like i want u to tell someone who sewed a 32 piece garment based on their own titties that their handmade bra is too expensive for u because they want an average of $10 an hour for their sum total work i want to be there when that happens so i can see them stab u and bury u in scraps of italian lace
All lingerie (& clothing) is made by an individual w a sewing machine. ‘Handmade’ is really more a construction of the power of the person doing it— whether in someone’s apartment in Manhattan, an atelier in Paris or a factory in China, it’s all ‘by hand’. Some hands are just paid better than others.
Hello! I am still a little unsure of the basis of the confusion about how A+ functions or in what ways in will or won’t change the community here, but I can try to talk it through as best I can.
For the five years Autostraddle has existed, we’ve existed basically entirely on a reader-investment-based model. There’s some revenue from advertising, but not nearly enough to adequately compensate our five full-time staff members, four part-time staff members, and all of our contributing editors. The vast majority of the income that it takes to keep Autostraddle running has come from A-Camp, merchandise sales, affiliate sales or from donations in different forms — some people making small donations when they can on their own, some very generous people making large donations, some people coming together as a community during fundraising drives. So for people who are wondering why Autostraddle is offering A+ instead of using a donation-based model: that’s actually what we’ve already been doing, and to be honest, it’s really not working. Also, we’re only doing A-Camp once this year so we could focus more on the website, and we need a revenue stream to replace that second camp.
Yes, we’ve been pulling in more revenue and we’re proud that we’ve managed to become one of the few self-sustaining queer media outlets in the world. But we’re only self-sustaining because we keep our expenses very, very low. Right now I work 50-60 hours a week and make between $4 and $6 per hour. (So, less than minimum wage. That’s also before taxes, which are significant for writers who work online. We buy our own health insurance.) The individual contributing writers make much less than that, even though they also contribute very significant time, often on top of at least one day job. Generally speaking, we usually can’t afford to pay outside contributors at all, which severely limits which voices make it to readers; primarily, it’s those who can afford to write for free, a very limited and privileged set.
On a purely altruistic donation-based system, this is all we can afford, and it’s not sustainable. When we ran a donation drive last year to try to pay our writers a reasonable wage (in exchange for cookies and home-made thank you cards, even!) it didn’t even make its goal. We love our readers dearly and are deeply indebted to them in a thousand ways, but for several years the reality has been that we can’t rely upon readers for donations (although we are incredibly grateful for the many, many of you who do donate regularly)!
We designed this program intentionally and deliberately and after months of conversations with our readers about how they’d like to support AS. We looked at other programs and other plug-ins and this was the best solution that’d ensure Autostraddle.com stays the same for non-members and wouldn’t take up so much time from us that Autostraddle would suffer.
Possibly because the website has been doing well in terms of traffic and have had some exciting recognition from outside outlets, it may have created the impression that we’re raking in the ad dollars, but we’re not. And to make the $20k a month we need to maintain our current system, which underpays everybody on staff, we’re increasingly pushed to make compromises w/r/t the kind of advertising we can even accept and the hours we’re willing to work. Plus, the more revenue streams we add that involve anything besides simply writing content, the more paid support staff we require to ensure the maintenance of that revenue stream.
Contributing editors are now paid for posts — which we’re so excited about finally being able to offer! — but it’s not because we’ve started making significantly more money; it’s because we received money in December from a generous donationvestment and were so tired of not paying writers that we decided to put it towards paying those writers, crossing our fingers that we’d be able to keep doing so if the A+ launch went well.
In 2011, we made $31,000 in donations. In 2012, partially because of our fundraiser, we made $128,000 (virtually all of which went towards the redesign, cee’s yearly salary, the server, fulfilling the perks, and adjusting Alex and my’s salary, as the fundraiser promised. The rest went towards paying writers for Trans*Scribe, getting office equipment, and paying taxes) In 2013, we made about $9,000 in donations. So far this year we’ve gotten about $4,500. Unfortunately, high traffic and internet visibility don’t generate revenue. But they do make people less motivated to support us financially. If we continue to rely on donations, camp and merchandise, we will have to lay people off and/or shut down. Full stop. If we’re unable to meet our goal of 1,000 A+ members by the end of the year, that’s still what will probably happen.
It’s especially frustrating to see funding dry up because it’s been clear that when we have more money, we are able to make a better website. The Trans*Scribe series was possible because we had the money to pay trans women and especially trans women of color, who are much less likely to be able to write for free. Similarly, if you liked what we published in December after our redesign launched — when we were able to publish writers like Roxane Gay, Kim Milan, Heather Hogan, Elicia Sanchez, Arabelle Sicardi, and more — it’s because we were generously gifted a $10k investment intended for paying writers. It was probably the best magazine we’ve ever been, that month, because of it. But after that month, the money was gone, and we don’t have the option to offer professional writers or low-income writers money for their words.
It’s true that many of our readers won’t be able to afford A+ membership. But those readers are only unable to access 2% of what will be published on Autostraddle, and that 2% will never — NEVER — be something that would otherwise be published on Autostraddle normally. It’s only going to be the newsletters and the stuff that writers only feel able to publish in front of a smaller audience because of its vulnerable nature. It feels especially weird for anyone to feel entitled to that content for that very reason — none of us are entitled to anyone’s intensely private experiences, and for that reason it’s great that they now have the option to publish them in a way that feels less scary because it’s smaller. And in the hopefully not-very-long run, the content on Autostraddle’s main site will get significantly better, because A+ memberships are funding the curation of better and more unique writing. It will also be able to fund marginalized voices — I think employing and paying these people for their work is incredibly important, especially if we’re talking about the same people who can’t afford A+.
Which is ultimately the point of A+ — it creates a sustainable way for queer people to opt in to a system that financially supports other queer people. Every dollar that someone pays into A+ ends up in a queer woman or otherwise-identified human’s pocket. Some of them will go to my salary, some will go to pay for our server which is run by a queer woman, many many many of those dollars will go to pay writers who create the content you want to read, FOR FREE.
Autostraddle isn’t a company that has offices and warehouses and products; it is a company comprised entirely of people and their brains. It is a company literally made out of queer women and non-binary folks. When we talk about how to support or not support AS, we’re not talking about the company as a concept, we’re talking about the people who create it. And not just the faces on the masthead — the ones all over the world who pitch to us and write for us and who WOULD pitch to us if we could pay them.
To say that the emotional experience of not being included in something is objectively more hurtful than being told that the work we’ve done for this site for five years, for free, is worthless, seems like a confusing stance. It’s certainly one everyone is entitled to, but I’m not sure whom it benefits. A+ will enable all AS readers to get a better website — even though people who aren’t interested in the program don’t need to do anything to benefit from it.
Rachel - being mad fucken real in the Autostraddle comments section explaining A+ and the need to pay writers and create an online community that supports its people financially, as well as emotionally.
if you can pay for Netflix, you can kick Autostraddle some funds. My last check for writing things helped me pay my light bill. So keep that in mind.
Autostraddle has been really awesome for me/ to me. You should think about subscribing!