Thursday, March 29, 2012

Following my passion for fashion (in blogging)--and my final post on The Constant Observer

For about the past year or so, this blog has been in "sunsetting" mode--but I haven't quite wanted to shut it down.  Part of my reason for shutting it down has been my increasing dis-interest in hyperlocal journalism and the newspaper industry; a growing lack of interest in many aspects of technology.  Not to mention growing dis-illusion with the overall media landscape--which Jon Stewart parodies so well....

I'm also not all that thrilled with social media these days either.  It used to take quite awhile for marketers and advertisers to get with the program when it came to new, fun social platform on the Internet.  Now, it's a matter of a few short weeks before someone's slapped a new chicklet together and another someone's figured out a rudimentary way to bust up the fun.  Then, there comes a book. The latest platform to get "socialized" is  Pinterest--where every few days some social media genius-guru-ninja has come up with a new way to put out a marketing message on it.  I'm inundated daily with infographics that are long on message, short on significance.

I took a look at what I did all these years among these various media to see if there was anything that I truly loved about it.  First, I love the fact that this is real populist media--that one doesn't need to go through editors and such to publish.  Second, I needed to bridge the time I spent in this world, innovating and working with innovators, with tactile world work.  With spending copious amounts of time with innovators and technologists, I developed a distinct in-ability to express concepts in terms that non-techies could understand.  That was a total revelation to me.  Third, I needed a challenge, but one that would not feel like the labor of Sisyphus.

So, I decided to go into fashion blogging.  Fashion has always been significant to me--our choices in clothing, in fashion and style are ways in which women express themselves.  Sure, some might think it's "superficial" but I really don't care about them.  In the world of Fashion Blogging, though, there's a dearth of older women--a lot of young women--and I believe that my age and experience, both in life and in everyday fashion decisions, gives me a unique blogging perspective.

There's more to it than just the superficial.  Ever since my friend Tom Guarriello suggested I get a subscription to Women's Wear Daily, I have learned a whole lot about the fashion and beauty industries.  These multi-billion dollar industries make their money primarily from women, yet women know very little about the business decisions of the various companies and brands we engage with daily.  This is information, I believe, we *should* know.  So, in time, my plan is to begin to weave fashion and beauty business journalism in with talk about firming body lotions and to wear a latest trend like a woman (not a girl.)

If you are at all interested in where I am going with the blog, you can check it out at High Fashion Average I've started a new twitter feed to go with the new blog: @HiFashionAvgWmn.

So far, this new blog is doing fairly well.  I've used my rudimentary knowledge of SEO with the right subjects and have cornered some pretty good traffic because of it.  I understand that to build a popular following with take quite a bit of time, but, once again, I'm more interested in having this blog be a vehicle for bigger projects, and future employment--thus making it have a larger purpose than making friends with fashion conscious peers.

Which, I must say, it's doing pretty well there, too...

I have also picked up blogging on social media and related issues at, the site I use for my social media consultancy.  My @tishgrier Twitter account is still active, and is now associated with the site.

So, the time really has come to put The Constant Observer to bed.  It has served me well over the 6 years of my professional blogging and social media career.  It's been the vehicle for many great opportunities, and I have met many fantastic, forward-thinking people through it.  I hope to continue to meet great people through both High Fashion Average Woman and, and hope you will consider following me on either one or both of those blogs.

Onward and Upward.....

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

David Brooks' plea to save the Great White Male

Call me a cock-eyed optimist, but yesterday while I was reading David Brooks' editorial titled "The Talent Society," I thought he might have something to say that wasn't reactionary. oh, who was I kidding?? But he did bring up some interesting statistics regarding single people, then kinds of lives we have, and how our lives could be short-changing both poor children and middle-class (white) men.

In the editorial's early paragraphs, Brooks quotes some sobering stats from as Eric Klinenberg's book, “Going Solo”:

more than 50 percent of adults are single. Twenty-eight percent of households nationwide consist of just one person. There are more single-person households than there are married-with-children households. In cities like Denver, Washington and Atlanta, more than 40 percent of the households are one-person dwellings. In Manhattan, roughly half the households are solos.

Hmmmm...interesting! According to these stats, single people are taking over the U.S. at an alarming rate. Oh, really? According to author Maria Bailey, moms make up a trillion-dollar a year market, are leveraging all sorts of online media like crazy, and are amazingly influential in spreading the word about products and services.

So, then, does that mean that the marketing world is pandering to a tiny, yet vocal minority? I'd venture to say that the family is still pretty much alive and well in modern America, despite the paragraphs of protestation (or is it bemoaning?)that follow the stats from Klienberg.

Yes, Brooks goes on to bemoan everything from teen-age hookup culture to people's inability to claim Democrat or Republican on our horrible single-focused culture. And not just our single-focused culture, but rather our horrific talent-focused world:

People want more space to develop their own individual talents. They want more flexibility to explore their own interests and develop their own identities, lifestyles and capacities. They are more impatient with situations that they find stifling.

As someone who's benefited from the Talent Society and being single, I'd say that

it's more that we are unwilling to put up with another person's b.s., insensitivity, and controlling cruelty than we are to just be impatient. Maybe we're just impatient with the things that hurt us and are unwilling to stay in bad situations that could lead to post-traumatic stress disorder and severe depression.

But wait! According to Brooks, it's the lack of supportive, enmeshed relationships (families) that are the cause of so much depression, disorganization, and disadvantage in people's lives.

Really? I'd like to introduce Mr. Brooks to my family, and several others, just so he can see how the enmeshed family isn't supportive but is more of a jail, where one makes a bargain with a certain kind of devil just to keep a roof over one's head and the depression medication coming in a steady stream.

Yet it seems to be the plight of solitary, middle-aged men, who seem to be lacking in social capital, that Brooks sees as suffering the most from the Talent Society. According to Books, this group, that is poor in social capital, apparently lacks the drive and the "social facilities to go out and make their own friendship circles."

Really? REALLY? Gee, I seem to know a number of single middle-aged men who are involved in local politics, go golfing with their younger married professional counterparts, play in bands, make videos for local artists and non-profits, hang out at art openings, participate in online forums, join runners and bikers groups etc., etc....

Shall I go on??? Or maybe I should introduce Mr. Brooks to some of my local middle-aged guy friends....

I think the guys Brooks seems so concerned about are those that may be suffering from depression for other reasons than what he is unwilling to acknowledge. They may also be men that are introverted by nature--which does not mean that, if they were enmeshed in a lousy marriage that they would be better off.

The zinger though occurs at the end of the editorial when Brooks whips out the "poorer child" to conclude that, after all, these horrid single people with massive social capital, who are perhaps enjoying their lives, are somehow the cause of undue suffering of poor children.

And maybe it's these same single people that take in unwanted nieces and nephews, that volunteer with organizations that work with disadvantaged, "poorer children," or perform other civic-minded duties that actually help others.

And why might they do that? Because they have the time and they are not obligated. What they do comes from their hearts and their genuine desire to want to help others--which may be a trait that some single and talented people have in excess.

So, no Mr.Brooks, you will not make me, a single middle-aged, childless female, feel guilty for pursuing my talents (meager as they may be) and not marrying some poor man who needs me. We live in a society that is abundant in tools and technologies, and if single women can use them to create social capital, then I'm sure the Great White Male can learn to use them as well.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

White Boy Media Critics, Haute Mainstream Media, and Why We Won't Get Diverse Viewpoints Any TIme Soon

Last evening, Jay Rosen asked his friends on Facebook (of which I'm one) if he should comment on Shani Hilton's Where Are The Women And Non-White Media Critics? essay, where Jay's name and blog link (along with David Carr, Howard Kurtz, and a few others)appears. The first responses, from males, told Jay that the story was "link bait" and he shouldn't respond. I ventured in to say that Ms. Hilton made some very good points about the white male hegemony in "haute mainstream" media criticism, and that he might use any response as a way to open up a bit of dialogue on the subject...

That Jay hasn't left a comment yet doesn't really bother me--that's up to him to decide. What bothers me in the extreme is the outright dismissal by other white males that the essay was just link bait. Really? Would they have thought the same if it came from, say, David Carr, or perhaps Mathew Ingram over at GigaOm?

I doubt it. Because to most white males within the media industry, there is hardly any acknowledgement that there even needs to be any kind of different viewpoints other than those of the white males she mentions. After all, they are published in and appear on the haute mainstream media--those "newspapers of record" and high level television networks that everyone watches--because they are extremely accomplished.

As if there are women and minorities who aren't? As if someone like Elvis Mitchell or Xeni Jardin, the only two that come to mind, are the only two that on occasion make it into the haute mainstream (and then usually on PBS's News Hour or CBS's Sunday Morning.)

Many of the rebuttals of Ms. Hilton's column go on to mention women who are published at Poynter.or (I've been published at Poynter--google me to find my articles), or Columbia Journalism Review, or other academic journals. We might indeed receive *some* recognition for our criticism or analysis, but rarely do any of us go on to the haute mainstream.

And not for lack of trying or lack of intelligence either. Certainly not for lack of ambition either.

Why does the haute mainstream keep ignoring women and minorities? Well, let's take a peek at this interesting little roundtable discussion where Charlize Theron (condescendingly) tells Viola Davis that there's nothing wrong with her looks--when the point Viola Davis (and later George Clooney) is trying to make is that minorities are not adequately represented by Product Hollywood:

Theron's moronic comment is part of the problem: women oftentimes, with idiotic remarks that completely miss the point, end up working to bolster the white boy status quo. Theron certainly did not hear the exact point Davis made, and zoomed in on something that perhaps is her own issue--not feeling pretty enough at her age.

I applaud Davis's composure....

Clooney,goes further to point out the problems with Product Hollywood, which, IMO, are also part of the problems with Haute Mainstream Media: they are looking grab the eyeballs of the perceived Least Common Denominator, and for some reason feel that audiences simply won't be interested in viewpoints expressed by others who aren't White Boys.

When your purpose is to generate as much income (and let's face it, that's an issue for Haute Mainstream Media, too) from an attention-fractured audience, everything is going to be boiled down to the least offensive and the biggest demographic dollar. Which still seems to lie with males, 13 to 30 (or 18 to 34, depending on where one takes one's demographic info.)

Can anything be done to change this mess? Maybe. If some of the men featured in Haute Mainstream Media occasionally bring a woman or two forward at least for the occasional "guest appearance." Or perhaps some women should be a bit more crass and demanding of those in editorial positions in the Haute Mainstream....

I don't know. There is still much wailing and gnashing of teeth in the hallowed halls of Journalism Proper over loss of revenue and the decline of democracy that is occurring in Haute Mainstream Media for perhaps any significant changes to be made at this time. Maybe what we need is more dialogue to bring the fractured pieces together--but that sounds like a reactionary remedy and one not likely to make significant changes.

Perhaps at the moment there is no complete answer--just the incomplete one that comes when people like Shani Hilton notice that all's not well. When writers stop ringing those bells, we're definitely in big, big trouble.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Rick Perry Indugles in Political Asshattery--Blames Everyone But Catholics For Taking Prayer Out of Schools

As someone who still likes to wish people a Merry Christmas, and who, when asked, refers to herself as an "academic Catholic,"  and has lots of friends across a variety of denominations, not to mention someone who has gay family members and gay friends, I was horrifically offended by the following piece of  historically incorrect asshattery trotted out by Rick Perry:

Ok, so I guess Rick Perry is saying that I'm *not* a Christian. Perhaps he's right, if we think about our "religious heritage," the Lord's Prayer used to be said every morning in schools. But the version of the Lord's Prayer, or the Bible readings that sometimes accompanied it, were from the King James version of the Bible, a translation of the the Bible that is not only wholly Anglican Protestant, but has more to do with the political situation in the future Untied Kingdom than it does with Religion (see God's Secretaries by Adam Nicholson for clarification on that one.)

In fact, there were disputes about the use of the Bible in school classrooms dating back to the 1890's. For the majority of Americans who know so little about their own country's history, Roman Catholics were a religious minority which strenuously objected to the use of Protestant verses and prayers in public schools.

So, don't blame the atheists or liberals or Obama for taking prayer out of schools. Go ahead, blame the 19th Century Roman Catholics who felt it was a sin for their children to be forced to recite a Protestant version of the Lord's Prayer.  Go ahead.  It's putting the blame where it belongs, isn't it?

and for that matter, most Roman Catholics who support guys like Rick Perry because of his stand on gay rights and abortion, should be ordered to take a History of American Catholicism class and learn how the United States was never, ever, before the election of John F. Kennnedy, a welcoming haven for Roman Catholics.

In fact, I bet if you asked Mr. Perry, he might tell you that Roman Catholics aren't *real* Christians. Or that they worship the Pope. Or that they are "heathens" in some way....

Yes, we're not as outside the mainstream of American Protestant Christianity as, say the Mormons, but Roman Catholics aren't necessarily the same stripe of Christian as guys like Perry either.

If any group should be supporting liberal thinking, it's Roman Catholics, who should practice a whole lot of patience and tolerance and tend to their own gardens of faith rather than trying to insinuate themselves into that group of religious conservatives that might see eye to eye with them on abortion and gay rights, but will gladly sell out their religious freedom for the "right" to put Protestant-flavored prayers and values back into schools and homes.

I may not be much of a Catholic, but I'll be damned if anybody's going to judge me because I keep "idols" in my home and don't want to say a Protestant Lord's Prayer.

Like they used to.

Think about it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Debate: Women Journalists Bullied, Threatened with Violence, for Opinion Columns

Perhaps if Katie Roiphe were a journalist working online, she would have a better understanding of sexual harassment and wouldn't be asking "what on earth is that?" Because it seems that at the same time Roiphe was having a hissy over the allegations of sexual harassment against Republican candidate Herman Cain, some of here compatriots across the pond were dealing with some serious sexual harassment: bullying, and outright threats of sexual violence for blogging or writing opinions on topics considered sacrosanct by males (I won't refer to them as men because, frankly, their diatribes are very un-manly).

It started on November 3 with a column in the New Statesman by Helen Lewis Hasteley. In "You should have your tongue ripped out: the reality of sexual abuse online" Lewis Hasteley talked with nine female bloggers who detailed some of the abusive, misogynistic comments and the bloggers' reactions.

Most of what I read seemed all too familiar, and hearkened back to comments attacks on tech blogger Kathy Sierra in 2007 that lead to Sierra withdrawing from a keynote speaking engagement at a high level tech conference. I can't say, then, that I was shocked by the accounts in Lewis Hasteley's column. Rather, I was shocked by how this comment quoted by Lewis Hasteley appears to echo some of Roiphe's sentiments:
"Why is it that young females with three names and large hairdos are always haters of large, successful, popular producers, and always buy into every anti-capitalist myth produced by the government subsidized educational establishments? Are they (three-named females with large hair) really the most naive among us, or the most envious of success?" might paraphrase what Roiphe said in her column to echo the above sentiment thusly "why is it that every woman of any reasonable attractiveness buys into the vague descriptions of sexual harassment produced by liberal thinkers? are they really the most naive among us, or do they not get that the guys are just joking?"

Maybe Roiphe should spend some time with Laurie Penny, who penned this poignant column detailing harassment she has received, and stated a clear, compelling reason why it needs to be ended:
"I believe the time for silence is over. If we want to build a truly fair and vibrant community of political debate and social exchange, online and offline, it's not enough to ignore harassment of women, LGBT people or people of colour who dare to have opinions. Free speech means being free to use technology and participate in public life without fear of abuse – and if the only people who can do so are white, straight men, the Internet is not as free as we'd like to believe."

Now, I can't say that the women who claim that Cain harassed them are making valid nor false claims. Yes, there's the "how many years does it take" question, the fact that Cain is running for the Republican nomination (which seems to bring out all the crazies with any kind of complaint) and the fact that high powered celebrity attorney Gloria Allred is representing at least one of the accusers that makes me raise a hairy eyebrow at these particular allegations. People are funny, and there are some who believe that the best time to say something about someone's behavior is when that person becomes a public figure. Which seems totally odd to me, but, hey, I have scruples....

That doesn't mean that sexual harassment doesn't happen, and it certainly happens in spades on the Internet.

In The Guardian, Vanessa Thorpe and Richard Rogers added their voices to the call to halt the bullying, intimidation, violent threats and such that are all forms of sexual harassment leveled against women journalists who voice their opinions. Thorpe and Rogers talked to Lanre Bakare who monitors comments at the Guardian, and attests to how even an article on European finance, with no mention of women's opinions, will bring out the misogynist in some men. Yet it is psychotherapist, psychoanalyst and writer Susie Orbach who calls the spades of sexually bullying comments the crude shovels that they are:
"The deeper question is the disenfranchisement of men who find themselves in such depraved circumstances that all they can do is expel the fury that's inside of them on to women. The reaction these men are having shows they are very, very threatened by something and that threat is to their masculinity.

"With sexual violence, what the victim is receiving is the self-hatred of the individual who is expressing that pain and upset that is inside of them in a very explosive manner."

And that's what it always comes down to: the guys who do this kind of thing, whether it be a comment on a woman's "tits," a grope in the back of a limo, or an horrific scenario spelled out in an online comment, it all comes from a kind of small man syndrome where a man's masculinity is somehow threatened by how a woman looks, what she says, or what she does for a living. I'm sorry for the guys who feel this way, that they are so threatened by women who think, but we shouldn't have to suck it up and shrink back to our little desks in corner cubbies. Nor should we try to beat them at their own sleazy game. The latter is a strategy that never, ever wins a woman any respect, and the former is no strategy at all.

And women need to stop being one another's worst enemies. For Roiphe, rather than berating women for who level sexual harassment complaints based on vague criteria, perhaps a better cause would be served to support women who are genuinely sexually harassed, bullied, threatened with violence or otherwise intimidated. Rather than weigh in on a cause celebre that will be well nigh meaningless by the time the next Presidential Election rolls around, perhaps do something to create a more clear and concise model of what is most certainly not appropriate and that no woman should have to tolerate. And if women like Roiphe don't care for the company or for supporting the voices of other intelligent women, then work with those small men to put their egos in check and just accept they ain't never gonna be the alpha dogs in the lot, no matter how much they intimidate women.

Think about it.