Feminist Journalism is Essential to Democracy

Feminist Media Is Needed to Save Democracy

Feminist journalism is essential to public discourse. It is essential to political debate. And it absolutely essential to free and fair democracy. Explore more at Feminist Journalism is Essential to DemocracyMs. magazine’s latest installment of Women & Democracy, presented in partnership with the International Women’s Media Foundation.

Women in politics and news media are frequently made the target of attacks, threats and harassment. These efforts have one goal: to drive women out of the public space. (Courtesy of the IWMF)

More than ever, expert feminist-focused reporting is the essential antidote.   

With the announcement last week about the closure of the website Jezebel, laments about the past, present and future of feminist-focused news reporting and perspective ricocheted across the Internet. The Guardian columnist Moira Donegan zeroed in on the power of community fostered by feminist media, deeming it “more essential than ever in our current moment of abortion bans and anti-feminist backlash.”

Quality and quantity of abortion coverage is reason enough to value its distinct role. The founders of Ms. certainly recognized this: The magazine’s inaugural issue in 1972 featured more than 50 influential women who signed a petition “We Have Had Abortions” (at great personal risk, too, given abortion was outlawed in most states at the time). The Washington Post went on to report last year that this petition “changed the course of the abortion rights movement” because it shined a light on that which had been invisible—the women who had abortions and the benefit to their lives.

From the perspective of feminist media, impacts include prioritizing personal narrative in reporting and refusing to employ “both sides” techniques to minimize or deflect the extent of popular support for abortion. 

Since the day the Dobbs decision leaked in May 2022, feminist journalists have presciently, relentlessly reported that abortion would remain a top priority for voters, even as much of the traditional media continued to equivocate. (Polling commissioned by Ms. in September 2022 also confirmed this.)

Only in the aftermath of 18 months of political victories—and the latest election results in Ohio, Kentucky and Virginia—have most mainstream outlets and pundits begun to acknowledge the sheer potency of the issue.

The same is true of other gender equity issues, starting with addressing the under-representation of women in elected office and other arenas where decisions are made that impact our lives—from the climate crisis to the care economy, and from gun safety and freedom from violence to the fight for the Equal Rights Amendment.

Which is why, looking ahead, it is imperative that feminist media be understood as more than merely a hub for like-minded women. Its role is far more existential: It is where you will find the voices best able to call out and counter the rise in anti-democratic impulses and action that is growing all around us.

The correlation between misogyny and authoritarianism is neither casual nor a coincidence. Gender is a go-to cudgel for regressive forces that seek to exert political and social control.

We’ve seen this dynamic play out in state legislatures across the country and can expect more of the same in 2024, especially as the presidential campaign commences in earnest. More than ever, expert feminist-focused reporting is the essential antidote.   

When Ms. launched its Women & Democracy platform two years ago, our goals were as follows: to examine the state of our nation’s systems of democracy and the centrality of women’s rights; to explore how feminist leadership makes a difference; and to advance reforms that would ensure more democratic outcomes.

With this latest installment, we acknowledge a fourth and critical prong: to ensure that the media ecosystem is doing its part, presenting perspectives that center gender and reflect the intersectional strategies and approaches that will serve to strengthen democracy, in the United States and globally.

Feminist media is where you will find the voices best able to call out and counter the rise in anti-democratic impulses and action that is growing all around us.

With that, it is vital to underscore that despite the slew of Jezebel-inspired clickbait headlines (“End of an Era!”), feminist media is hardly dead. Far from it. Ms. has been in print for more than 50 years—now bolstered with daily online reporting, an array of podcasts and a live event series—all of which and more is commemorated in 50 YEARS OF Ms. (Knopf, Sept. 2023).

Among the extraordinary and thriving nonprofit and membership-driven newsrooms, hubs and websites with which Ms. is proud to share this mantel:  

  • Abortion, Every Day“: a comprehensive daily newsletter dedicated exclusively to abortion rights, including weekday tracking of everything happening with abortion, from explainers about legislation and court battles to analysis of conservative strategy and stories of women denied care. (See this video featuring “Abortion, Every Day” creator Jessica Valenti on the Spring 2023 installment of Women & Democracy.)

  • Rewire News Group: an independent news outlet that reports exclusively on reproductive and sexual health, rights and justice while combatting pervasive disinformation and misinformation in this arena. Rewire colleagues teamed up with Ms. to present the Women & Democracy installment, “Women’s Rights and Backsliding Democracies.”

  • The 19th*: a newsroom that provides politics and policy coverage through a gender lens, reporting that exposes gender inequity and injustice, and stories on the issues that most deeply affect the lives of women and LGBTQ+ people.

  • Women’s Media Center: works toward media equality using interconnected strategies of research, original stories and articles, promotion of women experts and media training. By raising the visibility, viability and decision-making power of women and girls in media, WMC helps to ensure their stories get told and their voices are heard.

  • The Fuller Project: a global newsroom dedicated to reporting that catalyzes positive change for women. The Fuller Project partners with legacy news outlets like The New York Times, The Washington Post and Foreign Policy to ensure their reporting reaches the broadest global audiences.

Care about uplifting women‘s voicesWe do too. Let Ms. keep you up to date with our daily + weekly newsletters. (Or go back to the essay collection.)


Jennifer Weiss-Wolf is the executive director of Ms. partnerships and strategy. A lawyer, fierce advocate and frequent writer on issues of gender, feminism and politics in America, Weiss-Wolf has been dubbed the “architect of the U.S. campaign to squash the tampon tax” by Newsweek. She is the author of Periods Gone Public: Taking a Stand for Menstrual Equity, which was lauded by Gloria Steinem as “the beginning of liberation for us all,” and is a contributor to Period: Twelve Voices Tell the Bloody Truth. She is also the executive director of the Birnbaum Women’s Leadership Center at NYU Law. Find her on Twitter: @jweisswolf.