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The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College's student newspaper

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College's student newspaper

The Berkeley Beacon

Feminist website editors tackle gender with new satirical book


“I’m Ready to Take Down The Patriarchy, As Soon As I Figure Out Who Stole My Fucking Hair Tie,” reads a viral fake clickbait headline from the satirical online magazine Reductress.

Last Thursday, editors of the magazine came to Emerson to promote their new book, How to Win at Feminism. Hosted by The Girlie Project, a comedy troupe on campus, the Reductress editors and cofounders Sarah Pappalardo and Beth Newell presented in front of a crowd of around 40 students and faculty members, followed by a question and answer session and a book signing.

Self-described as “The Onion meets Cosmopolitan,” Pappalardo and Newell said they created Reductress in 2013 after realizing that much of the satirical content they could find online was from a male perspective. 

During their presentation in the Little Building’s Beard Room, the editors explained how their use of satire can shed light on issues of power and privilege in a relatable and funny way. 

“With Reductress’ headline driven content, we really try to get to the nut of the thing as quickly as possible,” Pappalardo said. “Where traditional journalism can go into more detail, we try to hit the major points of it.”

Using Buzzfeed-style clickbait, Reductress incorporates humor with social issues. Their articles like “Cool Ways To Sit Here and Die After Accidentally Liking His Pic From 79 Weeks Ago”, and “Woman Who Has No Time To Clean Room Spends Full Hour Searching For Other Shoe,” are lighthearted and tongue-in-cheek. 

“We get to portray things in a way that women are thinking about in their day-to-day lives,” Newell said.“There are all these things in the minutiae of how women live that are not appreciated by the mainstream media on a regular basis.”

The website frequently criticizes social issues. In late August, during a recent controversy involving sexual assault in the comedy industry and the Brock Turner case, the editors decided to take over their homepage with headlines like “We Built This Robot To Explain Rape Culture To Men”, and “I Anonymously Reported My Rape For The Anonymous Attention”. 

At the presentation, the editors commented on Dove’s Real Beauty campaign. They said that while it attempts to showcase women of all sizes, it only succeeds in showing one particular body type. Counterintuitively, the ads exist to encourage the consumption of beauty products to change something about themselves.

“They’ve set up so many contradictory shots here—these women are real women, not the other real women that you’ve actually been seeing,” Newell said. “There’s so much going on that we’re just like, this isn’t speaking to me.” 

Freshman political communications major Claire Foley attended their presentation after reading Reductress’ website for the past couple of months. 

“I love hearing how they analyze social issues and turn them into jokes,” Foley said. “Like—why don’t men think that tampon jokes are funny, but half the people in the audience use tampons? I just love that they are broadening our minds that way.”

Sophomore marketing communications major Marni Zipper went to the event with Emerson Peace and Social Justice, an organization promoting the discussion of social issues. Because of her interests, she said that Reductress’ social commentaries about marketing to women was a good learning experience for her. 

“I’m really glad I got to do this—recently I’ve been feeling so frustrated with Emerson’s marketing program because most of my professors are old white guys and teach very much to the Mad Men ways of marketing, and that’s just not how it is anymore,” Zipper said. “It’s about tapping into very real consumers with very real issues.”

The Reductress editors closed off their night with a book signing of their new book, How to Win At Feminism. Their book explains how to be the perfect feminist, told from the perspective of an ill-informed author who thinks that feminism was invented by Beyoncé in 2014. Like their website, the book incorporates both humor and criticism but they see it more as a form of entertainment than a social commentary.

“As much as we have a point,” Newell said, “at the end of the day, we just want to make people laugh.”

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