One of the biggest questions asked of Pogrebin was about Ms.’s role in shaping the coverage of other women’s magazines, inspiring the glossies’ inclusion of issue-oriented, reported features that stand out amongst the makeup and style pieces. Another question addressed? Whether Ms., which began as an offshoot of New York magazine, after all, has had an influence in today’s online media culture. She says:
That cutting edge role is now largely filled by thousands, if not millions, of bloggers and online publications. As a result, no single source functions as a “clearinghouse” or authoritative voice in the way that Ms. did in the 70s and 80s. Today’s alternative media have drastically changed the landscape both for good and for ill. For good, because it’s healthy to have many different points of view in the mix. For ill, because most of us are suffering from information overload and the impact of an important story can get lost in the online noise. These days, it’s rare for an event affecting women to enter the collective consciousness and to engage millions in a shared, simultaneous national conversation. But when it does happen, it makes a difference — witness how the rape remarks of two Republican candidates’ comments outraged women all over the country and lost the men their election.
Indeed in many ways, Ms., a fine magazine to which I’ve been proud to contribute, is a godmother of sorts for the thriving “ladyblog” universe to which the Sisterhood belongs.
This is the twelfth entry of an ongoing series exploring Jewish feminism.
This is embarrassing and something I should never admit because it betrays a lack of commitment to passionate principles and also a resistance to deep thinking. But here it is: “Jewish” and “feminist” exist in two different boxes for me, and I have never managed to get them to share borders. This is not for lack of trying.
I am Jewish, and I am the founder and editor of a woman’s website. In college I read Lilith magazine and I went to the kinds of reformed services where God was sometimes a “she.” (I went to college in California.) I also briefly attended such a synagogue in D.C., where I live now, and participated in a long and earnest discussion about the dual gender nature of the deity.
But ultimately the whole enterprise made me squirm.
I was born in Israel and grew up in Queens. My synagogue there was full of old men and they only spoke Hebrew and never much cared what we, the young people or we, the girls and women, thought about anything. It was a thoroughly unpleasant and unsatisfying spiritual experience, but that’s what we had. Over the years I have tried to move away from it and create myself a more fulfilling, nourishing kind of Judaism. But the truth is, it makes me uncomfortable.
I realized in recent years that what I want from my Judaism is ritual — old, familiar, and some might say thoughtless ritual. I like to say the prayers the same way I have always said them, sing the songs in the same old tuneless way and make my kids go to Hebrew school. And in the old version, God is just He.
Are women’s voices being ghettoized in the name of niche media? Ann Friedman, deputy editor of The American Prospect recently tackled this very query in light of Slate’s spin-off, Double X, and its debut. It should be mentioned that a founding editor, Hannah Rosin, has been giving smart answers to readers’ questions on the Bintel Brief — and the Forward has made its own foray into niche media with this, The Sisterhood blog.
Friedman calls out publishers of sites like Slate, Gawker, and Salon (each masterminding separate gal-sites, Double X, Jezebel, and Broadsheet) for “signaling that they don’t see a need to have their main site serve [women] as core readers,” while they still dream of ad dollars brought in by this group.
Perhaps these publishers are simply trailing the numbers: In 2009 women’s presence online topped men’s by seven million. Women are projected to drive more than half of total Internet traffic in the next four years. The gut reaction of most entrepreneurs would not be to overhaul a well-performing brand — a tried-and-true place for wonks like Slate or a snarky gossip site like Gawker — but to expand and shape new content elsewhere under its warm gaze. Enter women’s spinoff sites, which are multiplying fruitfully. The best way to become integral in a male-dominated conversation seems to be to bombard it, from the outside and from within.
Friedman wonders why household names, unquestionably aware of the rising demand for women’s content, don’t just publish more of it on their already existing sites. She sets Feministing, the blog where she also dabbles, apart from this conversation because she believes it is steeped in a distinct worldview rather than a “set of chromosomes.”
But what’s wrong with chromosomes? The proliferation of womens media outlets on the Web corresponds naturally to the explosion of more media outlets in general. X-chromosome-based magazines, Web sites, newspapers, and media can influence a broader social conversation. We just have to keep talking to keep up.
In this Sisterhood space, we’re eking out a venue for fresh conversation for/by/about/between women within the Forward’s Jewish, social justice-oriented 112-year-old newspaper format. We produce venerable weekly papers in English and Yiddish — and an award-winning Web site; we’re immensely proud of these publications. But we also like the idea of giving women another platform. Stay tuned.