I admit that I have never felt that I’m the target demo for “women’s media,” whether in mainstream or alt-lady form. I don’t really give a shit about “fashion” beyond trying to figure out what looks good on me and maybe what necklaces might be pretty cool, I find the “here’s the agribusiness PR mail that we got this week” pose of all the health stuff absolutely wearying and ultimately incoherent, and I find the anti-intellectualism inherent in the table of contents’ offerings to be quite stifling and ultimately pushing our world toward a definition of womanhood that involves shopping and fucking and pick-a-little-talk-a-littling about the results of both (with some added bits of inanity about people who do not give a shit about you, trust) when all’s said and done.
I kind of had hopes for the Internet with regards to allowing women to push boundaries of what they could be and how they could portray themselves, especially as Bust devolved into the Etsy version of Marie Claire and Bitch wrapped itself in academic jargon so tightly you could hear it gasping for air (never mind its pre-Internet branding decision that resulted in it having to censor its “edgy” name in every email it sends out in spam-filter-rife 2011). But, you know, things didn’t really work out that way, because instead of letting a thousand flowers bloom, the economics of online content dictate strip-mining every field except the one that grows the superflowers, with technicolor blossoms and vines that snake around everything slightly outside the pageview-hoarding purview. So you have the hypersexist monolith that is “most of the media, especially the sites that are mostly just pictures of young female hatefuckable celebrities,” and then you have the sites specifically for women, each of which has its own problems with figuring out the exact metallurgy possessed by the gender.
Which brings us to XOJane, which right now (SORRY MATT EALER) has a “short film about choice” that involves Emily McCombs—who earlier today let out her feelings (complete with pictures!) on losing a ton of weight in an essay that I thought was very well-written and brave (if in slight need of editing)—taking a pregnancy test on camera. She brings the camera into the bathroom and you get to be there as she pees on the stick and gives a speech on the importance of choice while she’s waiting for the result. (Which is negative.) (Here is where I should also note that this is “sponsored content” by a shoe company.)
I mean I fully admit that I am uptight about a lot of things. The rise of people going to parties just to take pictures of one another instead of to actually talk to one another. My looks. (Yes, related.) The hypersexualization of society. There’s tons more, and if you ply me with enough wine I will tell you about it. But I just feel like this “LOOK AT ME, WORLD, AND LET ME TELL YOU HOW MUCH I WANT YOU TO SEE ME” pose put forth by XOJane and other similarly siren.jpg-studded sites for ladies is both not sustainable and drowning out voices possessed by women who might not be comfortable with sharing every sexy/salacious/OMG-worthy detail of their lives (or who might not already be celebrities, which is another topic for another post) as a way to care about Important Issues. I know, I know, you have to put forth the chocolate to get kids to eat the vegetables, but lately the Internet feels like it’s all chocolate, with the angry parts being I guess the kind that has a couple of serrano peppers chopped in for good measure. And it goes back to what I was saying when the site launched a mere three months ago: What happens when these women who are being pushed to mine their lives for high-volume content sites run out of stories? Well, I guess one answer is “go into the bathroom with a Flipcam.”
And yes I know that I am part of the problem by pointing at this on the Internet and saying “hey this exists! what?!” But if I can raise my voice on the side of the people who just have something to say, and who shouldn’t have to resort to stunt journalism and putting forth salacious details in order to get their point of view paid attention to by at least a sliver of the ever-distractable masses, then, you know, I think it all evens out.
Please read this.
The Maura Johnston Fan Club.