This Is a Highly Serious Post

When Nico slid into my Slack channel asking a favour to write a fundraising post, I decided to follow some life advice I made up on the spot: if someone asks you for a favour, make sure they regret it.

As a long-time Autostraddle fan, I’m pretty used to how things go with these fundraisers. Heather Hogan will write one of those posts that makes your insides fall apart, and then you rush to the bathroom to try and clear up your emotional turmoil, and money somehow seeps out of you alongside your tears. I made it clear to Nico that those sorts of posts weren’t really in my wheelhouse, so you can feel safe that there will be no bathroom panics for the next few minutes. If you’re already in the bathroom panicking, that’s ok, so am I!

Fortunately, Nico did provide some instructions packed full of expert fundraiser tips, which I shall now be adhering to rigorously. Firstly, it’s important to tell a story with a beginning, middle and end. So, maybe we should start somewhere in the murky distant past.

I remember the first AS fundraiser, a whole decade ago. At the time, Riese was casting around for cash to get a new server because the website kept crashing. Back then, as a Brit you felt really good about donating, because you could bung them a fiver and be confident it would turn into about $200. These days, that fiver won’t even keep the power on long enough to watch the next 24-hour cycle of national implosion. There’s never a good time to be asking people for money, but you’d have to say that right now, the “good time” rating is tanking faster than a Tory chancellor prime minister, well, ideally the whole government. Arguably, the best reason for giving money to AS right now is that it’s guaranteed not to get into the hands of the grubby fuck-muppets running our country.

When I was a kid, it seemed like fundraising was both suspiciously jolly and a bit divorced from the end goal. Plus, like most things in this country, infused with the delicate stench of unexamined colonialism. Lengthy TV extravaganzas would intermix off-the-wall entertainment segments with emotionally-scored snippets of bad things happening in foreign countries, with not very much explaining how the two were related. If some guy shaves his hair and sits in a bathtub of cold baked beans, we will build a school for orphans in a faraway land! The cast of EastEnders will do a parody skit, and somehow this will send malaria tablets to very sad-looking children!

I don’t want to completely discredit these methods. Who wouldn’t love to see the AS senior staff sit in a bathtub of cold legumes, just for the sheer hell of it? And we know they have history with parodies!

One thing I think AS have always done a good job of is the specificity of their goals when it comes to fundraisers, right from that first plea for a functioning server to today’s goals to implement puzzles, events and audio — oh, and surviving into next year. There’s always a clear link between the money you give or the perks you buy to a realistic and worthwhile outcome. Maybe I’ve become desensitised by the excesses of the modern world, but doesn’t that sound almost too reasonable? If they advertised with a banner on a bus that said supporting them will mean an extra £350m a week for the NHS, I feel that would be far more believable.

Let’s examine a few examples from recent Autostraddle campaigns:

  • July 2019: Give staff a pension and healthcare. Boring!
  • April/August 2020: Hire people to ensure there are more than 50% POC across the editorial team and writing staff. I just can’t see how anything this sensible and crucial was really allowed to happen.
  • October 2021: raise $138k to cope with the ongoing economic trauma caused by COVID. $138k sounds oddly specific, like someone actually ran the figures for how much money was needed. Sack that person!

Maybe at this point you’re wondering, “why does Sally keep referring to Autostraddle as ‘them’ when she is ostensibly writing this missive on Autostraddle’s behalf?” This is an excellent question, and perhaps we should transition to the “middle” part of the story now…

A quick email search shows that in 2019 I applied to write for AS after one of their calls for writers. At this point, I’d already submitted and had published three posts about Lesbian and Bisexual Women of History Who Were Obsessed With Their Dogs. It seemed straightforward to expect that I could turn out one of these a month for the rest of my life, as long as lesbian and bisexual women kept dying at a good clip, so that I could class them as “of history.” Spoiler: they did not.

Obviously, 95% of the reason I wanted to join AS’s team in some capacity was because I’m really nosy and wanted to know wtf these weirdos got up to behind the scenes. I don’t think I’ve ever psychologically moved on from being someone who comments on AS, to someone that is actually part of them. Anyway, when the dogs thing didn’t pan out, I managed to scrabble around for a few odd things about seasonings and lesbians on roofs to pretend I had some non-dog ideas. Thank god that JoJo Siwa went on DWTS which really gave me a big reprieve.

I guess I’d say my ethos is to only pitch weird and silly stuff there’s no way any other writer would pitch and, ideally, no-one will read. I truly believe that when there are big important things, or even small important things, you want people with stellar perspective and skill to craft a piece about it. Autostraddle’s team is packed with people that can do this, because they were specifically hired off the back of money generated from past fundraisers. It’s a huge responsibility to write about the nuanced topics that AS covers every day. I get scared enough writing quizzes, never mind the tough stuff.

What’s really odd is that whenever I pitch my comfortably weird stuff, everyone is like “sure!” with no side-eye or anything. Literally, the only thing I’ve ever suggested that got knocked back was “Would Anne Lister Have Voted For Brexit?” (spoiler: she totally would have)

This begs the question: “why would Autostraddle keep this writer on their books, that is purposefully writing niche content that repels internet traffic?”

If anyone tries to tell you something about AS wanting a diversity of viewpoints and styles and content etc., then while that may not be false, it’s also obscuring a vital truth that I would now like to share in a BIG REVEAL:

Autostraddle are desperate.

Go to Our Fundraiser!

Now, I know they’ve done a great job at dressing this up, with a formal, stats-filled treatise about how fundraising is Autostraddle’s business model. You can be a pro budgeter and still be absolutely brassic, in fact I think the two are intimately related. So I say: let’s start leaning into it!

I think Nico is already partway there. Another pointer they gave me about writing this post was to aim the language at a “7th grade reading level.” I asked “Is this because you’re planning on shaking down schoolkids for their pocket money?” to which they could only laugh, nervously. So, please give money before Nico starts mugging children.

When I first started reading Autostraddle, one of the things that made me stick with it was the lack of an equivalent for the UK. That dearth hasn’t changed in the past fourteen years. I asked my wife the other day if she knew of any websites for British queer women, and she said: “Screwfix?”

There’s been much nonsense over the past few months about how certain institutions provide “stability” purely because of their existence. This is either coded language people use to excuse themselves for clinging onto outdated and gross ideas, or just a complete lack of introspection about the state of the world. A friend of mine, during a robust debate about the monarchy, attempted to defend it by saying “well, it’s quite nice, isn’t it?” Actually, no it isn’t! And even if it was, that’s not the greatest defense ever made is it?

It is easy to think that Autostraddle has become an institution of sorts, referenced by TV, books and other media, and imagine that with this comes some sort of stability and power. It’s easy to conflate the continued existence of a media outlet with a guaranteed future. I am here to remind you that, actually, they are a bunch of desperate weirdos and they need your cash.

Will you help? Every dollar counts.

SO HOW CAN YOU HELP?

You can give! (And get perks!)

Help us out!

You can join A+! And if you’re already an A+ member, you can get discounted perks!

Join A+!

You can contribute to the member pool! (Or avail yourself of the pool if it will make your life better and you qualify for it!)

Check out the member pool!


Before you go! It costs money to make indie queer media, and frankly, we need more members to survive 2023As thanks for LITERALLY keeping us alive, A+ members get access to bonus content, extra Saturday puzzles, and more! Will you join? Cancel anytime.

Join A+!

Sally

Sally lives in the UK. Her work has been featured in a Korean magazine about queer people and their pets, and a book about haunted prisons. She never intended for any of this to happen.

Sally has written 60 articles for us.

6 Comments

Contribute to the conversation...

Yay! You've decided to leave a comment. That's fantastic. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated by the guidelines laid out in our comment policy. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation and thanks for stopping by!