News unnecessarily modified for women

Sara Blair Matthews

Opinions Editor

It’s no secret that we live in an impatient society. Many of us want our news now, get frustrated when our favorite bloggers don’t update daily, and would rather scan a lengthy article than take the time to read it carefully. I recently found out about a website called theSkimm that encompasses all these things, as it embraces our society’s short attention span rather than criticizes it. Even though this site is clever and useful, it’s clearly marketed to women, and presents news to them in a somewhat patronizing way.

According to its website, theSkimm is “a daily newsletter that simplifies the headlines for the educated professional who knows enough to know she needs more.” Basically, this is an operation that does all the heavy lifting for you. The two women who started the company peruse the news headlines during the weekdays and take shifts sleeping in an effort to stay up-to-date on the latest stories.

While I find this newsletter helpful, convenient, and easy to read, I can’t help but think that it’s a little patronizing. Although it is operated by and geared toward women, it seems like they are discounting women’s ability to check facts and read articles from multiple sources to get the full story.

At times, it also feels like theSkimm is contributing topics that they believe best relate to women (i.e. briefs on fashion, relationships, and picking a husband). For instance, one of the recent news briefs stated, “When your date has performance issues: if you’re stressed about your small testicles, don’t be … men with smaller testicles tend to be more nurturing fathers.” I understand why they want a mix of serious and light-hearted news, but I don’t like how they choose predictable, stereotyped topics for their target audience.

Also, I understand that there are a lot of women who do not enjoy talking about politics and have little inclination to peruse multiple news sites for breaking stories. What I take issue with is that this site is seen as cute and clever for women, but I’m sure if a man read it, he would be deemed ignorant and lazy.

When women are ignorant about important political issues, society seems to find it endearing and also somewhat expected. We live in a culture where women are often led to seek education from others on political topics and current events, rather than teach themselves these facts. When a woman does not know about the specifics of say, the war in Iraq or the debate about Syria, oftentimes it is assumed that she can ask her husband or father, and he will tell her a watered-down version of the events.

Clearly, men and women are not held to the same standards for being informed about public matters, and newsletters like theSkimm, although convenient, are not helping. With informal news headings like “why are chemical weapons such a big deal” and “what to say at a buffet,” the site replaces the serious tone of these stories with “savvy girl” vernacular. In an effort to appeal to current, busy women, theSkimm is changing the tone of the stories and lightening them, both emotionally and quantitatively, for an audience that they believe does not want to read more than 50 words per story. The women who run this site are likely unaware that they are perpetuating gender stereotypes because lightening stories for women is a tried and true standby. As women, we should be urging each other to push gender barriers and show up to discussions well-informed. Then we will start to see a change.

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