The editorial I posted today was originally written for a website called The Atlasphere, more or less a dating site for Ayn Rand fans. A friend encouraged me to submit something, and since there was some compensation plus an audience of a few thousand members, I figured it was worth contacting them.
A woman named Jennifer Iannolo replied to my e-mail with the following: "I adore your work, and would be very interested in a humor piece from you."
You'd think that someone who "adores" my work would have read it at some point in time. That's what I thought. After I sent the above article to her, she replied with the following e-mail:
Thanks for sending this to me. Um, I'm not sure how familiar you are with the Atlasphere's content, but we would definitely not publish the words "blowjob," "scrotum," "balls," or "oral sex." :)
Since your article contains *all* of these terms, we have a slight
problem. The tone of the article is also really disparaging to women,
particularly ones that would reside on the Atlasphere, like myself, who are more likely not to follow this sad but true female dynamic.
I recommend that you read some of Don Watkins' past pieces to get a better sense of the kind of humor we publish, and perhaps you can clean this up a bit and resubmit it. I apologize for being so negative, but this piece just doesn't speak to our audience.
Please let me know if I you have further questions about this, or if I can help in any way.
I could go off on this for pages, but let me first say that when I submitted the article, I even wrote, "If you object to the second sentence, please rephrase as: 'Food, fun, intellectual stimulation, occasional oral sex.'" I was completely open to the idea of trading in a blowjob for oral sex. In reality, the only nail-bitingly terrifying words contained in the article were: "scrotum," "balls," and "oral sex".
Let's ignore the comments about the particular language. The idea that adults aren't capable of handling certain arrangements of letters is baffling to me (and that a dating site would be afraid to address the topic of oral sex) but as I wrote back to her, I would have considered eliminating those words. The real problem is that she says the article is "disparaging to women". This comment is, arguably, disparaging to women. It's disparaging because it assumes women aren't capable of identifying negative traits in other women and distinguishing themselves from those women. Amazingly, she even agreed with my assessment. She said the "dynamic" I described is "sad but true".
The specific problem here is the tendency to lump oneself in with a group of people with whom one shares some nonessential similarities. The broader problem is the tendency to get offended at every goddamn thing. Note that she did not ask me to add a sentence that would more clearly explain that I was referring to a particular group of women, rather than all women. That, too, I might have understood. Her problem was that a guy might have a problem with women.
"Holy shit!!! Don't tell the female Objectivists that some women can be huge pains in the ass! And vice versa, for Christ's sake!"But the real doozy comes in the next paragraph. She recommends that I read somebody else's pieces "to get a better sense" of what they publish. Are you kidding me?
"I adore your writing, but do you mind mimicking someone else's writing style?"
There's really only one logical explanation for all of this. Since she didn't seem stupid, she must have "adored" my work without having read much of it. I actually suspected this from the beginning. Never trust a person who uses a phrase like "I adore your work."
I then thought it would be helpful to tell her that I didn't intend to write differently from how I write. She replied:
"...freelance writers have to adapt their pieces to suit the voice of a given publication if they want the editors to publish it."
Let's be honest. Would you pick me to write for you if my style wasn't appropriate for your publication? On what basis are you even picking me? ("Well, I like the way you said the word 'fuck', but could you say it again without saying it?")
What the world doesn't need is more people trying to keep things safe and inoffensive. It seems to me that we have enough of those people.
(Because there might be people new to Objectivism or Ayn Rand who are reading this, let me add that, unfortunately, there are a lot of anal-retentive people who are attracted to Ayn Rand. Fortunately, that doesn't change the fact that Ayn Rand was a genius, a brilliant novelist, and most importantly, philosophically right. Don't let these people keep you from learning about her philosophy.)