It’s been a whole year since we launched this misandrist humo(u)r blog aimed chiefly at women who work as rare book librarians, and here we are! Let’s talk about learning, and growing, and how our second year will see us finally convince Brittney Griner to be Mallory’s girlfriend.
Mallory: It is remarkable to think that a year has passed! Years always do, of course, in a strictly accurate sense the fact that a year has passed since The Toast went live is perhaps the least surprising thing that could have happened. But it is remarkable that a year has passed, and we have had a good time, and found a delightful audience, and made money, and in general achieved a degree of success. Particularly since the path that led us here was so ridiculous! We met because I commented every day on a blog you worked at instead of doing my actual job. Then you bought me a plane ticket to come to Utah. Then a stranger that neither of us have ever met offered me money, unsolicited, if I ever felt like starting a website, and I thanked him but turned him down. Then you and I decided we would start a site and took some of his money after all, and also some of yours, and just…made a website. Do you remember how much I’d writhe when someone asked me what the site was going to be about? I was not a natural businessman. “It’s…shut up, it’s going to be great. Just read it.” What I’m trying to say, I think, is that success was not guaranteed. When did you first start to feel like what we were doing was really working?
Nicole: I remember the EXACT DATE, it was August 30th. (And, of course, this was all before we got Maria, our tech goth [<3 u, Maria], so I was literally trying to physically hold the site together with duct tape and Knowing A Lot About The Mitfords, a time I have basically blocked out.) But it was starting out as a terrible morning, because Seamus Heaney died, which none of us were ready for, really, and then someone emailed me to say that Ta-Nehisi Coates had written a WHOLE THING about how much he liked the site, and I read it, and I literally cried. I sat there, a) bummed about Seamus Heaney, and b) just overwhelmed with gratitude that someone I admire so much liked our site, and after that, whenever shit broke or I thought “hm, today was not our strongest day,” I would think to myself Ta-Nehisi Coates thinks you’re alllllll right, and that helped. Oh, God, does that mean the answer to your question is actually MALE APPROVAL? Did I realize our site was starting to work after we received MALE APPROVAL. Shut it down.
No, really, though, it’s been the best, the absolute best. I know this conversation is invariably going to become a circle jerk about our friendship, but I have to say it: working with you has been a blissful dream. We basically never disagree, and I also feel like I have become so much more confident as THE DECIDER in the process. I have sent at least six crisp emails in the past year, a thing I believed to be impossible, usually because you have said “you have to send this email, because if I send it, I’m going to say TERRIBLE THINGS.” And the content you bring is so prolific and so great, and my favourite thing to read every day, and I’m just really grateful to have you, and Nick, and Maria.
Okay, what do you think you’ve learned? “Not a thing, I was already perfect” is an acceptable answer.
Mallory: I don’t think it’s a circle jerk if it’s only two people. And your crisp emails are wonderful. The only thing I love more than watching you finally send a crisp email is when you LET ME OFF THE LEASH like you did last week and I got to really use my teeth and claws.
I mean, I feel unbelievably lucky to have found you as a creative and a business partner, because I love and respect you more the longer I work with you, which I think is sort of rare. It’s remarkable to me, the more I think about it, that you and I (and Nick and Maria) have formed a stronger partnership over time, when you think of all the things that could have gone wrong. We’ve still never met Nick! He could have easily turned out to be any number of things. We were lucky he turned out to be reliable, and a great publisher, and a constant advocate, and a lovely cherub of a handsome lawyer. We’re lucky I never flaked out or took another job, and we’re lucky the site didn’t just sort of…vaguely exist without ever finding its home. That was a real worry that we had at first, that The Toast would appeal to about six people perfectly and no one else in the world.
Nicole: YEAH! I agree! I think it helps that we try to check in just as much now, even though we almost always know how the other person will feel about something. My aunt and I were talking about her time running a women’s shelter in the early 1980s (soon to be a post!) and she said that attempting to actually structure themselves as a collective drove men CRAZY, they could not handle it, government agencies literally refused to accept that there wasn’t a Person In Charge, but they found it to be a perfectly suitable way to conduct their organization, and I think that the fact that neither of us is in charge of the other has worked out really well. But, like when you said that I let you off the leash, we both clearly know when we want the sign-off of the other to do something ridic.
Okay, what have I learned? Something I’ve learned is how I feel about moderating comments! As you know, we’ve basically never deleted a comment, because if someone goes to the trouble of actually making a commenting account, they tend not to be hosebeasts, but I delete pending comments from guest accounts with regularity, and I love it. I LOVE IT. I find it very fulfilling! Sometimes things that are super trollish, sometimes things that are just: “this post from five months ago about racism…is that described experience REALLY racist?” and sometimes, oh, man, my favourite thing: dudes telling us we don’t really “get” Ayn Rand. Sometimes just comments by men on days when I feel like I’ve heard enough male opinions!
And, you know, it’s a joy. It really is. And I’ve begun to see it as a service I provide to our writers, as well. When someone writes about their sexual assault, or their life as a POC, or as a trans* woman, I have paid them a small amount of money to do so because I value their words and perspective, and theirs is the writing I have chosen to have on my site. I have not chosen to have some TERF show up and explain to us that trans* women are just dudes trying to invade female spaces. So I feel like we don’t have to waste a bunch of time having those conversations.
Mallory: lol TERFs can suck a butt (TERFs, if you are fortunate enough not to be familiar with the term, are TRANS-EXCLUSIONARY RADICAL FEMINISTS, which, what a mouthful and what a hill to die on!)
Nicole: Nor, and I really enjoy this, do we have that one guy (most women’s sites wind up with one) who serves as our reliable devil’s advocate figure. Because I don’t care to have one. We have no vacancy, Male Devil’s Advocate Figure. And I think that we wind up getting some really great pieces BECAUSE writers know that if people want to say offensive, dumb shit about them, they won’t get to do it here. They’ll have to start a Tumblr, which is no work whatsoever, but apparently just ENOUGH work that trolls will have three comments deleted from pending and then just give up instead. I don’t know how writers write for places with completely free commenting environments. The world is full of garbage opinions, but I ain’t hosting them.
Mallory: Yeah, I mean, I definitely don’t think about the comments as much — which is a bit odd, maybe, given that I began my writing career as a blog commenter. It’s fun when people have a good time in them, and if someone’s going to be a butt, I want them to go away. I don’t have time to think about it, I need to write a fiftieth piece about Ronbledore.
You know my sister told me the other day I write about Ronbledore too much and that I need to let it go? Where the hell does she get off?
Nicole: WHAT. No, write about him every day. Life is beautiful. Time marches on. What are your goals for next year?
Mallory: OOOH. I feel like we should have had this conversation in private first. I definitely know there are some areas of coverage I feel like I want to move away/move on from, and some topics I’d like to see us cover more. Nothing enormous, maybe a 10% shift in both directions. That’s a terrible…you can’t move 10 percent in two separate directions.
Ideally, in the next year, I would love to find a perfect next hire. It isn’t a pressing matter, so I want us to take our time, and I want us to make enough profit that we can offer a reasonable, respectable salary. And I want to find someone who’s prolific and smart (maybe in a slightly different way than you and I are smart, maybe fewer Lucy Maud Montgomery jokes and more jokes about the history of unions in LA or public policy) and funny and knows how to balance joy with, like, COSMIC FEMALE MALICE, and who doesn’t necessarily live in New York City.
I would like to continue having fun, and continue working with you, and to write new and different and pleasing things that aren’t all just reactions to the news you saw on four other blogs that same day and also on Twitter. And I want to start getting massive offers to buy us out from plutocrats.
Nicole: Okay! So, we each decided to pick and re-run our favourite piece written by the other editor, as well as a favourite freelancer post for the year, which wasn’t AT ALL daunting.
I….have to go with “Why I Am Leaving New York City” (spoiler: it’s all the wizards.) I literally cannot hope to describe how strongly I feel about this piece. The part about the pigeons is actually the funniest thing that’s ever happened. It’ll be up at 10am EST.
And, for my freelancer post, I’ve decided to go with Caitlin Keefe Moran’s depressingly timely story of working as an abortion clinic escort, because it was wise and kind and open and a little bit funny. It’ll be up at noon.
What about you, Mallory?
Mallory: I was torn, because part of me wanted to rerun your JSTOR sponsored post, because it was so funny, but then I was worried it would seem like an attempt to run another ad. But I had to go with your first Benedict Cumberbatch fan fiction, and your CRTC-Approved Pornography Scenarios, because those two things together make you.
I could spend hours paralyzed over which freelancer post to run, because there are so many wonderful options, but I’m going with Shing Yin Khor’s “What Would Yellow Ranger Do?” because it’s got drawings and Power Rangers in it.
Nicole: Okay, let’s go do jack shit for the rest of the day. And give them an open thread at 2pm EST. Maybe sprinkle in some extra blasts from the past as we go. I love you, man. You complete me.
Beautiful, moving visual reinterpretation of the Footprints story courtesy of Matt “Ofjaya” Lubchansky.