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Dear Bloggers, Don't Hold Your Breath Waiting for Your Mode Media Money

Culture

Just a few months ago it seems like a good chunk of the American-based internet imploded when Mode Media shocked the blogging community by collapsing on itself, leaving a mountain of debt and unkept promises.

It was the kind of shut down that gave people Enron-like jitters — no severance or Cobra health plans, no time to collect your belongings and build resumes — just get out and leave your laptops in the office, because those would eventually be sold for pennies on the dollar to help make up for what some industry insiders have said is likely close to $50 million. Millions of that is owed to the thousands of bloggers, contributors, and social media talent Mode peddled to get rich —rich enough to buy a company house in the Hamptons and write it off as a company expense— and those bloggers are small, independent female business owners more often than not. The company's CEO, Samir Arora, was said to have okayed company dinners costing upward of $40,000 (champagne doesn't come cheap, does it?), jet expenditures, and over the top luxuries that would eventually help tip the company beyond a financial breaking point. Mode didn't screw over corporate America, they screwed over every girl next door just trying to turn a buck on her earned work.

Giant numbers that seem nearly impossible to pay off with some secondhand laptops and office furniture, but if you've ever wondered what happens to Silicon Valley monsters who go under in a flash, the answer is simply that technology doesn't vanish. Email lists don't disappear. Contacts, agreements, and concepts don't just run off into the sunset.

“I was with Mode for about three years," shared blogger Misti Schindele of mistimichelle.com. “I used them as my exclusive advertising network, used them to get sponsored posts, and was a contributor for MODE.com. They owed me $1,200 when they shut down — so not nearly as much as other bloggers but when you count on that money every month, its a blow."

While $1,200 may seem like a lot of money, it pales in comparison to other bloggers who had entire networks of writers under their belt who are claiming losses as great as $200,000 when factoring in unpaid invoices for email lists, social media promotion, and other content distribution.

“They stiffed me for five months of advertising revenue including banners, pushdowns, full takeover ads, and a sponsored post with Target I was never paid for," said blogger Amber Murray of BeautyJunkiesUnite.com. “After I found out of the closure, I had to do investigative work and contact Sherwood Partners myself to ask about the status of my money. I was given the run around for months, and honestly just gave up after filling out their physical forms and online forms, stating exactly how much money I was out. I was told I would be paid after March when the assets were allocated to their creditors, etc. I honestly don't believe I will ever see a penny. To this day, Sherwood Partners has made no attempt to contact me or explain what is going on."

Samir Arora by Amy Sussman/Invision for Mode Media/AP Images

There's a reason for that — almost every blogger and content producer who was ever associated with Mode signed a TOS agreement that outlined them as a contractor, service provider — never as an employee or secured debt holder.

That means that in the hierarchy of debt satisfaction, the bloggers who made Mode a giant money machine will never see even a few coins from their losses unless there's an absolute miracle of unicorn proportions.

Selling Assets

Mode has actually already generated some income — they've been selling off their assets in piecemeal versus the entire company to further escape the possibility of satisfying this debt. Selling individual assets (technology, email lists, etc) helps the company escape their overall liability, which no new company will ever want to take on. Any funds generated from these sales will go to satisfying secured and unsecured debts first (so literally, the company credit cards come way before the bloggers ever would). They've already sold millions in assets to companies based in Japan and depending on who you ask, those assets fetched anywhere from $20-50 million USD — more than enough to at least pay the “missing" salaries of disgruntled, debt-ridden former employees. But that's unlikely, because Mode is busy selling off as many American assets as possible now, and is more focused on repaying mortgages and other liens.

Mode Media as it once was

Industry insiders have reported Mode selling off their banner generation technology to another American media distribution group for $6 million USD (the deal is not yet closed), with additional assets seeing price tags of $100,000 and up. Theoretically, that's a lot of small mom and pop entrepreneurs who could have enough cash to keep their lights on, but the banks and more formal creditors will come first.

If you're wondering what this means to the paycheck you're missing from last fall, it means chasing it is probably a wasted lot of energy, but you'll take this as a lesson to never sign another agreement that outlines you as a mere “vendor."

Culture

A Modern Day Witch Hunt: How Caster Semenya's Gender Became A Hot Topic In The Media

Gender divisions in sports have primarily served to keep women out of what has always been believed to be a male domain. The idea of women participating alongside men has been regarded with contempt under the belief that women were made physically inferior.


Within their own division, women have reached new heights, received accolades for outstanding physical performance and endurance, and have proven themselves to be as capable of athletic excellence as men. In spite of women's collective fight to be recognized as equals to their male counterparts, female athletes must now prove their womanhood in order to compete alongside their own gender.

That has been the reality for Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic champion, who has been at the center of the latest gender discrimination debate across the world. After crushing her competition in the women's 800-meter dash in 2016, Semenya was subjected to scrutiny from her peers based upon her physical appearance, calling her gender into question. Despite setting a new national record for South Africa and attaining the title of fifth fastest woman in Olympic history, Semenya's success was quickly brushed aside as she became a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.

Semenya's gender became a hot topic among reporters as the Olympic champion was subjected to sex testing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). According to Ruth Padawer from the New York Times, Semenya was forced to undergo relentless examination by gender experts to determine whether or not she was woman enough to compete as one. While the IAAF has never released the results of their testing, that did not stop the media from making irreverent speculations about the athlete's gender.

Moments after winning the Berlin World Athletics Championship in 2009, Semenya was faced with immediate backlash from fellow runners. Elisa Cusma who suffered a whopping defeat after finishing in sixth place, felt as though Semenya was too masculine to compete in a women's race. Cusma stated, "These kind of people should not run with us. For me, she is not a woman. She's a man." While her statement proved insensitive enough, her perspective was acknowledged and appeared to be a mutually belief among the other white female competitors.

Fast forward to 2018, the IAAF issued new Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development) that apply to events from 400m to the mile, including 400m hurdles races, 800m, and 1500m. The regulations created by the IAAF state that an athlete must be recognized at law as either female or intersex, she must reduce her testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L continuously for the duration of six months, and she must maintain her testosterone levels to remain below 5 nmol/L during and after competing so long as she wishes to be eligible to compete in any future events. It is believed that these new rules have been put into effect to specifically target Semenya given her history of being the most recent athlete to face this sort of discrimination.

With these regulations put into effect, in combination with the lack of information about whether or not Semenya is biologically a female of male, society has seemed to come to the conclusion that Semenya is intersex, meaning she was born with any variation of characteristics, chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals. After her initial testing, there had been alleged leaks to media outlets such as Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper which stated that Semenya's results proved that her testosterone levels were too high. This information, while not credible, has been widely accepted as fact. Whether or not Semenya is intersex, society appears to be missing the point that no one is entitled to this information. Running off their newfound acceptance that the Olympic champion is intersex, it calls into question whether her elevated levels of testosterone makes her a man.

The IAAF published a study concluding that higher levels of testosterone do, in fact, contribute to the level of performance in track and field. However, higher testosterone levels have never been the sole determining factor for sex or gender. There are conditions that affect women, such as PCOS, in which the ovaries produce extra amounts of testosterone. However, those women never have their womanhood called into question, nor should they—and neither should Semenya.

Every aspect of the issue surrounding Semenya's body has been deplorable, to say the least. However, there has not been enough recognition as to how invasive and degrading sex testing actually is. For any woman, at any age, to have her body forcibly examined and studied like a science project by "experts" is humiliating and unethical. Under no circumstances have Semenya's health or well-being been considered upon discovering that her body allegedly produces an excessive amount of testosterone. For the sake of an organization, for the comfort of white female athletes who felt as though Semenya's gender was an unfair advantage against them, Semenya and other women like her, must undergo hormone treatment to reduce their performance to that of which women are expected to perform at. Yet some women within the athletic community are unphased by this direct attempt to further prove women as inferior athletes.

As difficult as this global invasion of privacy has been for the athlete, the humiliation and sense of violation is felt by her people in South Africa. Writer and activist, Kari, reported that Semenya has had the country's undying support since her first global appearance in 2009. Even after the IAAF released their new regulations, South Africans have refuted their accusations. Kari stated, "The Minister of Sports and Recreation and the Africa National Congress, South Africa's ruling party labeled the decision as anti-sport, racist, and homophobic." It is no secret that the build and appearance of Black women have always been met with racist and sexist commentary. Because Black women have never managed to fit into the European standard of beauty catered to and in favor of white women, the accusations of Semenya appearing too masculine were unsurprising.

Despite the countless injustices Semenya has faced over the years, she remains as determined as ever to return to track and field and compete amongst women as the woman she is. Her fight against the IAAF's regulations continues as the Olympic champion has been receiving and outpour of support in wake of the Association's decision. Semenya is determined to run again, win again, and set new and inclusive standards for women's sports.