The daily wife

Fairfax launched Daily Life this morning, their new site for the laydeez, and my goodness it’s insulting. Fashion, beauty, celebrities, handbags, and please kill me now. (The headline for this post comes from the mocking hashtag on twitter, #dailywife. The term reduces women to being nothing more than wives who like to shop, which is an appropriate way to describe what Fairfax has done.)

Editor Sarah Oakes calls it “A smart and irreverent take on the news designed specifically for women”.

I call it belittling nonsense that reduces women’s interests to shopping and famous people.

As @kirstenalex tweeted:

I hope it’s a joke. Otherwise #dailywife is the most patronising, marginalising thing i’ve seen in ages. I’ll keep reading the grownups news.

Scrolling down the homepage, after the main image (a rotating series of opinion pieces by some good writers) are sections on fashion, beauty, people, entertainment. Yep. That’s apparently the “smart and irreverent take on the news designed specifically for women”. I’m still looking for the news that gets this “smart and irreverent take”.

There is one newsy thing. But what does Daily Life have to offer the public discussion about Rupert Murdoch, phone-hacking and the Leveson inquiry? Can a baby solve a PR crisis? With obligatory references to Madonna’s arms being “scary” and Angelina Jolie being a “home-wrecker”. Anyone still want to call this “smart and irreverent”?

Sure, there is room for stories like these. But they shouldn’t be the only stories. Particularly on launch day when you need to show people what they can expect. And if all they can expect are stories on fashion and famous people, then fuck off with calling it a “smart and irreverent take on the news”. Be honest about the fact that you think women aren’t interested in serious things. Or that serious things can’t be written about in interesting ways.

And there’s this:

Daily Life handbags feature

People don't respect your authority at work? Then buy a stupid handbag and suddenly they'll take you seriously. Seriously.

Handbags express power, really? What, am I supposed to take my handbag to meetings, stupidly hanging from the crook of my arm, so that colleagues know I have power? Give me a break. A “smart, irreverent” way to feature handbags from advertisers would be to just say, “These are handbags. You might like them. But we’re not going to spin you bullshit about how a handbag that you leave under your desk all day is going to improve your job prospects. It’s just a handbag. You put stuff in it”.

Now, @rachelhills raised a good point on twitter about my criticism of the site:

@newswithnipples @clementine_ford shits me how anything pertaining to women or the personal sphere is dismissed as “fluff”.

It shits me that anything aimed at women becomes about celebrities and shopping. I’m not dismissing stories about women as “fluff”. I am dismissing the idea that women are only interested in this stuff. I don’t know what percentage of Fairfax’s audience are vagina owners, but it’s insulting to tell us that “our news” is only fashion and famous people and that it needs to be cordoned off into a special section so that men – real readers – don’t have to see it.

Fairfax had a great opportunity to create an interesting, smart site that combined personal and professional, but instead, decided that women couldn’t possibly be interested in good journalism about politics or finance or world news or domestic news and oh look, shiny new handbag.

53 responses to “The daily wife

  1. Shit. There’s my problem – my oxfam handbag.
    Excuse me, I have to take a break to go grab an Oroton (wait… I have one. It still didn’t get me a better job!)

  2. I don’t see how ‘being interested in famous people’ is intrinsically ‘pertaining to women’. I know as many women bored with celebrity culture as men, I think, and dirtying this new site with celebrity clickbait is just disappointing, self-perpetuating cynicism.

  3. You see, this is what makes it as important as ever for journalists like you out there to keep holding the media to account, and sharing the *other* (ahem, interesting, provoking, enriching) kinds of stories… The platform is clearly changing, and I just hope more and more people better understand the other options for quality writing out there. Keep it up, please for all our sakes.
    (Wanting to say something about going to hell in a handbag… trying desperately to resist…)

  4. Oi. I read one of their articles. I think that’s now why I have the weird urge to puke a little. SO SO glad that they are literally telling me (see the Rebekah Brooks article) that if I have a baby I can get away with hacking a murdered girl’s mobile phone message bank. Phew. Was scared there for a minute that we’d progressed enough that having a vagina didn’t automatically guarantee you were stereotyped as a baby-clutching softie.

  5. The implication that women cannot write about serious news and that even if they could, women don’t want to read it, is pretty fucking insulting.

  6. I just went and had a quick browse of the site.

    I think the problem isn’t so much the content, it’s the main page and the way it screams “Glossy women’s gossip rag”. On closer inspection, there does seem to be some actual content.

    My two bug bears with the site is a) the main page infantilises the content and b) I don’t understand why we need a special “women’s news site”. Why can’t all that content be featured in with the regular news? It seems to set up the women who contribute as not real journalists or writers. In much the same way that authors of Chick Lit are seen as inferior to authors of literature, or that Mummy bloggers are inferior to all other bloggers.

    Otherwise, whilst there is still room for improvement with the actual content, I don’t think it’s too bad overall. Could have been worse.

    • I think you’re spot on about the homepage and why Fairfax needs to put content for women in a special corner.

      • Separate but equal?

        • Oh and kind of like Salon.com’s Broadsheet but much worse?

          • I didn’t read Broadsheet so I can’t comment on that. But I do have a problem with this idea that women are a niche market. We’re more than half the population, for fuck’s sake.

            Twitter put me on to this great post by Jessica Valenti: You want more women readers? Get more women writers: on the main page, in the opinion section, writing about more than “women’s” issues.

            Valenti quotes Ann Friedman: When publishers create separate sites dedicated to women or to black people, they are signaling that they don’t see a need to have their main site serve these people as core readers. They are, in essence, saying, “We want the ad revenue associated with your readership, but we don’t create our homepage with you in mind.”

            • It is so offensive. Aargh.
              While the NZ Herald is kind of crappy new reporting wise at least its “lifestyle” supplements are aimed at all readers based on their interests, not their gender!

            • Yes. That disturbs me also.(And I read that post by Valenti earlier and agree with her for the most part.) Which is what I was saying in my above comment. There is no reason why the content at Daily Life couldn’t be part of the regular main news stream.

              There are two schools of thought one could attribute to this. Firstly being a subtle attempt to undermine contributors to the site as faux journalists and non-writers. (Because they weren’t good enough to get a paid gig on the main site. So we put them on the B team to boost morale. Aw, it’s so cute, the pretty girls want to play with the big boys? Never mind, have a cookie and go write your pieces over there.)

              The other option, could be that someone genuinely thought that a dedicated space just for women was a lovely and wonderful thing, a way to collate and collect a smorgasbord of fabulous female derived content in the one place.

              Which would be all good and well, but a place like that should be all inclusive and I see no content for gay women, for trans women, for disabled women, for women of colour. In which case, it’s tokenistic at best. One can only hope that the women paid to write there will be brave enough to be revolutionary, and have an editorial staff brave enough to let it ride.

              • What Pirra said. I would try and say something intelligent, but I have started a Grad. Dip. IT after not having used my brain for some years and my brain is entirely stuffed full of Information Systems, Database Design, binary, HTML and all the other stuff I have successfully avoided learning about for…well…ever.

              • I’d like to add a third option: luxury goods advertising. Which gets back to Ann Friedman’s point about wanting the money, but not the content.

                Daily Life could work. Apart from the shit name. But they should have launched with a bang, with a range of articles on all sorts of topics, instead of the same ol’ same ol’ they went with, that reduces women’s interests to shopping and celebrities.

                It comes back to the problem faced by mainstream news: in all the meetings about how to get more readers, no one is questioning if there’s a problem with what’s being offered.

            • I don’t like it either. Women are not some subset of the human race. In this context, we’re not a special interest group.

              Also, is it just me or is the text accompanying that “Accessories” image the worst edited piece of copy ever? It’s been a long day and I’m tired, but I swear that sentence reads like a chimpanzee edited it.

  7. Cranky Aunty Lou

    There’s definitely a place for celebrity-and-handbag talk, but in launching a supplement for women, who are half the population, why not focus on representation in the politics and business, childcare, health ( and not just weight-loss and beauty)? How about equal pay? The situation of women in poverty? How about the representation of women in the media and how it cheapens and infantilizes women?

    • Exactly. The homepage on launch day should have been filled with a mix of serious and fun, since it’s supposedly “smart and irreverent”. Cranky Aunty Lou, welcome to the News with Nipples.

  8. The worst part is that there are some genuinely interesting, thought-provoking pieces under the ‘News and Views’ tab that wouldn’t be out of place in any other intelligent news resources (on a side note, I miss the ‘old’ Fairfax…)

  9. I just don’t get the premise of this criticism – it is implicit in your argument that Fairfax is saying women should not read The Age/SMH etc. and instead go directly to Daily Life and only rely on that for news. As if the sports section was created for men, they shouldn’t bother looking anywhere else. And artsy types should only read Spectrum, they’re not interested in mainstream news either. Daily Life is a supplement to, not a replacement of, the news. You’ve jumped too quickly to a conclusion. I don’t see how a respectful forum like this for any group (women or otherwise) is a bad thing, given the amount of troll out there on the internet these days, even if it is not done precisely the way you would have advised.

    • The problem is that instead of doing something smart – and there are some good writers working for Daily Life, they just get lost in the fluff – Fairfax went for safe, boring, and ultimately insulting. It is neither smart nor irreverent, as the editor claims it is, but presents women as only interested in celebrities and fashion. That is not respectful at all.

    • Pete: You say that “Daily Life” is a supplement to, not a replacement of, the news”. That’s nice Pete, but it’s not what the site itself says. “Daily Life is the best online source of news and lifestyle content for busy Australian women.” http://www.dailylife.com.au/about_us.html

      As for your comparison with the sports section, this only shows that you’ve completely accepted the validity of the toxic gender stereotypes on which garbage like the Daily Life rely. Why _should_ the sports section be created for men? Do you think it’s helpful for a massive publisher to reinforce the gender role that sport is for men and not for women? Do you really think that’s a good thing? How do you think this makes women who like sport feel? How do you think this makes men who don’t like sport feel? Do you even care?

      As applied to the Daily Life: Why _should_ a massive publisher be reinforcing the gender role that women should concern themselves not with actual news but with celebrity gossip and handbags? Do you think this is a good idea? Do you think it’s good to imply that the stories that appear on this frontpage – http://www.aljazeera.com/ – are not something that women are or should be interested in?

      The fact that you think that the Daily Life is “a respectful forum” for women as a group shows that you simply don’t get it. It is about as respectful as saying “Look ladies, we’ve designed some literature just for you!” and giving them make-up pamphlets with big pink letters and no words with more than two syllables. How can you not get this.

      • Yes, that’s my concern too – that Daily Life is not presented as a supplement, but as the place where “busy women” can get their news.

        Iblys, welcome to the News with Nipples.

      • Iblys, that’s nice, but I won’t try to insult you with patronising language. I know it’s easy to get insulting online, but please keep the tone respectful.
        What I was specifically saying about the sport section is precisely the same point you have made – men can take it or leave it.
        Yep, there are some pretty shocking stories to be seen on Al Jazeera. Looking on the (online) front page of the SMH there was nothing on Syria. However Daily Life had a really interesting article on Asma Al-Assad on its front page. I haven’t seen an article like that in any other Australian mainstream press.
        There are no big pink letters, and plenty of the words have several syllables, don’t reduce the debate to lies.
        I realise that this site may not have been made exactly to your liking, but that are other women who would enjoy it. I actually think it’s sexist to assume that women who are into fashion have no brains; this site blends these two categories actually. The conclusion that women are “only interested in fashion and celebrities” is actually the conclusion of this site, not of Daily Life.

        • Pete, the site is presenting itself as an interesting place for women to get their news, and yet the majority of stories are about fashion and celebrity. We are not jumping to any conclusions when we say that.

          Also, no one has said that women who are into fashion have no brains. What we have said is that Daily Life ONLY offers fashion and celebrity. If you read my post you’d see that I say there is room for these articles, but it’s disappointing that these are the only articles. Sure, there are a few other things if you dig around – and you do have to dig to find them – but the vast majority of articles are about fashion and celebrity. And there have been quite a few high profile articles on Asma Al-Assad lately, so it’s not new for Daily Life to run this one.

          No one has said that there aren’t women who will enjoy Daily Life. We have been expressing our disappointment that the range of articles on offer is so narrow. That the view at Fairfax about what “smart” women are interested in is so narrow.

        • “but that are other women who would enjoy it”

          Great goddesses, Pete. We ARE the readers that the site has in mind, and WE are saying it’s insulting and problematic. Don’t dismiss the views of the actual target readers, who are right here in front of you, in favour of invoking the imagined views of imagined “other” readers, in order to make an argument. What it sounds like is that you are trying to defend, and therefore support, the sexist ideology underlying the content of the site.

          • Linda, I really mean this in the least insulting possible way, but surely my gender doesn’t exclude me from this debate? Do I have to remove my signatures from 2 online petitions I signed last week – one in support of indigenous recognition in the Australian constitution, the other against the violence in Syria – because I am neither indigenous nor Syrian?

            Newswithnipples – I would agree with you entirely if it wasn’t for the fact that there weren’t so many great, smart (at least by my standards) articles. Seriously – did you read Jacqueline Maley’s article on “Women at War”? Find me a mainstream news agency in Australia that publishes this apart from fairfax. It definitely fulfills the ‘smart and irreverent category’ you think is so lacking (there are plenty more examples). Really, just give it a chance, I honestly think that this site isn’t as catastrophic for women as the hyperbolic article above portrays it to be. The site isn’t only about fashion and celebrity as you say (do check out the celebrity bomb photos though, they’re pretty funny), there’s so much more. As I inferred in my last post, women who are into fashion aren’t necessarily dumb. To assume so much is in itself sexist.

            • Pete, I think the point Linda is making is that we are their target audience and so therefore our opinion does carry more weight than the opinion of someone who is not the target audience. And I have to agree. I don’t read the business section, so it doesn’t really matter what I think of it.

              Your point about those two petitions doesn’t actually work here, unless there was a group of Indigenous Australians objecting to constitutional recognition. See what I mean? It comes across as believing that your opinion is worth more than the opinions of the people who are affected by the issue.

              I’m not sure where you’re going with that point about Maley’s article. Are you saying that because Fairfax published a good article by a female writer, they don’t have to bother with the content they serve up every day? And you keep making that point about women who are interested in fashion not being dumb, but you are the only one bringing up that stereotype. No one else here is talking about that. I’ll say it once more: a lot of women are not objecting to the site because of the fashion and celebrity content, but because that’s almost the only content. But thank you for dismissing my opinion as hyperbole.

              Rather than be a passive consumer, I will continue to push for a greater range of articles in the mainstream media, particularly in those sections that are aimed at women.

            • Pete, I realise that is a rhetorical question, but my answer to it is NO! However, if an Aboriginal person comes up to you and says “Hey bro, what you’re saying for us is wrong and not representative of what we believe – please listen to us and allow our perspectives to inform your understandings” then you absolutely DO have to take a step back and consider whether your help is good help. Your commentary is meaningless if you think you know better than the people you presume to speak for.

              • Absolutely – and on a similar note I’d have to say then that this site and some of its commentators should not purport to speak for all women. Because some women really like this site and think it’s a great thing to have. I realise Daily Life may not have been done the way the editor and many of the readers here would have set out, but this idea that the site is “insulting” and portrays women as nothing more than housewives who like shopping is in itself an insult (and a sexist insult) to some of the great writers (most of whom are women) on it. These writers constantly have to deal with the trolling/hate mail and judgements cast upon them, and many of those judgements are sexist. It’s a real shame that this site – with its mockery of all the pink letters and monosyllabic words and chimpanzees who edit the site (there are plenty more such uneccessarily nasty comments above) – would become a forum for that too. It doesn’t have to be on your bookmarks page, you don’t ever have to visit it, stick to whatever other sites out there you prefer, but give them a break, it’s usually the Alan Joneses and Tony Abbotts of the world that left leaning female journalists have to fend off.

                • Pete, again with telling us what to think. I’m getting pretty sick of it. You’re clearly not listening to A THING anyone has said, and instead continue to talk about chimpanzees and other such nonsense that no one else is talking about.

                  So I will say it again, shouting, THE PROBLEM IS THE LIMITED RANGE OF STORIES ON THE SITE. Every single comment you have left here has been accusing people who dislike THE LIMITED RANGE OF STORIES ON THE SITE of being sexist, instead of responding to the criticism that THERE IS A LIMITED RANGE OF STORIES ON THE SITE. Want me to say that again? WE ARE CRITICISING THE LIMITED RANGE OF STORIES ON THE SITE.

                  Also, why the fuck do you care? It’s pretty obvious that you’re somehow connected to the site. Unless your next comment deals with ANY of the points we have made, it won’t be published.

                • Pete: Literally everything you say rests on the assumption that The Daily Life is just a site where women can come to talk about things which interest them. (This is why you [correctly] say that there’s nothing wrong with women being interested in fashion or shopping.) The problem which I addressed in my very first post – and which you still haven’t responded to – is that The Daily Life positions itself as News For Women. News, Pete. Not “a fun site which includes some stuff that women might find interesting”. NEWS. FOR. WOMEN.

                  The idea that we can have a general kind of news which includes political analysis and science report, but then need to have a “Women’s News” which concerns fashion and shopping is fundamentally insulting and toxic and nothing you’ve said changes any of that. It doesn’t matter that some women like fashion and shopping. But it’s a big problem when this stuff is rebadged as “the kind of NEWS that women should be presented with”.

                • One more thing, Pete. No one here is saying that the site “portrays women as nothing more than housewives who like shopping”. That’s not what the site does. Instead, the Daily Life assumes, without question, that the current gender roles are valid. It sees nothing wrong with saying “women, oh I know all about women, they’re into handbags and fashion and celebrity gossip – not hard hitting journalism and political discourse”.

                  This is toxic not just for women, but for everyone. It’s toxic because it sets up men who like fashion and celebrity gossip as “freaks”. It also sets up women who don’t like fashion and celebrity gossip as “freaks”. It’s normative. Whenever you say “women are like X”, this translates to “NORMAL women are like X”, which implies “women who aren’t like X are not normal”. This shit is literally the cause of untold bullying and marginalisation. I am sorry that you seem not to find anything wrong with it on the basis that “Hey, some women ARE like X”. It is a fairly stellar example of “missing the fucking point.”

                • Have you heard the term “concern trolling”, Pete?

  10. Not as bad as I thought it would be – at least it’s not pink. Stuff about how we’re tougher on female leaders, and how women aren’t allowed to be angry, that’s heading in the right direction, although those types of articles that gently hint about gender bias also appear in manstream news.

    There would be nothing wrong with it being a women’s site if it actually focuses on real issues like violence, poverty and sex discrimination. Including celebrity gossip is a terrible idea, not just because to do so is to assume that women don’t like reading real news (the vibrance of the feminist blogosphere shows that we absolutely DO read serious stuff quite willingly and without the lure of pretty shiny objects), but because “celebrity gosssip” is itself code for misogyny and a powerful agent of male hegemony.

  11. I didn’t realise news was gender specific. What makes news male or female?? Are stories about guns and puppy dog tails boy stories perhaps.

    Sorry the whole concept of ‘women’s news’ is silly. news is news.

  12. Australian women’s magazines used to be full of political news and discussion. Oh, how they changed.

    What’s the bet the Daily Wife was originally pitched as a feminist section, based on the notion that women may have different views and needs that may not be addressed by men; and Mr.News Owner just couldn’t bring himself to give it the stamp of approval without content enforcing gender roles.

    re: Rachel Hills’ criticism. The Feminist Finger of Blame doesn’t get all pointy at articles discussing anything pertaining to women or the personal sphere: it’s the articles enforcing misogynist gender roles that make us cross.

  13. Pingback: Feminist News Round-up 26.02.12 | Lip Magazine

  14. Pingback: The conversations women have | the news with nipples

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