I have good news and bad news. On the plus side, we received our first reader email response of the semester; the bad news is, they weren’t happy with us.
Though my Lettitor’s title would lead you to believe otherwise, the email I’m referring to was neither as romantic nor as humorous as what Meg Ryan received 15 years ago. The fan mail in question was in response to the cover of Issue Four, an original illustration by our very own Ed Appleby: a woman wearing nothing but piercings and tattoos, with the words “Celebrate your body” scrawled across her collarbone. I may be biased because I love everything Appleby does for us, but I thought the illustration was great. We could’ve had something more basic—like someone with their tongue pierced or an ankle tattoo or something subtle—but instead, Appleby chose to showcase the human body in a playful manner.
Before I proceed to dissect the email response, I’d like to point out that I think feedback is great—especially when it’s critical. If people didn’t voice their concerns about issues they feel strongly about, we’d never have a dialogue. What steamed my beans about this particular email was how poorly developed the response was.
The author of the email (let’s called them Concerned Student or CS) wondered if we found it “necessary that the cover of EVERY issue be sexually charged,” an inquiry I felt was, for the most part, unwarranted. A quick recap of our other covers this semester: an alarm clock, a neon “XXX” sign, a blue silhouette of deceased rocker Gary Moore, and a family-portrait style picture of the newspaper’s staff. One of our Staff Writers is admittedly wearing shorts in that family-portrait, but I would hardly call Aidan Mouellic’s bare shin “sexually charged.”
The “XXX” cover was for a Feature about demystifying the subculture of sex shops in the Lower Mainland. Instead of just slapping a dildo on the front page and calling it a night, we chose to focus on the retail aspect of the article and I think it worked wonderfully. It’s intriguing; it’s subtle; and I think we successfully avoided confusing people with the Vin Diesel movie of the same name. I can only assume that this was one of the sexually charged covers CS was referring to, and I have to point out that there’s nothing sexual about luminous tubing and wires. It’s actually just the power of association.
What frustrated me most about the email was the gross overgeneralization contained within. Aside from saying that “EVERY” cover is sex-related, apparently our target readership is “primarily a bunch of hormone-driven young adults,” which I think credits neither the motivations nor the ages of the Douglas College population. I’ve never intentionally marketed our publication in a sexual manner simply for shock value and I don’t ever plan to. There’s the archaic argument that sex sells, but we’re not trying to sell you anything. We’re not Maxim; we’re a college newspaper, with issues available for free around the campus and online.
I met an Opinions Editor at a conference three years ago who wrote an article about anal fisting in hopes of causing a ruckus at his campus. I thought his tactics were simultaneously funny and petty; if you’re relying on theatrics to attract attention to your writing, then you’re probably doing it wrong. To be fair, his article succeeded in launching a massive response and his own Editor even tried to get him fired afterwards.
I suppose the two situations are hard to compare, but what I’m trying to say is that we never go out of our way to offend people. As a feminist myself, I recognize that women in the media are often hyper-sexualized, objectified, and marginalized—sometimes all at the same time—but I take pride in saying that this is an attitude we at the Other Press have no interest in endorsing.
I like to think I’m someone who’s receptive to criticism and I encourage every one of you to send us feedback and let us know what you think of the newspaper—at least it shows that someone else is reading it besides us.
So it goes,