If I seem vaguely familiar, this list of weird stuff I’ve done might help you work out why.
Ad agency benefits controversy, 2012
Back in ’12, I was working as an advertising copywriter when an ad agency released a booklet about their benefits schemes for staff. For some reason that I’ve never understood, they decided to dress up as what they thought “people on benefits” look like, including a man on a mobility scooter swigging alcohol and a pregnant mother smoking.
I blogged about how tasteless I thought this was (a group of educated middle class media types looking down their noses at a walk of life most of them have never known) and it blew up. The agency started deleting Facebook comments and eventually accused me of libel, but finally apologised – though it was clear they thought they’d been super clever and funny and I was just bitter.
I freelanced at a lot of agencies during my advertising career, but never Iris.
Withdrawn Hyundai advert, 2013
In April 2013, I was at work (still in advertising) when a friend sent me a link to Hyundai’s new ad. Hyundai, it transpired, had made an ad making light of suicide with the noble aim of advertising their new car. I was disgusted. My dad committed suicide in the manner depicted in the advert and it brought back horrendous memories for no higher purpose than trying to win awards.
I didn’t want to write about this. I assumed someone else would have done an article about how misjudged and insensitive the ad was. Nope. The worst I could find was “controversial” and the Guardian actually named it one of the best new ads (since withdrawn for breaking their own rules on suicide reporting).
So it fell to me. I wrote about my dad (warning: sad) and what it’s like to be a survivor of suicide, and how this ad left me feeling. I didn’t ask for it to be pulled, I just wanted them to be more sensitive next time.
Again, it blew up – beyond all expectations this time. The story was in every paper, I was on the news trying not to cry (and in one case, crying quite a lot because the journalist asked for good memories of my dad), and my sister found out when she saw our dad – dead for 20 years – on the front page of the Times. A radio station I won’t name asked me to read out my dad’s suicide note live on air (I declined).
Eventually, Hyundai pulled the ad and apologised – and I got trolled to hell and back by people making terrible comments about my dad’s death. Three years on, they’re still coming. I got one last week.
The image behind the link is a car that’s been used in a suicide. It was linked so the person would know I’d seen it. This is what you get for speaking up.
Did it stop me? Did it hell.
Babygate, most of 2015
In January 2015, there was an article called “Five reasons to have children” on the Guardian. It was depressing (have kids so you’ve got something to talk to your partner about?!). I emailed them and begged to write a counterpoint – and in the email I mentioned that I was so sure about not having kids, I was trying to get sterilised.
“Would you write about that instead?”
And so it began.
I wrote the Guardian article, and wasn’t at all prepared for how much attention it would generate. My email and Twitter went mad. I got a flurry of other requests – the Mail, the Sun, Radio 4, Jeremy Vine – even This Morning and the Late Late Show:
There was a fair bit of backlash – lots of people calling me selfish, and all this fun stuff. I even got an article by some men’s rights activists, yay:
Months later, the BBC contacted me to say they were looking for a woman to write about not wanting kids for their 100 Women project. Would I do it? Well, why not? I’d said it all before, and I still hadn’t been able to get a sterilisation on the NHS (“too young.”)
They published my piece a couple of months later, and holy moly.
That went well, then. Didn’t stop me though – I’ve talked about not having kids several times since then, and I’ll keep going ’til people stop asking.
Starting Gadgette, June 2015
There are not enough female and minority voices in tech media. We all know this. I decided to do something about it, and found a tech site with an inclusive, female-led ethos.
This did not go down well with the plankton of the internet.
My response was to use their crappy comments as the copy on our promotional postcard.
150,000 readers later (and growing rapidly), I think we won that one.
Stolengate, January 2016
Man this one came out of nowhere. I really, really, really didn’t see this coming (I probably should by now). Basically, I got a text from a friend with a screenshot of an app saying he “owned” me now. It turned out to be from an app called Stolen that let you buy and sell people’s Twitter accounts without their knowledge or consent. I thought that was gross, so I interviewed/grilled the CEO and posted an article about it.
Turned out people were annoyed as I was, so Stolen was hit with a mountain of opt-outs from angry Twitter users, and just days later they withdrew the app. Twitter decided this was my fault. I got a raft of the usual “kill yourself” messages, and then THIS happened.
Yep. The account in question (@getslavery) has been suspended, and I’m looking into legal action. I won’t post the photo here but if you must, you can see it on my tweet (his vanished when his account was suspended).
Still don’t know where you know me from?
There have been some other things and a few TV appearances (often for my job), so it might be that. Or maybe I just have one of those faces 😉