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YOYOY
In the US earlier this month, a group of women announced that they were launching a website for women over 40, called wowowow.com (a play on "women on the web" — an address that, tellingly, they had to buy from a porn site). [...]

The wowowow launch is yet another sign that women are offering up intelligent online content that stands in stark comparison to the narrow focus of many of the women's magazines to be found on the news stands. Wowowow's content moves from high culture (an interview with avant-garde artist Laurie Anderson), to economics (an interview with eBay's out going CEO, Meg Whitman) to politics (one of the recent "questions of the day" was "Which four women would you like to see on Mount Rushmore?" The results were: Eleanor Roosevelt, Susan B Anthony, Rosa Parks and, to the evident surprise of some, Hillary Clinton).

The Wow Factor, Guardian G2, 21.03.08


I don't normally seek out women's magazines, web content for women, books for women, and so on; but I noticed this as I was flicking through G2, and decided to have a look at wowowow.com, just out of idle curiosity. (No, I'm not going to link to it; not because I don't want to worry my pretty little head about hyperlinks, but because I don't really want to give it any more googlejuice.)

So let's have a look at this intelligent content. Starting at the top left:

* Star signs
* "Hair day weather" (it's a really good hair day in Rome, apparently)
* Navbar: Home | Conversations | Posts | The Women | Question of the Day | Change the world
* Latest posts (top of the list: "A how-to video made for the technically challenged")
* Today's feature: "Question of the day: what are you doing for Easter?"
* Poll: If you could choose only one, the beauty aid you can't live without
* "She Said He'd Be Sorry" (Fiction: He said she was plumpish. And it was true. She was fattish)
* Question of the Day: "If Senators Clinton, Obama and McCain were cars -- what would they be?"

I actually can't bear to read any further down the home page, let alone click through. And even letting the content (if you can call it that) speak for itself, the design of the site is scrappy and amateurish (though the five powerful women who threw $200,000 each at the site "hired five full-time, web-savvy members of staff", the Guardian tells us). No, that's not me-as-a-woman saying that I don't like the colour because it doesn't go with my shoes; that's me-with-web-hat-on saying "for god's sake, somebody hire them a web designer -- or maybe, since half of the site seems to be glorified blogging, just get them a LiveJournal and switch them to one of the nice default skins." Hell, everybody expects magazines to have advertising, so they could have had a LiveJournal for free and spent the hundreds of thousands of dollars on hair and beauty treatments.

I honestly don't know what intelligent writing for women would look like, or rather how it would differ from intelligent writing (which seems to be pretty scarce in the magazine world anyway) for any other variety of adult; but I'm pretty sure that it wouldn't be limited to horoscopes and hairstyles. There is practically nothing that I can think of that I'd want to read about that has any inherent femaleness to it, anything that would make it belong specifically in a "woman's magazine" rather than, say, the Guardian magazine. The only "women's magazine" I do buy is Scarlet, which to be honest is getting more and more packed with generic rubbish about makeup and massage, but still features a couple of decent articles about sex and alternative lifestyle choices, and -- most importantly -- a decent quantity of reasonably-well-written smut in the sealed central section (you can tell it's porn for women because it has more story than shagging, but despite that, a lot of it's quite hot). I don't think that really counts as what the Guardian means by intelligent content.

I'm currently reading Ulysses. Is that a woman's book? Yes I said yes.

Tags:
Current Mood: annoyed (and strikebreaking)

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Comments
mockduck From: mockduck Date: March 21st, 2008 07:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've lost count of how many magazines have launched through the years calling themselves a true alternative for women; I guess the fact of the matter is that in order to fund glossy paper and proper distribution, you have to sacrifice pages of real writing for product placement of expensive handbags, make-up and beauty treatments, and fill half your pages with adverts for the same. Once you've done that, you can't really come from a stance *other* than that this is what women want to read about. It does sadden me. Every now and again I will be beguiled into buying a woman's magazine (I currently have Eve on the go at home) and then just throw it down, depressed, because I don't live up to the sleek slender woman they'd like me to be, and I'm not interested in half the stories (this month's Eve features a 'true story' of a woman who went to Paris and spent £2,500 on a little black dress, and a column by a flat-chested woman bemoaning her a-cup, and not in an intelligent or new way).

I also agree about the design of the wowowow site- astonishing. is it just possible that they've somehow published out without style sheets, perhaps because of the large number of visitors placing the site under stress?

It'd be interesting to see a list here of what women would like to see in a magazine. The thing about hair, make-up, fashion, cookery is, presumably, that they end up in women's magazines not because all women are interested in them, but because women are by and large the ones who buy/practice them. Clearly, many women want to read good literature, but a literary magazine would be foolish to restrict itself to a single-gender readership. What could go in a true women's magazine and still be readable?
arnhem From: arnhem Date: March 21st, 2008 08:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
but a literary magazine would be foolish to restrict itself to a single-gender readership

Does this not concisely summarise exactly why "men's magazines" and "women's magazines" are unlikely to provide much in the way of satisfaction?
mockduck From: mockduck Date: March 21st, 2008 08:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
yes, although they must provide a certain amount of satisfaction to a certain number of men/women, or they would not survive, surely.
taimatsu From: taimatsu Date: March 21st, 2008 08:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
I used to buy 'nova' in the late 90s/early 00s - it had ads and fashion, but also actual interesting articles about important stuff like politics and other countries and things, with beautiful design and photography. It went under again after a few years :(
sphyg From: sphyg Date: March 21st, 2008 08:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
I looked another site (The Lipster?) mentioned in the article but as less than impressed by both the style and content. I spent about ten minutes wandering in despair around the magazine section in Borders yesterday, trying to find something appealing. Next time I'll just buy a copy of Scarlet.
From: kaet Date: March 21st, 2008 08:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
There was a mens magazine a few years ago that was launched claiming to be for intelligent men, I can't remember what it was, Jack perhaps, something like that. Well it was rubbish. I can't remember if it went all Loaded/GQ, or if it folded, but it was rubbish. Sometimes you see a reference to some essay or short-story "first published in penthouse" and you kind of wish there was a magazine where it was possible to do that these days.

But there seems to be a real growing divide between discourse and the visceral that seems to make any synthesis impossible.

I suppose it also shows you that there really is not much productive to be done in separating men from women in this domain any more, because the only correlating interests are naff and inane. Which I suppose is some kind of victory.

I remember on one journey we were seriously short of reading material, and we stopped at a service station. I ended up getting Cosmopolitan because they sometimes have good fashion features (and ads) with pretty awsome clothes in (women in men's magazines always look drugged or spoilt, and have breasts which look like peach mint imperials, wearing some dodgy polyester gear knocked up in the back room of the local sex-shop), and the woman I was with got GQ because it had a feature called something like "everything real men know about DIY, which you were afraid to ask: bleeding radiators, fixing leaking taps,...).
teleute From: teleute Date: March 21st, 2008 08:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
I wonder whether if you looked at the readership of all articles in, let's say, Time or Newsweek (I'm trying to think of pulications that don't seem to advertise specifically to one gender) you would find that women read a certain subset, and men another. If that's true, then you could presumably have a magazine for women focusing on those same subjects (and leaving out the subjects apparently uninteresting to women). However, I suspect that of the men and women picking up magazines which are not oriented specifically to men or women, they wil have such a diverse range of interests that there is no easily definable 'subset' of things women read vs. general interest vs. things men read. But it might be an interesting experiment.

Personally, as far as 'intelligent content for women' I read Real Simple. It's marketed predominantly at women, but has all kinds of fabulous things in like alternate uses for household products you have lying around anyway, road tests of perfumes based on smells you know you like, and recently a run-down of the best blogs in certain categories, like home improvement, the environment, beauty products etc. So yes, it does cover beauty stuff, but in a way that people who don't actually wear make-up can skip by and read the other stuff. It's surprisingly general, and I love it :-) There are even articles on cars. I like reading about cars. ;-)
redbird From: redbird Date: March 21st, 2008 09:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
The one large subject that strikes me as both nontrivial and as inherently "for women" is pregnancy advice. (I'm not looking for same myself, but that is an experience that only women have, and that is a major event.)
arnhem From: arnhem Date: March 21st, 2008 10:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
But is the ghettoisation of discussion of pregnancy as a thing "only of interest to women" a good thing? My instinct is not (but I can conjure arguments both ways, so I'll try to find a comfortable spot on the fence).
rmc28 From: rmc28 Date: March 26th, 2008 04:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
I would say definitely not, but that probably doesn't surprise you :)

Also, I hated in entirety the two commercial magazines on pregnancy and birth which I made the mistake of buying - full of adverts for things I didn't want, and nothing at all outside the hospital+pain relief birthplan considered. Barely anything on breastfeeding, and formula adverts galore.

The free magazine from the National Childbirth Trust was far better, and definitely aimed at parents, not just mothers. The NCT is of course the organisation that first campaigned for fathers to be included at the birth if they so wished, rather than dispatched to the hospital corridors.
shermarama From: shermarama Date: March 21st, 2008 10:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
Now yer basic problem there is reading the Guardian, I'd say. I have read the Guardian quite a lot over the years, because I work in universities and it's always around, but I still wouldn't call myself a Guardian reader. The only question for me is whether its generally small-minded, patronising little articles are going to seem endearing or infuriating that particular day. This one I'd file under infuriating...
katstevens From: katstevens Date: March 22nd, 2008 03:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
I can see what they were aiming for in the design spec (classic/simple), but someone's missed the mark quite spectacularly there (busy/confusing). I've only got up to chapter 4 in my CSS book and even I think that's shamefully bad form for a website aimed at intelligent readers. To be fair though it does say 'Beta' up the top there, camouflaged in the messy header.

As for the content, it seems to be watering things down for us technologically-inferior women folk - again, a humourous/casual approach (eg weather forecast in terms of how it will affect my hairstyle) would be fine if a) the humour was funny instead of patronising b) there was some actual content underneath the humour. I mean, the 'Luxury Cockroach' story is a 200-word anecdote of so little relevance to my life (or indeed, anyone else's) that I'd rather have spent my valuable 30 seconds reading the 'Funny Old World' section in the Metro. The political articles aren't much better - the opinion piece on Barack Obama having been photographed in Somali dress is ill-informed bordering on offensive, and EVEN WORSE, hasn't been sub-edited. >:[
jiggery_pokery From: jiggery_pokery Date: March 23rd, 2008 05:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
Why would Scarlet's house style guide prefer transexual to transsexual? There's probably a basic grammar reason why they're correct and I'm wrong, but I've completely forgotten it.
From: kaet Date: March 26th, 2008 01:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
It does make me wonder what an exual is.
cartesiandaemon From: cartesiandaemon Date: March 25th, 2008 12:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ugh. I know what you mean.

I honestly don't know what intelligent writing for women would look like

I would say, intelligent writing in general, but (most probably) by a woman simply to be free from undesirable slants elsewhere, and to put a highlight on any topics which are more interesting to women in general. I have the impression ladiesloos would be a good example if it were a newspaper.
j4 From: j4 Date: March 25th, 2008 03:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
(most probably) by a woman

Huh? I really don't see why a woman would be more likely to be able to write something that interested me, or to write well on a topic I wanted to read about, than a man.

As an aside, I am now wondering what my Eng. Lit. degree would have looked like if I'd decided that only literature/criticism by women could possibly have anything interesting to say to me.

I have the impression ladiesloos would be a good example if it were a newspaper.

AAAARRGGGHHHHHHHH NO NO NO NO NO. No. Also, no. Unless your idea of intelligent content for women is "i haev teh pain in teh ladybits shuld i see doctor???" or "what should I buy my boyfriend for his birthday?" or "my friend is being nasty to me, is she still my friend?". And endless, depressingly endless variations on "I fancy this totally cute guy and like I think he fancies me and like I don't know if he like wants a relationship but like I think he maybe does but he's like not calling me back and I'm like should I call him?" I quit reading it when it got to the point where I could barely restrain myself from answering pretty much every post with "ASK HIM!!" or "JUST FUCKING GOOGLE IT!!"

There was some interesting content buried in there from time to time, but 'buried' was definitely the operative word.

Of course, it may have changed radically since the last time I looked at it...
cartesiandaemon From: cartesiandaemon Date: March 25th, 2008 03:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
AAAARRGGGHHHHHHHH NO NO NO NO NO.

OK, nevermind. Obviously the "I saw this on ll and thought it was really interesting" were a humorously biased sample.
j4 From: j4 Date: March 25th, 2008 03:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
People have shown you things they saw on ladiesloos??? When I was still reading it, telling TEH PATRIARCHY about the secret conversations on ladiesloos was seen as betraying the sisterhood & violating the safe space of the sacred ladyjournal, or something, & was punishable by death and immediate unfriending.
cartesiandaemon From: cartesiandaemon Date: March 25th, 2008 03:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
FWIW, it was a question or poll, rather than something personal said by someone else, which IIRC atreic posted to her LJ, but I can't find it. (Which is a shame as it'd also be an example of the sort of thing which is good in a subset community.)
taimatsu From: taimatsu Date: March 26th, 2008 01:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
Now the 'traffic lights' scheme indicates the shareability of the post. So people are welcome to share 'green' stuff, 'amber' posts can be mentioned elsewhere but not in detail, and 'red' is unshareable, on pain of bannination.
cartesiandaemon From: cartesiandaemon Date: March 25th, 2008 03:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
Huh? I really don't see why a woman would be more likely to be able to write something that interested me, or to write well on a topic I wanted to read about, than a man.

I should stress that, by default, I think you're right, most of the time, it shouldn't matter who writes things, they should be equally interesting anyway, and that all people can discuss things productively even if they're of special interest to a subset of people. (And receiving some/most writing from people who differ from you in some way is a good thing, else you end up getting insular.)

But what I mean is, assuming the subset (however large or small, women, vegetarians, science fiction fans, people who have political view X, etc) is large enough that all topics are covered as well within it as by a collection of everyone, there are some bonuses.

Have you ever read an article in a newspaper and thought "I wish an (equally articulate) woman (or man, or other subset person) has written that?" Those.

Eg. you might hope someone in the subset was free from prejudices about it, so whenever you read an article pertaining to it, you don't feel "Agh! So stupid! Must read past stupid to get to content." (Although in this case it failed almost exactly backwards.)

Eg. Anything that *is* relevant will get prominence.

I don't know if there are any good examples, but I can certainly imagine them.
j4 From: j4 Date: March 25th, 2008 04:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
Have you ever read an article in a newspaper and thought "I wish an (equally articulate) woman [...] has written that?"

No. I really don't think I have.

TBH I rarely notice whether an article in a newspaper is by a man or a woman, unless that information is made fairly prominent (e.g. celebrity journalist, named columnist etc). I certainly couldn't tell you whether the majority of articles in the Guardian were by men, women, unknown (e.g. pseudonyms, or names which don't allow me to infer the gender), or dancing bears.

you might hope someone in the subset was free from prejudices about it

Gnnnhh! No! That's the point: I don't assume that women are free from prejudices about women/sex/gender/etc! (I might hope it, but my experience suggests that it would be a vain hope.)

Sure, I often read articles and wish that the writer had incorporated more different viewpoints (though often that's not the point of e.g. opinion pieces) or that they had managed to avoid (some subset of) prejudices, stereotyping, etc., but that's independent of gender (as much as anything can be independent of gender when gender permeates the socio-cultural yada yada yada, disclaimer, traces of nuts).
cartesiandaemon From: cartesiandaemon Date: March 26th, 2008 03:04 am (UTC) (Link)
Gnnnhh! No! That's the point: I don't assume that women are free from prejudices about women/sex/gender/etc! (I might hope it, but my experience suggests that it would be a vain hope.)

Oh dear, sorry for the frustration :( No, apparently in this case it seems to have gone horribly wrong. And I don't know exactly why.

I'm fortunate to be in few media-ostracised groups, but say vegetarianism. Where listening to fellow vegetarians doesn't *add* any useful writing, just removes a lot of little cultural niggles, eg. being sure, when you mention a "and the vegetarian food has fish in", not wondering if you'll have to explain why that's a problem every time, or not having to compromise on which restaurant to go to; and might add, eg. a film review mentioning if a vegetarian character was portrayed well or badly. Or, of writing otherwise intelligent, if you're talking to women only, you're suddenly sure that you can ask something about your bra without a whole bunch of jokes about "can I see" or "ick". It sounds like ladiesloos fails to be intelligent (as most internet communities do) but if there's still a minority of articulate writing (eg. by any mutual friends of ours who are probably quite articulate), of those, are there many things that were obviously were easier to write for that audience? If so, can I use those as an example? I'm sorry, I seem to be wittering, I was ages trying to find any good examples. Have I made any sense?
j4 From: j4 Date: March 26th, 2008 11:04 am (UTC) (Link)
if you're talking to women only, you're suddenly sure that you can ask something about your bra without a whole bunch of jokes about "can I see" or "ick"

So now you're assuming a) that women's idea of "intelligent conversation" is talking about their underwear, b) that women don't make fun of other women (or that women don't have a sense of humour, and (possibly, implicitly) c) that women aren't interested in other women's underwear in a sexual context.

Or, conversely, you could be assuming that men are somehow incapable of applying the right conversational register: that when confronted by a woman they suddenly turn into drooling animals only capable of saying "heh heh, breasts".
cartesiandaemon From: cartesiandaemon Date: March 26th, 2008 11:18 am (UTC) (Link)
Or, conversely, you could be assuming that men are somehow incapable of applying the right conversational register: that when confronted by a woman they suddenly turn into drooling animals only capable of saying "heh heh, breasts".

Basically, yes. Not that women can't joke about it, but don't feel it obligatory to do so. Whereas, in my experience, it's almost obligatory that some man will. Do you think I'm wrong?

You sound like you think that's all based on insane stereotypes in my head, do you really? I mean, I may have a head full of weird stereotypes, but "women like talking about their breasts" is Piers Anthony, not me :)
j4 From: j4 Date: March 26th, 2008 11:46 am (UTC) (Link)
The majority of my friends are men and, believe it or not, I've found that they're entirely capable of having adult conversations with me despite the fact that I have breasts.

I categorically refuse to participate in, or be implicated in, propagating the myth that men exist in a permanent state of arrested socio-sexual development and as such should be exempted from the social responsibilities of adulthood and/or the expectation of socially acceptable behaviour.

The other point to bear in mind here is, HELLO, I AM NOT ACTUALLY THAT INTERESTED IN TALKING ABOUT BREASTS.
redbird From: redbird Date: March 26th, 2008 12:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
I do often find myself thinking is "I wish they'd gotten a feminist to write about this." And, in other contexts, "I wish they'd gotten someone who understood some science" or "someone who actually had heard of the Civil Rights movement" and so on.

None of those is specific to gender, skin color, etc.

At the same time, I suspect you have a better filter for "only relatively mature men" than cartesiandaemon and that men who think certain stupid remarks might be amusing but would know they'd offend you or me might be comfortable making them around him. Even if he calls each idiot on "why are you assuming I think women are stupid?" as soon as the comments come out, he's going to hear a different subset. (You or I may hear direct insults to us as women from someone angry for other reasons, which he won't.)
sbp From: sbp Date: March 26th, 2008 02:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
Heh, you said "breasts".
From: (Anonymous) Date: May 10th, 2008 10:36 am (UTC) (Link)

Nice quote


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