Editorials — July 9, 2015 10:29 — 0 Comments

A Conversation With Seattlish

If you follow Seattlish on Twitter, you know how funny, conscience and insightful the feed can be. It was through Twitter that I contacted the folks behind Seattlish – which turned out to be three badass ladies (Alex Hudson, Sarah Anne Lloyd, Hanna Brooks Olsen) with wonderful senses of humor, a great love for each other and a passion to make politics and city workings understandable to their followers. To get to know the ladies better, I asked if we could do a chat. Graciously, they agreed!


Jake Uitti: How do you remember Seattlish beginning? Was it a drunken conversation at 3am on the stoop of an apartment building (as was the beginning of The Monarch) or was it a sober, focused conversation at noon over a cup of coffee – or something totally different?

Alex Hudson: I honestly do not think we have ever once gotten together for anything even closely resembling a “sober, focused conversation at noon over a cup of coffee.” We’re just not those kind of gals. If memory serves the idea was kind of a slow simmer and then one day we were like, fuck it lets do this. We had been working together in news capacity at Seattlest.com and when that folded we continued to send email threads full of news and sideyes. We always joked we were going to turn it into a site and then one day just did it. Haven’t looked back since!

Sarah Anne Lloyd: Alex has it – Seattlish started in Seattlest. We had a long email chain for Seattlest writers every day and at some point it would usually devolve into Hanna, Alex, and I making fun of stuff or sending GIFs or whatever, and after Seattlest got shut down we just continued it over email threads. We’d send links like “If Seattlest still existed, we’d have to post this item and say this.” Then we just started putting them on Tumblr a few months later we bought the domain and “launched” the Tumblr as the full thing you see today.

Hanna Brooks Olsen: It was two years ago this summer that we launched in earnest, but we’d been kind of feeling it out on Tumblr first for a few months, and over email for at least two years prior.

We wanted to create a space to talk about the things that are important to us – progressive politics, activism, intersectional feminism as it relates to the city, the arts, transportation, sports – in a way that sounded like how we talk.

The idea was a site that made it feel like you were sitting around at a bar with a very informed person, talking about important stuff but also shooting the shit and making dick jokes.

JU: What were some of the remarks you were making to each other about culture or politics in town that led to the launch of the Tumblr page and Twitter account?

SAL: Oh gosh, it was a couple of years ago. I might have to find some of the actual chains. We definitely emailed each other every time there was eagle news though, because eagles are the worst bird.

To be honest, those early email chains now that I look back are mostly animal related — like, baby otters being born at the zoo, that kind of thing. The local politics, the voice, the progressive identity were built over beers for the most part. Rainier beers. (Please sponsor us, Rainier.)

A lot of our pre-Seattlish conversations had to do with a lot of the overarching conversations we’re still having on the blog. We had a really strong need to call people out on how they talk about “sketchy” blocks when really they just feel squicky about looking at poverty. We loved making fun of folks whose #1 priority for city infrastructure is parking accessibility – and we still do, because who doesn’t? And man, Bertha. Seattlest folded at the end of 2011 so there was some very rich Bertha material in between then mid-2013, like, people weren’t distancing themselves from it quite yet and it hadn’t quite become the Official City Punching Bag that it is today.

JU: What happens in your own mind when you hear someone talk about ‘sketchy’ areas and they aren’t being explicit about poverty/class? And what then happens to make you want to properly redirect the conversation?

HBO: Whenever I hear someone talk about a “bad” or a “sketchy” area of town, I know that they’re basing that opinion on a series of assumptions and stereotypes. In most cases, people of privilege legitimately have not considered what it actually means to say that about a neighborhood or even a person, because that’s a construct we’re taught very early, and continue to believe and repeat.

And I mean, when we talk about it…we just say it. Like, we’re pretty open about calling out subtle racism and classism when we see it, because often, just bringing it up is all it takes to get a conversation going.

JU: What other subtle concepts or constructs do you find people use unabashedly without necessarily thinking about them? Ones you at Seattlish like to press on?

SL: People assume everyone thinks the eagle is a bird of majesty that everyone would like to feast their eyes on, when actually the eagle is a garbage bird and a total dick.

HBO: The idea that crime is a thing that only crimepeople do, or that it exists in a vacuum. Any time someone reports on crime rates increasing, etc, we try to acknowledge the fact that crime – especially petty crime, like B&E and car break-ins – is a symptom of a much larger problem, which is that it’s really hard for people to make enough money to live in this city. Very few people just are criminals for fun and it serves no one to talk about crime as though it’s its own problem.

JU: Do you three have any goals in the next year, or so, for the web site or Twitter feed that you’d like to talk about?

SL: A wealthy benefactor gives us a canvas bag full of money with a dollar sign on it no strings attached so we can do this full-time?

Time and life constraints have us just kinda rolling with the punches. And we can’t control the news (AS MUCH AS WE WOULD ALL LIKE TO). Speaking for myself, it would be nice to get to a place where we all have more time to get together and get the podcast happening regularly. But it’s not like a ~*~crazy groundbreaking idea~*~ or anything.

HBO: We decided not to do advertising pretty early on, in part because a.) we’re not ad sales people and we don’t know how to do that, and b.) because we didn’t want anyone to tell us how to run our site. But what that means is that we do literally everything about the site because we love it. Which is great and fun, but is a huge constraint, as well. I would honestly love it if each of us could afford (literally) to spend more time on it. It’s hard to have a full-time job and run a site just for funsies. But we do it.

My biggest goal, though, is just to get people to give a shit. And to show up to their mailboxes, ballot in-hand. I hope that by making politics a little less dry and a little more colloquial, we can actually influence people and get them to know their politicians, know how policy directly impacts them – and most importantly, know that they, as citizens, can directly impact policy. Like, politics doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and the things you hate about the city – traffic, the rent, crime, transportation’s gaps, cracked sidewalks, parking, whatever – are pretty much all able to be changed and fixed by your lawmakers. So…I hope people hear that and respond. That’s what I really want.


Jake Uitti is a founding editor of The Monarch Review.

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The answer isn't poetry, but rather language

- Richard Kenney