Ed. note: This excerpt from a piece by Feministing Editor Emerita Ann Friedman is cross-posted from her Tumblr with permission.
In 2004, the year I graduated college, I had the cliched personal crisis that everyone has when What do I want to do with my life? suddenly becomes a practical question, not a thought exercise. I knew I wanted to be a magazine writer. But I couldn’t afford to take an unpaid internship, and my only experience was in newspapers. I’d also recently started calling myself a feminist, which seemed irreconcilable with being an “objective” journalist.
So I followed my then-boyfriend to New York and took a job at a women’s rights nonprofit. I found myself bored and alienated. Until my boss mentioned that my predecessor in this lowly communications position, a woman named Jessica Valenti, was starting a blog for young feminists along with her sister Vanessa. I sort of laughed it off. Blogs were for nerds! (Seriously, I thought that. LOL @ 2004.) But I was dying for an outlet for my writing that wasn’t nonprofit annual reports, so I emailed Jessica. And she gave me a login for the site.
It was my writing for Feministing—not my j-school background—that helped me land my first jobs in journalism. It gave me a way to show editors I could come up with interesting angles, that I followed certain topics closely, that I was a passionate writer, that I could do my research. My comments on my fellow contributors’ draft posts were the first editing I ever did. Feministing was my first glimmer of hope that I could marry my journalistic skills with my political beliefs and the sum would be greater than the parts.
The popular narrative of bloggers transitioning to full-time punditry involves a handful of young men in Washington, D.C. But this is my story, too: I used Feministing as a career springboard. It was the first public, online space where it seemed like my opinion mattered. Before, I’d been one of those young women who said, “Aw, I don’t really know that much about this” and “Who cares what I think about that?” Feministing proved that I did know, and people did care. Learning that was more important to my future career than anything I absorbed in j-school.
Unlike those other blogger-dudes’ sites, which were folded into mainstream websites as those men were hired and promoted, Feministing has stayed independent. This has had upsides and downsides. It’s remained fierce and outside the mainstream. It’s not associated with just one person or a small group of people—the site now boasts three co-executive editors, a dozen contributors, and dozens of emeritus writers and editors. But it also puts the “labor” in labor of love. Feministing has a bigger staff, readership, and workload that most venture-capital-funded media startups, with none of the financial backing. That has taken a serious toll.