On Bustle And What Counts

A new website has been launched and it’s called Bustle! Because apparently there have never been websites for women by women! Aside from problems with the name, which brings to mind scurrying about a house or wearing a lump of fabric and metal on one’s behind, there are some other issues which have been brilliantly explained at the following websites which are run and lead by women for women!

Slate Double X notes with something akin to joy that A Man Creates Very First Website For Women Ever. Well, not joy really, but it’s a great article.

This one from Medium is too, The Worst Case Of Mansplaining, Ever.

Bust, in Get Off Our Tit, cogently explains how they’ve been doing the work Bustle claims to want to do for some 20 years now. They also explain what they could do with $6.5 Million if women entrepreneurs were frequently given VC money.

Bitch Magazine, in Douchebag Decree, explains how apparently all the other lady mags out there don’t really count, cause commercial success.

The Hairpin, in What Is The Difference Between Mascara, Eyeliner and Concealer? Six Philosophical Inquiries, deconstructs Goldberg’s quote about mascara, eyeliner and concealer and why he needs to know nothing about them.

And NPR, not particularly a lady mag, has a report entitled, Man Learns How Not To Launch A Website For Women, in which Goldberg states that yeah, if he could go back and relaunch he’d focus on money.

This is my main issue. The issue of money and being commercial and commercial success and what it means.

From Bitch:

“When Gawker co-founder Elizabeth Spiers remarked that Goldberg didn’t seem to have researched his competitors all that thoroughly, and when Jezebel founding editor Anna Holmes noted that Bustle’s content already exists in many other web forums, Goldberg’s only semblance of a reply was to repeat variations on the themes of money, and hugeness, and, again, “difference.”

“Bustle is a very different company from xojane or thehairpin. I would like for Bustle to be one of the fifty largest sites on the internet within this decade, and I would like to see it generate $100 million in revenue by that point. That’s not to say that it is impossible for a feminist site like thehairpin to also achieve this, but I think that we are approaching things differently. Raising a large round of venture capital is one such difference in approach. Partnering with a major media company like Time Warner is another….

There are many great female-focused websites out there, and some great explicitly feminist ones too. Very few have raised venture capital. Very few attract eight-figure advertising revenue. Very few have been acquired for $100,000,000’s. My goal is for this to be massive.”

In other words: “We’re different because I have a lot of money and I want to make a lot of money.” Does Goldberg really think this is a novel approach to women’s publishing? That Gawker Media started Jezebel because Nick Denton just really wanted women to make friends on the Internet? And does he really think that he’s going to be the one to break feminism through to the global mainstream because he has the most money?

So that’s what this is about. Because it is always about that.

It isn’t about feminism or social change, unless that change makes investors money. Which, frankly, seems antithetical to me in some ways. Sure, a living wage and security around health and life is vital for workers. But to say that a magazine venture only really “counts” as a success is through a financial lens is toxic to me. Bitch, Bust, The Hairpin, and so many other publishing teams, along with bloggers and writers who have done amazing work? They count.

Goldberg says here, in the NPR article, on his desire to change how the launch went:

“I should have recognized that there are many great female-focused and feminist websites out there. xojane, Jezebel, The Hairpin, Rookie,” he says. “But what separates Bustle is that we are trying to reach a level of mainstream appeal and financial success that has not yet been achieved for a female-focused website with a strong feminist conviction. I believe it to be important that women’s publications, especially ones with a feminist voice, are able to achieve commercial success.”

As if that’s all women want right? Commercial success and progressive politics are exactly hand in hand and in line with each other. If feminism is a tool of capitalism then I suppose he’s right. But that means nothing counts unless it makes money. And while I want to make a living and I believe in paying people so they can live (which even though he’s paying his staffers, they’ll make approximately $16 per hour with NO insurance or benefits and that’s not a liveable wage in cities like Austin, NY, SF, LA or hell, smaller towns with writerly types, I don’t believe that money = worth in terms of art, politics and making change in the world.

And frankly, feminism does play a role here in terms of if you want to be a capitalist, women aren’t well represented, as the Medium piece above shows:

It’s documented, ad nauseam that women only receive 4.2% of VC funding in the US. I seriously cannot think of another more perfect example than this one to animate how horribly wrong the VC eco-system is, and how every single one of the players that gave @BGoldberg money should be ashamed of themselves.

And you know why?

If a woman led initiative had come to any one of these VCs and pitched their business as piss-poorly as Goldberg obviously did, with this kind of tepid writing, and storify-ing stealing interface, they would’ve been laughed out of their offices. Soundly. And with good reason.

When sites like Bustle get $6.5 million in funding from multiple VCs, it is a glaring statement that as long as the same old same old exists in VCs, then the same old same old shit will get funded.

So I guess if feminists want to make millions but be less-than-adequate, tepid and same old same old, we ladies have some work to do!

Still, I think it’s sad and telling that that’s what he’d change about his launch and that’s what’s motivating the whole website. Bustle, at this juncture, seems like a vanity project with it’s roots in money not feminism, a sense of entitlement, and an galling arrogance about what women (women who have been working in publishing, writing, and journalism and producing work that most definitely counts for up to 20 years) want.


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