Business of Art Fix: Keeping The Indie Dream Alive When Talking Pay and Other Stories

Welcome to the fourth “This Business of Art / Media / Web Fix,” in which I share with you things I read that I loved relating to the work I do here — online media, business, entrepreneurship, women in tech, start-ups, journalism, publishing, management, queer visibility, and so forth. You can expect this sucker to drop every-other Wednesday.

Talk, Pay!

small-business-owner On May 1st, #Talkpay, a social media initiative launched by programmer Lauren Voswinkel of Model View Culture, proposed that anybody out there with a job and a salary post that job and that salary to twitter. The focus was on people in tech, but anybody could participate. She hoped to draw attention to pay inequality, especially “measurable pay discrepancies between groups when looking at race and gender which are further exacerbated when someone is a member of multiple minorities.” It was a great idea, and it caught on quick, inspiring an array of thinkpieces and an ongoing dialogue centered around the ethics of salary revelation and the importance of exposing inequality, especially for women and people of color, who face discriminatory hiring practices and often lack the confidence to negotiate effectively for a higher salary, generally being grateful they’ve been hired at all. What’s tough for me about the initiative is its predication on the assumption that business owners are paying their workers as little as they can and themselves as much as they can get away with. If we expose these practices, #talkpay suggests, we can fix the inequality that results from them. Voswinkel says as much in her post, asserting that “The fact is, companies are doing everything they can to increase their bottom line, and as such, they are actively trying to pay you as little as possible, with the understanding that if they underpay you too much, they will lose talent.”

Obviously, every initiative can’t be everything to everyone, and #talkpay succeeded at its specific angle. I guess I’d like to add to that conversation, though, by asking, “What happens when pay inequality starts at the top?” What happens when, because a business is owned by women and aimed at women with no connections in the business sector or access to “angel investors,” there’s no choice but to underpay? Only 7% of VC funding goes to women-led businesses, after all. Reading about the salaries of other women in my field didn’t encourage me to ask my boss why I’m working 80 hours a week for one-fifth of what other people in my position(s) make — because I am my boss. Our full-time people don’t need empowerment to make more money, they need us to have more money so they can make more money. What happens when the best way for me to fix my work/life balance and improve my salary would be to give up on Autostraddle in favor of heading up an LGBT vertical elsewhere? How do we fix that? 

These thoughts reminded me of a story I read about how independent restaurant owners in Oakland were dealing with the potential new minimum wage increase, specifically talking to Michael LeBlanc, the owner of Picán, “one of the few African-American owner-employers in the recent fine-dining surge in this diverse city,” who questioned the long-term viability of his business with increased labor costs. It’s certainly not okay for indies to underpay their workers, but how can they compete against enormous corporations who have bottomless coffers to draw from when forced to pay up? Many corporations could pay their workers fairly just by cutting CEO pay, but you won’t see many small business CEOs hanging out in barrels of cash.

See, I wanna be a self-sustaining and revolutionary business capable of paying queer media-makers what they deserve and putting resources into projects made by us, for us. But the money flooding awesome new media properties like Refinery29 means that our inability to pay competitively could lead us to suffer the same death of so many independent queer publications that came before us. There’s been a huge push for more LGBTQ content at mainstream publications over the past year, and queer writers will find it easier to pay their bills writing for Cosmo or Nylon than they could writing for indies like us. We’re still here though, because this is our dream and these are our hearts, and we do believe in a financially prosperous future. We just hope that we get enough A+ members by the end of the year to keep the dream alive! (We’ve already got 1250! BLESS YOU ALL.) Queer women deserve a space that’s just for them, don’t you agree? Mari does!

(Or, you know, maybe passionate work is a neoliberal delusion?)

This Business of Journalism

Lo-Res-GALLERY_BAR_EMILY_166_CMYK_F + From Digiday, Confessions of a Tech Journo Turned Flack: The Industry is a Mess

The irony is that while demand for the reporter skill set is high, journalist salaries aren’t. It’s either the pay (which is a huge factor) or years of busting your ass without having that work getting acknowledged all the way up until they let you go. The compensation to me is very interesting though. We’re paying journalists way less than other positions at these publications. I’m not saying marketing isn’t important, but if your junior marketing people are making more money than your multi-year staff writers, there’s a huge problem.

The Brand Evolution of “Rolling Stone” Magazine – This is a very cool video!

+ Google and Facebook Are Our Frenemy: Beware – This is a scary situation for journalists, it really is.

+ So, these are the top 50 online news entities. So I guess Bleacher Report is a big deal or whatever.

+ In A Woman’s Place Is On The Internet, Rebecca Mead talks about how “mommy blogs” have actually become a rare opportunity for women to employ themselves while raising children.

This Business of Web


+ In How Social Media Changed The Internet and What It Costs For Us, Latoya Peterson discusses how “the most important evolution [of the internet] has been the shift away from widespread anonymity online to repeated requests for your real name and photos, usually on a variety of social networks.”

+ I recently read Anelia Greenhall‘s Start Your Own B(r)and: everything I know about starting collaborative feminist publications. It was full of really solid advice (much of which we’re still unable to afford to put into practice) but her advice about co-founders was especially good, and also lead me to her article about What It Was Like To Co-Found Model View Culture With Shanley Kane, which lead me to An Apology and Eight Other Things, by Betsy Haibel, and a lot of thinking.

+ How Do You Make Something Go Viral? (Medium)

How Native Advertising Labeling Confuses People, In Three Charts (Digiday)

The Onion Shows Us All How To Introduce A Redesign in Style (It’s Nice That)


Businesswomen’s Special: Advice on How To Work Better

via imgbuddy

+ Five Entrepreneurial Lessons We Can Learn From Empire’s Cookie Lyon (The Cubicle Chick)

7 Dark Truths About Entrepreneurship (Entrepreneur)

What to Do If Your Team Is Bringing You Down (Harvard Business Review)


This Business of Business

I want Cookie Lyon to be our COO

I want Cookie Lyon to be our COO

The Overlooked Asian-American Glass Ceiling (Fast Company)

The Business Investments That Freak People Out (Harvard Business Review)

+ Whole Foods Calls the Shots For Startups (The Wall Street Journal)


Stories I Wish Someone Would Pitch Us

+ An investigative piece into The Welcoming Committee and its expansion, specifically into the Twin Cities, written by a Twin Cities resident.

+ Personal essays or how-tos about fostering and adopting kids

+ Queer Mama stories from women of color

+ Any on-the-ground reporting of the current civil rights movement or personal essays from queer women of color in Baltimore.

+ A column like Nerve’s “I Did It For Science” but with weird queer shit

+ A longform piece on lesbian YouTube stars, where you’d interview people like Hannah Hart and Rose Ellen Dix and Hartbeat and then come up with an angle and get some photos and just make a big ‘ol feature article out of all of that.

+ Columns on fitness, health or nutrition

+ Columns, in general, really. We need more column pitches! I accidentally typed “we need more column bitches!” but I guess that’s also true.


Some Amazing Things People Pitched Us and We Published Recently That I Just Wanna Make Sure You Didn’t Overlook

You could make shirts like these if you wanted to

You could make shirts like these if you wanted to

+ 7 Rad Queer Women Characters of Black and White Cinema, by Sara Century – Sara’s such a good writer and this is really interesting shit, y’all. Prepare to nerd out.

+ Any of the craft posts from Hannah Clay Wareham. She is Making some amazing Things.

+ A Queer African Tale: On Trauma, Gender Transitions and Acceptance, by Ola Osaze. When we got this submission I read the whole thing in one bite and was like YES QUEEN, YES. The writing is beautiful and it’s a story you’ve never heard before.

+ Booths for Ladies: An Unauthorized History of the Lexington Club, by Ivy Schlegel – Remember when we published the best personal essay / actual history about the closing of The Lexington and you didn’t read it? There’s still time to fix that, because Ivy’s got “10 reasons that the building at 3464 19th Street is completely 1000% well-suited to be San Francisco’s most loved dyke bar (sorry, Wild Side West).


Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!


Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3183 articles for us.


  1. My poor brain was trying to come up with up with queer stuff to do empirical research of but, I Did It For Science is squishy qualitative sociology science.

    Someone who lives in place where queer lady bars aren’t a game of tag want to ask strangers personal and possibly awkward questions that managed to not get covered by the First Great Lady Sexing Survey?
    Anybody have personal-y question they want asked that were not covered?
    I love it when anthropology gets into bed with sex and especially solo sex discovery journeys.
    Some making it a column would be fantastic.

  2. Oh my god doing a I Did It For Queer Science column is like my dream you don’t even know like I want to go to one of those NYC lez bikini brunches and hire a dating coach and join that adult preschool and write about it

      • I will even fund these ventures myself, I was going to hit the entire women’s/queer music festival circuit (except for the ones with shitty politics/an improperly dug water table) for a year and write a book and this is much cheaper.

        • You and I should collaborate! We can cover different areas (and maybe different COUNTRIES) worth of Weird Queer Shit.

  3. “A column like Nerve’s “I Did It For Science” but with weird queer shit”

    This was pretty much the last few years of my life – it’s why my website has the tagline “signs up for anything that looks interesting”. Hell, I just did a Weird (Not Usually Queer But Queered By Me Now) Thing today!

    (I can’t say it out loud because its legality is dubious, but I’d be down for writing about it given pseudomity…of course, now that I say this if it ever gets written up people are going to KNOW it’s me)

    • Am I imagining it, or have you mentioned being a swimmer before, Dina? I could definitely use some tips on how to breathe while swimming. And maybe some advice on what the pool etiquette is on how long I am allowed to cling to the end of the lane gasping. Why is swimming so difficult even when I am in enough shape to play rugby or run 10k?

      Also, what I would really like is workouts based on TV shows, you know the sort where it’s like “Do 5 squats every time Buffy stakes a vamp”. But with more thought put into them than most I’ve found on google. And more queers in the series. Then maybe I could find time to watch TV again. :p

      Rugby season just ended (sigh) and I’ve just agreed to find a fall half marathon to do with a friend, TV cross training would be nice since I can’t afford a gym membership these days.

      I really hate that most of the fitness stuff I find on-line is either for men or it’s got no emphasis on health or enjoyment, it’s all about how to (supposedly) get some part of your body to conform to conventional beauty standards.

      • Whoa whoa whoa whoa is this workouts based on tv thing a thing that exists right now? Or did you just invent that? That sounds amazing. I would definitely do that.

        • I’ve seen a Doctor Who one before (back when I tried to use fitocracy it was posted on there) and googled looking for a Buffy one (which I figured must exist, given the number of Buffy drinking games we found back in college…) but both were really a bit too simple, didn’t have much beyond pushups, jumping jacks, and squats. I know it can’t get TOO complicated if you’re meant to remember everything, but still… :p

  4. Screencap from ‘The Net’! I have so much love for that film and its mid-nineties internetting! Also, how is that film now 20 years old, and how does Sandra Bullock look basically the same?

  5. Riese, I’m so glad you brought up the often overlooked problem of actual funding that then results in pay inequality.
    Hopefully some Angel investors start paying attention,or you find a winning powerball ticket in a bar of chocolate.
    Until then,I’m def down to create some exercise pitches…what do people want help with? Nutrition,workouts…adventures?

  6. RIESE today is the first day that I’ll be at the Farmers Market and this column is a great way to start the day!

  7. Question re pitches: I looked at your Submissions page and it looks like the article needs to be already written before we pitch it to you. Is that the case even for things like columns?

  8. I would read the pixels off a first-person story about adoption. My partner and I are just starting to research the process and we have so many questions that we don’t even know how to ask. Just, like, HOW DO YOU DO THIS.

  9. I have very strong feelings about all the gifs of female-led workplace-related circumstance films in the post, possibly as strong as how Crystal feels about workplace-related circumstances in lesbian romance novels.

    Also, I am in desperate need of articles/links on how to delegate, as I feel like I need to learn how to do this quickly or else I will be stuck in this chair so long that my spine will entirely compact and subside and fall out through my bottom which would be a really big shame.

  10. So much about this hits home (so hard). I just started a business geared to the queer community + especially young people, and we’ve got a ton of really great press, but damn – sales are not there. I hear you re: that money divide between corporations and VC-funded businesses (who can afford to throw up the fanciest shit, have web developers on call, etc.) vs. indie publications & bloggers, indie businesses, indie makers, who are totally bootstrapping it, often listening to their audiences more which I think also means more pushback in terms of what’s demanded (e.g. what kind of standards is Autostraddle being held to by its readers vs. one of those big guns?) – man. It’s huge.

    Anyway, just wanted to say I’m joining A+ (shame on me for not doing so earlier) and thanks so much for the work y’all do. Autostraddle articles played a huge role in my coming out process, and it’s still a site I look to when shit hits the fan in our world and I want to read a voice that I trust.

    P.S. Also, going to hit up some of those entrepreneur links now.

  11. I really hope some queer mamas of color submit! I would love to hear more of those stories.

    If AS is still looking for stories in like 4 or 5 years when I plan to have babies, I WILL SUBMIT heh.

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