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.
My mother is an Orthodox woman who was raised by Orthodox parents and married an Orthodox rabbi. She has also earned, thus far in her career, a bachelor’s degree and three postgraduate degrees. And while she has more degrees than the average Orthodox woman, she also has more degrees than the average American; as of this year, only 30% of American adults had at least a bachelor’s degree.
I was raised in an Orthodox household where, as you can gather, education reigned supreme, so I was frustrated when I read Katie J.M. Baker’s recent Jezebel article, “Orthodox Jews Are Unsure How They Feel About Divalicious Aspiring Politician Mindy Meyer,” about the so-called Orthodox response to Meyer — and how it’s been labeled a conversation about the domestic role of Orthodox women.
In a just-posted Newsweek article, Jessica Bennett discusses her discovery of feminism at age 28. She writes that it wasn’t until she entered the workforce that she realized that things weren’t nearly as equal as she thought they would be:
So for all the talk about feminism as passé, mine wasn’t a generation that rejected it for its militant, man-hating connotation—but because of its success. Women were equal—duh—so why did we need feminism? It’s only recently that I, and women my age, have come to eat those words.
She goes on to explain that while feminism hasn’t gone away, there is no longer a centralized movement. For Bennett, this is a bad thing; for me, it’s a good thing.
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.