Ladytalk: Slate’s XX Factor Can Suck It

Dear Millicent,

As I bet you know, Slate revealed XX Factor yesterday, its lady blog, with the tag line “What Women Really Think.”   The tag line irks me.  It reminds me of some scotch ad from the sixties, where a sultry woman has an eyebrow raised at a man in an ascot holding up his drink.  It suggests that one needs an answer to that messy mystery of “broads.”  And then it alienates–either men are the audience for the blog b/c they desperately (or at least, when their partner is mad at them) want to know the answer–or the thinking women are showing all the other women what Women are thinking.  They shout for the whole crowd.   Am I overthinking it?  I should check the blog and find out.  It also reminds me of YM, but with YM, I would have read it like the bible and thought “oh, so this is what we are thinking!”

There has also been critiques of the site on Feministing, Broadsheet (who interestingly makes all the ladyblogs into a big neighborhood where certain houses (Jezebel) get TPed),  and Jezebel which is where I first heard about the site.   They call particular attention to a string of ‘Feminism is dead” stories that the site launched with, meanwhile promoting goo-gah essays about the importance of Betty Friedan.  XX Factor wrote a response to the critiques, Jessica Valenti pulled this quote:

Susannah Breslin writes:

Apparently, if you launch a website for women in 2009, the most important question is whether or not it’s feminist. At least, that’s what you’d think, judging by today’s launch of the women-oriented website you’re reading. Only, the funny thing is, I thought feminism was dead. I mean, didn’t we kill it already?

She then goes on to hope that the XX Factor is bigger than this.  This interests me because:

  1. It seems as if three to five years ago there were a handful of sites that came forward and decided to offer content that was for women but not about mascara or models.  They built their readership based on unique formulas of gathering news about women’s issues that weren’t fully presented in all media outlets, and displaying a strong likeability by putting the real girl in the narrative (ambiguous, disgusting, vulnerable, tenacious, full of work and worry, and fucking smart).
  2. These sites (for me, I found Feministing first, and then Jezebel, and a little Bitch PhD), built a loyal readership who snarked and said “hey, she’s just like me.”  They have challenged the need for tabloids and fashion mags.  They sometimes do a better job of both, and for free.  They also don’t insult us (I’m leaving the commenters out of this).
  3. Other, larger sites realized they were missing something (I could be wrong, but one could argue that Feministing is the grand honcha of this blogging style), and wanted in.  Like any heightened element of culture, the idea was shined and softened and presented to a larger audience.  Broadsheet and XX Factor seem like this part of the cycle to me.
  4. And, now, an editor thinks it dumb that the feminism identity matters.  Perhaps they want to bring on the audience that is afraid of feminism, but likes smart conversation.  The audience that thinks feminism is only for the irate and itchy.  This seems adolescent and poorly thought out to me.
  5. A pet peeve of mine is when a celebrity that kicks ass is asked whether or not they identify as a feminist, and they say something like, “well, I’m all for women, and humans, but I’m not a feminist.” Even my beloved Kate Winslet, and It girl Sarah Haskins have done this.  Why can’t one of them say “Yes. I am a feminist, and if you know somebody with a uterus, you should be one too.” Which is what I honestly want from all my blogs, and magazines, and friends, and family.  I want the New Yorker to say, of course we are feminist.
  6. And what I mean by this is–feminism isn’t divisive.  Would Kate Winslet say she was a humanist? Probably? Would she publicly support civil rights? Probably? It is a label that shouldn’t need the pause.
  7. Why do so many of the smart sites for mature ladies insist on using pink and purple so much? Is it to announce that is is for ladies and by ladies? Kudos to Broadsheet for going light on the pink, and to Jezebel for going whole hog with hot pink.
  8. This all boils down to the fact that I think XX Factor has made a mistake.  Their font is pink.  They are shirking feminism like it’s something only the needy or angry would cling to (just like the solo kid in highschool that proclaims all couples as stupid), and they are trying to seem likeable by talking about Kate Gosselin’s hair.  They are trying too hard in all the wrong ways.

And, brava to  Feministing and the other blogs that were out there trailblazing all this so well that we now get to argue about these things, and watch as the cool thing that everybody wants to mimic and sell isn’t pokemon or tight pants, but a forum for engaged and real discussion about women’s issues.

One Response to Ladytalk: Slate’s XX Factor Can Suck It

  1. Millicent says:

    Brava indeed. For all my kvetching, I love ’em and am deeply grateful they’re kicking us all around.

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