Katherine Spillar, Executive Editor of the feminist magazine Ms., visited Scripps College last week to talk about the role of feminist journalism in society and to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Ms. She was joined by managing editor, Michel Cicero, and senior editor, Michele Kort.
Spillar, who is also Executive Vice President of the Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF), which publishes Ms., took part in a panel discussion to a predominantly student audience about how feminist journalism has defined the women’s rights movement.
“We’ve always been ahead of our time, from the magazine’s very first edition and a very famous piece called ‘We have Abortions’ before Roe v. Wade,” Spillar said at the panel. “Ms. has been on the cutting edge of defining the issues in the movement and defining how they’re talked about in the public arena.”
Spillar also pointed to two examples of how Ms. has influenced political discourse at a national level.
“A year and a half ago now, we ran a major cover story and two major pieces back to back. The cover story was ‘Rape is Rape,’” Spillar said. “Ms. Magazine began using the term ‘War on Women’ in 2004, eight years ago. Before most people knew there was a war on women, we declared there was a war on women and defined it.”
Amy Borsuk SC ’14 and Dana Shaker SC ’14 also spoke during the panel discussion about their experiences interning with the FMF and Ms.
Borsuk worked as an editorial intern for Ms., where she wrote articles for the magazine’s blog and fact-checked content for the print publication two summers ago.
“It was a really interesting way for me to engage with what was being put into the print magazine, and also with the blog,” Borsuk said. “As interns we got to write for the blog, and the blog was a really exciting space for us because we got to see what everyone was passionate about.”
Borsuk wrote over a dozen entries for the Ms. blog during her internship, covering topics such as gay marriage, affirmative action and feminism in pop culture.
“Interning there was just really fulfilling for me as a person,” Borsuk said. “And even though I know that I want to go to graduate school and become an academic and try all sorts of things, knowing that Ms. Magazine is a resource I can go to in terms of creativity as well as jobs is just a good thing to have.”
Although Borsuk said she does not plan to become a journalist, the experience allowed her to look at the world from a different perspective.
“For me it was a way to put a feminist lens on things,” Borsuk said. “While I learned that summer that I don’t always have the go-get-’em journalist mentality, putting the feminist lens on things was what was most important to me.”
Shaker interned last summer for the FMF, where she spent time working on several campaigns.
“I had a really eclectic internship,” she said. “I got to work on a lot of the projects for FMF, like the get-out-the-vote campaign, which is really crucial. The FMF also has a project titled the Global Women’s Health and Reproductive Rights Project, which I got really involved with as an anthropology major.”
Shaker also had the opportunity to blog for Ms. during her internship, covering the 2012 Summer Olympics from a feminist point of view.
“What’s really cool about Ms. and the FMF is they’re all in the same building,” Shaker said. “On the one side you have Feminist Majority and activism and whatnot, and then you have advocacy journalism on the other side.”
Borsuk and Shaker are the latest in a long line of interns at FMF and Ms. from the Claremont Colleges.
“We do have a very close relationship with the women’s studies program here,” Spillar said at the panel. “Ms. and women’s studies are intertwined in so many different ways. Not only has the research and scholarship in women’s studies fed the magazine and fed the movement, but Ms. Magazine in turn has been a resource in college classrooms all across the country.”