Her recent series about women and guns in America for Marie Claire caught our eye and we reached out to Menza to talk about the series, which she produced and edited; her career trajectory; and her time at Bryn Mawr.
Tell us more about Women and Guns: The Conflicted, Dangerous, and Empowering Truth.
It’s a digital series for MarieClaire.com, the first of its kind in women’s magazines. We attempted to show all sides of the topic, via essays, videos, a photo shoot, and reported features. We worked with Harvard's Injury Control Research Center to survey 2,000 American women about their gun beliefs, commissioned essays from Hillary Clinton and Carly Fiorina, covered the female gangs in Chicago, and much more.
Working with Harvard's Injury Control Center, I assisted in analyzing and synthesizing the results of our national survey. I couldn't wait to share the work with my sociology professor Nate Wright, who had guided me through the (rather painful, for me!) sociology statistics class, which is required for the major. Who would have thought I'd actually be putting that info to real use, in work that would be commented on in the 2016 presidential election!
Was there anything that really surprised you or that has changed your perspective?
It was really difficult to keep my own opinions about gun control out of this series. We took pains to make sure the series was balanced and that it portrayed all sides of the gun debate. One story was a short film of Katie Francis, a professional shooter who also happens to be 16 years old. It's really hard not to politicize imagery of a teenager holding a gun, and I'm proud of how we told that story. She is a really intelligent, really talented girl, and her life does not just exist for our shock value. I think it's one of the most powerful aspects of the package.
How long were you working on the series?
I worked on this project for six months, and it was published on February 11, 2016. We had to dance around the presidential primaries, Valentine's Day, awards season, New York Fashion Week, and Marie Claire's own print schedule to find just the right day!
How did you get involved in journalism?
I have been working in journalism since I was a student at Bryn Mawr. I was a co-editor at the college news while I was there and held multiple magazine and newspaper internships during my four years at school. My biggest internship, at Glamour magazine, led to an entry-level job there. Years later, I've worked at several women's magazines, in a full-time and freelance capacity. I found myself working at Marie Claire thanks to a friend and colleague whom I met when we were assistants together at Glamour, and who now runs Marie Claire's website.
What did you learn at Bryn Mawr that has helped you in your career?
I was a sociology major at Bryn Mawr, which was the perfect fit for my curiosity on multiple topics at once. I didn't want to have to choose among politics, literature, economics, and more. That curiosity also led me to a career in journalism; writing allows me to dive deeply into one topic at a time, whether that be for a year or for an afternoon. My major informed my worldview and encouraged me to identify patterns and problems in society that tell a larger story. I am constantly on the hunt for those stories.
I took many of classes with Bob Washington—deviance and theory among them—and he was an essential figure in my development as a thinker and citizen. Though it's not the academic path of sociology, journalism has been a wonderful use of my major, and it’s with me every single day of my work.
Now that the series is published, I am back to freelancing for several different women's magazines from the peace of my couch in Brooklyn. I am always looking for the next great story, which is often born out of my conversations with my Bryn Mawr friends. They give me all the material in the world! I'm also about to go on a trip to Vietnam with nine alums. I'm sure that will lead to new stories.