Packing like a female journalist from a conflict-ridden decolonized country


Illustration by Jill Arteche

Packing like a female journalist from a conflict-ridden decolonized country

By: Catherine D. Tan

1. Choose, of course, the most strategic bag. Fancy for instance a backpack with a hard shell case. Should a stray bullet or flying shrapnel find its way to your back in the field as you search for truth, the bag will without a doubt stave off a backstab. Said backpack could also be placed in front, which staves off the correlation between your decolonized country’s high income inequality and high crime rate.

Consider, too, a duffel bag with a soft handle, which serves multiple purposes. To provide ease of grip when you clench your fists for a protracted duration – out of irritation, anger, or blood-curdling fear for your life when your interviewee is a monster. Or to make way for wider movement for when you decide to swing said bag towards the face of a catcaller in the eskinita, or a wrongdoing cop. Or God forbid, both. 

2. After the crucial matter of the bag choice has been settled, substantive matters are in order.

Pack dry shampoo. Yes, because you don’t know when your next contact with water would be. But also because dry shampoo masquerades as a girly-girl step in one’s routinary ablutions, thereby masking your true strength and investigative power. The deception is necessary in keeping a tough interviewee in check.

But really, it’s a weapon for when you get captured by enemies of truth (holla at you, non-state rebels, and peddlers of alternative facts): calmly ask said enemies for a minute to fix your hair, but turn the nozzle to their faces at last minute, and make the big reveal that said dry shampoo is in fact pepper spray. Truth – 1, Enemies – 0.

3. Not all moments will be high in stress or nihilism. For off moments when you feel the slow burn of your country’s direst political problems, meditate.

Of course, the gritty journalist doesn’t meditate w/ bikram yoga. She does, however, have yoga pants in the singular secret compartment of her luggage. The gritty journalist asks: What would Faye Dunaway from the 1976 film Network do? Aside from, of course, exploiting political terrorism to spike ratings or espousing amorality as high as her trademark cheekbones.

Faye Dunaway from the 1976 film Network would likely hold a long cigarette aloft in between her fingers, using smoking as entryway to the boys’ club. So as to retrieve information from the most exclusivist circle in existence.

Shoulder pads help, as we have seen in Faye Dunaway, so pack it in. Cause we all know the least apologetic female ever is the 70s one. Woodstock and bra burning and all. (Not that you experienced Woodstock firsthand or that it is even your history, but that just shows the West’s full-on soft power.)

4. For when the job seems to bore an existential hole in your life and you hanker for a signal that announces how you’re special, you need to bring Plato’s The Republic. For your occupation is so liminal, so on-the-outskirts of things, that even the Plato couldn’t imagine it into his three-tier political system of philosopher-kings, artisans, and soldiers. You’re so special that a classical philosopher couldn’t predict you.

After all, journ is neither just art nor science, neither academic nor explicitly just pragmatic. It’s a quest for objective truth yet also an apologia for human interpretation.

You’re waxing profound. Good, esp for when your interviewee is some polymathic erudite w/ a jones for the Greeks (Prepare to be questioned however if said erudite prefers Foucault instead.) 

5. All the skepticism you can muster must populate every gap between and amongst your folded clothes. And all the biases must be stored in the tiniest compartments (if not left at home it all, not that that’s possible.) Ensure you don’t place your pills and emergency meds in those same compartments; wouldn’t want to ingest the wrong things in your system now would you.

6. Don’t pack too much. Make room in your luggage for some Heideggerian angst, which takes a lot of volume and has the consequence of unleashing dense air when your luggage is unpacked, increasing the pressure in the atmosphere. The pressure, basically Heidegger’s ghost, reminds you that death is imminent and your being-in-the-world is determined by the quality of your lead and the tightness of your argumentation. Your life is basically rested on the accumulation of your life’s articles.

(You wish you packed Aristotle instead, but Faye Dunaway wouldn’t have wanted that.)