Why I Quit Writing For College Times
Today I have bad news for everyone. Alright, I have bad news for me, and the people who read my lesbian sex column on College Times. The bad news is it’s finished. I quit today. I really, REALLY did not want to, but the situation there became impossible. I had to make a choice between writing something I loved and being a person I liked, and I guess I just can’t write about sex if I’m not feeling respected, so I quit.
Now, I understand that to a lot of people, that’s no big deal, but I’ve never had to quit a job for moral reasons before, so I wanted to explain myself. Explain what is actually happening behind the scenes at that place, in case any rumour starts going around that I was kicked out, or that I threw a hissy fit and stormed out of the metaphorical building. Here is the full story, both sides represented, so that you can all see how much I did not want to get to this place. I’m sorry if there are fewer jokes, but on the plus side, I predict a 100% increase in posts about specific areas of lesbian sex in the near future, unless someone else wants them. Anyway, here’s how it went down:
As I said, I was writing for a different website until today, thus explaining why I never update this place. How exciting! A brand new website, aimed at students, that my friend Clare Cullen [of Shite Irish Girls Say, look her up] asked me if I would be interested in writing for. Naturally the answer was YES, I am always a fan of a new place to do my favourite thing, AND they said I could write a sex column, AND there was a good chance that the exposure would lead to paid work [I love this blog, you guys, but also like ninety percent of my posts on it are about how badly I need a job]. So far, so excellent.
The first post I submitted was about strap-ons, and my editor said it was pretty cool, and I was stoked. Dudes, I did not know how badly I wanted to write a sex column until I had one, turns out I wanted one A Lot. And also, my sister Ais had a column too! Perfect Days.
Ais wrote one of her first articles about pubic hair. It was a hilarious article about the various haircuts girls get on their ladyparts in order to be attractive [SIDE NOTE: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rcoreV10hI8 ].
That was when the first warning sign arrived. Ais’ [and also my] editor, Jack O’Connor, said that he didn’t think the article belonged in the sex section. He said he wanted to keep the section to only be about the physical act of boning. Ais told me that, and we made unimpressed faces at each other for a while.
Also around this time, Ais decided to take a look around the ‘demo site’ that had been set up, as a kind of tester site to see how CT would look and act when it went live. She was looking in the sex section, because obviously, and she noticed that a lot of articles in it weren’t exactly female friendly [even though they were written by women]. She pointed this out to the Greta Dunne, who is the editor of all of CT, and who is doing an incredibly hard job and you have to respect her for that. That’s not my beef.
Greta took Ais’ advice about editing the columns on board, and so Ais and I decided to let sleeping dogs lie, when it came to how Jack ran his section. Though we agreed it was incredibly stupid and made all the articles kind of boring and like listening to a load of drunken teenagers pretending they were sexually active, we said ‘you know what? I don’t mind being the only good thing about a bad section’, and left it at that.
A little while later [just before the site went live], the editor of the Opinions section, Joshua Doyle, and Jack were commenting under a post in the CT contributors Facebook group [Note: Not the Sex group], and they were incredibly sexist. I’d have a screengrab for you, but I was removed from both the CT group and the Sex Contributors group immediately when I quit this morning [I guess if I was smarter I'd have saved the quitting moment until AFTER I'd had a chance to grab a few screenshots, but also, if I was smarter, I'd have quit a month ago]. They started talking about lesbianism, and Jack actually linked to a lesbian porn clip, in a place where everyone in the group could see it, in a conversation that was not supposed to be sexual at all. That, for Ais, was the last straw.
Both Jack and Josh had been sexist before, not just in comments on the group, but on their own Facebook profiles. Nothing you could call them out on, but enough to let you know that maybe these guys were going to be a feminist’s nightmare. So she said- quite rightly- Fuck That Noise.
She sent Jack and Greta an email, and asked for it to be forwarded to Josh so he could see how mad she was, and apologise. Jack responded with an apology, admitting his explanation was weak [banter got out of hand. You know how sometimes you have no control over how much lesbian porn you link to because you are talking to a man? That happened to him]. His email also contained the phrase
‘I can assure you that I am far from sexist and would in fact consider myself a feminist, considering that feminism is the belief that men and women are equal.”
Let’s take that comment, shall we? Let’s just hold on to that for a second, while we look at this example of writing on College Times, which was submitted by someone who calls Jack his editor:
That article is published in the Health section, by the way. Yep. I feel healthy after reading that.
You will note an apology arrived from Jack, and also, one from Greta. Greta in fact was very apologetic, and assured Ais that- while she didn’t agree that this behaviour was grounds to remove them as editors [Side Note: degrading your contributors is definitely grounds for removing your editors]- she felt bad about what happened, and wished Ais the best. Ais told Jack she hoped his behaviour would change [though she doubted it actually would], wished Greta the best and got the next train out of there.
Joshua, however, did not apologise. Not once. He didn’t even acknowledge that this had happened.
Now, when Ais stormed out, I made my first mistake. What I should have done was have her back, because I agreed with her. I should have walked out with her. Instead, what happened was that while Ais was quitting in Dublin, I was in Offaly being offered the position of sub- editor of the sex section. At the same time. This playing me against my sister thing was bullshit, but I was too excited to see it right then. A few days later, after me and Ais realised what had happened, and I had gotten my head out of my ass, I sent Jack and Greta this email:
Jack talked me around, said a public apology would bring everyone down, and gave me the assurances I asked for. He gave me three articles to edit, and then no more, ever again.
Joshua did not apologise. That’s two, if you’re counting.
Around this time, in fact the same day as he gave me the articles to edit, Jack asked me to write something about the upcoming March for Marriage. He said UCD had sent on a press release, and it had to be in quick. I had a deadline of about an hour, and I wrote March With Us, to date the most popular post on College Times, according to the ‘most shared’ bar. I still consider it pretty rad to be the author of a thing that took off like that. Pretty rad being College Times, too, to be fair, they got a lot of hits out of it. That’s the thing about writing for a website like CT, it’s mutually beneficial, and that’s great. That’s not my beef.
The next article I submitted to Jack [bearing in mind, I had 9 ready to go before the site even went live] was on the subject of consent. The gist of the story is that I had seen some of the other female contributors in the sex section phrase their sex lives as things they were doing so boys would still like them. My article was about how you can say no to things you don’t want to do, and if whoever you are boning is not OK with that, you can do better.
Jack didn’t like it.
He said it didn’t really fit in the section, even though it was about sex. He said he wanted the section to be positive, to be only about the physical act, not about any of the other stuff [like consent?]. I said I thought that was stupid, and that the article ideas he was giving to people were boring [universally, when someone asked for a topic, he said 'review a position!' Now, a lot of the contributors in his section are around 19- 20. I would imagine after the fourth 'review a position!' request, they were going to have to Do A Google. Which is not their fault, at all, and if you are reading this girls, Jack is not being fair to you with that behaviour]. Eventually, he conceded to put it up, but asked for more articles like my first nine in the future [reminder that only 2 of those articles are on the site. So, not TOO much like them, I assume].
So at this point, to put you in my mindset, I was pretty sure I disliked Jack as a person. I thought he disrespected women, wanted to run a really boring sex section, and was a bad writer [which does not automatically mean he is a bad guy, but it does when he publishes so many of his own articles]. I told my friends that I wished I could take over his job, not out of any desire for the position [more free work is not a thing I am desperate for], but so I could make the section a thing that people would want to read, and maybe learn from.
Also, around this time, Ais told me that College Times is run by the same people who run Midnight Promotions. You know, these guys:
So I was getting a clearer picture as to what was actually going on here. However, I still really liked Greta, I thought she was doing a really tough job, and I respected her. In all our dealings, she was nothing but nice, and I cut her slack for not removing Josh and Jack because they are mates, and sometimes people are stupid about their mates.
Then Jack asked me to write a response to the horrible homophobic article published in The University Times last week, since I did such a good job on March With Us. Naturally, I loved the idea of being the go-to LGBT columnist, that is essentially My Dream Job. So I wrote it, sent it in, and the next day it went up.
Now I’m not going to lie to you, I had a hard time finding what I wanted to say in that article. The rough version I sent off to Jack was not my best work, but it was pretty good, and more importantly pretty fast. The article that went up was BUTCHERED. No paragraphs, anywhere. I was so embarrassed; I didn’t even link to it on my own Facebook page. And I commented wherever I saw it that I was a better writer than this article let on. I mean, HOW embarrassing.
Me and Ais were both at home at the time, and we were laughing at how obvious it was when the terrible editor got bored [for the record, Jack always did a phenomenal job on my pieces, no complaints at all. I’m giving him credit where he deserves it, he was a good motivator and a good editor, and he had some shockingly all over the place articles to contend with. Fair play, like, I do not envy him that], when Ais decided to see how bad Joshua was at writing. You know, for comedy.
So she looked through the site, and found an article of his called Invasion, about the new Abercrombie store in Dublin. We clicked on it, and yes, he is a terrible writer, and that was pretty funny. But what was not funny was this paragraph, right here:
Now, let’s recap: Josh has been a Known Sexist for a long time now. He has been responsible for at least one contributor taking their work and walking out already. So he’s a risk, and everyone knows it. I have been personally assured that he is being watched. And yet, here we are. This happened.
To make matters worse, I found out later that Joshua submitted this article in January. This article has been live on the site since well before there even WAS a site. While Ais was complaining about him, this was up. While I was complaining about him, this was up. While I was asked TWICE to submit articles on how rad the LGBT community is, including one about how awful homophobia in the media is, this was up.
It didn’t take us long to find it. It wasn’t buried anywhere. It was right there, in plain sight, too near my name for my liking.
Naturally, I flipped the fuck out. This is what I emailed to Joshua, Jack, and Greta [It was too big for a screengrab, sorry]:
‘Hey guys,So I was looking through College Times articles today, after you put up the link to my latest one, and I came across this pieceI am absolutely disgusted that you would allow an article which not only implies, it actually says that being gay is the same as being a sex offender. That is unacceptable, and I am absolutely disgusted with all the people involved in either writing, editing or allowing such a thing to be published.Since I started writing for you guys, I have been asked on two occasions to write an article in defense of the LGBTQ community. I thought that that was the kind of organisation this was, one that aimed to entertain but also to educate. In my last article, I made specific reference to how it was hugely offensive for a publication to write something just to get the attention of the LGBTQ community. Well Greta, that works both ways, and I am absolutely disgusted with this ‘token equality’ you are trying to portray. It makes you look bad, but it also makes me look bad. You have made me look like a gay Uncle Tom, and you never even let on. That is unacceptable.The hypocrisy you have shown is insulting not only to all LGBTQ people, it is also personally insulting. I don’t understand how you guys can continue to put up my work, even compliment it, while knowing that this is also happening on your site. I feel taken advantage of, I feel used, but mostly I feel angry.Consider this my final word on the subject. I expect no more of my articles to be put up on the site, naturally. I don’t want you to use me as a tool for your success anymore, I really cannot stress how angry I am right now.I will no longer be promoting your site, and in fact unless some major apologies are given both to me and to every other member of the LGBTQ community [in an article published on your site], and the author of the piece is taken off your staff, I will be actively telling as many people as I can to never read it, as no matter how ‘progressive’ you like to pretend you are being, this ‘Invasions’ article has shown it’s just pandering.SineadPS: This letter will be published on my blog [averages 1000 views per post], unless I feel action has been taken to stop this from ever happening again. ‘
The article was taken down immediately.
After that, I emailed my good friend James Mitchell [YouTube sensation] – and also a College Times Contributor- because we are good Activist buddies, and I knew he would be upset about this too. I was right, and he also flipped out. He didn’t know about the sexism, and he flipped out over that too.
I was so mad, and he was so mad, and Greta wanted us to stay so badly, she organised a coffee meeting the very next day. At first, I was against it, but then I thought ‘Sinead, don’t be a dickhead all your life. You love this column, and if you leave, then nothing will change’. So I agreed.
While we were sorting this out, Josh emailed James an apology. Note this: James had never contacted Josh to ask for one, or in fact even to yell at him, he was dealing directly with Greta. I had emailed Josh, see above. He did not apologise to me. That’s three.
Before we met Greta for coffee, I laid out exactly what would be required for me to stay with CT, because I need to be able to look myself in the eye. These things were:
1: Josh had to go. The homophobia combined with his sexism made him someone I could never work with again, never mind under. James agreed.
2: An apology and explanation in the CT group on Facebook, so that nobody could say me and James bullied him out or whatever. Also, an apology on the site itself, because I didn’t want people thinking I was OK with working somewhere that would print that. James agreed to the group, but wasn’t too pushy on the website [for the record, there are no hard feelings between us. James has not been fighting with CT for as long as I have, so anyone who compares our two situations is being facetious. I think James is rad as hell, and I probably always will.]
3: A Code of Practise would have to be drawn up, in order to ensure that this would never, EVER happen again. James agreed.
At this point, I had exactly zero trust in anybody at College Times to fix anything. I was mad as hell going into that meeting, and so was James. At first, Greta -and her partner Jamie, who we only found out about on arrival- tried to talk us down, with arguments about encouraging debate, and how CT was working for us and so we shouldn’t leave. They said that Josh didn’t mean to insinuate what he had said, and this was perhaps an overreaction from us. They also said he felt terrible about it, and Greta said she was wicked busy, she hadn’t bothered checking his old articles at all.
At that point, we made it clear that if anyone else had written the article and it had been published, a quick email- like Ais sent to Greta about the sexism in the original sex articles- would have sorted it out. The problem here was that she had been warned, and was either lying when she said he was under control, or really bad at her job, neither of which are good excuses for publishing something like that. We explained the difference between a comment and a slur, and Greta conceded.
She was really, incredibly nice, and took us very seriously. She told us Josh had already been fired, he was out, and we agreed he could only come back once CT had its Code of Practise in working order. She said he wanted my number to apologise, I refused on principle- I don’t accept apologies from people who only give them as a last resort. He had so many chances to apologise before he was kicked out that he neglected to take, I see no reason to make him feel better now. Joshua Doyle is a sexist, and he should feel bad about that.
She agreed to all of our terms, and we went to CT headquarters to start writing a Code of Practise. Josh, surprisingly, was there, and he wanted to meet us, I was not OK with that, James was not OK with that, and so he left. No more Joshua.
I met Jack for the first time, and he wouldn’t even look at me. I’ve never been so obviously disdained before. It was clear our dislike was mutual. The first thing he said was how he hoped that me and James wouldn’t fly off the handle like this again, heavily implying we had totally overreacted. As we explained to him what we had just explained to Greta [with Greta’s support, it should be said], he turned around in his swivel chair, and couldn’t have been less interested in what was happening.
After a while spent chatting about the difference between a debate and an insult, and after I explained what ‘checking your privilege’ was for at least the tenth time, we left Greta to get back to work. Honestly, I was delighted to still be writing for her. The best case scenario had happened. Nobody had walked away, and real changes were going to be made. Most Meeting Ever. By the time I got home, Greta had opened a thread on the CT group about making a Code of Practise, and I was delighted.
The next day, nothing new happened. No apology, no post on the site, no Code of Practise.
The next day, nothing continued to happen. James and I had a conversation about how long we would wait; I said I was willing to give them a week. A week is a long time in internet years, you know.
Then, this morning, I turned on my laptop before work. It’s not something I usually do, but I wanted to watch more Suburgatory [Side Note: Check it out. It’s great]. I clicked into the CT group to see what was new or interesting that day, and to see if there was an apology post. Unfortunately, the only new post I saw was this:
Now, doesn’t that seem WEIRD to you? What’s even weirder is that James noticed him calling for submissions in the opinions section. Not normal behaviour for a guy who was kicked out three days ago, is it? Note that I quit this morning and immediately lost all posting privileges. I can’t take a screenshot, this guy can wish happy birthday on behalf of everyone else? Something didn’t add up. Either Josh was still working for CT, in which case everything Greta had said was a lie, or… no, that was the only conclusion. There is no other explanation.
For me, that was the last straw. James got on to Greta, who explained that she was sick for the last three days, and Josh was sticking around because they couldn’t find a replacement. Now, those are great excuses, if Greta was the only person in the office capable of typing an apology, and also if there was nobody in the world able to look after Josh’s section, which apparently was short on submissions anyway.
Also, I had been specifically told several times that he was out of the picture. Both on Facebook chat the day before we met, at the actual meeting, and afterwards in the office. He was gone. And yet no, he wasn’t. Joshua Doyle is a rash that CT can’t seem to get rid of, and the constant lying about it is what got rid of me.
I can work for people I don’t like. I can work with people who don’t like me. But let’s get real here- I’m pretty good at this writing shit. It’s the only thing I’m pretty good at, and it’s the only thing I do that I have a little bit of respect for. So when I am bringing a site a lot of hits because of it, I assume I’m going to get a little of that respect back. Not a lot, just enough that, oh, I don’t know, I’m not constantly being lied to and placated like a child. You know, the level of respect any decent human being shows any other one. And coincidentally, not the level of respect I was getting from College Times.
So that’s it. That’s why I quit. You guys can decide if I overreacted or not, I personally don’t think I did. I have enough fights to be getting on with, for things like the right to get married, or be whatever gender I wanna be, to start another one with a website that is never going to listen to me anyway. Fuck That Noise. I’m genuinely gutted that this thing that I loved is gone, but on the plus side, I saw a mirror a minute ago and was able to look myself in the eye, so I guess that’s a positive.
Also, if you guys have any idea what I should do with like 20 sex columns, I am all ears. I’m going to publish them here if nowhere else wants them, but I hope somewhere does. Seems like a total waste, otherwise.
TL; DR: Some people were sexist, homophobic assholes and nothing was ever gonna change so I dicked off. NO REGRETS.
Stay Tuned for a hilarious article about sexting Jack told me to write because it’s a thing he probably thinks people still do, lol forever.
EDIT: I have taken on board the advice in the comments, and cleaned up the grammar and spelling a bit. Sorry about that.