What NOW | Women Are Writing and I Love It
Women Are Writing and I Love It | Julia Haskins
Like many people these days, I’m searching for a way to make sense of the world around me. These are frightening times, especially for the most marginalized groups in society. Racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia are rampant, and basic human rights are hanging in the balance. But even in the midst of so much chaos, I have found a constant source of strength: media created by and for women.
Women’s publications have long suffered a bad rap, driven by outdated stereotypes: They don’t discuss the important issues. They only focus on fashion and beauty. They aren’t as engrossing or inspiring as media from predominantly male outlets. I ask anyone who still believes these tropes about women’s media, Have you seen a newsstand or been on the internet lately? Women’s media is booming, offering some of the most informative and fascinating content in the so-called “post-truth” era of media. As a feminist woman writer myself, I’m thrilled to see the tide changing, with women storytellers receiving their due, and readers seeing themselves in the media they consume.
Today’s women-powered outlets are becoming more diverse, centering the voices of women with disabilities, women of color, and members of the LGBTQ community. Online spaces in particular have proven vital for amplifying diverse perspectives. The Establishment, helmed by the brilliant Ijeoma Oluo, features a mix of raw, emotional essays and insightful cultural critique. Autostraddle gives queer women and non-binary people an outlet for unabashed self-expression, with lighthearted features alongside serious reflections on life for LGBTQ people. From Bitch Media highlighting the works of POC artists to Bustle celebrating the diversity of American experiences through books, I’ve been exposed to a range of worldviews that inspire me to be a better storyteller. I am reminded that I must strive for intersectionality in my own work and always consider voices other than my own.
Progressive women’s publications are smashing stereotypes about what women’s media is supposed to be while staying true to themselves and their main audience. Take Rookie, created by a then-teenage Tavi Gevinson. The online magazine offers a safe, welcoming space for teenagers to ask questions and explore issues of identity. Cosmopolitan, the magazine that has long been associated solely with outrageous sex tips, has been producing consistently sharp political coverage. Jezebel, with all its snark, offers pop culture analysis that is often as witty as it is thought-provoking.
And of course there’s Teen Vogue, which has done an excellent job of providing women with the intelligent media they crave. Lauren Duca’s viral essay for Teen Vogue, Donald Trump is Gaslighting America, demonstrated just how insightful women’s publications can be. She was unfairly ridiculed for publishing her well-crafted piece with Teen Vogue. However, In just a few hundred words, Duca eloquently captured the concept of psychological manipulation as it relates to our current political state. People who were shocked to see such an essay in a publication like Teen Vogue haven’t been paying attention to the changing nature of women’s media. As Gevinson herself tweeted, “Why should it be shocking that mainstream pubs reckoning w/ accountability culture & the rising currency of feminism are suddenly feminist?”
Instead of taking a cutesy, pandering approach to their readers, listeners, and viewers, women’s media outlets are treating their audiences with the respect they deserve. There is no limit to what these publications can cover, proving that fashion trends and sex advice can exist in the same realm as political analysis and feminist critique. Women are not single-minded, and the media they consume should reflect this fact. How wonderful that women can look to magazines and blogs that speak to their complexity.
In a culture that is increasingly hostile toward women media creators, we must be unwavering in our support. Keep paying for high-quality journalism produced by women. Keep hiring women staffers at media outlets and calling out misogyny and harassment. Buy a feminist magazine subscription for a young woman hungry for great reporting. Connect aspiring women journalists with mentors in the field. Put them in newsroom leadership positions, where they will usher in the next generation of women storytellers. We need to commit to telling women that they are the future of media.
I’m proud to be in a profession that’s long been considered a boys’ club, and even prouder to see my female colleagues dominating the field. Now more than ever, we need a diverse range of smart women’s voices to inform and entertain us. Women’s media will carry us through dark times, keeping us grounded even when the world feels like too much to bear. I’m confident that history will look kindly upon these women-powered publications and that they will be revered for their contributions to the media landscape. There is no doubt that women’s media will continue to be a powerful cultural force.
Julia is a writer, communicator and reporter based in Washington, D.C. She is a proud feminist who believes in creating media that effects social change.