Published on LINKEDIN Influencers on August 15, 2013
Bryan Goldberg, one of the founders of the online sports website Bleacher Report, recently announced that he had raised $6.5 million for a new start up company called Bustle, billed as a feminist publication that aims to “redefine what ‘women’s interests’ looks like”. The reaction from the Internet was swift and brutal, with commentators criticizing everything from the language of Goldberg’s announcement, his lack of awareness of women’s content on the Internet, to the name and tagline of the company itself.
While it is true that Goldberg’s announcement does suffer from a case of mansplaining, the $6.5 million raised for a content-based start-up is a sign of something big. At a time when people tend to shy away from the word feminism, Bustle is a publication that is proudly feminist and is able to attract top-level investors. Woo hoo!
It should be noted that the fact that Goldberg is a man most likely greatly aided his quest for funding, as the rampant inequalities between men and women entrepreneurs trying to raise capital for their start-ups is well documented. Only 4.2% of all VC funding goes to women, and a report by the National Council for Research on Women highlights numerous other obstacles faced by women trying to succeed in business and finance. However, to simply condemn Goldberg because of his gender is reflective of the negative connotations that have been associated with feminism over the decades. He is a creating something that is, in theory, positive for women. Yes, there are learning curves, and no, he may not get it all right, but at least he is trying, and he is putting his (and others) money where he believes there is opportunity; WOMEN. Hasn’t that always been the goal? For men and women to work together to create a more just and equal world?
Furthermore, Goldberg is right when he declares that women are an underserved market. The underrepresentation of women’s voices in nearly every medium of media is widely chronicled, and there are numerous websites solely dedicated to addressing this issue. Why not one more? Bustle could join the ranks of the numerous amazing female content websites that currently exist, such as World Pulse, Feministing, Hello Giggles, Women’s E-News, www.feminist.com, LearnVest, The Daily Beast: Women in the World, The Huffington Post: The Third Metric, and 85 Broads. All of these sites, including the many more listed in Forbes Top 100 Sites for Women, help to increase women’s representation online and make our voices heard. All deserve our support and investment capital. Do I secretly wish that a woman had started Bustle and thus was the one to raise $6.5 million in start- up capital? Yes I do. But I support this man, any man, who is trying to positively increase women’s representation online with thoughtful and empowering content.
Perhaps what I worry about most about the controversy surrounding Bustle is the level of criticism currently being lobbied at Mr. Goldberg. He has been called an asshole and a douchebag, ignorant and pompous, ill-informed and pandering, and while his lack of awareness about his intended audience is somewhat shocking for someone starting a business, I have read nothing to suggest that Mr. Goldberg is an inherently bad person. On the contrary, he is a man who feels that women are being underserved and underrepresented, and has done something about it; boldly stating that he wants Bustle to become a multimillion dollar company within a decade. If every man who tries to create something positive for women is attacked so vehemently, won’t they eventually all stop? Instead of attacking Goldberg, lets celebrate his ambition, educate him on how to move forward from Bustle’s less than impressive launch, learn from his mistakes, and support his effort to help women have a stronger voice online. He clearly wants to be our ally. We could at least suspend judgement and let him try, while at the same time ensuring that we continue to support the many established channels that have proven their commitment to our shared values for gender equity. Giving someone the benefit of the doubt, until proven otherwise, is always a good thing.
–Jacki Zehner and Laura Moore.
Photo: A screenshot from the homepage of Bustle.com.