Who run the world? Dudes

SPINMedia's Stephen Blackwell. Image via Twitter/Bust.
SPINMedia’s Stephen Blackwell. Image via Twitter/Bust.

This week over at Bust Kaleigh Wright laid out exactly how dudely your fav “feminist” media really is.

The rape-porn fangirls who run The Frisky answer to CEO Stephen Blackwell and six other men who head up the SpinMedia corporation.

Jezebel is owned by Gawker Media (i.e. Nick Denton) who also, it’s worth noting, founded Fleshbot, a porn blog that was sold first to Lux Alptraum (the woman who runs BinderCon and the highly influential networking group for female writers and journalists, Binders Full of Women Writers), then to SK Intertainment.

Bustle, as most of us know, was launched by Bryan Goldberg, who “raised $6.5 million from investors such as Google and Time Warner” in order to be able to bring us steaming hot garbage on the daily. Bustle, Wright reports, “has since become one of the most profitable women’s blogs out there.” Who knew a wild and crazy idea like getting women to write about things besides mascara could actually work!

As Wright points out, Bustle’s tagline reads “by & for women,” but would be more accurate if it read “by & for the pockets of one very rich dude.” Same goes for The Frisky, who not only pray at the altar of corporate male gods, but that of the porn industry as well.

…They aren’t alone.

A number of other “feminist” sites are listed in Wright’s peice, along with their male overlords, including xoJane and The Mary Sue. Not included are magazines that are vying for feminist cred, like Cosmo (owned by the dudely Hearst Corporation), who published a whopping 108 porn-related articles in 2014 and even more the following year (many of which appeared to be promoting porn giant, PornHub), and liberal sites like Mic. Not unlike the rest of the bunch, Mic was founded by two men, Chris Altchek (previously of Goldman Sachs) and Jake Horowitz. Mic actually partnered with PornHub last year to publish a study on what kind of porn “millennials” consume, essentially helping PornHub to generate even more profit and create more consumers by appealing to younger viewers. Mic lends a politically progressive kind of credibility to PornHub through this partnership as well, something the company has made central in terms of their branding as of late.

So. All these sites that dominate the conversation with regard to women, sexuality, and the feminist movement today are, 1) American, 2) Funded by men, 3) Owned by men. Many are funded by billion dollar corporations like Google and Time Warner. Is it any real surprise that these platforms seem not only have zero connection to the independent women’s movement, but also refuse to take a stand against prostitution and pornography? Particularly when many of them are partnering directly with the sex industry? (Lest we forget, Amelia McDonnell-Parry, the editor of The Frisky, hired rapist porn producer James Deen on as a writer but slandered me for questioning the idea that sexualizing and objectifying transwomen in the pages of corporate beauty magazines is somehow “empowering” or “groundbreaking”…)

Considering all this, it is kind of a surprise that Feminist Current has been able to keep up in a marginal way. This is a site actually run by women and supported by feminist readers… That is to say, without millions of dollars in funding (never mind of the corporate variety). We can’t compete with Cosmo, Jezebel, or Mic, of course, in terms of reach and content, but I am proud of how far we’ve gotten with so little. This all only serves to reinforce how vitally important independent media is. It’s also a helpful reminder that, no, you aren’t crazy — that so-called feminist media you’re reading that feels male-centered really is… Even when women are writing the content, men are still writing the cheques.

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Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • Lucia Lola

    Not surprised, especially in regards to the new PornHubLite, Cosmo. The Mary Sue finally lost my attention when they stopped attempting to hide their hypocrisy when it came to things feminist.

    Great information, Meghan. I’m just going to pat myself on the back for finding my way over here. I love this site.

    • Meghan Murphy

      And we love you! Thanks for reading 🙂

      • Tinfoil the Hat

        Sold! I signed up for a snall monthly donation. Well worth it! Thanks for your WORK.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Oh thank you so much!

  • BenEsler

    Would it even be possible for this not to be the case? By which I mean, are there any major, mainstream media umbrella companies owned and funded exclusively by women? Is the choice completely binary? Either be an independent, or be facilitated by and answer to male financiers, whose worldview is likely not to be feminist? Also, what kind of editorial firewall is typically in place at these organisations? Is the implication here that sexist attitudes attributable to the owners are finding their way into the content of these sites, and can that be substantiated? I had not considered that perhaps the reason for the prevalence of pro-porn, pro-sex trade attitudes in much of mainstream, self identifying feminist culture might be due to a causal relationship (and I suppose really a conflict of interest) between popular feminist media and corporate interests otherwise catering to male preferences. It’s an attractive and intuitive idea, but I wonder if it’s too neat and tidy. It’s also possible a lot of people (including feminist bloggers) just believe dumb, wrong, sexist things.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Well, if you think about the way in which liberal feminism is generally accepting of the status quo — that is to say that the ideology prefers tweaking over a radical overhaul — it makes sense that this is influenced by capitalist/patriarchal ideology. Today, neoliberalism is the dominant ideology — why would feminist discourse (in particular, the kind that is published in mainstream publications) NOT be impacted? So it’s not as direct as, like, the founder is man ergo the publication is male-centered. It’s a bigger problem than just that (though that, in and of itself, is a problem). Our culture is shaped by dominant ideology and interests. Men have most of the money in the world, ergo men have long dictated the kinds of ideas, reporting, information that gets out into the mainstream. Certainly publications that partner with Pornhub are not going to take a strong anti-porn position… but also, young writers may adopt this ideology in their quest for careers, even if they aren’t writing for these sites/magazines. Beyond that, as I said, dominant ideology shapes our thinking… It’s not really that strange that many so-called feminist bloggers support the sex industry when they are constantly fed this message that it is totally normal, ok, healthy, progressive, sexy, etc.

      • BenEsler

        Right. That’s closer to how I’ve always understood it; that there are memes and narratives in our culture, and they perpetuate harmful practices, and propagate in the form of further harmful ideas, etcetera, and that this tends to benefit the powerful because of course it does. However, when the normal, kind of murky way in which discourse tends to form suddenly coincides with the issue of editorial freedom, then that’s describing (and diagnosing) something very specific and sinister. If the majority of editorial power resides in the hands of men, even at feminist publications, and those publications are in turn promoting porn empires and publishing sexist boilerplate as though it were feminist empowerment, that’s suggestive not only of the kind of messy, unintended way that patriarchy normally focuses the discussion, but of something more reasonably compared to, for want of a more precise term, a conspiracy. I’m suddenly very interested to know what kind of editorial safeguards exist at a number of these publications.

        • Meghan Murphy

          So right. There’s something more complex happening. That said, I mean, if a publication is partnering with PornHub, it’s likely that PornHub is compensating them for this partnership and it’s HIGHLY unlikely that a publication would write anything critical about PornHub or, as I mentioned, take a clear stand against the porn industry if they are being compensated by PornHub/the porn industry, yaknow? I mean, there is a long history of newspapers censoring critiques of their funders/advertisers… Hedges was forced to leave the Times because he was very vocal about his opposition of the Iraq war… There is a certain line you need to toe if you are careerist… This exists in a variety of ways but it all serves the status quo.

          • BenEsler

            Gold, Meghan. Somebody’s thesis, waiting to happen.

          • oneclickboedicea

            Both my parents were uk broadsheet newspaper editors and the fact that advertisers and publishers pay the wages of journalists means there is no free press that is mainstream. Its all propoganda for the totalitarian regime that is capitalism.

  • TheArtistFormerlyKnownAsYoya

    I’m so glad to have found this site. A little bit of sanity here.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Glad you are here!

  • Spark658

    It’s glaringly obvious if you actually understand feminism. It is why FC shines so brightly.

  • melissa

    “It’s also a helpful reminder that, no, you aren’t crazy — that so-called
    feminist media you’re reading that feels male-centered really is…”

    Like others have already said, really fucking glad i found this page. just the sheer misogyny and the relentless reinforcement of it my liberals, conservatives, men and women everywhere you look was honestly making me feel like i was loosing my mind. thnk u!:)

    • Meghan Murphy

      It’s like mass gaslighting…

      • oneclickboedicea

        This is how the nazis got the german people to accept the conditions that led to the holocaust. Mainstream people think like sheep, unquestioning, do as the media tells them, enmeshed in hatred through the internet. Zombie nation.

  • northernTNT

    Bloody mind boggling. thank you

  • Karla Gjini

    thank you Meghan + Feminist Current

  • Independent Radical

    The fact that liberal feminist media is controlled by biological males is less worrying to me than the fact that it is controlled by the capitalist system. You could swap the people at the head of these companies for women and the result would still be the same. These liberal sources would either obey the logical of capitalism (which involves making deals with the sex industry, the mainstream media, the beauty industry and other acknowledged enemies of feminism) or go under. It is the system that is the problem, not the genitals or moral character of those at the top (though the fact that the system works this way means that those with a total lack of moral character end up at the top and such people are more likely to have been indoctrinated into masculinity as a result of being born with male genitals).

    None of this is in any way surprising to those who have a radical approach to the world. This is yet another example of the phenomenon Noam Chomsky talked about in which capitalist interests limit what can be said in the mainstream media to meaningless “debates”, in this case other whether people should call themselves “feminist” (who gives a damn what label people decide to use if they are going to take basically the same stances with regard to the sex industry, masculinity, femininity, etc.) and what constitutes “good” pornography/masculinity.

    • Meghan Murphy

      “None of this is in any way surprising to those who have a radical approach to the world. This is yet another example of the phenomenon Noam Chomsky talked about in which capitalist interests limit what can be said in the mainstream media to meaningless “debates”, in this case other whether people should call themselves “feminist” (who gives a damn what label people decide to use if they are going to take basically the same stances with regard to the sex industry, masculinity, femininity, etc.) and what constitutes “good” pornography/masculinity.”

      YES. Thank you.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Glad you found us!

  • Meghan Murphy

    Thank you for being here, sister!

  • Meghan Murphy


  • Refael Fishzon

    The obvious thing, I think, is how acceptable it is. The commercial level I think is less obvious, although you can cut it from there.

  • Tinfoil the Hat

    That’s because you’re a dude, dude. It’s a luxury not to consider thespecific toxicity of corporate, male ownership of ostensibly feminist publications.”


    • BenEsler

      Perhaps! I suspect many women also haven’t considered it, however. This could also be because I’m a dude.

  • anne

    Yes, we are on the same page Ben. But it’s always good to lay out the argument so people who aren’t familiar with the issues can see how it can work better.

    • BenEsler

      My bad!

      • anne

        No worries 🙂

  • Mellie

    This makes sense. Reminds me when it was discovered that femen was started by a man.

  • anne

    I don’t know who owns Everyday Feminism, I followed them on facebook, and while I’m 100% pro-intersectionality, I got fed up with trans-women screaming ‘cissexism!’ every time words ‘woman’ and ‘vagina’ were mentioned in the same sentence. I’m all for trans women having equal rights as not just women but men as well (the whole point of feminism) but I have reservations about the aggressive bullying and the whole ‘terf’ dismissal of valid points that question some of their attitudes towards biological women. Personally, I felt that EF staff was amazing and intelligent but too young and inexperienced to manage some of the issues within that community.

  • corvid

    This is brilliant. Thank you Meghan, thank you FC, and thank the universe for this modest oasis of sanity in a desert of bullshit.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Thanks for being here!

  • BenEsler

    Meghan, on topic, see here: http://jezebel.com/former-president-jimmy-carter-wrote-a-bad-editorial-abo-1779833741

    Nothing would make me happier than to see you pen an official response to this kind of thing.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Ooooooooh fuck off Jezebel!!!!

      • BenEsler

        The comments are surprisingly non awful, for the most part, which lends some anecdotal credence to what you are saying: it’s not the culture of feminism, or of individual feminists, so much as it’s the culture within feminist media, which has a patriarchal conflict of interest. Even those who disagree with Carter seem largely to take his point and to be dismissive of the author’s derisive attitude to his concerns. If the Jez commenters had better information about the consequences of legalisation (in other words, if Jez were doing their job as journalists) then I suspect many of them would be on the right side of this issue.

  • TalyEmmanuela

    Apparently it is owned by a women and with her curriculum it is very surprising that they are so liberal.. http://everydayfeminism.com/about-ef/founder/

    • Meghan Murphy
      • Refael Fishzon

        So basically, the foundrer has a consulting firm or something with courses for “self-love”, and the website is a promoter?
        Well, I don’t know. Surfing Twitter is agonizing, but I’ll be sure to check all of the discussion. Also, I think it’s too easy to dismiss all liberal feminists as sold-out money-hungry people, but sometimes it’s hard considering this is one of their ideological tennats (see South Park video). I think this critique is good, but there needs to be more focus on these men, who rarely emurge to the public eye from their neo-liberal, capitalist lair. Perhaps you just couldn’t share their images as in the article for copyright enfringment or such.

  • Just Me

    Geez. I had no idea. Stellar reporting Meghan. I visit Jezebel from time to time and while I have read some good pieces over there, there was always something off to me about some of the pieces too.

    • genny

      Not only are their articles “off” (i.e. liberal as fuck), they are shameless in their censorship. I was banned from commenting on Jezebel and XOJane simply for expressing a radfem opinion. They are the enemy of women and feminists alike.

  • Who ru[i]n the world ? dudes !

  • BenEsler

    Oh, thank you, lesbear. 🙂

  • anne

    I expressed myself badly, thank you for pointing it out. I do not think that the ‘wohle point of feminism is to protect males’ heavens forbid, I was referring to the concept of equal rights, which central to feminism, but ugly male-centred socialisation, combined with EF gaslighting catch phrases, came out instead. What I meant to say is that feminism for me is an essential way of thinking and seeing the world, where people of both sexes aren’t held to artficial standards of gender. As a feminist, I am primarily interested in ending sex-based oppression, but I am aware that without more generalised approach, which deals with negative effects of gender on men and boys, male violence is unlikely to be stopped. In that sense, I am supportive of men and male to trans individuals, and I try to acknowledge their issues within gender binary, but I’m sure I’m also simply programmed to do it, so I do struggle to draw the line. I see why EF is so successful. Difficult concepts that require careful consideration and precise expression are easily dealt with by lumping them under catch phrases, that actually work against the feminist agenda, in their inevitable male-centredness. Sorry for my late reply, I’m in the middle of finishing a novel, and have not been on line much. All the best!

  • Meghan Murphy