What Do You Want from Your Women's Web Site?

I'm talking about women's web sites tonight with some women's web site-ers. What should I say?

Apr 19, 2012 at 2:30pm | Leave a comment

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This is how I look when I'm thinking. (EXHAUSTED.)

Tonight, I'm sitting on a panel of lady bloggers from venerable sites like Feministing, Salon, Jezebel, et cetera to do a kind of state-of-the-union on online women's journalism.

It's a broad topic (GOOD ONE, SMO, 10 POINTS) and one that I hardly feel like an expert on.

I just got a couple of emails this week from readers who basically detailed what they'd like to see more and less of on XOJane and all the other places for designed for women-people on the Internet. It's weird, because I just did and interview about this and it made me realize I have a lot of feelings on the topic of women's sites as a niche-y thing. I'll be lazy here and excerpt:

GELF: We see a lot of smart, women-specific web destinations now, not only xoJane, but also Jezebel, Slate's XX Factor -- sites that aren't explicitly populated with superficial service pieces in the "The 10 Things that Make Your Man Go Berserk (With the Lights ON)" way -- but still read as women talking exclusively to women. What sets this niche apart, do you think, aside from being a natural vertical in a web property's portfolio?

Julieanne Smolinski: I think women think of these places as these locker room-clubhouse sanctuaries, especially this demographic that thinks of themselves as a sort of pro forma community, because that's how we've raised them and advertised to them. Your Jezebels and your Slates have this newsier edge, but pretty much everybody is going to do marriage trend pieces.

One of the funny things that I realized when talking about this topic was that the notion of HAVING women's web sites is kind of strange to me. But again -- I feel like women are a community, and one that can be catered to by a publication, like fly fishing enthusiasts. Do you? See:

GELF: Do you think having a "women's site" as an almost requisite channel at this point, could be further marginalizing? You don't really see this with male writers, who seem to enjoy the latitude to speak freely in all forums.

Julieanne Smolinski: It really depends. From an interaction standpoint, a lot of gender-neutral sites are just wildly hostile to women. And so many of these sites are about a comment section or putting out pieces where women go: "Yes, I identify with this." But I do think that because so many of them focus on celebrities and fashion or cute things to bake that you run the risk of creating an umbrella association: "This is what women read." Obviously women are reading The Awl and The Atlantic and Newsweek and USA Today, but this is the portion that you're seeing, and a lot of them try to aggregate parts of "gender-neutral" publications, as if to say: "Here, this is relevant to you." And then of course, that's what "becomes" relevant to women. Theoretically.

So, yeah. I realize this is all very inside baseball, but as readers of Women's Web Sites, what do you want to see more and less of? Do you feel like there's too much (as the reader put it in her email) copying and pasting from People magazine? Do you feel "represented" by women's sites? Does seeing a casserole website make you mad when there's a War on Women? What would you like to see more and less of?

I would love to take your opinions to this vaginal Geneva Convention tonight.