by Keidra Chaney
On the surface, it seems like grim times for online publications for women, between Jezebel’s $10,000 body-shaming campaign against Lena Dunham and xoJane’s odious “OMG there’s a black person in my yoga studio!” essay. (I’m not linking to them, look them up.) A perceptive group of readers recognized Jezebel’s fail really early and bailed a few years ago, but xoJane, which has previously published a couple of good pieces on race and sexuality, reached a new level of NO with the yoga piece.
The bad news is, these publications are seen as the gold standard of web journalism for women, at least by the mainstream. They are well-funded and drive tons of traffic. The good news is we absolutely don’t have to read them because there are scores of fantastic publications, blogs, and writers that do what Jez and xoJane do, sans their special brand of clickbait psuedo-feminism. I wanted to highlight a few publications but after putting a call out to friends and relations, I was clued in to a host of other great publications, blogs and writers to the point that I am planning to break this up into a series, the first of which is publications (rather than the blogs of individuals)
Here’s the thing, despite what Bustle.com founder Bryan Goldberg thinks, women reading stuff on the web didn’t start in 2013. For those of us who remember the halcyon (?) days of feminist indie print magazines and even the yayboo era of feminist blogs in the mid 2000’s know there a huge and diverse community of publications that NEED FOR YOU TO READ THEM. And occasionally click on ads/donate money so they can stay alive.
As with everything, this isn’t a definitive list, and I’m not you, so your mileage may vary about the regular content of these pubs. So please save your laundry list of reasons why “X publication is’problematic” because I have no interest in it. but if you have an alternative to said publication, please, please add it in the comments and I’ll add them to the list, so we can push the voices that need to be heard.
Peace, and stay tuned for more.
The publication that’s the closest thing to being Jez or xoJane without being Jez or xoJane these days is probably The Hairpin. Like the aforementioned, The Hairpin is a broad “women’s interest” publication, which means you’ll get your usual posts about fashion, current trending news events, pop culture/gossip YouTube distractions, etc. It’s not a feminist publication explicitly, though they do cover politics, workplace equality, LGBT (the “Ask a queer Chick” column is pretty cool.) Personally I find the editorial tone of The Hairpin is a breath of fresh air compared to the page-view jockeying of many web publications, but (Also see The Toast, featuring former Hairpin writers, it’s little more indie and more feminist in its content focus, IMO.)
For Harriet is like the grad school student older sister of Madame Noire, dealing with many of the same topics of interest to black women but with a much more thoughtful, measured tone. The writing in general is longer, skews a bit older, and is more overtly political/feminist/womanist in its tone. For example, you will likely not find a piece called “Rethinking Biblical Literalism for Our Own Well Being” in Madame Noire. I also enjoy Coloures, an offshoot of For Harriet that focuses on fashion and black women. It’s mostly like a lookbook instead of focusing on writing and commentary, but it’s entertaining, not to mention, a lovely, rare look at fashion that puts black women at the center. (I’d love more general interest publication recs for women of color, please share them in comments!)
For Geeky Ladies
The Skepchick media family describes itself as being more focused on “critical thinking and science” and is less pop culture focused than Bitch Media, though they do tackle issues in music, television and film as well as science journalism/news and general cultural affairs, Think of Skepchick as if Bitch (if she was a person) went to grad school in the sciences or law instead of getting that cultural studies Ph.D.
While a publication like The Mary Sue focuses heavily on geek culture with a focus on women, it has more of a high-level news and information focus. Geek Feminism is heavier on feminist criticism and geek culture. It also has a thoughtful and very detailed commenting policy, which I think is needed more than ever these days.
For Cultural Studies/Pop Culture nerds
I’m biased because Bitch Media gave me my start as a writer many years ago, but even if I had never written for them, they’d be on my list. Along with their excellent print magazine (check out their latest, fantastic Food Issue) Bitch creates thoughtful, nuanced pop culture commentary on the web via blog posts and podcasts. At the point where neither print publishers or tech funders were taking web publishing seriously, Bitch evolved into a multimedia platform/brand and continues to tackle feminism, race, sexuality, disability with integrity.
Persephone is a super-smart publication of meaty cultural writing for women that’s incisive without being trolly. But the real draw of this publication is its thoughtful community of readers and commenters. For example, one of the latest essays is Macklemore, Tim Wise & Anti-Racist Posturing. In the wrong hands an essay like this could blow up and become ground zero for online troll wars. Instead the conversation remains respectful and intelligent. Maybe it’s due to the fact that it’s not yet pulling in the traffic of Jezebel, but I think it has a lot to do with the editorial vision of the publication itself.
(thanks to Sophia M., MShel, Deanna Z, Michi T, Margaret H., Erin W.. Jill H, Jennifer L. for chiming in!)