Archive of ‘Rants’ category
(This photo has absolutely nothing to do with the post.)
Over the past few months, I’ve been noticing an increasing level of controversy in the blogosphere (oh, how I hate that word) surrounding the issue of blogging for money. Bangs and a Bun and A Thrifty Mrs have both addressed the topic this week, and I’ve found myself wholeheartedly agreeing with what they’ve had to say, and specifically, with this:
Amen to that, sister.
And yet, this attitude that Muireann talks about is one that comes up again and again. I’ve read SO many negative comments about pro-bloggers now, ranging from the sneeringly contemptuous “People actually think they can make a living out of blogging? How sad!” to the oft-repeated view that blogging should only ever be a hobby, and that those who turn it into a career are somehow “selling out” or letting the side down. “I blog for MYSELF!” these people cry, proudly. “I would NEVER try to make money from my blog!”
Well, I blog for myself too: this site, for instance, doesn’t carry any advertising, and therefore doesn’t make me a penny. But I also blog for money: Shoeperwoman, The Fashion Police and Hey, Dollface! are all commercial blogs, which were set up as business concerns, with the sole aim of making money. And they do make money. Not a huge amount of it, granted – I’m not going to be selling up and moving to the Caribbean any time soon – but enough for me to have been able to make blogging my career, and the sole source of my income. This makes me something of a pariah in certain sectors of the blogging community, but I have absolutely no shame about the way I choose to earn my living, and here’s why:
When I first started blogging, back in 2006, I had absolutely no idea that it was something I could hope to make a living out of. I was a freelance journalist at the time, and Forever Amber was just a natural extension of the Livejournal I’d kept for years at that point – and, I guess, of the dozens of paper journals I’d faithfully recorded my life in from the age of 11 onwards. (I still have them. I can’t read them without wanting to go back in time and slap my younger self.)
(This photo has nothing to do with the post either.)
It didn’t occur to me that I could make money out of blogging until I started freelancing for Shiny Media in 2007. And when the penny finally dropped that hey, some people were actually making money out of writing about shoes and dresses, and that it may as well be me, it didn’t occur to me that there was anything controversial about that. It still doesn’t, if I’m honest. All I thought was that if there was an opportunity for me to make a living out of doing something I loved, I was sure as hell going to take it.
I would challenge anyone presented with that opportunity to turn their back on it. Isn’t that the dream, after all? That you find a way to turn a hobby into a career, and no longer have to dread Monday mornings, or stand in the shower wishing you could vanish down the plughole instead of going into work? It was for me. It was MY dream. (Turning a hobby into a career, I mean, not blogging specifically. When I was a kid, I didn’t go around saying, “When I grow up I want there to be a thing called The Internet and I want to write words about shoes on it. We will call it “blogging”.) I just hadn’t found a way to make it happen yet, and when I finally did, I jumped on it. And I would do it again.
When I set up my commerical blogs, I made no bones about the fact that I was hoping to make some money from them. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy writing for them, or that I’m not passionate about the subject matters those sites cover, because I do, and I am. The reason I chose to create blogs about fashion, shoes and makeup was because I’m interested – sometimes to the point of obsession – in those subjects, and I believed I’d do a better job writing about something I genuinely loved. As corny as it might sound, Terry’s illness had been a bit of a “come to Jesus” moment for me. It had made me realise that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life commuting to a temperature-controlled office every day to do something I didn’t enjoy. We all have to earn a living somehow, but I wanted to earn mine doing something that didn’t feel like a chore to me: blogging was that thing, and it came along at exactly the right time. I will be forever grateful for that.
(Neither does this one. Although I did receive those shoes from a PR company. Sellout!)
Again, I didn’t think for a second that I was “selling out” by creating those sites, or that there was anything even remotely controversial about them. In fact, I viewed them in the same way someone else might view a startup magazine or newspaper. No one tells a newspaper journalist or a feature writer on a fashion magazine that they should write purely “for themselves”, and that taking a salary every month makes them a dirty rotten sellout. In fact, I don’t think there are ANY professions where it’s considered the norm for people to work for nothing, and if there are, I don’t want any part of them. I have to pay the bills somehow, after all. And, you know, buy the shoes.
Of course, one of the main objections to blogging for bucks is the idea that if you’re making money from your blog, you can’t possibly be trusted. So, basically, no one who has adverts on their blog is ever telling the truth. No one who receives a product sample to review is ever able to review it honestly: they just say nice things in order to keep the freebies coming. And, you know, I’m sure there are bloggers like that (Although quite why you’d write a glowing review of a product you hated just so you could get even MORE of the products you hate is beyond me.) We’re not ALL like that, though. It is possibly to blog with integrity AND get paid for it. It’s possible to tell a PR person that sure, they can send over that product (IF it’s something that’s going to be of interest to the readers of the blog), but that you may not choose to review it, and if you do, you’ll do so honestly. If they’re a professional firm, that’s exactly what they’ll expect, anyway.
For me, one of the best things about blogging is that it can be anything you want it to be. If you want it to be a purely creative outlet, then it can. If you want it to be a way to record your life, and to share it with your family and friends, then it can be that, too. And if you want to try and turn it into a career, there’s really nothing stopping you. So if you want to blog purely for yourself, and you have no interest in making money from it then that’s absolutely fine and no one will think any the less of you. As for me, though, I’m going to continue doing my best to make a living out of something I love.
Edited to add: Thanks for all your comments on this, everyone! I just wanted to make it clear that this post wasn’t about criticism I’ve received personally - it was just in response to the various comments I read about pro-blogging in general, which obviously strike a chord with me because it’s what I do!
I wrote a massive, 2000 word rant about this yesterday morning, just to get it all out of my head, but what it basically boils down to is this:
The hosts of the site which had stolen 500 of my posts removed it on Friday night.
Not without a fight, and not before they’d recommended we hire a lawyer (AGAIN) to have it removed, but they finally, albeit reluctantly, agreed to take it down.
Oh, and they ALSO took down the OTHER site we found on Friday, which:
- was ALSO registered to Lin Shuideng.
- was ALSO hosted by the same US company which was hosting the first site.
- ALSO contained around 500 of my posts, copied and pasted in their entirety, complete with images and watermarks. In fact, it was the SAME 500 posts the first site had stolen.
I don’t get much luck with this kind of thing, do I?
Oh, and Lin Shuideng? Had around 300 domains. As far as we can tell, they were ALL hosting stolen material. This person wasn’t just ripping off me, he/she was ripping off HUNDREDS of people. So if the hosts had stuck to their guns, they would have required a possible 300 people to hire 300 lawyers, to file 300 pieces of paperwork, to stop ONE PERSON BLATANTLY breaking the law.
Because that would be fair.
In the end, the hosts DIDN’T remove Lin Shuideng’s hosting account because of the theft of copyrighted work. No, they said they’d found mysterious “other issues” with it, which had forced them to remove it. I’m not sure what could be worse, in hosting terms, than stealing from 300 people, but whatever it was, it got them to take down the two sites that were ripping me off, to my great relief.
I say “relief”. To be honest, I’m still mad as hell about all of this. And not just because yet another working day was lost, spent fighting an intellectual property thief, rather than doing the work I’m so far behind with, but because I don’t feel justice can really be said to have been done here. Sure, Lin Shuideng will have woken up the next morning to find that his/her illegal websites had all vanished into the ether, and that must’ve been a bit of a bummer. But… that’s it. There are no other consequences for this person, who will surely just start again on another host. Three hundred illegal websites is not a small thing. It is not an insignificant thing (not in a business sense, anyway). It is large-scale theft, and yet it will go totally unpunished, and there will be absolutely nothing to prevent this person going on to do exactly the same thing again.
That’s the way it is, though. If someone steals your physical property, the law will protect you for free. If someone steals your intellectual property, the law will extract a large sum of money from you in order to protect you. If you don’t want to, or can’t afford to pay, the criminal will be allowed to go on breaking the law, and that’s not fair.
We’re now waiting for Lin Shuideng (or the NEXT Lin Shuideng) to pop up somewhere else, stealing more of our content. It was Shoeperwoman.com this time, but next time it could be TheFashionPolice.net, or it could be this site. Or it could be YOUR site. Isn’t that a worrying thought?
When I wrote my post rounding up all of the people who’ve been caught imitating me, or otherwise rippping me off online, I honestly thought that would be the last post I’d write on the subject. Surely there’s a limit to how often one person can be relentlessly copied, I thought, and surely – SURELY – that limit has been well and truly reached in my case?
This morning the trusty Google Alert I set up a couple of weeks ago for the express purpose of catching people in acts of McNaughtiness threw up this site:
As you can see, the site is called ‘Discount Shoes’. It has nothing to do with me. Oh, other than the fact that I wrote every single one of the almost 500 posts on it. And even appear on it in person multiple times: that’s my little head you can see in the photo there.
This is me too:
This is TWO of me:
Not even my dog managed to avoid having his image plastered over the ‘Discount Shoes’ website:
Not only have all of these personal photos of me (and many, many more) been used illegally, all of the text on the site was written by me. There are almost 500 posts, and I wrote every single one of them. In fact, there isn’t a single post on ‘Discount Shoes’ that WASN’T written by me. As well as my own photos, some of them contain celebrity images which I paid my image agency for, and which are licensed for my use only: they have also been reproduced illegally. This is quite apart from the fact that, as a professional writer who makes a living out of blogging, I do NOT spend my time writing these posts so that other people can use them for free.
Quite apart from being staggeringly cheeky and very annoying, this does have potential implications for my business, too. As many of you know, Google likes websites to contain only original content, and it can and does impose penalties for duplicate content. Unfortunately those penalties don’t always apply only to the site doing the copying, either, so the fact that there is now a duplicate of around 500 of my posts on another website is cause for concern. It also means that people who search Google for the information I’ve written about have a chance (albeit a slim one) of finding the impostor site rather than mine, thus losing me traffic. (This is the reason I use partial feeds on most of my blogs. I know readers hate me for it, but it does stop content scrapers from doing this kind of thing, as they normally use the RSS feed to steal the content. In this case they’ve obviously gone about it some other way, because Shoeperwoman doesn’t publish full feeds, and these people have still managed to comprehensively rip me off.) To be honest, I’m actually wondering if this is the reason it’s been done: there are no adverts or anything on the copycat site, so there doesn’t seem to be any benefit to the thief, unless it is purely malicious. Someone also suggested on Twitter that the person could be doing it for SEO reasons, if they intend to set up a discount shoe store at some point: I guess that could also be a possibility.
As you can see from the “Shoeperwoman.com” watermarks on the images, they’ve all been taken directly from there. This is why every time someone tells me that all I need to do to prevent this kind of thing happening is to watermark my images, I just laugh and wish it was that simple. Watermarking images doesn’t stop people stealing them, as you can see. Right-click disable doesn’t stop it either (and also has a lot of negative implications for your site in general). Placing copyright and trademark notices on your site (Shoeperwoman.com has both) doesn’t stop it. If people want to rip you off, they will do it, and your only option will be to fight them.
I’m now at the point where I’m absolutely exhausted by this, and sick to my stomach about it. I feel like no sooner do I manage to get rid of one copycat, another one pops up. Both Terry and I are spending more and more of our time now just fighting people who want to copy me. That’s just ridiculous, not to mention time-consuming and expensive. When I mentioned this latest issue on Twitter, lots of people suggested suing the person responsible, or sending a lawyer’s letter. Having just engaged a lawyer to deal with the last issue we had with copyright/trademarks, I now know exactly how expensive both of these options are, and it is a cost that we just can’t afford to keep incurring. At the rate this is happening right now, I would be suing people or sending cease and desist letters every single month, and I would be bankrupt by the end of the summer.
To answer the questions that always come up about this:
1. Shoeperwoman.com has copyright and trademark notices on every page of the site – the copyright and trademark symbols also appear in the header. Our experience is that these don’t make the slightest difference to people who want to copy the site.
2. All of the photos taken by me have watermarks on them: you can see some of them in the images above. Again, this doesn’t make any difference whatsoever. Some of the time the image thiefs crop the watermarks out, other times they just blatantly leave them there. I’m now convinced that all watermarking does is take up a few seconds of MY time creating them.
3. Right-click disable doesn’t stop people stealing. It’s almost worse than useless, and can damage your site in other ways.
The one good thing about this is that Terry and I now have so much experience in dealing with this kind of situation that we’re able to swing into action when it happens and have the sites removed, and we’re just about to begin the process with this latest copycat – a process which may be a little more difficult in this case as the person appears to be based in China. The point is, though, that we shouldn’t have to. I shouldn’t have to YET AGAIN be having to divert my time from all of the many, many things I have to do right now, and start fighting someone who is breaking the law. I’m furious that I’m YET AGAIN being put in this position by someone else’s stupidity. I’m also furious that when it comes to theft of intellectual property, justice is something that is only available to the rich. As I said, I can’t afford to sue every single person who tries to rip me off. All I can do is keep on and on fighting them… and keep on and on blogging about it when it happens.
Finally, the domain this latest copycat site is hosted on is registered to one Lin Shuideng. Lin, there’s no way for me to contact you via your website, and you’ve closed comments, so if you happen to read this: you’ve stolen around 500 blog posts and at least 1,000 images that don’t belong to you. My contact details are on this site: I’d love to discuss this with you in person.
Those of you who follow me on Twitter are probably already aware of my current battle with a UK-based company who have set up two websites using the name “Shoeperwoman”, which is the name of my shoe blog, and which I’ve been using on the site itself and around the web, for the past two years. Not only is this company using my name on their websites, Facebook and Twitter account, they are also in the process of trying to register the trademark “Shoeperwoman”, which would mean that I would no longer be able to use it, effectively putting an end to two years of hard work and a large part of my income.
I’m not going to say much more about this here, but I’ve written a lengthy post over at Shoeperwoman (er, MY Shoeperwoman, I mean. The original one.), if you would like to read it. I’m posting this here in a bid to publicise this issue – obviously if this can happen to me, it can happen to anyone with a blog, and I would really, really appreciate any support in the form of links to the post, re-tweets etc. Click here to read it.
I think that’s almost every aspect of my self and Internet presence been copied or stolen by someone now. I’m thinking of pitching my own reality TV show: Forever Amber: the most imitated woman in the UK…
Remember last year, when Royal Fail held about 15 of my parcels hostage and refused to allow me to collect them?
And took six weeks to deliver some of them?
And LOST one of them?
I thought it couldn’t get much worse than that. I thought that once the snow melted (Which it did, well over a month ago) and their main excuse for failing so miserably at their one and only function as a business was gone, the Fail would return to their usual, albeit pretty poor, standard of service, and I would have at least SOME hope of being able to send and receive mail.
I was wrong. Oh, was I wrong.
This year I’ve sent a total of two packages through Royal Mail.
They’ve lost both of them.
No, really: they have actually managed to lose every single item of mail I’ve given them this year, and sure, I know it’s only two items, but even so, that’s a 100% failure rate, and coming on top of the December of Disaster we’ve just gone through, during which sending or receiving an item through Royal Mail involved a leap of faith so large that it was like jumping out of a plane without a parachute and just hoping you’d somehow survive, I am BEYOND furious right now. Obviously I can and will claim for compensation for the missing parcels, but I’m led to believe that this can be a lengthy process, with no guarantee of success (and one of the items was sent to the States, which Fail are very unlikely to compensate me for, as they’ll say it might have been lost once it was out of their hands. I’m prepared to concede the possibility of that happening, but let’s face it: given the Fail’s track record here, we don’t need Sherlock Holmes to tell us whodunnit here, do we? Forgive my skepticism, Fail, but given that you’ve failed so badly at everything else recently, why would I think you got it right this time, and whoops, the dog ate your homework! A big boy did it and ran away! It wasn’t yoooooooo!) and meanwhile I’m out of pocket for the items that are lost. Awesome.
What the HELL are Royal Mail actually doing, I wonder? I know they’re not delivering mail – or at least, not MY mail – so seriously: what are they doing? And how is it even legal for them to be doing whatever-the-hell-it-is, given that they describe themselves as a mail delivery company? At this point I actually feel like they’re just getting money for nothing: oh, they say they’ll deliver mail for you, but will they actually do it? Not in my experience. And really, when every single item I send gets lost, and every single item I order takes a very long time to arrive (this year all of our parcel deliveries have been taking much longer than they used to. Up until December, we used to be able to order something online and, if it was delivered by Fail, it would generally be there within 3 days. Now? At least two weeks. Very occasionally less than that, but for the most part, at least two weeks.), I find myself wondering what point there is of ever using this shoddy excuse for a “service” ever again.
I can’t think of one. I honestly can’t think of a single reason to ever trust Royal Mail again. The fact is, they don’t deliver. Literally. They just take my money and my package and… that’s it. I don’t know what they do with them, but the main point is that they don’t do what I’m paying them to do. It seems to me that sending something through Royal Mail these days is an act of blind faith. They may deliver it, they may not. They won’t care either way, so why take the chance?
Oh yeah: because there’s really not that much of an option, other than paying for courier companies, which could prove expensive. From now on, though, I’m going to be doing everything I possibly can to avoid having to use them for anything, because honestly, it’s just so much easier to simply take my money and set it on fire.
What are you doing with my mail, Fail? I would really, really love to know…
Posted on November 16th, just turned up this morning, without so much as an “Oh, hey, sorry we’ve been holding your mail hostage for the past two months!” (And yes, it was posted in Canada, but as soon as it gets to the UK, it goes into the hands of the Royal Fail, who have had it ever since.)
What have Royal Mail been doing? I mean, this parcel was posted two weeks before the snow even started! In NOVEMBER! And you know what else? Royal Fail aren’t even doing Sunday deliveries or anything in our area right now to catch up with the backlog. Here’s a quick multiple choice for you:
You are running a business. You suddenly realise that you are two months behind with your work. Do you:
a) Do something, anything, to try and catch back up again.
b) Do absolutely nothing. Lalalalala! People can just wait for their stuff! Who the hell cares? Ooh, is that a bag of Cheetos?
Guess which option the Fail have apparently gone for?
Still, I’m now wondering if this means there’s hope for the coat I won on eBay in November, which never turned up? Or the … whisper it… ASOS dress I’ve been waiting two weeks for? Please let there be hope. I really liked that coat…
(Dress: Pinup Couture; Shoes: Faith. I’m not going anywhere so I figured I may as well dress for dinner...)
You see this dress, readers? This dress is a hero.
I ordered it one Monday afternoon, from a company based in LA. It arrived first thing the following Wednesday morning – in fact, it got us out of bed. I like to think that the moment my order was received, the dress jumped off the shelves and took off down the highway, dodging all obstacles in its path and leaping buildings in a single bound in order to get to the airport, where it hopped onto the first available flight to the UK, in order to be with me.
Like I said: a hero.
This dress crossed the United States, and then crossed the Atlantic Ocean, in less than 48 hours. Royal Mail, meanwhile, have had my packages for seven days now, and have been unable to transport them the two miles from their sorting office to my house. Two miles, people. Seven days. What’s more, when I called them this morning they said they have “absolutely no idea” when they’ll be able to deliver these packages, and that they’re not even going to try for the time being.
I’m not getting any of my parcels before I go on holiday, folks. They as good as guaranteed that. Given that many of those parcels were things I’d bought specifically FOR the holiday, that kind of sucks.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re all “Two miles?!” surely you could get off your lazy ass and walk it to collect the stuff if you want it that badly?”
You’re right. I could. And I absolutely would, no problem. But when I presented this idea to the Royal Mail, they stopped me in my tracks. I can’t collect the parcels, they said, because they haven’t even sorted them into areas. “See, we have a few hundred parcels here right now,” said the man I spoke to. “And they’re all jumbled up. We don’t even have them sorted into different areas, so it would take hours to go through them all to find even one of them.”
(I offered to go down and do this myself. They wouldn’t let me. At this point the most frustrating thing isn’t the fact that the mail can’t be delivered: it’s the fact that my stuff is sitting in an office just a couple of miles away, but I can’t get access to it.)
(Can we call them the Royal Fail now, or would that just be too much, do you think?)
I did, however, manage to get two of my parcels today, but only because of my other hero: Terry. These were parcels which were with courier companies in Edinburgh. Somehow they’d both managed to make it all the way up the country, through those great “snowfields of England” as Sky News now persist in calling them, and to the Edinburgh delivery office. After that, though, they apparently dropped off the face of the earth, because not only did those offices not deliver the packages, they didn’t even bother to update the tracking page to tell us they wouldn’t be delivering. Terry finally managed to get hold of someone on the phone this morning, and was told they wouldn’t even be attempting to come into our town because it was “too snowy”. So he jumped into the car, and drove out there and back himself. Yes, through the OMGSNOW. It took him exactly the same amount of time it always takes to get there. Isn’t that amazing?
So Terry, you’re my hero. You and my green dress.
OK, that’s it, I’m DONE with eBay. DONE. Finished. Over. I know I’ve said this before, but seriously, this time I mean it. More than I did last time, obviously. It’s not even because of the foot fetishists, either. Well, not just because of the foot fetishists. Last week, you see, I sold five items on EBay. Of those five:
1. Three sold for about £0.99 each, which is less than the cost of the fuel I use driving to the post office and back. Yes, I know it’s my own fault, and I should have given them higher starting prices, but I’d already tried that, and although each item had lots of watchers, none of them bid, so I figured this time round I’d start off low and hope all those watchers would be tempted into participating in a bidding war. They didn’t, so between the listing fees, plus the time it took me to photograph the items, write the listings, answer various dumb questions (“What brand is the Topshop dress you’re selling?”), package them up, then head to the post office with them, I made a loss.
2. One person just didn’t bother to pay me, and when I looked at her account a few days later she was “no longer a registered user” and had multiple comments from sellers all saying “This is the worst bidder in the history of the world!” and “This person is Satan himself!” The thing is, though, because eBay no longer allows sellers to leave negative feedback, all of these comments were marked as POSITIVE, so I’d simply looked at the 100% positive rating, and hadn’t realised that every single one of those “positives” was actually a big fat NEGATIVE. Again, yes, I know this is my fault, but even so people, even so.
3. The one item that did sell for a decent price sold to someone who didn’t bother to pay me, or contact me in any way for four days. At the end of that time, when I finally cracked and sent her an email saying, “Look, are you actually intending to pay for this?” she was all, “Oops, sorry, I actually only intended to bid £5.50, I’m not prepared to pay £32 for it!” I’d maybe have believed her, too, if her bid hadn’t been placed when the item was already at £28.50. Sigh. (And when was she planning on contacting me to let me know about the “mistake”? My guess would be “never”.)
4. Having realised that the idiot in number three had no intention of paying me, I reported her to eBay, and sent a Second Chance Offer to the underbidder. It expired 12 hours later without the person accepting it, so I decided it was time to accept defeat. Then, two hours later, I got an email from said underbidder saying, “Hi, thanks for the Second Chance Offer! I’ve bought and paid for the item now!” HUH? But I thought it had ended unsold? I went back and checked eBay. Yup, sure enough, the item had not been purchased. I checked Paypal: no payment. So I emailed the bidder and politely explained that she must be mistaken, and… she emailed me back and tried to insist that yes, she had paid and I must send her the item, even although I hadn’t been paid for it. Funnily enough, when I finally managed to get her to agree that she hadn’t paid for it, and pointed out that if she wanted it, it had been relisted as Buy It Now, she declined to purchase. I think she was just trying to get me to send her it for free. I hate people.
5. FOOT. FETISHISTS.
So, at the time of writing, eBay has cost me more than I’ve made from it this month, and I’d actually be better off if I’d just taken my old clothes and shoes to the charity shop rather than thinking, “Hey, these are all practically unworn, let’s give eBay one more shot, shall we?” This is all particularly annoying to me, because any time I decide to buy something on eBay, it always sells for a fortune: almost always more than you’d actually pay for it new. There’s always a bidding war involving twenty different people, all hell-bent on securing the precious, precious item, and you’d think it was the freaking Mona Lisa we were bidding on, rather than someone’s secondhand dress. I, on the other had, could actually HAVE the Mona Lisa to sell, and I’d be lucky to get 25p for it. Even then, the winning bidder would take three weeks to pay me, and then ask me if I’d consider throwing in a photo of my feet for free.
In conclusion: I’m done. Oh, I’ll probably continue to buy secondhand dresses at vastly inflated prices, but never, ever again will I waste one more second of my time, or penny from my back account, on selling there – at least, not until they introduce the ability for sellers to deliver giant, virtual slaps to their buyers. Until then, if you ever see me on Twitter talking about the possibility of selling something on eBay, please feel free to give ME a giant virtual slap. I will deserve it.
I try my best not to read the Daily Mail – or the Daily Fail, as I like to think of it. Inevitably, any time I follow a link there by mistake, I end up on the site for an hour, clicking from one hideous story to the next and ranting and raving to anyone who will listen about the sheer idiocy that’s generally displayed over there in such great levels. It makes me sad for humanity, it really does.
The link I followed to the Fail today (sent to me by reader Maayam) was no different: I ranted about it until Terry finally got up and went to the gym just to get away from me, but this time I wasn’t ranting about the poor journalism or the “lobotomised at birth” standard of the comments. This time I was ranting purely about the story itself, the title of which is “Terrified girl, 12, dyes ginger hair blonde after receiving death threats from schoolmates“.
I make no apologies, then, for linking to the Daily Mail just this once. This story really saddens me. It goes on to explain that the girl in question (Who, by the way, has beautiful hair, but even if she didn’t, wouldn’t deserve death threats over it) has actually been withdrawn from the school in question, who apparently refused to take the parents’ complains seriously, and is being homeschooled by her father. I’m not sure how much effort the Fail went to in order to coax a response from the school, but all they seem to have said is “Meh, bring the ginger in and we’ll talk about it.”
I was bullied myself at school, although NOT because of the colour of my hair, so I know how serious it can be, and how much of an impact it can have on a child. For me, it changed me from a happy-go-lucky, confident child who really didn’t have a care in the world, into a nervous wreck who jumped at her own shadow and had to be driven to school so I could wait in the car until the exact second the bell rung, and not have to risk spending even a minute in the playground with my contemporaries. As an adult, I still cringe when I walk past groups of children or young teens. I still expect to hear jeers and insults (and sometimes I do), and when I’m with a group of females I don’t know (because it’s always the women, isn’t it?) I’ll frequently get that sinking feeling that they’re just waiting for me to go to the bathroom so they can start bitching about me.
This is the legacy of childhood bullying, and let me be clear: I got off lightly. This poor girl is apparently too frightened to leave her house, and it doesn’t sound like she’s had the kind of experience you get over quickly. There is one positive in this, however. I finished the article, and steeled myself to read the accompanying comments, expecting the usual rash of “But gingers DO deserve to die!” nonsense from the Fail readers. This time, though, they surprised me, and I found myself nodding in agreement at the person who said:
“If she’d been teased because she was non-white the place would have been swarming with lawyers, police and politicians within hours.”
Very true. But of course, because the girl is “only” receiving death threats over her hair (and as we all know, it’s perfectly acceptable to hate “gingers” anyway), no one wants to know. So very sad, and I can only hope Nicole Nagington one day comes to realise how beautiful she is, and how pathetic are the people who want to bring her down.
As a counterpoint to this story, however, I present this article about how Kate Moss has – wait for it – lines on her face, OMG THE HORROR! I mean, can you even IMAGINE a 36-year-old having LINES on her face? And OK, let’s be honest: it’s true that Kate has clearly done her share of drugs in her time. In fact, Kate’s probably done everyone ELSE’S share of drugs in her time, too. But actually, Daily Fail, not many people manage to age without getting at least a few lines, and it seems a little hypocritical to me to publish one article commenting on how awful it is that someone is being bullied because of their natural appearance, and then turn around and effectively bully another person because of theirs. Women in their thirties get lines on their faces. They do. So do men. It comes to us all. I’ve never taken coke in my life (other than the brown, bubbly stuff, obviously), am younger than Kate Moss and I STILL have lines on my forehead. It’s called “not being 15 any more”. (It’s also called “Screwing up your face every time you’re in direct sunlight, because you’re stupid.”)
I’d also love to know what the Fail and its readers would like Kate Moss to DO about the lines on her forehead. She could get Botox, of course, but I absolutely guarantee that if she did, the Daily Mail would be one of the first to write an article saying, “OMG, Kate Moss has had Botox, can you even BELIEVE it?” and she’d be called “plastic” and “fake” and God knows what else. So Kate can’t win. Women in general can’t win. And no one who’s ever read the Daily Mail is in the least bit surprised by this…
So, yesterday morning I was sitting at my desk, working away when there was a knock on the door. It was the postman, and the postman was delivering one of those cards that say, “Oh, hey, we have a mystery package for you, but the person who sent it didn’t bother to pay the correct postage, so you’ll have to drive all the way to the sorting office, cough up the dough, and then find out what it is!”
(Aside: why do Royal Mail do this? I mean, why not just BRING ME THE FREAKING PARCEL, and allow me to pay for it right then and there, when I have the chance to, you know, LOOK AT IT and decide whether it’s something I want to pay money to receive? Wouldn’t that be easier than the postman coming to my door with a card (a waste of paper, and the earth’s precious natural resources!), then me getting into my car and driving to the sorting office (a waste of fuel! And time!) to ask ANOTHER member of Royal Mail staff (a waste of manpower!) to rummage through the mail, and find the parcel? It’s not like they’re not in the business of delivering mail ANYWAY, after all. It’s not like they’d have to sit scratching their heads for hours, thinking, “Oh my, how on earth will we accomplish the task of transporting this package to someone’s door?” Or, OK, given how much they struggle at this sometimes, maybe they would…)
Anyway, I got this card, and immediately I was torn. My natural curiosity, and, indeed, greed, made me desperate to know what was in the mystery package (What if Christian Louboutin had suddenly decided to just randomly start sending me shoes, like he did in that dream that one time?), but my natural laziness/stinginess made me reluctant to haul ass aaaaallll the way to the sorting office (I realise I’m making the sorting office sound like it’s in outer Siberia here. It’s actually just a few miles down the road, but, you know, lazy.), just in case the Mystery Package turned out to be something not worth paying £1.10 for. It was a difficult decision, but in the end, curiosity won out, so this afternoon I made the arduous journey and presented myself at the sorting office counter clutching a shiny £1 coin and a 10p piece which I’d stolen from Terry the day before.
The first clue that all was not as it should be came when, rather than disappearing into the other room and returning bent double under the weight of a hefty package, the Sorting Office Man simply reached under the counter and produced an envelope.
Can’t really fit shoes in an envelope, can you? “OK,” I thought doubtfully, “Maybe it’s just stuffed full of cash. Cash works for me too!” I stared at the envelope. It stared back at me, blankly. Once again, I was torn. It seemed unlikely that there was anything in there that I’d actually want to PAY to receive, but then again, you never know when opportunity’s going to come a-knocking, do you? Maybe the envelope contained notification that some wealthy, yet distant, relative had died, leaving me their entire fortune, plus a slightly creepy house in the middle of nowhere: a house with a CHILLING SECRET? Perhaps it was a letter from a publisher, saying, “We’ve read your blog and even although you only have five readers, we’re so impressed with the cunning way you weave tales about your teeth, that we want to turn it into a novel, which we will call TEETH: A Tale. Please sign the enclosed contract so we can transfer £1,000,000 into your account immediately for the exclusive rights.” Perhaps I just read too much chick lit?
With these thoughts racing through my mind, I slapped my £1.10 on the counter, and excitedly ripped open the envelope to find…
A PRESS RELEASE.
Yes, a PRESS RELEASE. You know, one of those could-totally-have-been-sent-by-email pieces of marketing designed to persuade me to write about someone’s product?
(Another aside: Why are people still sending press releases through the mail? Is it secretly 1994 again, and I just didn’t notice? Doesn’t it stand to reason that, as a blogger, I’m likely to be in possession of a computer and an internet connection, which would allow me to receive these things by email? Wouldn’t that be easier for everyone concerned? WON’T SOMEONE PLEASE THINK OF THE TREES?)
So, we’ve now reached a stage where I am actually paying to receive press releases, apparently. And not only that, I’m driving across town to pick them up, too. Maybe I could actually start WRITING them for the companies concerned? And I could PAY THEM for the privilege? Then I could publish my own press releases on my sites, and, I dunno, maybe I could pay them again at that stage? Because that’s the only way I can imagine it being any MORE inconvenient for me to be marketed to.
In closing, I feel I have to add my usual disclaimer here: I know not all PR people do things like this. I’ve worked in PR myself, I know people make mistakes. Hell, I make mistakes every single day. Sometimes they involve setting things on fire.
But damn, I was disappointed it wasn’t shoes.