“Have a Point of View”

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Monday night, NYU’s Journalism School hosted Anna Holmes, the founder of Jezebel.com, to talk about her sassy new release “The Book of Jezebel: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Lady Things,” and stuff.

On the book…

I'm Anna Holmes, Founder of Jezebel, and This Is How I Work
Image Source: Lifehacker

The book is an ode to the popular site Anna started and ran from 2007 to 2010 as it raised the pop culture bar for the modern woman. It “defines” prominent figures, catch phrases and “feminist” enigmas with regard to their Jezebel.com relationship. One excerpt she read aloud, which I cannot quote for its length, explained “female friendship,” according to Jezebel, and it perfectly touched upon the eternal and sacred connection girlfriends can share when they really “click.” The witty, honest book banter that Anna herself so effortlessly exudes is relatable – like a good substantive chat over Irish coffees – and it definitely peaked my interest.

On feminism & Jezebel…

Ironically, for someone who produced an encyclopedic explanation of her own terms, Anna gets shifty-eyed over words – more specifically, labels, e.g. feminist, heroine, advice, etc. Even saying “Jezebel,” the word she’s become associated with coast to coast, has her sitting on her hands (or hiding her fists), explaining her objection for the misnamed platform, in her opinion.

Anna did dedicate significant time to discussing her experience working for women’s magazines. Essentially, she disapproved of how female audiences were targeted explicitly with luxe, fashion-centric propaganda or sex advice, and sought to bring politics and humor into the purview of women’s consumer publications. This manifested in a digital war, waged against the insecurities “created and then cured” by women’s outlets, and possibly catalyzed the transition we’ve witnessed in the content focus of Cosmopolitan and Glamour recently. Sex and wardrobe tips are just a part of a growing conversation over career and self-empowerment in women’s media these days.

On career advice…

An NYU Alum, Anna talked about her professional trajectory from an undergraduate internship to a first job, magazine to magazine, and eventually, almost reluctantly and certainly skeptically, to Web. I didn’t relate to her feelings on the job market, or the amount of access young professionals (like myself) have to certain opportunities, but she did say one thing that permeates all fields, all paths, regardless of industry:

“Have a point of view.”

Simple. It’s like saying, use your brain. Or, is it? For some reason, I struggle with committing to a point of view when I have bottomless access to information (Hello, Internet!). Anna, however, is spot on; her strong point of view is behind Jezebel’s success, after all. She disrupted conventional ideas indicating what women wanted to read about, and attacked them, indulging her conviction throughout. Having a point of view is provocative; it’s interesting; and it implicates the intelligence wherein the opinion is founded. This is a challenge for young people, but a useful quality that should be nourished.

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