If you want to induce nausea in me immediately, you will say two little words: women’s magazines.
I wrote for women’s magazines for several years, and, with a couple of exceptions, count them among the worst experiences of my professional life. I have been known to describe the editorial process at these magazines as a “sorority gang-bang”. I have been asked to repeat that phrase at dinner parties, especially those that involve other writers, because mentioning the phrase “women’s magazines” in a gathering of experienced writers creates something of a group shudder, followed by group therapy, often followed by heavy group drinking.
I don’t know why women’s magazines are so hard to work for, although the movie Mean Girls provides a partial explanation.
And while literary writing is quite different than the sort of stories that most women’s magazines are publishing, I can’t help but think that there is some kind of a connection between paucity of women’s bylines at the upper echelons of literature and how horrible women in media can be to one another, especially in situations that involve differences of power and prestige and the exchange of money.
But I live in hope that the new world of media, run more by writers themselves than by career editors, will be a better place for good writing and ultimately a better place for writers. That hope is fueled by the launch of an exciting new travel magazine, Vela.
Vela is written by women, but is obviously not a “women’s magazine” in the shuddering nausea sense, and decidedly not the territory of “the gang tattoo of a Ya-Ya Sisterhood more interested in swapping stories about rough breakups and first periods and facial scrubs than in serious (male) literary writing,” as founder Sarah Menkedick writes in the site’s manifesto. (If you doubt this could possibly be true, read Eva Holland‘s excellent essay about working, and working hard, in the Yukon. )
As Sarah goes on to explain:
The point here is not that this is a women’s site, by women for women, somehow female, feminine, or feminist in style. The fact that all of the writers are women is almost, almost incidental: it would be completely incidental if the publishing world did not create a situation in which women’s voices represent only a small fraction of the conversation.
Brava! I’m looking forward to reading more.
Alison J. Stein
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