I like to read feminist blogs, webzines, news sources, things like that from time to time. I find it provides a useful counterpoint to mainstream media - pointing out biases we take for granted and forget we have, offering viewpoints and experiences that are often underrepresented, making radical arguments that sometimes ring surprisingly true. Of course, "feminist media" is tough to define. It's difficult to pin down what qualifies.
Case in point, Double X. Based on the obvious biological allusion of the title, we all know about what we're going to get - a feminist (or at least unapologetically female) perspective. I skimmed through the headlines this morning and was pleased to find a variety of perspectives on a variety of topics, from abortion to the economy to the election in Iran.
Reading the articles wasn't terrible, but it was a bit anticlimactic. Their article on challenges to Myriad Genetics' patenting BRCA1 and BRCA2 (the "breast cancer genes") reads like a list of talking points prepared by the ACLU, glossing over many of the very details that make this case interesting and important. Their five-part series of letters between three authors of "What It's Like to Be a Military Wife" books was maddenlingly circular and strikingly uninformative, repeating what mainstream media has already made sure we all know - it's hard to be a military wife, and really confusing when you think you're a feminist. Despite the media-induced familiarity of their lives and despite how different and varied they keep insisting they are, their stories were uniformly distinct and alien from my own experience - to read them, you would think only officers married. Is this just a chip on my shoulder?
Wondering what their angle really is, I went to their "About Us" page, which, I realized, says very little. "Double X is a new Web magazine, founded by women but not just for women," - is it reactionary of me to think this comes across as apologizing for their readership? "...We started a conversation among women—about politics, sex, and culture—that both men and women listen in on," two sentences in a row, no less. It's as though they're saying, "We're oreinted around women...but not too much." Their topics are "sexual politics, fashion, parenting, health, science, sex, friendship, work-life balance, and anything else you might talk about with your friends over coffee." Is it silly of me to find that trivializing? They describe their approach as "unabashedly intellectual but not dry or condescending." Is it overly sensitve of me to find that very phrase condescending? So...just what is Double X about? News for girls? And for guys to? News written by girls? That guys can read too? If they never use the word "feminist" in their self-description, are they a feminist media source? Do they want to be? Or at least to look like one?
Contrast this nebulous self-description with the "About Us" section from bitchmagazine.org. "B-Word Worldwide is a nonprofit (501c3), independent, feminist media organization best known for publishing Bitch: Feminist Response to Pop Culture, a print magazine devoted to feminist analysis and media criticism." It goes on to describe how and why they achieve this very clear objective. They have a focus - feminist analysis of pop culture, not "anything...you might talk about...over coffee." They're not afraid of the f-word, and their intended audience is, presumably, anyone who's interested enough in their topic and focus to keep reading. They don't bend over backwards to say, "It's ok, boys! You can read too! We're not scary!" Rather, they show men - and their readers in general - the respect of not asuming they're so jittery as to be scared away from material that might interest them by "f-bombs" (the 8-letter kind) and female authors.
This is not an issue of moderate versus radical feminism, it's an issue of having a focus and not apologizing for it. It is okay to have a specific focus - your focus does not negate the presence of different viewpoints well-represented elsewhere. It is okay to write with a specific demographic in mind - that focus does not negate all relevance to other demographics. And to those who feel unwelcomed by not being specifically greeted, I offer the same response I gave in college when asked, "Why should there be all of these high-calliber women's colleges but no high-calliber men's colleges?"
"No reason I can see. Quit whining and go start one."