You can get paid for it?

While enjoying Jenny Diski’s post on paying speakers and the accompanying Twitter conversation, I discovered that a Guardian “Comment is Free” post is worth almost exactly two-and-a-half of xoJane‘s “It Happened to Me” articles–that is, about $135 as of today. Of course, this varies with the exchange rate and with the solvency of either publication, but still.

I was shocked and appalled–well, no, really, but I was slightly surprised. I always assumed that someone who was published in the online arm of a broadsheet would receive a fee much larger than someone who was published in an online-only mag like xoJane. Why? Because it’s easy enough to make up some nonsense about your vag, slap a fake name on it if you’re feeling particularly shy, and make $50, but presumably someone who moves in the rarefied circles of the Guardian wants the only finest writing, vagina-themed or otherwise. Or maybe because one publication is aimed towards women alone, and therefore it’s supposed to be cheap and exploitative, but anything with university-educated men involved must have money involved as well. But–I was wrong! Oh, the horrors of the world.

Most of my life I’ve worked on salary, so this must be the equivalent of a 40-year-old figuring out that the earth is round and the sun shines to anyone who’s worked freelance. I do wonder if there are differences in who gets paid what outside of standardized “piecework” blogging, though, and who’s pressured to do things for free because they’re supposed to be grateful just to be seen or heard.

Postscript: If anyone stumbles on this page and wants to take the time to explain–why would the Guardian pay in “expenses” rather than in fees? The obvious reason is so that they can shift the cost upwards or downwards depending on the speaker (and get out of paying altogether in a lot of cases), but perhaps I’m missing something.

Random thoughts on an article on feminism, part 2

“Feminist writers are so beseiged by online abuse that some have begun to retire”

One of the concepts that I wanted to explore from this article is the concept of victimhood—these women are losing themselves, losing their voices. They are suffering because of somebody else’s actions. None of the women are explicitly described as victims, of course. Why would anybody admit to being a victim? “Victim” is a dirty word; even people who get sick, who suddenly fall ill with horrible diseases, are “survivors,” because calling them “victims” means that they’re losers. Even if they only survive a week! Calling them victims means that the disease is more important.

Being a survivor implies strength, that somehow being acted upon by illness or evil made you a better, stronger person. Although does that mean that women have to be sick or raped to be “their best selves”? I would rather be my shitty self. Although why do I think that I’m a shitty person because I haven’t, say, come through a brutal rape or been riddled with cancer? Why does bodily and emotional pain blot out any of my own freely chosen actions? If I got cancer and died, would that mean I was a terrible person, as opposed to all those times I was cool about people being in jail forever? Are my morals contained entirely in my vagina and breasts and what other people do to them?

And maybe that’s not so bad? Continue reading →

Random thoughts on an article on feminism

“Feminist writers are so beseiged by online abuse that some have begun to retire”

1. Why would anyone do this in the first place?

What really strikes me about this article is that none of these women actually have any issues that they are interested in—they’re just “feminists.” They are in the media and they are ladies and they do lady stuff. They are famous. Do they want to end female genital mutilation? Are they campaigning for paid maternity leave? Are they running those clinics that try to get women to adopt out their babies because abortions are evil (and yes, I am stretching the usual definition of “feminist” here to include “any social cause that has to do with women in any way, shape, or form”)? Hell, do they have strong opinions on female pubic hair (thanks, third-wave feminism)? Well, I don’t know! But they sure as hell are being harassed on the Internet. That’s the important thing to know about feminists. They get beat up on a lot on the most important space on earth—the Internet.

OK, some of the women mentioned actually have causes, but the article is careful to obscure their work with their victimhood. Joanna Munson is a pro-choice activist who is giving up blogging to go to law school. That may not seem like the world’s worst trade-off. If you want to help support abortion clinic operations, being a lawyer is probably a hell of a lot more useful than being a blogger. However, Munson’s entry into law school is depicted as a defeat—her Twitter account is more important than her professional participation in the public sphere. (Although if you don’t want to deal with a high-pressure environment with the potential for personal abuse, why law school?) Munson is a victim, first and foremost.

Or here’s abortion rights activist Lauren Rankin:

Last year, [Rankin] pulled back from writing online and, for the most part, from Twitter because the threats and insults were becoming so wearying. She continues to serve on the board of the reproductive rights nonprofit A Is For and faces off against antiabortion protesters as a volunteer clinic escort, but she no longer engages publicly.

Wait a second, so she’s serving on an abortion rights nonprofit board and she escorts women to abortion clinics, but she’s not engaged publicly because she’s not fucking around on Twitter. On one hand, this definition of public engagement makes zero sense, but on the other hand it does make me more engaged than Rankin because I published something on the Internet, so I like this definition even though it’s complete mad bullshit.

Rankin makes feminist causes a part of her professional life and volunteers with women in dangerous spaces, but she’s still a victim. Like every other women out there. Why would anyone do something where they were just going to end up a victim, no matter what they did?

2. How does a woman become a victim?

These women receive all sorts of threats. Rape threats, death threats, various threats to various orifices. They also receive a lot of rough criticism in general.

[Jill] Filipovic, the former editor of the blog Feministe, says that, although her skin has thickened over the years, the daily need to brace against the online onslaught has changed her. “I doubt myself a lot more. You read enough times that you’re a terrible person and an idiot, and it’s very hard not to start believing that maybe they see something that you don’t. 

Huh. That’s not really the way somebody with a cause would react… unless the cause is fundamentally yourself.

Anyway, Filipovic is a former blog editor because:

I have not figured out how to spend all day steeling against criticism — not just criticism, but really awful things people say to you and about you — and then go home and 30 minutes later you’re an emotionally available, normal person.

Over and over again, emotions come up.

“In order to work, have a nice family and feel like I was emotionally whole, I could not have one foot planted in a toxic stew.”

“Some young writers have told her, only half-jokingly, that they feel like they have PTSD.”

“It was just becoming really emotionally overwhelming to be on the front lines all the time,” she says.”

I’m not saying that the Internet isn’t a horrible hellhole for women (dudes, too, I don’t forget you). But it is interesting that the main fear that these women have isn’t that their abusers are going to make good on their threats—or at least that’s not the fear that the article focuses on. These women are afraid that the Internet is emotionally warping them out of their roles as human beings. The underlying assumption is that they are to be emotional providers and should present a “normal” face to the world at all times—even after years and years of feminism of varying kinds and strengths, that still holds true. A woman is a victim if she’s out of humor—if she can’t keep that essential balance intact.

“Are we ready for ugly women on television?”

That’s what the Guardian is asking, at least. To illustrate the question, they use a picture of Brian Taylor, who is a Scottish journalist and also apparently the rightful cutoff of sexual unattractiveness. In other words, women now have to be as attractive as Fiona Bruce to appear on TV, but the bar should be lowered so that anyone above the female equivalent of Brian Taylor should go on. Continue reading →

You’re Never Going to Sleep With Her, So Give Up Already

“Your Kid is a Little Asshole. And guess what: it’s all your fault.”

Odd title, isn’t it? Especially because I don’t have a kid. Why is this author on fine essay-writing site (well, it has serif fonts, so I guess it’s good) Medium telling me that my kid is an asshole? But I’m still drawn to the story, of course, because the title is so abrasive—hey, wait, this guy is calling children names! I want to agree or disagree with him!

But I’m not going to do that right now. I want to tell you a different story than the one the author told, using the same events, but looking at them in a different way. Interpreting this differently, I can make you a whole new story—one that tells you nothing about the child but everything about the author himself. Continue reading →

How Much is a Life Story Worth?

I just finished Eva Illouz’s Oprah Winfrey and the Glamour of Misery, so I’m now obsessed with the idea of narrative as a tool of therapeutic healing. Illouz’s thesis is that Oprah’s stories create a way for her viewers to understand the universe. Suffering is linked to self-improvement. In addition, telling your story is a special act–you can heal your own life through examining your own actions, just as you could in a therapy session.

I’m not reading O: The Oprah Magazine anytime soon, because I think my doctor’s office has Redbook instead, but I’m still on my xoJane kick, into these stories of women’s suffering.  think that these stories are supposed to help heal the storytellers but they provide a model of existence to readers (conduct might be a strong word–a lot of these stories involve how to properly react to things, and “conduct” implies action). So, if you’re writing something like “I Can’t Have Sex With My Husband” or “I Was Raped by My Dentist” you’re providing a service to other readers, who will hopefully learn how to be OK with not having sex with their husbands or at least be a little kinder to them when they do have sex, or learn how to exist in a world in which injustices such as rape occur.

However, for all their supposed emotional value, these articles aren’t financially valuable. In this article about faking cancer (spoiler: faking cancer is bad), commenter “birdbrain” gets upset that her story has been stolen by the author. I want to concentrate not on “birdbrain”’s accusations, but about the amount of money involved. It’s $50. This girl—and all the other girls that write their healing, empathetic life stories—are getting paid $50 per 1,000 words for a site that shills $36 panties. That’s right, if you’re living the life you will be paid a panty-and-a-half for your work. Continue reading →