I’ve recently come across two online sources that take issue with what is basically the infantization of women and women’s media. There’s The Daily Beast’s “OMG! Women's Sites Need to Grow Up” by Tricia Romano and there’s a blog post by Julie Klausner.
Both Jane Pratt’s highly anticipated site, xoJane.com, and Zooey Deschanel’s new collaborative site, HelloGiggles, are aimed at young women ages 16-35. As sites that call themselves the place for “strong voices, identities and opinions” and the place for “smart, independent, and creative females,” they are bound to come under criticism, and Tricia Romano’s article certainly does criticize these sites. She accuses them, more or less, of talking down to their audiences or essentially lacking in smart content for grown-up women. I understand where they’re coming from, but it seems like there needs to be a distinction on how fluffy content can be before it is turned away by smart women.
I took rhetorical issue with the fact that The Daily Beast compares HelloGiggles and xoJane (along with Cosmopolitan.com thrown in) to GQ at one point in the article. Romano says, “With such tickle-me-hormonal content online, it makes one wonder, where is the content for women who want the equivalent of GQ, with sharp articles about powerful women and fascinating trend stories, written by writers as good as Tom Wolfe or Joan Didion? Where are the fashion spreads that make you feel aspirational, not inadequate?”
In terms of publications, isn't Vanity Fair or Vogue the equivalent to GQ? Or if we’re just talking smart writing in general, BUST, for that matter? Are there guy websites that write like GQ? It just seems like a rhetorically strange comparison. If she actually meant GQ Online instead of the publication, the website seems to have just as much “fluff” as most women’s sites, with headlines like: “The Ultimate Father’s Day Gift Guide,” “12 Killer Summer Grooming Tips,” and “When is it Ok To Send A Girl A Picture of My Penis?” (Apparently when she asks for one).
Another thing I took issue with was the idea of the exclamation point. They quote Jezebel’s founder, Anna Holmes, who says, “Let's stop using exclamation points. By design, when you read them, the voice in your head, as you're reading them, goes up a couple of registers. It's hard to take it seriously and it sounds kind of ditsy. Why can't we just talk like grownups?” Whoa, I didn’t know exclamation points were such a big deal. I get that there can be too many in one place--over-excitement is not appealing to read--but it exclamations don't necessarily equal sounding ditsy. That, to me, is a jump. I think that some things are just plain exciting and deserve an exclamation point.
While I think both xoJane and HelloGiggles have been hit or miss in the content department and have definitely posted material ranging in age appropriateness, I also think that’s kind of the point. Shouldn’t there be a place where readers of various ages can go? I am enjoying the joyful tone from HelloGiggles and skip over the stuff that’s “too young” for me or that I can’t relate to. When it comes to xoJane, I do agree that some of the more serious articles are treated too cavalierly or don’t make sense in context, but as a long time JANE fan, I'm enjoying most of the content.
When it comes to Julie Klausner’s post, the thing that bothered me the most is that she seems to be the one deciding what is “act[ing] younger” or what you're officially too old for. She says, “I’m begging age-appropriate females: Read something written before you were born. Stand up straight. Make sure you own one piece of jewelry that you did not purchase on Etsy.” What? Buying from Etsy means I’m not acting like a grown woman? Apparently so does wearing rompers, playing the ukulele, and liking kittens or 90’s movies. She says you can make your own modern womanhood, but basically says in the post that if you buy, eat, or listen to certain things, then you're not acting like a “real woman.” Romano wants us to write like real women and Klausner wants us to act like real women. Don’t we have enough people telling us what a “real woman” does? It doesn't help that we're already criticized if we act "too sexy." Now we're also criticized if we behave "too young." Liking solely those things listed by Klausner is one thing, I suppose, but too much of her post seems like a stark generalization.
Maybe I’m just the kind of person who likes cute designs, excitement, exclamation points, and joyful reading material, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want solid writing, nor do I want to be talked to like a little girl. I don’t think liking cute things and being talked down to go hand in hand. Super girly culture and smart writing are not mutually exclusive in my opinion. I’m pretty sure I can like kittens and rainbows and still be a feminist.
The bright side is that women have so many outlets to express themselves and write. I, or other writers such as Romano, might question the content, but I’m definitely glad to have two more creative websites for women. The more the merrier, I say! XOJane and HelloGiggles add to the likes of BUST.com, Jezebel, The Frisky, and The Hairpin (If you know of more, let me know!). We have the right to criticize the media, so I’m glad to hear these opinions about the girly culture we’re living in. I’m dying to hear what you guys think, though. Are we as women infantizing ourselves when it comes to certain interests and media outlets, or are they all in good fun? Does the content reflect our culture and what we want to read, or does it need to be made more mature?