We, The Bloodthirsty

Read this now. It’s a brilliant, powerful, shocking piece by Italian freelance journalist Francesca Borri under the somewhat misleading title, “Woman’s Work.” She briefly addresses her gender head-on, but it’s the media establishment at large that is truly damned.

See, it’s not just Aleppo that’s “all gunpowder and testosterone.” It’s the newsrooms.

Earlier this year, I strongly considered going into journalism. I already spent a year in Afghanistan and speak one local language fluently, the other enough to break the ice. I thought perhaps I could use that to build connections and bring their stories to the world. When I started pitching story ideas to traditional outlets, I realized that my background was more interesting only if I were willing to throw my former employer under the bus or use my skills to uncover some sort of scandal. Apparently, where people put themselves at risk to do good, there’s no “story.”

I admire those who put their lives at risk, as Borri does, regularly, for almost no pay. But for every much-lauded story of a journalist (male, almost always) who grows a beard and embeds with an Afghan National Army unit or dresses up like the Taliban or rides a motorcycle across the desert, there are dozens of positive stories that are intentionally overlooked by newsrooms consumed by bloodlust, like the editor who asked Borri to live-Tweet her captivity. We need to make space for thoughtful young Afghan men and women telling their own stories. We need to make space for other truths.

My Afghan friends are frustrated by the stories foreign journalists empower. Those stories feed back into the local media and influence the way people think. If the Taliban are just going to win anyway, why should any Afghan stick around? If the only stories you read are of terror and failure, then it is hard to picture any other reality. In describing only suffering, we in fact perpetuate it.

That is not to knock what Borri and others do. Millions of people are huddled there, in that “dark, rancid corner,” begging the world to do something. Here’s one thing we can do: Instead of empowering only narratives of death and destruction, we can hold hands with a Syrian refugee, buy soccer balls from a Pakistani child, choose to read stories about people making a difference.

We can dare to live and love and speak our truth, even in a world that is “no place for a woman.”

Multimedia Musts: Don’t give up edition

The biggest line from this story on office romances has nothing to do with love and everything to do with the female response to trouble at work:

“And if I had to work harder to prove that my love life wasn’t impacting my work life?” she asked. “Well, so be it. Working harder isn’t the worst thing that can happen.”

Um, ladies? Exactly how much harder do we think we can work?

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Speaking of people who work for free, I watched this video of Daily Beast/Newsweek editor-in-chief Tina Brown so I could hear her say, “We don’t have respect for content anymore.” But before getting, there, she made an elegant case for letting go of the idea of “having it all.” Worth a listen.

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The brave team at Women Under Siege has released some new data. I can’t summarize it better than director Lauren Wolfe’s Atlantic headline: “Syria Has a Massive Rape Crisis.” Thank God somebody cares.

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In more encouraging news, Kate Walsh joins a growing list of actresses (see last month’s NYT Mag profile of Connie Britton) who confess they have been happier and more successful after 35 than before. Sure, they’re actresses. But the barriers they’ve broken are no less real, and I find their continued commitment to their passion incredibly inspiring.

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If you’re not a member of Levo League, it’s probably time to join. Their mission is spot-on! You might have missed today’s hilarious and encouraging “Office Hours” with Sheryl Sandberg, but you can catch the video at that link. There’s a bonus at the end: a funny, inspiring ad launching their next initiative: www.levoleague.com/ask4more, showing all the ways we currently settle for less.

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I get asked sometimes what all these issues – rape, civil war, and asking for a raise – really have to do with each other. This story from Tbilisi, Georgia by Tara Isabella Burton unintentionally proves my point. The story of a woman trying to get out from under her husband’s abusive hand is a rich reminder of why economic empowerment is so critical for women’s empowerment in every other sphere. It’s also noisy, evocative, and lyrical, a work of literary art in its own right. Well worth our time.