Here at VocaLady, we’re all about women in media. It’s our raison d’être, our modus operandi, our…you get the picture. And for good reason. As we’ve highlighted before, the amount of women in communications, from political commentary to sports journalism to film production, is consistently many paces behind our male counterparts.
But representation isn’t our only obstacle. When women are present in media production, we’re often shunted to “women’s interest,” the section of publications and other media outlets that are focused predominantly on the performance of femininity and traditionally feminine pursuits.
There’s really nothing wrong with these types of media. The discrimination lies in our confinement to them, the presumption that this slice of life comprises the entirety of “women’s interest.” To borrow a catchphrase from one of my all-time favorite chick flicks, as if!, women exist in the same world that men do, and we have the same powers of perception and reasoning, so it stands to reason that we’re just as interested in investigating and offering our viewpoint on mass incarceration, the electoral process, global poverty, and labor laws. In fact, we might even have more to say, because many of the issues I’ve just listed have a disparately greater impact on women worldwide.
Thankfully, there are plenty of ambitious, innovative women thinking the same thoughts, which is why the past 20 years have seen an explosion of feminist media-with-a-mission, the same mission we’ve got at VocaLady: to create outlets that center female voices and report on all facets of life, not just the ones advertising companies tell us we should be interested in. With this guide, I’ll send you straight to some of the best that’s out there.
If you haven’t yet paid a visit to this Internet Bible for contemporary feminism and social justice, you don’t even have to finish reading this paragraph for now, JUST GO! Launched in 2012 by Sandra Kim, Everyday Feminism has become an encyclopedic resource for understanding and confronting marginalization of all kinds. The easy-to-read list and op-ed formats of the articles make material that might be unfamiliar more accessible. They’ve also got a stellar roundup of contributing vloggers.
As a young black woman, I’ve long been aware of the serious lack of media directed towards and created by black women. Enter For Harriet, created by Kimberly Foster in 2011, when she was an undergraduate at Harvard (sounds kinda like the founders of this website, eh?). For Harriet publishes news, pop culture analysis, poetry and reading lists, and smart, deeply felt opinion pieces, all from a black feminist/womanist perspective.They also have a shop with snazzy shirts and mugs that let you rep your love for some of history’s greatest black women thinkers.
This California-based startup just launched in October 2015, but with the help of a generous female angel investor and some fantastic core contributors, The Establishment has hit the ground running with a distinctly brash, quirky, hard-hitting voice embodied through personal essays, investigative journalism, and critical analysis about a wide range of subject matter (including sex work, which many feminist websites shy away from). They’ve also got a good handle on media, with a weekly section of vintage films and profiles of innovative feminist artists.
Whereas many magazines on this list have a youthful, finger-to-the-pulse feel, Vela Magazine, a carefully curated journal of literary nonfiction, personal narrative, and long-form journalism started in 2011 by Sarah Menkedick, deals in an older, more meditative subtlety. Here you’ll find universal subjects of loss, love, and alienation, as well as investigations into injustice and exploitation worldwide. The writers featured here are at the top of their craft. Plus, the regular columns focusing on body politics, notable writing by contemporary women, the writing life, and motherhood aren’t to be missed.
Black Girl Dangerous pretty much set the standard for online social justice-focused cultural commentary, and since the website’s founding in 2011 by renowned queer feminist critic Mia McKenzie (check out her book), they haven’t missed a beat. BGD is one of the only feminist mags that centers the voices of queer and trans people of color (all of their writers are QTPoC), which means they focus heavily and unapologetically on issues that are often pushed to the side in more status-quo feminist media, like queer politics, police brutality, international terrorism, and immigration. In the past several years, they’ve created an awesome set of summer programs for QTPoC activists and youth, and they’re foraying into the publishing arena with an open call for anthology and manuscript submissions.
Lemme just collect myself for a minute, because I just fangirled hard. Bitch is the badass mama of feminist media, and from its beginnings in 1996 as a hand-stapled zine to today, it’s been the go-to source for sophisticated, witty, deep intersectional feminist cultural criticism–if you can’t major in gender, media, and cultural studies, reading Bitch is probably the next best thing. Don’t be fooled by the tagline–they go way beyond pop culture, reporting on politics, education, tech, sports, international development, and wealth inequality. In addition to the website, they have a quarterly print magazine (which you should subscribe to!), a growing library of feminist readers and books by their contributors, a store with lots of awesome feminist gear, and a phenomenal podcast.
Feminist media sources still have a long way to go. There’s still a notable lack of coverage of STEM related subjects, military and war, business and trade, and sports and recreation. There’s also the issue of actually representing women and femme people–many of the publications I’ve listed here are committed to amplifying the voices of people of color, queer and trans people, the neuroatypical and physically disabled, and sex workers, but the gap between intention and practice is ever-present. Yet I can’t help feeling emboldened by this bright-blooming field. It makes me want to read more, write more, and bring together other writers and readers to fill the space with our voices.
Don’t be confined to “women’s interest”–there are greener pastures.