Why is it that the very female intelligentsia that claims to advocates a gender stereotype-free world for the rest of us always reverts to blatant gender stereotype when the going gets tough? Former Ladies Home Journal editor Myrna Blyth has just published a book, Spin Sisters: How the Women of the Media Sell Unhappiness and Liberalism to the Women of America. There the 64-year-old Blyth excoriates an array of female journalists, ranging from big names like Katie Couric and Tina Brown to her fellow editors of women’s magazines for pushing a tired cookie-cutter liberal agenda centered around victimology and self-pity. So what is the reaction to Blyth’s book from said women’s magazine editors, along with the rest of the Feminist Establishment?
You guessed it: the tiredest female gender stereotype of them all, cattiness.
Now, I admit some partisanship here.We at the Independent Women’s Forum are Blyth fans, and we will be sponsoring a book event for her in Washington, D.C., this spring.
But there’s more. I’ve been a fan of the Ladies Home Journal since I was a child addicted to the tears and melodrama of the (still-running!) “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” monthly feature in my mother’s Ladies Home Journal. But my mother subscribed faithfully to the Ladies Home Journal for other reasons. The magazine was a class act, as publishing genius Edward Bok, who got the magazine onto its feet in 1889, intended it to be. The idea (continued, by the way, by the much-maligned Martha Stewart’s empire to this day) was to show middle-class women that upper-class good taste in decorating, food, clothes, and homemaking was not beyond their grasp. The Ladies Home Journal thrived, and my mother kept her subscription going, as long as it stuck to this original vision of Bok’s. The magazine foundered when it became a cookie-cutter copy of other women’s magazines, peddling the same old Spin Sister fixations on sex, diets, hypochondria, and general whininess that seem to be what most editors these days think women readers want. Blyth took over the Ladies Home Journal in 1981 when it was fighting for its life and turned it around. By the time she retired last year at age 64, she had not only succeeded in restoring some of the magazine’s old panache–although she admits that she herself was often a Spin Sister– but founded a successful new magazine, More, aimed at women over 40.
Blyth writes in her book:
“Deep down, most of our Spin Sisters are just good old-fashioned left-wingers, wired for a liberal response to every issue….Do we spend our days worrying whether antiperspirants cause breast cancer or wondering if a long airline ride will cause a fatal blood clot? Or are we just observing today’s favorite media technique to paint women’s lives to women audiences as a picture of accumulated woes?”
So how are the other media feministas reacting to Blyth’s accusations? With good old stereotypical female verbal nastiness–insinuating that Blyth has a warped personality and was an incompetent editor. Even Blyth’s age (fffftt!) comes in for a barb.
Here’s a sample, as reported by David Carr in the New York Times:
“The fact that she is looking back at her career and is so disappointed is sad,” said Kate White, editor in chief of Cosmopolitan. “And the fact that she is dragging other people down with her self-loathing is odd.”
And Ellen Levine editor-in-chief of Good Housekeeping, told Carr: “I think that Myrna has serious Ann Coulter envy, and this is her attempt to create some kind of second act for herself as a conservative commentator.”
Levine had even more mean things to say about Blyth in an interview with Newsweek writer Peg Tyre: “If she knew how to produce a better magazine, she could have done it.”
Tyre further reports:
“Glamour editor Cindi Leive dismisses the book as an ‘an act of arson.’ Others say it’s Blyth’s bid to return to the media spotlight, this time as a right-wing pundit. ‘This is someone over 60,’ says Cosmo editor Kate White, ‘who wants to create a big-enough stir to get on TV.'”
Spin Sisters, your claws are showing.