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The Bleacher Report guy knows what women want

August 14, 2013

grand-bustle-pic1Rejoice, ladies! Bleacher Report founder and CEO Bryan Goldberg has raised $6.5 million to start a website just for us women, as he’s very, very excited to tell us in this piece.

Oh, sure, the commenters on that post and the collective Captain Bringdown we know as the feminist blogosphere—oops, and now NPR too—aren’t thrilled about his new venture, for a bunch of reasons, including:

  • the new site’s super-edgy name (“Bustle”), which simultaneously conjures frenetic lady-busyness and a Victorian ass-enhancing device;
  • Goldberg’s repeated assurances that he’s going to give us girls “world affairs and celebrity gossip,” “an Egyptian revolution” and “the next ‘Bachelorette’ selection,” all in one easy URL, because naturally we don’t want to chip our nails by having to make multiple clicks to cleanse our news-clogged palates with the refreshing sorbet of Real Housewives tidbits;
  • his use of totally non-patronizing and non-distancing language such as “Knowing the difference between mascara, concealer, and eye-liner is not my job,” so we’re all clear that just because he’s going to make millions of dollars off what he thinks women care about, that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t consider it silly in the extreme (and oh by the way he’s totally not gay);
  • and his seeming unawareness that the only thing that’s novel about his concept is that he, unlike all the women who have created similar websites in the past, is working with $6.5 million of start-up funding that most of us ladies couldn’t get our manicured hands on quite so readily.

But maybe that’s unfair, and if a guy wants to use his reputation and his resources to create something for women, shouldn’t we be applauding him rather than rolling our mascaraed eyes? Maybe Bryan’s the real deal—check out this question that he asks and answers in his article:

Is this a feminist publication?

You’re damn right this is a feminist publication.

Well then! When I read this, I think of George McFly in Back to the Future saying “Do you really think I should swear?” Bryan seems very serious about this feminism thing. Bryan means business, everyone.

Yeah. He means business. Literally.

Cynic that I am, I decided to try to find out whether Bryan had ever publicly claimed the F-word for yourself when he wasn’t clumsily trying to win over a new female audience—and whether his prior online ventures had done anything to establish the sort of feminist (or feminist-ally) cred that would earn him the trust of his new target demographic. I began with Bryan’s Twitter feed, and dug back a few months looking for any sign of his passion on women’s issues. I didn’t see anything about, oh, the widespread legislative attacks on reproductive rights and equal-pay laws, but I did find this, and this, which, uh, at least acknowledge the existence of the female of the species, I suppose.

Okay—what about Bleacher Report, his immensely successful sports website, which (as he informs us in the article) is worth more than the Washington Post? Bryan created, and has spent several years at the helm of, one of the most widely-read sports sites on the interwebs. In what ways has his magnum opus manifested his feminist passion? Sure, Bleacher Report, like most sports sites, targets a primarily male audience, but has Bryan used this impressive platform to highlight coverage of women’s sports in order to spark more widespread interest in them, or seek out female writers and bloggers, or take a strong and consistent stand against the sexism and objectification of women that permeates too much of popular sports culture?

Well, let’s look at the evidence. While Bleacher Report does generally steer clear of obvious and repugnant sports-adjacent misogyny, their track record where the womenfolk are concerned is not so shining as to persuade me of their CEO’s feminist cred. They’ve run a number of articles and posts about the impact of sexism on women in sports—but they also saw nothing wrong with publishing a horrific 2008 piece ranking the “hottest” female Olympians. (The post was slammed throughout the progressive parts of the internet, but I can’t find any evidence that Goldberg or anyone else associated with the site ever responded or apologized.) They ran this piece rightly bemoaning the fact that MMA star Ronda Rousey’s “superlative grit and athleticism” had been overshadowed in the media by raunchy sexist headlines that trivialized her achievements….but they’ve also taken every opportunity to notify their readers of Rousey’s appearances on the cover of Maxim, her assessments of other fighters’ “racks,” and male fighters’ assessments of her hotness. As I glance over the BR home page this morning, I’m heartened not to see any photos of token babes in bikinis (I’m looking at you, Sports Illustrated and ESPN), but less excited to realize that every single one of the almost eighty athletes, media figures, and columnists pictured on the page is a man. (If I want to read about women’s sports, I have to click the “Other” tab at the top of the page.)

The point isn’t that Bryan Goldberg is an outright misogynist; I don’t believe he is. The point is that as far as I can tell, he was never—in his public persona, at least—a “you’re damn right” feminist until he had a pile of venture capital and a marketing plan to back up that worldview. I’d be more inclined to give him a mulligan on the obtuse launch article, and to acknowledge that it’s not really his fault that a straight white guy can get the sort of financial backing for a women’s website that most women can only fantasize about, if I saw much evidence that he’d used his existing web empire to promote the cause of women, actively and without self-congratulation, in an arena where sexism and inequality are still the champions.

P.S. If you’re interested, the top stories on Bustle this morning are “Hooters chain deems Bob Filner too sleazy,” “Incarcerated women may be making your underwear,” and “Learn to breastfeed while you dougie.” So, that’s $6.5 million well spent, then.

One Comment leave one →
  1. historiophiliac permalink
    August 14, 2013 10:28 am

    I guess he hasn’t heard of Jezebel? I feel confident in the success of this venture based on the apparent market research.

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