GUEST BLOG: Six #WCW-worthy writers for your semester reading list
Delia Cai is a business fellow at Atlantic Media. She graduated from the Missouri School of Journalism in
May 2015 and has been pining for Shakespeare’s Pizza ever since. To get in touch, send tweets and quality Ariana Grande think pieces to @delia_cai.
While the dust settles from Syllabus Week, I’ve put together a Women in Media reading list of some of my favorite feminist women journalists and writers (I promise there won’t be a pop quiz). And because I know the semester will only get busier, I’ve highlighted short and longer forms of each writer’s work to work around crazy new schedules. So may your fall semester be full, your classes insightful, and your readings just a little more egalitarian.
1. Ann Friedman: This 2004 Mizzou J-School grad has made a huge name in the magazine industry as a freelancer who’s been published just about everywhere from Newsweek to Glamour to the Columbia Journalism Review. You probably know her for her feminist commentaries or podcast series; neither ever disappoint.
If you’ve got 5 minutes: Check out her New York magazine piece from July, titled “Can We Just, Like, Get Over the Way Women Talk?” Friedman tackles the idea that women should change the way they talk to be taken more seriously with wit and good sense. “At first blush, all of this speaking advice sounds like empowerment,” she writes. “But are women the ones who need to change? If I’m saying something intelligent and all a listener can hear is the way I’m saying it, whose problem is that?”
If you’ve got an hour: Subscribe to Friedman’s podcast, “Call Your Girlfriend” that you’ve been promising to check out for years. The weekly episodes run between 30-ish minutes to an hour, and consist of conversations between Friedman and her long distance bestie, Aminatou Sow (who, as the founder of Tech Ladymafia, is also a total media womancrush, too). Their discussions of current events are hilarious; plus, it’ll help you stay on your news game, too.
2. Roxane Gay: The self-proclaimed ‘bad feminist,’ which also is the title of her book of essays published last year, is the culture critic to know. She’s currently an English professor at Purdue and essays editor for the online literary magazine, The Rumpus.
If you’ve got 10 minutes: Read her review of Magic Mike XXL that she wrote for The Toast, wherein she shows off her goofy side, out-BuzzFeeds BuzzFeed and shows off her inimitable writing chops. (But there are gifs involved, so maybe don’t read this one during lecture).
If you’ve got a week: Definitely read “Bad Feminist.” It’s a mash-up of cultural criticism and personal essays, where you’ll find Gay pulling apart the gender politics of childhood books, trigger warnings and even the “The Hunger Games.” Of Katniss Everdeen, she says: “I love that a young woman character is fierce and strong but human in ways I find believable, relatable. Katniss is clearly a heroine, but a heroine with issues.”
3. Cheryl Strayed: Two years before she became famous as the author of “Wild,” she ghost-wrote the “Dear Sugar” advice column for The Rumpus. Each of her columns reads more like a full-out essay and reflects Strayed’s own insights learned from life, love and the craziness that is being a writer.
If you’ve got 30 minutes: Read a few of her “Dear Sugar” columns – here’s a list of her 10 best ones, according to Vulture. In one column, where she responds to a woman who fears that she “writes like a girl,” Cheryl says this: “Writing is hard for every last one of us — straight white men included. Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? They do not. They simply dig.”
If you’ve got a week: Pick up “Tiny Beautiful Things,” which is the full compilation of her columns, including ones that never appeared online. It’s a sweet, sad collection of really bracing advice that is guaranteed to come in handy when you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by class/work/the patriarchy.
4. Kelly Williams Brown: Formerly a newspaper reporter, Brown is now a columnist for the Daily Beast. But she also works in copywriting and has been called a “millennial advice guru” by the Washington Post.
If you’ve got a quiet afternoon: Have you ever wondered why there wasn’t a guidebook for being an adult? There is. It’s Brown’s New York Times bestseller, “Adulting: How to become a grown-up in 468 easy(ish) steps.” In it, you will learn more than you ever wanted to know about how to bleach your tub, succeed professionally and handle personal finances. Brown manages to cover so many useful topics with a sisterly sense of humor, and you’ll be left wishing you’d written this book (or at least read it sooner).
If you’ve got only 5 minutes: Read a few excerpts from her book at adultingblog.com, which Brown has kept updated since the book’s publication with additional steps on how to be grown-up and some great memes.
5. Mona Eltahawy: This fearless Egyptian-American writer was a former news correspondent and now writes and speaks about Arab and Muslim issues. After having been sexually assaulted during the Tahrir Square protests, she’s been at the forefront of feminism in the Middle East.
If you’ve got a week: Read her book “Headscarves and Hymens: Why The Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution,” released last April. In it, Eltahawy details the abuses suffered by women in the Middle East and issues a rallying cry for social change to accompany all political revolutions. One of our favorite lines: “Women have fought alongside men in political revolutions that have toppled dictators. But once these regimes fell, women have looked around to find the same oppression, sometimes inflicted by the men they stood shoulder to shoulder with, by men who claimed to be protecting them.”
If you’ve got 15 minutes: Read this interview that Eltahawy had with The Riveter magazine, where she talks about her book and explains why she won’t necessarily call herself a “Muslim feminist.”
6. Amanda Hess: Hess is a prolific writer for Slate and New York Times Magazine, and she focuses her work on women’s issues and digital culture (think: ladyblogging, James Holmes fangirls and the Ashley Madison leak).
If you’ve got 10 minutes: That controversial piece on the Tinder dating apocalypse from Vanity Fair gets a good skewering in this Slate article that Hess wrote, where she dives into a good bit of history on women and dating and reprimands everyone for losing their heads.
If you’ve got 30 minutes: Read her Pacific Standard article, “Why Women Aren’t Welcome on the Internet,” from last January. It won the 2015 National Magazine Award in the public interest category, and it really ought to be required reading for all genders who participate on the Internet. In it, Hess takes a hard look at how women – especially in the media – face harassment in droves online. “The personal and professional costs of that discrimination manifest themselves in very real ways,” she writes. “Every time we call the police, head to court to file a civil protection order, or get sucked into a mental hole by the threats that have been made against us, zeroes drop from our annual incomes.”
Who’d I miss? Comment below with your favorite women writers/bloggers/media pros.