Sunday, June 14, 2009

Feminist Media

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 "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 " 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."


  1. (1) I think the vast majority of Enlisted folk are married. (I have no stats to back that up) I also think they tend to get married younger than Officers. I am going to put my foot in my mouth and imply that you were an outlier and that the average enlisted-spouse doesn't really think much about the feminist perspective on their situation.
    I think it would be a worthwhile "letter to the editor" for you to write if you feel that strongly about their leaving out the entire enlisted community.

    I'm getting the diet-coke version of military partnership at the moment, and I don't think it conflicts with my feminism. Then again, I moved to take a job when W got deployed overseas, so it's not like I'm crying by the phone waiting for it to ring. We'll see what happens when this deployment is up and we're in a different long-distance relationship.

    (2) Title IX makes having a single-sex college EXCESSIVELY difficult. My understanding is that womens' colleges survive as such by pulling in a lot of money in donations from their decades of graduates. The only mens' college I know of is Deep Springs and they're TINY (26 students!) and self-sufficient.

  2. Look at the differences in the 2 sites: B---- is a .org and XX is a .com. XX is a clone of it's daddy, Slate, and the first thing I saw when I went there was a big ad for Sprint. Beeyatch doesn't have adds, and they take donations.

    I think the goofy language on XX was written for their advertiser-sponsors. Gack. That's a really bad sign... likely to be run at the whim of the big guys, and certainly not worth my time.

  3. I'm so embarrassed... I used "it's" instead of "its." Please accept this correction, because I don't know how to get blogspot to let me edit.

    Oh no, I also used "adds" instead of "ads." This must be the result of using someone else's computer.

    My bad.

  4. P-gal: Re 2, that was my impression as well. There are way more men's colleges than just Deep Springs, one of which is about Wellesley-sized, but not very many (did some digging yesterday). I certainly didn't mean to imply that one could just up and start a thriving men's college without any trouble - the century plus of wealthy alums helps a lot. But some people are under the impression that the Supreme Court would not allow a men's college to operate, which is untrue. It would merely be financially difficult. :-)

  5. It's? IT'S???? AND ADDS?????? I will never respect Pentalia AGAIN! My world is turned inside-out!