The New New Age Cavemen In The City: The media and the voices we amplify

I admit, I was going to write about how the latest NYtimes article on the "paleo" diet is much nicer to the people it features than the NYtimes article I was in four years ago. And I suspect it's because of the astonishing number of products the new article it features, signs that "paleo" is now an economic entity worthy of respect. The 2010 article was titled "The New Age Cavemen In The City" (despite the fact I am a woman last time I checked), the 2014 article might as well be titled "The Neoliberal Cavemen In The City."

But while the latest article is slightly more kind and does a better job picking a variety of subjects and giving them a human voice, it still makes the whole thing seem kind of trivial. And while that offended me in the past, I have to concede it's mainly true. It is really kind of trivial. To the point the whole movement has become a collection of random whims. Vodka more paleo than beer? Last time I checked fermented grains were older than distillation. Not that it would particularly matter in what I choose to drink. 

Either way, since that article the hunted has become the hunter. And now I write about people in the world of food. And I did learn a lot from the experience of being in that article and the accompanying brief period where I was sought after by various media outlets. And not sought out by others, because I was a woman and didn't fit their caveman narratives. Or maybe I was too quiet then.

At a food symposium I attended recently one of the speakers, Jamie Malone, wrestled with that. The media tends to focus on a few charismatic extroverts, mostly men. These are largely the protaganists of mainstream food writing and media. Malone talks about how there is a movement, a la Lean In, to get women to adapt better to that kind of thing. To self-promote. But she doesn't want to do that. That's not her personality and it's a lot of work. She wants to focus on what she is good at and not have to devote energy to changing the way she relates to other people.

And that's largely how I feel too, about myself at least.

But now that I am in a position where I can amplify some voices in Chicagoist, I think about that often. How can I seek out people based on their talent rather than how good they are at promoting themselves? How can I allow different people to tell their stories instead of falling back on the same protaganists over and over again? But without being patronizing, which is something that Malone hinted irks her. And annoys me as well. There are just as many quiet talented men out there as women. And also working in a male-dominated career of technology, I often find efforts to reach out to me tokenizing rather than helpful. My first reaction to a "Women in Tech" event advertised to me these days is to run the other way. 

For the past two years I've been rewatching Star Trek, a show I watched as a child. I started with TNG because that's what I remembered best and most fondly. But now I'm on DS9 and it's kind of strange because you can see how much effort they put into having really different characters. And they did a really good job at it too, where you feel like their presence is usually seamless (not that DS9 doesn't have its issues). Now in 2014, I rarely see that kind of effort to bring in new voices anywhere.

At least in technology you can rise to the top on your skills, but in the world of writing it is very much dependent on the whims of those who already have a voice, who are already in charge. And when you are given that power, it's up to you to make an effort.