Something that happens every day, to me and many other people who write things: you get asked to do something for free. There's an idea that mere "writing" isn't actually "work," and besides which "exposure" should be more than enough recompense. (Can I eat exposure? Can I smoke it?)
You know, that's okay. I'm constantly asking people to do things for less recompense than their time is worth; it's worth a shot. For a young writer who is trying to build a career, exposure might actually be valuable. But most of the time the writer will politely say no and everyone will move on.
Thank you very much for your reply.
But I will have to decline your offer.
Have a great day.
Here's what happens less often: the person asking for free content, rather than moving on, responds by saying
Because we don't pay for blog entries?
Are you an urban scientist or an urban whore?
Where I grew up, when people politely turn down your request for free stuff, it's impolite to call them a "whore." It's especially bad when you take into account the fact that we live in a world where women are being pushed away from science, one where how often your papers get cited correlates strongly with your gender, and so on.
DNLee was a bit taken aback, with good reason. So she took to her blog to respond. It was a colorful, fun, finely-crafted retort and also very important, because this is the kind of stuff that shouldn't happen in this day and age. Especially because the offender isn't just some kid with a website; Biology Online is a purportedly respectable site, part of the Scientific American "Partners Network." One would hope that SciAm would demand an apology from Ofek, or consider cutting their ties with the organization.
Sadly that's not what happened. If you click on the link in the previous paragraph, you'll get an error. That's because Scientific American, where DNLee's blog is hosted, decided it wasn't appropriate and took it down.
It's true that this particular post was not primarily concerned with conveying substantive scientific content. Like, you know, countless other posts on the SciAm network, or most other blogs. But it wasn't about gossip or what someone had for lunch, either; interactions between actual human beings engaged in the communication of scientific results actually is a crucial part of the science/culture/community ecosystem. DNLee's post was written in a jocular style, but it wasn't only on-topic, it was extremely important. Taking it down was exactly the wrong decision.
I have enormous respect for Scientific American as an institution, so I'm going to hope that this is a temporary mistake, and after contemplating a bit they decide to do the right thing, restoring DNLee's post and censuring the guy who called her a whore. But meanwhile, I'm joining others by copying the original post here. Ultimately it's going to get way more publicity than it would have otherwise. Maybe someday people will learn how the internet works.
Here is DNLee. (Words cannot express how much I love the final picture.)
I got this wrap cloth from Tanzania. It's a khanga. It was the first khanga I purchased while I was in Africa for my nearly 3 month stay for field research last year. Everyone giggled when they saw me wear it and then gave a nod to suggest, "Well, okay". I later learned that it translates to "Give trouble to others, but not me". I laughed, thinking how appropriate it was. I was never a trouble-starter as a kid and I'm no fan of drama, but I always took this 21st century ghetto proverb most seriously:
Don't start none. Won't be none.
For those not familiar with inner city anthropology it is simply a variation of the Golden Rule. Be nice and respectful to me and I will do the same. Everyone doesn't live by the Golden Rule it seems. (Click to embiggen.)
The Blog editor of Biology-Online dot org asked me if I would like to blog for them. I asked the conditions. He explained. I said no. He then called me out of my name.
My initial reaction was not civil, I can assure you. I'm far from rah-rah, but the inner South Memphis in me was spoiling for a fight after this unprovoked insult. I felt like Hollywood Cole, pulling my A-line T-shirt off over my head, walking wide leg from corner to corner yelling, "Aww hell nawl!" In my gut I felt so passionately:"Ofek, don't let me catch you on these streets, homie!"
This is my official response:
It wasn't just that he called me a whore he juxtaposed it against my professional being: Are you urban scientist or an urban whore? Completely dismissing me as a scientist, a science communicator (whom he sought for my particular expertise), and someone who could offer something meaningful to his brand.What? Now, I'm so immoral and wrong to inquire about compensation? Plus, it was obvious me that I was supposed to be honored by the request..
After all, Dr. Important Person does it for free so what's my problem? Listen, I ain't him and he ain't me. Folks have reasons finances, time, energy, aligned missions, whatever for doing or not doing things. Seriously, all anger aside this rationalization of working for free and you'll get exposure is wrong-headed. This is work. I am a professional. Professionals get paid. End of story. Even if I decide to do it pro bono (because I support your mission or I know you, whatevs) it is still worth something. I'm simply choosing to waive that fee. But the fact is I told ol' boy No; and he got all up in his feelings. So, go sit on a soft internet cushion, Ofek, 'cause you are obviously all butt-hurt over my rejection. And take heed of the advice on my khanga.
How does this relate to me? I actually had some one want me to draw their char- fine, I have no problems with drawing peeps char's if I agree to, but free character art is done at my pace, finished at my pace and at my decided quality- hey, if its only a sketch, its only a sketch. Guy wanted to im me, fine, we chatted. So, this guy has written a yugi-oh story that he wanted turned into a comic. I said I don't do comics.. he's like, I can be pretty persuasive. So, I flat out ask him- what am I going toget for doing the comic? Split what ever money comes from it.
I guess this guy didn't realize its FANART- whomever owns Yugioh isn't gonna let someone make money for free of their owned characters. But even if he were to be able to sell it- that is a huge chance of it ever paying off.
Anyways, he keeps rushing me on the art. What some of my readers may know- I go through bouts of not liking anything I draw, and have motivational issues at times. Right nowe, I am on a streak, but my next project, well, wouldn't surprise me if I just can't draw character a right and it takes me a week to do.
Mind you, I had a breeding colony of rats and mice, an dlets not forget 40+ snakes that wont get fed unless I feed them or will lay around in piss and crap if I don't clean their cages. I have other things to do. And if I don't do them, well, animals will suffer. Bottom line- free art is done at my pace.
So, this guy annoys the daylights out of me, so I tell him, look, I am not drawing your character, you are rushing me and don't seem to understand I have other obligations, and free art doesn't take priority over them, seeing as I am getting nothing in return.
So, I get it. I get called an art whore- his exact words were' artists are like prostitues, they'll only do something for you if you wave money in their noses". mind you, he was also pushing me to do the comic when I flat out said I don't do comics. to the point I wasn;t going on AIM to avoid talking to him ( he had my email too)
what is with people thinking artists have to do artwork for free? Its ok to ask- hell, I am spending a lot of time on a comic page I am doing for someone FOR FREE and I am happy to simply do it for the love of the franchise, but it was my choice. I chose to do it, and am fine in doing it without compensation. If I don't choose to do free art for you, it does not give you the right to expect that it should have been done for free, nor to call me a whore/prostitute. I can understand one being bummed out, and I would be too if I asked for my char being drawn by someone and I couldn't afford to pay ( but see, I would have offered an art exchange) but even so, if it was declined, I wouldn't have been insultive and rude about it.
I think a lot of people need to realize this ( this guy harassed other artists before me I found out). I don't do art for my living, but still, art takes time away from other things, so at times, I may need compensation for it, an dsometimes, I won't. but its my choice. respect it.