7 Comments

Summary:

I know this is crazy, but women don’t need a place “for women” to read on the internet. They just need good writing.

iphone reader
photo: Rani Molla

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.

male-female-venn-diagram

Diagram by Rani Molla

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.

BustleArticles

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.

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  1. There are no Shades of Gray in your position?

  2. Well said. With their great business coverage, investment advice, political commentary, pop culture reviews, recipes, health updates, fashion/beauty trends and travel tips, I think I will stick with the WSJ as one of my primary sources of “womens’ news.”

  3. @mark … yawn

    I agree totally, and I love the term ‘mansplaining’. I do find it hard to read feminist content because, honestly, I am not their enemy because my genitals are different shape. I see lots of issues around poverty and so on to be the results of political and class (yes it still exists) issues, gender is secondary.

    It puts my teeth on edge when privileged, well fed people in the West start whining about how oppressed they are. I know that they (and I) wouldn’t last 5 minutes facing up to the conditions that the other 90% of humanity have to live with every day.

  4. Er, could it be that someone who reads Hacker News and IGN on a daily basis is perhaps not representative of the majority of women?

  5. @Chris S. Or, could it be that the point was more ‘no matter what anyone reads, it is not so much gender-based as it is interest-based – also with women’.

    Thank you, Lauren, for putting (also) my thoughts into words. I too read a multitude of off- and online media, including many “techy” publications. This does not make me a man, nor does it make me any better than “the majority of women”.

    Would love to hear some of the reader profiles of these supposedly all-male media, though, e.g. their Facebook follower distribution, which is pretty accurate (compared to other types of census).

  6. There is no basis for the slam “mansplaining” .For the past 30 years almost all articles in the mainstream media on boys, men, and fatherhood have been written by women. For some reason the media simply doesn’t want to hear or represent a male point of view. Every year, on fathers day, I cringe to read the negative and patronizing views of fathers. I would like to think that the feminists dominating mainstream media in these subjects would let the guys get off their hands and knees one day, fathers day, and say some good things about an endangered species. Mansplaining is a bagatelle compared to routing male bashing mainstream gender coverage.

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