Death, sex crime threats going viral are never a ‘hoax’

The internet is full of news ‘breaking’ today that the threats to Emma Watson were a ‘hoax.’ What is the news here? The Mary Sue, one of the first sites to write about the threats to Watson reported at the time:

EmmaYouAreNext is undoubtedly a hoax, but regardless, the b board members behind the site say they aren’t planning to release pictures taken consensually—4chan wants to share upskirt photos they claim were taken of Watson without her permission. Again, that’s probably all a lie created by a lonely lizard-brain asshat taking advantage of the Internet’s anonymity to run his mouth, but b board’s professed desire to allegedly spread illegally taken pictures is a perfect example of harassment begetting harassment; a trend that, as HeForShe reminds us, all genders must unite against.

So “the new news” today is that those inflicting the hoax wanted to draw as many eyeballs as possible to the site, having the ultimate intention of shutting down 4Chan for publishing stolen nude photos in the first place. At the end of the countdown, instead of nude Watson photos, a message came up. The Verge reports:

“None of these women deserve this,” the page states. “Join us as we shutdown 4chan and prevent more pictures from being leaked.” Alongside its call to keep private pictures private, the site boasts about its social success. The organizer says emmayouarenext.com reached 48 million visitors, 7 million Facebook shares and likes, and 3 million Twitter mentions. It’s a striking set of numbers that puts a solid figure on how many people are desperate to disrobe young women for their own gratification.

What is the revelation here supposed to be? That people will flock to see nude photos of celebrities? Did we not know that already? All these ‘hoaxers’ did was steal attention from Watson’s speech by making death/ sex crimes threats against her to get eyeballs to their site. Death/ sex crime threats going viral are never ‘a hoax’ unless the barrage of misogynist harassment women get on the internet is ‘a hoax.’ The fact that these hoaxers had the intention of taking down 4Chan by getting their threats to as many eyeballs as possible doesn’t make them any better. 4Chan is exactly where they belong.

Once again, I ask men and boys to stand with Emma Watson. Join HeForShe here.

 

 

Hey guys, time to man up and speak out for Emma Watson

After Emma Watson AKA Hermione introduced the HeForShe campaign, making a brilliant and impassioned speech to the U.N. about feminism and asking men to join the movement, she received death and sex crime threats publicly posted on 4Chan. As punishment for being a feminist, Watson was publicly warned, The Mary Sue reports:

In addition to threatening to commit a sex crime against the actress and activist, users also spread a #RIPEmma hashtag on Twitter along with pictures of a fake report on the actress’ “death.”

 

I’m only  including one comment from 4 chan’s b board here; if you can stomach it, Death and Taxes has several classically vitriolic threats in their coverage on the harassment. But here’s a statement that perfectly demonstrates the boo-hoo babyman knee-jerk rhetoric behind the abuse:

 

she makes stupid feminist speeches at UN, and now her nudes will be online, HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH

It is amazing to me that this website is up and ticking while Tumblr took less than 24 hours to remove a list of rapists put up by University of Chicago students who were frustrated by the systemic lack of protection for students at the school. On the internet, threatening to rape is allowed but protecting students from rapists is banned.

The victim of 4Chan’s harassment isn’t only Watson, of course, but all women and girls. We are all being warned that if we dare to speak out, to tell the truth, to demand equality, or call ourselves feminists, we will be ridiculed, targeted, shamed and humiliated if not raped and murdered. This is happening legally in the USA.

In response to the threats, Melissa Wardy of Pigtail Pals writes a blog titled “Speak All the Louder”

The reaction of these men who use fear to promote their power is a measure meant to terrorize us to ‘stay in our place’.  To shame empathetic men and to overpower outspoken women. To stunt our thinking and growth as a society. To silence our voices.

 

I think this kind of man is an excellent reminder of why we must speak all the louder.

 

Peggy Orenstein, best-selling author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter makes another point, urging men to speak up for Watson and against violence towards women. On her Facebook page, Orenstein writes:

Women can (and should) express outrage about the death threats against our beloved Emma W, but I think that given her message about the value of feminism to both men and women, and how increasingly important we know it is that boys, especially, learn to stand up and speak out around violence against women this would be a good time for guys to step up!!

 

I could not agree more. All males including fathers, teachers, doctors, athletes, musicians, writers, artists, students, boys everywhere, now is the time to speak publicly for Watson, for feminism, and to take action to stop violence against women. If you are silent, you are part of the problem.

Neil Gaiman, author of Coraline, posted his picture on Tumblr with #HeForShe written on his palm, and captioned: “Supporting it as a feminist and as a human being…” If males worldwide publicly say yes to feminism, violence against women will stop.

Sign up for #HeForShe here. Speak out for feminism whenever and wherever you can. Join the movement. Change the world. The time is now.

Criminal cyber-stalkers upload stolen photos as profile pics, send mass Tweets

Last night, like many of you, I Tweeted that to look at stolen pictures of Jennifer Lawrence is to participate in her assault. Today, I woke up to multiple Tweets on my account where the sender used a naked picture of Jennifer Lawrence as a profile pic. I’m assuming the picture is one of the stolen ones, though I’m not doing the research to find out. I Tweeted  that I would be forwarding these Tweets to the FBI, to which I got this response: “Stop harassing me you fucking cunt.”

Last night, I posted on Facebook and Twitter that, contrary to reports on the internet from People Magazine and CNN, the stolen photos of Jennifer Lawrence and other female celebrities is not a “scandal” but a sex crime.

I was relieved I didn’t have to argue language when I saw the LA Times report:

The FBI is aware of the allegations concerning computer intrusions and the unlawful release of material involving high profile individuals, and is addressing the matter,” an FBI spokesperson told the LA Times.

 

In spite of getting called a cunt (yet again) it is good to be able to forward info to the FBI’s ongoing investigation. It’s crucial that the U.S. Government take crimes against women seriously, and it’s a relief to see a fast and public step in that direction by the FBI. It would be nice if the media followed suit, not only using the word “crime” instead of “scandal” but by allotting crimes against women the news status they deserve.

Last week, the writer, filmmaker, and activist Anita Sarkeesian was forced to leave her house because of threats of violence against her. Sarkeesian’s work is about violence against women in video games. Those who attack Sarkeesian claim that violence against women does not exist. I suppose the irony here is lost on them. Why isn’t more mainstream media covering the Sarkeesian story? Sarkeesian is a hero-freedom-fighter-cyber-warrior whose actions are dedicated helping a new generation of children to grow up in a safer world. So why don’t parents know her name? When are we all going to start taking crimes against women seriously and stop ignoring or trivializing the safety and privacy of half of our population in the USA?

 

Why do men in America feel entitled to women? A gallery of reasons

On the Santa Barbara massacre, the Atlantic reports:

Suffice it to say that the killer was a misogynist, and that lots of women have reacted to his rampage by reflecting on how women are denied full personhood.

 

PolyMic reports:

Rather than seeing Elliot Rodger as a product of society, the media has depicted him as a bloodthirsty madman, a mere glitch in the system.

 

New Statesman reports:

The ideology behind these attacks – and there is ideology – is simple. Women owe men. Women, as a class, as a sex, owe men sex, love, attention, “adoration”

I’m reposting a blog I wrote after seeing Jimmy Fallon’s Vanity Fair cover. Look at these images. When will women in America be recognized as human beings equal to men?

Vanity Fair’s sexist Jimmy Fallon profile erases his wife, highlights Victoria Secret models

I’m a huge Jimmy Fallon fan. This is why I bought the new Vanity Fair where he’s on the cover even though it annoyed me that Fallon is shown in a suit while he’s flanked by two nameless women in bathing suits.

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There are more pics of Fallon and naked women inside the magazine. Reading the caption, I learned that the women are Victoria Secret models.

There is a third picture of Fallon and the women at what looks like New York’s Natural History museum. Once again, the women are in skimpy bikinis and we get a full view of ass. Fallon is once again pictured in a suit.

Showing important, powerful men fully clothed while women appear as naked accessories underscores the idea that men valued for what they do and think, while women are valued for how they appear. Vanity Fair repetitively resorts to this sexism. There’s a famous photo featuring naked Scarlett Johanssen, Keira Knightly, and Tom Ford. When Rachel McAdams refused to undress, she was asked to leave.

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Of course, Vanity Fair is hardly alone in promoting this sexist imagery. Here are five GQ covers that came out simultaneously: four men are shown in suits, one woman is shown naked.

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What about Rolling Stone?

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There’s Justin Timberlake’s “Tunnel Vision” video where he is clothed and the women are naked.

Many claimed Timberlake was copying Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” video where he is clothed and the women are naked, a pairing repeated in the infamous Miley Cyrus performance (where Miley was blamed for being a slut.)

“Alternative” musicians resort to the same cliche. Did you see Nick Cave’s latest album cover?

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The truth is, we’ve been dealing with the clothed man-naked woman pairing for a long time. Here’s a famous painting by Edouard Manet in the Musee D’Orsay in Paris that would make a perfect Vanity Fair cover.

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But here’s what really pissed me off about the Jimmy Fallon article. As I wrote, I’m a fan of the comedian, but part of the reason I bought the magazine is because I wanted to know more about his wife, Nancy Juvonen. She’s a film producer and a business partner of Drew Barrymore. Both Barrymore and Juvonen are interested in making movies where cool women get to have adventures. I wanted to hear the whole story about how Juvonen and Fallon met and fell in love, just the kind of thing you’d expect to find in a Vanity Fair profile right? They recently had a daughter, Winnie, so I assumed Fallon would be asked about being a new father. I’m an avid reader of Us Weekly and People and I often see pictures of their family. Fallon is always cuddling his baby, playing with her, smiling at her, and I was curious about his thoughts on raising a girl in the world. Another thing I wanted to hear about: Fallon is 39 while Juvonen is 46, a rare gap in Hollywood where a woman’s age is measured closer to dog years than man years. Do you see my point here? Fallon married a successful career woman who is 7 years older than him, and this, besides his talent, is part of the reason I admire the guy. But here’s the weird thing: Nancy Juvonen is missing from Fallon’s profile.

Juvonen isn’t mentioned at all until 5 pages into the piece. After writing that Fallon always watched “SNL” alone, the text reads:

His one concession to adulthood is that he now watches the program with his wife, the film producer Nancy Juvonen, and if she is awake his baby daughter, Winnie, born last July.

Can you imagine Vanity Fair doing a profile on a famous woman and not mentioning her big time producer husband or her new baby until page 5? The piece goes on for two more pages and there are just two more brief references to Juvonen. Here’s all the magazine has to say on how they met and why they married.

Though the Fever Pitch experience had a saving grace–it was through the film that he met Juvonen, one of its producers who he would marry in 2007– he considers his LA years kind of a lost period.

Here’s the final reference to Juvonen, about persuading Fallon to become the “Tonight Show” host.

It was Fallon’s wife who persuaded him to go with Michael’s instinct. “Nancy was like, ‘You’ve got to try it. You’ll be one of three human beings who have done it– Letterman, Conan, and you. You have to do it. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work,’” Fallon said.

That’s it. WTF? All Fallon’s wife gets in a profile is a few sentences in passing coupled with a cover and three photos where he’s shown with naked women? That’s not the Jimmy Fallon I love or wanted to read about.

‘How to Disappear Completely’ most insightful eating disorder memoir ever published

There are many disturbing passages in Kelsey Osgood’s memoir about her struggle with anorexia, How to Disappear Completely, but one of the most chilling is the description of her active pursuit of the disease:

I would get so thin that I would be the physical embodiment of sadness, and there would not be a flicker of doubt in the universe that I was exactly that: thin and sad. I would be consumed and ravaged by thiness, by the pursuit of it…I didn’t need something to have; I needed something to be…It never occurred to me to lose weight in any healthy way, to strive for a body that ‘looked good.’ I wanted to be repulsively thin, and I knew how people got that way, by being anorexic.

With this passage, Osgood debunks the myth that anorexia is dieting gone too far. In reality, anorexia is its own entity, an identity, a discipline, a religion.

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Osgood grew up in suburban Connecticut, and she longed to be unique and special. In her local library, she devoured books by women or about women’s lives including Girl, Interrupted, I Never Promised You A Rose Garden, Prozac Nation, Sybill, and Wasted. Osgood writes:

It wasn’t a particularly well-stocked establishment, but there were still many books about young people, mostly girls, who felt crazy or who were crazy. I didn’t think I was crazy, but kind of wished I were. Crazy people were privy to a universal truth, I thought, destined for artistic greatness, their words indelibly scalded into the collective unconscious.

 

Combining those two goals, for artistic greatness and identity, anorexia seems like the perfect solution:

Becoming a professional patient, a ‘hopeless case’ seemed akin to  selling one’s possessions and dropping out to live on a commune or defecting to Canyon Ranch for a long term detox. And besides, one of the most ‘hopeless cases’ I read about actually ended up confounding the doctors’ prognoses, recovering, and then writing books, so what were a few years lost to psychosis if you ended up a famous author on the other end? If I were actually crazy, I would be allowed to exit, at least for a while, the real world, a place I found at once deeply overwhelming and utterly lacking. I wouldn’t have to do the things I always considered pointless, like take math tests or sit up straight or tell white lies. I wouldn’t have to be what I thought I was: short, stumpy, decidedly unglamorous, not outstanding in any particular way. Normal. Or maybe nothing at all.

With these descriptions of anorexia, Osgood has written a hugely important and unique book. I’ve read so many eating disorder memoirs myself, and as Osgood points out, again and again, those stories romanticize the sickness.

The lowest weight one reached remain a point of pride, not shame…Nine times out of ten, writing about anorexia beguiles the at-risk population for all the wrong reasons and the person writing about his or her own struggle fuels the fire by producing a long, hubristic poem, a elegy, an ode to  a presence gone and dismissed. An homage. The writers know they’re up on the invisible podium to speak out about their journey to the brink of death (oh, yeah, and back) and they know too, that the ones listening closest are the young ones eager to enlist in the starving armies.

Eating disorder memoirs just like the internet’s “proana” and “wannarexic” communities, act as a how-to, showing girls how to be best anorexic they can be. Recovery communities are  full of people who trade tips on how to be a better anorexic, comparing weights, a competitive training ground. Osgood’s book is different because she never acts as if sickness is cool or desirable or inspiring or beautiful. Here’s a typical description of a patient:

She would lift the phone off the receiver and dial with the ends of her long, yellow fingernails…her skin was covered with stretch marks, jaundiced and flaky. The room stank of dead cells…

 

Osgood attempts to do what no other eating disorder memoir I’ve ever read has done: she de-glamorizes anorexia and exposes it as the ugly, stuck, boring, waste-pool that it is. How to Disappear completely also illuminates the paradox of the narrative females too many females in our culture are stuck in: only as victims can they be heroes, only when practically invisible can they exist.

So intrigued by this original and insightful book, I went to Osgood with some questions. Here’s our interview.

I started my blog Reel Girl because I have three daughters, and I was appalled by the lack of strong female protagonists and female heroes in kid culture. What do you think about the lack of female heroes, how the thin, “pretty” girls are the ones who get to star in the limited roles offered, to exist at all, really? Part of what “inspired” you wanted to become anorexic was the stories you read when you were a girl, the eating disorder memoirs and crazy girl memoirs. If young women’s stories involved other narratives besides the thin/ crazy/ pretty victim, do you think that would make a difference as far as girls’ attraction to anorexia?

 

Yes, I definitely think it would make a difference. Or at least, I think it would be a good start! I read an article recently that pointed out that even in books for very young girls––under ten, that is––the heroines are more often than not “scrappy” or “very small.” I think that might have started from a good place, but one that assumed a more male logic––big is better, so the underdog, who should win in the fable, should be small––on a female population. Eventually, it kind of curdled into what we have now, which is that no heroines are anything other than slim. As for me, what attracted me to the narratives of mental instability as a teenager was this idea that in order to be creative, one had to be melancholic or tortured. In some ways, I think I thought if you were psychically tortured, you wouldn’t have to work; that was a creative output on its own, and if you wanted to write a book post-facto then it would just pour out of you as if divinely inspired (insanity as a state of religious transcendence was also something I very much believed it.) Now, having been tortured and subsequently written a book, I can safely confirm that this is NOT what happens! It’s just as difficult a slog as ever.

 

While you go out of your way to describe not to glamorize anorexia, to show the ugliness of the disease, you’re still writing a book about it. You went to visit all of your former hospitals and you write about Googling people you were hospitalized with. Is it possible to write a book about how boring anorexia is and not be fascinated by the disease? Are you still fascinated and compelled by it?

 

I think no, it isn’t possible to do it without being, on some level, fascinated by it. I was hoping to reverse the narrative and to ask some questions about the disease that had never been asked before. But ultimately, yes, I am still interested in it, though I think “fascinated” might be a little strong. A writer often works on a book for years before it gets published, so by the time they’re invited on radio shows and panels, they’re often a little bored of the topic by virtue of having wallowed in it for so long! That was my experience, anyway. I am interested now not so much in anorexia as a disease but in the ways we define mental illness as a culture––because I believe it’s very much still culturally defined, particularly with regard to behavioral problems like anorexia and addictions, though the establishment would love us to believe they have more of an idea than they do that it’s biologically locatable.

 

When I had an eating disorder (I was bulimic, not anorexic) I was often told– in the recovery community, no less– that I would never get better. The best I could do was “manage” my disease. Today, I am 100% cured. My eating disorder is gone. Did you have the experience of people telling you the same thing? Do you consider yourself cured? Was writing the book part of putting the sickness to rest? The recovery community is so sick, so how do people get better? Is it possible?

 

Yes, this absolutely happened to me! I don’t know if I remember anyone saying that I would never recover point blank, though I’m sure it happened over my ten years in treatment. The eating disorders recovery community has completely absorbed the 12-step belief that once you are sick, you are always sick. I cannot fathom why anyone would find this empowering––comforting, maybe, because you don’t have to use your agency or blame yourself or give up your safety blanket completely, but empowering? No, no, no. It drives me insane (pun so not intended) these days to see personal essays about anorexia or bulimia in which the writer states that, “Eating disorders are like alcoholism––they never fully go away.” And there are many of them. I become literally enraged. I used to blame the writer, but then I realized, he or she was probably told this by some group therapist at a treatment center and thought, “Well, she must know what she’s talking about, because she’s a counselor and I’m one of the ‘crazy’ ones.’” But the truth is that how we define sick and well and normal and aberrant and psychiatrically compromised and stable is still mostly cultural, which is not to say that it’s “made up,” but rather that we have a choice as to how we want to shape our narratives, and what we want to tell struggling young people that they are capable of. Do we want them emerging into the world believing they can only have part of life? That, to me, is crazy.

 

I consider myself fully recovered, definitely, and I am not afraid to say that when asked. There is perhaps one cell in my whole body that pines for the days of starvation, but that cell is considered a total weirdo by all her cell friends. In all seriousness, though, there was a time when I would have considered being “recovered” unfathomable or, more importantly, shameful––that is, I believed it meant the crumbling of the will, not the assertion of it. Now, I see all the passivity and misguidedness and wastefulness endemic to anorexia and it baffles me that I ever considered devoting my life to it.

 

Perhaps writing the book helped me to bring my personal struggle to a close, although I would have to point out that one needs to be at least mostly well to write a book (it’s almost a test of endurance, psychologically and physically!) Does that mean I think everyone needs to write about his or her journey to recover? Absolutely not. My book is paradoxical in that the narrative I created was about resisting narratives––a friend once compared it to David Foster Wallace’s attempt, in The Pale King, to write about boredom without being boring (and yes I took that as an enormous compliment)––which some might see as impossible. I mean, even if the narrative is oppositional, it’s still, at its core, a narrative. So I still was seduced by the prospect of telling my own story, but in the end, recognized and continue to recognize that the story will never be fully knowable. If that makes sense, which I’m sure it doesn’t.

 

One thing that I said about getting better in the book I think is really key, and that is moving away from the eating disorder as a topic on which one dwells. I mean this as much in regard to recovery––and the psychoanalytic instinct to wonder where the “origin” of one’s problems are––as I do with regard to the dwelling necessary to being actively ill. What I mean by this is: at some point, get out of therapy, and try to conceive of yourself as something other than a patient. (This is easier as you get older––when the same people you were once doing bong rips with are now becoming clinical psychologists, you start to realize that the adult-child dynamic you once thought present in therapy was not quite as clear as you once thought!) If your therapist is good, he or she will be leading you in that direction already.   I said the opening statement in the book with regard to my little friend who is now a grown-up; I immediately noticed, when we met up years after being hospitalized together, how curious of a spirit she was, and how much I could tell she wanted to experience. She learned, as I did, that if you are actively anorexic, you simply cannot have a wide variety of experiences. I found that for me personally, becoming a spokesperson for “awareness” felt in many ways similarly constricting in that I was still forcing myself to identify as an anorexic (recovering, recovered, whatever.) It’s still succumbing to the desire to label ourselves, which I’d like to push back against, personally. So that didn’t really work for me. But it works for some people, I guess?

 

You write that anorexia is unique in that people seek it out, they want to be sick, whereas alcoholics, for example, wish they could drink like normal people. But sickness, especially mental illness in the artistic community seems comparably romanticized. One of my favorite books about this phenomenon is “Against Depression” by Peter Kramer. He wrote this book, because while touring for his best-seller “Listening to Prozac,” people often asked him: What if Van gogh took Prozac? What about Kierkegaard?” Kramer believes that artists created not because of mental illness but in spite of it. He writes that while qualities of the disease of depression– alienation, hyper-sensitivity– are romanticized, other common and frequent symptoms such as disorganization, poor memory, irritability, difficulty changing intention into action, paranoia, anxiety, lack of resilience, vulnerability to harm, paralysis, hostility, impatience etc are often downplayed or ignored. Kramer believes that alienation– the ability to step back and look at the culture or political bodies while separate from them– can be a useful skill. But getting stuck in alienation is a sickness. Depression is a ‘stuck switch,’ an impairment in the stress/ response system. When I blogged about his book, I wrote “Basically he’s saying artists don’t need a little bit of depression to create art any more than women need a little bit of anorexia to be fit.” Long intro, but here are my questions: Did you write your book, in part, to show the other symptoms of anorexia, the ones not glamorized?

I did, particularly the existential torment I found so hard to live with. Now, I often speak at schools, and I’ve had to rethink yet again what is effectively dissuasive. I remembered as a teenager not caring a whit about things like bone density and heart damage and lanugo––almost like a rock and roll, I’m-so-dark-death-doesn’t-scare-me kind of thing––so I never lead with medical consequences. Instead, I tend to start with social stuff; I tell them about how, right after I graduated college, I became painfully aware of the fact that my friends were growing and maturing and I was not. I couldn’t go to a restaurant, let alone have a romantic relationship! So I started to really conceive of what my life would look like: attenuated, though my death would be long and slow; painfully boring and isolated; and basically not very meaningful. By that I mean, I wouldn’t be able to do anything significant in the world, because I would likely be too tired. Childless, also, that was very depressing. When I say this to kids, I can tell they hear me; they want to be in lock-step with their friends, and I’m basically telling them that will never happen if they choose this path. (Granted, it probably won’t happen for a whole other host of reasons, but that’s for them to find out!)

 

Given this comparison, do you still think anorexia is unique in being a disease that people seek out?

 

Yes I do. That is, I think it is unique in that the population attracted to it is perhaps the most conscious of its aspirations. But I do think that generally, while it’s unlikely someone may endeavor to become depressed or to nurture the behaviors of a depressive, there is a certain pride in being diagnosed––with basically anything—these days, which is very bizarre. Not so long ago, people fought tirelessly against being put in a box. Now, I feel like people are THRILLED to be in the box. So often people report to me with palpable glee that their therapist told them they probably have x, or y, or z. Recently a friend of mine bragged that her therapist told her she was a little psychotic. (She isn’t.) And I was like, “Why is she so happy about this?”

 

There is so little tolerance for non-pathological “bad feelings” that I think people either create the pathologies or fall into the psychiatric establishment’s hands and allow their behavior to be labeled pathologized. Being diagnosed (again, with basically anything) kills two birds with one stone, too: it allows you to feel special/different, but also to fit in, because psychiatric problems are the contemporary norm. This all sounds very conspiracy theory-esque, and I don’t mean to suggest that there is not such a thing as organic mental illness, or that all psychiatrists are out to medicate us into a Brave New World-style stupor, but I do think we compulsively ferret out the wrong in people even when it’s not there, or when exposing it and obsessing over it is potentially more harmful than helpful.

 

What do you think about the cynical/ skeptical world view: If I’m miserable, I’m smart and unique but happy people are stupid? The idea that joy is superficial rather than a profound choice? How do your views on this relate to anorexia and eating disorders?

 

I think this is a very real belief many people have, and I myself had it for years, and that any expectation of feeling ONE way all the time is reductive and stupid and possibly harmful. Something counterintuitive happened to me on my journey to wherever it is that I am now: I realized that for me to be “happy” meant to be intellectually engaged, and I happen to be more interested in things that many people might consider dark or depressing. So in some way, I still think a lot about objectively “sad” topics, but the end result is with me feeling more fulfilled than I would be if I were to convince myself that it had to be sunshine and rainbows all the time.

 

Are you writing another book? What are you working on now?

 

I tell myself every day I need to start on book two! And I want to, I really do, but I keep procrastinating by writing essays and shorter pieces. I was going to write another memoir, about the time I spent as a writer’s assistant to a true crime author who was dying of Lou Gehrig’s Disease, but I’m sort of second-guessing it. Requests taken!

 

 

 

Sulzburger jr writes: Silly you, the Times isn’t sexist!

Arthur Sulzburger’s new letter defending the firing of Jill Abramson is condescending and offensive.I’m going to go through it here, and then paste the whole text at the end of this blog. What is so amazing to me is that you’d think  Sulzburger would, at the very least, address the gender inequity at the Times and then claim that Abramson’s firing has nothing to do with it. Instead, he acts as if the New York Times is a utopia where sexism doesn’t exist. It’s a strange ploy when the sexism at the Times has been well documented, most recently as having the worst gender inequality on record as far as male/ female bylines of all the top circulating newspapers in the USA.

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So it begins:

Perhaps the saddest outcome of my decision to replace Jill Abramson as executive editor of The New York Times is that it has been cast by many as an example of the unequal treatment of women in the workplace. Rather than accepting that this was a situation involving a specific individual who, as we all do, has strengths and weaknesses, a shallow and factually incorrect storyline has emerged.

 

We just can’t accept reality, that is the problem, the sad thing about the story.

He goes on:

Fueling this have been persistent but incorrect reports that Jill’s compensation package was not comparable with her predecessor’s.  This is untrue.   Jill’s pay package was comparable with Bill Keller’s; in fact, by her last full year as executive editor, it was more than 10% higher than his.

Sulzburger’s use of “comparable” is comparable (ha ha) to his spokesperson Eileen Murphy’s earlier use of the phrase that Abramson’s package wasn’t “meaningfully less” than Keller’s was. Let me ask you this: Who has ever negotiated a salary or negotiated anything, for that matter, and believes that numbers were not “comparable” or had no “meaningful” difference? That’s what negotiations are, haggling over differences of amounts which one negotiator claims is insignificant and the other claims it’s actually a big deal. And if that number difference is so insignificant and not a big deal, except to a finicky little crybaby, why would a different number have been offered at all? If it really doesn’t matter, the same amount should be offered, right?

Next, Sulzburger writes:

But it doesn’t help to advance the goal of pay equality to cite the case of a female executive whose compensation was not in fact unequal.

 

Silly us, we’re “not helping” but really missing the point. We’re focusing on just one manager who just happens to be a woman. It’s us that are being sexist, asking for special treatment for girls, when the pay was barely unequal in the first place. Not only this tone more of the condescending denial drivel, but Sulzburger doesn’t address that Abramson asked for more money, then she was fired.

Next, he writes:

Jill is an outstanding journalist and editor, but with great regret, I concluded that her management of the newsroom was simply not working out.

During her tenure, I heard repeatedly from her newsroom colleagues, women and men, about a series of issues, including arbitrary decision-making, a failure to consult and bring colleagues with her, inadequate communication and the public mistreatment of colleagues.

So here Sulzburger writes that “women and men” complained about Abramson, as if the face that women complained as well implies complaining about Abramson’s management style has nothing to do with sexism. This, when it’s well documented that both “women and men” have negative responses to assertive female leader. Again, what is so disturbing about Sulzburger’s letter is he doesn’t acknowledge– or even see to get– systemic sexism exist and the New York Times is not immune.

Moving on:

Since my announcement on Wednesday I have had many opportunities to talk to and hear reactions from my colleagues in the newsroom.   While surprised by the timing, they understood the decision and the reasons I had to make it.

 

Is he acknowledging that it’s fucked up to fire Abramson right after she asked for a raise?

The conclusion makes me want to throw up:

We are very proud of our record of gender equality at The New York Times.  Many of our key leaders – both in the newsroom and on the business side – are women.  So too are many of our rising stars.  They do not look for special treatment, but expect to be treated with the same respect as their male colleagues.  For that reason they want to be judged fairly and objectively on their performance.  That is what happened in the case of Jill.

Equality is at the core of our beliefs at The Times.  It will always be.

To see Reel Girl’s posts on sexism at the New York Times click here.

Sulzburger’s full letter is pasted below.

 

Since my announcement on Wednesday I have had many opportunities to talk to and hear reactions from my colleagues in the newsroom.   While surprised by the timing, they understood the decision and the reasons I had to make it.

Perhaps the saddest outcome of my decision to replace Jill Abramson as executive editor of The New York Times is that it has been cast by many as an example of the unequal treatment of women in the workplace.  Rather than accepting that this was a situation involving a specific individual who, as we all do, has strengths and weaknesses, a shallow and factually incorrect storyline has emerged.

Fueling this have been persistent but incorrect reports that Jill’s compensation package was not comparable with her predecessor’s.  This is untrue.   Jill’s pay package was comparable with Bill Keller’s; in fact, by her last full year as executive editor, it was more than 10% higher than his.

Equal pay for women is an important issue in our country – one that The New York Times often covers.  But it doesn’t help to advance the goal of pay equality to cite the case of a female executive whose compensation was not in fact unequal.

I decided that Jill could no longer remain as executive editor for reasons having nothing to do with pay or gender.  As publisher, my paramount duty is to ensure the continued quality and success of The New York Times.  Jill is an outstanding journalist and editor, but with great regret, I concluded that her management of the newsroom was simply not working out.

During her tenure, I heard repeatedly from her newsroom colleagues, women and men, about a series of issues, including arbitrary decision-making, a failure to consult and bring colleagues with her, inadequate communication and the public mistreatment of colleagues.  I discussed these issues with Jill herself several times and warned her that, unless they were addressed, she risked losing the trust of both masthead and newsroom.  She acknowledged that there were issues and agreed to try to overcome them.  We all wanted her to succeed.  It became clear, however, that the gap was too big to bridge and ultimately I concluded that she had lost the support of her masthead colleagues and could not win it back.

Since my announcement on Wednesday I have had many opportunities to talk to and hear reactions from my colleagues in the newsroom.   While surprised by the timing, they understood the decision and the reasons I had to make it.

We are very proud of our record of gender equality at The New York Times.  Many of our key leaders – both in the newsroom and on the business side – are women.  So too are many of our rising stars.  They do not look for special treatment, but expect to be treated with the same respect as their male colleagues.  For that reason they want to be judged fairly and objectively on their performance.  That is what happened in the case of Jill.

Equality is at the core of our beliefs at The Times.  It will always be.

We are very proud of our record of gender equality at The New York Times

“Belle” inspired by the painting

Always interested in the role of art in shaping reality and narratives, I wondered if the painting of Dido and her cousin, Elizabeth, inspired the movie. Apparently, it did.

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From SFGate:

The screenwriter has said that “Belle” was initially inspired by her seeing the painting of Dido and Elizabeth at Scone Palace in Scotland. The painting, worth seeking out online, gets more beautiful the more you look at it. In the ease of their postures and the warm and confident expressions of their faces, one can see that those young women knew something – their own worth and each other’s.

 

Screenwriter Misan Sagay

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Director of “Belle” Amma Asante

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From the New York Times:

While she was an undergraduate at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland in the 1990s, Misan Sagay visited the nearby Scone Palace, where a rare double portrait caught her eye. Painted in the Gainsborough style of aristocratic figures in an Arcadian landscape, the canvas showed two young women swathed in lustrous satin, gleaming pearls circling their swan necks. The vivacious one on the left is biracial; her unhurried companion is white.

Ms. Sagay, who is Anglo-Nigerian, studied the wall label. It read: “Portrait of Lady Elizabeth Murray, circa 1778.”

Naturally, Ms. Sagay was curious. What of the woman on the left, whose forearm Elizabeth clasps so fondly?

In 2009 Amma Asante, a British-born filmmaker of Ghanaian parentage, received a screenplay written by Ms. Sagay. Attached was a postcard reproduction of the painting. Even before reading the script, Ms. Asante recalled, “I was inspired by the image.” She said that in European paintings of the late 18th century, blacks were often depicted as lower-class figures to affirm the higher status of the white subject. “I knew how unique it was,” she said, “that the black woman was not looking with adoration at the white woman, and that the white woman was tenderly touching her companion.”

How many different stories and movies and television shows and apps do you think we’d have in 2014 if we weren’t surrounded by thousands of years of paintings by white men of naked women?

Abramson asked for more money. Then, she was fired.

Denying New Yorker writer Ken Auletta’s account of a gender pay gap at the New York Times, spokeswoman Eileen Murphy issued this statement:

Jill’s total compensation as executive editor was not meaningfully less than Bill Keller’s, so that is just incorrect. Her pension benefit, like all Times employees, is based on her years of service and compensation. The pension benefit was frozen in 2009.

“Meaningfully less”? WTF does that mean? But the actual money is only part of the issue here. Since I graduated from college, I’ve been told: When offered a salary, women accept that number while men take it as a negotiation point. Women must learn to ask for more, I was told. Yet, the response to Abramson indicates, once again, that when a man asks, it’s normal. When a woman does, she’s a pushy bitch who may end up losing her job.

How many women do you think are asking for a raise today after watching the fate of Jill Abramson? Oh, right, that’s the point.