In this issue of Banter M:
Kanye West The Slut – Ben Cohen examines Kanye West’s troubling slut shaming of Amber Rose in his beef with Whiz Khalifia, and argues women who sleep around are no worse than men who do the same.
Getting Yelled at for Fun and Profit – Tommy Christopher lets readers in on the nasty bust ups he has had with various media outlets, sources and campaign teams that have led to him being black listed by an impressive roster of political power players.
Adventures in Freelancing – Chez Pazienza calls bullshit on America’s treatment of freelancers, and reveals the harrowing struggles of not knowing when the next pay check is coming in.
Kanye West the Slut
by Ben Cohen
Over the past few days, you may have become aware of a nasty little spat between rappers Kanye West and Wiz Khalifia over the name of a song. The “beef” is so inane that I won’t bore you with the details, but the nature of the vicious argument between the two super stars was deeply revealing of the rampant sexism that exists within the Hip Hop community, and more worryingly its broad acceptance by mainstream society.
West and Khalifia’s twitter beef descended quickly into “slut shaming” after West misunderstood Khalifia’s reference to marijuana (“KK” or “Khalifia Kush”), thinking Khalifia was talking about his wife, Kim Kardashian. In response, West tore into his ex Amber Rose, who Khalifia has a child with.
“4th you let a stripper trap you,” West wrote after a series of insulting tweets. “5th I know you mad every time you look at your child that this girl got you for 18 years.”
This is not the first time West has made derogatory remarks towards his ex — in a February 2015 interview with The Breakfast Club, the rapper infamously said: “It’s very hard for a woman to want to be with someone that’s with Amber Rose. … I had to take 30 showers before I got with Kim.”
Notice the astonishing cognitive dissonance in Kanye’s statements about his ex girlfriend — that he and Khalifia are victims of Rose’s sluttiness, while they, the Masters of the Universe, are free to sleep with whoever the choose while tossing aside their conquests as used up pieces of meat. Those used up pieces of meat can then be re-used to insult other men with, by virtue of association. West and Khalifia cannot be sluts, because they are men — and men can fuck whoever they want without worrying about their reputation.
Slut. Whore. Bitch.
These are labels common in the Hip Hop community, and women who sleep with prominent rappers are routinely insulted because of their promiscuity — promiscuity that is seen as badge of honor for men, but a mask of shame for women.
This breathtaking duplicity isn’t lost on Rose, who has become somewhat of a spokesperson for “slut shamed” women. In an interview with GQ Magazine late last year, Rose — now a part time lecturer on this issue — recounted how she speaks to male college students and helps them reframe a subject they may not have thought about.
“I really want you guys to sit down and think about the act that your mother had to do with your father in order to have you,” said Rose, re-enacting her speech. “Really, fully understand that your mother is a sexual being. Is she a ho?”
Forcing young men to acknowledge the reality of their words — that the women they call sluts could be their own mothers — is a powerful way to address the deep inequality and sexual dysfunction the exists in our society.
Here are thankfully icons and artists bravely attempting to break this cultural dysfunction: Madonna, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus and of course, Amber Rose — but it is still an uphill battle that requires much greater participation from men who must do their part to redress the imbalance they have created.
From the age of 11 through to 16 I went to an all boys school in London that kept me largely out of contact with the opposite sex. With the exception of irregular weekend parties and the short coach with girls from neighboring schools in the morning and afternoon, the key developmental years when I turned from boy to man were spent in the company of other young males.
Over time, I have come to see those years as a deeply damaging period of time when the cultural values of a abhorrently sexist society were drummed into my head, and a distorted view of women unknowingly cultivated that would take another decade to undo. In my all boys school, girls were viewed almost as alien entities to be gawked at or sexually conquered — a distinct ‘other’ with no other purpose than to fulfill our nascent sexual desires. We were taught about sex by mostly repressed male teachers (my science teacher, a fundamentalist Christian who did not believe in sex before marriage gave me my first official lesson on human reproduction), and we were never given any guidance as to how to interact with the opposite sex.
Girls in the neighboring school were ranked by how “fit” they were (slang for hot), and anyone who hooked up with one of the fit ones gained automatic status. Anyone who hooked up with a “butters” (a not particularly physically attractive girl) was ruthlessly insulted, and no one thought it unacceptable to insult unattractive girls at parties. It wasn’t all one sided — there were girls I knew who exacted the same type of pitiless ranking systems on us as we did to them, but it was noticeably skewed. Girls who fooled around with lots of boys were “skanks” (sluts), while boys who hooked up with lots of girls (or birds as we say in London) were seen as players.
Although I was never disrespectful towards women, I unconsciously carried this attitude with me well into my 20’s, and still struggle with some of the psychic distortions to this day. When I see a woman overtly displaying her sexuality, my initial instinct is that she is a slut — an instinct born out of years of cultural conditioning that I know I must work on to ignore.
“As a woman, it’s like…fuck!” Rose told GQ. “You have to act like a nun for a guy to respect you. And even if you do wait to have sex and you’re very comfortable and you do exactly what you want to do in that moment, you have to be very careful because you don’t want to be looked at as a ho.”
This is a hard concept for many men to come to terms with, that women who enjoy casual sex are no more “slutty” than they are. I cannot recount the number of times male friends of mine have remarked on a woman they have slept with as “kind of a slut”. While I try not to pass judgment on anyone, I can’t help but think of their astonishing hypocrisy and lack of self awareness. It would be like punching someone in the face while accusing them of being violent — an obviously incongruous position that most people would condemn.
Sadly, Kanye West and Whiz Khalifia’s beef will be remembered for just that — another meaningless beef between Hip Hop artists over perceived slights that blew up on social media. And sadly Kim Kardashian and Amber Rose will be remembered because they were fodder, not because they were unfairly shamed by narcissistic misogynists who, as Rose says, don’t even understand where they come from.
Getting Yelled At For Fun And Profit
by Tommy Christopher
One of the perks of being a journalist is the occasional fit of rage from a news subject, or a source, or from an entire news network. I learned this early on when I worked for AOL and ran afoul of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, the McCain campaign, the Ron Paul campaign, and later that year earned a lifetime blacklisting from Fox News that still holds to this day. Interactions like these rarely see the light of day because most journalists prefer not to make themselves the story, but since we’re all friends, sharing in an intimate setting, I’m going to exclusively clean out my closet for you a little bit, including a kerfuffle that happened just this week.
I’ve been in journalism for going on nine years now, and in that time, I think my record of blowback is relatively limited, mainly because I don’t take shit from anybody. A lot of editors and reporters will try to assuage news subjects or sources, especially if they crave access, but I wasn’t smart enough to do that at first, and I’m too smart to do it now. When people think they can work you, they work you. Even that relatively small pool of rows is far too much to recount in one sitting, though, so I’m going to give you the bookends and save the rest for later.
My first flame email came from a Clinton campaign spokesperson who shall remain nameless, but the interaction is telling. I had been covering the campaign for AOL since January of 2008, and even then had a penchant for asking provocative questions because that’s the job. In that context, it’s a point of pride that it took five months for someone to get pissed off at me. Here’s that never-before-seen exchange:
May 23, 2008
a couple of followups. First, I’d like todraw a parallel between the Michigan and Florida situations and the 1983 “Pine Tar” game. In that game, the ump made a call, and the Yankees won. When the call was later reversed, effectively giving the Royals the game, there was huge outcry, but luckily the game did not affect the outcome of the season. If it had, baseball fans, and certainly Yankees fans, would not have recognized the championship team as legitimate. In Michigan and Florida, the ump (The DNC, with the agreement of the candidates) made a call. How will you respond to the millions of Obama voters (Yankees fans) and other voters (baseball fans) if you are awarded the championship in a way that they see as illegitimate? What fallout do you realistically anticipate, if any?
Second, you said you didn’t know about rumours of VP talks between the campaigns, and that there are none. that story came from George Stephanopoulos. Is he wrong? Wouldn’t he know?
Finally, your campaign has stressed its connection with “uneducated white voters.” How will you respond to the GOP in the general election if they effectively ask the public, “Why go with the dummies’ choice?”
May 23, 2008
I don’t appreciate the snobbery in your email and until you drop that attitude you wont be getting a response to your questions…
I also don’t know if ‘aol news’ is exactly the esteemed ivory tower from which to criticize other people but I’ll leave that up to you to decide.
(Clinton campaign spokesman)
Now, you could say I deserved it, but this is the kind of devil’s advocate framing that reporters always use, the only difference being I wasn’t a name, and they thought they could push me around. Here’s my reply:
Thanks for the response. I’m sorry you thought I had an attitude, it was unintentional. The question was, admittedly, challenging, but I don’t think it was posed discourteously. I don’t know that you took the meaning of my question. I’m not the one saying you’re doing well with “uneducated voters,” you are. The question is, how would you respond to a GOP attack along those lines? As a matter of fact, by your standards, I am one of those uneducated voters. Never once have I heard you, Phil, Howard, Hillary, or anyone in your campaign challenge the notion that, if someone didn’t finish college, they are “uneducated.” Instead, you trumpet thatfact.
You can respond to that, if you like, but I’d really like an answer to my first two questions, the ones I’m actually writing a story about. I do appreciate the quick response. Don’t mistake the questions for the questioner. These are things people ask me.
I guess I didn’t tone down the snobbery enough, because I never got a reply. Lucky for me, I have always maintained a set of well placed back-channel Clinton sources, so being frozen out by their flacks wasn’t the stinging punishment they thought it was.
Fast-forward to this week, when I wrote an article about Governor Chris Christie’s response to last weekend’s snowstorm, one of the worst in history. On Monday, Christie was back in New Hampshire, and scolding Sam Stein for suggesting that he should have remained in New Jersey to asses the residual flooding damage from the storm. “Sam, I don’t even know what critics you’re talking about,” Christie scolded, and added (this is important) “There is no residual damage, there is no residual flooding damage. All the flooding receded yesterday morning. And there was no other damage.”
I knew this to be false on its face because I live five minutes away from where that flooding occurred, and did cause residual damage. I also noticed that minutes before Christie made that claim, there were published reports that “Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin on Monday plan to visit the Ortley Beach section of Toms River, the Holgate section of Long Beach Township, Stone Harbor and North Wildwood,” and that “Manyhomes were flooded on North Wildwood’s west side. Cape May, Stone Harbor and Ocean City saw record flooding.”
Ergo, the title of my article was “Busted: Chris Christie Sends Lt. Gov to Assess Storm Damage He Says Doesn’t Exist,” because that’s what happened. After it went up, I ran out to Wawa to get some sub rolls for the meatball sandwiches I was about to have for lunch, when I got an email from a senior Christie staffer.
Mon, Jan 25, 2016 at 12:13 PM
This headline and premise is drastically and dead wrong. The Governor has never said that storm damage didn’t exist. Just the opposite he has acknowledged the flooding that did occur.
We have consistently rejected the irresponsible comparison to Sandy level damage (the areas impacted this weekend were largely unscathed by sandy, so this weekend’s events were worse, but it’s just dishonest to omit that context).
The quote you have includes what he is saying – there was flooding, but there is no additional flood damage now that the waters have receded. This is a really unfair and nonsensical headline and jump off for this post altogether. Gratuitous and the factual inaccuracy in the headline can hopefully be addressed outright as a starting point.
Now, I never compared the snowstorm to Supestorm Sandy. In fact, I wrote that “Christie is right that this storm could have been much worse, and it was managed well, but even a well-managed worst storm in history needs a minute when its over.”As for what Christie said about the damage, I didn’t make that up. I dashed off a quick reply while checking out at the Wawa.
Mon, Jan 25, 2016 at 12:15 PM
He said it on television this morning. Did you watch the video?
I was just getting into the car when I got the reply. It’s amazing how good your access gets when they want something.
Mon, Jan 25, 2016 at 12:20 PM
I did and you have the transcript accurately in your piece. He didn’t say damage “doesn’t exist.” He very clearly says the flooding receded yesterday and there is no “other damage” and that the reporter was making things about this idea that there is widespread criticism of his returning to NH yesterday. There was flooding, and nobody has denied that.
It’s totally not right to hang your piece on that.
I don’t even know what he’s trying to say here. It sounds like he thinks Christie was referring to
damage other than flooding damage, but he clearly specified “flooding damage,” as well as any other kind of damage.
Mon, Jan 25, 2016 at 12:23 PM
I will happily include your note as an update, but this is what he said: “There is no residual damage, there is no residual flooding damage. All the flooding receded yesterday morning. And there was no other damage.”
If that were true or even knowable at this point, there would be no need for
the Lt. Governor to assess the damage, would there?
This is where it gets weird, because now, he appears to be defending the administration on the basis that they’re planning to ignore all flood damage that isn’t related to beach erosion:
Mon, Jan 25, 2016 at 12:26 PM
She’s going with DEP to assess beach erosion with the Environmental Protection Commissioner, Tommy. Another jump you make in your piece without knowing the facts.
Please do include my notes, but the headline needs to be fixed. The quote speaks for itself and I’ve gone further to explain it. The headline is clearly incendiary and wrong. If you won’t, please connect me with an editor to have this discussion.
The problem with that, other than the fact that beach erosion still counts as damage, is that the lt. governor was, in fact, publicly discussing non-erosion damage with constituents.
Mon, Jan 25, 2016 at 12:53 PM
Also, my story contains a tweet in which Lt. Gov. Guadagno discusses flood damage with a resident. She says she is trying to reach out to that business owner. Maggie Day is her name.Has she been successful?
So then, the guy decides to accuse a lifelong New Jersey resident who lives five minutes away from the towns that were flooded, and blocks away from hundreds of homes that were destroyed during Sandy, of “parachuting in” to the story.
Mon, Jan 25, 2016 at 12:55 PM
My bottom line for you, Tommy, given your interest in making your own leaps in your initial reporting and out of our exchanges:
There was flooding that happened and that was forecast. The Governor in fact acknowledged that in the exchange you site, and many times before this morning through the course of the storm that you obviously haven’t been following.
Instead, you’re choosing to parachute in and be intentionally narrow and ignore the rest of the exchange to fit your snark. It’s irresponsible and wrong. It seems impossible to me that “other damage” means something else to you, yet here we are. All the flooding receded yesterday morning. And there was no other damage.
This is the point at which the guy decided to take it over my head, so I can’t share any more about that, but you can look it up: not a syllable of my story was changed, except to add more reporting about the damage Christie said didn’t happen, and for which he was forced to apologize to the mayor of North Wildwood for lying and saying they weren’t flooded during Sandy.
As a courtesy, I’m not identifying the staffer who tried to bully me into changing my 100% true story, but I will say this: he was not a Christie campaign staffer, he was a Governor’s Office senior staffer. This is what they were spending time on the day after the storm, with five people dead in New Jersey from the storm.
Adventures In Freelancing
by Chez Pazienza
Everybody dreams of freelancing. At some point in their career, everybody imagines getting the hell out of the daily grind and striking out on their own: making their own hours, working from home, not being beholden to a shitty boss or at the whim of a corporation’s caprices, maybe pulling in more than just the usual set amount every couple of weeks. I know I did during a good portion of my time in TV news. The business usually left me with very little time to do anything else to make extra money if I wanted or needed it— and, let’s face it, rarely was I the kind of person who got along swimmingly with upper management — so in the back of my mind there was always that dream of doing my own thing. Freelancing in journalism and media is a time-honored tradition, the kind of thing that’s not only easier than in other industries but an entire facet of the vocation. Some of the most talented journalists, producers and general media workers in the world are hired guns. Why couldn’t I be? Wouldn’t that be great?
There’s a news item that’s making the Facebook rounds right now that’s maybe a little surprising given that it’s actually almost ten years old. Sure, we’re used to seeing obituaries posted a few years after the fact by friends who simply missed the death of, say, Leslie Nielsen back in 2010 — and for those trying to make a political point, online polemics always seem to be evergreen — but a story about an unusual event from a very long time ago seems like an odd thing to suddenly see in circulation.
But maybe it isn’t.
Because the story at hand concerns a freelancer walkout that occurred at MTV networks. It happened in December of 2007, with scores of workers walking off their jobs and picketing outside the offices of MTV’s parent company, Viacom, in New York City. The workers, known as “permalancers” — meaning that they worked the same hours as full-time staff employees but are still treated likepart-timers or per diems — were angry about changes made to their already meager benefits package. Their healthcare was being cut as was the potential for them to receive some kind of 401k — and so they decided they’d had enough.
Just the name “permalancers” should give you an idea why these people were so furious. The notion of hiring people on and making them work full-time hours while robbing them of the job security and benefits they would normally be entitled to is something only a corporate Bond villain could come up with. It further lines the pockets of the company and its shareholders while thoroughly fucking people whose lives depend on steady work and fair compensation. And it should surprise no one that in 2007, the New York Times article on the MTV walkout stated that permalancers were increasingly becoming more common in workplaces and over the past nine years their ranks have only continued to increase. Because once a company realizes it can get away with something — that it can do just as much with less or that it can screw its staff and yet still have a staff — it will keep doing that and even double its efforts as it continues to see how far it can push people before they break. Permalancers are a big thing now. They’re a big thing in every business but they’re absolutely a big thing in the world of media, where corporate overlords know eager 20-somethings will do anything for a job because they come out of college already buried in debt.
I never really wanted to get back into TV news, but I admit that when things were slow for me work-wise several months ago — more on that in a minute — I considered it. What I found when I so much as put out feelers in the business was that the permalancer movement had become standard operating procedure across the media landscape over the last several years. This wasn’t really surprising given that even when I started in TV news, in early 1992, freelancers made up a large portion of the writer and production assistant pool when I worked. I began my career making a little over six dollars an hour as a writer, about on par with your average Taco Bell employee at the time. I went into it willing to take a financial hit, though, for several reasons, the most obvious of which was that it was a career rather than simply a job. I knew that if I could survive for a little while on ramen and sadness I could potentially make very good money later on. I just had to “pay my dues.” It worked out for me because within five months I had been promoted to associate producer, which was a staff gig, and my salary more than doubled. A few months later I was a full-fledged producer and was bringing in a very nice salary — certainly at my age.
But that’s the thing: back then you could move up into a staff position without too much trouble. Atthe very least, you only had to wait it out in one place before advancing to full-time and benefits. Now, however, not just the bottom tier but the one above it can be freelance in TV news, meaning that maybe you get hired as a part-time production assistant but then even if you survive that, the next job up has also been deemed freelance. There are more part-time producers working in television news now than there ever were at the start of my career — and that’s shocking when you consider the job producers do. Now, even more than years ago, stations and networks rely on head-count to determine how many staff positions they’re willing to fill, and more and more that number dwindles. Why pay for benefits and give someone job security when there are plenty of people eager to do the same gig without either? And, again, the more you push that paradigm as the norm, the more people just get used to it. But they shouldn’t have to — because it can really suck.
I’m not a permalancer, meaning I don’t go into an office every day where people doing the same job I’m doing are getting full-time pay and benefits. I’m an honest-to-god freelancer and, other than a very brief stint back in local TV, I have been one since I left CNN in 2008. I write, I produce reality TV and documentaries, I consult and advise, and I do it all on a pay-by-the-job basis. Even the work I do here at Banter is technically part-time. Freelance, needless to say, wasn’t everything I dreamed it would be when I had such dreams years ago, but living freelance in a media-friendly city like Los Angeles is not only possible, thousands and thousands do it. The very reason I made the decision to come out here at the end of 2011 was that there was better freelance work in media out here than just about anywhere else in the country. Maybe New York City compared, but up until a couple of years ago L.A. wasn’t the kind of city where a couple of months of a work drought would leave you terrified about losing your home. (Rent in Los Angeles has positively exploded in the time I’ve been here; it’s now practically comparable to New York or San Francisco.)
But just because it’s possible and even prevalent here in L.A., that doesn’t mean working freelance is a breeze. I do enjoy making my own hours and working from home and I certainly love not having to deal with a boss or a corporate environment I have to constantly navigate. But freelancing is a constant hustle and that can take a toll, certainly as you get older. I’m not a kid anymore and while that can be good in terms of getting work because clients know I have a lot of experience, it’s simply a grind having to chase down new work — and you always have to be chasing down new work. I learned from a lawyer friend of mine that you always work on retainer when you’re consulting because there’s no way in hell you want to be running after people for money they owe you, but writing gigs usually still pay 30 to 45 days after the job is complete. That can be scary when you’re trying to figure out when bills are due, particularly if you’re not making enough money to pretend that bill due dates just don’t matter. I’m lucky because I have two steady gigs: this one and the podcast I do with Bob Cesca. That’s money I can count on every month. It’s the backbone of my earnings. But you’re always seeking out new revenue streams, preferably ones you know will pay you over and over again regularly. And believe me, there are times when I dream of being back at a job where I’m paid steadily and I have benefits (since company-provided healthcare, stock options and a 401k went out the window a long time ago).
The problem is, there aren’t as many of those jobs as used to be. Sure, maybe you can still count on a steady paycheck, but the perks of working in media — those have disappeared for many.
Whether you’re at an office or out on your own — whether you’re a freelancer or a permalancer — it’s rough either way. I figured by now I wouldn’t be struggling or concerned about my future. I was so very wrong. And I have a feeling a lot of other people understand exactly what I’m talking about, especially since by 2020 it’s expected that 50% of the workforce will be freelance. That’s why so many are sharing an old article on Facebook: because they feel the same pain those MTV kids did nine years ago.