In the last week there has been a lot of hype about a website called Vagenda Magazine. This is surprising for two reasons; 1, the website is barely two months old, and 2, whilst funny, incisive and clever there already exists a plethora of websites that do a similar job to this site. The lure of Vagenda is that it takes everyday topics that are constantly thrown at women and breaks them down into digestible sarcastic nutshells, threaded through with humour and intelligence. Features include stuff such as ‘Your Body is a Battleground‘ and ‘Cliff Notes for Cosmo’.
I’m a fan of the site, and love that its gaining such traction even though it’s still in its infancy. The hype that has surrounded it though has made me realize that though I personally know ( and bookmark) similarly well written women’s sites, it’s possible that OTHER people may not have heard of them and be privy to their personal brand of humour, media dissection and all round snarkitude. In lieu of this alarming fact, I’m going to share with you some of the favourite female-centric sites on my bookmarks bar for you to enjoy. I realize that you may notice some major missing offenders (The F Word, before you mention it) and that’s not because these sites aren’t important or powerful or share good content, it’s that IMO they lack the entertainment factor, which is what scares so many women away from the word feminism. I’m not going to have a massive diatribe now about what that word really means or connotes, but merely share with you five websites that take a lighthearted look at women’s issues, whilst still firmly keeping up the girl power flag.
The tagline of this blog is ‘beauty and what it means’, and if you delve a little deeper into that phrase you get this explanation.
‘What I care about is: How does our appearance affect how we move through the world? What is the relationship between our “beauty labor” and our visibility? What can we glean from women’s history—from Cleopatra and her kohl to the “lipstick liberation” of the 1920s to Naomi Wolf’s groundbreaking 1991 book The Beauty Myth—about the role of appearance, beauty, and cosmetics in our lives? How do we experience being seen, seeing others, and seeing ourselves?’
Written by Autumn Whitefield-Madrano the blog dissects the use of beauty in today’s society, and analyzes the trends and changes in this domain. Forget fluff pieces about ‘the best way to wear red lipstick’, the blog is a though provoking journey through top stories in the beauty industry, all with a feministing flavour and some insightful comments. Never preachy, this site is a place to share information and to muse on it, and Autumn is great in the way she allows you to make up your own mind about various issues. The topics range from the everyday to the eclectic and include features such as Thoughts on A Word where she delves into the etymology of commonly used beauty phrases like glamour or vaingloriuous, and Beauty Blogosphere round-ups that are far more detailed than the usual fluff pieces (and leave me with a browser full of open links and a feeling of guilt). Other blog posts are more detailed- such as Modeling as Modern Day Physiognomy, but the tone remains intelligent
The Hairpin is edited by Edith Zimmerman and Jane Marie, and offers more than female only content; they say that it ‘is a women’s site insofar as it is run by women, will feature writing by women (although guys should absolutely feel free to get in touch too), and will be mostly read by women’. Most of the posts are slanted towards women, but there’s plenty for men to enjoy as well- for example an ode to ice cream and The Hairpin is always full of entertaining topical content. They’ll never fill their front page with academy awards information or ‘top ten black dresses’ (no disrespect to sites that do, but they are ‘fashion sites’ whilst this is more than that) and they have a great brand of wry humour that keeps you clicking back again and again. Some posts that will make you crease up are Calling Your Girlfriend and the Ask a Clean Person/ A Married Dude series which is always full of helpful advice.
I’m going to be honest here- not everything on The Gloss is full on feminine banter material. They combine cracking articles like Why Quitting Grad School was the best decision I made with pieces such as Handbag Porn (an actual handbag) and Sexiest Quote of the Week. You (OK, I mean I) let them get away with the fluff pieces beacuse of their generally awesome take on beauty and fashion, and the twisted yet winderful way their writers minds work. For example, a fashion piece entitled ‘How to dress like you’ve been plucked from a Renoir painting’ and Friday Style Icon: She-Ra Princess of Power. They also look at the reason why Adele’s song makes everyone cry (with science) and their style is more drinks withe the girls, than Carrie’s ineffectual musings. They describe themselves, ‘proving that wit and sophistication go together like oysters and champagne’, Jennifer Wright, Editor In Chief sets the tone for the site, which is part whispered conversation and part female analysis of media trends.
I can’t NOT mention Vagenda Magazine in an article inspired by it, and it’s a pretty good read. A team of 10 odd writers make up the team, and most of them have chosen to stay anonymous.
Stories tend to focus around current topical issues, and anything seen in the media that one of the writers have an issue with. This means that posts can be a simple photo upload with a caption- such as ‘It’s really Not OK‘ in retaliation to a piece in Glamour about why it is OK , to hip hop lyrics that don’t involve d***ing on women‘ and questioning how the latest Pixar’s Princess doesnt fit the mould with the launch of a new Pixar film where the heroine hates dresses, has red hair, and a Scottish accent. I’m personally more of a fan of the longer thought pieces, but I appreciate that the cute images and captions will appeal to the Tumblr generation, who like their news in small snippets and the mere fact of mockery takes the sting out of many of the messages that we’re constantly given.
The description of the site (the first ever post) states; ‘We are feminists. No, we don’t care what you do with your pubic hair (and we really wish the Guardian would stop telling us to). Some of us, having either worked or undergone modern-day slave labour at some of the publications we’ll be ridiculing, would like to avoid biting the hand that feeds us and remain anonymous. Others won’t. But all of us (and we are many) passionately believe that we have created something that is very much needed.’
I know the inclusion of XOJane may raise a few eyebrows. If you’re unfamiliar with the site (and why it may raise said brows) I’ll give you a brief overview. Headed by Jane Pratt, the ex editor of Sassy and Jane Magazine (both amazing insightful tomes in their time) the site covers a broad remit of female focused topics. It varies from first person stories of cosmetic surgery gone wrong to columns like I’m tired of apologizing for liking Girl stuff. The celebrity news is varied and has funny make-under features- look what they did to Sammi from Jersey Shore. They also did a really cool project recently, called the Real Bellies project which compile non-photoshopped images of women’s stomachs, and shared how different we all look.
The main controversy of the site seems to reside with their beauty editor Cat Marnell, A self proclaimed drug junkie, Adderall fan and self admitted mentalist (in a nice way), Cat’s columns can be.. um, controversial. Her writing reads like a train of consciousness emerging from a deep bath and her prose sends out positive messages about the benefits of drugs to make you skinny and why she won’t not talk about Whitney Houston’s death. Her tagline on that piece was, ‘When Whitney died, I wasn’t surprised: women are using drugs all around you, and I’m one of them. Now why am I not allowed to talk about it again?’ Her writing is very raw and visceral, but it’s odd to see so many pro-drug sharing on a professional website. That’s part of the charm of the site- AND why people decry it. The issue isn’t so much Cat’s drug abuse but the way she’s unapologetic about it, and whilst I find this refreshing, many people may think this ‘glamourizes’ her not so healthy lifestyle. Half the time I love her, half the time I’m like ‘Why would you share that on the interweb?‘, but her bravery/ schitzo-ness make her columns entertaining and a refreshingly honest read- and I want more honesty on the web.
The tagline of the site is ’xoJane.com is where women go when they are being selfish, and where their selfishness is applauded. This is not the place to find out how to please your husband, mom, kids or boss. This is the place to indulge in what makes you feel good. We are not snarky, but inclusive and uplifting, while remaining nothing but honest at all times. ‘ I’m a fan, but not everyone will be, but that’s OK- there are a lot of options in this article!
Other great web reads
Other sites that deserve a mention here but that don’t make it onto the list are Jezebel, BitchBuzz*, Dollymix*, Psychologies* and Virginia Sole Smith. These all offer a lot of great content but don’t have the same slightly abrasive humour as the ones listed above. They are all worth a read though- you might discover something you really love on these platforms.
Disclaimer: I have written for the sites that have an asterisk next to their name.
Header image source; Lol Caption