GWAS Notes: Blogger guilt

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.

Yours truly,
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.

34 comments:

Jaye said...

Erica,

I wrote a review on GWAS in October last year for 2threads. I had never read or even heard of your blog before and writing that review opened my eyes. GWAS has been on my daily reading list since the day I wrote the review and it will continue to be.

I think that everything you write is worthwhile and important and while not everybody agrees with what you say the fact that you continue to put yourself out there is one of the reasons I am choosing to stick with uni and become the journalist I want to be.

You have shown me that there are journalists who care and I appreciate you and your blog.

Thank You.

Anonymous said...

I visit your blog all the time, so keep up the good work! I am also touched by your personal story as I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that I have disordered eating. I admire the way that you are trying to make sure these magazines don't send out the wrong message. I know people will say that sensible young women aren't influenced by the media, but for me, reading magazines was what made me realise this exciting world of fashion- and models- and somewhere where to fit in you had to be skinny.
RW

Julia said...

Erica, thank you for such a sincere post and for being so transparent with your thoughts. I understand how taxing blogging can be, and how sometimes one can overlook some things even if it's right under our noses (we're only human, after all!). Still, we love GWAS and thank you for keeping our glossy-blog diet satiated!

Don't get discouraged - you've got loyal readers here! But if the upkeep of GWAS ever affects your in a not so positive way (as you said, your health, marriage, etc.) then by all means, do what is best for yourself. After all, health is wealth. ;)

God bless!

x

Style On Track said...

Wonderful to hear feedback about your blog, I feel the same way as Im sure a lot of others do. Thank you for being so honest :)

far out brussel sprout said...

Erica, you can't please everyone all the time. Your opinion counts. Your blog has a place. Don't give up.

Isaac Likes said...

Goodness me I so know what you mean! I've also been accused of hypocrisy a number of times on my blog.

I 100% agree with what you're saying about blogger's remorse - it's so easy to want to get things out there so quickly that you don't hesitate or think twice before publishing something that might actually cause harm or send an incorrect message.

People don't understand how much work there is in keeping up a blog, but I guess it goes the same for everything - how much thought do we give for the jobs of other people out there? If I'm honest, I'd say not much at all, I generally take most things for granted.

But congratulations to you for reflecting on what you're doing and always trying to move forward in a positive direction.

Bravo!

Death Wears Diamond Jewellery said...

you are an inspiration erica! it takes courage to admit you have hurt someone, although i dont think your opinions were wrong. i have also been to hell and back with an eating disorder and at the time, i used to find personal stories in magazines very triggering. i think these types of features have both positive and negative aspects to them, just like the glossy mags themselves. i adore your blog, keep your head held high
xxx

Rochelle said...

Please don't give up the blog. You do a most excellent job and provide a really valuable service!

Christian gal in the City said...

Really insightful post as a new Blogette on the Block!! I didn't realise how much actual 'work' goes in to meeting the needs for your readers! Blogging is soooooooo exciting but like everything in life comes with hurdles!! Your Blog is one of the most fabulous blogs i've come accross! I wish we had one for UK mags!! Keep running the race girl, we are in this mad crazy blogging adventure together!!!

jess said...

Hi, Erica! A great, honest post. And with the amount of content you upload, it's not a surprise that you sometimes post things without a second thought!

On a side note, I hope to make it to the panel you've mentioned! Sounds very interesting. :)

Jade said...

I just want to say that your blog is one of my very favourites - it's one of the few I read daily. I appreciate your opinions on the magazine world, and I really hope you continue to write. Even if it's not daily - maybe cutting back on the number of posts will help to maintain a better balance of life & work? I think your readers would prefer less posts than no posts at all - I'd be quite sad if you shut this blog down!

Laura said...

Erica - noooo! The idea of you shutting down GWAS sends fear through me. I read your delightful blog EVERY morning with a cup of coffee. I adore your writing style, your wisdom, your experiences, I love debating (mentally) your opinions and articles. As a blog is written, there are always going to be people who take certain parts the wrong way, or take offence to things. (Look at the comments on Mamamia's blog! Ouch!) But along with those come the thousands of readers - most like me who read you anonymously and adore and and enriched by everything you write.

Sally said...

Hi Erica! I haven't ever commented before but just wanted to leave a note in solidarity. As an ex-magazine journalist who has left the rat race at 28 to enter the wonderful (but also lonely) world of stay-at-home motherhood, I really get a lot out of your blog - it keeps me in touch with the media world and provides light relief. I also like the fact that you write with a conscience and are willing to 'fess up to your mistakes and make amends (when so many other bloggers wouldn't). I'm keen to develop my own blog (it has a foodie/family focus) when I have a little more time and you're an inspiration. So just wanted to encourage your great work and let you know that I'm one of your loyal readers! Keep up the great work :)

Bri said...

Thankyou for your honesty and for expressing your feelings about blogging. Speaking for myself (and I'm sure others would agree) I read your blog daily (and love it!) but tend to forget that there is a person behind it, one with feelings and a family and a conscience.
I have promised myself to everyday appreciate the blood, sweat, tears (and money!) involved in the upkeep of such a fabulous blog, and person.
Don't be too hard on yourself, we your loyal readers wouldn't want your health to be put on the line for a glossy review.
Thank you for everything, this
blog has become a friend and it feels like you have too :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Erica,

Thanks for your brave and honest post. I'm a huge fan of your blog and hate the thought of it disappearing so am glad you've decided to continue.

Are you speaking as part of "The Blogosphere" at the Sydney Dance Company on Sunday? There is no mention of you or Tim Blair though Loewenstein is...

Thanks again,

Amy

katiecrackernuts said...

Yes, all bloggers are publishers and I think few realise that when they enter the online world. Your post is interesting - and I think because I come from a media environment I do act as editor, sub, story content developer, headline writer and photo editor in a way other bloggers do not. I am not suggesting my work is better, but the battle to define my audience (predominantly me, but I lean toward pleasing regular readers) has had me consider whether it's worth continuing and why I should continue. Certainly there's no financial incentive, or imperative. I have earmarked the Sunday event. Look forward to hearing the thoughts of those on the panel.

GWJIM/A said...

I would normally comment as an anon to this- but this was such a beautifully honest post. Thank you for sharing this with us. And please don't give up GWAS. I don't always agree, but how boring would it be if we always agreed?

Rochelle said...

Well said, Erica. It takes guts to own up to a mistake on such a public forum and you have done it with grace. I don't need to tell you how much I love GWAS, but as others have said, you should manage it in a way that works for you. As human beings I think we're all susceptible to the odd bout of inconsistency (I know I am!). Thanks again for your honesty.
Rochelle xx

CelesteH said...

Hi Erica,

Thank you so much for that apology. It meant a lot that you felt it necessary to do it in the public arena and not just to me personally (which you also did).

Thank you for making a real and genuine effort to encourage “the good in gloss”. I’m sorry that in this instance I think what was meant to be a fly away comment came off to me as spiteful and rude. Whilst the Heathers comparison hurt my feelings (boo hoo) and I completely disagree with your opinion that the world should stop talking about body image for a while (diets, how to be taught and toned, and to shave 5 pounds of in 6 minutes, and why we should always get off one bus stop early yes, but body image no), what is the world without a little healthy debate? I must also say too that I am a genuinely positive person, and I think being so outwardly negative about the efforts of magazines like DOLLY when they publish editions this months (even if you did kind of give them some props) only serves to give them an excuse not to try in the future. Im all about positive reinforcement, but that’s just me.

I will continue to read your blog, and intermittently leave a ranting comment in support or dispute… I love a good thought provoking blog, even if my reaction is to disagree.

Again thank you very much for your very well thought out and written apology.

Cheers,

Celeste

Primrose said...

Hello
I really hope you don't close the shop but I also hate to think of your health and marriage being affected as well. I think when you are in a position of power you are always going to offend somebody. I have received so much from your Blogs. I have to say I actually love the way you have the courage and strength and original sassy flair to combine it with your Christian faith. I love that the best about your postings! Not many people have the original thoughts that you have. I just wanted to add my post to the others who want you to know that we may never meet personally but your work is making a difference. Many things you have said has uplifted me or given me some moment of peace and clarity in a busy day. Peace be with you. Keep your chin up. Keep calm and hopefully carry on.

CelesteH said...

P.S Have you read Anna Quindlen "Being Perfect"? If you havent... you should. There is no such thing as effortless perfection.

Maybe you should give up on the notion of perfection and begin the work of being yourself?

Dont beat yourself up Erica.

Erica Bartle (nee Holburn) said...

Thank you all sincerely for the feedback and show of support. I am extremely humbled and grateful. I suppose it goes to show that honesty and authenticity are what we all desire.

Celeste, I agree with your comments about positive reinforcement, and do also strive to do this while also holding magazines accountable for their content - because they do have a lot of influence. Not always positive.

And I'm certainly working at being the best version of myself I can be. That'll be a lifelong WIP.

Thanks everyone for contributing your two cents (which are priceless, really).

Let's keep talking.

Cheers,
Erica

Kitty said...

Like everyone else who has commented here, GWAS is daily (sometimes several times daily) reading for me. When you're a thoughtful, sensitive person, nasty comments on your blog can hurt but you should still feel proud of yourself for providing a platform that allows debate. When in doubt, make like Dooce's Heather B. Armstrong and mock your haters - beat them at their own game!

Anonymous said...

Dear Erica,

Thank you (for both posts).

Having struggled with an eating disorder for the last eight years, I have to say that I find reading detailed stories about other young women's struggles with anorexia etc 'triggering'. In fact, at the height of my struggles, such stories were like my 'thinspiration'...

Please don't be discouraged. Reading your blog is one of the things that keeps me going every day.

xo

hopscotchgrace said...

Having only recently found out about your blog I have become an avid daily reader - your blog is wonderful. People will always be out to contest what you have written and you will never make everyone happy. You can only strive to follow your mission - 'finding the good in gloss' - with heart and soul and everything else will fall in place. Please don't stop writing xx

aulelia said...

Erica,

Do not get discouraged by this!

It is transitory period as a blogger where some people will not like what you have to say and try and get you to feel bad about it.

If anything, you are inspirational in this digital age by talking about magazines, instead of saying they are dying.

Like a commenter said before, you cannot please everyone and frankly, I do not see why you should have to apologise for your viewpoint if that is what you think.

Love the blog but again, when you feel you may get burnt out, go back to basics and do you.

Kate said...

Opinions make the world go round! My two cents - when I wasn't eating properly I took nearly ANY article about body image/diets/good-intentioned reformers etc as 'thinspiration'. Erica, I couldn't agree more with you on that. And I really appreciate you saying it, because it's not a popular view to magazine editors.

Steph said...

Please don't stop Erica. You know I'm a loyal reader. My morning's would not be the same without GWAS!

Bless,
Steph x

Anonymous said...

Erica,

Thank you for such an honest post. I check your site daily and reading your posts is something I really enjoy.

Your obvious faith and belief is also something that I find inspiring. You explain it so well and with such passion.

Thank you for all your hard work, common sense, humour and insight - it is something that I really appreciate.

Dannielle said...

Dear Erica,

Thank you for being so honest. I find GWAS to be so refreshing, you have given me faith that there are people out there "trying to find the good in gloss" as you say.

Thanks so much for having this blog, as someone who has only recently started working from home I can really identify with the isolation that it can bring.

I think what you are doing is fantastic.

Jhoanna said...

Thank you for your honesty and willingness to address hurts that may have been caused. Faith in action :-) Keep on keeping on!

image said...

erica,
so much has already been said by so many others about how inspirational, amazing talented you are. i want to echo these sentiments. i have never met you but what you write in your blog draws me in daily. i enjoy your blog immensely and wish you the best
imogen

Lisa said...

Please don't stop. Your blog is awesome.

Whenever you apologise for speaking your mind, I want to yell "No! Be true to yourself. Don't back down".

You may not hear us but there's lots of us agreeing with you out here in the internet.

Anonymous said...

I haven't read those articles, so I really don't know what the focus was, but I definitely believe that reading or hearing stories about other girls struggles with eating disorders and the things they did or do gives other girls with eating disorders and vulnerable girls ideas.
If girls who are struggling with eating disorders are feeling alone, I think they really need to hear that they can get help from professionals in the area, rather than stories from other girls who have had eating disorders.
Having suffered an eating disorder myself and spent time in a ward for sufferers, I know that sharing stories between eating disorders sufferers in one of the worst things you can do for your mental health.