Monthly Archives: April 2011

Love it. Crains CHICAGO shills for businesses to move to Indiana.

Fantasy vs. reality


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Yesterday someone tweeted a link to a New York Post article that was clearly designed to get a lot of clicks. With a headline like “You’re not as kinky as you think,” and a sub-hed like “Massive Internet study finds that we’re all sexual deviants,” what other outcome could have possibly been expected and hoped for? I mean, it’s the New York Post. All their headlines scream bloody murder for you to click on them so there’s nothing new there.

Well, they got me. I clicked on the story and I read it.

By now many, many people on Twitter know which part of the story obsessed me and drove me insane. I went on a bit of a rampage about it this morning and by the way, for those used to a bit more deocrum and useful information from me there, I’m sorry. We will shortly return back to our usual programming.

Anyhow… the story mentioned several preferences gay and straight men and women were found to have in terms of what they see as sexually attractive. One of them was that straight men prefer heavier women over thin ones. Come again? I did a double take when I read that? Really? Can it be true? I felt like a kid who had been told there’s no Santa Claus. NO, was my reaction. I don’t believe it. 

So I started thinking about it. Obviously I can tell from looking around that heavier women often seem just as able as thin women to attract and keep a mate. But is that really a measure of what most men prefer in an ideal world? I then started asking people on Twitter what they thought. I got a lot of responses, too many to list here and of course this is as un-scientific a sample as it gets (however, someone did point me to a book which is supposed to be a scientific study of sexual preferences and they said it also asserted that men prefer heavier women).

Back to all the replies I received… with a scant few exceptions, not a single man said they prefer thin women over more curvy ones. Some said weight doesn’t matter. At the very least, they said that appearance gets them interested of course, but if a woman carries herself well, is intelligent, has a good personality overall, etc., those things become more important in the end. Now, they could all be bullshitting me, sure. But I’d like to believe that the relative anonymity of the Internet (even when using one’s real name) often breeds more honesty than face-to-face conversations. Besides, I don’t believe anyone had a reason to lie about this, particularly to me. What would be the motivation?

So now I am righteously angry.

If this is all true, if men really prefer more healthy-looking, heavier, curvier women, whatever you want to call it, then we women have been lied to on a daily basis from a very early age. What I mean of course are the images of women we see in the media. The women on TV newscasts, sitcoms and reality shows. The women in movies. The women in magazines. The women in the ads in those magazines, on billboards, TV and all the rest. I could go on and on.

This is, of course, not a new concept. A Google search for “images of women in the media” yields about 227,000,000 results and you can trust me when I say that none of these will tell you that the way women are portrayed is just fine, that it’s not at all damaging or problematic.

These images we see in the media are a huge part of why girls and women hate their bodies, why they feel fat and unattractive, why they think men aren’t interested in them (when really it might just be, say, the extremely strong low self-esteem vibe they’re giving off). If you’re on the higher side of the scale or have struggled with weight, you know what I mean. You know how persistent these feelings are. You know that even when a man tells you he loves you and loves how you look, you tend not to believe him. He loves me because I’m funny or smart, you think to yourself. And because I have such a great personality, he’s able to overlook the physical shortcomings. He doesn’t really love my body, you think to yourself. He just puts up with it.

These feelings and thoughts persist even when you hopefully one day reach a point of being totally comfortable in your skin and maybe even liking yourself just the way you are. They persist no matter how many men ask you out. They persist no matter how many girlfriends tell you you’re beautiful. Such is the power of those lifelong bombardments of what it supposedly means for a woman to be beautiful. 

This is what I would say in response to what seems like a perfectly good question someone posed on Twitter after the discussion had somewhat died down:

So you have guys telling you they like “average sized women & empirical research to back it up. What else do you want?

Except it is a bad question. It’s a bad question because it presupposes that empirical reality is enough to assuage millions’ of women’s fears and insecurities. Seriously, when has empirical reality ever convinced anyone of anything? Facts and figures matter very, very little to most people.

So… what do I want? Just one thing really. I want women not to have to go their entire lives in some cases thinking they are ugly and unlovable.

In order for that to happen, we cannot continue to bombard girls and women with unrealistic images of female beauty. Why do we all accept this fiction if it’s apparently not even what most men want? Why is the perpetuation of this insane fantasy acceptable to us?

Imagine if, say, ads for restaurants showed really gross-looking and unappetizing food. Would we all accept it because we knew that when we actually go the restaurant, the food would look great and taste good? What if car ads showed old, beat up, rusty cars but when you get to the dealership you’d see that they were all shiny and new? What if ads for airlines only showed the planes crashing? I realize some of these examples are not extremely apt, but I think you see where I’m going with this. The point is, why do we accept such a gross inversion of reality as it pertains to female beauty; an inversion we would be unlikely to tolerate anywhere else?

Think about this for a moment. To draw a parallel, African-Americans, Asians, gay people, people with disabilities and many other groups represent minorities of Americans. And yet there is often a persistent and admirable effort to secure representation for them in TV shows, movies, ads, etc. The reason many people would probably cite is that it would be nice if what we see on TV or in the theater more closely reflected the reality of our day to day lives. There is a social good in that, most people would probably say. Also, they would say, if we see more images of minority groups, we might come to see them as less different, less “other” and perhaps become more tolerant if we are not already.

It all sounds very nice, right? Well, here’s the deal: a realistic portrayal of the female body is no different. It is the reality, but the media images we see rarely reflect it.

I hope you feel just as strongly as I do. If not, read this.

Now it’s your turn. What do you think needs to happen for this sad state of affairs to change? Is it changing already? What can the average person do to help?

I’m sure (or I hope) there are some organizations already doing this work. If you know of any good ones, post their info here.

A government OF the top 1% BY the top 1% and FOR the top 1%

The personal and the political are today in perfect alignment. Virtually all U.S. senators, and most of the representatives in the House, are members of the top 1 percent when they arrive, are kept in office by money from the top 1 percent, and know that if they serve the top 1 percent well they will be rewarded by the top 1 percent when they leave office.

A unique twist to this particular tale of American inequality is an explanation of why it’s bad not just for the rest of us, but even for that top 1%. I hope at least some of them read it.

Income inequality? What income inequality?

Bill Moyers: Why do you think, David, that we tolerate such gaps between rich and poor?

David Simon: You know, I’m fascinated by it. Because a lot of the people who end up voting for that kind of laissez-faire market policy are people who get creamed by it. And I think it’s almost like a casino. You’re looking at the guy winning, you’re looking at the guy who pulled the lever and all the bells go off, all the coins are coming out of a one-armed bandit. You’re thinking, “That could be me. I’ll play by those rules.” But actually, those are house rules. And most of you are going to lose.

This is just one of the great parts in this awesome interview with David Simon, creator of the best show to ever be on television, The Wire. If you’be never seen it, do yourself a favor and rent all five seasons NOW.

Another good tidbit from Simon in this interview: “I mean, the guys who are running newspapers over the last twenty or thirty years have to be singular in the manner in which they destroyed their own industry.” WORD.

As always though, please read the entire thing.

Money isn’t scarce everywhere in America

As America girds itself for another round of lunatic political infighting over which barely-respirating social program or urgently necessary federal agency must have their budgets permanently sacrificed to the cause of billionaires being able to keep their third boats in the water, it’s important to point out just how scarce money isn’t in certain corners of the public-spending universe. In the coming months, when you watch Republican congressional stooges play out the desperate comedy of solving America’s deficit problems by making fewer photocopies of proposed bills, or by taking an ax to budgetary shrubberies like NPR or the SEC, remember Christy Mack and her fancy new carriage house. There is no belt-tightening on the other side of the tracks. Just a free lunch that never ends.

As with anything else, please read the entire piece. This is only the last paragraph. Don’t you want to know what preceded it? Of course you do :-)

Journalists Are Aggregators Too (And That’s A Good Thing)

But the problem that the news guys are facing is that the content is no longer scarce and a lack of scarcity makes it quite difficult to charge prices above marginal cost. That’s just fundamental economics.

But you know what is scarce? Time and attention. People are inundated with abundant information these days, and what they look for are trusted aggregators, curators and filters of that information. They seek those out because it saves them time, and lets them direct their attention more efficiently. In other words, people value the aggregation, because it serves a valuable role when the content is infinitely available, but time is not.

I said this very recently, but please allow me to repeat myself. In the digital space, if you’re not aggregating, you’re doing a disservice to your readers and insulting their intelligence to boot.

If they’re already online, they know your site isn’t the only one reporting on a given issue or topic. Why hide this reality from them? Instead, show them that you are deeply involved and deeply knowledgeable about the topic you’re writing about by referring to the good work of others.

The bottom line is that pointing to the work of others does not undermine your authority. It expands it.

The new Jim Crow

Dear news organizations and others committed to our democracy. Want to be my clients?

I’m beginning to accept the fact that if I were to return to work in the near future, I’d have to take a non-media job (assuming I can even get one). I would be remiss if I didn’t consider a second option. A lot of you have already mentioned the idea, namely that I should start my own business. I can’t say I’ve never considered it. But being a consummate planner, I need some assurances first.

Basically, I need to know if I can actually get paid work doing the stuff I know how to do and, more importantly, the stuff I actually want to do. That last part is crucial for me, because while everyone and their mother is out there, say, peddling social media know-how to small businesses, I just can’t be satisfied doing that kind of work. That is not to say it can’t be satisfying for someone else. It just wouldn’t do it for me.

What would satisfy me? I’m glad you asked. If you’ve been paying attention to what I post here, you know I’m passionate about the news business and about journalism. More broadly, I’m passionate about an informed electorate, greater and more intelligent civic participation, more honesty and transparency in government and other large institutions and greater accountibility from our leaders. Many people, including myself, feel that these things can be achieved only in the presence of a vibrant free press. It would ideally be a free press in every sense of the word; unencumbered by corporate control or other outside interests that would seek to limit its allegiance to the general public. 

This is what I would like to work on, whether it involves helping an organization out with community relations, content management or development, content marketing, audience expansion, revenue diversification, research or yes, even social media. Whatever it takes.

Can any money be made doing this? That’s where you come in. 

If you are a decision maker at a media or other type of organization whose goals are aligned with mine and if you need help in any of the areas I just mentioned, please contact me. I can be reached at tooter2 (at) gmail (dot) com. Maybe you’ve been meaning to get to all these things, but you’re just not staffed for it. Perhaps a temporary contractor like me can do the trick.

If you are not in a positon to hire freelancers or consultants but know someone who is, please forward this post to them.

So let’s see. If there are any takers in the next few weeks, I may have a new business on my hands. If not… 



The journalist’s paradox

I just realized something very sad.

None of us got into this field for the money, that’s a given. We got into it to hopefully do meaningful work. But we quickly learned a cruel joke: that there are very few opportunities to do that kind of work or to even get a job that will eventually land us in a position to do it. So we end up having to do what? Do work we don’t want to do for precisely the reason we didn’t want to in the first place: for the money. 

Someone please tell me something positive about all this or else I might be depressed for days.