It was somewhere between 3am, a hundred rejection emails, and hallucinogenic insanity when I had an epiphany: if I was going to be a columnist for The Guardian or Vice, I would have to get in through the bathroom window rather than knock politely; I have found that knocking politely has got me nowhere thus far, and the journalistic neighbourhood was no exception.
So at 3am, high on caffeine and rage, I did it another way, and by the following day, I had what I needed: response. And in some cases, retort, because the emails I had sent were almost rude in their demand to be read by the right people. And the right people did read, when I trespassed into their personal inboxes.
I was triumphant when four magazines from all ends of the consumer market offered me placements. I was indifferent to the subject matter of all four; health and fitness? Quinoa doesn’t enthuse me. Beauty and style? Not something populist media can prescribe to me. Interior design? Posters have always worked for me. And finally, true life? ‘My Dad is my Mum!’ … ‘I’m in a relationship with my Border Collie!’ Whatever. Journalists are essentially actors: they speak in the right voice for their audience. I’m not moved by any of those subjects, but I am a good writer.
As I was explaining this over the phone to my Mother, I got another email.
‘Hi Dandie. What an unusual name … and cover letter. I wonder if you’re so spirited in person. How would you like to come and work on the farewell edition of Nuts Magazine?’
Had I, in my maddened emailing frenzy, contacted Nuts Magazine? Apparently I had.
‘Nuts Magazine?! I don’t know Dandie, you of all people?’
But, as ever, I ignored the stifled horror of my parents and my friends, shook the hand of Editor Pete Cashmore and walked into the Nuts office. Unlike quinoa recipes and wicker futons, the idea of working for a publication which brazenly sexualised women did interest me. The portrayal of the female body in the media is something that I am uncomfortable with. How would I feel, as a woman, to participate in sexualising, and arguably objectifying, other women’s bodies?
This is how.
Before I had had a chance to absorb the thousands of breasts slapping me across the face, the colossal gilded portrait of Kate Middleton in French knickers and the spectacular city panorama through the office window, I was invited to a content pitch for the farewell edition of the magazine.
As the only woman amongst an entirely male editorial team, I was apprehensive. Never have I been so aware of my own womanhood: my breasts seemed to shriek in my top and my butt seemed to grow to ludicrously feminised proportions. Instinctively, I felt my defences prickle, like they do when I’m whistled at in the street, or grabbed at a night club. Then, my defences relaxed (and my body parts stabilised) when I realised that the imagination and the ingenuity involved in gathering content for Nuts was no different than to any other publication. Whatever anyone thought about the juvenility or the crudity of the Magazine, this was a team of brilliant professionals who were extraordinarily attentive to my ideas and my aspirations. Not once, at any of my other placements, was I asked what I thought. But here, I was heard.
My experience at Nuts has not budged my disagreement with the portrayal of women in the media, not even a G-string’s breadth. But it has reinforced my philosophy that nothing is quite as it seems.