Photo: Jake Stimpson

Women We Read This Week

Kerry Howley’s “Hunting Rebecca Francis” in New York

In a strange twist of timing, Kerry Howley’s profile of a female trophy hunter who was shamed online by Ricky Gervais, and then hounded and terrorized by his followers, was published in the midst of the uproar over the killing of Cecil the Lion. For someone baffled by the allure of sport hunting for its participants, it’s a fascinating read.

Howley tags along with Rebecca Francis, a skilled and accomplished hunter, as she stalks a South African antelope. She digs into Francis’ background and the fallout from her brush with internet fame/infamy, and tries, as best as an outsider can, to come to grips with the woman’s hobby of choice. She also explains the role of trophy hunting as a driver of conservation efforts, and notes the ways in which – prior to the death of Cecil, at least – female hunters have so often received a different reaction online than their male counterparts. Here’s Howley:

What is it about a pretty woman with a weapon? All of these rape-threat-inducing photos share the contrivance of a woman prepared for the camera — the highlights, the eyeliner, the bleached teeth — beside some nakedly majestic beast stripped of its dignity, demoted from natural wonder to photo prop. The male Shockey may well have just crawled from a cave for some prebreakfast bear-tussling, but his daughter’s polish suggests a standing appointment with a salon professional. Does the very artifice demanded of women in a cultural context become, in the wild, grotesque? Does the activity euphemistically referred to as “taking care of myself” prevent women from seeming credibly and sportingly of the wild? A hero shot is, among other things, a flag in the ground — I did this, did it here, did it now. And yet beyond the community of hunters, the photo does not evoke a thousand-acre South African game preserve, with its own complicated set of ethics, so much as our intuitions about nature or, more precisely, naturalness, which includes womanliness and animal innocence and prescriptive, ethical eating.


Nitasha Tiku’s “Living In The Disneyland Version of Startup Life” in Buzzfeed

Nitasha Tiku’s piece looks into the roots of co-living spaces in Silicon Valley, and how the dual work-life complexes are spreading to other urban areas and companies across the country. While the trend largely began with the tech boom and startup craze, it has evolved into a greater culture and even belief system for “co-living’s true believers [who] speak of an environment in which they are all but forced to be their best selves.” She breaks down the thinking behind these companies, such as New York’s recently launched We Work, into a greater discussion of the balance between work and life, pursuing ideas and departing mentally from the grind of creation:

The same people sporting “Do What You Love” T-shirts don’t need to stop when the clock strikes 5 (or 6, or 10, as the case may be). They don’t need to deal with the onerous apartment search process or cumbersome leases or landlords who are bad at email or housemates who don’t grok their ambition. They don’t need to merely live — they can co-live.

Neither co-working nor co-living are exclusive to Silicon Valley, but they do reflect a boom-time belief system first seeded here in the land of startups. Innovation is infectious, and the spirit of disruption can be transferred by proximity or osmosis. With each newly minted billionaire who built a product you use, the message gets more convincing. Work can be a form of self-expression. You can retain your values and still rake it in.

Living this summer in New York, I’ve had the chance to briefly peek into and walk around in the working lives of friends who have beaten me to the millennial workforce, and I see it here: the offices with luxurious, gleaming kitchens, ample work spaces with couches, game rooms, gyms with showers. Tiku’s piece looks at both sides of this increasingly upheld way of living, creating a thought-provoking avenue for a discussion Americans will continue to face, in different forms, time and time again.


Ann Friedman’s “Career Resolutions Based on My Professional Failures” for New York‘s The Cut

I’ve always thought that the most helpful advice comes in the form of story – and not the story of success, but failure.There’s of course a lot to learn from failure, practical lessons learned in hindsight. But more importantly, I think hearing about the ways successful people have failed gives us the courage to try, and to fail ourselves. In this piece, Ann Friedman gives a wonderfully honest account of her career failures so far, following up each anecdote of failure with a resolution, or lesson for the future. The resolutions are smart and no-nonsense, but the stories themselves contain the most valuable nuggets of wisdom, like this one: “What I also didn’t know then is that the feeling of Oh god, I’m in over my head, is how you can tell a job is a good fit for you.”



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