I'm Looking For Trouble
I'm bored to death of being bored to death, aren't you?
One of my favorite things to do when I was an Editor was getting in trouble. I mean, I must have loved it on some level, right? Because I never tried to avoid it. But in all honesty, I never set out to get in trouble, I just got really into whatever I was doing and often ruffled some feathers in the process. Kinda like those puppies we see on IG with the big innocent eyes surrounded by something they totally wrecked.
I’ve told you about my last kerfuffle. It was when we ran pictures of vaginas in our Vagina 101 piece in Seventeen. Apparently, in October 2005, this was a big no-no. 😇 But I had always wondered if I would have been silent about getting sexually abused if I had been more empowered about my body…if I didn’t have shame about my womanhood. I’ve said before that it wasn’t until this piece that I (in my mid-30s!) learned that what I was calling my vagina was actually my vulva. Today, my own children when they’re feeling extra silly may greet me with, “How’s your labia minora?” So yes, times have changed. We got pulled off newsstands at more conservative places like Walmart and Albertson’s and our publisher was livid because I guess vag pictures weren’t what advertisers wanted to see in Seventeen. If Awkwafina had debuted “My Vag” back then, I suspect I would’ve been all over it. But alas our vag moment was four years earlier. My boss, then-President of Hearst, Cathie Black, a baller and true feminist called Walmart and publicly stood by my editorial choice to run the pictures. But I remember after that phone call (which I guess was rough) her message to me was something like, “Maybe a heads-up next time?”😬
Today influencers are creating the content once curated by women’s magazines.
As content has become democratized every person’s voice has the potential to be as important as the biggest publications in the world once were, right? In fact, many are bigger. There was a time that if you wanted to speak to women, you needed to be in Cosmopolitan. If you wanted to speak to teens, Seventeen. A broad general audience? People was the one. Today, a single social media post can reach all those audiences combined in a matter of hours. My personal pet peeve is that it gives huge platforms to people who are just unimpressive. In lieu of better content, smart people follow…I don’t know…Addison Rae! I don’t know how to say this without sounding like an asshole, but someone has to say it. I would love to read say…Katie Rosman from the New York Times do a profile about Addison Rae. (Okay, maybe not Addison Rae. I’m not sure why she’s on my mind today. Let’s replace her with Hailey Bieber. I kind of can’t get enough of Hailey Bieber…perhaps because there’s not much there and she leaves me hungry, but I’d love someone smart to dissect her for me!) But instead of reading juicy articles like we used to, we’re mindlessly scrolling because there’s such little quality female-centric content available.
I like my celebrities in one bucket and my content creators in another one. And I’m okay with (some) influencers being the new editors: Fashion Editors, Beauty Editors, Relationship Editors, and so on. But they are not Editors-in-Chief. Influencers need to be curated, too. When I was a Fashion Editor, I was a better Fashion Editor because of my Fashion Director…because of our Editor-in-Chief. It takes a strong collective to make great content. We have lost that.
This enviornment also gives power to audiences to silence voices they don’t like.
For instance, I have trans friends and advocates I look up to. I have so much respect for the hard path they have walked and are continuing to walk. However, here’s something you can’t say publicly without being called transphobic: I am not sure that asking children in kindergarten to choose their pronouns is the right thing. I am not sure. I am not sure that tweens and younger teens can make big choices about identity. I am just not sure. I say this with all seriousness: If given the choice to change my pronoun at age 8, I would have certainly changed to He/Him. I would have. I know this. I used to tell my mom repeatedly: I am not a girl. I felt strongly identified with my male identity until I was in my mid-teens. But I’m glad I didn’t have to make such a big choice for myself at a very young age. It feels like an adult decision with years of therapeutic support to me.
But this isn’t about trans kids. This is about how in today’s media climate in an absence of more balanced and experienced guardians of content, social media takes on a mob persona that makes it impossible for people to have different views and express them in the spirit of important societal dialogue. Cathie Black would have never been able to stand up for my editorial choice today. There’s no room for shades of gray. For curiosity. For the questions. You can imagine that the Seventeen or Teen People of the early aughts would have had had two essays written by teens on both sides of the debate. There would have been top experts giving advice and information. The Editors would have been making space for the questions…not just opinions.
Bottom line for many different reasons, we need more curated sources for content – particularly for teen and women’s interests.
A few months ago, I said I would put together an IRL meeting at my place, and we had a lot of interest but I got really mired in the planning of it. I totally dropped the ball trying to make schedules work. (And a special thanks to Mike Fazioli, a former Hearst Managing Editor, who worked hard to help me organize the scheduling, but I was as much of a pain in the ass to him as I was to all the Managing Editors I’ve annoyed over the years.)
So let’s start over:
June 30th, 6-8pm. My place. (I live in Manhattan).
I’m okay if one person shows up. I’m okay if no one shows up. I’m okay if we have a room full of women who don’t know where to start. I just want to be in community regularly trying to figure some of this out. If there’s an appetite, we can shoot for every Thursday. If you’re available, just respond to this email and I will send you the address. There is so much more balance and power in collective. That is what I miss most about working in the magazine world. I wonder what it would look like if we looked at content today from the ground up without needing to hit any numbers. No fear. No algorithms. Just joy and the desire to connect, learn and include others in the conversation. Oh, and let’s get in trouble…obv.
I’m here 24/7, as always at email@example.com.
Soundtrack of my 🤍🖤❤️: