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July 2020

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Three Women by Lisa Taddeo
9th July 2020 - Lisa Taddeo


The landmark non-fiction debut
Three Women by Lisa Taddeo,
now in paperback.
 

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo
 

"An immersive, revelatory study of the sex lives of three women, told in fascinating but never salacious detail, shot through with longing, loneliness, pleasure and shame... As compelling as true crime and as heartbreaking as anything I've read, this book will be talked about for years to come."

Heather, Campaigns Manager

 

Three Women is the groundbreaking debut from journalist Lisa Taddeo, which is now published in paperback, and was voted the Foyles Non-Fiction Book of the Year 2019.

Taddeo spent countless hours over the last eight years becoming part of the lives of three American women to create a masterwork of true-life storytelling that chronicles the sexual lives of her subjects. Told with a sense of clarity and with great empathy,
Three Women examines the deeper truths of female desire and the interplay between gender and power. Below, Taddeo talks exclusively to Foyles about how and why she wrote Three Women, followed by an extract from Lina’s story.

 


Q&A

 

  • Can you tell us a little about Three Women and what motivated you to write it?

 

The genesis was to take the pulse of sexuality and desire in America today. A sort of updating of Gay Talese’s Thy Neighbor’s Wife, but from a female perspective. Desire is at once all we think about and talk about, and at the same time our most slippery secret. I wanted to explore the nuance of that intersection.

 

I began by talking to both men and women, but the men’s stories, though intriguing, began to bleed together. The throttle of their desire often ended once a conquest was achieved, whereas for the women, it was utterly the opposite. Of course, this is not to generalize. But the three individuals who ended up sticking out to me, who were the most willing to tell their stories in ways that revealed their desire, happened to be three women. These specific three women. There were several subjects who dropped out, the most notable one about seven months into my research, when she began to fear her new relationship would suffer if her past were found out.

 

  • How did you research and gather the material for your book?

 

Reporting the book was intensely and maddeningly different day to day, hour to hour. There was no formula, no set of questions or group of people. It was somewhat haunting in that I thought of it every second. There wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t feel like I was failing.

 

I would make lists of tenuous things to do: in the morning, post signs on coffee shop and supermarket bulletin boards. On the windows of cars2go. On slot machines in casinos. On the fence outside the Prada Marfa art installation. In the afternoon, write whatever I’d observed the day before, or transcribe tape, or write out pages of notes. In the early evening, either go to dive bars and nice restaurants and libraries and mechanics and talk to people and ask around, trying to isolate a town or a human being that would make me feel like I’d found it. Or hang out with whichever person or group of people I’d found the day or week before. In the late evening, eat dinner while posting things on the internet. Read and write. Panic.

 

In sum the actual process was like trying to attack a kernel in the fog with hundreds of different swords. But when I found Lina it felt right. The idea of “Finding Lina” a second or third time was the same haunting process all over again. By then, though, I’d gotten a little better at cataloguing the potential risks for a subject while also not frightening them away. Giving them the full scope of what I wanted to do while also taking it easy. I’d gotten better at knowing which people wouldn’t be likely to get spooked and drop out. It was also an important factor that the motivation for someone being open to letting me into their lives in such an intimate manner wouldn’t be for any purpose other than expunging and hoping their stories would help others.

 

It was hard for me to look for people, to speak for months to subjects who would end up dropping out. It was hard for me to place myself in an invasive position in other people’s lives. It was hard to have so many instances of pure aimlessness and fear. I have a lot of anxiety and I had a lot of panic attacks throughout the course of this research (which continue today.) Being embedded in people’s lives was extraordinarily uncomfortable. Especially when it felt like I was an imposition. I spent a long time with people because I wanted to do everything slowly and carefully. I knew that if I pushed too much, too soon, it would be off-putting. More than wanting to “get the story,” I wanted all the subjects of this book to feel heard and not used.

 

The instances I most loved came when I was observing people from a distance, quietly writing, taking notes, taking in the environment while not being a part of the action. For example, after Lina was intimate with Aidan in their sacred spot, I would travel there right after, to take in the smells and sounds and sights of the river at dusk. So I could best describe the milieu, so I could best layer onto what Lina had just told me.

 

  • Did the women’s stories throw up unexpected elements or were they more familiar in their depiction of contemporary female experience?

 

There were some but not many. I was often more surprised that I wasn't surprised; that so many of the people I spoke to mirrored one another within the core of desire, even if the window dressing changed from subject to subject. That said, I was thrilled about finding Sloane's story because she was the epitome of that which I'd been looking for at various points—a "swinger" who did not participate in the cliched swinger lifestyle. A woman in possession of a great deal of elegance and the ideal meshing of power and subjugation—an identity with which she was both at peace, but also questioning. So finding Sloane was very gratifying—that this type of person, about whom I wondered existed at all—did, in fact, exist, and in such a complex and nearly aspirational manner.

 

***

 

Extract

 

For some women, preparing to meet a lover is nearly as hallowed a time as the actual meeting. In some cases, it’s better, because at length the lover leaves, or someone loses interest, but the tender moments of anticipation remain. Like the way Lina can more easily remember the beauty of snow falling than the gray slush that lingers.

 

Lina stands naked and pale behind a yolk-colored curtain in a recessed rectangular shower stall, holding her mouth open to the stream, pushing her wet hair back the way that girls in movies do—one thumb over each ear and both palms at the top of the head, then smoothing the wet hair back. She shaves her legs and her pubic area, leaving what she’d heard some older girls call a landing strip. She soaps herself with Camay, taking care to deeply clean the areas his mouth might kiss, scrubbing these areas harder, perhaps, than she should.

 

She times it perfectly so that her sister would be heading for the bathroom just as Lina is on her way back to their shared room, so she could be alone. Naked on her bed, on top of her towel, she caresses pink lotion into her skin, not missing a single spot. Then she applies makeup but not too much because he had once made a comment about overly made-up girls, how they were trying to look older but they succeeded only in looking whorish.

 

She blows her hair out in large sections so that it will lie straight but full of body, so that it might bounce across her back and shoulders as she walks.

 

She applies perfume behind her ears, at the backs of the knees, and on the insides of her wrists. It’s a lemony floral scent evocative of beach house afternoons, of iced tea with mint leaves, and clean breezes.

 

The perfume is the final thing to go on, so that it lasts. Lina will be silently pissed if she passes a smoker along the way. Aidan is a smoker and yet she wants to come to him clean, not smelling of cigarettes, even though the chances he’ll be smoking when she approaches him are high.

 

There is a nervous, weightless feeling in her bowels, as if she hasn’t eaten in days. She has, in fact, been eating less, because that is what love does, Lina has begun to see. It feeds and eviscerates you at once, so that you’re full but you are also empty. You don’t want food or the company of others. You want only the one you love, and your thoughts of him. Everything else is a waste of energy, money, breath.

 

The secret place is a river, but it is more than a river. Even now, nearly two decades later, Lina thinks of the word river when she thinks of the secret place but it doesn’t fit. The problem is, there’s no better word for it. Like even the most perfect things in life, it is what it is.

 

It wasn’t that either of them had ever called it the secret place. Never aloud. It was just what Lina called it in her head. In fact, it had a much simpler name, simpler even than river.

 

There.

 

I’ll meet you there.

 

See you there at ten.

 

Get off the bus, and there it was, only a quarter mile away, into the woods not too deep, off the two-lane highway that ran through the flatland.

 

There was a sort of path into the woods, not a real path but demarcated enough, a narrow clearing where the twigs and leaves were crushed by Keds and Timberlands.

 

Lina in her white sneakers wondered how much of the path she’d created, and about all the people before her who’d made the first dents.

 

There it was. There in a clearing where the wheatgrasses overgrew, a thin, snaking river in the half mist. The greatest part was seeing his pickup, old and beat-up and so gray as to be invisible, which made Lina’s heart thump like a bounced ball.

 

It was fall when they started meeting there but winter would come soon, so he said they should invest in blankets because it would be too expensive to keep the car running. That he had said this in September, when winter was so many weeks away, made Lina’s eyes water, that he foresaw his future with her in it. For a very long time, that was enough, that the object of her love even considered her a beating heart, a living thing, in his orbit.

 

Seeing his car already there, hearing the birds in the branches and the crunch of twigs underfoot. Smelling the wet earth and the exhaust and getting lost in a hologram of mist. Tucking her hair behind her ears the way she had practiced in front of the mirror, the precise way she looked the prettiest. All these sounds, smells, routines. It was her foreplay.

 

And there, in his car, staring straight ahead into the trees and ringed by a halo of his own smoke was this mythological man who was going to be hers, who was right at this moment waiting for her, so that the very entirety of her being was validated. He was the whole point of her existence, her mother and her sisters and the posterior side of her father be damned. There he was.

 



Lisa Taddeo author photograph

Lisa Taddeo has contributed to New York magazine, Esquire, Elle, Glamour and many other publications. Her short stories have won two Pushcart Prizes. She lives with her husband and daughter in Connecticut.
 

Sex Robots & Vegan Meat by Jenny Kleeman
8th July 2020 - Jenny Kleeman

This is NOT science-fiction:
Sex Robots & Vegan Meat
by Jenny Kleeman

 

Sex Robots and Vegan Meat by Jenny Kleeman

 

What if we could have babies without having to bear children, eat meat without killing animals, have the perfect sexual relationship without compromise or choose the time of our painless death?

The not-too-distant future holds many scientific breakthroughs, and in her debut Sex Robots and Vegan Meat Jenny Kleeman investigates some of the innovations most likely to happen. Undeniably fascinating, thrilling and unsettling all at the same time.

Here, Kleeman talks to Foyles about her book and some of the surprises she found during her research, and how choices in technology and scientific advancement need to be taken very carefully.

 


 

Sex Robots & Vegan Meat is the story of four innovations that are about to change how we live (and die) forever: artificial wombs, lab-grown meat, sex robots and euthanasia machines. When they hit the market, it will be possible to have babies without anyone being pregnant, to eat meat without killing animals, to have a perfect partner than never asks you to compromise, and a painless death at the time of your choosing. It’s not science fiction; it’s a book about the future that’s happening right now.
 

I spent five years visiting the workrooms, warehouses and laboratories where these technologies are being created. I met the developers behind them, the people campaigning against them, and the customers lining up to buy them. Sex Robots & Vegan Meat follows my encounters with these inventions, and the extraordinary people who are shaping the future of humanity today.
 

I’m fascinated by how we’ve come to rely on technology for instant, easy solutions, to let us have what we truly desire without sacrifice, to give us power amid the messiness of our existence. Birth, food, sex and death are the fundamental elements of the human experience, and they have always been largely beyond our control. Until now. In Sex Robots & Vegan Meat, I got to explore the unintended consequences of trying to engineer the perfect birth, the perfect food, the perfect sex and the perfect death. If we outsource what makes us human to technology, how else will humanity change?
 

As I tried to answer this, I found myself on a remarkable adventure. In the open plan office of one of San Francisco’s most high-tech vegan food start ups, I bit into the a crispy, beige, battered crust of a priceless chicken nugget, made from the flesh of a chicken named Ian who was still alive and flapping his wings. In a rented dance studio in Covent Garden, I sat among 50 sprightly over 60s in ties and pretty scarves who had paid to be there because they wanted someone known as Dr Death to teach them how to kill themselves. In a Southern Californian factory, I stood before a massive wall of nipples, displayed in a matrix of 42 different shapes, sizes and colours: the makers of RealDoll will create your perfect hyper-realistic partner, customised down to your precise specifications; for a few thousand dollars extra, they will give her an artificially intelligent personality to match.
 

But most striking of all were the people I met: the obstetrician who grows foetuses in plastic bags, the artist who uses living flesh as his medium, the man who is married to his sex doll, the trans person desperate to bear their own children, the fertility doctor prepared to push almost every ethical boundary to give his patients what they want, and so many more.
 

These innovations only exist because there is a market for them. We want to have our steak and eat it. We want to have relationships that meet all our needs, with no threat of heartbreak or disappointment. We want to be able to carry on eating meat, even though we know our overconsumption of it is hurting the planet, and our bodies. We want birth and death to be less chaotic and frightening. We want control over the mess of our nature. Whoever can promise us what we truly desire without us having to compromise or change our ways is set to make billions.
 

Of course, the men behind these technologies (and they are pretty much always men) swear they are driven by far more than money: they say they want to provide companionship for the lonely, to save the planet, to rescue the world’s most vulnerable babies, or to free the old and the sick from fear. But they also want recognition and respect; they want to go down in history as pioneers. It’s a drive that often blinkers them to what else they might be inadvertently creating in their pursuit of validation.
 

Women will be overwhelmingly affected by all the innovations I look at in in Sex Robots & Vegan Meat, and not just the sex robots that will further objectify them, and the artificial wombs that threaten to render them obsolete. Wherever assisted dying is legal, women choose it more than men. Men eat far more meat than women do; it’s the male appetite for meat that’s causing ecological catastrophe. While these inventions are the products of male egos and desires, both women and men will have to live with the consequences of them.
 

In the end, I realised that none of these four innovations actually provide solutions. They are circumventions, distractions; they offer us a way to avoid posing the difficult questions and challenging the taboos that constrain us. Instead of encouraging us to ask why it’s so difficult for women to be pregnant today, why some people desire a partner with no autonomy, why we continue to eat huge quantities of meat, or what makes death and illness so terrifying, they paper over fundamental human anxieties. They are denying us the chance to really grow, because progress comes from the courage to reform ourselves and choose to do things differently, not from technological innovation.
 

We use technology to drown out problem noise with an extra layer of complexity, when perhaps we should listen to it. We need the courage to deal with the cause of a problem, rather inventing something to cancel it out. But social change is hard work. Entrepreneurs know that there will always be a market for off the shelf solution, a quick fix. It’s up to us whether we choose to buy it.

 


 

Jenny Kleeman

Jenny Kleeman is a journalist and documentary-maker. She writes for the Guardian, Tortoise, The Times and the Sunday Times. She has reported for BBC One's Panorama, Channel 4's Dispatches and VICE News Tonight on HBO, as well as making thirteen films from across the globe for Channel 4's Unreported World. Sex Robots & Vegan Meat is her first book.

I Never Said I Loved You by Rhik Samadder
7th July 2020 - Rhik Samadder

An essay from Rhik Samadder, author of 
I Never Said I Loved You

 

I Never Said I Loved You by Rhik Samadder

 

One of the breakout memoirs of 2019, I Never Said I Loved You by Rhik Samadder is now published in paperback. Exclusively for Foyles, Samadder has written an essay about the journey of writing such a deeply personal memoir, and how his book has found a further relevance, as the current health crisis has made people much more aware of the need to propely take care of their own mental health.

 


 

I’d always dreamt of writing a book. But for years it felt too much like a dream: fantastic and insubstantial. Not to mention that writing about oneself, well, those are very dangerous waters. There be memoirs here. As soon as you start, sickness sets in. The suspicion one is universalizing one’s own experience, in order to tell others how to live. There are unresolvable dilemmas, specific to the form. Which concessions does one make to privacy in one’s life, and what does one sacrifice for art? Around the same time, you notice– can this be? The ‘I’ on your keyboard is getting more worn down than the other letters? Imagine explaining that at the Apple Store. Actually, they’ll probably understand.

 

Anyone who tries their hand at life writing will run up on the same rocks. Staring into the ceiling at night, tormenting themselves with questions like what’s so special about me, or who cares? They’re not bad questions. Here’s my advice: being your own subject doesn’t mean writing for yourself. Catharsis, as defined by Aristotle, is for the audience, not the guy holding the pen. Any other approach risks an implosion of solipsism. (Is that one of the post-Casino Royale Bond films? No matter.) When I was writing I Never Said I Loved You, I thought hard about the books that have meant the most to me– the ones that lodged themselves deep, that I built myself around. They were by diverse authors, Mark Doty, Hanif Kureishi, Joyce, Patti Smith, Marilynne Robinson, many others, and what they had in common was an unguarded intimacy with the reader. Intimacy– both on the page and in life– consists of an honesty beyond which you thought yourself capable. It enlarges both you and the one to whom you entrust your deepest self, a grace that runs both ways. This is the most precious gift, one we all possess the means to give. If you write from this place, there’s a good chance they’ll care.

 

The gestation time of most books being close to geological, there’s no way of knowing you’ll be writing to the moment they appear. You have to follow your own compass and trust. Many of the themes of I Never Said I Loved You have been pushed to the foreground in recent months. But I wrote them my way, as I didn’t have the training for anything else. It took a while to see this was no limitation. Accounts of racism are– rightly– often concerned with statistics. I wanted to show how it feels. Thinking about depression is –understandably– often depressing. I wanted to make it funny. There still isn’t enough writing about abuse, because it is a state of shame and silence. I wanted to take an axe to those. That’s why the book is a travel companion to the more extreme places a brain can go; the Lonely Planet guide to losing your mind. In pursuing it, I headed straight for the dark places that called to me. I had a terrible idea there might be treasure there.

 

Speaking of lonely planets, it’s bizarre to have released a mental health memoir in the months bracketing a pandemic. (How to talk about this yet, how to talk of anything else?) Because we’re all mad now. We’ve collectively experienced illness and paranoia, fear, grinding relationship resentments, talking to house spiders in lieu of company. There are suggestions in the book of how to cope when a brain gets overloaded, ways to keep perspective and endure. People often, sweetly, voice concern for how I’m doing. Strangely, I’m okay. (Though currently experiencing a sort of Lockdown Stockholm Syndrome, with restrictions being lifted so quickly.) It’s a funny thing. Serious introverts, the kind society despises, have proven the best equipped at coping in a quarantine. Equally, some of those with histories of mental illness, my friends who are depressed, anxious, or Pure O, had a shadowy advantage when it came to a terrified present, an uncertain future. No picnic of course, but also…not our first rodeo. I hope some of them– perhaps you- are looking for treasure too. You need time and madness to write, a brain pulsing to be elsewhere. The conditions now are given us. Claim your share. Use your words.

 

I like a good caper, especially now I’m stuck in my room. I think there should be a picaresque sense to a good memoir, belying its interiority; because despite all, life is an adventure. Yet when I read them back, the careening misadventures, career switcheroos and sexual shenanigans are not the heart of the book. What I couldn’t avoid writing was a love story. The teenage me would be mortified, though at least this was different kind to the sort we’re usually given. A love story between a boy and his mother. Between writer and reader. Between the mystery of all of us, and life itself. It was hell to bring into existence, the way any creation can feel like wrestling an angel, but I’ll always be proud of it. We’re going to be okay, you know? I don’t mean the rest of this chapter will be a stroll down easy street, or a month of chicken dinners. I mean we will feel peace and togetherness again. We will find the courage and patience to bear whatever comes for us, and that is true strength. As anyone who has faced the darkness knows; each day we rise, still here, hope grows.

 


 

Rhik Samadder

Rhik Samadder is a writer, actor and broadcaster. He has a regular column with The Guardian and created their cult 'Inspect a Gadget' feature. He has written for The Observer, Men's Health and Prospect magazine, as well as being a guest, presenter and host on various radio shows. Rhik studied acting at Drama Centre London and appeared on HBO, BBC, ITV, C4 (credits including Coronation Street, Emmerdale and Doctors) as well as a lead role with the RSC.

 

Outraged by Ashley 'Dotty' Charles
4th July 2020

Read an extract from Outraged by Ashley 'Dotty' Charles

 

Outraged by Ashley 'Dotty' Charles

Ours is a society where many exploit the outrage of others in order to gain power - and we all too quickly take the bait. But by shouting about everything, we are in fact creating a world where outrage is without consequence. In Outraged, presenter and DJ Ashley 'Dotty' Charles explores and examines the state of outrage in our culture and how we can channel it back into the fights that matter. 

Here you can read an exclusive extract:-

 


OUTRAGE-MONGERS

 

Fine. I’ll hold my hands up again... I too have misspent my outrage. And it was an absolute farce.

Picture the scene. It’s 2014. Barack Obama is President of the United States, Kim Kardashian’s greasy bum is on the cover of PAPER magazine and Piers Morgan has just written a column for the Daily Mail in which he attempts to explain to African Americans exactly where they are going wrong in their attempts to eradicate use of ‘the N word’. (Because of course a privately schooled Sussex boy is the obvious choice for expert commentary on critical race realism and the history of black consciousness.)

‘The reason it is so ingrained in pop culture,’ he wrote, ‘is that many blacks, especially young blacks reared to the soundtrack of N-word splattered rap music, use it in an ironic way.’

I was outraged. So outraged, in fact, that I wrote an open letter to the little bundle of bigotry and posted it on Twitter.

It began:

Dear Piers, your ‘n-word’ article was very valid but reeked of superiority.We do not need you to be our judge, jury or hero.Your argument was delivered as though it was some sort of self-serving epiphany.As if you had finally found the answer to a problem that has plagued our community for years. But in reality, you do not have the authority, nor the social experience, to comment on the roots of an issue which far exceeds your realm of middle-class comprehension...

The letter was viewed over 100,000 times and eventually Piers himself reposted it, adding a brief note: ‘Dear Dotty, thanks for the patronising lecture...’

I’ll be completely honest here: my heroic moment of vigilante outrage was thrilling (albeit temporarily). My Twitter mentions were on fire. I bagged myself scores of new followers and received a flurry of ecstatic texts from friends saying: ‘OMG Piers just replied to you!’ I had spoken up on behalf of my tribe and the reputational rewards were flooding in. I felt like Moses. But as the retweets slowed down (and I suffered the crippling real- isation that my near-perfect letter to Piers had in fact included a sodding typo), I began to see the error of my ways. Like some sort of social media rookie, I had played directly into his grubby hands. I had been so quick to react that I hadn’t even seen his article for what it was: clickbait.

You see, back in 2014, the former Daily Mirror editor was still reeling from the cancellation of his CNN ratings- killer Piers Morgan Tonight. ‘It’s been a painful period and lately we have taken a bath in the ratings,’ Morgan told the New York Times when it was revealed that the cable network would be pulling the plug. ‘I am a British guy debating American cultural issues, including guns, which has been very polarising, and there is no doubt that there are many in the audience who are tired of me banging on about it,’ he added.

Six months after the show was axed, Piers was on the brink of a comeback, with the Mail Online announcing him as their new US editor-at-large.‘He has vast experience as an editor and presenter and certainly knows how to generate conversation and create debate so we’re delighted that he will be joining us,’ said Martin Clarke, the website’s publisher and editor-in-chief.

This, we would soon find out, was an understatement.

What better way to reassert some journalistic pulling power in your new job than to write an article on a contentious subject that was guaranteed to get a reaction? And so we were duly served his cunningly titled editorial debut: if black Americans want the n-word to die, they will have to kill it themselves.

In an instant, Piers Morgan was being talked about everywhere from BBC News to Al Jazeera, notching up a considerable amount of free advertising space for Brand Morgan. His incendiary rhetoric had gone viral, and with every disgruntled reader who had publicly condemned his column came another handful of clicks.

‘Is it what I wrote that offended, #BlackTwitter – or the skin colour of the man who wrote it? #Nword,’ Piers taunted on his Twitter page, stoking the coals of outrage shortly after the column went live.

‘You are further evidencing your deep ignorance. Black people have been debating this among themselves long before you,’ responded the journalist and author Ta-Nehisi Coates.

‘If you don’t understand white privilege, you must check out @piersmorgan’s article today,’ posted the civil rights activist DeRay Mckesson, joining the Twitter conversation.

Fuelled by outrage and propelled into action, we unwittingly spread his column worldwide.

Provocation quickly became Piers Morgan’s online business model and three years later he regurgitated his article – this time responding to a viral video of some white female college students who were shown rapping the offensive word at a sorority party – with the rejigged Daily Mail headline: don’t get angry about a bunch of white girls singing n***as, blame Kanye and the rap industry for putting it in their songs in the first place. ‘I will inevitably provoke outrage from certain quarters, but that outrage is also an important and relevant factor for the purposes of this column,’ he wrote.

And of course, outrage followed once more. He had found a winning formula – and I had lost big time.

Piers was my outrage epiphany. A sobering realisation that I’d been royally played like a well-tuned guitar at an Ed Sheeran gig. My outrage was breathing life into a narrative I had intended to kill. It was then that I realised I was a pawn in a bigger societal game. One that pitted the buyers of rage against the purveyors.And the rage-mongers were likely to win.

Unsurprisingly, orchestrated blowback, designed to provoke a response, is a tried and tested model for inter- action in the digital age. In 2014, researchers at Beihang University in China found that rage is the sentiment that travels fastest online and that negative headlines collect 30 per cent more views than positive ones, with people more likely to click through to articles that include negative superlatives like ‘worst’. Our curiosity, they found, is triggered more by anger than by any other human emotion and it is these stories that we are most likely to share... furiously.

There is an unwritten rule in journalism that predates the Internet: ‘If it bleeds it leads’ – a long-standing mantra that has taught newsrooms to prioritise stories that provoke fear or unrest. London’s murder epidemic worse than New York’s; economy in ruin: worst on record. These are the headlines we live for. Why report that two thirds of brits sleep peacefully in their beds when you could spin it to read one in three brits plagued by incurable insomnia? It is no wonder then that articles based on harm and disorder sit at the top of the news story hierarchy.

Isn’t it likely then, that ambitious and enterprising media personalities are putting this same algorithm for engagement to good use, trading controversy for fame and building their own brand of notoriety by feeding our predisposed negativity bias? Are we even aware of how often we are falling for their deliberate provocation?

 



Ashley 'Dotty' Charles

Ashley 'Dotty' Charles is a broadcaster and writer from South London. After joining the BBC in 2014 she became the first solo female to host the BBC Radio 1Xtra Breakfast Show in 2016, where she has since interviewed everyone from Oprah Winfrey to Will Smith. She has presented TV programmes including BBC One's music show, 'Sounds Like Friday Night', and BBC Three's 'Story of Grime' documentary series. She is also the host of the official Netflix podcast series 'What to Watch on Netflix'. She lives with her wife and son in London.

 

 

Coming Undone: A Memoir by Terri White
3rd July 2020 - Terri White

Terri White talks to Foyles
about her memoir Coming Undone

 

Coming Undone by Terri White

 

Terri White appeared to be living the dream; a hugely successful career in journalism, living in New York and editing some of the biggest magazines on the newsstands. Yet behind it all she was rapidly unravelling and heading towards a mental health crisis that would land her in a locked psychiatric ward as her past caught up with her. Coming Undone is an eloquent, brutally honest memoir, with no hiding from how traumas from the past will always impact the present. 

Terri spoke exclusively to Foyles about her book and the process of writing it. 

 


 

Please tell us a little about your memoir Coming Undone

Coming Undone is the story of how I ended up in a locked psychiatric ward in New York after overdosing on pills and booze. Outwardly, I was living what looked like the dream – I had an incredible job as a magazine editor in Manhattan, lived in a nice apartment in the East Village – but I was privately unravelling at speed and struggling with self-harm and drinking. The book traces the roots of my issues back to the traumatic events of my childhood in a small Derbyshire village. 
 

Writing a personal memoir, as opposed to a novel or non-fiction, takes huge courage, insight and confrontation - were you prepared for how difficult, or easy, that was going to be for you?

I would often read authors talk about the catharsis that came with writing a memoir, but I definitely didn’t find that! Writing Coming Undone was incredibly difficult - very often painful, and quite honestly, it was a feat of endurance. I spent years, decades, burying the abuse I’d suffered as a child. To access it, I had to lift my skin off anew every day. All of that said: now that it’s done and out in the world, I feel a huge, somewhat unexpected, sense of liberation. Something approaching being free.
 

Was there a specific inspiration or jump-off point that made you think the time was right to start writing?

The book started off as a series of 500-word stories. I’d been challenged to write them by a friend after leaving hospital – I needed something other than drinking to fill my nights. They were initially about New York, but I started to dip into my childhood too. That was six years ago. It still took some time to actually start believing I could and should write a book. I needed a little more distance from the events in New York. And I needed to be mentally and emotionally robust enough to dig up everything I’d put into the earth.
 

What skills/techniques from your journalism career did you employ in writing your book, and were there any you actively avoided? 

Writing is such a different practice than journalism. Especially memoir writing. In my job as a journalist, I interview other people – and my job is to reveal something about them and their work. The golden rule actually, is not make the story about yourself. So it took quite an intellectual shift to place myself in the middle of it.
 

With people beginning to be more open out mental health, do you have any specific hopes for your book? 

The conversation around mental health has become so much more open and honest; even just in the six years since I left hospital. When I started the book, I very much thought it might shine a light on those who are high-performing and outwardly successful but struggling hugely with mental health. But as I kept writing, a story that was more urgent – for me - came through. Of the events that lay at the root of it. Of the abuse that I suffered as a child and is still happening to girls every day. These girls often feel that they’re now lost. They may have been told that they’re nothing, that their lives will only be unhappy. That it’s their fault. I want them to know that none of this is true. Their lives can be different. They’re not forever lost. It’s not their fault. My hope is that the book speaks to women who were once where I was, and girls who potentially are still there. If just one girl reads it and knows that I see her, that’s enough.
 

Did the book evolve as you wrote it, or is it the book you imagined as you first started?

The book was originally going to be much more New York focussed (the first title was Madhattan). But as I wrote, the chapters from my childhood grew more significant. It became clear that the story of where I’d started out was going to be as important in the book as the story of where I ended up.
 

Are there any novels or other memoirs which you have read that really inspired you to write yours?

I tried not to read any memoirs while I wrote the book. I didn’t want to take in what they were doing in terms of form or execution; I very much wanted to write the very specific book that squatted inside me. But three of my favourite ever memoirs and autobiographies are The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy; I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou and A Life’s Work by Rachel Cusk. They all offered insight, support, poetry and enlightenment.
 

Coming proudly from a working-class background, what advice can you give to similar emerging writers in getting their work heard?

Write, write, write. And don’t be in a rush to publish. I remember thinking that I wouldn’t have made it if I hadn’t published a book by 30. I’m just publishing my first at 41. Let your voice, your own rhythm come. And don’t listen to anyone who tells you you’re not good enough, you don’t know enough people, you don’t have anything important to say (because they will say that). Fuck them. You do; just work out how to say it and then stay true to your voice. It’s your voice that will see you through.

 



Terri White

Terri White is Editor-in-Chief of Empire magazine, having previously edited some of the most read titles in the UK and US, including Time Out New York and Shortlist, where she was named Men's Magazine Editor of the Year. She has also written for the Guardian and The Pool.

 

 

The Double X Economy by Professor Linda Scott
2nd July 2020

Read an extract from
The Double X Economy by Professor Linda Scott

 

The Double X Economy by Professor Linda Scott

 

The Double X Economy by Professor Linda Scott describes both the shocking gender inequalities built into the global economy, and the collective power of women that could be harnessed to turn these around and combat humankind's most pressing problems. Promoting women's economic empowerment will dramatically boost social, financial and environmental conditions for everybody around the world. Provocative, accessible and game-changing, The Double X Economy is at once an expert analysis and an urgent call to action.

Here you can read an exclusive extract:-

 


1 The Double X Economy

 

As the car whirled through the unlit streets of Accra, my heart pounded. The driver explained the scenes moving past us, his voice full of rage and sorrow.

Hundreds of homeless adolescent girls moved like shadows in the night. Some were half-naked, bathing in buckets because they had nowhere private to go. Others slept in piles. “They run from the villages,” the driver said. “Their parents want to sell them to a man they don’t know, to be a wife who must work like an animal by day and submit sexually by night. They run to the city, believing they can escape.”

Many had pregnant bellies or were holding infants. Rape was a fact of daily life in the villages, he said, but these streets were no safer. “We have a generation growing up, from birth, on the street,” the driver said in anguish. “They will never know a family or a community. How will they learn right from wrong? What will happen to Ghana when these children become adults?”

Many girls worked in the markets carrying shoppers’ purchases in baskets they balanced atop their heads, but some fell into prostitution. Still others became trapped in a nightmare of ancient stature: the slave trade that still emanates from West Africa and feeds the vast crime rings of the world.

In my hotel lobby, I felt as if I had stepped back from another dimension. I have been doing fieldwork among the world’s poor for a long time, but I have never observed anything that disturbed me more than what I saw on my first night in Ghana.

I had arrived that afternoon to start a promising project: my team from Oxford would test an intervention to help rural girls stay in school rather than drop out. It was a simple thing—providing free sanitary pads—but definitely worth a try. Retaining girls through secondary school was already known to be a powerful economic boost for poor nations. Educated females add to the quality of the labor supply, as well as its size, which stimulates growth. But girls who complete their education also have their first child later and so have fewer children, which slows the overwhelming rate of population expansion. Educated women also raise their own children differently, insisting they finish school, eat well, and are given adequate health care. These mothers act as a brake on the pernicious cycle of poverty that grips Africa.

But that evening I met someone who showed me what happened when the forces pulling girls out of school also made them run away. These girls in desperate flight produced a downward spiral that radiated danger and suffering for generations in the entire region. That destructive force, I knew, rolled across the world, carrying violence and instability to other countries—because human trafficking is one of international crime’s most profitable activities. My experience that night forever changed the way I thought about my work. And it gave me a sense of urgency that I have never lost.

The unlikely truth that equal economic treatment for women would put a stop to some of the world’s costliest evils, while building prosperity for everyone, is at the core of this book’s argument. In these pages, I will tell more stories like this one from the shadows of Accra. I will draw on personal experiences from the villages of Africa to the slums of Asia, as well as the boardrooms of London and the universities of the United States. Throughout, I will show how the same plot of economic exclusion repeats itself in each of these places, always with negative impact.

An unparalleled influx of data since 2005 reveals this reality: a distinctive pattern of economic inequality marks the female population of every nation, each with the same mechanisms holding the disadvantages in place. Everywhere, the barriers to women’s economic inclusion reach beyond work and salary to encompass property ownership, capital, credit, and markets. These economic impediments, combined with the cultural constraints usually imposed on women—limited mobility, reproductive vulnerability, and the ever-present threat of violence—form a shadow economy unique to females: I call it “the Double X Economy.”

If the global community chose to dissolve the economic obstacles facing women, an unprecedented era of peace and prosperity would follow. Over the past decade, a small movement has begun, propelled by the intention to do just that—eliminate the barriers. Though its numbers are still few, this women’s economic empowerment movement now has global reach and counts a rising tide of the world’s most powerful institutions among its partners: national governments, international agencies, large foundations, global charities, religious organizations, and multinational corporations.

I have been part of the women’s economic empowerment movement from its beginning. My role began with research that tested ideas for helping women gain financial autonomy. Initially, I worked in rural areas, especially in Africa. I tested my own ideas, as well as those of others, and worked face-to-face with women in different countries and under varying circumstances. I also hosted an annual gathering of women’s economic empowerment specialists called the Power Shift Forum for Women in the World Economy, where people working on this cause could share what they were learning. In 2015, my focus shifted. Though I continue to conduct research in remote areas, I now also participate in high-level policy conversations about implementing global reforms that take me to the capitals of the world.

I am frequently dismayed by what I observe. The national finance ministers who manage the world economy undermine women’s advocates by treating them like a ladies’ auxiliary. The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the G20 may hold a “women’s week” or start an “engagement group” and even put a phrase about women in their communiqués, but they won’t accommodate the distinctive needs of half their citizenry in their plans. They refuse to learn how the exclusion of women hurts their economies or how including women in their national budgeting could bring the growth they so desperately seek. They sideline the Double X Economy on the basis of nothing more than prejudice.

That’s why we need you. By writing this book, I hope to recruit many voices, hands, and minds to the cause of women’s economic inclusion. I propose concrete, reasonable, and effective action. I ask you to join this movement regardless of your sexual and gender identity, race, or origin. I’m reaching out whether you work in a factory, in an office, on a farm, at home, or online. In this book, every time I say, “We should do this . . .” or “We can infer that . . . ,” I mean all of us.

Why are we only now learning about this shadow economy? There have been two obstacles: an absence of data and a blinkered way of thinking about our exchange systems. Economic measurement focuses on the exchange of money, but much of women’s economic contribution, like household production or farm labor, goes uncompensated. Furthermore, the smallest unit of data we usually record is the household, in which women’s earnings are typically attributed to a male head. For these two reasons alone, our systems do not pick up women’s economic activity most of the time.

To make matters worse, institutions from universities to governments have not generally collected or analyzed data by gender. At the time of the women’s movement of the 1970s, very few females were in academia; as a consequence, no discipline had given women much thought. Over the past fifty years, as women scholars rose in both numbers and prominence, one discipline after another—history, anthropology, psychology, sociobiology, archaeology, medicine, and biological science, to name just a few—was transformed when the simple question was asked, What about the women? But there are a few fields as yet untouched by this wave of intellectual change: economics is one of them. Meanwhile, the absence of consistent gender data has meant that comparing the welfare of women here with those there, or even now with then, has been impossible to do systematically.

 


 

Professor Linda Scott

Linda Scott is an internationally renowned expert on women's economic development, and Emeritus DP World Professor for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Oxford. She is founder of the Power Shift Forum for Women in the World Economy, which brings together leaders from across sectors; and founder and senior advisor of the Global Business Coalition for Women's Economic Empowerment, a consortium of major multinationals working to empower women in developing countries. She is Senior Consulting Fellow at Chatham House, and a frequent consultant to the World Bank Group on gender economics. Linda Scott's work has been covered by The Economist, BBC, New York Times, Guardian and Financial Times, and Prospect magazine has twice listed her among their Top 25 global thinkers. @ProfLindaScott

 

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