Are Ladyblogs Like The Frisky Bad For Women?

We love a lot of stuff here at The Frisky — shoe porn, hunky photos of Taylor Lautner — but what we love most are the ladies. Any old news outlet, like ABC or The New York Times, will tell you about the Gulf oil spill or Supreme Court confirmation hearings. But you know if there’s a news story relating specifically to women — whether it’s a new birth control method or new insights into the male mind — we’ve got you covered. We have tons of male readers, too, which is cool. But we’d like to think the news and stories we bring you is especially and fun for women.

However, some women’s studies experts who examine media for a living say that blogs for women (“ladyblogs”) like The Frisky are troublesome. UC Berkeley history professor Ruth Rosen recently spoke to National Public Radio about a recent blog post she wrote for the news site, Talking Points Memo. Her concern is that ladyblogs have become like the “woman’s pages” in newspapers, segregated sections for “women’s news,” and fluffier content like recipes and gardening tips, which men typically don’t read. Do “ladyblogs” amount, she asks, to “gender apartheid” online>When I’m talking to Old People who don’t understand what a “blog” is, I explain to them that I basically write for a woman’s magazine online, like Elle, Marie Claire, or Cosmopolitan. But really there’s lots of different types of ladyblogs. Some, like Double X (on Slate.com), Broadsheet (on Salon.com), Woman Up (on PoliticsDaily.com), Female Factor (on NewYorkTimes.com) or Feministing, lean towards hard news. Others, like Jezebel, The Gloss, Crushable, and, of course, your dear Frisky, are a mix of the frivolous — jeggings, red carpet looks, Amelia posting gratuitous photos of her dog — and the more serious topics, like racism, dating violence and mental illness.

All of this concerns Ruth Rosen, who told NPR she had hoped that on the Internet, content aimed at women would mix better than it has in print journalism. Newspapers have historically relegated articles about women-related subjects, like breast cancer research or pay inequality, to the “women’s page,” where they were read alongside fashion spreads and society gossip. For example, The Connecticut Post, the newspaper I grew up reading, put women-related articles in its “living” section. Rosen hoped “new media” on the Internet would “mainstream” those stories about women; but instead, Rosen is now concerned that ladyblogs amount to “women’s ghettos,” which amount to “gender apartheid online.”

Wait, isn’t it a good thing that enough readers/finance can support/finance ladyblogs? No, these articles “belong in the regular news section,” Rosen wrote on TPM. She also takes umbrage with the very concept of “women’s issues.” After all, women are 50 percent of the population and a lot of “our” issues — reproductive rights, for instance — affect men as well as women. “I’m a historian,” Rosen told NPR, “and my feeling about social change is that social change occurs — particularly around the women’s movement — has the best chance of succeeding when men and women read about women’s lives. … Social change occurs when men know about women’s lives, and not when only women talk about them.” ” However, if only women flip to the “women’s page” of a newspaper or visit the ladyblog, men will not be as well-informed about these important subjects.

Some women-related news is “mainstreamed,” which greatly pleases Rosen. For example, New York Times op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof often writes about the problems faced by women and girls in the developing world: lack of access to family planning resources, female genital mutilation, cultural taboos against educating girls, etc. “He brings up issues about children’s lives as prostitutes or fistulas among women in Africa,” Rosen explained. “He really points out that these are really serious problems. They’re not to be quarantined as women’s issues. They’re social and cultural problems.”

Defenders of ladyblogs would say its good that interested readers know exactly where to go read about certain subjects. Besides, any man a man can come to TheFrisky.com or any other ladyblog and read. Its understandable from an advertising standpoint why ladyblogs exist, too: a ladyblog has a more defined, specific audience. Rosen acknowledges that many of the women’s sections of blogs or stand-alone blogs (such as Feministing.com) were actually created by feminists themselves.

Now, I know I have an opinion on everything, but I am too close to this subject to have an objective opinion on it. As a journalism

[NPR: On Web, Gender Rules Again?]
[Talking Points Memo: Gender Apartheid Online]

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