Friday, October 28, 2011

A Dear Jane Letter.

Okay so I want to talk about XoJane today.

First off let's get a few things perfectly clear.

This isn't about anyone at XoJane on a personal level. Not at all. This is about how I as an individual in all my intersectedness (yes it's that kind of day y'all I'm making up words) and why regardless of my want to be into it I'm just not.

So I said this on Tumblr last night after I sat down at my desk at home, took a deep breath and decided to give XOJane another shot.

I um

I’m trying with xojane again.

I know.

I just…

Yes I see there’s a staff member of color that’s nice.



Well I am scrolling (and scrolling and scrolling) through the beauty section.

I see a lot of thin pretty white ladies trying a lot of expensive shit and being very clever.

I pretty much feel the same way I did when I gave up Sassy all those years ago.

These are not my people.

So yeah I’m giving up ladymags/websites for good. Save for the occasional fashion mag when I want to look at pretty pictures.

Even after I posted that bit, I spent anther long while scrolling and scrolling and clicking and reading. I read articles from a bunch of their staff, on a variety of subjects.

I have this habit of going for the beauty section of a ladysite* when all else fails.

Once upon a time I was very easily able to overlook the lack of Brown skin in beauty columns.

That is really the thing. I am at the point in my life where I can't continue to ignore my discomfort.

When I talk about Xojane right now I'm not talking about Lesley. Why? Because I already loved her writing and would read it wherever it is.

Bloody hell if y'all could sit here and talk to me about it you'd witness me flapping my hands and making grunty noises.


My thoughts aren't the most linear about it and if you've read me for a while you know I can get a little random. Bear with me.

Let's go back to when XoJ launched. I heard rumors that Jane Pratt had a new project and I was pretty excited. Despite my sad break up with Sassy years before they stopped publishing it was very important for me for a long time.

At first blush I was admittedly let down.

I remember reading and feeling, not a whole lot.

When it comes to what magazines/communities I participate in I have learned to take my own comfort into consideration first.

I let go of the idea that I -have- to try because it's a good idea.

Good ideas are great I love them.

Shit I cannot quite put the genesis of my discomfort into any kind of sensible words.

That being what it is let me just say that as it is right now XoJ isn't really a comfortable place for me. Article after article there was just nothing I could grasp for lack of a better word.

Nothing pulled me in. I felt no resonance. There were no moments when I found myself nodding and saying YES..YES THIS.

Not even a glimmer.

Even my last resort failed miserably. I can only take some White lady specific hair advice so much.

Now, last night the managing editor Emily McCombs (Shit I hope I spelled your name right) responded with this tweet.

@Weebeasty We have several writers of color, altho it's true that our beauty editor is white. We are working on it and welcome suggestions.

She doesn't know me at all so I don't expect her to know this but honestly don't tell me you're working on it.

The working on it issue is one that tweaks my nose.

In this day and age, there is no reasonable explanation for any editor to be having problems working on diversity in a publication.

I say this because no matter what the subject is there are bloggers. There are people on social media, there are eleventy million people writing about eleventy million things.

This was my problem with Shapely Prose when the issue of diversity came up there.

There was a lot of we're trying and we're looking and when I stopped reading not a lot of actual things happening.

Perhaps because I am a writer and I'm into the literary short fiction markets any time an editor can't seem to pull in a new voice or add to a diverse line up I don't really believe it.

Check this out.

If I wanted to have an XoJ type thing and I saw that oh damn I have no brown beauty editors. This is what I would do.

Google- enter Black Beauty Blogger- wait for nine gazillion results. Read. Contact X, Y Z bloggers to hook up a guest post to see if there's chemistry.

Is there Chemistry?

Yes- ask this person to write beauty things for folks of color

No- say thank you and move on to blogger Y.

I quite frankly cannot believe that anyone who says they want to include X people can't use the enormous and vast resource that is the internet.

You don't even have to pay someone. Most writers looking for a break, would probably write something for a link.

It trips me up. Especially when it comes from people I think are smart and whatnot.

I can't take any expression of wanting to be inclusive seriously when it takes a really long time or seems, uh foot draggy I guess. I'm not saying that's exactly what's happening, it just feels that way to me.

Perhaps the internet has spoiled me. Or I read more blogs and whatnot than your average bear. I don't know. Part of my side eye over any zine or community "trying" for diversity is that it seriously takes five minutes to find eleven million links on any subject.

I don't feel like it would be super hard to glance at a page worth of google results to see if someone's work says OH HEY ME ME ME ME.

If you've read me for a while you know I have the same attitude with Etsy/indie designers who can't seem to figure out how to find a fat fit model.

If it were fifteen or shit even five years ago I'd cut people way more slack. I would. Not right now.

So there are all these feelings.

What it boils down to is a situation like this.

It feels like walking into a club or party or coffee shop meet up and you're really excited. You really want to love and participate and contribute. After a while you look around and you just don't really feel comfortable. It's not that you feel unwelcome exactly, no one is mean to you or douchy there is just that moment where you feel like, okay maybe these aren't my people.

While yes it's a really sad thing it's not the end of the world. I don't say these things because I think the writers or editorial staff at XoJ are bad. It's not personal, it's not an ethics issue, it's not a social justice issue.

So there you have it.

Likely I will look back at XoJ at some point. It boils down to one of those big truths about life in general. Not everything is for everybody and sometimes that's just fine. In the end there's just not much for me there and I don't tend to read things that I don't particularly enjoy.

*I use terms like ladysite in very general terms as on "women's interest" as it tends to be defined in the publishing world. Not in a personal if you aren't a lady you can't play kind of way.

Homo Out.


Natalie said...

I have felt similar things about many "lady sites", being pissed that they promise so many things yet continue to uphold the standards of exclusivity that the mainstream media offers. I'm pretty much done with most of them. I'll read a thing here and there, especially if someone I am interested in is writing or featured, but subscribing seems like a commitment that will ultimately let me down.

I want to be part of a new media that doesn't blindly follow the same old formula that completely ignores marginalised folks. I don't know how to do it really, I don't even think I have the organisational chops to pull it off, but off the top of my head I can think of a wide variety of diverse voices that I'd ask for contributions.

Then I think "ugh, why is it up to me to change the shitty formula? If I do change the formula, would any potential audience be forgiving of my extended periods of absence because I'm dealing with my disability bullshit? Especially when we're told that to succeed any publication must be consistent and regular and all that shit that I don't think I can handle right now?"

Ugh so many issues.

What I'm trying to say is, this post is the truth. People need to read your truth and not gossip or the same old tired thing about how special skinny, white, middle class, able bodied, straight people are.

Anonymous said...

I tried. I tried to get into it, to find something that interested me, because you know... Lesley is over there and Lesley is so many shades of awesome.

But I just... I get angry when I read 95% of it. Or frustrated. It's just the same old shit as other women's mag (online or print) reconstituted for us to swallow again.

I want a publication that asks intelligent questions. That gives fashion and beauty stuff without alienating or excluding anyone. That thinks about the impact of what it is publishing.

Thankfully I worked out how to subscribe to the RSS feeds of Lesley's pieces only, so I can keep up with her work there.

And what's with the constant name dropping from Jane?

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