Many Vagenda posts are line-by-line takedowns of specific articles, but have you ever felt that some annoying article themes are so common that it's unfair to pick on just one of them? Every time I want to read or write something fulfilling or useful (or read ‘Dreamers of a New Day’, Christmas present from 2010...)., someone links to one of these types of article on Twitter, and I waste five minutes of my life getting annoyed. Here are ten articles that journalists should really, really stop writing (and that I should stop reading):
1.) Snarky articles telling me what I ought to have done, or stopped doing, by the age of 25/30/35
I don't mean the bulleted lists, but the judgmental prose type. "Over 30? Still doing X? KILL YOURSELF NOW." Being a bit exasperated by people who devote their entire lives to strenuously denying they're no longer teenagers is one thing (most of those, incidentally, work in the media - yes, hello, middle-aged mag-hags drooling over teen pop stars, this is you...!). Of course there's nothing wrong with having ambitions or goals, and recognising you've reached a certain level of emotional maturity is generally a good thing. But running down other people in the course of aspiration, and classifying yourself as 'grown up' according to some superficial lifestyle milestone is daft (what is it with the middle classes and equating cooking with maturity, by the way? As though baking your own soda bread is the gateway to adulthood, and eating packet-sauce makes you an emotional cataclysm....). These smug, snide articles which read as though they're the mid-90s are just yuck. Bonus yuck-points if the article has some lazy throwaway humour invoking disability "Collecting keyrings if you're over 21 is a sign you have Aspergers/OCD/are mental...". (Hey, lazy columnist, how about you go and work with or even meet people with Aspergers/OCD/mental health difficulties, then tell me if you think they're still great bantz for your filler-piece...)
2.) Humour pieces by recent graduates about how waitressing/temping, and living back at home/flatsharing really sucks
When I was an undergraduate at Durham, back in the carefree early 00s, the student media ran endless articles poking fun at rahs (university slang for loud, moneyed, arrogant twits). The first few times you read or wrote one, you thought: "Wow, so hilarious! And so true! I bet they wrote that after they met X and Y from my seminar group..." But after three years of them, each one seeming to think it was the first, they got boring. Light-hearted 'graduate-blues' articles are the post-uni equivalent. Yes, I know they're meant to be funny. The problem is they all say the same thing, there's a limit to the number of times you can find a mildly funny thing funny, and the graduates who really need media exposure are the ones in situations which aren't very funny at all: the long-term unemployed, university dropouts, serial interns, and the made-redundant. If you're in those categories, you have my very deepest sympathies. But I really don't really need to read another piece by someone wryly noting that their dream job hasn't materialised three days after graduating (Guess what? I'm 28 and mine still hasn't. So I made my own - see later).
3.) Any article on gender with the phrase 'hard-wired' or 'genetically programmed' in it Because the headline "The expectation that women do X and men do Y has a small basis in genes/biology but is mostly cultural" isn’t very catchy, sub-editors invented the terms 'hard-wired' and 'genetically programmed'. They are now used matter-of-factly by people whose scientific knowledge extends to a CGSE grade C who want to sound knowledgeable about Biology. If I see another article on gender claiming 'studies have found' people of a particular gender are 'hard-wired' to enjoy something (usually a current trend in porn, fashion, career choices or interior decor) I will take a thick book on the social construction of identity and hurl it through the nearest window.
4.) Revolting comments below political articles
There are well-known web browser plugins that will automatically block articles from certain newspapers (cough the Mail cough) famous for their provocative content, and replace them with soothing images of things like kittens. I’m eternally grateful to whoever invented them - without them, I'd have no unburst blood vessels left. But someone needs to create one which lets you read sensible articles but blocks the comments underneath. Whether you agree with Louise Mensch's politics or not (whisper it, I'm of the 'not' persuasion...) her dedication to calling out misogynist online trolls is entirely right. And it's not just women daring to have opinions who come in for this kind of carry-on. I don't care what your views on the economy are - showing disrespect to people whose disabled loved ones have taken their own lives makes you a total shit. Don't be that.
5.) Music reviews comparing artists to Kate Bush and Tori Amos on the basis they're a) white and b) not Madonna I don't like to be all prescriptive about musical taste, but if you think Flo Welch sounds like Tori Amos, you're not listening to one or the other very carefully. If you were, you’d notice a vocal difference of about 3 octaves, and that one plays the piano quite a lot more often than the other. I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that maybe you think they're similar because they have red hair and vaginas. Which puts you on about the same musical footing as my uncles.
6.) Articles about online dating experiences
Can we just agree that we've all signed up for OKCupid because doing the quizzes was better than writing a Dissertation, that we've all given in and gone on a date because someone was cute/shared a hobby/didn't communicate in text speak/our friends nagged us, and that most of us have had experiences ranging from nice-but-unremarkable to dreadful.
7.) Articles about how, despite the fact that a quarter of them now do, any adult who lives with their parents or relatives is a freak of nature who should wear a paper bag over their head in public (cough Barbara Ellen cough)
8.) Articles about sex by people who think it's as trivial as a bus journey
There are essentially two viewpoints represented in most articles by or for women about sex: The traditional kind is written by a woman who insists on a lawyer's signature, a full psychometric report, the testimony of two best friends, and a laptop password before they'll get their pants off for anyone. They're those articles called things like: "Is he a keeper?", where you can find out whether someone loves you by analysing the thread count of his bedsheets, the way he pours your coffee, whether he pours you coffee, and basically doing everything except a thing that would be sensible called "Asking, and matching the words to later actions". Then at the other extreme there’s: "I've never shagged anyone with a name, LOLZ' or 'What do you MEAN my booty-call arrangements don’t sound like they’ll end well, Miss Prudeyknickers??!!'. It's as if the middle ground between someone with enough sexual preciousness and hangups to start their own religious denomination, and believing sex is on a level with eating chips or window-shopping doesn't exist. And, psst: Generally, people who write for a living don't do things without emotional involvement, let alone write about them afterwards. If someone's writing a 700-word weekly column about their 'casual' sex, you can bet it's not all that casual...
9.) Articles that assume everybody works in an office
I'm a freelancer. Remembering how few people actually do this thing makes me feel even more of a masochist than I do already
10.) Articles about articles you should stop reading
Not really; just thought I'd pre-empt the trolls there...
Are there any more articles that you really, really need to stop reading? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter.