Dear GWAS readers (aka Satchelings),
Despite appearances, covering the glossy beat is no easy feat (it's not all lounging around sipping lattes while flipping pages, you know). Nor is maintaining a blog from the isolated confines of one's home, with only a MacBook, "glamorous girlfriends" like Vogue and anonymous comments for company, a recipe for sound mental health.
In fact, coupled with a genetic predisposition for anxiety and perfectionism, this working environment can be downright toxic. As I've come to realise, we humans are social beings who need genuine, quality interaction to survive. Loving, supporting, encouraging, sharing and empathising with each other – as well as having a laugh, 'giving back' and working towards a greater purpose than funding the next shopping expedition – is essential if we want to live full, happy lives.
It's these values that I want to espouse through GWAS. But it seems I've fallen short (once again!). One of the girls who features in Dolly's June edition has taken issue with my admittedly flippant reference to the 'Big Skinny Lies' story which I referred to (offhandedly) in my analysis of the magazine's new body image campaign, Heart Your Body.
In response to my remark that the story – which features the first-person accounts of three eating disorder survivors – is not helpful, as it may be misconstrued as instruction by easily influenced young readers, Celeste says:
"I volunteered to tell my story because possibly the hardest thing for me going through suffering an eating disorder was feeling alone. How dare you suggest that people putting themselves out there for the greater good, in the hope of helping some other girl out there feeling just as terrible as they did, might be teaching some one that behaviour... the idea behind the article was to tell girls that its not the answer, that it’s a compulsion, not a choice, and its hard to beat, but there is a way..."
As I recently told one prominent magazine editor, like most other bloggers, I'm prone to premature posting. In a rush to get things written and up online to feed the near insatiable blog appetite, it's rare that I have the chance to reflect: to sit back and think, "How will this be received? Am I going to hurt anyone's feelings? Am I saying this to be controversial or because I believe it's true? And am I being hypocritical?". Sometimes, I even forget about the GWAS core values. And I offend people like Celeste, to whom I apologise.
It seems I can be just as contradictory as the magazines themselves, though it's something I strive not to be: hypocrisy is so diminishing. Without a co-editor or sub-editor overseeing my work, a colleague to run things by or significant lead times to make alterations, I often act in haste, relying on you, dear Satchelings, to illuminate discrepancies (which some people delight in more than others!).
The GWAS mission is to "Find the good in gloss". I do endeavour to give as much time to the positive aspects of the magazines I review as their perceived shortcomings, as well as encouraging excellent magazine journalism and giving props to magazines who are contributing something positive to the (often superficial, demeaning and downright depressing) glossy spectrum. Objectivity is not really the domain of the blog, but I do, at least, aim for fairness.
'Real life' stories have become a staple in women's magazines and are often a rewarding and enlightening read. Celeste, and the other two girls featured in the Dolly story, are brave for sharing their stories. Sharing is caring – I, for one, take solace in the knowledge that I'm not the only woman on earth who suffers the perils of isolation and loneliness, and who has battled with a soul-destroying eating disorder (I'm "in recovery", as they say).
I want GWAS to be the blog antithesis of the likes of Perez Hilton. I'm not interested in highlighting the flaws of celebrities, in salacious gossip or making people feel bad about themselves. Unfortunately, as Mia Freedman wrote in her most recent Sunday column titled 'How the internet is a bully's best friend', and Shelley Gare wrote for The Weekend Australian Magazine earlier this year ("Bullying: secret women's business"), in all its many splendid varieties, bullying and negativity is getting us down. But I see part of the GWAS mission as turning this around, at least in one small section of the web (gawd, more accountability!).
Over the weekend, I read journalist Margo Kingston's* account of her experience with Webdiary, the online forum for democratic political discussion she founded, which ultimately (and sadly) led to "major league self-destructive behaviour", a professional/personal life significantly out of balance, and her eventual, albeit reluctant, retirement from the mentally exhausting role of editing and moderating the site.
We bloggers tend to pour our hearts and souls (in addition to great big chunks of our personal finances and time) into these online pages because we are passionate about them and believe that, in some small way, they might affect change, stimulate discussion or provide some light entertainment on an otherwise bland workday.
I've often contemplated shutting up GWAS for good – particularly for the sake of my marriage and personal health – but, as my dad (aka 'Bloke with a Bag') said in his speech at my 21st birthday party, I'm a determined girl (with a satchel) and a fighter. And, obviously, a glutton for (glossy) punishment!
The blog had almost got me beat, but as I progress in an often painstaking recovery, with a renewed commitment to my faith, a more positive outlook on life and the support of my husband, family and friends, I hope GWAS becomes an even more rewarding and positive experience. Stories like Celeste's are a reminder that magazines can give a girl hope – and without that, what have we got?
Thanks for your continued support.
Girl With a Satchel
*Kingston will join me, along with Tim Blair, Antony Loewenstein and Rachel Hills, at a Sydney Writer's Festival panel discussion on blogging and journalism at the MCA this coming Sunday.