Forbes' Problematic Roundup Of Women's Media



forbes Image: Via Forbes.


Before we get into this, we're going to address the elephant in the room: Forbes did not include us on its list of the 100 best women's websites. Obviously we disagree with that choice, but that's not what this article is about.

Lists like these are important. Celebrating content that empowers, excites, and challenges women is important. So, we applaud Forbes for tackling this pretty massive undertaking in the first place. But, we have some genuinely confused and bothered feelings about this feature that extend far beyond our own slightly bruised egos. Namely: Why does this list seem to deviate from the goals it sets out for itself at the very beginning?

Here's how the intro, written by Meghan Casserly, describes its purpose:

"So what do we look for in a website? Informative and compelling content, sure, but also smart design, engaged communities and a voice that speaks to and for the female reader. We’re looking for the inspiration to start businesses, get stress in check, climb the corporate ladder or maybe just Lean In. Of course, there are extra fun points for the escapist sites we rely on to help us pass the dreaded three oh clock hour. But no matter how brilliant the recipes, your average cooking site won’t cut it; we’re looking for the intangible ‘something extra.’ These sites need to make us smile, make us think but most importantly make us share — sometimes via social, sometimes in email but we believe the true mark of great content is the kind that makes you step away from your desk and talk about it."

Let's start with the idea of "a voice that speaks to and for the female reader." We assume that means a healthy representation of established, competent female staff members; articles that consistently write from a female perspective even on articles that aren't for women only; and a special sensitivity to the issues that affect women today but might go unnoticed on other sites. So, why are Mental Floss, Salon.com, Intern Sushi, Smitten Kitchen, and of all things, Pinterest on this list?

Some of them, like Smitten Kitchen or Pinterest, may have mostly female audiences, but categorizing them as women's websites is untrue to their business and growth goals — and more dangerously, it projects gendered ideas onto sites that actually set out to have broad, gender-neutral appeal. Worse still, as in the case of The Good Guide — which reviews cleaning and health products based on their environmental friendliness — it enforces some downright offensive assumptions about what constitutes "women's content." Haven't we reached a point where keeping house is, at the very least, theoretically a non-gendered task?

Then, there's the fact that many of these sites just don't deserve the label of "best." Yes, Jezebel, XOJane, Rookie, HuffPo Women, The Hairpin, Motherlode, HelloGiggles, and our beloved Reductress are on there. But, we have a hard time putting those sites and their many incredible writers and editors in the same category as Savvy Auntie, a site which is probably great for aunts (because that's literally its premise) or Deal Seeking Moms (the main purpose of which seems to be to offer people free samples). Those sites presumably have their merits, but they don't have anywhere near the impact, depth, reach, and respected position in women's media and media in general of the publications they are running alongside. If this were a list of the most useful or resourceful or fun websites for women, things might be different, but "best" denotes a higher standard of true quality, in our book. And, as far as design goes, most of this list doesn't even begin to approach sites that were excluded, like Girls I Know, Tales of Endearment, or even more gender-neutral sites run by women like Design Milk or i09.

We're both put off and confused by this list. While some great players did make the cut, there are some very key names missing like Levo League, A Cup of Jo, The Cut, Bust, and The Frisky. One could make the argument that Forbes is just way ahead of the game and is subtly pointing out that women's websites don't have to be by and for women, but that goes against the very premise laid out in the introduction.

What do you think — does this list have its merits as a resource for female Internet addicts? Or, does it fall short of its promise? (Forbes)