Lenny Letter unites feminists without stereotypical man-bashing

The world of feminism is small. Too small. There is a very limited number of feminist publications that promote it for what it is — the equality of the genders politically, socially, economically and academically.

Lenny Letter is an email newsletter created by Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner, known for their HBO series “Girls.” Since its debut earlier this fall, the newsletter where women can share their experiences has procured more than 37,000 likes on Facebook. Lenny draws from a collection of feminist figures for content, from Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to comedian Jenny Slate.

There is little beating around the bush and few theoretical musings on Lenny. The content revolves around real examples and draws from the experiences of women working toward success in this era. Lenny goes straight to the sources, which was for good reason when it published an essay on the gender pay gap by Jennifer Lawrence, who was revealed to be payed far less than male co-stars during the Sony hack of 2014.

By drawing in public figures with household names, the stories and columns become more prevalent in our daily lives. For me, it is fascinating to read an autobiographical essay by the president of J. Crew and realize that certain women are not exempt from environmental pressures.

Dunham called Lenny a “snark-free place for feminists to get information” and has followed through with her promise to help keep it that way. It is a zone focused on female empowerment in a straightforward way, free from the stereotypes that give feminism a negative connotation.

It can be difficult for advocates of feminism to find an outlet that fully allows for an environment that does not allow stereotypes to take control of the conversation. There is a tendency for feminist blogs, magazines and publications to become counterproductive by steering content and conversation away from the fundamental discussion of equality and toward complaints about the patriarchy or society. While there are valid arguments to be taken into consideration, there is more to feminism than expressing annoyance at the state of the world. Real women experience the effects of a historically patriarchal society today, but there is more to the issue than a topical feeling of oppression.

Lenny has efficiently avoided the temptation to be perceived as guilty of misandry by keeping the conversation relevant. I am relieved to see a publication with the discipline to eliminate rants, cut empty complaints from the conversation and focus on the immediate issues at hand. The viewpoints of the writers are clear and well-supported, ranging from a gun control and domestic abuse column from the senior advisor to President Obama, Valerie Jarrett, or a personal memoir by the president and creative director for J. Crew, Jenna Lyons.

Writing the same pro-choice, positive body image, anti-sexism column again and again takes away from the larger issue, even while done with good intentions. When everyone is writing the same thing, it is easier to overlook regardless of any new information that may be laid out in the paragraphs below. Lenny is different in the sense that I have yet to be inundated by the repetition of feminism's go-to rant buttons.

Proximity to sources can also elevate a publication. Many of Lenny's written pieces are actually written by the women whom women write about. Issues, truths and opinions are expressed transparently, without veiled attempts to convert or put others down.

I have found that there is a difference in quality between websites designed for clicks and native advertising and those with a mission. Business versus activism is a risky opposition, and as a mission it cannot always be met without the funds to support it. Lenny has women behind it who can support it — and who already have the celebrity to attract attention.

Lenny is a site that consolidates the information that credible women have to share, keeping a legitimately interesting and diverse cast of authors and content. Comedians, doctors, politicians, actresses, academics and activists use the newsletter as a way to share their stories and knowledge with fellow feminists.

When it comes to media, the audience gets to pick and choose what it wants to see. Between every social media follow and Google search that narrows targeted ads, we are in control of the type of content we view.

Lenny feeds off of this behavior by getting its content straight to an inbox, where readers can digest the newsletter separately from the masses of Twitter posts in their feeds. However, it provides articles with diverse content, relevant authors and information about politics, style, health, life and work. There is a strong enough mix of women's perspectives and news to make it a worthwhile read.

Having a community of like-minded individuals who can communicate through Lenny is what will help the newsletter to succeed. Feminists everywhere can read the perspectives of the women they idolize in a streamlined email and continue to converse and share without muddled perspectives getting in the way.

Related Links:

When a women talks about her paycheck, we all should listen

Funny women in a funny man's world


Reach the columnist at smmaki@asu.edu or follow @Symmaki on Twitter.

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Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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