Remember Ms.? The feminist magazine? That relic from the '70s? Is that thing still around??
It sure is! What began as a one-time-only insert in New York magazine is now owned by the Feminist Majority Foundation -- and it just turned 35 years old. But if you didn't know that, I wouldn't necessarily be surprised.
Ms. seems "old," and I don't just mean its age. I'm a little embarrassed to admit the magazine doesn't interest me, because I should be its target audience and I feel bad because I don't read it faithfully. I am one of those woman who, in all seriousness, owns a "This is what a feminist looks like" tee shirt. And yet I don't remember the last time that I bought a copy of Ms..
There was a time when I did read it, back when I thought Ms. was just the coolest magazine that I could get my hands on in WASPy, stuffy Connecticut. In 9th grade, my best friend's mom went through a nasty divorce and she and I gravitated towards the copies of Fear of Flying and The Woman's Room that we found lying around her house. Naturally, we found our way to Ms....and all the Gloria Steinem, Manifesta and Feministing.com-worship that followed. Those books, and that magazine, and the activism that I got involved with, surely changed my self-perception, my personality and my life's goals. But over time, I just....grew bored with Ms. I didn't really read the copies I bought; some of the articles didn't interest me and often they'd be written in a dry way. I once heard the phrase "homework" applied to how people feel about Ms. and that seems like a good description.
Any thinking man or woman can pick up an In Touch, turn on FoxNews, gaze at highway billboards or leaf through the Toys 'R Us catalog, and heartily agree that our culture is still too misogynist. So the first feminist magazine is not irrelevant, nor is it worthy of disrespect; I just think it isn't, and won't, be embraced by the younger generation of feminists. Ms. has always been notorious for its dire financial situation. But as the baby boomers gray, will women my my age -- in their 20s -- keep on reading? Is it a just generational thing? I do buy other feminist magazines that are skewed younger -- Bitch and Bust -- every time they publish and devour the issues cover-to-cover.
I am an optimist. If Ms. ever does go under, I'll spin it as a positive. Sure, it's not fair that the postal rate change will create hardship for smaller-distribution magazines; it's also not fair how bottom-line-driven versus diversity-of-ideas-driven the corporate media can be. But here's why I'm not too worried about the message being lost: as a journalist and a feminist, I'd love to write for Ms. -- and 35 years ago, Ms. might have been the only publication that would publish the stuff I want to write. But, today, I aspire to see my writing in Elle, Glamour, Marie Claire, New York, The New York Times Magazine The New Yorker, Slate.com and Salon.com. And I feel confident that might actually happen. The spirit of Ms. -- the news as if women mattered -- is leaking ever-so-slowly into the mainstream.
I certainly don't want to see this pioneering feminist magazine die -- but I wonder how long it'll hang on. I'm against Botox and plastic surgery as much as the next feminist, but here's hoping that for its 35th birthday, the magazine is gifted the fountain of youth.