the definitive body of journalistic work on women's issues in post-war Iraq."

And what could be more joyful when this kind of journalism doesn't go unnoticed or unappreciated?

Some days, when we hit all the notes just right, the staff receives an e-mail that sends joy bouncing across our offices as one by one each one opens the electronic message.

Here is one we received just the other day that accompanied a $10 donation: "This is all I can afford right now, but I wanted you to know I appreciate what you do."

Joy.

When we receive one like that, we know we are not alone in this love affair with Women's eNews. Please join me, won't you, this holiday season? Push back the worry and sadness for a bit, and feel the joy in the possibilities for positive change in all women's lives and the warmth of family and friends.

 
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