Three of America’s most controversial women– Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda, and Rosie O’Donnell–just launched an all-women-run radio network, promising to offer programming that’s less polarizing than the typical all-talk AM radio fare.
A women-centered radio network isn’t a bad idea: Lots of successful media outlets specifically target women, from sappy television romances on Lifetime and Oxygen to family-centered morning shows and magazines. The new all-women creation, Greenstone Media, follows a similar model. It endeavors to be entertaining as well as informative, and relate to women’s everyday challenges with family and work. Steinem told Reuters that the network has a “different spirit,” will offer “more community” and show “respect for different points of view,” instead of “constant arguing.”
Online descriptions of the shows sound perfectly girly. The “Radio Ritas” (Greenstone’s morning crew) features “three best friends, who will bring your mornings alive with amazing views, relevant news, life advice, all with their own brand of fun.” The website links to “Corey’s recipes,” including preparations for an Indian summer picnic and directions for “Cheerio Pop-ems,” a healthy alternative to your kids’ favorite Rice Krispie Treats.
There’s something delicious about a feminist icon like Steinem creating such feminine programming when so much of the feminist movement still rejects the idea that men and women are different.
Steinem notes how women are less likely than men to tune in to current political talk shows, but fails to mention how women also tune out another of AM radio’s mainstays: sports talk. She should continue her market research and report back to Title IX policymakers. Acknowledging the obvious– that women are generally less interested in sports than men– might be a first step to reforming the Title IX regime, which has forced colleges to axe men’s teams to even out the number of female and male athletes.
That’s wishful thinking of course: The feminists who toppled Harvard president Larry Summers for speculating that men and women may have different aptitudes and interests are unlikely to recognize that Steinem– and the creation of Greenstone Media– effectively admits the same truth.
Yet while women may have different preference for men when it comes to radio, that doesn’t mean that women are absent from the current radio lineup. Far from an exclusive boys’ club, several prominent female radio talk-show hosts command considerable audiences.
Laura Ingraham, an accomplished lawyer who clerked for Justice Thomas, has become a conservative media powerhouse. Her national syndicated show appears on 340 stations across the country, drawing audiences in the millions. She regularly ranks in the top-five most widely heard radio talk shows.
Laura Schlessinger’s bitingly honest advice show (in which she “preaches, teaches, and nags about morals, values and ethics”) commands an equally large audience. Tammy Bruce- a women who defies a conventional label as a gay, pro-choice, gun-owning, Bush supporter, and self-described feminist- has an increasingly influential nationally syndicated show. And of course, women don’t just listen to female hosts. There are plenty of women among Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity’s millions of devoted listeners.
Yet none of these shows represents the views of Gloria Steinem, Rosie O’Donnell, and Jane Fonda. None of them are hosted by liberals. Air America was supposed to fill that niche, but is rumored to be on the verge of bankruptcy. Greenstone Media can hope that Air America will flounder and leave a hole in the market for left-of-center women.
Yet Greenstone may also find that the market is already at work and there simply is not much of a market for liberal radio shows (at least so long as the government financed NPR soaks up much of the prospective audience). Steinem insists the programming won’t be all politics and will respect different points of view, but it is hard to imagine many conservative women will tune in.
Time, and the ratings, will tell.