One of WordPress’ big claims is that it democratizing publishing. In recent years, it’s also begun democratizing the distribution and consumption of data via the Rest API, and it’s helped push the openness of data, which can be used by anyone to make the world a little better.
Change is born of many things but it always stems from a refusal to accept the norm. When Shay died on the TV show Chicago Fire, many of us were angry. When Lexa died on The 100, we became irate. And then we organized. Multiple groups, separate, all used WordPress and social media to power our desire to show the world what was wrong and what needed to change. We took our hobby of television and made it our passion, and we let our passion start to change the television landscape.
WordPress Enables Change
Having built many sites in many different CMS tools, ranging from Jekyll and Hugo to MediaWiki and Sharepoint, WordPress still makes it easiest to share the data in more ways than just plain old HTML. By allowing us to output our content in JSON with that API, we can create paths for people to transmute our data and display it in new ways we never dreamed of.
In the last two years, I’ve been able to take my simply hobby site from a list of information to a open API for people to get lost in like Wikipedia to an open-data resource for all people to generate dynamic results. Without data we cannot come to accurate conclusions about the world, and without OPEN data, we cannot work together to make the world better.
Taking a hobby as a vector for change didn’t happen overnight. It came with toil and hard work. It came with research of plugins and solutions. It came with hours and hours of watching TV just to come up with a reasonably accurate list of all the queer females on television, and if they were alive or dead. And with this data, we’ve been able to help news reporters and tv show writers visualize the impact on the world. We’ve started to change the world, just a little, with WordPress.
Bury Your Queers
Just telling people “Hey, WordPress helped me power a site that publicized the information of a hitherto uncollected dataset” would be a pretty short post.
I mentioned change was born of a refusal to accept the ‘norm’ in our lives. As it happens, being a queer female on television is more dangerous than being on the Titanic. In 2014, it was reflecting the darkest aspects of ourselves. In 2015, 33 queer females died on TV. Over 40 in 2017. Trans people are being murdered in record numbers today in the real world. All of this is related to the Dead Lesbian trope, AKA Bury Your Queers.
My theory is that the more we accept death in our media, the more we accept it in reality. The media is pervasive and colors our lenses to accept normal when it’s not. There are a lot of hills to stand on and make this point, but I picked the one that reflects me the most, and the one I felt I could tackle. My hope was that it would just be the start.
A Brief History
- December 13, 1971 – Julie Solkin / Executive Suite
- August 15, 1995 – Talia Winters / Babylon 5
- May 7, 2002 – Tara Maclay / Buffy The Vampire Slayer
- May 13, 2014 – Leslie Shay / Chicago Fire
- March 3, 2016 – Lexa / The 100
- June 4, 2017 – Barbara Keen / Gotham
It would take me a while to list all the deaths, so I’ve listed six of the more prominent deaths here. Julie was the first recorded death. Lexa set the world on fire. These deaths, out of well over 270 since 1971 by the way, shaped our perceptions. They told us it was okay to kill off the queers for shock value. But the thing is, with Lexa, last year, people lost their minds.
If you were in the LA area, you may have seen some surprising billboards in 2016. There were four all told, four separate billboards crowdfunded globally via Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, and a WordPress site. They collected the money and put the billboards up and said that WE would not stop. That wasn’t the end of it. There’s been a convention, ClexaCon, and more activism.
One of the interesting things was we all sat down, in our various corners of the internet, and asked “How bad is this, exactly?” Sites like AutoStraddle made a straight up (heh) list of all the dead and all the happy-endings. Spoiler, very few have happy endings. Other sites, like LGBT Fans Deserve Better and LezWatchTV started to make lists of everyone we could find. And we all actually used WordPress.
There are pros and cons for every platform. There was never a doubt in Tracy’s mind that we were going to use WordPress, but I always think about pros and cons. MediaWiki is amazing when you want anyone contributing becuase it allows anonymous edits. But there was too much possibility for abuse so MediaWiki was out. Static site generators like Hugo or Jekyll are fast and secure (go on, hack my html please. Knock yourself OUT). But they’re not very flexible and can be difficult to manage with multiple contributors or non-technical ones. WordPress, though, is flexible, allows for multiple editors, processes images easily, and is incredibly extendable.
Obviously I haven’t even begun to touch on the code part, of how you build out the data and make it beneficial to people via tools like plugins or Amazon Alexa, and not even how you build the data so you can do those things.