In Praise of FFE's (Fine Female Editors)

Ever since the days when The Devil Wears Prada and the high priestess of fashion Miranda Priestly hit our screens, much talk has been made of the realities of journalism. Widely believed to be based upon the goings-on at U.S Vogue and its renowned editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, the film's characterisation of a female magazine editor produced one of the most memorable villainesses in recent times. Andrea, an aspiring journalist, lands a job that, apparently, " a million girls would kill for"; and thus endures Priestly's icy and often humiliating treatment for a year in the hope of climbing the greasy pole. So what, we laughed, that Andrea had to court the company of a great dane one day at work, or hunt down unpublished Harry Potter manuscripts for Priestly's beastly twin daughters? What of the woes of trying to book a private plane in the grip of a tropical storm, or being subjected to a rant on the colour of "cerulean blue"? We laughed at the dramatisation, thanking our lucky stars that those caricatures of female authority had disappeared long ago alongside pointy shoulder pads, shellacked hair and filo faxes bristling with executive busyness.

Whilst the depiction of life as a journalist in the fashion industry came under scrutiny for its accuracy, Charlie Krupp, the executive editor of SHOP, Inc, said at the time:"It's the first film I've seen that got it right...[It] has the nuances of the politics and the tension better than any film - and the backstabbing and sucking-up". It was interesting to me that this industry insider came close to poking the place that hurts - admitting that a current of bad behaviour does exist alongside the perceived glamour and glory of magazine journalism.

This post was never going to be about female bosses that make you get their coffee on the regular, or air their judgements and opinions to an open-plan office. Anyone who's have built any sort of career within journalism will know they're there. Anyone who's notched up a few internships will probably have an intimate fear of last-minute transcribing, or acquiring just-the-right-strength soya latte for the rest of their lives. Anyone who's ever wanted to get something published will probably have encountered them.

The desire to celebrate the kind words and even more decent actions of female editors comes after a few months of freelancing. It's fair to say I haven't had the best experiencesthis year. Bullying behaviour from one female editor, bylines stolen from my work, negative comments spread about that loop back to you through friends of friends. Then there's been editors that hold on to your work for months on end without publishing it, without so much as a quick line to say why. There are editors who tell you that they haven't even had time to READ your email let alone reply to it. There are editors who publish your work with massive chunks mysteriously edited out, and inaccurate information edited in. The editors who never bother to give you a namecheck, and make sure not to include your twitter handle on social media. "I had an obsession with trying to please her, which wasn't possible", wrote journalist Emma Gannon of one female boss in her piece 'A thank you note to good female bosses'. "I tried to make sense of her". Too many times have I combed through interactions for clues on how to better bad relationships; when in reality, I was never at fault at all.

Yet, like a few rays of sunshine pushing the cloud back up above, there are those female editors that can completely turn your day around with the smallest sprinkling of encouragement. The editors that are relentlessly cheerful, consistently encouraging and all-the-while friendly. The editors who talk to you like they're confiding in an old friend, and ask you if you wouldn't mind just tweaking this one thing instead of demanding you change the Whole Damn Thing. They are the editors who write Dear Christobel instead of a brusque one-liner; the ones who always credit your work, tell you which bits they enjoyed reading, and could they know more about this one particular detail? There are editors that have thirty years writing experience on me and treat me with equal respect and civility.

It's the actions of these particular women that make my face a bit pink with gratitude and inspire me to keep going, rather than rip my hair out with frustration. Negative experiences with women you whole-heartedly want to get along with can leave a bitter aftertaste; the sort that could have easily be prevented with a bit of solidarity. But a sunny disposition or a few words of praise makes me want to ring friends and family, and tell them: there is hope after all! "The people who stand at the gates of our dreams are not automatons", Elizabeth Gilbert noted recently in her book Big Magic, "they are just people. They are just like us. They're a little different every day, just as you or I are a little different every day". It's a salient point to remember when you're batting out emails to who-knows-where.

It's the small things you remember after all. The kind gestures and good words that lodge themselves in the mind. It's the kind mentors and accomplished editors that always make their way into testimonies of bright young things in Sunday newspaper supplements, and 'Inside the Life Of' features with creative professionals who thank the women that went before. They're the ones who leave a legacy. Who wouldn't want to be a part of that?

I want to raise a glass to the Fine Female Editors out there. The editors that reply to your emails, respond to your pitches and publish your work on time. The editor's that say please and thank you and "it would be so great if you could do this". The editors that encourage you and compliment you and tell you: keep going. Here's to the women who have built careers out of columns of words and give you the confidence to do the same.

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