Women, you guys! It’s pretty crazy how we all have vaginas and we don’t all like the same things! Is your lady brain just continually blown away by that fact that just because both you and you friend are in possession of uteruses (uteri?) that you have different interests? Like, you like chocolate ice cream, and your friend likes reading economics textbooks? How is that even possible? Bryan Goldberg (pictured), founder of the much ballyhooed new lady site Bustle, is blown away by these things, too.
Goldberg, who achieved huge success with the sports-centric website Bleacher Report, announced the coming of his new site in a glorified press release earlier this week on PandoDaily, and has been catching a lot of flack in the last few days. It’s not because of the site, per se, which seems totally fine, if a little scattered. We’re not here to knock down any lady writers, or lady blogs. Goldberg’s biggest problem is not Bustle — it’s himself.
In his initial announcement, Goldberg stressed that the site was definitely going to be feminist (“You’re damn right this is a feminist publication,” he wrote), and that he wouldn’t be involved with the editorial side of things, because, after all, he didn’t know anything about makeup. “My job is to know a lot of engineers, editors, venture capitalists, and salespeople — and to bring them together. Knowing the difference between mascara, concealer, and eye-liner is not my job.” And also: “Yes, we believe that a partner-track attorney can be passionate about world affairs and celebrity gossip,” he wrote. “On the same day. During the same coffee break. And there is nothing wrong with that. Welcome to the year 2013.” Whoa! Women, did you hear that? Your interests can be multifaceted! Bryan says so!
- It over-simplified the editorial landscape.
- It failed to highlight the fact that there are a lot of great women’s publications out there.
- It took a tongue-in-cheek approach for part of the fundraise announcement, at one point joking about cosmetics. That was a horrible decision. Especially given how difficult it is for people (and women especially) to raise capital to bring their ideas to life. I put an immense amount of time into getting Bustle off the ground. I owed it to myself, my team, and all entrepreneurs to treat the moment with full seriousness.
- To a lot of people, it came across as pandering. And it doesn’t matter if that wasn’t my intention. That’s how it came across.
Well great, Goldberg learned his lesson. Or did he? In an interview with Forbes, published today, Goldberg again went back to the “I’m just a simple man who don’t know a thing about makeup” approach:
“What fascinates me as I spend a lot of time talking about women with what they want to read…I used to have this attitude of ‘Oh, a woman who likes beauty probably likes fashion, probably likes interior design, probably loves pop culture, and health and whatnot.’ But that’s not accurate. My girlfriend is really into health and yoga and fitness but she’s not into fashion. And I know women who are really into fashion but not into beauty. So, my cousin is obsessed with fashion but she’s not one of these girls who spends an hour putting on her face. And yet I know women who spend an hour putting on their face but don’t really care that much about yoga. And I know women who are really into interior design but don’t care about fashion. And it seems crazy. You say, how can someone love interior design but not care at all about fashion. And that’s what’s awesome about it. If you can make a publication that’s strong in all of these disparate areas and bring together all these interests no one else is doing, I think you have a winning idea there.”
You guys, Bryan’s cousin likes fashion but doesn’t spend an hour “putting on her face”! His girlfriend loves yoga, but not fashion. Because bitches be craaaaazy unpredictable! Tell me again, Bryan, about how your cousin and your girlfriend have taught you valuable lessons about the multiplicity of women’s lives. Please, lean in, and tell us all about how wildly unique each one of us special lady flowers are.
Full disclosure: Bryan approached me several months ago about coming on board to Bustle. I declined, for a number of reasons, mostly having to do with being ideologically opposed to the “wide swathe” model he was proposing. It is/was model in which women writers, whose voices and passion points were the so-called value proposition in Bryan’s website equation, would be paid little or nothing for their time and effort. (Plus, I obvs love The Frisky.)
There is nothing feminist about not valuing the work women do. And if you don’t value the women writing and editing for your site, it sends a pretty clear message to the women reading it. Despite raising (and vociferously bragging about raising) $6.5 million for Bustle, Goldberg is paying his writers a paltry $100 a day (for 4-6 stories) — which comes out to around $24,000 a year, pre-tax. I hope that money goes a long way in paying for their yoga classes, their “interior design” purchases, and all that makeup Goldberg thinks us ladies are constantly applying to our faces. But it probably won’t.