November 5, 2018
Hi & happy Midterms eve,
One soothing space lately, despite the emotional and cognitive drain of the news, has been women-run media events. On Thursday, I got to the Brooklyn Museum for a talk with Well-Read Black Girl founder Glory Edim and contributors to Edim's new anthology. It was basically a therapy session, both for the writers onstage and the women in the audience who asked deeply honest and soul-baring questions, and then received patient, applicable advice.
On Saturday, I saw my favorite podcast Call Your Girlfriend live, after I spent a few hours volunteering at Girls Write Now for a workshop on podcasting. At the workshop, mentors and mentees heard women talk about their craft as well as the broader industry. One of the speakers, author and nonprofit founder & president Susan Zimet, was refreshingly candid: “We’re fucked,” she said to a group of teen girls about the current political landscape. “Everyone eligible to vote in this room better vote.”
Zimet also talked about her early career in advertising, and of stumbling upon an issue of Working Woman magazine in the 80’s. She recalled an article that detailed the gaps between men and women at work (heh); women reportedly worked diligently without asking directly to be rewarded, while men schmoozed the right people and quickly ascended the hierarchy, earning more money. Livid, Zimet asked for a raise the next week, and unlike scores of other women, got it — she then went on to run for office and score book deals. I wondered how her story might have panned out if she never read that article.
This week, I’m comparing two recent articles in The Cut, unmistakably side-by-side in the print issue, about the wildly successful Skimm newsletter and the subdued, dignified Gentlewoman biannual magazine.
Last, do you want to get involved with Clipped? I’m interested in collaborating with someone on the newsletter, and even rethinking how we do it. Want to get involved somehow, or just talk more? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I have a couple fun interviews lined up coming soon that I’m excited to share with you. — Natalie
top 40 vs. tastemaking
If The Skimm is of the "eat your vegetables" variety, then The Gentlewoman is like snacking on salty licorice, a popular Finnish delicacy endorsed by the women’s magazine. I, like many people of my demographic, signed up for The Skimm while I was in college, and have found The Gentlewoman through the good, non-obvious corners of the internet. The latter is only available in print.
My The Skimm readership ebbed and flowed, in part because I soured on the “Skinnygirl Margarita” vibe. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t hook me; after some on-and-off opens, I started reading every morning during at least my first couple years of full-time work until unsubscribing last year. It appears that the newsletter most definitely doesn’t need me; 7 million people are subscribed, compared to the New York Times’ 1.6 million Morning Briefing subscribers.
The commercial success of The Skimm, in some ways because of its founders’ business chops & partnership, dogged pursuit of celebrity, well-oiled Skimm'bassador program, and high-profile investors, is mind-blowing. And it certainly hasn’t been without cycles of appraisal; as with any product marketed to women, people have critiqued in think pieces and on Twitter the newsletter’s tone and value for years. While the article’s depiction of The Skimm’s office and work culture does feel a bit like that time Lena Dunham took a dig at The Wing on Girls, the shoe seems to fit.
If The Skimm is Franzia for the masses, then The Gentlewoman is an aged fine wine. “I think The Gentlewoman is really the only women’s magazine that matters,” the photographer Inez van Lamsweerde told The Cut (fighting words!!!). This piece introduces us to Penny Martin, the magazine’s editor who was approached to make a women’s version of Fantastic Man, sort of like the GQ of Amsterdam. In 10 years, The Gentlewoman has defined a culture many of us still quite detached from in real life. “Before it was something that everyone talked about, it’s always been about the female gaze," The Cut's Molly Fischer writes. "In its pages, women contemplate one another as peers.”
Relatedly, I saw The Cut's editor and president Stella Bugbee speak at an event last month, and she basically said her editorial philosophy is, "We're not for everyone." Bugbee then walked back the comments, to note that they're not in the business of alienating certain groups. That vision is still pretty bold and applaudable, as the industry in which she operates remains dominated by men. Hence, from The Skimm profile:
if you like this newsletter, you may also like:
Women Writing newsletter, “a biweekly curation of journalism, short fiction and other media content created by women, about women,” submitted by reader Jordan
#VOTEPROCHOICE, a guide to pro-choice candidates, submitted by reader Monica
in other women's media news
Lenny Letter is shutting down after 3 years (Jezebel)
Red Scare Leans Into Nothing (The Cut)
Durga Chew-Bose profiles Natalie Portman (Vanity Fair)
more from CLIPPED
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