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Ladyblogs Are Here to Stay

The Slant has a revelatory interview with Ms. Magazine founder (and Forward contributor) Letty Cottin Pogrebin on the fortieth anniversary of the magazine.

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.

As a pioneering contemporary media organization devoted to exploring the role of gender in topical issues, Ms. began a trend that seems here to stay. Rather than fashion, beauty and relationship tips, the new types of women’s publications try to rectify an inattention to gender in mainstream spaces, taking a serious (well, not always) and analytical gender lens to hot topics and looking for women and queer people behind the big stories of the day. And when they do address relationships and fashion, they try to “unpack” conventional assumptions.

The question with these publications has always been whether they influence overall news coverage for the better, or create a walled off “ghetto” where important stories get niche placement. I’m beginning to think the answer is the former. As the proliferation of overtly ideological spaces (feminist blogs), gender-oriented mainstream blogs (Jezebel or Double X), and issue-focused publications demonstrates, there is a seemingly endless appetite for publications that will deliver the news, as Ms. has long done, with a different lens.

I recently asked a friend who is a rabid news consumer why she reads these sites, and she told me what confirmed my own feelings: People don’t read “ladyblogs” and publications like Ms. because they want to be spoken to woman to woman. They read them because they know that’s where they’ll find the content they’re looking for. And those readers include men, too.

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