At 6:30 am on a typical weekday morning, I turn on an iPad mini and start flipping through Feedly, flagging relevant overnight stories in mobile, gadgets and social media to Instapaper. Then, after logging online, more websites are pulled up: Hacker News, Slashdot, Techmeme and Reddit, among others. Articles are split into a “for work” and “for fun” pile, in case things get slow and something needs to stimulate the brain.
I was born and continue to self-identify as a woman and — this may come as a shock to some people — I don’t need a website “for women” to tell me my news.
Yesterday, Bleacher Report creator Bryan Goldberg released a boorish FAQ-style press release on PandoDaily about his new website “for women,” Bustle. Created for and powered by the female gender, Bustle will put “world news and politics alongside beauty tips.” Don’t worry though: Goldberg assures that the content will be good enough that men will secretly read it, too.
There’s actually a word for why this particular article agitated people so much that they took to Twitter to vent frustration. It’s called “Mansplaining,” and it is the crystallization of the patronizing way Goldberg has chosen to articulate Bustle, using a knowing and condescending tone that indicates that women don’t know how to explain or get what they “want.” And that, in his valuable male opinion, is getting content from other women.
Seriously, though? I don’t care whether my news is on a site “for women” or if it caters to “female interests.” I just want to read what I want to read, whether that’s a gaming review or entertainment news, from a source that I believe does a good job doing journalism.
Many of the websites that I read on a daily basis are actually the very same websites that Goldberg claims are in the business to “attract men” — IGN, The Verge and Grantland, among others. And I’ve also written for some of them. That’s right, these businesses that seemingly are only out to find males of my species have happily accepted, promoted and distributed articles that a female wrote, and also praised her for it. Perhaps Goldberg believes this to be shocking, as he seems certain that only males are apt to voice their opinions there.
I also seem to sense a discrepancy about what feminism is and how it pertains to online journalism in general. The definition of feminist writing isn’t covered accurately by Goldberg, who said that his publication will be feminist because it allows writers to “cover what they want to cover.” Websites that cover the feminist beat, like xoJane and Jezebel, are specifically looking for political and sociological stories that directly pertain to women’s rights and equality.
That said, feminist websites aren’t feminist because they cater to or coddle women in an echo-chamber of their own gender — they’re feminist because they treat women’s issues as a subject that all people (yes, including men) should read and debate. I personally like reading feminist writing, but it doesn’t need to be written by a woman for me to take it seriously.
The fault of Goldberg and others like him who seek to reinvent how women consume content is that they suffer from a damning piece of flawed logic: that women’s content (and women in general) should be relegated to an exclusive platform that works specifically towards creating a language “they understand.” I don’t wish any ill-will towards the writers at Bustle, women who I assume to be journalists in their early twenties like myself, but I believe their writing to be trapped in an environment that forces them to cater to a stereotype of a woman reader that does not and has never existed. Bustle is, at its core, a man’s vision of what a woman wants to read, and that will plague its quality and readership.
As for me, I will continue to be a woman who reads anything and everything on the internet. If you find an article that takes its subject — whether it’s nail polish, the Gaza strip or the Large Hadron Collider — in an interesting and compelling direction, feel free to make a recommendation.