The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
To the Editor:
Re “Vanilla Ceiling: Magazines Still Shades of White” [Lizzy Ratner, Jan. 16]: I loved your story on the lack of diversity in magazines. I’m African-American and have been working in magazines for six years, and I am sick over not just the lack of diversity in the field, but the denial on the part of the powers that be that a problem exists, that they contribute to it any way, or that that they have any responsibility to try to diversify their companies. My Asian, Latina and black colleagues and I have struggled for years to advance in our respective magazines while our white counterparts have sailed to the top ranks. And while many magazines do employ a handful of people of color, they tend to be receptionists, assistants, low-level editors, researchers—no one in a position of power. Many white editors see this as progress; I see it as insulting. The problem is so much more complicated than anyone cares to acknowledge, because it isn’t simply one of a lack of minority presence that can be corrected by filling an assistant’s position with a black person. Instead, it’s a pervasive racism that affects how certain white editors and managers view the people of color. It determines who advances, who doesn’t, whose voice is heard, whose is silenced, who is mentored, who is ignored, who is given opportunities and chances, and who is looked to only when a “minority voice” is needed.
To the Editor:
This topic has been done a ton of times, but I’d like to express my appreciation for it. Thanks for tackling a topic so painful to many of us (meaning writers of color). We go to the best schools, we’re told our writing is up to par, and yet nobody hires us.
I recently interviewed at a top women’s magazine for an assistant editor’s job. Their editing test was the most grueling I had ever taken, and yet I was told (three weeks later) that they decided to give the position to someone less qualified—entry-level. I know there’s no way that editing test could have been aimed at someone who is entry-level. So, in fact, what she was telling me is that they advertised to find someone for a mid-level position, but then decided to change it to entry-level. Hmm …. But that’s the game, and we constantly have to swallow the bitter pill that is discrimination.
To the Editor:
I loved reading Anna Sussman’s New Yorker’s Diary [“Me, Too! Me, Too! All Girls in N.Y.C. Once Had B.D.D.,” Jan. 9]! It’s about time someone wrote about the “past” that many of us have, while some of us still suffer from the vestiges of that disordered time. (Does it really ever go away? My friends and I think not). I was not bulimic, nor did I get so thin as to be considered clinically anorexic, but B.D.D. definitely had a hold on me during my late high-school/college years. Now, as the mother of a toddler girl—and a newborn son!—I fear for her future. I don’t want her to end up like me, with all or most of the joy sapped from enjoying food by thoughts of calories and fat content. I don’t want her thinking, If I can just lose five pounds …. Many writers, like Ms. Sussman, have commented, but no one is offering solutions. I, for one, think that Hollywood’s obsession with deathly thin girls and women—who looks like a Desperate Housewife at 40-plus?!—is mostly to blame. I fear that nothing will be done about it until the first one of them, unfortunately, dies from her obsession. (Or maybe from the abuse of asthma pills meant for horses, as is now the rage?) The power of the media is far-reaching. I just wish it would be used to change current standards instead of just exclaiming on them.