Feminism, Newsletters, and Discussing the Things We Normally Don’t

So, I’m not a fan of Girls. I’ve watched an episode, and while realistically, an episode isn’t enough to judge a TV series on, I just wasn’t drawn enough to the characters to go back to it. Yet, I signed up for the Lenny newsletter over the summer, which is the brain child of Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner, the creative team behind Girls. It’s been amazing, weekly read, and the reason I’m always a little late to my office on Tuesday mornings. (Ignore that part benevolent bosses and students.)

The newsletter is decidedly a fourth wave incarnation, using a digital platform without comments to address issues facing women. The without comments part is key; it allows Dunham and Konner to curate their content without the normal internet trolling and, hopefully, harassment that so many women and men who write about feminism and gender issues face. Topics have ranged from Konner’s mother relating her abortion story to Jennifer Lawrence discussing pay inequities in Hollywood, interviews with Hilary Clinton and Kirsten Gillibrand, and horoscopes. It’s not necessarily markedly different than the fare found in a fashion magazine, except it feels radically so given the way the newsletter and its attendant social media platforms discuss many of the things we don’t discuss in the mainstream media in a feminist way. After all, work advice is usually buried within pages and pages of fashion spreads and ads, which look like the fashion spreads, in a fashion magazine. Here, fashion is addressed, but only as part of the many things women and men may be interested in. And they have people tell their stories, letting their voices be without varnish, such as Ellen Pao’s piece today on sexism in the workplace–it’s in the newsletter, not the website.

As I’ve said previously, I’ve also become a regular reader of Man Repeller, a fashion blog/newsletter that also presents the fashion world through a tongue in cheek, feminist view. Leandra Medina and Amelia Diamond keep their content grounded in a kind of self awareness of the superficiality of fashion but also say screw it to expectations. And they talk a lot about the emotional affect of our contemporary lives in ways that resonate, such as this piece on pregnancy.

No one from either publication/site has a definitive answer for anything, but the sharing of stories seems to pull people along to a point of activism and reflection. Or perhaps reflection and perhaps activism.

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