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The winner of the 2014 @City_Press Tafelburg Nonfiction Award is Vashthi Nepaul! #openbook2014 @OpenBookFest fb.me/3fYW6ZeJ3

Media Watch: Mail & Guardian Women Website Launched


Alert! The Mail & Guardian launched Mail & Guardian Women last week, a website dedicated to women’s content. “Want to talk about equality, fertility apps and women in the news? Now you can …” reads the announcement of the website, continuing that it “will join the debate on issues such as how women are misrepresented in the media, lesbophobia, abortion, genetically modified food and how to handle the Twitter trolls.”

In one of the first posts on the site, Books LIVE member Fiona Snyckers wrote about why a women’s site is needed, saying that, “Except for the narrowest and most essentialist of topics, anything that is of interest to men should also be of interest to women, and vice versa. But there is a difference between such theoretical rationalisations and how things work in practice.”

She concludes that, “The latest statistics on income parity, political representation, and all other areas of public influence, suggest that women are very much in a minority. It is perhaps not ridiculous therefore to regard them as an interest group that needs its own ‘section’.”

When a website you are already blogging for asks you to start blogging for their women’s section, it poses certain questions.

“What was I writing for before?” you might wonder, “the men’s section?” If this is the women’s section, what do we call the whole rest of the website — the part with all the political analysis and serious commentary in it? Would that then be the people’s section? Why do we need a women’s section anyway?

Journalist Mandy de Waal took exception to comments that Snyckers made in her article, namely that, “Anything to do with menstruation, female sexuality, menopause, women’s fashion, pregnancy and breastfeeding can all be said to be of interest to women only” and took it up with Chris Roper, the newly appointed editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian, on Twitter.

Others on Twitter questioned the need for a separate website for women, with Roper fielding questions and explaining the decision:

Roper suggested to journalists Kristen van Schie and Michelle Solomon that they discuss the issue further in a M&G Google Hangout, so keep an eye out for that.

Following the questions raised on Twitter, Roper addressed some of the issues in a column: “Given that the world, and most certainly South Africa, is still hugely dominated by men and phallocentrically-skewed data, we fight an ongoing battle to try and achieve gender parity in the news.” He also mentioned the recent case of Caroline Criado-Perez being inundated with rape and death threats on Twitter after she won her campaign to get Jane Austen featured on the English banknotes, saying that the internet is not a safe space for women and the comments on Mail & Guardian Women will therefore be moderated.

Roper also discussed how the content from the site would be linked to from the main site, exposing them to more potential readers over a longer period of time than the posts on the main site: “We believe that this will push women’s issues to the forefront, where they belong, and with time they will become people issues.”

There have been one or two people asking why the Mail & Guardian would launch an M&G Women site. The main reason, and the important reason for us, is that we asked our women readers, and they told us they wanted to see more content directed at women, and about women.

Not all of them, of course, just as not all of us at the M&G were convinced having a women’s site was a good idea. We had fears of ghettoising content that could be categorised as “women’s content”; we all shuddered at the thought that there could even be such a thing. There’s no issue I can think of that could ever be exclusively of interest to women, just as there is nothing I can think of that would be exclusively of interest to men.

 

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