Is separate equal? Vice and its new ‘Broadly’

In today’s social climate, a news organization’s public image could suffer devastating damage from the slightest hint of scandal. This is especially so when an organization’s internal policies seem to contradict the views they publicly support, inciting the criticism of natural opponents as well as leaving loyal subscribers and supporters feeling spurned and disappointed. Unfortunately, my admiration of Vice, a media organization I have been enamored with and respected since high school, has suffered such blows of confidence.

The most recent came at the announcement of their new website ‘Broadly’ that will cover stories specifically for women, ranging from politics, sex, fashion and culture. Sounds harmless, but the issue at hand is whether or not it is dangerous, offensive, and ill conceived to separate newsworthy content based on whether your reader is packing a pair of ovaries.

One of the reasons I have appreciated Vice in the past has been their no bull, honest, immersive and often off-beat approach to telling original stories most mainstream organizations would shy away from. It’s well known that the organization, which includes a print magazine and a broad range of online content, is largely male focused. Yes, occasionally I’ve wondered if there could be fewer penis related articles, but I take it for what it is. Regardless of whether I’m reading a story about a genocide tribunal, a new governmtatal policy, a new beer fad or a protest in some suburb, the stories are witty, intelligent, informative and interesting. I don’t know how that opinion would change reader to reader based on gender alone.

What I struggle with is that by creating a “for women” section, it implies that the main site is for men.  Publisher for the launch of Broadly, Shannon Kelly, has defended the new site in recent interviews by saying that in the face of modern female websites that are purely reactionary to male news, Broadly stories will be original and of equal content and quality to the Vice main site. But if stories on Broadly are equally important, well written, newsworthy, and aren’t simply pandering to feminine stereotypes with makeup tips, tampon ads, why aren’t they worthy of being on the Vice main site rather than a separate entity.

This either assumes that women won’t be interested in Vice’s other, non-female-oriented news, or that stories, because they are female oriented, aren’t interesting or important enough to entice male readers. It’s not that I think Vice intentionally wants to emphasize gender bias. But how can they not see that this will reinforce views that a woman couldn’t possibly digest news the same way a man can, regardless of formatting, and that men are so obviously disinterested in news that features a woman or a strong female perspective?

Vice readers who learned about the new female oriented site reiterated these fears.

“For one, I feel like they’d just be featuring things on this women’s site that appeal to stereotypical feminine interests, not what women actually want and are capable of reading,” 19-year old psychology major Danielle Gamboa said. “The whole concept of gender is just a physical distinction. Obviously there are women out there with masculine interests and vice versa. Separating our gender interests is just perpetuating gender inequality”

Some Saddleback students defend the organization’s move, defending it as a business effort rather than a statement on gender equality.

“I don’t necessarily think that they should separate the news, but I agree with the business principle to incorporate more female driven aspects into their articles,” Brion Denney, a 19-year-old political science major at Saddleback said. “I don’t know that they could have done it in any way that wouldn’t have created scandal. If they are going to make a distinction though, they should definitely include the content from [Broadly] into their main site as well.”

Vice is a business, and it is their prerogative to format their content on a business model that works for them, but as arbiters of the news, shouldn’t they hold themselves to a higher moral and ethical standard that considers the negative effects and stereotypes perpetuated by their website?