Where Have All the Teen Magazines Gone?

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S1: This is the waves. This is the wave is the wave. This is the way. This is the way. This is the waves. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick.

S2: Welcome to the Waves Slate’s podcast about gender, feminism and a brave new world where teenage girls read the same things as everybody else. Every episode, you’ve got a new pair of women to talk about the things we can’t get off our minds. Today, you’ve got me Rebecca Onion, a staff writer for Slate and Me.

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S3: Heather Schwedel, a staff writer for Slate.

S2: What has happened to specialty teen and women’s publications, and should we care? In the year 2000, when I graduated college, there were seven major teen magazines in print, and now there are none. And the teen magazines that still exist or limping along online on the women’s side, things aren’t much better. Glamour stopped publishing the print edition in 2019. Mary Claire’s print issue We found out a few days ago as we were preparing this episode is also being discontinued. What are the reading populations that once turned to these publications? Reading for fun now and where and contemporary media can we find their legacy? Now this is a topic very close to my heart because I started out in media at a teen magazine called Why Am and I wasn’t completely happy there? But it was also a teen magazine Sassy the great dear beloved Sassy, which everyone in Generation X remembers that made me feel like I even wanted to be a magazine writer. And right now, today I want to talk about this pressing issue, because Heather has just published an excellent piece on the one time editor of CosmoGirl and 17, who now has a Substack and has becoming an Instagram personality. Atoosa Rubenstein Heather, why is this topic close to your heart?

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S3: I was also an avid reader of teen magazines, and the time that you’re talking about when you graduated college, that was when I was a pre-teen and early teen, but there was a particular like mini boom of them. That’s when CosmoGirl started, which is the magazine that Atoosa Rubenstein founded. That’s when people started all girl Teen Vogue, and I also used to love reading the print versions of women’s magazines. It used to be so fun, like I would look forward to riding on a plane because I would have like magazines and candy or going to the nail salon reading a magazine like just so luxurious and fun. And now that seems like a total anachronism. So Atoosa was sort of this mythic figure from my teen years. What really sticks with me about Atoosa when I think back to them and reading her magazine, she was the editor of CosmoGirl and then went on to 17 is her editors letters. And in particular, she always posted these dorky photos of her. I don’t know. They just looked so embarrassing to me. Her photos from then sheet so dorky, her haircuts, or I don’t know what she was wearing, and she just, you know, put it all out there. Even then, and that would become a theme in her life, I guess, and it’s relevant to what she’s doing now. So something I didn’t realize at the time about Atoosa is she was also super successful just in her media career. And it wasn’t until I was in college and sort of started starting to think maybe I wanted to work in magazines that I really understood what an achievement that was, that she had founded a magazine so young. She found it when she was still in her 20s. But that’s also when I was starting to feel more cynical about teen magazines, thinking I wish I had been part of the Sassy generation. And I sort of wonder what would have happened if it had been more of an option for me to work in teen or women’s magazines? Like is that a direction my career would have gone if I were 10 or 15 years older? And it’s interesting to think about it would have been a totally different life.

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S2: I resonate with so much of that and I can’t wait to talk to you about it. And so coming up, we’re going to talk about the idea that women’s and teen magazines created community, which is something that people who work at women’s and teen magazines would often talk about, and the idea that they supported young female writers who might not otherwise have gotten chances to have a media career. And.

S3: Thank you so much for listening. I wanted to take a second and welcome all our new listeners and our old ones too. We haven’t forgotten about you. If you’re loving the show and want to hear more, subscribe to our feed. New episodes come out every Thursday morning while you’re there. Check out our other episodes, too, like last week, where hosts Emily Pack and Shannon Polis talk about whether disgraced Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes is actually a Garbus.

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S2: OK, let’s talk about what teen magazines and women’s magazines meant to us as young writers, so among people who do sort of miss the era of teen and women’s magazines. There is some discussion of the idea that they’re like an incubator of community and a place where young female writers can kind of get a start. There’s people from the mid-century era that often get mentioned in connection to this. So Sylvia Plath was published in 17, and Betty Friedan aired a bunch of her ideas for The Feminine Mystique in Ladies Home Journal, which is sort of like this unexpected counter-narrative that you find inside these magazines that were actually very much established to serve sort of like a white, middle class, you know, woman who would sort of follow a very traditional path within society. But some of these starry examples aside, was community and career advancement really what we got from them when they still existed? Maybe it’s because I worked at one, but I just always have so much trouble with the sort of representation of teen magazines as a place where people could connect. So, for example, there’s a quote from 2016 that was in a Refinery29 piece that had a bunch of good quotes around 2016 about teen magazines and this kind of nostalgia. And this quote is from the one time Teen Vogue editor Elaine Welteroth. And she said for teens, being part of a community that you identify with is so important. Subscribing to a print title even in 2016, which again is when she’s speaking to this reporter, is like signing up for a club that serves you on a more personal level. At Teen Vogue, we have created a community for our readers to belong, to be seen and heard to identify with the stories that we tell. Now, Heather, I wonder what you think about this because I feel a little bit sort of like suspicious of this to some degree. And in 2018, when 17 shut down its print edition, I wrote a piece for Slate that was like, I’m glad teen magazines are done. And they’re one of the reasons that I brought up was that I feel like they treat teen readers, teen girls as like this one community, one sort of like kind of person, like an American teenage girl. And because you’re trying, you’re always trying to sort of like, pick your magazine to advertisers you don’t ever want to say, actually, we’re only going to serve a certain kind of teenage girl or whatever. Like, you have to always say that you’re going to try to serve everybody and create a community for everybody. But honestly, looking back in 2021, I’m not actually sure that that’s that’s possible. So Heather, as a person who, as you just said, came of age during the golden age of teen magazines, did you get a feeling of community from it? And were you inspired to do to go into writing from it?

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S3: I would say no, or I don’t know. Maybe a little. But it’s interesting trying to think about it. I think I I loved reading the teen magazines for sure, but a lot of it was for superficial reasons like I really wanted to see the prom dresses and the pictures of celebrities I liked, you know, photoshoots. And I even like the ads. Like, there were ads for new hair and makeup stuff that I then wanted and would go by,

S2: and I remember that very well saying I apricot scrub. Oh, for

S3: sure. But also my knee-jerk reaction to you saying it’s a good thing that this doesn’t exist anymore is no like, I have so much nostalgia for reading the magazines, and I’m trying to separate out whether that’s because they were important to my development in some way or whether I just liked, you know, looking at nail polish. You know, it’s OK to like looking at nail polish. I don’t know. I think they should have more value than just, oh, it provides a nice break from screen time, so it’s good for you to read things that aren’t your phone, but did, by the way, that I think Sassy actually had Sassy writing like funny and inspiring writing. I don’t know that I really felt bad about teen magazines. I mean, maybe there was like Elle girl I thought was kind of different and funny, and I did their worst things in them that were influential to me. Like they would recommend books, and I think I found some of my favorite books. One book in particular, I remember I left in high school was sloppy first, and I think I first saw that in a teen magazine. But I don’t feel like they are what guided me towards wanting to be a writer. I think I got that more from reading Entertainment Weekly even premiere other things.

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S2: So like slightly older magazines for slightly older people that we’re still about topics that you were interested in.

S3: Yes. Which was totally your argument in the piece that we shouldn’t separate out what the content we give teen readers. They should just read about what they’re interested in and not just read teenage stuff. But it also matters to me that there was a magazine for teen girls. I think I thought that was so cool then. And I, you know, I think it’s so cool now, and I’m not sure like, am I a dinosaur who needs to be disabused of these notions? And I say, thank you for doing it, Rebecca.

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S2: Yeah. I just want you. I just want to know more about why you think it’s cool. I know what you mean about that. But it’s interesting because I actually just started it in preparation for this podcast, I was listening to the podcast Listen to Sassy, which has a couple of hosts, including Tara Arellano, who I’m a big fan of reading old issues of Sassy. And I started listening to it because I wanted to, like, just be remember, like reminded of like what the magazine was about and kind of like, be able to like, articulate a little bit better on here, why I liked it so much and why I felt a sense of community from it. And it’s funny because they have respect for Sassy and they really like Sassy. But they’re also like, very merciless about some of like the parts of Sassy that are like a little bit embarrassing in hindsight. And listening to them, I’m like, I actually think that the parts of Sassy that are embarrassing were embarrassing because it’s like when something is for teenage girls, you have to like, be a certain way like Sassy. It was like very like alarmist about drugs. Like they would be like, you know, someone would write into the health advice column and say, Can you dive for marijuana? And then, you know, one of the writers would write back and say, Well, I don’t think so, but I did have a friend who, like, went to the emergency room from smoking too much marijuana. And like the, you know, the host of this podcast are like, This is preposterous. Like, but no, no, no, no, that’s not what happened. And I mean, famously, Sassy was like personally brought down by attacks from the Christian right, who basically hated them for implying that sex was OK, which is a way that you’re sort of like, constrained. But you know, there’s all kinds of other problems you could find with the magazine. Now, the voice was still, in my opinion, sort of like foundational for internet writing. But fundamentally, it is like when I look back at it, I’m like, Yeah, it was like, quote unquote cool, as you put it, that there was this thing that I could read that had like, it was just full of things that I would like. And some of the things were like cute boys, like pictures of cowboys and pictures of fashion that I liked. And some of the things were, as you said, the advertisements, because I I think there’s like a special kind of consumerism that you have is like a child and a teenager, and my own four year old daughter already kind of has it like she just likes to look at the backs of her, like Lego instructional booklets and see what other Lego she could get. And so, like in the teen magazine sort of served as that kind of like like bastion of consumerism, like mixed together with like a bunch of like sort of vaguely interesting features. I don’t know, but but looking back on it, I’m like, What’s that like? I still don’t know if I think that was a good thing, but you say more about why you think it was cool.

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S3: I think I was just always excited about the the trappings of being a teenager and a teenage girl. And I don’t know, like, I’m trying to think about why, and I’m like, No, that was toxic. Like everything. I don’t know. I thought was cool about it, like the idea of going to prom and like boys and like having a locker in high school. Why does any of that matter? But it was something that I wanted and was really interested in. I guess I’ve always been drawn to coming of age story, so so maybe that that’s part of it, especially when I was younger, but I was trying to figure out who I was and there was some element of, even if in bad ways, the teen magazines were showing you how, how to be a teenage girl. And I think some of that messaging was obviously not great, but maybe it was also of comfort.

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S2: I think about it a lot with my own daughter because she’s she’s just sort of like absorbing. She’s just falling in love with various texts, and it’s like you can see how when you’re sort of like a young person and a teenager, particular texts like imprint on you. And maybe it’s more about like the experience because you’re a thinking intelligent person with like a lot of reflective capacity. So, you know, you had this like experience with a piece of media where it like imprinted on you in some weird way. And maybe now girls are having that happen with, like, you know, some Instagram post that a star puts up that like brands itself into their brain and they’ll remember. I think the experience is still valuable. We’re going to take a break here, but if you’re enjoying the waves, we would love it if you would like and subscribe to the waves wherever you get your podcasts.

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S3: And if you want to hear more from Rebecca and myself on another topic, check out our Waves Plus segment gateway feminism where today Rebecca and I talk about one thing that helped make us feminists. I’ll be talking about the movie now and then. And Rebecca will be talking about 90s movie Titanic.

S2: Now we’re going to talk about the legacy of teen and women’s magazines in the actual writing that we read. This is a key area of thought that I like to noodle around when I think about the legacy of teen magazines as a person who once wrote for one and now writes totally different stuff. And this question is a key part of Heather’s Atoosa profile. Atoosa now has a confessional Substack, where she tells all kinds of stories about her life. So in 2019, there is a piece in The Washington Post by Lavanya Ramanathan and I about women’s magazines and their decline, and I want to read one particularly good paragraph to you, Heather, and see what you think about it as a connoisseur of websites and their writing style. She wrote women’s magazines once delivered to readers from New York to Topeka to Sacramento. The girlfriend style advice, the gospels of orgasms and equal pay the reminders to always be dieting can now be found in many places online, from the hashtag Fit Spell Post on Instagram to junior feminist sites such as Jezebel, which is elbowed in on coverage of pop culture hashtag MeToo and the workplace. Makeup bloggers and YouTube influencers now dictate the next big lipstick cover color and how to get that no makeup makeup look. Culinary sites like Food52, which side note I, Rebecca Onion really love, have cornered what the Lady Rags used to call cookery, with none of the gendered notions about who does the cooking and low stakes, cheerfully unscientific personality quizzes. Now there is BuzzFeed for that. So, Heather, what do you think about this idea? Do you see sort of the DNA of teen and women’s magazines in the stuff that you read on the internet? And if so, where?

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S3: Yes, I think that paragraph was set on. I don’t know. What do we see the influence of women’s magazines in Instagram tutorials and stuff? Or is it just that those topics are now covered in that way, right?

S2: Like, is it just the topic or is it also the style? Is the question

S3: right? I think the style we can talk about more in terms of the writing. And I think one thing that I talked about a little bit in my piece is that there was this sort of moment a few years ago like, let’s say, circa 2012, 2013, when the personal essay became this lightning rod online. I guess if this still happens, it’s still a lightning rod. And yeah, sure, Hamby. But a certain type that that was pioneered by sites like XO Jane, where it would just be confessional is the word. But the whole point would be just like reading something completely in a voyeuristic way. And it wasn’t that the person learned something or there was this insider literary value. It was just gawking at someone who had a crazy story. And I guess one aspect of that that’s sort of controversial in journalism is, you know, why did an editor not protect that woman from herself and airing that thought? And that’s something that Laura Bennett, who is an editor here at Slate, wrote about in sort of a seminal piece, the first person industrial complex about how one of the ways that women can get started with writing is kind of telling their worst, most revealing story about themselves and getting paid like fifty dollars for it. And instead of reporting like women can sort of like sell their their narratives.

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S2: I mean, it interests me because I mean, misogyny is like a really good example because it’s a direct descendant of women’s magazines, right? Like it’s Jane Pratt’s website or it was. And so Jane Pratt was the editor of Sassy, and then she was editor of Jane. And then she became, you know, and then she edited xoJane. And now I don’t know what she’s doing, but I Sassy despite my listening to this podcast that has now convinced me that maybe it wasn’t as good as I remember. One thing about Sassy that was like imprinted on my brain as a writer was that they it was like the whole magazine was a first person essay. Like they basically use their writers as characters in like this ongoing story of the magazine. So all these writers were like 20 somethings in New York, and then their tastes and their interests became the magazine. And for a long time, I don’t know if it was always, but I think it might have been. They just refer to themselves in first person, so it would like their bylines would even be like by Margie or by Christina. The mascot of the magazine was like the personality of the magazine and that way of sort of using the writer as like a character or a personality like. Looking back at it from the viewpoint of 2021, when you have a much better sort of chance of becoming a successful internet writer, if you can also make yourself into a personality or an influencer, well that you can debate whether or not that proposition is correct. But and many have in various essays about it. But I do think that that idea that what a writer for a teen magazine sort of had to offer in the Sassy era was their own like sort of personal take on things like they’re they’re their actual person in a way which was sort of what Atoosa was doing to to some degree, as the editor, although I feel like it didn’t really extend to her staff as much as it did with Sassy. But but that idea is basically the whole internet. Now I feel like

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S3: there’s a line in my piece. One of the people I spoke to as sort of like a media critic said that Atoosa was actually very early to the influencing game because she was sort of an influencer before there were influencers in in developing this cult of personality around herself. And she wasn’t the first editor to do that. As you said, Jane Pratt did that, and that goes back a little bit in the history of magazines. But it’s interesting if you look at what she’s doing now, so she would definitely not use the word confessional because she sees what she’s doing is different. And I see it as a little different to because she her end goal is not just to get clicks. She is in trying to get clicks or even subscribers like she’s much more concerned with kind of mental health and really being honest and baring her soul. And so Atoosa, you know, was like this super famous editor and then just sort of left the industry and disappeared professionally for about 15 years. And one of the reasons she did that, it turns out, is because she was dealing with a lot of trauma from her childhood when she was sexually abused by a family member. And so a lot of her Substack relates back to that. And that’s not. Clicky, as I like to put it in very crass terms, like she’s writing about that because it matters to her sort of understanding how her life experiences, how she views so much through this lens and kind of getting to a point of self-love. But she also is sharing a lot about herself, telling a lot of very personal stories, or she started that way any way she has said she wants to move sort of in a new direction of sharing other people’s stories. And and she’s done some of that. And I think she’s sort of figuring it out like it started as Substack, but maybe it’ll develop into more of a community, which sort of brings us back to to something we were discussing earlier, whether these magazines are a community. I do think that’s one potential interesting avenue for for her project. I think a lot of people draw a lot of value from, you know, connecting in small groups online where they can maybe recreate some of what they liked about about old media, but it’s also its own thing.

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S2: Yeah, we didn’t get to mention it earlier, but we wanted to do that. There’s a piece in input magazine recently a there was like the only this was like one of the only September 11 memory pieces that I was like drawn to, which is a piece by Jen Hayes about the the magazine called Teen. It’s hard to say it without spelling it out. That had a forum that was after 911 populated by like a small group of girls that tried to figure out what they thought about 911 through this forum. And she sort of like, excavates the different, the different personalities on there and the people that that she met there. And that seemed to me like such an interesting, like sort of like piece of bridge internet history where it’s like a forum that came from a teen magazine. As far as I can tell, it seemed like teen. The magazine was like not really trying too hard to like, moderate this forum or like, do very much to like help along the people who were on it, but for in some organic way, like coalesced into this group where she actually, like, sort of learned a lot about politics and like, figure it out, even through disagreeing with people like what she sort of thought about the event, which is like this like sort of best case scenario, maybe for what can happen from from these things. But I just really enjoyed that piece is like a description of what can actually happen if the communities that come from this kind of media like actually coalesce.

S3: And I think that piece was really good, maybe articulating a feeling I was trying to talk about before about. As she looks back, she finds some of the actual posts she wrote as a teen, and she’s like, These are factually inaccurate, and I have no idea what I’m talking about. But like now, I see that I was kind of trying to work these things out, and I thought her perspective was really valuable.

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S2: Yeah, yeah. The message where was called terrible Tuesday, which is just like too perfect, like the way the teen magazine. I mean, this used to be me, so I can say this like, well, he just had to struggle to like, try to, you know, put cute headlines on the stuff in the magazine that was like more serious, which is actually still a very internet problem today. So maybe that’s another way that teen magazines sort of like like language has like issues have persisted on the internet. But yeah, we always are like, how are we going to put a cute headline on this piece about like a brother dying of cancer? Like, how are we going to make this like something that people are going to want to see next to their oil ad or whatever?

S3: Right? And that does. I mean, point back to we have to sell every piece on its own as a piece of content. You know, it needs to be marketed in some way. There’s not this package that things come in that you got with a print magazine, and there are downsides to having to write in that way where every piece has still kind of earned its keep.

S2: Yeah. But there are definitely. I mean, see, yeah, this is getting back to what you were seeing in the other segment. It’s it was cool in a way. I mean, go back to how I thought about Sassy is like an ongoing story like some of the issues were. It’s it’s interesting to read like a but I don’t have much nostalgia for paper, but like I do have nostalgia for the experience of a contained object landing on your desk that had like the best efforts of a group of people put together to try to, like, make their own individual voices into, like a institutional voice. And sometimes that was like had terrible outcomes. And then sometimes it just was like magic. And I think that’s why people have nostalgia about some of these magazines is that maybe you you’re like time when you were especially sensitive to that kind of magic, like overlapped with a time when CosmoGirl was like really hitting it, you know, and like, you got those like, you got those issues and and you just were like in some way that you couldn’t probably say, you just could, like, recognize that it was working. Before we head out, we want to give a few recommendations. So, Heather, what are you loving right now?

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S3: I want to recommend listening to music. OK, so partly I just wanted to be a troll and be like, Hey, music, have you heard of that? But specifically, I want to recommend if you are a podcast listener, big podcast listener, like I am forcing yourself to listen to music sometimes, which I really did have to force myself because I don’t do it because I’m just I’m always behind on my podcasts and everything, but I’ve sort of developed this routine of like, maybe I’ll listen to a few songs by walking to the subway in Summer Street esque way to invoke the culture gap fast. And I just love it, and I had completely forgotten how fun it is to listen to music, which is so stupid and basic. And one thing I particularly like to do is to endure something. Also very simple is a shuffled playlist. So using the shuffle feature, I have a playlist on Spotify that I’ve been keeping since I started my Spotify account whenever Spotify started, like eight years ago. And so it has so many songs on it that I forgot, I added, and I just love when a song I haven’t heard in a while or maybe even forgot completely comes on. And I’m like, Why did I add this? What is this? I don’t know. And then I get to the part that I really like or that just is very pleasing to my ear. And it makes me think, Oh, that’s why I added this. I love this song. It’s so cool to reconnect with whatever past version of myself is still enjoying the same sounds. OK, so Rebecca, what about you? What do you recommend?

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S2: Your recommendation is like calling me out because I never listen to music on my headphones. I think what you’re really recommending is listening to on your headphones because I listen.

S3: Oh yeah, maybe that’s it.

S2: I listen to it while I’m working like, sure. But when I’m like on my headphones, like walking to work, I will not only listen to podcasts because I have so many to get through, as you said, but my husband is always like, You should listen to music. It’s so meditative and I’m like, I don’t have time for meditation.

S3: I know, right?

S2: I have to consume content, but you’re right. I really should do that. So I’m going to recommend a show called Victoria, which is a PBS show about the early life of Queen Victoria that I watched on Amazon Prime. And it has Jenna Coleman as Queen Victoria. Like, I don’t believe in royals, and I have a hard time understanding how much I like it, but it’s very beautiful. So I didn’t know that much about the life of Queen Victoria, which is ridiculous. I really like the 19th century, and we really learned a lot from watching Victoria. And then while I’m watching it like Googling and Wikipedia ing, the various figures, political figures that appear in it, which as a method of sort of bring yourself up to speed on a type of history I don’t really recommend, but in a way I kind of do you recommend. But the main thing about Victoria is it’s beautiful. All the interiors and the dresses are really beautiful, and there’s a really hot romance between Victoria and her husband, Albert, who’s played by Tom Hughes, who’s a lanky, serious German guy. And if that doesn’t sound hot, like, I don’t know, you should watch it and teraflops over his eyes and he, like, kind of intensely leans in towards her ear quite a bit. And he also wants the world to be a better place, and he tries to teach her how to how to also work for that. Now again, was Queen Victoria actually like a saint who did all the things that are depicted in the show? Like, probably not. But I could not stop watching the show, and I am sure I will keep on watching it when whenever it returns, which I’m not sure it will. But if it does, I will be there. So I recommend that. And then I also recommend the book Ammonite by Nicola Griffith, which I’m currently reading, which is about an anthropologist who goes to a planet where all the men have died of plague. And I’m reading it because I’m writing a piece about why The Last Man, which is show that is currently airing and the idea of a place where all the men have died of plague and Ammonite is like 70 times better than the show y the last man. That’s really good and smart, and I recommend it.

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S3: A planet where all the men have died of plague is just a great one line pitch. Yeah, that sounds wonderful.

S2: Well, and it’s also like it’s like a couple of hundred years after that’s happened. So the women have like, adjusted in various ways and there’s different tribes that do different things and have different traditions. Well, I haven’t actually figured out the secret of how they reproduce yet because I think it’s not totally revealed to me, but it has to do with meditation. Speaking of meditation, maybe I shouldn’t use music on my headphones and then I’ll spontaneously reproduce, which would be actually unwelcome. So I’m going to go back to my podcast, but. OK. That’s our show this week. The Waves is produced by Cheyna Rob

S3: Susan Matthews is our editorial director with June Thomas providing oversight and moral support.

S2: If you like the show, be sure to subscribe, rate and review wherever you get your podcasts. Please consider supporting the show by joining Slate Plus members get benefits like zero ads on any Slate podcast and bonus content of shows like this one. It’s only a dollar for the first month. To learn more, go to Slate.com. Flash the waves plus

S3: we’d also love to hear from you. Email us at The Waves at Slate.com.

S2: The waves will be back next week. Different hosts. Different topic, same time and place.

S3: Thank you so much to our slate plus listeners as part of your subscription, you get this bonus segment gateway feminism. Rebecca, what have you brought to share for Gateway feminism?

S2: I feel like I’m going to get laughed at immediately, but here’s what I’ve got. I was thinking about how when I was in high school, in college, I did a lot of yearning after men who were not necessarily yearning after me. And I know they’re sort of like a lot of debate around. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately about whether sort of like romance themed entertainment can ever be, quote unquote feminist. And I was remembering how I was home from college my sophomore year, and I finally started dating this boy that I really liked. But he sort of never really gave me as much feedback as I wanted or I wanted. I just always wanted like more emails, more responses, more phone calls, more. I just wanted more in general, which was a problem I struggled with for years. But I I got to I got home and there was a series of simultaneous events which involved me getting my wisdom teeth out, which was horrible, and I took a bunch of opioids that I can’t believe they prescribed us. And it was kind of like just like lying on my parents couch. And there was an ice storm that knocked out the power and New Hampshire where I was. And after both of those things sort of resolve themselves, we went to see the movie Titanic in the theater as a family, and this boy had not contacted me all through Christmas break. It was three weeks. I had my wisdom teeth out and I had not gotten a letter or a phone call. Yes, that was letters that I was waiting for at that point in time. And I just was like watching Titanic thinking, Yeah, this is what I wish it was, and it’s not this. And then I stopped feeling bad about it. I got home. And somehow the watching this like romantic situation where a person had just, you know, basically like, put it all on the line for another person, I was like, Well, that’s not what this is. And then I thought, I just kind of was like a bomb for my soul in this weird way. So, yeah, I guess I’m saying Titanic is secretly a feminist movie, although it’s really not. But for me, at that point in time, it was.

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S3: So it actually does remind me of Atoosa because it’s all about how you react to that and how you processed it, which seems so mentally healthy to me that you were able to watch Titanic and just draw this reasonable conclusion of, you know, this is not going what’s going on for me, but that’s fine. And Jack is not painting me like one of his French girls, but that’s OK. Someone will one day,

S2: you know, I realized that my moment of mental health came after a semester of accumulated small humiliations. Right?

S3: Yeah. Yeah, I love that. I’ve never thought of in particular about whether that movie is feminist. I actually kind of think it is if you think about Kate Winslet’s character. A lot of it is her journey of not marrying this guy. Her mom wants her to marry for money and like being an independent woman and striking out on her own without money. And, yeah, total feminism.

S2: Yeah, sure. So she’s super wealthy, but whatever? Yeah. But I guess she becomes

S3: now she gives up all her money.

S2: Yeah, that’s right. Yes. Thank you, Heather. You’re right with yours. What’s your gateway feminism?

S3: It’s actually funny that you said Titanic, because I also want to mention a movie from that era. First, I wanted to say to me, it’s interesting when I was trying to answer this question, just kind of thinking about how much of a feminist I was not. I don’t think I thought of myself that way in high school at all, and I just couldn’t really remember how it got into my head. I felt like I was very much like, you see the phrase online smooth brained. But I think I just was like, reading my word, No, I was just reading my Cosmo girls and being like, Oh, cool, I love makeup and I love movies about girls. But like, I don’t know that I’ve like made the next step to feminism. And one thing I always think about is like the the way that I first heard about Gloria Steinem. The context of that is that I was a huge Christian Bale fan, and she married. She married his father. So I didn’t hear of Gloria Steinem as like this feminist icon. I was like, Oh, that lady is Christian Bale’s stepmother.

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S2: Oh my god, that’s hilarious now.

S3: So that’s where I was at, circa my adolescence. But looking back, one movie that was really important to me at the time was now and then. And I have mixed feelings about endorsing this movie. I think it’s sort of on theme with how I feel about having. Read teen magazines and how much they meant to me, because it’s a movie that I loved at the time and thought was so special, and I realize now it’s sort of thought of as corny, and maybe it even is corny.

S2: You remind me what it is because I don’t really.

S3: Oh, right. Yes. OK, so the knock on it is that it’s kind of just the girls version of Stand By Me and a worse version. So it’s these four girls who are friends in the 70s and then they’re reuniting in the 90s. It’s just the story of one summer in their lives that was sort of this, you know, important summer to them when they were growing up and becoming disillusioned and getting interested in boys for the first time. And one of them are her father just left their home. So I love this movie at the time. And yeah, I think for me, it’s just that it was about girls and girly things and just sort of interested in what women are interested in. So I don’t think I realized at the time that that that was feminism or that could be a version of feminism. And, you know, like in retrospect, I would say this is a movie that passes the Bechdel test. That’s not something I knew about at the time. And also, I really appreciate that it was directed by and written by a woman, which is so rare for any movie that you’re talking about. Twenty five years ago or ever, really,

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S2: you should rewatch it and write your take on it.

S3: Oh yeah, I bet.

S2: I bet it doesn’t hold up very well. I hate to say it.

S3: I know I I think aspects of it probably do. There are interesting things about it. You see the characters growing up and changing it. Like in the beginning, Christina Ricci’s character, who grows up to be Rosie O’Donnell, which is weird, is a tomboy and her boobs are growing and she tapes them down because she doesn’t want them to be prominent. And by the end of the movie, she stops taping her boobs out. And hey, Gaby Hoffman’s character. At one point she gets into a fistfight with a boy just kind of defending herself and her friends. And I remember thinking that was so cool. Not that the actual fighting, but but her attitude that she was just like, Whatever, I’m this person now. I’m not going to let you mess with me. There were all these little moments like that. There’s also this scene with Brendan Frazier, who plays a Vietnam vet, and the girls meet him. And my politics is that scene. Like, that’s where it comes from. Like, he’s just this hippie and they’re smoking with him, and he is telling them that, like, this country isn’t that great. And that’s like so radical, and I can’t believe I was watching it.

S2: Then those things sound really appealing to a teenager when they come out of the mouth of Brendan Fraser, it’s like, Oh yeah, for a long time, I was like, I think I’m a I’m a bad kid because I liked Christian Slater so much. I was like, Hell, yeah, my politics are Christian Slater’s politics.

S3: Yeah. Christian Slater is praxis. Yeah, that’s right. And thank you again to our listeners for being Slate Plus subscribers. If you have a gateway feminism that you’d like to share, please send it to us at the Waves at Slate.com and.