The Harsh Realities of Being a Woman in the Music Industry

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On Monday, Jessica Hopper (music writer, culture critic, author of the recent and wonderfully titled The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic) asked her Twitter followers a simple question:

“Gals/other marginalized folks: what was your 1st brush (in music industry, journalism, scene) w/ idea that you didn’t “count”?”

Needless to say, more than a few people responded. After a short period of writing back encouraging, personal responses, Hopper started retweeting the stories en masse.

Over the past 48 hours, Hopper’s timeline has filled with hundreds of individual stories; specific events, conversations, and aggressions, relayed in 140 characters or less. If you were hanging around the internet yesterday—or at least certain corners of the internet—you probably heard people talking about what was going on, and urging you to head over to Hopper’s page for a look.

A Twitter user named Laupina put together a Storify of Hopper’s timeline from the period in question. It’s a brutal, intimate, moving, difficult to read, and also inspiring testament to what it’s like to a be woman in the music world.

And what’s it like to be a woman in the music world? You will be mercilessly hit on, sexually harassed, endlessly accused of being the girlfriend/sister/mom, treated like an imposter, made to justify your presence, possibly threatened with violence, and constantly on the lookout for whatever fresh hell (and/or groper in the mosh pit) might be coming your way next. And that’s just the very short version.

Read the Storify

Los Angeles Is Itself — and Everyplace Else

Photo by Boston Public Library.

In memoirs, in documentaries, in conversation, people often describe pivotal, fear-triggering events as having “changed Los Angeles overnight.” After Sharon Tate was murdered by the Manson family, people in the city started to lock their doors “overnight.” I was at a Christmas party when someone said to me that on the eve of the O. J. Simpson ruling everyone in Hollywood became a gun owner overnight. Nothing in Los Angeles happens overnight, but this is how people like to talk. Why, I don’t know, but I think it has something to do with wanting the city to be either a dream or a nightmare, like in David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive. Psychologically, there are two L.A.’s. One is where Naomi Watts gets to be the sunny aspiring actress Betty and have beautiful teeth and a gorgeous lesbian relationship with an amnesiac Laura Harring. The other is where Naomi Watts is Diane, with fucked-up teeth, an unrequited romantic obsession, and a bullet in her head. They’re both the same movie, and none of it makes any sense. But it says something about how the city sees itself: things are one way, or suddenly another.

Dayna Tortorici writes in n+1 on growing up in Los Angeles, a city everyone can identify — but that has no identity.

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Why Would Two Girls Attempt Murder for Slender Man?

Photo: MDL70
Photo: MDL70

In 2014, two 12-year-old girls stabbed a friend, arguing that they did it for a fictional internet horror creature named Slender Man. Lisa Miller tries to understand why in New York magazine:

By the age of 8 — and definitely by 12 — psychologists agree, most children are as able as adults to sort out what’s real from what is not. What sets children and adolescents apart from adults is a mental task psychologists call “discounting” — the rational inner voices that can subdue overheated emotional responses to the imagination’s powerful projections and that come with the maturing of the frontal lobe by around age 25. That’s why a 50-year-old can finish rinsing her hair even as she recalls the shower scene from “Psycho,” while a 16-year-old will find herself with a racing heart, soapy and dripping on the mat. But the feeling of being in the thrall of a fantasy (even a morbid one) can be seductive as well, as comforting as getting high, as mesmerizing as Minecraft.

In this way, the friendship of Anissa and Morgan, with its shared obsessions and mutually satisfying imaginary play, was the rather unremarkable effort of two bright, alienated kids to build a world more thrilling than their reality, a private bubble that offered them belonging, excitement, and a sense of their own power. The problem wasn’t that Morgan and Anissa didn’t know they were living in a fantasy world: Ultimately, when pressed by adults, they acknowledged the difference between fantasy and reality. The problem was that they couldn’t — or didn’t — extricate themselves from the ­fantasy. “He does not exist,” Anissa told police on the day of the stabbing. “He is a work of fiction.” Morgan, the more troubled one, had a more enduring attachment to the fairy tale they had told themselves and that had brought them to the woods. But even she admitted, in her interview, that the attack on Bella was “probably wrong,” she said. “I honestly don’t know why we did this.”

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‘Perhaps Lucia Berlin Will Begin to Gain the Attention She Deserves’

Lucia Berlin, 1962. Photo by Buddy Berlin, © Literary Estate of Lucia Berlin
Lucia Berlin, 1962. Photo by Buddy Berlin, © Literary Estate of Lucia Berlin

Farrar, Straus & Giroux’s Work in Progress site has excerpted the first story from A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories, the newly released collection of short fiction by the late Lucia Berlin–who died in 2004, and was largely overlooked while she was alive. In the book’s foreword, author Lydia Davis writes, “Perhaps, with the present collection, Lucia Berlin will begin to gain the attention she deserves.”

Angel’s Laundromat is in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Fourth Street. Shabby shops and junkyards, secondhand stores with army cots, boxes of one-socks, 1940 editions of Good Hygiene. Grain stores and motels for lovers and drunks and old women with hennaed hair who do their laundry at Angel’s. Teenage Chicana brides go to Angel’s. Towels, pink shortie nighties, bikini underpants that say Thursday. Their husbands wear blue overalls with names in script on the pockets. I like to wait and see the names appear in the mirror vision of the dryers. Tina, Corky, Junior.

Traveling people go to Angel’s. Dirty mattresses, rusty high chairs tied to the roofs of dented old Buicks. Leaky oil pans, leaky canvas water bags. Leaky washing machines. The men sit in the cars, shirtless, crush Hamm’s cans when they’re empty.

But it’s Indians who go to Angel’s mostly. Pueblo Indians from San Felipe and Laguna and Sandia. Tony was the only Apache I ever met, at the laundry or anywhere else. I like to sort of cross my eyes and watch the dryers full of Indian clothes blurring the brilliant swirling purples and oranges and reds and pinks.

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Coming Sept. 24: A Special Longreads Live Storytelling Night in New York City


Save the date! On Sept. 24, Longreads is presenting a night of live storytelling with the theme of “Change: stories about change and the stories that have changed us.” Our storytellers include:

Nikole Hannah-Jones (New York Times Magazine)

Burt Helm (Inc.)

Jessica Gross (journalist and Longreads contributor)

Rembert Browne (Grantland)

Jessica Pressler (New York magazine)

John Herrman (The Awl)

* * *

Thursday, Sept. 24, 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
The Housing Works Bookstore Cafe
126 Crosby St
New York, NY 10012

This is a free event. See our Facebook event RSVP page.

The Lost Summer

Photo by indofunk, Flickr

Elissa Strauss | Longreads | August 2015 | 15 minutes (3,841 words)


Below is the story of a single mother and her daughter. Names and certain identifying details have been changed to protect their identities.


* * *


By the time Olympia picked up her 6-year-old daughter Raina from the babysitter she was tired. She works a 10-hour day satisfying the various needs of two young siblings in Brooklyn’s affluent neighborhood of Cobble Hill, shepherding them to and from various classes, camps and playdates, making sure they get food when hungry, rest when tired and are properly stimulated when bored. Read more…

Hollywood Gets Authenticity and the Pentagon Gets Publicity

Photo by Wikimedia Commons

Jamie Tarabay explored Hollywood’s relationship with the Pentagon in a recent piece for Al Jazeera America. The Pentagon has a devoted “entertainment-liaison officer” who acts as a Hollywood point person and helps decide which projects get Pentagon support (in the form of expertise, equipment, and locations). According to scholar Lawrence Suid, the Hollywood military relationship relationship dates back to 1910 and was “cemented” with the 1927 film Wings. Suid characterizes the relationship as one of “mutual exploitation”:

Suid coined the phrase “mutual exploitation” when he first stumbled onto the U.S. military-Hollywood connection. “I was teaching the history of the Vietnam War, and I couldn’t explain how we got into Vietnam. I could give the facts, the dates, but I couldn’t explain why,” he recalled. “And when I was getting my film degrees it suddenly occurred to me that people in the U.S. had never seen the U.S. lose a war, and when [President] Johnson said we can go into Vietnam and win, they believed him because they’d seen 50 years of war movies that were positive.”

Each side, Suid said, benefits from this arrangement. The U.S. military gets incredible publicity and recruitment advantages, and the film industry gets equipment, locations and authenticity.

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The Controversy Surrounding Science Fiction’s Most Prestigious Award

Photo: Peter Novacco

At Wired, Amy Wallace reports on the controversy at the Hugo Awards, which has been plagued by accusations by a faction of mostly white male authors who call themselves “Puppies” and argue that storytelling has taken a backseat to identity politics:

Though voted upon by fans, this year’s Hugo Awards were no mere popularity contest. After the Puppies released their slates in February, recommending finalists in 15 of the Hugos’ 16 categories (plus the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer), the balloting had become a referendum on the future of the genre. Would sci-fi focus, as it has for much of its history, largely on brave white male engineers with ray guns fighting either a) hideous aliens or b) hideous governments who don’t want them to mine asteroids in space? Or would it continue its embrace of a broader sci-fi: stories about non-traditionally gendered explorers and post-singularity, post-ethnic characters who are sometimes not men and often even have feelings?

With so much at stake, more people than ever forked over membership dues (at least $40) in time to be allowed to vote for the 2015 Hugos. Before voting closed on June 31, 5,950 people cast ballots (a whopping 65 percent more than had ever voted before).

But were the new voters Puppies? Or were they, in the words of George RR Martin—the author of the bestselling epic fantasy novels that HBO adapted into Game of Thrones—“gathering to defend the integrity of the Hugos”? On his blog, Martin predicted: “This will be the most dramatic Hugo night in Worldcon history.” He wasn’t wrong.

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