As Alternative Media Outlets Become Increasingly Rare, the Feminist Majority Foundation Buysms. Magazine: A Roundtable On Women, War, Independent Media and Protest

StoryDecember 11, 2001
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On a December 4 broadcast of the NBC Nightly News, firefighter Lieutenant Brenda Bergman described risking her lifeto save others. Although her story was similar to hundreds of tales we’ve heard from New York firefighters, Bergman’sexperience sounded unfamiliar when told in a woman’s voice.

Perhaps that’s because it took nearly three months for NBC to discover that women rescue workers have toiled 24-7 atground zero every day since the attacks. “The fact that the faces of women haven’t been in the news or … in themedia is not reflective of reality,” Bergman told NBC.

Nor is reality reflected on the networks’ political debate shows or news stories, which frame and influence thepublic debate. According to a study released last week by the White House Project, a nonpartisan women’s leadershipgroup, women were just 11 percent of guests on five Sunday morning talk shows on ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN and FOX betweenJanuary 2000 and June 2001.

It is this void that the feminist media fills. But in the last three months, women’s and feminist magazines have beensuffering. Both MODE magazine and Mademoiselle have ceased publication., a commercialwomen’s site that had some progressive feminist news content, just went under. And Sojourner: The Women’sForum, the country’s oldest consistently publishing feminist newspaper, has had to reduce from two sections (anews section and an arts section) to just one slim section. They’ve been fighting for their financial survival foryears, and it has only gotten more difficult in recent months.

When the preview issue of Ms. appeared tucked inside New York magazine in December 1971-carryingarticles on subjects such as the housewife’s moment of truth and “de-sexing” the English language-the syndicated_New York Times_ columnist James J. Kilpatrick jeered that it was a “C-sharp on an untuned piano. This is a noteof petulance, of bitchiness, or nervous fingernails screeching across a blackboard.” And after the first regularissue came out in July, the network news anchor Harry Reasoner announced to America, “I’ll give it six months beforethey run out of things to say.”

At the time, the fledgling feminist movement was either denigrated or dismissed in the mainstream media -if it wastalked about at all. But the issue flew off the newsstands, and Ms. Magazine came to symbolize the women’smovement of the seventies. And as the movement changed, so did the magazine, battling for its independence for thirtyyears. Unique, outspoken, and hard-hitting, Ms. has consistently faced financial instability and advertiserresistance. In its last incarnation, a group of feminist investors started a women’s media company that ran_Ms._ The newly women-owned Ms., which has been ad-free since 1990, was relaunched in 1999. That sameyear the company successfully launched the Ms. website, and in October 2000 held the magazine’s first majorconference. Several weeks ago, Ms. announced that the Feminist Majority Foundation had bought the magazine.


  • Gloria Steinem, co-founder of Ms. Magazine, feminist and writer.
  • Ellie Smeal, co-founder and president of the Feminist Majority Foundation.
  • Jen Pozner, former women’s desk director at Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), writes and lectureson women in the media.
  • Lisa Maya-Jervis, editor of Bitch magazine, a magazine devoted to portraying a “feminist responseto pop culture.”

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In Islamabad yesterday, hundreds of women took to the streets to demonstrate for the Revolutionary Association of theWomen of Afghanistan (RAWA). At least two busloads of people from Peshawar were stopped and prevented from driving toIslamabad, so they held a mini-demonstration in Peshawar instead. The demonstrators were almost outnumbered by policewho restricted the rally to one area outside the UN.

And in Los Angeles, RAWA supporters held a solidarity demonstration with immigrants in the US and with the courageousAfghan women of RAWA, protesting the disappearance- style detentions and racial profiling non-US citizens are beingsubjected to, and the open discussion of legalized use of torture in interrogations and secret military tribunals totry non-US national suspected of terrorism.


  • Sonali Kolhathar, Afghan Women’s Mission.

Related links:

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