Episode 10: Make It Rain on Lady Science!
Hosts: Anna Reser, Leila McNeill, and Rebecca Ortenberg
Music: Careful! & Cassie Lace by Zombie Dandies
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This episode is part of our summer pledge! The hosts talk about how to become a Lady Science Patron, where our money goes, and why we need more of it. Also, Anna and Leila talk about the craft of writing and editing and what it’s like to be a writer with mental illness.
Become a Patron during our Summer Pledge Drive! Visit patreon.com/ladyscience.
Transcription by Rev.com
Rebecca: Welcome to Episode 10 of the Lady Science Podcast. This podcast is a monthly deep dive on topics centered on women and gender in the history and popular culture of science. With you every month are the editors of Lady Science Magazine.
Anna: I'm Anna Reser, co-founder and co- editor-in-chief Lady Science. I'm a writer, editor, and PhD student studying 20th century American Culture, and the history of the American Space Program in the 1960s.
Leila: I'm Leila McNeill, the other founder, and editor-in-chief of Lady Science. I'm a historian of science, and freelance writer with words in various places on the internet. I'm currently a regular writer on women in the history of science at Smithsonianmag.com.
Rebecca: And I'm Rebecca Ortenberg, Lady Science's managing editor. When I'm not working with the Lady Science team, I can be found writing about museums and public history around the internet, and managing social media for the Science History Institute in Philadelphia.
Anna: So, today we have something a little bit different. The bulk of our episode is going to be a conversation that I had with Leila about writing. And so we talk about her process, the differences between academic and popular writing, and writing and mental illness. So, I think that you'll really enjoy that. But first, we want to talk a little bit about our pledge drive, which has been going on since June. So, right now, we're a little past halfway point, and we just wanted to talk a little bit about the drive, and what your support as a Patron could do for Lady Science, and why we think it's worth the investment.
Anna: So, in case you don't know, the pledge drive is just our campaign to convince you to become a supporter on Patreon. And our Patreon funds a big, big chunk of our operating budget, and we would like to have most of our operating budget come from Patreon, otherwise, we do sort of one-time fundraising, which is extremely time consuming. Last year, it sort of ate up the whole couple of months for us in the fall. Patreon frees us up much more, and it's really easy also to become a Patron, and easy for you to use. It's a kind of set and forget thing, where you just set up a pledge, and then Patreon will charge you every month, and you don't have to do anything until you want to cancel, but you would never want to cancel on Lady Science.
Anna: And you can pledge as little as $1, and that really helps us as well. So, I just though we could talk a little bit about what do we even need money for, what do we spend it on?
Leila: Well, one thing, the reason that we can even have a podcast, it was because we had money from our Patrons when we started this last year. So, we launched the Patreon in January 2017, right?
Anna: Yeah, January or February.
Anna: Something like that.
Leila: So, last year, at the beginning of 2017 is when we launched it, and we started out with not a whole lot, just probably $100 a monthish, but that was enough to, over a couple of months, saved up, to get us the equipment that we needed to actually bring you a podcast that was not recorded on our laptop microphones. Even though, I understand it might be confusing, the first couple episodes might've sounded like that, because we didn't actually learn how to work said equipment when we spent the money on it.
Leila: But, now we know how it works.
Rebecca: Oh, I would just say we've been able to buy even more equipment to make this sound even better, so there you go.
Leila: Yeah. If you listen to all the episodes in sequence, you'll tell that we gradually figured out how things work. But, yeah, so that you even get a Lady Science podcast is because we started out, even if it was a small, small amount that we had in the bank, it was enough to get us going on doing this podcast. So, that's one thing that we definitely use the money for.
Rebecca: Yeah, and I think it's also important, what makes patrons so important, and as opposed... I mean, one time donations are obviously great, but what makes patrons even more valuable is the knowledge of consistency, of we know how much money more or less we're going to be getting, and that allows us to do things like hire people who get paid on a regular basis, to do stuff for Lady Science. This is a selfish point because I am one of those people.
Leila: Rebecca wants to make sure that she keeps getting a paycheck each month, so-
Rebecca: I know. [crosstalk 00:05:25] great.
Leila: Help a lady out here.
Rebecca: It's great. And but also, KJ, our social media person gets paid the same way that I do, and as we increase our patronage, we're able to hopefully increase our staff, and be able to do more, and more things consistently in a way that's really important.
Anna: Yeah, I'll just say that for mine and Leila's mental health, if nothing else, we have to continue paying Rebecca and KJ because I cannot take on, and neither can Leila, the stuff that we have given to them to do once more. That's how we started, doing everything ourselves. We can't do that anymore.
Rebecca: Yeah, yeah.
Leila: Yeah. I don't want to go back to that dark place. It was-
Rebecca: I'm happy to have led you out of that dark place.
Leila: Yeah. Let me explain a little bit about how, aside from operating these, and paying for our website, and merch, and shipping merch, and stuff like that, our money goes towards that. But I want to talk a little bit about how we pay people, and why we need more money, so that we can pay people more.
Leila: So, what we've got going on right now is we've got KJ, like Rebecca said, who does our social media, and then Rebecca who's our managing editor. Both of them are kind of hands on deck, more or less, all the time. I mean, they get to sleep, and they have weekends and stuff. But, so that's why they get the monthly stipend that they get. We do have contributing editors, and they get paid when they write for us, and then they, once in a while, will edit pieces that we put out in the monthly issue, and use their kind of expertise in that regard for the magazine.
Leila: But, so they get paid for their writing that they do for us on a regular basis, and so right now, the way that we pay those editors, and the way that we pay our writers is kind of split between us, and our Lady Science money, and The New Inquiry.
Leila: So, almost two years ago, we started a partnership with The New Inquiry, which has been really helpful for us to reach into a new audience that we wouldn't have been able to tap into without it. So, what we do with our monthly issues is that we publish them with Lady Science, and then we also syndicate them on the new Inquiry website.
Leila: And so, because of that syndication, we're able to pay the people who write for our monthly issues. So, we don't actually pay for those, people pitch us, and we assign them, and we edit them, and post them, but the payment for those actually comes from The New Inquiry. So, thank you New Inquiry for allowing us to start paying writers. That was when we were first able to be able to do that.
Leila: Now, we also have the blog on our website, where we do lots of different kinds of writing, not just those historical researched pieces. We've run two different memoir series at this point, we write a lot of pop culture, we have Lady Science takes on the news, things like that. We pay for those, and we're able to do that with the Patreon money, one time donations that we get throughout the year. The money that we got from that pledge drive back in October. So, our money is kind of split. But, what we would really, really like to do, is not just be able to pay people more, but be able to be the ones paying for those monthly issues, and take that off of the New Inquiry. Not because we're not grateful for what the New Inquiry's done for us, but we want to increase that fee, and we want to be able to host all that content ourselves.
Leila: So, that's kind of how the paying is happening right now, so we've got some transparency going on about where that's going, and then also what we want to be able to do with more sustainable monthly operating budget.
Rebecca: One of the thing that's been happening recently that's a great problem to have, but also speaks to why increased patronage is so important is that you guys... Everyone might've noticed that we keep opening, and then very quickly closing our submissions for essays, and that's amazing because more, and more people want to write for us, and more, and more people want to write different kinds of things for us.
Rebecca: But, at a certain point, we sort of hit capacity with what we are able to put out there, both in terms of who we can pay, but also in terms of the amount of editing we have to do. And so, I think that as we grow, we really want to grow as a magazine, and there is... We have the capacity to do that, in terms of people power, but not necessarily the capacity to do that in terms of money.
Rebecca: So, I think that there's a great opportunity there where, as we get more money, we can really expand the amount of writing that we're putting out, the kinds of writing that we're putting out.
Anna: Yeah, and I'll just say by way of wrapping up a little is that, it's really important to us to pay writers, basically as much as we possibly can. We're all writers, and we all understand the value of that labor, and it was really important to us to be able to start paying writers anything at all. But our next goal is to be able to raise those fees so that they're sort of more consistent with the kind of market rate for this kind of writing, in order to be able to schedule things in advance, and do any kind of planning for the future, patronage is the best way for us to be able to do that, because then we then have some security for the future, and we can promise people things, like getting paid.
Leila: Yeah, and I want to say also, there's nothing more kind of depressing for me and Anna when we're trying to assign a story to a writer, and we tell them that all we can offer is $50, and they respond with that's less than they normally work for, which we understand. That's not a... 'How dare you rebuke our valuable $50.'
Leila: I mean, because I would have a hard time for just writing for $50 as well, and I have before, but I've also don't that going, and knowing that is was a small magazine, and they were really trying to do what they could, and that's kind of the place where we're coming from, we don't run ads on the website, and we don't... All of our content is free, and so we don't have subscriptions, we don't have any paywall content.
Leila: So, really every single thing... Every single dollar that we get comes from listeners and readers. And so, if anything, don't put me through having to have that conversation with a writer, or have a writer turn us down because all I could offer is $50.
Rebecca: And people are... They're doing new, original research. They're doing interviews. They're, in some cases, doing new reporting, and it's... I mean, obviously the writing itself is really significant, but people are putting even more hours into this than the literal writing of it, and you don't want to think about it in terms of what they're getting paid per hour, if they're getting paid $50 at the end, because it will just make you sad, and it already has made me sad, just saying that. So, the ability to open, increase those fees is really important.
Leila: Yeah, and I also want to say something about the personal essays and memoir pieces that we've read, that those are not necessarily thoroughly researched, or include reporting and interviews, just because that's not what the point of those essays are.
Leila: But, the emotional labor that goes into turning out a piece like that, so I edited six personal essays about women writing about their medical pain, and the horrific experiences that they encountered with the medical system, because of that pain. So, not only did they have to go, and rehash that when they wrote it, but then they also had to go through an editing process, where they had to revisit that, or there were times where I'd say, "I don't want to push on you too hard, but this isn't clear." So, that means that they would have to revisit that again, and try to flush out that experience in a way that someone else can understand. So, it's also for pieces like that, the intense amount of emotional labor that can go in to bringing that piece it's into the world, is also a lot.
Anna: And I'll just say that we pay the same thing for everything. All of our writing is commission at the same rate right now, so we'd like to keep doing that, because we believe that personal writing then involves that kind of emotional labor, it just takes just as much work, and is just as valuable as a reported piece, or a researched historical essay. So, we want to be able to put our money where that particular belief is, as well.
Leila: Yeah. We're working really hard to have a less exploitive publishing model here, and it's really hard. So, just understanding that when you're consuming content, that it's actually not free for the people who brought it to you, and just keep that in mind when you're consuming content, to consume content responsibly.
Anna: Yeah so I guess before we get to my discussion with my discussion with Leila about writing, we'll just say if you would like to contribute to our Patreon, you can do so at Patreon.com/ladyscience. Even a $1 pledge is incredibly helpful, and we so appreciate your support. If you do prefer to make a one time donation, you can still do that at ladyscience.com/donate.
Leila: Yeah, we're not going to turn our nose up at one time donations. Keep those coming, too.
Anna: Now we could just talk casually. That may not be possible though, since we're recording it.
Anna: Yeah. So, I guess could you just sort of talk about your background as a writer? How did you even become a writer? Why is it that you do that for a living now?
Leila: Well, I guess I didn't ever really intend to be this kind of writer, and it was just the thing that I did when I left, after I got my second master’s degree. I was a fairly good academic writer in grad school, and I was able to transfer those good writing and research skills into more casual writing for a general readership when we started Lady Science.
Leila: And so, through Lady Science actually since for the first-year, obviously you know, we wrote everything, and so it gave us a lot of practice with writing really good scholarship for a different kind of audience. And so, it kind of just grew out of that.
Anna: I do want to just talk about your specific process, and we'll get into as nitty gritty as you want, but so the first question that I have, and that I get from my students a lot is that it's difficult to come up with an idea of what to write, obviously, just in general, how do you decide? I think that maybe sometimes people as student writers are just full to bursting with ideas, and I'll never have time to get to all of them, but I think that's not the case for me. So, what's that process of finding and building an idea?
Leila: Yeah, this idea that there's a brick of genius that just falls from the sky isn't really... I mean, I'm sure there are some people that just constantly have good ideas, but it's not just about having a good idea, it's then going, and looking up to see if anybody else has also had that good idea. And if they have, well, what can I add to that? What type of angle can I bring to that thing that's already been written about?
Leila: And I think that in academia, especially in grad school, and even in undergrad, to some degree, is that we're taught that your idea has to be 100% original, and you have to be well versed in the whole histography of that specific idea, and you know, it's not really realistic, and it's certainly not realistic when you're writing on a deadline to have some sort of original research every single time.
Leila: But, what you can do is that you can bring your unique perspective, and your individual knowledge base, and knowledge set to that idea, and try to work it into an angle that hasn't actually been thought about before. So, even if you're not introducing a reader to a new idea, or a new historical figure that they've never heard about, and you're just plucking this person out of obscurity, and oh my gosh who is this person? At least you can try to find a way to get them to think about familiar people, and familiar material in a different way.
Leila: And that, in and of itself is pushing a conversation forward, and I think that, in and of itself adds to historical scholarship, as well. So, there definitely is, when you're deciding what to write, that goes into it, what kind of fresh angle, what kind of fresh perspective can I add to this conversation that's already here? But that does require a good amount of looking around, and seeing what's out there. And that goes for whether you're writing the pieces that I do for Smithsonian, and that goes for if you're writing something for an academic audience as well.
Leila: You still need to go, and find what else is out there, because you can't have a fresh perspective on something if you don't know what's there. Even if you have your idea, you've done your looking around, you've seen what's out there, and you think you have this original angle on something, you might find that, actually this angle doesn't work. This thing that I was exploring, this avenue that I was exploring is kind of a dead end now. That doesn't mean that the exploration has to stop, it just means that you need to take a different avenue, and that, that's fine, too.
Leila: With Lady Science, we'll get a pitch for one thing, and we're like, "Oh, yes. This is great. Let's do it." And then once the writer starts working on it, they'll email us back and be like, "Well, actually, that thing that I pitched isn't quite working out, but what about this instead?" And I've done that, too with my editor at Smithsonian. There was an angle that maybe I thought was going to work when I pitched it, and then when I started writing, it didn't really work out. It wasn't maybe as interesting as I thought that it was going to be. Or, the argument that I thought that I had, when I found more evidence, just wasn't going to be a good argument anymore.
Leila: Also this, because I do make a distinction between making an argument, and exploring an idea, and that a lot of times, with the stuff that I write for Smithsonian, I'm not necessarily trying to make an argument, I'm really trying to explore a larger historical concept through the profile of an individual person's life. And that in grad school, and definitely in different kinds of essays that I've written for a general public, you do... You are making an argument. But, you don't always have to, either. That sometimes you can explore, that you can raise questions that you don't necessarily have answers to.
Anna: I know this varies depending on whether or not your editor is on their game and is telling you, "Oh my God. I forgot that we had to do this. You have to turn this over in a week." How long does it take from, "Okay, I have an idea, I'm going to start my initial research process to see what that idea could ultimately be to send emailing copy to my editor and filing?" How long... Yeah. What's the fastest you could possibly do something like that?
Leila: The fastest that I have done it is four days. I don't... If you don't have to do that, I don't recommend doing that, ever. I mean, usually editors are pretty flexible of when they're going to ask for something. I've never had an editor be like, "I need this by the end of the week." And it's like Tuesday. They'll usually let me determine something within reason, like what about sometime in May, or something like that.
Leila: Usually editors are pretty flexible, which can be good or bad, depending on what kind of person you are. So, I actually, I have a really hard time with unstructured time. Because I think a lot of it is because I do have anxiety, and maybe we can talk a little bit about what it's like to write with mental illness, because that actually does play a lot into my process, having to have a process while having those problems.
Leila: So, it really depends on the editor. I've written a piece where it was a time sensitive piece, it was newsy, it needed to be done within the next 48 hours for it to still be relevant. And so, it really depends on what you're writing. So, if something like that was not research heavy. That was kind of a personal essay, making a cultural argument about something that was happening in the moment. So, those things, especially if I'm angry about it, I can write them pretty quickly.
Leila: But, for the research ones, I usually, I get a month with Smithsonian, and that's usually enough time, and that's even with some procrastinating going on, and having a full-time job, and other writing duties, and Lady Science duties on top of that.
Anna: Well, while we're thinking about it, let's talk about being a writer, and mental illness, and anxiety because that's something that I experience as well, and I think that might be the case for some of the students, or other people who are interested in this, and I think it's important thing to talk about. And if you're willing to talk about it, I think we should do it.
Leila: Sure, yeah. I'm totally up for that. So, writing with depression and anxiety, and then both of them at the same time can really do a number on you. And I found having unstructured time, like the times when I've had the most unstructured time, is when I've been the worst writer, because I have more time as an anxious person to get hung up on details that don't matter, that it'll take me a week to write a three sentence lede, instead of doing the research that I needed to be doing for the rest of the piece, or I will get caught in that mindset of, "I have to know everything all of the time. I have to make sure I fit every single person into this piece. I have to fit every fresh angle into this piece." And I get hung up on that.
Leila: And as someone with anxiety that it makes you get caught in a loop, and it's hard to break out of it. It's really hard, especially because writing and research is very isolating, and you don't have someone else there to insert themselves into that loop to disrupt it. And so, you have to find ways to disrupt it yourself, if you can even recognize that it's happening.
Leila: Which is why, for me, having you, Anna, as a writing partner when we're working on something together, or we're doing Lady Science together, it really helps to have someone that you can trust to talk to in those moments when you do realize that you're stuck, or you do realize that you're having really bad anxiety, to be able to let somebody know, because it's almost like a release valve, just letting.... If you can just let a little bit of that pressure off with somebody, that helps me enormously.
Anna: Oh, absolutely. And I'll say that cultivating our friendship and writing partnership is different for me, than other relationships, because we have a kind of shared language specifically about writing, and depression, and anxiety, and I really recommend that, if that's something that's possible for you to develop as a writer, having a partner like that. Because there are certain sort of key phrases and words that we will say to each other that kind of tick each other off to-
Leila: Are you okay?
Anna: Yeah. Are you freaking out? Are you doing okay?
Anna: You said the bad word.
Leila: Yeah, yeah. It's really helpful but, yeah. Definitely letting yourself have too much unstructured time, when it comes to writing is... can be really bad for the actual piece itself. And also, just for yourself. The more unstructured time that you have, the more you have to ring your hands over details that don't matter, and then the piece doesn't get written, and then you feel even worse, and it just turns into a viscous cycle.
Leila: And I think that a lot of times, writer's block becomes a stand in for having anxiety about writing. And I think that because I've seen people say that writers block isn't real, it's really just because you're afraid to write bad words, or you're afraid to make that junk first draft, like the rest of us do.
Leila: And, I mean, that might be part of it for me, but that's definitely not the entire fear of why I get writer's block. A lot of it does have to do with the ultimate fear of this piece being rejected by my editor, of being rejected by people that I admire, and respect. This new, awesome fear, since I started being a women writing on the internet is the type of harassment that I might get from a piece, also it feeds into anxiety for me, especially the things that I write about.
Leila: So, I think that writer's block isn't just because you're afraid to write bad words. I think it's legitimate fears about the process, legitimate fear is about success, and failure, that get just focused on writing a lede.
Anna: Yep. And I think that you have to get over your fear of writing the garbage first draft is slightly misleading in that, I'm not afraid of writing a garbage first draft, I'm afraid that when I turn into my final draft, it will be the garbage first draft. It's not a matter of, I have to get all the bad words out, and then I have the good words are under there, I'm afraid all of them bad, and that there's no floor to how bad my writing could be.
Leila: Right. It's garbage words all the way down.
Leila: Well, and I think that, that also feeds into my problems with depression as well, is like, when I'm having a really particular depressive episode, that I don't like myself. I've looked myself in the mirror before, and said, "I have everything about you." So, that easily transfers over into the product that you're supposed to be delivering to the world, because it down turn into what if this is it? What if this is my best self? Everyone's like, "Just be your best self." What if this is my best self, and I hate it?
Anna: Yeah, exactly.
Leila: So, it's not easy, it's definitely not easy being a writer, and having these mental health issues. It helps also if you have an editor, for me anyway, that I trust in the case of your students, having a teacher that you trust to be able to say, "I actually am having a really hard time with my anxiety on this. I'm having a depressive episode, and I just can't get it out." So, I think that, that's really important, and a lot of people don't have that.
Leila: And so, if you fear what your editor's going to think, or what your teacher's going to think, it's going to make it worse. So, it's really important that if you're teachers and editors, if you're in positions of power over writers, to let them have the room to be able to let you know. They don't have to bear their soul their soul to you-
Anna: And you shouldn't ask them for that.
Leila: You shouldn't ask them to, to believe them. But, I mean, there's just been times like, there was a piece that I had been working on for Smithsonian, and it was bad. It was 600 words over the word count, and I could not... and my anxiety really ramped up with trying to get that word count down. I was just hacking at it, and then it turned into something that I didn't even recognize anymore, and so I sent two drafts to my editor, and I was like, "I can't actually anymore." And she was like, "Great. No problem."
Anna: "I'll take it from here."
Leila: "I'll take it from here." And that's really, really helpful. So, there are people that you think you can trust with that information, go for it. Let them know.
Anna: That's been huge for me, having the writing, at least, relationship that we developed is that, just knowing that I could run something in front of you, actually alleviates a lot of anxiety, because I trust you to help me get out of a jam, or gently reduce the number of clauses in my sentences without making me feel bad about it, and for me, it's like having a Xanax in your bag when your flying. I don't ever take it, but I always have one with me, just in case.
Anna: So, even for stuff that, that I'm not writing, that is specifically going to be edited by you, for Lady Science, or what have you. Just knowing that I could send it to you and just be like, "I am lost. Please get me out of the weeds." It gives me this sort of confidence to just get in there, and start doing it, and I know if I get in trouble I have someone to help me.
Anna: We were kind of already talking about editing, but let's just get into that, I think a little more specifically.
Leila: Well, I think that when I first started editing for Lady Science, and I mean, I think our editing styles... I mean we don't really edit a whole lot together anymore, so I don't actually know if they're the same anymore or not, but-
Anna: Yours is the good one, mine's the bad one.
Leila: Doubt that that's true. But, I used to leave kind of copious notes, because I was transitioning. I used to be a writing teacher, not just a... I taught writing. And so, I would transition really quickly into being writing professor, and I think that, that has its place in that if someone's publishing for the first time, I think that it does kind of deserve a little bit more explanation of what you're doing to that piece, and why. Because one, that's probably the last time that they've been edited by someone, who was a professor, who did that for them.
Leila: And it can be really, really, really jarring to go into with a professional editor for the first time, and they just go in, and they move your sentences around, they move paragraphs around, and they take things out, and put things in, and it feels like a violation of your sacred piece that you handed over to them, when that's really like, that's how it's done.
Leila: So, I think the first time that happened to me with a professional editor, I didn't really know how to respond to that, and I... Because I didn't really get an explanation because they treated me like I was a professional writer, so thank you, but probably shouldn't have done that. Probably shouldn't have given me that much credit. So, it was confusing for me, I didn't understand some of the lingo that professional editors use for journalists, so I had to look up a lot of it, and it was really, really difficult.
Leila: And so, I wish that, in that case... It's not their fault, they didn't know how I needed to be hand held. So, I wish that I had got a little bit more feedback in that. And so, I know now, that if we're getting a writer who is a first time writer, or a first time person being published outside of their own personal blog, or whatever, that I tend to give a lot more notes.
Leila: Other ones that are seasoned writers, that have gone through this before, I just... Unless I need something from them, like I have questions, or I need them to actually reframe an argument, I'll give detailed stuff about that. But, if I'm just moving sentences around, cutting out a paragraph that doesn't work anymore, or something, I don't explain that, I just do it.
Anna: Yeah. I have a very distinct memory of looking up the term nut grass when Paul was editing me at the Atlantic, and being like, "I'm a tiny baby. What am I doing? I don't know what I'm doing. They're real people."
Leila: I had to look up TK. Because when Paul edited me, so Paul is the... One of the science editors at The Atlantic, I guess he was my first experience with-
Anna: Your first time?
Leila: First experiences, poor man [crosstalk 00:39:43] talking about my first experience with him.
Anna: Oh God. Sorry Paul.
Leila: It was just like TK, it's all over the place, and I was, like, "What is that? What is this?" Yup, poor guy. He stuck that one out man. He was super nice.
Anna: He was, and I did that thing where I posted my roundup at the end of the year, and I thanked him for being really nice and patient with me. And then, he did the nicest thing that any editor can ever say, which is he lied about me on Twitter, and said that I didn't need much guidance, and I was so grateful to him.
Leila: Yeah, so I guess the way that I've been edited has definitely changed me as an editor. That I've gone from being a professor type of editor, to being an editor. And part of that is knowing as much as you can about the writer. Knowing as much as you can about them. Not personally, but understanding, hopefully, where they're coming from. There's nothing worse than as a person of color, or woman of color, or queer person to explain yourself to an editor who doesn't share your identities.
Leila: Never be that editor, just don't be that editor. If you're at this point, my editor at Smithsonian knows exactly what I'm going to say, and is cool with that, and it's really nice when you have that relationship with an editor, but a lot of editors don't come from a place like that, I don't think, like a place of understanding of their writer, and don't really care to. That always helps, is when you have an editor who is like that, and I've tried really hard to do that too, is that when I'm making comments or asking for something, that I'm not framing my questions in a way to where they feel like they have to defend their argument, or just then why they're talking about race, or why they're talking about gender, or disability, or anything like that. But, that's just not something that they have to defend to me.
Anna: Okay so, we're going to wrap up here in a minute with an annoying thing, but first we just want to talk to you just a little bit more about the pledge drive, just so we can give you an idea of what kind of stuff we want to make, what kind of content we're making, and why we think it's important, and a little bit more about the platform that we're building, and why it needs your support, and why it's valuable.
Leila: So, one of the things that I think is something that's been really cool to watch, which maybe we didn't necessarily intend when we built this thing almost four years ago... Holy crap. Oh, man. Is that it's become kind of a space where we brought historians and scientists, and just general interested people into a conversation, that we launched it... mainly with the support and readership of historians, just because that's where we came from, that's where we knew, that's who we knew, those were the networks that we had. And very quickly grew beyond that. And as a historian of science, who felt like the work that I was doing was important for scientists to know, very few times does what's happening in history of science actually make it to scientists, I think.
Leila: And so, it's been really awesome to actually see that happen here, with Lady Science. And so, I think that's been very valuable that we've been able to bring these different audiences, and readers into the same space, to be exploring the same content that we're putting out there. So, that's been something that I think has been really cool, and really special about Lady Science over the past couple of years, and it just keeps growing, I think, in that way.
Rebecca: Yay. Yeah so, I... As one of those people who was welcomed into the Lady Science fold from, not really a history of science place, or I mean, I ended up in kind of in the history of science circle, but I really come from the public history world, world of museums, and historic sites, and other kinds of ways that history is created with and communicated to the non academic public, and one part of public history that... I think even for many public historians, be easy to set aside, but that I think is important to the field, and to any communication of history with the public is critiques of the way that history is made, and written, and who gets to write it, and the way the academia is structured, and history and academia is structured.
Rebecca: Lady Science is just such an amazing example of creating scholarship that is accessible to large number of people, and also very needy. Those two things never... The group of people that put Lady Science together are never a group of people who would see those two things as mutually exclusive, which unfortunately, a lot of people think if something is accessible, that means it's also super shallow, and that is not the kind of work that we create here, and I find that to be really special.
Rebecca: But, also the idea that embedded in everything that we do is a critique of how these things are done. We're not the only people thinking about that, goodness knows, but it's still pretty rare, and pretty special, and I love you guys, and I love being part of this community. Sorry there was no way to end that without being like, "It's just... It's wonderful."
Anna: And I will say that while we are not the only publication thinking along these lines that Rebecca outlined, as far as I know, we are the only publication who does that specifically focused on women and gender in the history of science.
Leila: Yes, and pays.
Anna: And pays, yeah.
Anna: We're niche in that way, so I suppose worth protecting, in the way and endangered animal is, I don't know.
Rebecca: The other thing that Lady Science does that's related to these critiques is looking at history as a social justice project, and I think that our really deep commitment to that, is another one of those things that makes us unique, and science and medicine, and technology, just, they permeate all of our lives, and they shape just about every single narrative related to the modern age. Looking at those things through complicated lenses, and critiquing them, and analyzing them is so important. It's something that I'm actually relatively new to, and I have learned so much from the Lady Science team, and from other historians of science about how to think about those systems.
Rebecca: Given the state of the world now, I think thinking about how we got here, and how all the systems were created, and also the ability to imagine how we could dismantle or change those systems in the future, is really important, and really a part of what we do as well. Ta-da!
Leila: So, speaking of dismantling oppressive structures, and following in a previous tradition of dunking on Tech Bros, shall we go into our one annoying thing to close out the episode?
Anna: At the end of every show, well most shows, our hosts will unburden themselves about one thing in the news, their work, whatever, that's just really annoying the hell out of them. This is kind of a reverse annoying thing, because it's an annoying thing that everyone has finally realized is annoying, I guess.
Anna: It's Elon Musk.
Anna: Surprise, there's like confetti.
Rebecca: This was my suggestion, and part of how it became an annoying thing that was a joyful thing, was that for so fricking long, so many, otherwise thoughtful, well-meaning, left-leaning, socially-aware people I know were team Elon Musk. I think part of that comes from the idea of electric cars, being this sort of beautiful goal of a lot of people who are concerned be climate change, and about reducing pollution in the world.
Rebecca: And so, there's this idea that, "Yay. There is someone who's totally invested in selling electric cars, and also space." And that same kind of liberal I just described, also tends to like the idea of space travel. And so, those two thinsg, I think, just came together to emotionally get a lot of people on board with Elon Musk, who maybe wouldn't otherwise be on board with a white South African Tech Bro asshole, but recently there was some reporting, particularly by the team behind the Reveal Podcast about problems at the Tesla plant, where they make the cars, and serious safety issues there, and Elon Musk responded by going batshit on Twitter.
Rebecca: And then the universe realized, "Oh, oh. This guy is a crazy person." And now everyone is team Elon Musk is the worst.
Leila: Well, I wouldn't say everybody.
Rebecca: No, not everybody, no, God no, no, because there's also been a lot of Elon Musk fanboys who have gone after everyone talking about Elon Musk.
Leila: Yeah, and his response was largely going after women reporters and women scientists. The way that those things work in the Twitter world is that, if you have someone, like Elon Musk, who has millions of followers, and he goes after, or just Tweets something snarky, or rude, or vaguely attack at someone who has less followers that... Or, less of a reputation, that it becomes an enormous pile on. And that, it doesn't end for days.
Leila: And that's what he was doing. He was going after individuals on Twitter, and his whole following of Silicon Valley tech bro wannabees just started piling on these women. And he kept doing this thing where he was saying, "Well, I'm not responsible for my followers. I can't determine what they do." Or whatever, and that's just such a cop out, and it's such a way to shirk responsibility for what you've done.
Leila: If you see what's being said, for people who tend to defend you, and follow you, then you are kind of responsible for what they do, and what their actions are, because you've given them a target, and you've given them permission.
Anna: Yeah, that's exactly right, that he gave them a target. You don't have to at people that you disagree with, and sic your followers on them. Maybe you didn't tell them to do that precisely, but you're supposed to be extremely online. You know how it works, like come on dude. What are you doing?
Anna: And then, trotting out that Grimes tweet about how she did it, she saw that he didn't... I don't know, exploit his workers, or engage in union busting, or something, was just launched me into The Twilight Zone. I was just like, "What is happening? This is so weird."
Leila: Yeah. It's like he couldn't help himself. The Tweets kept coming, and kept coming, and he kept blaming new people to target. It's insane. There was that one scientist from Australia who is specializing in nanotechnology, and he decided to argue with her, ad infinitum about whether nano technology was a real science, or not.
Rebecca: Right? That was so bizarre. His... nanotechnology isn't a real thing. And it goes to show also, because I feel like nanotechnology is in a vacuum, sort of one of those things that tech fanboys are like, "Oh, that's cool, and vaguely Star Treky." Would be on board with.
Rebecca: But, because Elon Musk just tells people that nanotechnology isn't a real thing, suddenly all of those people that would otherwise be like, if the right person said it, "Hey nanotechnology is cool." Are suddenly like, "Oh no. It doesn't exist, and this poor Australian woman is a monster."
Leila: Yeah. And the other ridiculous side to what he was doing on Twitter for just a sustained week of just doing this was, he started deciding he was going to talk economics, and politics with people, claiming that this man, who is worth 19... I just looked it up, in 2018, 19.7 billion dollars, who shot his own fucking car into space, with the space company that he owns. He crowdfunded a couch for himself, thinks that he's a socialist, he called himself a socialist, and was arguing with people about socialism and capitalism on Twitter, claiming he's a socialist, and saying, "Did you know that Karl Marx was a capitalist?" He wrote an entire book about it.
Rebecca: That was my favorite one.
Leila: It's incredible. It was just like chef kiss beautiful.
Rebecca: Yup, yup.
Anna: What you were saying earlier, Rebecca, about the certain kind of liberal that thinks if, as long as you recycle, and buy an electric car, we're to all going to die in the forest fires that will rig the earth once everything's all dried up, and that same kind of liberal is really interested in space exploration, it made me realize that even though my own research is about space exploration, my personal investment in that idea has gone... has just cratered, the more sort of radical I become, the more I realize how bad of an idea space exploration is.
Anna: It's just this huge diversion. It's a terrible idea, first of all, but it is one of those... It's like a shiny toy for these people who are fans of Elon Musk that he's like... he's living out their sort of... let's be honest, boyhood dreams. This is mostly men we're talking about that are standing for Elon Musk on Twitter, of going to space, and therefore, he can't be criticized for anything.
Anna: People who work for him, that he laid off, were literally Tweeting about how much they loved him, and supported his mission, and it was just like, "You totally drank the Kool-Aid. He laid you off. You're unemployed now."
Anna: So, yeah. I mean, I guess we could probably just duck on Elon Musk for a hundred years, but he's kind of dunking on himself anyway. There's some spectacular self-owns on Twitter lately.
Leila: Nobody really self owns super wealthy white dudes that have become so disconnected from reality at this point.
Rebecca: Karl Marx was a capitalist because he wrote a book called Capital. It's just, it's beautiful. And that's, I think, kind of I think I will say, that's what gives the... slots Elon Musk into the category of annoying things, and not things that are going to make us all die in a fiery blaze.
Leila: Oh, yeah, I'd like to say-
Rebecca: Which it seems like is the rest of the world.
Leila: It was real hard to come up with something to be annoyed about, and not just stare at an abject horror. So, Elon Musk was a good target. Well done, Rebecca. All right, cool. Well, we'll just wrap up I guess. I mean, if you want to Tweet us your thoughts about Elon Musk, you can. We might not pay attention to them, but don't forget about our pledge drive, which was basically the entirety of this episode.
Leila: Ladyscience.com/donate is where you can find ways to donate and pledge. So, if you liked our episode today, please leave us a rating, and a review on Apple Podcast, so that new listeners can find us. I also was to underscore how important leaving us ratings and reviews are. Questions about any of the segments today? Tweet us @ladyxscience, or #ladyscipod. For show notes, episode transcripts to sign up for our monthly news letter, read monthly issues, pitch us an idea, and more, visit ladyscience.com. And until next time, you can find us on Facebook at @ladysciencemag, and on Twitter at @ladyxscience.