Maia Szalavitz is a journalist and author who covers neuroscience and the intersection between mind, brain and behavior. She has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, Elle, Redbook, Time Magazine online, New Scientist, Reason, Mother Jones, O: the Oprah Magazine and other major publications and has appeared on Oprah, CNN, MSNBC and NPR. She is a Senior Fellow at Stats.org, a media watchdog organization. She is the co-author of The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog and Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook and author of Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids. Maia is a former heroin and cocaine addict, and combines her experiences with her considerable expertise to write intelligently and with empathy about a range of addiction-related issues.
We asked Maia the questions we’ve been asking our Mentor Editors over the past few weeks, and she gave us some fascinating answers. Here’s what Maia had to say:
Chloe Angyal: Why do you think there are so few women on the op-ed pages?
Maia Szalavitz: I think women tend to be more cautious than men in being sure that they are “right” and that their opinion is valid.
CA: What can individual women do to change the situation?
MS: Submit more op-eds! Realize that if the only people who speak up are those who are certain, the points of view that are expressed will not benefit from the subtlety of argument that can come from those who are less sure of themselves and therefore, more likely to back up what they say with good evidence.
CA: What advice would you give to a young feminist hoping to break into public debate?
MS: Don’t worry about not being 100% sure– just jump in.
CA: What’s an example of an argument that changed your life?
MS: When I first tried to quit heroin, I was on methadone maintenance for a short period of time. Because of prejudice about methadone, I thought that it didn’t really count as “recovery”– and because I personally kept using cocaine as well, I thought that it didn’t help anyone. After I kicked drugs via a different method, I even wrote an op-ed for Newsday opposing methadone. Then, I read the research and met people who really did benefit. I learned then that an anecdote–even my own– is not evidence and that you need to be familiar with the research before you make arguments that can affect people’s lives. Since then, I have done whatever I can to fight prejudice about methadone or other maintenance drugs that can help people recover. But note that I was wrong and survived to publish again, too!