Here is the back and forth that I had with Mallary Jean Tenore at Poynter.org about the genesis of the #WomenEdsWeLove hashtag on Twitter that I kicked off last week. She wrote about it here, but our entire exchange is below:
Poynter: Can you say a little bit more about why you created it? (I think it was in response to the Port magazine feature, but I want to double check.)
Me: The idea for the hashtag started in an early morning phone call with Mary Melton, the editor in chief of Los Angeles magazine, and one of my many bosses (I’m part time editor-at-large at Los Angeles, a correspondent for GQ and do freelance as well, often for women’s magazines). I’d emailed her the cover of Port and we were talking about the response thus far and whether we should dip a toe in to the conversation. It’s always complicated — as any woman in any profession knows — to raise the subject of gender. If you’re competent, you’re not a whiner. And I’ve worked for (and learned a lot from) so many male editors, some of whom were on that Port cover. That said, it was bugging me that women like Mary, who’s won three ASME’s in short order during her tenure as EIC of Los Angeles (and who recently got promoted to supervising all of Emmis’ titles, which include Texas Monthly, Atlanta, etc…), remain bizarrely invisible in pieces about “dude-itors” (the Port piece is not the first). Arriving at work, Mary and I looped Los Angeles deputy editor Nancy Miller, who is a demon on Twitter, into the conversation. It bugged Nancy that one critical piece in response to the Port cover had gotten its facts wrong, implying that women had been neglected in the big-dog categories at ASME this year (among others, Pam Colloff — the executive editor of Texas Monthly — won for Feature Writing). We wanted to be precise in the wrong we were attempting to right — to simply say: These women are not invisible, they do good work, and, um, they’re not that hard to find. I’d started to mock up a list in my head of women I’d worked with and Nancy and Mary added a bunch more names who we all admired. Nancy counseled that my original tag was too long — #WomenEditorsWeLove — so I shortened it and signed on to Twitter. I’d planned to tweet them out all day, but then it snowballed on its own.
Poynter: What has the reaction to the hashtag been like?
Me: Heartening. First of all, it took off like a wildfire. Clearly, many women — and some men, too — were feeling what we were feeling and were glad for an outlet for those frustrations. I was tweeting, and then retweeting, as fast as I could. People nominated editors all over the world, and not just in magazines, which was the focus I’d kicked off, but newspapers, websites, everything that gets edited. Apparently, there are women editors at all of them. At one point, #WomenEdsWeLove was even trending, whatever that means.
Poynter: Why do you think it’s important to take small steps like this to create greater awareness about female editors and the good work they’re doing?
Me: There is a bigger conversation to be had, and in the wake of the Port cover, and the flurry of response, it’s happening. There was a great piece on the Atlantic website about whether women’s magazines do serious journalism (some of them, notably Elle and More, do so regularly). I particularly loved that the writer, Jessica Grose, ended the piece by rewriting her bio to feature the women’s publications she’s written for first (not the other way around, which many of us – including me — do in an attempt to be taken seriously). I guess what I’d say is that in order to have those conversations, you have to first assert that, indeed, women edit and manage and work at the highest levels of all kinds of pubs — from Foreign Affairs to Cosmopolitan, from Scientific American to Sunset magazine. The Port cover was silly, but it was yet another example of women editors being erased, Soviet-style, from the photograph. At one point on the first day of the hashtag, as the tweets were piling up like firewood, Los Angeles‘ Nancy Miller wisely tweeted, “Other than mass group hug, @msamywallace’s #WomenEdsWeLove proves there are many women editors. Let’s move the convo forward.” Women editors don’t want to be judged or rewarded for their gender, but for their excellence. Now that we have a list as long as your arm of women doing good work, it’s just a little harder to ignore that excellence.