I deleted my blog this morning. I didn’t know what else to do. I was minding my own business when I got a call from a good friend of mine sympathising with me about the Mail on Sunday article.
“What Mail on Sunday Article?”
“The one about you! I had no idea – I though you were happy in your job?”
“I am happy in my job – what are you talking about?”
“You told the Mail on Sunday that your workmates were sexist and treated you really badly – there’s a picture of you and everything”
And, just like that, my day fell apart. I don’t really know what to do. I didn’t know that this happened, or could happen, to people like me.
In November, I wrote a blogpost called “Women? In Air Traffic Control?”. I wrote it in response to people on Twitter and in my life who wanted to know what it was like to do my job. There aren’t many of us. Most people don’t meet many Air Traffic Controllers, and it has, in films, media, and most portrayals, been depicted as a job done mainly by men. You can read the post for yourself, it’s below.
I tried to talk in it about what it was like for me, nearly a decade ago, being one of the first women to do my job in Ireland. I didn’t then, and do not now, think my work colleagues are “Male Chauvinist Pigs”, as the Mail headlined their article. I love my job, and the people I work with. I was talking about how I felt years ago, starting out, slightly scared and intimidated by the responsibilities that people who do my job hold in our hands.
Yes, back then, some things bemused me. For example, I wrote in that post that two women weren’t allowed to work together. That was then, and things have changed, and my original post makes that clear in the very next line. For the Mail to quote that line in order to make it appear that I am unhappy in my job, that my colleagues are sexist, or that I ever felt or feel unwanted, is disgusting.
The Mail never told me they were writing a piece about my blog. The journalist who wrote it never sent me an email asking me questions about my blog. I won’t do to his professional reputation what he has done to mine, but let’s just say that I wonder whether he would have expected me to answer his questions the way he wanted.
As it is, in the middle of an incredibly trying time for my colleagues, an article has appeared in a Sunday Newspaper that says I feel abused by the people I work with. It gives me opinions that I do not have, and uses words I have never said. It does so to attack my profession, impugn my employers, and portray me as a victim of my friends.
I feel sick. Any future employer could fairly read what Luke Byrne has written about me and conclude that I am a disloyal, untrustworthy person. The people I work with today could, and probably have, read it and decided that I am not on their side, and that I think that they are sexist, nasty, bullies. None of this is true.
I don’t “do” media. Other than friends who happen to work in the media, or people given tours of where I work, I’ve never dealt with a journalist. This blog was supposed to be an account of my life, what I do, and how I got here. Today it has been transformed into a weapon to be used by an unscrupulous, nasty person against some of the people I care most about.
My first reaction was to delete everything. I wiped it all away. Then I realised it was the only monument to my actual opinions that exists for people to read. If it’s gone, then all that is left is an article that turns me into somebody else who thinks things that never did or would cross my mind.
I don’t know whether I have a cause of action. I’m not a lawyer. Maybe twisting my words and my ideas into something perverse is totally legal.
Maybe not giving me a right to respond is totally legal. Maybe not even telling me there was going to be an article is totally legal. Publishing my photograph without my knowledge or consent probably is totally legal. But I don’t know how it could be. I’ve never ever felt this low. All I have ever tried to do is do a good job for the people I serve and the people I work with. I want to be thought well of, to be happy, and to be respected. How anybody who works with me could read that article and either respect or think well of me, I don’t know.
I’m sure this happens to other people all the time. Probably people who are far more famous than me. I’ve probably read and formed opinions of other people based on things that are just not true. I’ve probably talked about other people’s lives based on things I’ve read that were hurtful to them.
I just can’t get my head around it. I could never, ever, ever do this to somebody else. I don’t understand how they couldn’t ask me for a comment. Or for my actual opinion. Instead, there’s a whole page of a national newspaper devoted to what I think of the people I work with, when in fact I think pretty much the exact opposite.
I don’t know what I’m going to do – or what I can do. But I know that I’m not going to leave it at this. Advice would be gratefully recieved.
To my work colleagues, I’m so, so, so, sorry. The person in that article is not me. It’s a twisted version of me, built to suit the nasty agenda of a journalist who doesn’t know me, and has never met me. I don’t know what more to say.
Due to the overwhelming support I have received, I am unable to keep track of the comments and have decided to close the comments sections for now. I would like to thank everybody for their support, it has been a tremendous help during this difficult period. You can find me on Twitter (@mrs_schregardus ) where I can better keep track and respond.