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.