Recommendations #13: Know My Name, defining emotional labour, Knives Out, and the burgeoning counterfeit industry

Welcome back to my newsletter recommending the best things I’ve been reading, listening to, watching and buying this past fortnight.

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Thanks for being here, and as always, please send any recommendations you have back to me!



Memoir: Know My Name by Chanel Miller

(Mariah Tiffany/Viking/AP; Lily illustration)

What is it: The memoir of artist and writer Chanel Miller who was sexually assaulted by Brock Turner while she was unconscious.

Thoughts: You might remember a couple of newsletters ago I recommended an excerpt of this book, which I’m now reading.

Miller tells her story with such vulnerability and courage. As well as being an incredibly strong and intelligent person, she’s also a beautiful writer with a talent for bringing small details to life.

Like the Netflix show Unbelievable and Australian writer Bri Lee’s memoir Eggshell Skull (both of which I highly recommend), this book also highlights the extremely arduous legal system, and the extreme scrutiny and dehumanisation victims experience. This is discussed in an The Atlantic that says,

“[Unbelievable] is an eight-episode answer to the question of why three out of four sexual assaults go unreported. It explains why, even in an age that romanticizes the telling of stories, silence can seem the preferable option. And it functions, like Know My Name, as an indictment—not just of assailants, but also of a process that inflicts so much in the name of justice. Miller and her family and her friends showed up in court whenever they were asked to, rearranging their lives around other people’s calendars. [Her sister] Tiffany was in college at the time of the trial; court dates, both arbitrary and non-negotiable, left her constantly rearranging classes and exams so she could make the five-hour drive to Palo Alto to testify. Miller had a collection of people who spoke and cooperated and contributed and were made to look at pictures of her naked body, pine needles in her hair, projected onto courtroom screens. The trial became, effectively, a second job. It ended with Turner sentenced to six months in jail. He served three of those, and then was released.”

(For any Sydney readers, Chanel Miller will be appearing at the All About Women event at the Opera House this in March 2020. General tickets go on sale Friday.)

Article: The education of Natalie Jean (Elle)

What is it: A profile on Natalie Lovin, formerly known as Natalie Jean, who rose to prominence as a Morman mummy blogger living in New York City.

Thoughts: I had never heard of Natalie Jean before this article, but I love a good deep dive into influencer/blogging culture.

The feature basically tells Natalie’s story of being a mummy blogger who found it hard to maintain her highly curated personal brand when her marriage broke down.

After a few years’ break, Natalie has returned to blogging and is finally being honest about some of those struggles.

The cynical person in me does question Natalie’s sudden interest in being vulnerable considering the ‘authentic’ content the Instagram algorithm currently favours. This is something the writer of this piece, Nona Willis-Aronowitz, is clearly questioning too when she notes, “Talking through these momentous changes, it’s easy to see why Natalie was such a successful lifestyle blogger. She’s a skilled storyteller who arranges folksy metaphors and quirky details like accent pillows. She knew that [taking me to a] ballet class would telegraph poise, pain, and femininity to a journalist, and that I’d get a kick out of visiting the bedroom where she kissed a gentleman caller out the window as a teenager. Personal brands die hard.”

The last paragraph of this piece is also very telling.

Article: The overuse of 'emotional labor' turns all relationships into work (Jezebel)

What is it: An opinion piece responding to a tweet thread from US academic Melissa Fabello that recently went viral. The thread starts with Fabello sharing a text sent by a friend saying, "Do you have the emotional/mental capacity for me to vent about something medical/weight-related for a few minutes?” Fabello explains how much she appreciated this message because it asks for her consent for ‘emotional labour.’ She then provides a template (which has since been heavily meme-ifed) on how to respond to messages like this when you feel ‘at capacity’ in your life.

Thoughts: I’ve thought a lot about whether or not I agree with Fabello since first seeing her tweets, eventually arriving at a similar place to the author of this Jezebel piece.

I do not like the idea of seeing friendships as ‘emotional labour’ (the original definition of which is explained in this article).

The very nature of friendship requires being emotionally present and supportive. You can’t just take the good stuff without the bad and ignore your friend when times are tough – that’s not a real relationship.

I’d be really hurt if, after asking a friend for support, I got a response sounding like the template Fabello provides. I don’t expect my friends to write back right away of course, (which is maybe what Fabello is trying to address) but a simple acknowledgment of my feelings is usually all that’s being asked.

Yes, sometimes responding to a friend (or actually seeing them in person) will require time out of your day. To see this time as ‘emotional labour’ though is not only completely devoid of empathy, it commodifies friendship as another item on the capitalist market.

Edited article excerpt:

In the degradation of the term emotional labor, we lose a crucial framework to define the taxing emotional burden of being a worker in a society that continually wants employees to believe their coworkers are “their family” so that they work harder and never want to leave their desks. But we also saddle the relationships we can form beyond the workplace, away from our obligations to work, with a similar, dreaded sense of duty. The overuse of the term emotional labor redefines our relationships, the ones we build out of care and love, into workplace disputes. Fabello writes in her script “could we connect at [a later time and date]” as if checking in with a friend in a time of need is another meeting to be scheduled with a conference room to book…

…What people like Fabello describe as emotional labor is often the bare minimum of what’s expected in a relationship when it’s built on love and respect. Listening to your friend talk about their bad day isn’t emotional labor; it’s just being a friend.

Emotional labor has become a catchall for everything expected of women; it’s the intimacy sex workers perform for clients, and when a woman asks her husband to do tasks around the house. But in emotional labor’s new definition of “emotion management,” it’s been defanged to the point that the terminology is essentially meaningless.

Article: The cutthroat battle between S’well and its bougie water bottle copycats (Marker by Medium)

What is it: A longform article about the counterfeit industry and the increasing toll this is placing on businesses such as S’well.

Thoughts: This is a really fascinating and well-researched read about how powerless businesses are to stopping counterfeits of their products from being made.

While previously it was mainly designer labels being targeted, this has shifted to smaller brands selling mid-priced products, and the nature of the activity is often very sinister. As a United States Customs and Border Protections spokesperson says in the article, counterfeiting can be more lucrative than drug smuggling. “The money made from the peddling of IPR,” he says, referring to intellectual-property rights, “can be greater than trafficking narcotics, but the penalties are less severe, so it does make sense for a terrorist or criminal organization to try to raise money through IPR than by selling narcotics.”

Edited article excerpt:

Less than a year into starting the business, Sarah Kauss, founder of S’well, realized she had a big problem. Kauss and her then-boyfriend Jeff Peck (now her husband and the company’s president) were heading to S’well’s factory in China when they stopped for a couple days’ vacation in Hong Kong. Kauss saw there was a trade show and insisted on stopping by. When she arrived, it appeared that S’well had a significant presence at the show, with bottles displayed in a case and a ribbon flaunting an award it had apparently won. “A man came over to me and gave me his business card, very properly, and said he was from S’well,” she says. His card had S’well’s logo on it, with the little TM for ”trademark.”

The problem: Kauss at that point was running S’well from her apartment. It had no presence in Asia. Nor did it have a sales rep there. And it had no employees besides Kauss. She had barely gotten the company off the ground, and her bottles were being knocked off…

…Online marketplaces like Amazon and social-media sites like Facebook and Instagram are enabling a new copycat ecosystem that’s become a hall of mirrors for both brands and shoppers. It’s never been easier for makers of knockoffs to reach consumers, project authenticity, and make money — and it’s never been harder for the real companies to regain control.

Increasingly brazen and sophisticated, counterfeiters are knocking off smaller brands selling mid-priced products, according to experts who scan for counterfeits. The numbers are startling: In 2017, according to the Global Brand Counterfeiting Report, counterfeits totaled $1.2 trillion; that’s expected to increase 50% by 2020. Last year, when the Government Accountability Office bought 47 consumer products like cosmetics and travel mugs online from third-party sellers on sites including and, it determined that 20 of them were fakes.

More to read ….

·      Online, no one knows you're poor (The Guardian)

·      How to talk to anyone (Forge by Medium)

·      Why editorial illustrations look so similar these days (Quartzy)

·      The Apostrophe Society closes its doors (ABC News)


Film: Knives Out

One of the best feelings is walking into a movie not knowing what to expect, and walking out completely loving it. This is what happened to me when watching Knives Out recently, which had me thoroughly entertaining from the first minute.

The movie is essentially a classic murder mystery, but it’s filled with snappy dialogue, clever societal observations, and is acted by a fantastic cast.

Interview: Billie Eilish: Same Interview, The Third Year (Vanity Fair)

My first introduction to Billie Eilish was actually the second version of this interview, which I was so delighted to see return for the third year. This time around she seems more self-aware, and, more importantly, so much happier.


Podcast: Dear Sugars

Among topics ‘The Sugars’ – aka writers Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond who host this advice podcast – deal with particularly well are weight and body image.

In a past episode republished this week, Cheryl discusses the constant battle she faces to feel comfortable with her body and size. She also shares what it felt like when an excerpt of her book Wild was published in Vogue, and the photo of her taken to accompany the piece was photoshopped beyond recognition.

Another of my favourite Dear Sugar episodes is one from 2015 titled ‘The Weight of Love’ with Lindy West, which discusses the sensitive subject of broaching weight with a partner.


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