Remind me again, which bits of the news am I supposed to read?

So we’ve finally started talking about how many of us don’t like Page 3, what with it marginalising women in general and female consumers of news media in particular. Great. Good for us. And while we’ve been busy doing that, the Telegraph has sneaked in and revamped the “women’s area” on its website. Called – I kid you not – Wonder Women, it claims to be “a new daily online section filled with sassy, irreverent and intelligent content about politics, business, family, life and sex”. To demonstrate the sass quotient, we get a series of headshots showing smiley, preened, young-ish female commentators, all of them vaguely reminiscent of The Day Today‘s Collaterlie Sisters. Wonderful. As a woman I just can’t handle my politics without that added bit of sass.

Now, I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but I can’t help asking – just what the hell is all this about? How is it that, five years after children stopped being fobbed off with the eternal disappointment that was the Funday Times, women are still being treated to their own special ladies’ section of the news? This isn’t just the Telegraph – look even further to the right and you have the hate-filled shite-fest that is Femail. Turn left and you have the Guardian Women section which, however worthy, is still buried away in the Life And Style part of the website.* Am I alone in finding this strangely archaic, not to mention totally crap?

Remind me again why we women need these “special” news sections. Is it an extra bonus for us, a special treat for after we’ve been good and ploughed through all the hard, taxing bits of the news? Or is it essentially all we’re meant to be looking at, “our news”, a distillation of all that’s meant to matter to us. As for everything else – main news, sport, finance, culture – well, all of that is for the the real, non-specialised readership, the default people, the men.

I do not wish to suggest that all those boring things we wryly term “women’s interest” should not ever feature in newspapers or on news websites. Hell, if a new make of car or someone kicking a ball into the back of a net constitutes “news”, I don’t see why BB cream vs the latest new breed of foundation shouldn’t. The trouble is, I don’t really wish to be told that this is my “news”. Men might flick straight to the football section, but there’s no heading alerting them to the fact that this is “their bit”. I guess if there was you’d have to conclude that no one read the actual news reports, and that’s clearly untrue – some reports are so straightforward, even a woman could grasp them!

Of course, newspaper women’s sections aren’t all about makeup and cupcakes. Some bits are, and those I propose moving to a new section called “frivolous crap you might want to read in the bath, providing you’re willing to risk making the paper soggy and getting newsprint everywhere / dropping your iPad into the water”. This section would be non-gender specific, for frivolous crap should be for everyone. As for the rest, well, we’d have to split it up / rebrand it in ways which are more newspaper-specific.

For Femail, you might as well just change the name to “people we hate for random cosmetic reasons” (to differentiate it from the main section of Mail, “people we hate for obvious, out-and-out bigoted reasons”). As for the Wonder Women, pretty much all of the articles could be subsumed into the normal Telegraph albeit with a massive disclaimer at the start of each (“Beware! The author of this piece was not a man! But don’t worry – she’s not feminist or anything! Trust us, we’ve even called our business blogger Board Babe!”). To be honest, despite all the fanfare, I don’t believe the creators of Wonder Women would even mind. If you read between the lines of their snippy, anti-feminist introduction, you can tell that even they are mortified by the site’s very existence. As for the Guardian, well, let’s not be too harsh. For sure, gender issues and equality sit uncomfortably beside homes, gardens and celebrity. I wouldn’t mind moving some of it to a brand new section just called Fucking Important Stuff About People Being People. Or perhaps, more realistically, Come On, Men’s Rights Trolls! We’re Right Here Waiting! (The rest I’d leave for Hannah Betts to sort through and categorise. I just can’t be arsed.)

In case all of this sounds irrelevant given that there are “more important things to worry about” – Neil Wallis, I’m looking at you – I would like to make it clear that I have performed all of my “real woman” duties for the day. The kids are fed, bathed and in bed and it was a choice between writing this, doing some knitting or watching CSI. At no point was I going to head out in my silken tights, fighting for my rights, so no loss there. Even so, I believe there is some validity in just not wanting there to be specially demarcated woman-y sections of the news – is that really so much to ask?

* Guardian Woman even got booted off the main menu over the Christmas period to make way for a “festive” section. Fashion, you’ll be pleased to know, got to stay.

26 thoughts on “Remind me again, which bits of the news am I supposed to read?

  1. Why are there separate women’s sections? Simple. Because most women are interested in different things to most men. Women don’t want to read about politics and business and cars, while men don’t want to read about shoe fashions, cranberries being the hot new cure for cellulite, crystals curing cancer, and the insights astrology can give you into the likely success (or otherwise) of (a) your marriage, and (b) your career.

    Mike Buchanan
    ANTI-FEMINISM LEAGUE
    http://fightingfeminism.wordpress.com

    1. Actually, Mike, this woman only reads the Science, Tech and Health news. That’s because I have my own interests, just like every other *person*

      1. The idea that we are all individuals who have our own interests seems to be incredibly frightening to Mike.

    2. Many thanks, Mike.

      > “Women don’t want to read about politics and business and cars”

      Yes, that is genuinely something that a genuine person genuinely typed. And, presumably, genuinely believes.

      1. Adam, it’s genuinely gallant of you to help the ladies out here. It’s kinda, like, chivalrous… oh hold on, isn’t chivalry ‘benevolent sexism’? Oops, you’re a bad man! Anyway, papers genuinely have sections that men read and women don’t, and sections that women read that men don’t. Can we live with that? I can. I don’t read the pages only of interest to women. Saves so much time.

        MB

  2. I’ve never understood the special sections either, since I read (as does my mother, as did her mother, as did her mother, as did my father’s mother, as did HER mother, unto time immemorial and/or the advent of the printing press) all the same stuff as any man. In fact, I have always had such an insatiable thirst for politics/cars/sports (yeah i totally follow my teams, GO BULLS!!), that I read news from multiple countries, in — depending on what kind of day I’m having — five or sometimes six languages. My brothers generally don’t follow the news quite as closely as I do.

    I hate to direct anything at all at an obvious flamer, but dude: men and women are equally interested in what’s happening in the world, which is to say, some care, some don’t, and some (like me) are perhaps a trifle obsessed. This has absolutely nothing to do with gender.

    1. Oh. OK, Caitlin. So all the money spent on research by major newspapers tells them that men and women are equally interested in the same things? Women are interested in politics, and men interested in shoe fashions? I thought we were talking about planet Earth. My mistake. What planet are we talking about?

      Let’s get real. Let’s look at what women and men spend their money on. Let’s compare the content of ‘women’s interest’ magazines and ‘men’s interest’ magazines. The content is so different, you might conclude we’re talking about different species, not different genders. If you really have an insatiable interest for politics/cars/sports (which I very much doubt) you’re VERY gender-untypical. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but it’s hardly the basis for a broader point about how newspapers present their content. Je reste ma valise.

      MIke B

        1. Sally, classic. A shaming tactic to shut down discussion. Do you have anything substantial or interesting to contribute? Or are we to be treated to just three inspired words?

          MB

      1. Mike, many thanks.

        > “I thought we were talking about planet Earth. My mistake. What planet are we talking about?”

        Does pouring scorn on other people’s comments count as ‘shaming tactics’?

      2. Why yes actually, lots of men ARE interested in fashion. And women ARE interested in politics. Always have been, always will be.

      3. So all the money spent on research by major newspapers tells them that men and women are equally interested in the same things? Women are interested in politics, and men interested in shoe fashions?

        Are you saying you trust the research newspapers do? But you also state earlier that women don’t want to read about politics and business – the first subjects listed by the Telegraph Wonder Women intro …

        1. Caitlin, why did the Telegraph do that? Simple. It says to women ‘We know you’re interested in politics and business’, which women swallow as it boosts their self-esteem, but they won’t READ that content. They’ll head straight for fashion, shoes, handbags, relationship difficulties. The staples. Let’s look at the magazines women freely buy. There’s no politics and business content in them other than the occasional ‘human interest’ story. In 30 years I’ve never seen a woman on the Tube read a ‘current affairs’ periodical – Economist, New Statesman, Spectator. Yeah, I know, you read them all the time. And all the men you know are interested in fashion. Again, what planet do you live on? Most men are gender-typical. Most women are, too. Long may that be the case. To deny it is to seek a grim unisex dystopia.

        2. Most men are gender-typical. Most women are, too. Long may that be the case. To deny it is to seek a grim unisex dystopia.

          In what way is a world that’s more varied than the one you wish to impose “grim” and “unisex”?

    2. To clarify: a world in which everything is seen as determined by gender seems very, very sad and scary and cold to me.

  3. The modern-day newspaper equivalent of the ladies retiring to the drawing room for some post-prandial embroidery- and harpsichord-based frivolity, while the gentlemen remain at the table discussing economics and foreign affairs over port, stilton and cigars.

  4. “…a new daily online section filled with sassy, irreverent and intelligent content about politics, business, family, life and sex.”

    I love how ‘life’ comes after politics, business and family.

    What is ‘life’ in this context anyway? And what’s ‘sex’? Do men have a section on sex? The idea that men ‘think about sex every two minutes’ leads me to think that they’d benefit more from it….or maybe we need to be reminded?

    Boring.

    I’m also concerned that they felt the need to explain that it’s ‘intelligent content’ – not your average ‘shit content’ you usually get from female journalists/writers/bloggers then?

    1. Poetry Divas, thanks. SOMEONE is buying all the magazines in the Women’s Interests sections of our newsagents, stuffed with celeb news, fashion etc. and possibly a little light on politics and business? Could it be… perish the thought… women? Oh, and gay men interested in fashion, obviously.

Comments are closed.