My heart is heavy. As I get older, I get less sure. I don’t understand this. I know it’s not just American foreign policy, or just a violent, political interpretation Islam, or just economic forces or just immigration (Donald Trump). It’s a bunch of things. I want to get angry and condemn these violent, murderous thugs willing to kill innocent people for… what? But then I see that just ginning up more violence and I want to take the higher road and try to understand, empathize. If it were me, if I felt like I had no other way to fight for what was most important to me… but then I remember I’m no one and nothing and me understanding doesn’t matter and I’m just sad and scared. Because I take the metro. I use airports. I am as innocent and random as those dead Belgians.
We can’t find them all. We can’t precision drone strike an idea. My country bombs innocent peoples’ weddings. Nothing about any of this makes sense to me.
This is a weird segue but welcome to my newsletter. Speaking of not knowing, a friend I was planning to partner with gave me some #realtalk yesterday about my #brand.
One thing I’ve struggled with is where I’m going with Sex and the State. Thought leadership seemed like the right path. Speaking gigs, a book, an actual impact on how people think about things. And there was a time I was on the path to thought leadership. I liked telling people how to think about things.
But what my friend pointed out to me is that that’s not what I’m doing anymore. I’m asking questions. I’m thinking out loud. More importantly, I’m having a conversation with my readers, not telling them what to think. I’m being vulnerable about what I don’t know an am not sure about and am learning how to think out loud. I’m growing up in public.
That is not wholly consistent with thought leadership. I thought that what was keeping me from writing a non-memoir book was a lack of discipline and confidence. But now I see that I’m not ready to write a book about what I think should happen or change because I am not sure yet.
And you know what? I’m totally down with that. I don’t need a book or even a monetization scheme. Because I love what I’m doing. I love doing this newsletter. I love the conversations we have on Facebook. I love talking about stuff I haven’t made up my mind on yet. This is my hobby.
Maybe later I’ll have some wisdom to share in the form of a book about policy or whatever. Stay tuned.
I have a confession to make. I like to follow socialists on Twitter. Yasmin Nair is one. She writes about sex in an interesting way, I think I followed her after Your Sex is Not Radical, which, whoa bitch, you don’t know my life.
Anyhoodle, yesterday she was tweeting about how academics who write for free are scabs (this is a bad thing if you’re a socialist) who depress wages for writers making writing a more classist endeavor because only the rich can afford to do it for free.
My thoughts, in order, are: Academia is a classist endeavor. For everything I’m going to say, there are exceptions. But for the most part, you need a certain amount of privilege to attend (and do well at) a school that will prepare you for post-secondary work. Fuck, you need a certain amount of privilege to take seriously the idea of spending ten years getting a PhD you might or might not be able to use instead of working a job. When I was in school, I went to the career center first semester freshman year to figure out what I wanted to study because I had four years there and no more. I took a test, which told me I should be a librarian, a lawyer, or a journalist. I chose journalist because I didn’t have money for grad school. Here I am, writing blog posts for a living. GETTING PAID, unlike some people with PhDs, apparently.
And do you know why I’m getting paid (not for these posts, these are worth what you paid for them, for my day job)? Because I do content marketing.
Which goes to my second thought about Nair’s rant. That words strung together aren’t worth very much isn’t the scabs’ fault. There’s a lot that goes into that fact. Ultimately, yes, the problem is that publications don’t have to pay writers much, or at all, because so many people are willing to write for free. But they’re willing to write for free because writing comes with a lot of benefits. Smart people are using writing to raise funds indirectly, to get tenure, speaking gigs, book sales, etc.
Writing has not become a playground for the rich. Writing for magazines and new-media publishers like Vox or Jacobin (Nair began ranting after the former wrote a glowing profile of the latter) is a playground for academics. It’s classist as fuck. Go to the masthead and scroll through the bylines and try to find someone who didn’t graduate from an Ivy. When I was toying with becoming a journalist the last time, I thought about applying to write for Vox. Then I noticed they don’t hire people who graduated from schools in Alabama. How are Yale grads charging $100 for their articles going to change that? Or does that kind of classism not matter?
Whatever. Yeah I’m bitter. But I’m also like, EXIT THE SYSTEM if you don’t like how publishers do things, and I don’t. I think the ad-for-content model sucks and is doomed for that reason. So I’m in content marketing, the least classist and most meritocratic medium for writers there ever was. Content marketing don’t gaf where you went to school, and content marketing pays writers, well. If you want to opine about the middle east, yeah, there are 100 PhD candidates trying to pad their resumes who will do it for free so probably don’t do that if you want to get paid. If you want to write, however, write about software for a living so you can fund your silly side project writing about your feelings and vagina and the middle east when you feel like it.
Also my sex is totally radical.