Being a female journalist is a double-edged sword. While I am somewhat more likely to be allowed access to sensitive or intimate spaces or events, I am also less likely to be taken seriously as a human/professional. I am more likely to find myself in dangerous or uncomfortable situations, but also considered generally more approachable than a male of comparable age and experience. Sometimes, my desirability is a card up my own sleeve for access: people are interested in talking to me because they’re interested in something else. Other times, my desirability impedes professionalism and I am not taken seriously, or outright disprespected.
I gave Cope2 my card on his last day of painting the Washington Heights subway tunnel and let him know I was interested in an interview. Cope2, a world-renowned graffiti artist credited with founding the graffiti movement, has been ultimately shamed out of the graffiti community for allegedly informing on other graffiti artists. Cope2 has also developed a reputation for being bigheaded, rude, and childish through his behavior on online forums. His reputation notwithstanding, he’s still an important figure, so I was pleased when he contacted me the next day via text message.
I was acutely aware that my gender was likely the only reason such a notoriously self-absorbed figure reached out. A male friend of mine also recognized Cope2 that day, but received the cold shoulder when he complimented Cope2 on his piece. Cope2 almost immediately began text-flirting and sending winky-face emojis, and even began asking questions like “you live alone or with roommates.” His intentions were clear, but not wanting to risk losing the interview, I decided not to call him out. My boyfriend agreed to present for the interview in case things got pushy.
Toeing the Line
I failed to mention said boyfriend in my correspondence with Cope2 for several reasons:
1) In professional dealings, my romantic status is irrelevant,
2) Conspicuously denying mostly-subtle advances can be seen as heavyhanded and rude,
3) it calls attention to flirtation rather than glazing smoothly over it, and
4) what if he’s only coming because he is interested in the pretty young lady, and won’t sit for an interview if he has no chance with her?
This is unfortunately not unusual: professional women are often forced to choose between the scoop/promotion/etc or their pride. My pride felt just fine, so I chose the scoop.
One hour before our scheduled interview, I received a text reading, “Can’t meet today how’s tomorrow.” No phone call, apologies or explanations for blowing off a meeting on such short notice.
“Why not tomorrow” he texted “I’m open,” as though my schedule revolved around his free time. I began to realize he must not see me as a journalist; he was treating me like a fangirl or a booty call instead (“please don’t be mad at me,” D”=).
I wanted this interview bad, so I caved and rescheduled. I had read every interview he’d done in the last decade that all asked the same questions, and I knew mine would be different, covering new ground, supremely relevant to the history of graffiti within which Cope2 and his artistic trajectory belong. I had pages of poignant questions prepared: about artistic self-identification when it collides with public perception, about the status of graffiti when divorced from the streets, and why do you talk to people like you’re better than them, and are you a sellout, Mr. Cope?
Later that night he texted just to chat: “how’s your day going.” I did not respond but the self-disgust pit in my stomach grew as I felt less and less taken seriously.
The Last Straw
The hour before Cope2 was supposed to arrive (sound familiar?), I texted to ask if he knew where he was going. When he didn’t respond, I called him. No response. Rather than returning the call, he texted:
“in a crazy bbq lol my bad we gotta reschedule sorry!!!!!”
“U mad at me”
“Your home all night”
I wasn’t sure if that last was a question or a declarative sentence. I hadn’t answered yet, furious at his blatant disrespect of my time and clear lack of regard for my profession. A barbeque? Is that really what you’d tell a gallery representative about why you missed their meeting?
“Wow, that’s really inconsiderate. I rearranged my entire day to accommodate you. A little more notice would really have been awesome,” I began.
Cope2 jumped in, “How’s tonight or u need to go out.”
Cope’s inquiry about my “need to go out” served to further underscore his impression of me: I’m here to play, not do a job. I don’t have more work to do on this Wednesday night, I need to go out. And if all I’m doing is going out, then who cares about my time?
“I’d love to reschedule but don’t really have a third day to waste and get blown off….My time is important too,” I texted, thoroughly finished with his attitude.
He protested: ”Omg!!!!!! Jeeeeez!!!! Relax I’m like super duper busy if u only knew the shit I got going on!!!!” (This from the man who has already told me he’s at a “crazy bbq.”)
“I am willing to cancel more plans to interview you around 8 tonight if you’ll actually be here. But if you’d rather just chill at the BBQ…we can plan a different day. Either way it’s up to you just please don’t waste my time.”
“I understand my apology I’ll give you a foot massage if that helps,” with an emoji grinning ear-to-ear.
I believe it is here that I laid my final coffin nail: “I don’t want anything but for you to respect my time as much as your own.” Decidedly not the words of a ready-to-fuck fangirl.
“OK next week!!!! Cause you sound angry!!!! >=( >=( >=( >=( “
I hit him up next week with my available dates, but that was the last I heard from Cope2. It seems I became much less appealing when I refused to put up with his bullshit.
Cope2 wrote an interview for me by treating a respectable reporter like a piece of ass. He proved himself to be bigheaded, egotistical, shortsighted, and disrespectful—the internet knew that already, but I wanted to give him a shot to talk about art rather than beef. I hope he’s embarrassed, and ashamed of himself, but he probably isn’t: people are rarely embarrassed by people they don’t respect, and clearly, I fall into that category.
This will not be the last time I am in this situation, nor am I the only woman to experience this. Smart, funny, tough, brave, and persuasive bow to “young” and “pretty” most of the time. When we are no longer young and pretty, we will still wear “female” like a scarlet letter, still doing our talking for us despite all our qualifications. We will often work twice as hard, and have to navigate bizarre social dynamics men don’t have to think about just to get our jobs done.
But I will rinse and repeat, because I am young, female, and pretty, and I will always get the job done.