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Writing (Ranting) about Writing (Still Ranting), or Why I Prefer Gonzo to Cosmo
tapestry jacket
Gonzo does offer a narrative, occasionally stream-of-consciousness, account of events. Hunter S Thompson’s writing gives a strange authenticity: while the account is colourful, there’s an implicit acknowledgement that he is not a wholly reliable narrator- he admits to being intoxicated throughout most of the Kentucky Derby, that he got more information on the race by watching the news stories that other journalists made and even that the caricature face of the drunk he wanted to find- confessing a story-telling technique he wants to use in his account, during his account- ends up being his own face. He does not necessarily lie, but contrary to saying about satire shows a mirror to everyone’s face but his own, his satire is also aimed at himself.
While other writers have adopted the narrative approach, including their opinions shown in dramatic language, they have failed to show themselves: they will write their opinions as if they are the truth, with no room for the reader to question.
I once read a Cosmopolitan feature article which put me off women’s magazines. A feature writer had her hotel room upgraded to VIP status for free and could go with her boyfriend- something I hadn’t done yet and had no chance of doing so shortly, as I was a waitress. She then complained to her boyfriend about the room service burgers being ‘a bit dry’. Even though this was simply this young woman’s personal account, her remembrance of this minor complaint and how she’s seen her friends complaining on social media meant that the entire article became about how everyone her age complains a lot.
She had automatically extended one trend she’s noticed to a whole demographic and attributed ‘generation’ as a cause- as if everyone in her generation is the same as her, has the same opportunities, complains on the same level and has the same lack of cause to complain. She never questioned that perhaps the complaining was something only she and her friends did: when I did get an office job years later and was finally able to go to a hotel with my boyfriend, I felt like a rock star just for having a hotel room - and I will admit that not everyone would feel the same way I did.

When I read the opinion piece that was disguised as a feature article, as I believe feature articles require the author to have experiences or to do research rather than write about their opinions and those of their friends, I realised that Cosmopolitan or Cleo never write for women who are service workers who receive a lower pay and social status- the career sections assume the reader is working in an office, the money section assumes the reader has a credit card and the health, fashion and beauty sections assume the reader has a sizable stable source of disposable income- as new trends arrive monthly. If anything, sales assistants and waitresses are the ‘villains’ of opinion pieces who are ‘snooty’ (out-stepping their place), ‘over-charging’ (usually by only a few cents which can be easily afforded by the author and would be forgotten by me the next day, even when I was a waitress) and ‘lazy’ (being paid more than they’re worth- even though the authors likely receive more money for their articles, their job is most likely their passion, and don’t have to be abused by customers). I stopped reading because it became clear these magazines were not written for me. I just felt like I didn't measure up to 'normal women'- that I was abnormal and inadequate because I wasn't as rich, as successful, as tall, as thin, didn't want a tan and didn't have blonde straight hair like other girls the same age. (These are Australian editions of the magazines: while the focus on straight hair is not racially-charged, the idea is that curly hair doesn't exist in Australia and if it does, it shouldn't because straight hair is the standard)

Curly hair represetation is more similar to how people make fun of redheads today, and Aussies are particularly cruel as we have the word 'ranga', short for 'orang-utan' and a very hot climate. A sketch show even had a re-occuring gag of a family of red-haired people terrified of the sun, squealing like mice, and being tormented by the normal Aussies. We find out in another sketch their fear is justified- when testing sunscreen, three members come back burnt. The scientist isn't sure who the control was- until they go out and see that the teenage son has melted... I laughed from surpise, but it just shows how mean-spirited the 'normal' Aussies were to pretend to offer an umbrella and then snatch it away. They could have killed them all...and many real-life Aussies would clap at the idea. Because 'normal' Aussies, and 'normal' people, can be pricks. Why do we hate 'rangas'? ... I really have no idea. I met one that was horrible to me at school, but nearly everyone was horrible to me, so it wasn't a 'ranga' trait.
I will feature a part in one of my stories in which Britannia and Ariel, Britannia's ginger adopted daughter, visit India as part of a trip to find people outside of the gender binary so Ariel knows she isn't alone. Naturally she gets very burnt despite taking precautions and it is funny for the people from India to see someone who is nearly entirely red and they laugh, but not to be cruel and only after they make sure she isn't horribly ill. At least one of them has probably seen a completely-red person before, but it's still rare and these are respectful visitors, not scary colonising prats.

Despite the 'body-positive' message, there is a focus on weight loss despite the assumption the readers are AU sizes 8, 10 and 12 and it must only be due to diet and activity. If you have PCOS, your doctor will fix it. Always.

Such magazines hold a contradictory message: these magazines are for ‘all women’ of a certain age, yet the individual components are geared towards only certain women (able to spend money on many leisure activities and fashion, has a lot of female friends, is attracted to men only, works in an office with good prospects, lives in the city, enjoys sex, was born a girl)  and other women are excluded (women with low incomes or unemployed, women in non-office jobs, women who live rurally, women attracted to women, women who are asexual, transwomen, women who don’t have female friends, women who do not follow fashion trends). While these factors are too numerous to all be taken in consideration when pitching, ‘all women’ is not accurate.
Like Sideshow Bob telling everyone to destroy television from a big screen at the baseball, I'm aware of the irony in complaining about this woman's article on complaining. You are allowed to laugh at me. You are allowed to disagree with me. I've acknowledged this here and in the title so you can laugh and disagree.  But I will say that it's my opinion and applies to me. It may resonate with readers, it may not, but I will not say that everything I write is the truth for everyone. It is simply the truth for me.


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