Ann Friedman

Ann Friedman is a journalist who contributes regularly to New York Magazine, The Los Angeles Times, and The Gentlewoman. She's also the co-host of the podcast "Call Your Girlfriend" and the author/sender of a popular weekly email newsletter.

People love the "I'm Reading" section of your weekly newsletter. What’s the best thing you’ve read online this year so far?

It's too hard to pick just one thing. Here are a few favorites:
Reporting: "Reverent Resistance" by Tommy Tomlinson in Esquire, "The Youth Group that Launched a Movement at Standing Rock" by Saul Elbein in the New York Times Magazine and "Her Eyes Were Watching the Stars" by Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah in ELLE.

Essays: "The Trash Heap Has Spoken" by Carmen Maria Machado and "On Impractical Urges" by Ayana Mathis in Guernica and "The Feminine Heroic" by Meghan Mayhew Bergman in The Paris Review.

As someone who's dedicated much of her career (and podcast!) to tackling gender and women's issues, what online resources do you recommend to budding feminists?

I think our podcast is a pretty good one! I’m also a fan of Rookie. And it’s a good idea to lay a feminist foundation by reading books like bell hooks’ classic "Feminism Is For Everybody" and Roxane Gay’s "Bad Feminist."

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Ann Friedman at her home in Los Angeles. Photographed by Austin Hargrave.

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"We have a running Google Doc ('The Vagenda') where we share links and ideas of things we might want to discuss."

Verrryyy generally speaking, do you think the Internet has been good or bad for feminism?

I don’t think the Internet is inherently feminist or anything, but it’s been a net good for feminism. In earlier decades of the movement, there was a lot of debate about how to influence or deal with “the media”—meaning the TV shows and radio programs and magazines and newspapers that were controlled by people whose worldview was not very feminist. There were some attempts to provide alternatives (see: Ms. Magazine, and also zines) but there were also those who argued it was best to ignore media altogether because it couldn’t be trusted to engage with feminism (see: the Riot Grrrl media blackout). Those quandaries about whether to engage with or ignore big traditional media still exist, but there are so many other avenues for connecting and engaging and protesting.

The explosion of online communication has had significant downsides, like the onslaught of hatemail you’re sure to get if you’re openly sharing your opinions online and you happen to be a woman and/or a person of color and/or gender nonconforming. But overall, I think the Internet has allowed for more ways of challenging and changing dominant narratives and conversations, which has always been a goal of most feminists. The revolution is incomplete, and that is very apparent online. But the Internet has given us an expanded set of tools and methods for bringing about feminist change.

Podcasts, of course, being one of them. How do you and your "Call Your Girlfriend" co-host, Aminatou Sow, decide what to discuss each episode? Do you follow a script?

There is no script. We have a running Google Doc (“The Vagenda”) where we share links and ideas of things we might want to discuss, but then we just let the conversation flow where it wants to. We tried to script our first episode, and it just sounded horrible and canned.

Writer. Podcaster. Cool tattoo-haver. With so many balls in the air, how do you stay organized?

I use a notes app called Simplenote. I don’t like to-do lists that are just itemized checklists. I need space to paste my thoughts and links and quotes. Sometimes they’re not to-do lists at all, but running lists of rambling ideas. I have an Excel doc where I keep track of all my assignments and invoices. And Google Calendar is the other important piece of my organizational puzzle.

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"The revolution is incomplete...but the Internet has given us an expanded set of tools and methods for bringing about feminist change."

Ok, on to some rapid fire questions. What’s your online guilty pleasure?

Weird Dude Energy, a delightful and insightful blog. It’s not guilty, just a pleasure. Honestly, I think it might be my favorite curated site on the Internet.

What are your favorite social media accounts?

On Instagram:
My pal George McCalman (@tuffgee) uses Instagram as his visual diary. He’s a graphic designer, so he has a great visual sense. But he also has a journalist’s sensibility, and usually features quotes from the people he photographs or mentions snippets of conversation he overheard while taking the photo. Doesn’t hurt that he travels to a lot of beautiful places.

My friend Jana Kinsman (@janakinsman) is a beekeeper and nature maven, and her Instagram feed is a mini botany or entomology lesson in each photo. It’s a breath of fresh air. Stella Bugbee (@stellabugbee) is an editor I work with at New York magazine, where she’s editorial director of The Cut. She posts gorgeous clothes that come her way, beautiful things she’s reading and her own art and drawings. The best combination.

On Twitter:
This is too hard for me. I can’t name just three. I just tried for 20 minutes and I’m declaring it impossible.

What’s the best under-the-radar app?

Splitwise has turned out to be a really good relationship-maintaining app. It’s just an easy way to keep track of who owes whom money, so you can keep your finances separate even if you share a lot of expenses with someone. It’s saved me some stress in my personal relationships, both on vacations with groups of friends and in my everyday life.

What are your favorite podcasts?

I subscribe to a lot of podcasts, but I jump around a lot based on my mood and whether a particular episode’s title looks interesting. Lately I’m enjoying "Unscrewed" (for feminist sexytimes), "New York Public Library Podcast" (for really long conversations between interesting artists), "Another Round" (for Tracy’s jokes, but also because it’s generally great), "Death, Sex, and Money" (for the great interviews), and "Longform" (for deep journo-nerding). Like everyone else, I binged "S-Town."

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Ann's Logitech solar-powered keyboard.

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"Cyborgs, if you’re reading this, know that I have the utmost respect for you and want to be your friend."

You're something of a GIF connoisseur. What’s your go-to resource for finding them?

I don’t have a single resource! These days I find them on Tumblr, on Twitter, on Instagram, in emails and texts from friends, on Giphy. A whole range of places.

What was your first screen name?

Oh god, I hate this question. It was NyQuil29. It sounds like I was a faded teenager drinking from the medicine cabinet, but really I couldn’t think of what to call myself and I had a cold during the week my family got AOL.

What would your dream app be?

I want an app that would be able to tell if I’ve been on Twitter or Instagram for more than 20 minutes, and would present me with a message like, “Hi, are you wasting time?” or “Is this how you really want to spend your day?” or “What are you getting out of this?”

What's next for you? What projects are you currently bringing to a boil?

No projects to announce, but here’s what’s percolating at the moment: I am thinking a lot about the subscribers to my newsletter, and how I manage that community. I’m thinking about whether and how I want to continue to be reactive to the news, or whether I want to work on projects that feel a little bigger than the day-to-day. I’m thinking about new ways to play around with audio as a medium. I’m thinking about mentorship, and how I can share what I know with people who are just now coming up in journalism (given that I work for and mostly by myself). I’m thinking about taking a solo writing retreat.

In your expert opinion, what will the Internet look like 5 years from now?

I am going to credit my friend and podcast co-host Aminatou Sow with this one: We won’t read anymore. It’ll all be sentence-long snippets, videos, audio, GIFs, and images. It might take a little longer than 5 years, but this is probably where we’re headed. [Must credit Amina because, as a writer, I would never have been able to come to this realization on my own. Too biased.]

Last but not least, what do you fear about the future of technology?

Cyborg uprising, definitely. Cyborgs, if you’re reading this, know that I have the utmost respect for you and want to be your friend. Or Corporate Dystopia—you know, an "Aliens"-like scenario where a single company owns everything and we only have the illusion of democracy or freedom? The company is what owns the cyborgs, probably—and lots of Internet-connected objects we need every day, and all TV, and all of our data. That’s my top fear. I think it’s probably an inevitability of capitalism.

Keep up with Ann:

s: annfriedman.com
t: @annfriedman
i: @annfriedman

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