STILL WAITING FOR AN ESQUIRE FOR WOMEN.

In response to my piece on Double X today, editor Hanna Rosin writes,

Our model here is Esquire, and particularly Esquire of the 1970's. Esquire is clearly a men's magazine but I have read it all of my life. Early on it pioneered new forms of journalism and continues to publish award winning stories year after year. Growing up, I'd read Esquire, and then a women's glossy, and the difference made me crazy. We don't have nearly the resources Esquire has, but DoubleX is our small contribution to this historical gap.

Like Rosin -- and just about every woman I know who works in journalism -- I too have lamented the fact that there is no Esquire-quality magazine for women. There are a lot of fallen editrixes in the war to produce an intellectually hefty magazine geared toward women. I remember when Joanna Coles took the reins of Marie Claire in 2006, and proclaimed it the dawn of a new journalistic era at the magazine:

"I hate women-as-victim stories," Ms. Coles said, although some of the features in the September issue fall into that category. She explained that some stories were in inventory and were heavily re-edited. Ms. Coles said she believes her readers are very well-educated and self-confident. One of her goals, she said, is to have "better writers for the features, and more seasoned, more sophisticated coverage of both foreign and domestic affairs."

Ah, the best-laid plans. Today, Marie Claire is just another fashion and diet-centric glossy that assumes its audience reads at roughly a fifth-grade level. I have more faith in the women behind Double X than I ever did in Coles, that's for sure. But I don't think an online magazine based on opinion writing can even come close to my vision for an "Esquire for women." The thing that makes Esquire so good (especially, as Rosin notes, the Esquire of the 1970s and, I'd argue, the mid-'90s as well) is its feature articles. When we say we love the magazine, we're not talking about its Q&As or clever How To's or, god forbid, John Mayer's music column. (Shudder.) We're usually referring to the sort of immersion reporting and innovative narrative writing that have become the magazine's mark. As Anne Trubek pointed out last year in the Chronicle of Higher Ed, this is a genre where women writers are underrepresented. While Double X might be smarter than your average issue of Glamour, it doesn't come close to answering the "where is the Esquire for women?" question.

--Ann Friedman

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