Lauren Callaghan

Why 2016 will be the best year ever for women on the internet

Last year, I wrote a brief essay on why 2015 was the first year I was excited to be a woman on the internet. The basic thesis is the internet is a more powerful tool than ever for women. With the growth of the social internet, there’s been a proliferation of content (and places) for us to celebrate and share our unique perspective. This creates more fodder to feed the positive feedback loop: women see stories from other women (or women like them), learn from and build upon that experience, and thus also feel encouraged to share.

Margaret Cho recently reinforced this by stating that the internet is one of those “other platforms [outside of the mainstream media] where women are thriving. The internet is very much our own place.”

This collective, thrumming, feminine energy is palatable, and since I published that piece last year, I’ve discovered even more publications dedicated to telling our perspectives, our stories, our shames and our desires.

As such, I’ve decided it’s time to update last year’s list with all of the latest sources of woman-centred content.

Why this is exciting

All of these signals and communities really excite me about the future of being a woman online. There’s a tangible future for me to not just idolise my sheros but also magpie real-life stories that are most relevant to me. To me, it indicates that woman are gaining velocity towards a critical mass — one that can effect some real change. We know that support networks, imperfect role models, and peer mentors help girls and women alike but aren’t really present in the modern workplace. This is very much the kind of democratised interaction that I believe the Internet is made for.



For your earbuds

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  • Women of the HourLet’s just get out the gate and applaud Buzzfeed for killing it when it comes to developing lady content. This was a limited series with Lena Dunham that attempts to capture big issues (such as “Love & Sex” or “Work”) in a little over an hour. While I don’t think it is flawless, I appreciate the diversity of voices represented and there are many little pearls sprinkled throughout.
“The fact is, work doesn’t bore me. It obsessed me, often to the detriment of my interpersonal relationships and gastrointestinal health. It’s my favourite thing there is.
And then I was scared. Scared because you know what America likes even less than a squat, pioneer-bodied girl? An ambitious girl, who owns her desire to do all of the things, and be all of the things, and have all of the things.
While being a man and a boss is prized, women have been trained for so long and over many generations to be amenable. Humble. An absolute pleasure in both the bedroom and the boardroom.”
-Lena Dunham, Women of the Hour Ep. 04 — Work
Props to Cavern of Secrets for their Dope AF cover art
  • Cavern of Secrets — While still in its infancy this show is definitely delivering on it’s tagline “A show about extraordinary women.” They are only four episodes in and already boast Rookie Mag editor Tavi Gevinson and my favourite riot grrl Carrie Brownstein as interviewees. I particularly like Episode 3, which opens with a thought-provoking monologue from the host about being comfortable with her body, the value that men and other women place on it based on its size, and what that means to her.
“[Women] have fascinating inner lives. We have fascinating communities. I want to talk to women who are cool, who are doing stuff, who are making art, and I want to know about the process. I want to know about the things that, honestly, most people ignore when they talk to women.”
Lauren Mitchell, introducing the inaugural episode of Cavern of Secrets
My new favorite comedian, hats off to Another Round for the Introduction
  • Another Round  I feel like it was an extreme oversight to leave this off of last year’s list. The two hosts Heben Nigatu and Tracy Clayton cover from race, gender, sexuality, and mental health issues with both an extreme intellect (see: their interview with Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton which pulls no punches when it comes to Black Lives Matter) and a fierce sense of humour (see: their interview with comedian Aparna Nancherla). Every week I’m introduced to a new, amazing person (that I’ve rarely heard of) whose exploits I want to follow and learn from forever. Pick any episode that’s name strikes your fancy and I promise it will deliver.
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  • Call Your Girlfriend — This was recently surfaced during an excellent thread over on Ada’s List (a fab e-mail list for fellow ladies that work on/around/with the internet), and I am absolutely in love. Featuring Ann Freidman and Aminatou Sow real-talking about anything and everything. While the premise left me skeptical (I’ve never been one to call my best friend on the regular), this podcast is the real-talk lady conversations that address my grown up woman struggles from sweatpants to menstrual feels. The hosts have an accessibility and freshness that helps me realize that other women, oftentimes, feel the same way that I do.
  • Motherboard— For those of us who struggle with the idea of juggling motherhood and a professional career. Motherboard shares women’s stories about trying to ‘have it all’. This podcast explores a variety of topics from parenthood, to the choice of when to have kids, to going without. This one specifically focuses on the tech industry as well.
  • The Broad Experience — Specifically for professional women in the workplace. I particularly enjoyed episodes around topics such as Authenticity vs. Conformity, and Stop Fixing Women, Start Fixing Companies.
“There’s this tension that we all deal with between authenticity and conformity. How much are you willing to change your identity in order to climb the next rung of the ladder?”
Sylvia Hewlett, The Broad Experience

For your inbox

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  • The Broadsheet — Fortune’s Kristen Bellstrom edits a daily newsletter on the world’s Most Powerful Women. It’s the only newsletter that I manage to read in full every day and I like that it not only curates headlines, but it also tracks ‘movers and shakers’ and provides a smattering of links at the bottom for any relevant reading. I’ve slowly been growing my Female CMO Twitter list exclusively because of this newsletter.
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  • Lenny Letter — Again, say what you will about Lena Dunham but I admire that she uses her position of success to elevate and amplify the stories of other women. While I rarely have time for the #longreads that come through, occasionally a gem will come forward that I’ll keep in my inbox for weeks just waiting for the time to sit down and read it. Two favourite issues included: an interview with Constance Wu (best known as the Mom from Fresh off the Boat) and Jennifer Lawrence’s essay on the pay gap.
“But if I’m honest with myself, I would be lying if I didn’t say there was an element of wanting to be liked that influenced my decision to close the deal without a real fight. I didn’t want to seem “difficult” or “spoiled.”
At the time, that seemed like a fine idea, until I saw the payroll on the Internet and realized every man I was working with definitely didn’t worry about being “difficult” or “spoiled.”
— Jennifer Lawrence, in her essay Why Do I Make Less Than My Male Co-Stars?
  • The Ann Friedman Weekly — Essentially a link list of what one of my favourite female journalists is reading on a weekly basis. There is always one good read (and occasionally a good GIF) in there.
  • How Did She Get There? — Possibly my favourite newsletter of those listed above. I think that, especially for me, I spend a lot of time looking at the women ahead of me in my career, perusing their LinkedIn profiles or media coverage and trying to imagine what sort of stepping stones they used to get there. Was it a natural stepping stone? Was that job two previous just not the right fit? How did she land the interview for that? It’s amazing to get an honest, behind the scenes look at their stories encapsulated in a simple interview format.
“Living abroad can often seem glamorous from afar, but in reality it’s quite lonely, disorienting, sometimes scary, frustrating, and just plain ugly. It challenges everything you’ve come to rely upon as ‘fact’ and ‘true’, and leaves you feeling stupid and humbled more often than you’d like.
But ‘oh!’ the intoxication of the new and unknown! Seeing your home country with the eyes of a foreigner, learning a new language, making a strange city your ‘home’, celebrating unfamiliar holidays, meeting the most interesting people — honesty, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Do it.”
Katie Dreke, encapsulating the emotional rollercoaster of living abroad far better than I ever could in her How Did She Get There?
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For your feeds

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  • Bitch Media — Self-described as the ‘Feminist Response to Pop Culture’ publication. This is in a cadre of feminist publications (including: Bust & Ms.) that have a long print history but now are just killing it in my Facebook feed. I adore the reclamation of the word ‘bitch’ in their title.
“If being an outspoken woman means being a bitch, we’ll take that as a compliment. We know that not everyone’s down with the term. Believe us, we’ve heard all about it. But we stand firm in our belief that if we choose to reappropriate the word, it loses its power to hurt us.”
- Andi Ziesler, Founder of Bitch Media, on the significance of the title
  • Broadly — This is essentially Vice’s big push to not just appeal to the hipster bro. Broadly is sold as a site for women by women all about women. While I don’t love their editorial content (or their backing by Unilever to promote their Dove and TRESemmé brands), I am particularly in love with both their horoscopes and their YouTube channel. My favourite interview to-date is one with Margaret Atwood, who is my new spirit animal.
  • Rookie Mag — Started by media darling and fashion ‘it-girl’ Tavi Gevinson when she was just 15 (about 5 years ago). While it is focussed on a teen girl audience, it is still one of my favourite blogs for it’s persistently on-point themes and, of course, the Ask a Grown series which is forever earnest .
Amazing smattering of Rookie Magazine Themes

Online Communities

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  • Femsplain — Founded by one of my favorite people on the internet, Amber Gordon, as a way to reframe the way that women are discussed online. If you like this idea, you should check out their Kickstarter.
“Think of us as a casual Internet support group you don’t need to pay for and can visit whenever in the comfort of your home.” — About Femsplain
Glassbreakers co-founders Lauren Mosenthal and Eileen Carey (via)
  • Glassbreakers — It helps that a Newsweek cover article on the perception of women in Silicon Valley heavily covers this peer-mentoring community for professional women. I think of it as a less corporate haircut and power-suity interpretation of Lean-In. As an avid needer and believer in lady role models, I have of course signed up for the beta.
  • Crash Override — As an avid (but quiet) participant in the gaming community, I’ve been following Gamergate quite closely. I love Zoe Quinn’s resilience and drive to build this anti-harassment task force in the wake of her own experiences.
  • In the ‘all-ages’ category Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls takes the cake for creating smart, engaging, inspirational and honest content for our next generation of women.
  • The Li.st, Change the Ratio, Ada’s List, and Tech Lady Mafia— I get e-mails or daily Tumblr dashboard updates from these places. Each has their own flavor of participant — but all offer the same support network that Glassbreakers is trying to formalize or just great tidbits of insight. These are the OG internet lady communities.
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For you to stream

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  • The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt — The opening theme song includes the line ‘Females are Strong as hell’. Need I say more?
  • Inside Amy Schumer — Even living abroad, with literally zero access to Comedy Central content due to country codes, this came on my radar because her sketches are *that* poignant/clever/good, and every woman I know was sharing the shit out of them. From skits like ‘Last Fuckable Day’, to her ‘Girl You Don’t Need Makeup’ parody of the double standards of beauty, to her too-accurate skit on the difficulty of acquiring birth control — Amy is addressing a modern woman’s life with accurate and biting comedy.
  • Broad City — The fact that this went from web series to breakout Comedy Central show gives me a lot of hope. I do think they approach the ambiguous twenty-something lifestyle so very accurately.
We all know how to do it. We fucking grew up doing it! It’s dolls. How did men make us think we weren’t good at this? It’s dolls and feelings. And women are fighting to become directors? What the fuck happened?”
- Jill Soloway, creator of Transparent, on how Women are naturally suited to be Directors
  • Girls — Yes, this show is several years old, and yes I think there are a million different ways it can be criticised. However, I don’t see a bunch of other takes by-women-for-women on television right now so I’m not going to complain.

Thank you to Heather for encouraging me to write the original draft, and Camilla for encouraging this update and being my editorial eyes.

Professionally, I’m committed to raising the profile of women working in our industry and creating a space in which women can learn from and support each other. If you work in strategy, media, or technology — it would be great to swap notes. Say hello on Twitter: @rachelmercer.

This post is part of a larger effort in exploring and reflecting on how I consume content. If you’re interested, follow along here.

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