The real reason women’s magazines suck, says Jezebel? The editors know what they want the story to look like, right down to the quotes, before they even assign it to a writer.
Jenna, the blogger formerly known as Tatiana The Anonymous Model, quotes an email circular sent out by a Glamour freelancer:
For the October issue of Glamour magazine, my editors are working on a story called “Guilty Man Pleasures.” The editors are looking for quotes about things good women do with men that are so bad.
Two examples are:
"I am currently seeing a guy who is way, way too young for me, but after ending a serious three-year relationship, he is just what the doctor ordered. The sex is so good I keep thinking he must be a professional and that my invoice is going to arrive any day now." -Elizabeth Hogan, 31, Winter Park, FL
"My most recent naughtiness: ‘accidentally’ finding my boyfriend’s checkbook and looking through it to see if he’d purchased an engagement ring. He had!"-Jaime Hobson, 27, Boston
Other examples are the woman who has webcam sex with her long-distance boyfriend, the girl who lets the guy she’s dating read text messages from other guys just to make sure he knows there are others interested, the woman who’s trying to save money but still gets her monthly Brazilian bikini wax just because she and her man love the feeling…
As a consumer of media websites and blogs, I’ve read a lot about the nightmare that apparently is writing US women’s magazines: endless rewrites, editing by committee, ridiculous contracts, overly tight briefs (by which I mean story guidelines, not, er, underpants)…
Having only written for one US mag to date, I can’t say for sure how true this is, but I can say that my experience writing for Australian mags has been much better. Here, editors only ask for rewrites if there’s actually something wrong with the piece, and provided you’re a coherent writer and good reporter, the published story usually looks pretty much like what you’ve handed in - the occasional comma or turns of phrase excepted.
That’s not to say that preconceived notions don’t play their role: when I pitched my ‘Beauty By Numbers' story to CLEO, I wasn't looking to conduct statistically accurate interviews on young women's grooming habits and beauty ideals. I wanted to speak to a handful of young women who pursued a very particular beauty ideal, inspired by something I’d observed on Big Brother. Accordingly, my callout requested blonde, tanned, highly groomed women and the men who chased after them. The difference here, I suppose, is that I didn’t specify what these young women’s views on the subject at hand should be - the whole point of the article was to find out what they were.
The US, I grant, may well be different. I suspect it is.
The real reason so many of these stories are pre-written, I suspect, isn’t just because the editors in question want them to look a certain way. It’s because, through their eyes at least, the shape they set for the story is simply the way that it is. Women are needy, men like you more if you play hard to get, sex is central not only to relationships but to the essence of who you are, and you really would look better with that expensive foundation.
More than anything, what these types of stories are lacking is imagination.
“…the reality is a bit more nuanced. Many women’s magazines which reinforce a narrow and destructive beauty ideal also feature first-rate writing by women on a wide variety of feminist subjects; magazines like Glamour and Cosmopolitan have run serious pieces in recent years on reproductive rights and pay equity; Seventeen and Teen Vogue have addressed eating disorders and sexual harassment. Those articles get more readers than comparable pieces in the feminist media; indeed, it’s entirely plausible that many women first encounter serious feminist analysis (whether they realize that’s what it is or not) within the pages of magazines like these.”—Hugo Schwyzer - Can a feminist read Cosmo?
Japan has for a while been the go-to country for oddball stories - especially those relating to isolation. That a staggering 25 percent of Japanese men and women have not had intercourse by their early thirties (or, presumably, in many cases an intimate relationship) speaks of this isolation.
But as The American Virgin points out, the Japanese aren’t the only ones having trouble negotiating the modern sex and relationships field.
Through my own research on young adults’ attitudes on sex and relationships, along with my work as a journalist, I’ve noticed a substantial - but usually invisible - minority of women and men in their mid-late twenties who are yet to experience an ongoing relationship. Most of them have had sex, but it’s less the Bacchanalian orgy portrayed in most media coverage of hook-up culture than something far more intermittent and episodic. As one long-term single 22-year-old explained, “The frequency of these encounters are quite low. The most promiscuous of my friends would have four in one year; others would have none.” Her remarks are typical.
None of the people I have spoken with have resorted to relations with a pillow or a doll. By all accounts and observation, they’re completely normal, but that’s the point: their experiences are normal. And they aren’t all bad, either. Largely, they’re linked the delayed age of marriage and our increased focus on self-actualisation before “settling down“.
Stories like the New York Times one have an obvious “freak” appeal, but it strikes me that it would be more useful - and just as interesting - to focus more on the issues that underlie them, and the way these issues play out closer to the middle of the bell curve.
Actually, on reflection, I think that these days I would do it. Not on a dating site, for the same reasons I have never picked up at a club (the meat market just isn't 'me'), but I would totally date people I met over Tumblr, Twitter, etc.
Let’s just say I’d meet up with someone in person if I thought they were cool (which I regularly do, and have been doing since 1999), and if I fell in love with them - probably after a while, because I’m slow like that - that’d be awesome. Because love is awesome.
2009 is a different place to 2006, and all that. (Although even then, my query was more “why is this still a taboo for me, when my online dating friend is clearly so much cooler than I am?”)
Now I need to go find some pretty picture to post to break up all that black text.
Okay, well not really, but this article is (note the Livejournal and MySpace references). I’ve been reading the online dating-heavy and excellent forthcoming book by Brigid Delaney, This Restless Life, which I’m reviewing for the SMH, and thought of it.
And no, three years later, I still haven’t picked up online.
It was a thoroughly twenty-first century moment.
Nearing the end of our Sunday afternoon coffee, my friend casually dropped the subject of her new boyfriend into the conversation. “You didn’t tell me you had a new boy! Where’d you meet him?” I cooed. She smiled and blushed, just the tiniest bit embarrassed. “Online.” There was a pause. “Livejournal or MySpace?” And there you have it: the uniquely twenty-first century question.
I know, I know, online dating is nothing revolutionary. People have been hooking up using the net since last century. But these days it seems like everyone I know is hooking up online, and not in that desperado way either.
When I was in ninth grade, my friends and I came up with a list of 37 essential criteria for prospective love interests. Older, taller, with a healthy appreciation of Pulp and the Smashing Pumpkins and a requisite disregard for the Spice Girls.
Since then, I’ve broken every one of my own “essential” criteria. My love interests have included guys who were 3 years younger than me, guys who lived in other states, guys who liked guys as well as girls, guys I worked with, guys who were an inch shorter than me in flats and, yes, guys who had girlfriends. And not a drop of guilt or remorse (except, perhaps, for the last). Because when it came down to it, most of my criteria were kinda meaningless.
In fact, the only dating prejudice I haven’t overcome in that time is meeting guys over the internet. Of course, that internet dating isn’t a total taboo anymore isn’t anything new. We’ve long moved on from the idea that, in the immortal words of Ryan Phillipe in Cruel Intentions, only “geeks and pedophiles” use the net to pick up. Shy people, people who spend too many hours behind their desks and even people who are serious about finding a person they like on the kind of holistic level that’s hard to find in noisy, smoke-filled bar use it too. And as even the hippest of the hipsters start to spend too much time behind their desks typing clandestine personal emails at work and googling their crushes, we know that normal, non-psycho, non-geeky (well, maybe geeky in a socially adept kind of way) people just like us and the people we hang out with are online.
And they’re using it to find dates. Not on actual dating sites, mind you. That would be too obvious. On “social networking” sites like Livejournal, Myspace or Facebook. Girl meets boy online, girl “friends” boy upon discovering mutual love of Pulp circa 1996 and the Kaiser Chiefs circa 2006, girl and boy read one another’s daily musing on life for a month or five, decide to meet up and kaboom – true love.
When you think about it, it makes sense. The daily rantings and ravings we post on social networking sites offer an almost unparalleled insight into the mind of the person who wrote them - and in the scheme of things, it’s considerably less likely that someone’s going to create a sustained imaginary persona for themselves on a self-created website that isn’t designed to attract a lover than they would in a personals ad. After reading about - and commenting on - the minutiae of someone’s life for months on end, it’s easy to feel as though you know them, and in many ways, you actually do. Then, if you happen to bump into each another at a gig or at the markets…
So I can’t help but wonder then why, if all around me smart, attractive and socially competent people are hooking up with folks they met online, does online dating remain the final taboo I refuse to break. I blog! I’ve met people over the net in person and not one of them has been a freak! (Okay, maybe one or two.)
Maybe it’s just that no one on my “friends list” has really tickled my fancy, or maybe it’s because amongst the portion of the population who don’tuse the internet frequently, hooking up with someone you met online is still a bit of an anomaly. I still have friends who think I’m weird for keeping a blog in the first place. And as my friend comments, “The best part is trying to explain how you met to people who don’t use the internet. Non internet users don’t really understand it.” She tells most people she met her boyfriend at a gig, or “just out and about.” I’m not the only one still suffering from online dating prejudice, it seems.
Still, I think if I came across someone I really liked, I’d give it a try. Don’t tell anyone though.
I have this memory of being in my late teens, sitting under the foliage at university reading an article in the then latest edition of Cosmo. It was about how to pick up guys at parties, and I planned to put it to use that Friday night.
I don’t remember much of what it said - something about circulating around the room to spot and catch the eye of your target? - but that’s not the point. In the confusing gender minefield that was my early adulthood, women’s magazines were my trusty guide.
These days, I find that laughable. Because, those articles? They’re not written by experts. They’re written by writers, like me, who at best weave together their intuition, some basic human psychology and some interviews, and at worst just bang out some reiteration of what’s been said in thousands of “relationship” articles before them. They make for good entertainment, and I still can’t resist reading them, but they’re not something anyone should be basing their dating strategies on.
Still, as I wrote on Twitter yesterday, if there’s one thing worse than a vapid women’s magazine article, it’s a self-righteous former women’s magazine staffer lamenting how terrible the things are. The ladies at Jezebel and Girl With A Satchel may have been pleased, but I found it hard to get excited about former UK Marie Claire editor, Liz Jones, who wrote in the Daily Mail earlier this week about why she’s “given up on the glossy”.
That’s not to say mags aren’t worth criticising. Let’s take a quick look at some of the most common critiques:
Women’s mags promote unrealistic beauty ideals. Guilty as charged, and particularly damaging for teenagers, who are just coming into their sense of who they are, how they look, and what is and isn’t attractive.
Women’s magazines promote a shallow, consumerist lifestyle. It’s true that, as Jones argues, the clothes mags feature are almost always out of the price range of their target audience, but fashion diffuses sufficiently these days that you can always pick up a cheap knock off at Supre, Asos or Forever 21. And I see plenty of articles about nourishing the inner aspect as well. I’ll cede this one though, too: essentially, magazines are part of the consumer machine.
Women’s magazines treat their readers like they are stupid. Also true in the case of some articles, but I think this is less a function of mags actually thinking their readers are stupid, and more about the quite underrated fourth criticism that most people fail to note…
Magazines, with some exceptions, are largely uncritical. Rather than exploring new angles and questioning received wisdom, a lot of magazine articles just repackage the same old ideas in the most obvious possible ways (headlines excepted - those are usually pretty clever). And that goes whether they’re playing that smart/ethical end of the market or the, er, traditional end.
The thing is, these critcisms have been circulating for a good 20 (maybe even 30?) years. The sudden rush to adopt them reminds me of a 15-year-old girl abandoning pop music upon discovering Triple J, Zach Braff and Frankie magazine - or as @barrysaunders wittily put it on Twitter, “like a new ex-smoker bitching at her old, still-smoking friends”.
Not to mention that, to some extent, the industry has responded to them. Since Mia Freedman launched Cosmo's “Body Love” campaign in 1997, it's been a rare Australian women's magazine that's dared to publish a diet (although, yes, they do appear sometimes in veiled form). Freedman also launched a campaign on the censorship of women's genitals (leading to airbrushing and unrealistic expectations) during her tenure. Teen magazines now let their readers know when images are airbrushed. Then there's YEN, and Frankie, and New!CLEO, and Bust, and Bitch, and Jane (now deceased, but succeeded online by Jezebel) and Peppermint. In Australia, at least, Marie Claire serves you a slice of news alongside your fashion (I seem to recall the US version being somewhat thinner). Vogue, meanwhile, publishes some beautifully written and thought-provoking features and essays that surpass most of what you’ll find in a “serious” newspaper.
None of these magazines are perfect, and if you’re after something really meaty, you’re probably better off buying The Economist or The New Yorker. But hating on them for being light entertainment is like hating on Britney Spears for not being Regina Spektor. And we all know we can’t have that.
Really though, what bugs most about Jones’s critique is that it comes from someone who has - or at least had - the power to do something about what she’s complaining about. Sure, magazines are at the behest of advertisers, and it’s true that the most interesting ones often fold for lack of advertiser support, but if you hate women’s mags so much, do something about it. Start something of your own, whether it’s a mag, a blog, or something else (and I know a lot of people are). If you’re a journalist, write the kinds of articles you wish you could read - that ethos sums up pretty much my entire collected submissions to Girlfriend over 2006-8.
Just don’t sit on your ass and complain about it. It doesn’t make you look cool or insightful. It just makes you look tired.
Partnering with different local independent organizers Creators Inn by Elvine has been offering visiting creators short-term accommodation during their stay in Gothenburg. Totally free. No hidden fees.
We have a very wide definition of creators. The reason for coming to town is more important than the title on your business card. We try to support up and coming creators of different kinds, the ones that would normally end up on someone’s couch. To find them Creators Inn by Elvine works first and foremost with local independent organizers offering their guests a place to stay.
But everyone is welcome to register and motivate why they should be granted a stay. Foreign visitors are prioritized. But you need what we call a “valid reason” to stay at our Inn. A valid reason is some sort of creative activity, preferably together with local creators or something that incorporates the city in some way. For instance, meeting up an old friend to go clubbing is (unfortunately) not a valid reason to be granted a free stay.
Three year old meditations on raunch culture, following on from yesterday’s post…
"I didn’t realise the boys were meant to come as pirates and the girls were meant to come as skanks," my friend Davina said last night from underneath her pirate’s patch and bandana at her friends’ famed ‘pirates and skanks’ party.
No one could blame her, of course. It was cold enough to wear my London coat even indoors and still shiver, and the only reason I hadn’t come as a pirate myself was because I didn’t own anything remotely piratey and couldn’t be bothered going to Toys R Us to buy pirate wear. So instead I’d just donned the shortest skirt I owned, which wasn’t that short anyway (“I can’t believe that’s the skankiest outfit you own!” Davina said.)
So. Point. I found last night very interesting from an Ariel Levy type perspective, in its assumption that dressing like a “skank” makes women “hot”, and that without short skirts, fishnets and stripper gear, women are not attractive.
One of the main problems I have with the mainstream media hype of Levy’s book is that it assumes that if a woman dresses up like Paris Hilton for a night out, she suddenly embodies all those things we associate with Ms Hilton but which probably don’t have much to do with who she actually is. It doesn’t allow for theatre, role play or irony, for the possibility that someone might act “wild” for their own amusement without embracing it as an identity or doing it on an ongoing basis.
So, you know, I allow for a bit of sexual theatre here and there - certainly the [redacted] parties (Parliament of Whores, Santa Sutra, Who’s Your Daddy, etc) are an excellent example of that. But I still find it a tad disturbing the extent to which some women (including, to an extent, myself) equate stripper clothes and fishnets with attractiveness. Like Davina, who declared multiple times that she was wearing way too many clothes. Or like me, who declared several times how “hot” the most skanked up girls were. Attractive = hot = not much clothing on.
“I think if I’ve learned anything about friendship, it’s to hang in, stay connected, fight for them, and let them fight for you. Don’t walk away, don’t be distracted, don’t be too busy or too tired, don’t take them for granted. Friends are part of the glue that holds life and faith together. Powerful stuff.”—
1. I had a shoot with a very renowned photographer two years ago. His wife was assisting on the shoot, and before I went on set she sat me down. At the time, I weighed about 97lbs on my 5’7” frame. All my bones were sticking out. She gave me a carrot muffin (ew) and a glass of juice. She told me I wasn’t allowed to shoot until I had eaten the whole thing and drank the juice. I ate some of the muffin and then when she turned her back, I hid the rest in a garbage can at the makeup table. I did drink the juice. She came back and made me drink another glass of juice. Only then was I allowed to shoot.
2. Never underestimate the power of an anorexic to lie, manipulate, and trick. Those models— not all of them, but some of them to be sure— have been living and working with eating disorders for a long time. In the hectic mess backstage at a runway show, chances are no one is going to notice whether or not she has eaten. They will only inquire and dumbly believe.
The first time a conservative blogger dissed one of my articles, I cried.
For all my meditating on responding to criticism gracefully, it must be admitted: the first time a conservative blogger tore apart one of my articles, I cried. (It’s also entirely possible that I didn’t cry, just felt like it, and have developed the mythology that I did over the passing years simply because I thought it would be funny.)
My heart still beats a little faster and my stomach still curls up in a ball of anxiety, but I’ve learned to let it pass.
Oh, the perils of a would-be people pleaser.
On a somewhat related note, I wanted to introduce you to two quality media blogs by young Australian writers.
The first, Wordsmith Lane, is a new project by freelance journalist Sarah Ayoub. It’s full of useful writing-related stories and tips for both working and aspiring writers.
The second, by Brisbane-based music writer Andrew McMillen, does what I talked about doing in this post but may never get around to (due to having more writing projects than time to do them in, and if Andrew is doing it, there’s not much need for me to): gets inside the heads of fascinating, dynamic, high-achieving creative Australians (with a few internationals thrown in for good measure).
Both blogs take you along on the author’s creative journey, while adding a lot to your own in the process.
Jean Hannah Edelstein's excellent post the other day on the way she feels when she gets a bad review reminded me of something I've been pondering lately: namely, the ethics of reviewing work by people you know and like.*
The official line is that you shouldn’t do it. That reviewing work by people you know (regardless of whether you like them or not) invariably results in bias. But I don’t think that’s realistic. If you spend enough time working or writing in an area, and you’re not completely anti-social, sooner or later you’re going to get to “know” - at least in some capacity - the other people working in it. Many of them, you will grow to like.
But liking someone doesn’t mean agreeing with everything they say, or thinking that everything they produce is The Most Amazing Thing Ever. And I’ve always seen (non-fiction, at least) reviewing as being less about saying “this book is fantastic, go out and buy it” (although I tend to do that in person, when I’m really blown away) - or vice versa - than about saying “these are the arguments this book makes, this is how it fits into the broader debates in this area, these are its strong points, these are its weak points, these are the people who will probably like it” and so on. A bit like reblogging or commenting on a blog post, if you will.
But to say that - or to say the critical bits, at least - about someone you like? It always feels a bit awkward, a guilt alleviated only by the fact that not saying them would be a dereliction of duty.
Ideally, we’d all be able to separate ourselves from our work enough that the criticisms wouldn’t hurt - and I think the internet has gone a long way towards making this a reality. On the internet you’re forced to face people who think you’re an idiot (or, more typically, wrong or boring or just “not all that” - although they don’t always phrase it so politely) all the time. That’s not to say it doesn’t hurt, but the daily batterings surely, hopefully make it easier to face the bigger ones.
Maybe the problem is in the delivery. My favourite sparring partners are less about sparring than they are about discussion - none of us go into a conversation thinking we’ve got all the answers, and similarly, no one is pilloried for not having them. Or perhaps it’s because, when it comes to larger projects like books (or films, or plays, or whatever Big Final Thing you can think of), we’d like to think we’ve invested sufficient time and effort to actually come up with the answers. A critical review is a sign that we didn’t - in one person’s view, at least.
But I do know that not being critical is not the answer. Not because I’m advocating tough love, but because it’s boring. Good books - or what I consider to be good books, at any rate - are conversation starters. Wishing to stifle the negative parts of that conversation is human and understandable, but it’s also counterproductive.
So what to do, then? If you’re the person administering the pain, be kind - whether you know and like the creator of what you’re reviewing or not. Play the ball and not the player.
And if you’re on the receiving end, try to be gracious about it. Wait for the initial emotional reaction to subside, talk to your literary lamaze partner, and try to treat it as just part of the discussion (unless they’re just being an asshole, in which case stick to the first two points). One of my friends invited a critical reviewer out for a drink, another would respond to blog posts slamming his book (I assume more diplomatically than Alain de Botton).
I hope that some day when I’m on the receiving end of such criticism, I can be that calm and collected.
* Knowing how writers tend to think, I feel the need to state explicitly here that this post is not inspired by the experience of reading and hating Jean’s book. My copy of Jean’s book is yet to arrive in the mail.
The below is a transcript of a speech I gave on Monday night to the Sydney Freelance Journalists Group, on the future of freelancing.
Whenever I talk about freelance journalism, I’m always conscious of the huge variations in the type of work involved, the mediums used and the reasons people do it.
While I can think of freelancers who cover similar topics, or who write for some of the same publications as I do, I can’t think of anyone in Australia who does the same thing I do. And while I can think of a few people in the US who kind of do, the environment they work in and the publications available for them to contribute to are different again. Chances are, most of you in this room are in a similar situation.
This is a good thing - it means we have a niche. But it also means that what is true for me won’t always be true for you, that what works for you won’t necessarily work for the other people here tonight. And nowhere is this more true than when it comes to the large and often confounding question of the future of our industry.
To give you a little background on my work, what I do is probably best described as social analysis, my current niche being the more serious, analytical side of women’s magazines, with the occasional opinion piece, review or long essay for newspapers and more self-identified “serious” magazines.
This kind of writing, it almost goes without saying, has never been the most financially viable type, unless you’re at the very top end of the market. And while I did freelance fulltime for a couple of years, at the moment I earn most of my income through a staff role. I’m also doing a PhD.
So I have been fortunate so far not to have suffered too much from the cutbacks many publications have made post the GFC - my “problem” is more having more story ideas than I have time to pitch or write.
But in the longer term, we’re all going to be facing a lot of the same issues. Monetarily, the biggest issue I forsee is the possibility of the big mainstream media brands shutting down, at least in their print editions, and of those brands ceasing to pay contributors to their online editions - or to pay them a lot less than they would have received in print. News Ltd’s new venture The Punch is an early example of what I fear will become a trend.
I don’t think that the big media outlets will disappear entirely, or that all the writing they publish will be user-generated - that is, free. Their comparative advantage lies in providing content that is reliable, well researched and insightful, and while the correlation between these attributes and payment - or, indeed, between these attributes and big media outlets - is not absolute, the correlation between these things and time and effort, is. And getting people to put in the time and effort required to produced well researched, accurate and insightful content on a regular basis does require money.
Nonetheless, chances are that a lot of the venues we currently rely on for our incomes won’t exist in 10 years time - maybe even five, if the current US climate is any indication. That’s not to say that the work we do won’t, though.
I don’t often agree with Bernard Salt, but I thought he made a good point in the most recent issue of the Walkley Magazine. Salt wrote: “I have no doubt there will be thinkers, analysts and researchers in the future, but whether these skills come together in what we now describe as ‘serious journalism’ is not entirely certain.”
And this is what I think we need to be thinking about: not on preserving the occupation of the “freelance journalist” per se - or even of the “journalist”, in the traditional sense - but on the real meat and purpose of the work we do, and how we can keep our work relevant in an ever evolving media environment, both as an industry and as individual journalists.
Part of doing this means thinking about what motivates your work - the subjects and issues you write about, the mediums you choose to communicate though - and how best to distribute your work so that it both satisfies your motivations and earns you enough money to live off. We need to think about both what our jobs would become in a world where the media we currently contribute to no longer exist - at least not in their current form - and about what they can become, how we can improve what we do in the current era and environment.
This is going to mean different things for different people. It might mean becoming your own publisher and monetising your specialist knowledge and contacts through a blog or newsletter. It might mean using online media to develop a fan base of people who care about what you do, but making the bulk of your money selling books or podcasts. It might mean relying on corporate writing or editing work to pay your bills, and doing journalism the remaining days of the week.
For me, it’s a bit of a mix of the above. I’m motivated to write because I’m interested in the world around me, because my mind is constantly ticking and engaging with different subject matter, because I want to share my thoughts and ideas about it with other people. Aside from helping to pay the aforementioned bills, traditional media is a great platform through which to do this, not only because it reaches more people, but because knowing I’ll get paid for it and being given a deadline motivates me to produce the best work I can in a way that blogging, for now, does not.
Nonetheless, I’m also conscious that media audiences are fragmenting and whether I’m writing for CLEO, or Vogue, or The Age, not everyone who is interested in the issues I’m writing about is going to buy that magazine, or read the paper on that particular day. So even though the audience for my blog or my Twitter is far smaller than the number of people who read those publications, it’s also a vital means of building a relationship and conversation with people who are highly engaged with the things I write about. At the same, my credibility in these forums is hinged upon my presence in more mainstream media.
Ultimately, what I’m working towards at the moment is what I call an “Integrated Journalism” model, wherein each part of my work - freelancing, blogging, public speaking and in the longer term books and other information products - feeds into the others to produce a cohesive whole.
It’s constantly evolving, and just as no one can say what the media as a whole will look like in five years, I can’t tell you exactly what my work is going to look like in even one, but its foundations lie in my broader motivations and goals, and in the value that I can provide as a journalist.
“These are not uncalculating politicians. By poking a stick inside this particular cage they are making a meaningful statement about media power: how it is evolving and diffusing; how the spectre of Murdoch no longer acts as a curb on politicians doing the right thing; how new media is recalibrating the unhealthy influence of the old media establishment; and how political leaders now feel confident enough to believe that the machinations of one newspaper empire can no longer unseat governments, destroy careers or turn political tides.”—Crikey, on Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard openly criticising Rupert Murdoch’s Courier-Mail and Daily Telegraph.
“We writers tell our friends and children, there is nothing more sacrosanct, more vital to our intellectual and emotional well-being, than writing time. But we writers have a secret. We don’t spend much time writing.”—The truth about writers / via The Rumpus
How to get an entry level job in the creative industries
1. Know someone. It helps if your dad is friends with the editor, or if you went to school with the assistant director. 2. Happen to be doing work experience the month they’re hiring and make a really good impression.
There’s also 3. Be qualified for the job and really, really lucky, but it’s safe to say that you shouldn’t rely on that one.*
I’ve writtenbefore about how much those first few months (should that be years?) after graduating from college/university can suck, and one of the main reasons they suck is because it can seem damn near impossible to get a job.
When I first left university, five years ago now, I had a pretty good CV. My grades were good, but more important than that, I already had a lot of experience behind me: countless (student) publications, a raft of volunteer positions I no longer list, and even a couple of paid jobs in the industry. I didn’t expect things to come easily - throughout my degree, the running joke amongst my friends was that we’d be lucky to ever get a job, let alone earn more than $30,000 a year - but my early success rate in the employment market was pretty abominable nonetheless.
As I moaned, in true White Wine style, to my (decidedly more attractive to employers) boyfriend back in 2006 “Unemployable is the new unfuckable.” (Incidentally, I think Frankie published something along those lines, albeit less crass, recently.)
But here’s the thing: entry level jobs suck. And when I say that, I’m not saying you’re above doing the tasks required by them - I would have been happy to photocopy and answer phones at the offices of [insert the many publications I applied for here] - I’m saying that the way in which they’re distributed often doesn’t make much sense, and usually seems to rely on the first two points I mentioned in my post.
This isn’t bitterness talking. Like the famed new 23-year-old Monthly editor, Ben Naparstek, I made a habit of applying for jobs I wasn’t really qualified for (don’t read that as an insult - he applied for the position at 18. He was clearly underqualified!), along with all those Editorial Assistant and Junior Writer roles. And the weird thing was that my interview rate for these positions was actually higher than it was for the positions you would think a recent university graduate would be qualified for.
I never got a call back for any of the Editorial Coordinator roles I applied for, but like Naparstek, I did get an interview for Editor. I never heard back about the Junior Writer position my clips were ideally suited to (I figured, at least, although now I suspect part of the reason I didn’t get it was because that magazine and I didn’t 100 per cent mesh - see point 4), but I got through to the second round for a Senior Writer position at the same magazine. I got an interview to be Deputy Editor of a national magazine when I still hadn’t held down a mainstream media job.**
All this might suggest I was underselling myself in applying for those entry level jobs, but I don’t think I was - keep in mind I was 22, 23, 24 at this time. The real issue, I think, is that the number of applications for these positions is so high that it’s difficult for the people doing the hiring to distinguish between them or give them their proper due (a friend of mine who’s now in the hiring seat says it’s hard to find the best person for them for this reason). Add that to this the fact that a lot of the people applying could do these jobs fairly solidly - that one applicant might be able do them better than another isn’t as important as you might think it would be.
That’s not to say you can just walk into a higher level interview either - to even get a look in, you need the equivalent of entry level experience and beyond. My point is that you need to go out there and get that entry level experience yourself. Submit stories to your favourite publications. Start a not-for-profit. Make a film. Put on a play. If major galleries won’t exhibit your artwork, put on an exhibition of your own. The main reason I started freelancing was because I realised the only way I’d ever get to write the stories I wanted to write - or get a job in the industry, for that matter - was if I proved I was capable of doing it by, uh, Just Doing It.
I tend to be cynical of the fawning over young high achievers - mostly because I’ve gotten to know so many of them over the years. They’re clever, sure, but they’re not superhuman, and rather than being lauded as such (“OMGZ! What a genius!” etc) I think they’d serve better as How Tos.
So if it interests people sufficiently, I’d be happy to start a semi-regular series here profiling Self-Made Twentysomethings in non-traditional job who are doing pretty amazing things - not so you can “oo” and “ah” over how great they are, but to demystify how they got there. And so that you too can get your ideal entry level - or not-so-entry level - job.
* Thinking on this further, I can also genuinely recommend applying for dedicated cadet and scholarship programmes (which, in Australia at least, usually offer more than one position).
** This raises a raft of questions in itself, such as the disposability a number of 30-somethings in my field have warned me about once you command a certain salary. But that’s not the point of this post, or an area I have any expertise in at this point in time. Wait 10 years for that post.
The general gist of the piece is that “hooking up” isn’t just something college and high school students do, but something people partake in all the way up to when they’re ready to find a serious partner (or, alternatively, find someone who inspires them to get serious). Like many others before it, it worries that without the practice of dating, young adults will be incapable of forming strong, lasting relationships when the time comes, opining:
Young people during one of the most sexually active periods of their lives aren’t necessarily looking for a mate. What used to be a mate-seeking ritual has shifted to hookups: sexual encounters with no strings attached.
This state of affairs is positioned in stark contrast to the very serious affair of dating:
The expectation was that dating, as with courtship, would ultimately lead to a relationship, the capstone of which was marriage.
Except, well, no. It wasn’t. Young people in the 1920s and 1930s - when dating hit the US big time - may not have been allowed to have sex without reprieve, but in many ways they weren’t all that different from their contemporary counterparts. Check out what Willard Waller had to say about the college dating scene back in 1937:
Whether we approve or not, courtship practices today allow for a great deal of pure thrill-seeking. Dancing, petting, necking, the automobile, the amusement park, and a whole range of institutions and practices permit or facilitate thrill-seeking behavior. These practices, which are connected with a great range of institutions of commercialized recreation, make of courtship an amusement and a release of organic tensions.
Sound familiar? The college students of the 1930s, like the young people of today, were taught by their parents that partnering too early would limit their social and economic opportunities. Waller writes:
For the average college student, and especially for the man, a love affair which led to immediate marriage would be tragic because of the havoc it would create in his scheme of life. Nevertheless, college students feel strongly the attractions of sex and the thrills of sex, and the sexes associate with one another in a peculiar relationship known as “dating”. Dating is not true courtship, since it is not supposed to eventuate in marriage; it is a sort of dalliance relationship.
Much like hooking up today - the only differences are that we stay unmarried for longer and there’s not the same taboo against sex (and it’s worth noting here that three quarters of US college hook ups don’t end in intercourse, and around a third don’t get past second base).
Nor, as most young adults will tell you, are hooking up (or “making out”, as Jeff Schult pretty accurately translated it on Alternet) and relationships mutually exclusive: as sociologists Kathleen Bogle and Paula England have noted, hooking up is the main path through which young people enter relationships these days, just as dating was in the past.
In fact, you could view the lack of dates the research indicates young adults go on (and I thought it was just me!) as an indication we take relationships more seriously - most of us apparently only ask people out on a date if we’re really sure we’re interested (although this has its own set of potential downfalls, as I noted in CLEO back in January).
“What that means is that you have contact with many, many more people, but each of those relationships takes up a little bit less of your life. That fragmentation of the social world creates a lot of loneliness.”—
I had a similar conversation with my dad on the weekend. He wondered if perhaps young adults were becoming more flaky in their relationships (we were talking about friendships, not romances here) because they were conducting more of their interactions online.
I argued that it wasn’t that online interactions themselves were devoid of intimacy - to the contrary, they can be extremely effective at facilitating it - but that social media allowed us to experience emotional and intellectual intimacy with a far greater number of people.
This is great for all sorts of reasons, but it also means that we’re left with less time to devote to each person we care about. We get so many emails, so many Facebook invitations, so many articles recommended to us that it’s simply not possible to pay attention to them all.
And when we do try to pay attention to them all - attend the birthday party of every person on our Facebook friends list, read every article on our Google Reader, post to Tumblr the requisite 20 times a day to maintain our “Tumblarity" (or hell, even once a day, if it’s a decent post!) - it means sacrificing a deeper level of engagement, with our nearest and dearest most obviously, but also with our work. The time spent writing this post, for instance, would probably have been better spent working on my thesis.
POTS, for example, equals Parent Over The Shoulder.
When I was a teenager and talking to friends on the phone (OMGZ, old school), we’d just throw the word “Heather” into the conversation when a parent came near. “Oh my god! Can you believe what Heather did the other day?”, etc etc.
It wasn’t exactly subtle. I think my mum picked up pretty quickly that she was “Heather”. One friend would even say “Heather is hither”.
Sexually assaulting women with your friends doesn't make you gay, it's a way to prove that you're *not* gay.
One of the most annoying threads to emerge from the whole NRL/Cronulla/Matt Johns/Clare/group sex/gang rape discussion a few weeks back was this whole idea that big, bulky, hyper-masculine football players bonding with their friends over group sex was somehow “gay”. (HAHAHA! Because being gay is lame, you know. And girly! And no one wants to be girly.)
In fact, if this article by Nicholas Syrett is anything to go by, it seems to be the opposite.
Syrett argues that the culture of sexual exploitation and assault associated with US fraternity culture (and Australian football culture) grew out of a historically specific to view any closeness or intimacy between men as indicative of latent (or not-so-latent) homosexuality. Thus, men who reside within these cultures began to trade in agressive displays of heterosexuality. Syrett writes:
because fraternities remain organizations made up exclusively of single men, organizations that choose to haze their initiates in explicitly homoerotic ways and that foster an intimacy among men not common in society more generally, they compensate for what might be perceived by outsiders as either feminine or gay behavior by enacting a masculinity that takes aggressive heterosexuality as one of its constitutive elements. This often has adverse effects for the women with whom they interact.
In its milder forms, this might mean trying to date and bed as many women as possible. (And, as Michael Kimmel notes in his excellent 2008 book, Guyland, making sure that those women you do date/bed are desired by your friends. Lest you think this last, rather superficial point, is simply a “guy thing”, rest assured that women do it too, and have for as long as men have.)
In its more offensive forms, it means heavily discouraging ongoing relationships and privileging casual sex, throwing large parties designed to get women drunk and throw them off their guard (making them more likely to have sex with you), and not paying attention when they say (or indicate otherwise) “no”.
But racking up the notches on the bedpost isn’t really about pleasure, or even internal self-esteem - it’s about display. That’s why frat boys gossip about and monitor one another’s “conquests”. It also explains why, like their Australian NRL counterparts, they also sometimes like to watch or join in:
Some fraternity men take pleasure either in watching their brothers have sex with women or in being watched as they do so. One brother interviewed by anthropologist Michael Moffatt for his book Coming of Age in New Jersey put it this way: “When my friends pick up chicks and bring them back to the fraternity house everyone else runs to the window to look at somebody else domineer a girl and I tell you what you almost get the same satisfaction. Some of the guys like to put on a show by doing grosser things each time… . Watching my friends have sex with other girls is almost as satisfying as doing it myself… . By the same token I enjoy conquering girls and having people watch.”
“Miranda Kerr is the ultimate symbol of unattainability. Men can’t have her and women can’t look like her. I came to this conclusion after a particular lingerie shot was displayed on bus shelters around Sydney…absolutely ridiculous.”—Tim McIntyre, commenter on Mama Mia.
“This thesis will investigate, through an analysis of media, popular culture and personal discourses, the relationship between sex, social status and selfhood amongst young Australian adults aged 18 to 29 years. Employing a mix of in-depth interviews, an online survey and analysis of discussions on blogs and other online forums, it will examine the “common set of symbols and understandings” (Patton 1990: 88) young women and men employ to make sense of their own and others’ behaviour, and how these symbols and understandings impact their self-perception and presentation of their own views and behaviours to their peers.”—Four hours until uni assignment due. Fortunately, what hasn’t been written is all inside my head. (I think.)
The Sydney Film Festival starts tonight and, as my Facebook status puts it, I’m kind of ‘amped’. Like most festivals, it always seems to fall at a busy time of year (perhaps because every time of year is a busy one), but it also offers an opportunity to see a calibre of interesting films that normally only screen around Oscar season.
As you’ll see below, my picks are kind of mainstream as far as film festivals go. If you’re after something on the more esoteric or experimental side of things, try my film critic buddies here (no pun intended) and here.
OMFGG, WILD HORSES WON’T KEEP ME AWAY FROM THIS The September Issue Anna Wintour, editor of Vogue for 20 years, is the most powerful and polarising figure in fashion. Larger than life and more complex than fiction, Wintour embodies a fascinating contradiction of passion and perfectionism as she reigns over a dizzying array of designers, models, photographers, and editors. Director R.J. Cutler delivers a rare insider account of the nine months leading up to the printing of the highly anticipated September issue of the magazine, which promises to be the biggest one ever.
OTHER FILMS I’M HOPING TO CHECK OUT The Private Lives of Pippa Lee Wright Penn delivers a rounded performance as the eponymous Pippa: happily married to a legendary publisher 30 years her senior (Alan Arkin, in scene-stealing form) she embarks on a journey of self discovery when circumstance transports her from urban Manhattan to a Connecticut retirement community. Wry, funny and emotionally charged, this adult love story — cited by Screen International as tantamount to a female take on a Philip Roth novel – features a stellar ensemble cast including Winona Ryder, Keanu Reeves, Julianne Moore and Monica Bellucci.
Food Inc Discover the truth about the US food industry; the chemicals, the hidden truths and the hope for the future.
Cleo From 5 to 7 Cleo, a deliciously frothy chanteuse, kills a couple of hours on the streets of Paris, banters with her maid, jams with fellow musicians and bickers with her older lover, all the while waiting to receive test results for cancer. Romance blossoms at her most despairing moment and everything that seemed terminal suddenly begins to breathe again. Blending her keen documentary shooting style with pop aesthetics and editing techniques that would come to define the French New Wave, Varda turns her portrait of a ditzy ingénue inside-out, revealing a more complex character than the pretty, pampered surfaces imply.
Cedar Boys Sydney’s western sprawl, alien to many harbour city-dwellers, is home to a trio of youthful Lebanese-Australian mates. A panel-beater with dreams of more under the bonnet, Tarek (Chantery) is the least confident of the three, while Nabil (Dannoun) seems, at first, a steadier sort. Drug dealer Sam (Sari) is definitely the hotheaded one. Clubbing in the city, Tarek meets a hot eastern suburbs girl (Taylor) and their east-west relationship triggers his shift into crime. Caradee, in his feature debut, has crafted a forceful city drama that provides an insight into Sydney’s multicultural underbelly.
We Live In Public At the turn of the millenium, [internet pioneer Josh] Harris… created an artificial society in an underground bunker in the heart of New York City. More than 100 artists moved in and lived in pods under 24-hour surveillance in what was essentially a human terrarium. On January 1, 2000, after 30 days, the project was busted by FEMA as a ‘millennial cult’. Undeterred, Harris struck again, this time as his own subject. Rigging his loft with 32 motion-controlled cameras, he convinced his girlfriend to allow him to record streaming video of every moment of their lives… Sundance award winner Ondi Timoner chronicled Harris for a decade, culling through thousands of hours of Harris’ own footage and coupling it with rousing vérité of her own. The result is a fascinating, sexy, yet cautionary, tale where we all become Big Brother.
The Girlfriend Experience Combining a relaxed, freewheeling style with a fragmented temporal structure, Steven Soderbergh breathes out after the grand scale project of Che Parts 1 & 2 with this nimble, deceptively sophisticated film. Chelsea (adult film star Sasha Grey) is an expensive escort with taste and intelligence to match. Focused on her business success, she aims to provide her clients with the true, well rounded ‘girlfriend experience’. For most of her stressed-out customers she functions as therapist more than sex toy and indeed very little is seen of their physical encounters. Wedged in a particular historical moment just prior to the 2008 American elections (stay until the end of the credits for the post-election payoff),the onset of the Global Financial Crisis permeates almost every scene. The savvy and energetic script (co-written by the writers of Oceans 13 working in a very different mode) parallels the nature of transaction and exchange — alternately consequential and meaningless — in both the worlds of fi nance and the high-class sex trade. Soderbergh’s own fluid camerawork (using the digital Red camera) vividly captures the pulse of New York City.
An Education Lone Scherfig (Italian For Beginners, Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself SFF03) astutely directs this celebration of intuitive intelligence from Nick Hornby’s sprightly script, itself an adaptation of a short memoir by British celebrity journalist Lynn Barber. Heralded by critics at the Sundance (where the film won the Audience Award) and Berlin film festivals as the new Audrey Hepburn, Carey Mulligan is sparkling as 16-year old Jenny, a schoolgirl whose thirst for knowledge strays from the academic to the experiential when she falls for David (Sarsgaard), a charming scoundrel twice her age. Flaunting her new-found adult style in the schoolyard by day, and eagerly consuming the education David and his dashing (if somewhat dubious) associates dish-up by night, Jenny begins to neglect her goal of an Oxford scholarship, much to the concern of her uptight teacher and stuffy parents. It’s 1961, and post-war conservatism is about to give way to the swinging sixties, and it’s a London bristling with the promise of change; there can be no doubt that with a few lifelessons under her belt, our heroine will be leading the charge.
Reviewed before read: Yes Means Yes! Visions of Female Sexual Power & A World Without Rape
I’m only three essays into this anthology, but I can already tell it’ll be the kind of book that will have me bubbling over with excitement, “yes!” moments, and enthusiastic shilling to friends.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise - those who pay as much attention to my thoughts as I do will remember that I listed one of the works in it as one of my top four articles of 2008. But it’s good. And the only reason I didn’t pick up a copy sooner was because the Australian dollar prohibited me from making any purchases on Amazon.
One such “‘yes!’ moment” I’ve had so far came in the foreward, by Margaret Cho. Cho writes of her first sexual encounter - non-consensual, with a man in his twenties, at age 14:
Before I knew it, he was on top of me. Then he was inside me. No ceremony, no foreplay, no warning, no consent. It never came up. He was the kind of guy who thought he had some kind of “YES” carte blanche. Entitled by his physical beauty and status in the upper classes of high school society, he thought he didn’t need to ask for consent, especially from a nobody like me. Who was I to turn him down? It hurt and hurt and did not stop hurting, and it still hurts now when I think about the fact that I didn’t say anything because I was too scared.
I didn’t say no, because I thought he was beautiful and popular and grown up, and I was none of these things. I didn’t say no, because I didn’t think I had the right to say no. He rescued us from the sinking ship of gthe party. His girlfriend was a popular cheerleader. He was gorgeous, and I was a fat, gothy nerd. I thought I should have been grateful. He finally came inside me in a globby mess, pushed me off the bed, and was soon asleep. I sat on the floor, my striped tights around my ankles, sick to my stomach, too scared to move. The next day, all the kids at school heard about it. They told me, “The only way you would get sex is if you got raped, because you are so fat and ugly.”