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Women-Only Internet Spaces

February 1, 2012

Back again readers!

Something I’ve been thinking about lately are women-only spaces on the web (and in RL, of course- just found out what a “stitch and bitch” was today, oh goodness.). After reading this piece by a favorite feminist author of mine, Jessica Valenti, I started wondering how I felt about women-only spaces online.

It’s not often/never that I disagree with Valenti in her pieces (she’s amazing by the way, go watch Purity Myth if you don’t believe me), but this time I rifled a little bit when she pulls from an argument put forth by Ann Friedman that:

“When publishers create separate sites dedicated to women or to black people, they are signaling that they don’t see a need to have their main site serve these people as core readers. They are, in essence, saying, “We want the ad revenue associated with your readership, but we don’t create our homepage with you in mind.”

A lot of what Valenti goes on to say I’m totally on board with. The gender essentialism of the tagline to the Washington Post’s new blog ‘She the People’, the ridiculousness of the logo underlined with lipstick, and the argument that Friedman makes about separation that looks a lot like segregation.

But here’s my beef (or tofu, really), I have a problem with suggesting that these sites be removed because it would be better for the company to just hire more women writers in the first place. I mean, yes, they should, definitely. And to be fair, Valenti never actually asks that the site be removed or discontinued. But I feel like that might be where she was going with it. And that’s where my tofu lies.

If we take these sights down, if we complain about the creation of ‘She the People’ or other women-only spaces in online publications so much that they are discontinued, aren’t we just hiding the problem form ourselves? When I was afraid of the dark when I was younger, I would pull the covers over my head in my bed. Because I thought somehow, if I couldn’t see what could possible be an inch away from me, it wouldn’t actually be there.

If we take away these women-only spaces on the web wouldn’t we just be hiding the fact that they are necessary because the company recognizes they should put more women on-staff, or because women’s issues aren’t being covered as much by their regular staff? The problem here is of course that in the creation of these spaces, one would have to conclude, if they aren’t regular staff, they’re irregular staff and the topics they cover aren’t as important as front page news. And I get that problematic line of logic, I really do. But I feel like if we don’t cut our losses a bit and for a while accept women-only spaces on web publication sites as necessary, we would be unintentionally pulling the covers over our heads to the problems that made them feel necessary in the first place.

Oh, the contemplation!

P.S.- some other discussion on this topic can be found Here and Here!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Joe Center permalink
    February 3, 2012 7:22 am

    Perhaps there is a concern that (fill-in-the-blank)-only pages are potential “colored” water fountains. I can imagine some editor dismissing a woman contributor with the excuse: “You got your own page, darlin,’ with pink trim and everything. Don’t bother the men folk.” Kick down the door!

    • Joe Center permalink
      February 3, 2012 7:23 am

      PS Love the blog.

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