Hi and welcome to Wait, Really? — a weekly-ish newsletter on cultural obsessions and absurdities, feminism and gender politics, historical tidbits, internet rabbit holes, and whatever else crosses my desk and brain that I think you should know about, typically because I find it either delightful or rage-inducing or some combination of the two.
I’m Jessica Bennett, journalist and home renovation obsessive, mother to Charles the dog, recovering New York Times gender editor (#AMA) and current contributor to the Times Opinion section, where I’ve recently written about the pathologizing of everyday “trauma”, the meaninglessness of the public apology, and a very long profile of Governor Kathy Hochul, New York’s first woman governor — who got there by way of (yet another) male sex scandal (more on that in a future newsletter).
I’m also an adjunct professor at New York University, where I teach a journalism course called “Reporting the Zeitgeist” — where, in addition to instructing students on the tools of reporting and writing, they’ve taught me about subcultures like “fictionkin” (that’s people who identify as fictional characters?!), the joys and perils of #traumatok and a very specific subculture of people who gather to squish bugs.
I’m the author of two bestselling books: Feminist Fight Club: A Survival Manual for a Sexist Workplace, and This Is 18, a photography book (and exhibit) showcasing the lives of 18-year-old girls around the world. The first of those books has an entire section on self-promotion, and yet listing out my credentials for you here still feels totally cringy. We’ll come back to that in a future newsletter.
WAIT, REALLY? is the sentiment I feel most often these days.
Wait, really? Abortion rights are about to be decimated?
Wait... really? Are we actually surprised?
Wait really? This had to happen at the same time the world (or at least I) was blissfully eating up the gilded glamor of the Met Gala, including Kim Kardashian's crystal-studded dress, in a rare moment of superficial reprieve?
Wait really? Now we’re mad that Kim admitted to losing weight to fit into that dress — it wasn't just any dress; it had previously been worn by Marilyn Monroe — in the midst of the most significant rollback of women’s rights of our lifetime?
Each week in this newsletter, and maybe sometimes twice a week, I’m going to dissect these things and more — the stuff I can’t stop thinking about, from pop culture to linguistics, politics to the workplace. I’m going to try not to regurgitate what’s already out there — if you want more on the abortion ruling, for instance, I’ve curated the best reading on it below — and I’m going to try to keep it somewhat light. The world is heavy right now. I know I could use a bit of levity.
If you choose to stay, here’s what you can expect in the coming weeks:
A dispatch from the absolutely bonkers live-streamed defamation trial filed by Johnny Depp against his ex wife, Amber Heard, who took the stand in Fairfax, Virginia, this week, prompting #mentoo to start trending.
A deep dive into the long and very fraught history of frigid (and, surprise: sexist!) office temperatures as many of us return to work.
My thoughts on #PamCore — that’s fashion based on Pamela Anderson’s early aughts looks — which is apparently trending on TikTok and is a thing I learned last week when I saw Anderson perform on Broadway in… CHICAGO. (Yes, Pamela Anderson is on Broadway in New York, playing Roxy Hart. And she’s not bad!)
I’ll also bring you exclusive interviews with authors and thinkers, recommendations and reviews, as well as behind-the-scenes dispatches (and dish) from all those New York Times reporting projects that aren’t allowed to be saucy. I’ll also share failed pitches, writing tips, and answer your questions in regular Q&As.
The Janes, a documentary about an underground women’s network from the early 1970s that helped women safely and illegally terminate their pregnancies (the group’s original advertisement is above). (HBO)
In that vein, here is a story about today’s modern-day Janes, a covert network that is preparing to circumvent restrictions. (The Atlantic)
In her Substack, Jill Filipovic writes on what we know is coming if Roe goes. (Substack)
For those who want to act, this is a resource put together by an activist I know. (GDoc)
In pictures: Artist responses to the fight for abortion access. (ArtNews)
You’re receiving this newsletter because you’ve subscribed to one of my past newsletters, or expressed interest in my work. Want out?
Want the opposite of out, which is to pay for a premium full subscription? Find out about the benefits here.
Want to tell me what’s on your mind, or what you’d like to hear from me? Please join the discussion in the comments below!
Until next week,