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About six months ago, I was out with a male acquaintance, and started chatting about The Globe and Mail’s Pursuits section, home to the majority of our lifestyle content. ”Of course, I’m not the target reader,” he said in passing. I let it go, but I was perplexed.
I’m Maryam Siddiqi and, as this newspaper’s Lifestyle Editor, I oversee our coverage of food and drink, fashion and beauty, design and travel. This new friend, living in downtown Toronto, nearing 40 and interested in food, drink, travel – and I assume fashion and style to some extent since I could tell by looking at him that he took care of his appearance – is exactly the sort of reader I hope our content draws in. And yet, he thought it wasn’t for him.
This, frankly, is a tired argument. And offensive, both to women and men who are interested in these topics. Sali Hughes, a U.K. journalist and beauty columnist, explains why perfectly in her essay A Note on Internet Crusaders Against Beauty, which she wrote five years ago (it continues to be the most popular post on her eponymous website).
“The aggression directed at women who love beauty, or who happily spend £30 of their own, hard-earned money on a luxury serum, or who simply read a beauty column as they flick through the paper, suggests widespread misogyny,” she writes. “I doubt any man has ever been approached at a rugby match or wine tasting, by a stranger demanding to know why the cost of his ticket hasn’t been donated to Amnesty International instead of squandered on his own silly whims.”
But this attitude comes up time and again in comments on stories or on social media. On a recent piece The Globe ran about spring style trends, a comment reads: “Is this a humour piece?” On another story about a trend in the skin-care industry, a commenter refers to the feature as “advertorial drivel.” (I assure you, if it was, it would have been labelled as such. Well, not the “drivel” part.)
But I suspect that my friend thought the section wasn’t for him because it isn’t “serious,” that it is “soft” news, versus “hard” news like politics or business – and this simply isn’t the case.
The global fashion industry is worth US$3-trillion and employs 3.3 billion people. The fast-fashion industry is one of the top polluters in the world, with textile dyeing polluting water at a rate higher than every other industry except for agriculture. Speaking of agriculture, that industry is undergoing a major change as the majority of its work force prepares to retire in the next decade (enter robotic farming). Then there’s home decor, a global market that was valued at US$582-billion in 2017. When it comes to travel, in Canada alone, nearly one in 10 jobs are tied to tourism.
The business of lifestyle affects all aspects of our lives, from how our food is grown to the material used for the dishes we eat it on, from how we sleep to what we put on our skin. And in turn, the lifestyle choices we make – how we live – affect the economy, the climate and our personal health. To me, this is serious. It is the opposite of soft.
Plus, there’s the fact I want my house to look nice, I spend a lot of time there. I want to feel good about my body, I live in it. I care about what I wear, it’s an expression of who I am. I read about these topics, I spend money on them, I let them take up space in my brain just as politics, investments and sports do.
TL; DR: Lifestyle journalism is for everyone. Being interested in these topics has nothing to do with being a woman or being soft, and everything to do with being interested in the world around you, how it’s changing and how you can, too.
What else we’re reading:
In another life, I’d be a city planner, and so I’m fascinated by urban tales, such as this out of Lisbon: Tile theft is on the rise – torn from the facades of buildings – with thieves hoping to make a mint from antique dealers. Jenny Barchfield writes: “Tiles are, of course, a very particular art form – one that, unlike paintings or etchings or sculptures, can’t be securely stored or protected. And with a single azulejo fetching hundreds of euros at the city’s more reputable antique stores, tiles, which are just sitting there out in the open, unprotected, are easy pickings for specialized thieves, as well as drug addicts and others desperate for quick cash. Even tourists have been known to pry tiles off facades to take home as a souvenir.”
How do you solve the problem of brazen theft of cultural identity? The police, who must prove that any recovered tiles were obtained illegally and identify the building they were taken from, are fighting an uphill battle.
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