Tag Archives: Jann Wenner

Rolling Stone’s Female Trouble

Rolling Stone tragically misreported a rape story at University of Virginia. Even the magazine admits that. But their trouble around women’s issues goes way beyond this one story. It’s a problem as deep as the magazine’s roots in 1960s counterculture. Rather than embracing the feminism of that era, Jann Wenner turned the music magazine into a men’s magazine, focusing on male artists, male critics, male interests. Just peruse the magazine’s mastheads and bylines for the last five decades; except for a brief period in the late ’70s, female writers and editors have been marginalized and tokenized.

Musicians have long complained about the way the magazine has depicted them  — if it depicts them at all. Joni Mitchell refused to talk to Rolling Stone for years because she said the magazine had focused on her romantic relationships, not her groundbreaking music. Heart’s Wilson sisters write disparagingly of the magazine in their memoir.

What’s particularly sad about the UVa story is that it seemed like the magazine was finally making an effort to employ a woman writer writing about a serious, real issue for college students. But it was clear from the first, sensational paragraphs of this story — almost pornographic in their violent and unlikely detail — that the culture at Rolling Stone just doesn’t get it, still.

That said, I hope they keep trying. I hope that rather than backing away from learning to get it right, they hire women top editors and writers, give the guys there some sensitivity training, particularly Wenner. I loved Rolling Stone when I was a teen, and it broke my heart when I banged into its glass ceiling. If the magazine misreads its screwup as caused by being too sensitive to a woman’s voice, instead of culture-blind editorial bungling, this tragedy will just be deepened.

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How Rolling Stone Added Insult to Injury

Three days after Rolling Stone yanked the rug out from under the feet of its own source in a controversial, and deeply problematic, story about rape culture at the University of Virginia, my Riot Grrrl First Year Seminar met for our grand hurrah, a Ladyfest of student presentations. These young women, and one man, amazed me with the intense intimacy of the poems, songs, and critical karaokes they sang, spoke, and shouted in sometimes cracked, sometimes exultant voices. Along with the two Beyonce tributes, some of these bright students on the cusp of independent adulthood shared harrowing stories of family tragedies, battles with illness, and abusive boyfriends. Two of the 17 women spoke about having been sexually assaulted in the past year.

Rolling Stone has long had a female problem. As I discovered more than 20 years ago when I first started writing about women music critics, the magazine has a  track record of shutting out female writers. Woman musicians, most notably Joni Mitchell,  have repeatedly spoken out about the magazine’s misogyny. The fact that Jann Wenner’s men’s club doesn’t get feminist issues was clear from the hyperbolic, almost pornographic lede of “A Rape on Campus.” But I hoped that maybe this was a turning point for the magazine that, admittedly, I read avidly as a teen, that helped make me want to write revealing portraits of rock stars and smart reviews.

I couldn’t possibly have predicted how completely Stone would botch the job.

The tragedy of the Rolling Stone fiasco is that because of one magazine’s ineptitude, women with real stories like this might not get heard. I heard them the other night, and I honor those who are willing to speak up. It’s more important now than ever.

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