I was listening to a podcast the other day in which a freelance writer that I admire was being interviewed. I am not going to disclose either the podcast, which I enjoy, or the name of the writer because I’m not here to publicly humiliate either.
The writer, a fairly intelligent woman with a long career in freelancing who also has written many articles that I have found helpful in developing my own writing, was talking about her early career. She was being honest, and describing the kinds of challenges she’d run into in the early days of her work.
And then it happened. This intelligent, honest woman was discussing the inequality she found in treatment of male vs. female freelancers, and said that because she was a woman clients would frequently try to “jew her down” in price.
“Jew her down.”
The interview could have stopped there as far as I was concerned. She went from being an intelligent role model to women writers to being an ignorant bigot in my eyes in the space of three words.
I am not the most politically correct person. I have been known to laugh at jokes that may not have been the most appropriate. I have, more than once, used the word “trailer” to describe someone’s style. Neither am I one of those people who walks through life listening to people only to be shocked at what they say and helpfully show them the error of their ways. If it’s someone I’m close to (like my kids) and they say something inappropriate, then yes, I’ll call them on it, but strangers? I’m just not that person.
But I found this so jarring because she is a writer. Words are her business. So how does this woman not know that that phrase is offensive? That it’s not something intelligent people use at all, especially not casually during an interview?
And why didn’t the interviewer edit it out? Did he not care? Did he not notice? Did he not think it was offensive because he talks like that too when he’s not podcasting? I don’t know. It made me wonder about him too. Was it just “something people say” to him, or was he embarrassed for her?
It always amazes me the things people who are, even in this small niche way, in the public eye say or do without even thinking about how many people are seeing or hearing them.
It also saddens me. Because in this case, I’ve lost a role model. I can’t read her articles or hear her interviews without thinking of that one offhand comment. Someone who used to sound like an intelligent woman with knowledge to share now just sounds like an ignorant, judgemental moron.
It was, for me, the very definition of unprofessional. And in the world of freelance writing, as with most professions, that’s one thing you really can’t afford to be.