On Tuesday night, 5C community members gathered at Claremont McKenna College’s (CMC) Athenaeum for a panel about the impact of Ms. Magazine, a feminist magazine co-founded by Gloria Steinem in 1971, on movement journalism, gender equity and intersectional storytelling.
The panel had three members of Ms. Magazine’s executive and advisory board: Carmen Rios, the consulting digital editor at Ms. Magazine, Linda Perkins, director of Applied Gender Studies at Claremont Graduate University and member of Ms. Magazine’s scholar board, and Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, Executive Director of Strategy and Partnerships at Ms. Magazine.
The Mgrublian Center co-sponsored the event with CMC’s Women and Leadership Alliance. Wendy Lower, a professor of history and director of the Mgrublian Center at CMC, chose to bring the conversation to campus to promote discourse around the violation of “women’s privacy, freedom and bodily integrity.”
“For me, the event was inspired by an urgent need to return to a form of consciousness raising, similar to the late 1960s feminist approach to sharing stories, learning and unifying,” Lower said in an email to TSL.
The event was a stop on the tour for Ms. Magazine’s newest book, “50 Years of Ms.: The Best of the Pathfinding Magazine That Ignited a Revolution.”
All three of the panelists emphasized the pioneering quality of Ms. Magazine as a key component of its impact on feminism over the several decades. Rios highlighted her amazement at the trailblazing quality of the magazine’s earliest pieces, citing that they were published in a time “when abortion [was] illegal and spousal rape [was] not against the law.”
“The reality we have now was literally made possible by these people and their words, their intellectual leadership and their activist leadership, and to just think that without Ms., that void in the conversation, it’s a question how else it would’ve gotten filled,” Rios said.
Perkins said that it was her personal passion for the magazine’s content that has made it such an important part of her life.
“I was in graduate school when it came out,” Perkins said. “It just really spoke to me, because I was a feminist and here is this magazine that addressed the kind of issues that I was concerned with. I’ve read it ever since.”
Rios said that Ms. Magazine’s formal stance as a feminist publication drew her to her role as a digital editor. She appreciated that it’s a journalistic enterprise with a “point of view,” not one “attempting to pretend that it doesn’t have a point of view.”
In a similar sentiment, she shared that Ms. Magazine differs from mainstream journalism in that it doesn’t require cooperating with “both sides” of an argument when “only one side is factually accurate, or only one side of the argument respects the dignity and the lives of all people.”
“You don’t have to entertain the notion that there’s a debate about women’s personhood or the full equality of people of all races and ethnicities, or the full personhood of queer and trans people, when you open its pages,” Rios said.
Attendee Nymisha Desai PZ ’25 agreed with Rios, noting that the panelist didn’t say people shouldn’t have compassion for “both sides.”
“She just meant that in the sense of when it comes to journalism, doing something quote-unquote objectively or telling every side of the story in a nonpartisan way is not necessarily something that should be put on a pedestal,” Desai told TSL.
The panelists pointed out that Ms. Magazine’s nonprofit status, meaning they rely on philanthropic funds instead of profits from commercial advertisements, reinforces its practice of “good faith” journalism. Weiss-Wolf contrasted this against leading media outlets that “do not know how to report on the degradation of our democracy.”
“To have feminist journalism, independent journalism, nonprofit journalism correcting the record I think is extremely important, if not essential,” she said.
The session ended with an open mic Q&A, where an audience member asked how male allies can better support the movement for gender equity. In response, Rios pointed out that identifying as a feminist is not enough.
“The problem is often that men are not being quite loud enough about their support for feminism, they’re not showing up,” Rios said. “Feminism always has to be a verb, it has to be active, feminism is not just a state of mind, it’s about how we live, it’s about what we do, it’s about the actions we take.”