Wow, I’ve been AWOL for a while, haven’t I? So much so, in fact, that the last post on my blog is still a topless picture of me, and while I’m very, very proud of that photo, it might be time to move on from it now…
Anyway. While I’ve been away, Exhibit A and Em at AnyGirlFriday wrote this response to this piece posted on the Metro website by a blogger called Hannah Gale. And mostly, it’s a very, very good response.
But I’ve read the comments on their post too, and a couple of people seemed to be suggesting that they’d got a little too personal in places; that the post at times became less critical of Hannah’s points, and more critical of Hannah herself. And it occurred to me that the problem with Hannah’s piece is probably only part Hannah: more likely, the real party at fault is the Metro.
Magazines/newspapers are notoriously bad for this kind of stuff – a brief look at the Metro’s blog page this morning yielded this:
OK, bottom right is positive, I guess, and to be fair, the one cut off on the top right is about not slutshaming Magaluf Girl. 10 things all London women know about dating is pretty neutral. But I don’t think you could claim that this selection suggests that the Metro is in any way sex positive. And it’s not just them. A few days back, I caused a bit of a stir on Twitter by sharing this awful Cosmo post called. ‘18 Reasons Not to Give Him a Blowjob.’ Generally, my followers felt there was only one reason not to give a guy a blow job: because you didn’t want to. Stretching it out to 18 increasingly dubious points including one about not wanting to ruin your matte lipstick is unnecessary, patronising and, I think, a completely inaccurate representation of most women’s attitudes towards (oral) sex.
But Hannah’s piece, I think, suffers from the exact opposite problem: while Cosmo desperately tries to stretch a single point out to fill a whole column, Hannah’s entire post, based on some fairly crude calculations, is around the 500 word mark. How many words did Em and Exhibit A use to respond? Well, if you deduct Hannah’s words, which they reproduced, I think it’s around 3000.
The Metro will have asked Hannah to write around 20 points, and probably that 500 words is a limit they set, too. There’s no room within that for Hannah to be nuanced in the way that the response post is. It’s total clickbait, and the Metro *know* that. They probably gave her the title, too and I challenge anyone to put a positive spin on something called ‘The 21 unsexiest things about sex.’
Yes, she doesn’t have to write for them – but the opportunity to write somewhere where you know your writing will be seen, which you could potentially spin as a fairly good gig on your CV might well be difficult to turn down. I don’t think the blame lies with her essentially – I think it lies with the paper and with the list post format. It *is* possible to be nuanced and positive in under 500 words (I try to do just that in most of what I write here) but while we keep clicking on these pathetic posts, we’re not giving the media any reason to change. Seek out independent bloggers instead, and share stuff you like – it’s a much better use of your time than the Metro’s bullshit…
I wrote a similar thing to EA and Any Girl Friday and it’s going up tomorrow. I clocked in at about 2000 words…
Cool, I’ll be interested to read! I think I backed myself into a corner with the point about length a bit: longer doesn’t necessarily mean more nuanced, but I do think it’s hard to cover 20+ points in any real depth in less than 500 words
Yes, you’re totally right. I think the problem with positing opinion pieces as information that’s meant to appeal to everyone is that yes, people will always attack you and your opinion in reponse. This post reminded me very much of the emotionally loaded and massively negative articles that women write about breastfeeding and natural birth – THEY had a bad experience so EVERYONE should assume they will too and avoid x,y and z, rather than research, access support, plan, find sympathetic and knowledgeable caregivers, etc. Then people fight to death in the comments based on either their own personal experience, or their ill informed opinions…
Often those posts are full of sadness and the effects of a very real bad experience – and for that reason, the women deserve sympathy. But again, they’ve chosen to confuse that with fact and are fearmongering and spreading misinformation instead, under the guise of something much more objective, and that’s just not good enough. There’s never any suggestion of how they could have solved their problem, only that there was a problem, so no one should do it ever… I agree, the responsibility lands with the publisher or editor.
I still think that piece is pretty damaging, though. Not the right approach.
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