Historically, Ms. Traister said, it “has never blown anyone’s mind” that a newspaper subscriber would be interested in two things at once — say, stocks and sports — because the reader, presumed male, was understood to have varied interests.
“The integration of feminist political commentary and investigative reporting with other stuff, whether it’s fashion or beauty or sports, is part of a necessary expansion of the mainstream media to include women as full human beings,” Ms. Traister said.
Hanna Rosin, a co-founder of Slate’s DoubleX vertical, described Jezebel and other early women’s blogs as “lady spaces where people get rowdy.” That rowdiness, Ms. Rosin said, has largely been traded for the landmark investigations published by large publications able to afford the cost of having reporters and editors focus on a single story for months at a time. She cited the articles on Harvey Weinstein in The Times and The New Yorker as “earth-shattering,” adding that they were made possible thanks to the “coming of age” of women’s media.
But some journalists from the early wave worry that the voice of the feminist blogs has been diluted on its way to the mainstream.
“I remember The Washington Post started this women’s blog and it was in lipstick font,” said Jessica Valenti, who co-founded Feministing with her sister, Vanessa Valenti. She was referring to a site called She the People that the Post started in 2012 whose logo had a lipstick underline. “I was like, ‘Ugh, this is what happens when mainstream publications try to take on an insurgent young thing.’”
Julianne Escobedo Shepherd, the current editor in chief of Jezebel, concurred, saying, “There’s an edge that feminism brings to coverage. And it naturally will get softened when it’s no longer run by the feminists it’s targeting.”
Despite the recent shutterings, the particular voice of the feminist blogs has not disappeared. The godmother of them all, Bust, started as a ‘zine by Debbie Stoller and Laurie Henzel in the Riot Grrrl days, is hanging in there 26 years after its founding. The magazine’s motto — “For women with something to get off their chests” — sums up an ethos that seems unlikely to die, no matter what troubles come for the media industry.