An Interview with Amber Gordon, Creator of Femsplain

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Femsplain already exists. You can look at it right now. It's a community that is still forming, but it is forming very rapidly. Developed by Amber Gordon, who envisioned Femsplain as a safe place to discuss women's issues, both overt and not, the site is as much a writing platform as it is a community. We spoke to Gordon about how and why it came into existence.

Can you talk about how you came up with the idea for Femsplain?

The way it started is weird. I met the girls that I built it with on Twitter. We were huge fans of each other and things we’d written. We eventually decided to meet up and get dinner. We were nervous, but we met each other and it was amazing. One of the biggest things we noticed is that we all have these opinions about media. We wanted to write to each other about things we saw being talked about. We came up with this idea for a Tumblr called Sad Drunk Girls. We were like, we’re going to write to each other when we were either sad or drunk or both, but it never happened. The idea was still there: writing open letters to each other, our real experiences. 

Was there any single moment where you were like, okay, now is the time to launch my own thing?

Five or six months ago, I worked at Tumblr. I was feeling uninspired, but wanted to boost the conversation online among women voices. I was like, let’s take this idea of sharing our real stories to each other and make it bigger. Femsplain was born. The name was an accident, I was telling my friend I was building the platform, and he was like why don't you call it Femsplain? "Mansplain" is generally a negative term, but maybe Femsplain can reshape the way women are discussed. 

I was really tired of waiting for things to happen. I was tired of telling brands not to make memes, so I was like, I need to do something for myself and something for other people. After I got the domain—I think I didn't sleep that night. My roommates were worried about me.

Was there any publication or site that inspired you?

Growing up, I didn't know it—but I was super into fandom. Being in a part of these internet communities that really praised the people that were creating content and we were all there because we had one general interest—it didn't matter where we came from, being part of that forged my love for community. Now Rookie Mag is doing an amazing job. I love the writing, and I love how they are catering to the younger generation who will eventually become who we are today. Model View Culture is great. The Toast is another favorite. The Hairpin also.

Your bio on the project page mentions that you’re passionate about online community building. How does that factor in here?

My background is primarily in online community building. Building something that’s more about sharing content with your peers and people who are likeminded is so much more powerful, because when you’re writing you’re writing to connect with other people, I think that connection is way more powerful than just speaking out into the void. The relationships that are formed on Femsplain... it's so amazing to hear stories about people being like, oh I met her in the comments section of her women's reproductive issues article. The connections that are coming from people meeting and creating community are so powerful.

What would you say the message is?

At its core—we’re trying to redefine the way people talk about women's issues. We have a monthly theme, it’s a guide for contributors, we’re not putting categories on it. We’re really making people feel comfortable and building a safe space for them to talk about things they don’t put anywhere else. 

We’re also getting compared to other women’s communities, we’re not shouting into the void. We’re trying to have a discussion. We welcome anyone, regardless of gender, to participate. We’re just highlighting female voices. We’re publishing social media managers. We’re publishing nurses. We’re publishing lawyers who want to share their experiences anonymously.

What are you hoping to achieve? What are you hoping to change?

I experience online harassment. I know that world. Those people exist. But I also feel like the people who are likely to harass you are insecure, so we’re trying to build a place where even though you might be directly affected by what someone is talking about, you can still read it and understand, and maybe your view might be changed a bit. We’re trying to create offline events and workshops to get these people together to support each other and strengthen that bond. We’re having a comedy show in the middle of February to promote some of our community members who are also comedians, but anyone is welcome to meet people who are likeminded to create a stronger community. We’re also having these workshops—we’re having a coding workshop, a basic introduction—anyone can come.

You're very adamant about compensating people for their work, at a time when this isn't exactly an assumption. Can you talk about that?

We’ve definitely had people ask us, "Why are you paying your contributors? You know they’ll do it for free." But we believe that if they’re taking the time out of their workday to open up and be honest and provide us with content, of course they deserve to be compensated. Quality work deserves compensation. It’s good to know that your voice is valued, even though you would contribute for free — having that direct deposit to show that this place values what you’ve contributed, that means so much to me. 

Who is the ideal audience for Femsplain?

We want the people that support us, but it would be great to get people that might not necessarily agree with our values. A good example is people who don’t feel welcome because of their gender, who might look at us and say, "I don't know if I feel safe here." Anyone that might have second thoughts. we want them to see that we’re trying to cover a diverse voice, it’s not just by women for women. It’s for anyone.

    1. Jason Love on

      "if they’re taking the time out of their workday to open up and be honest and provide us with content, of course they deserve to be compensated"

      I wish more sites took this approach.

    2. Jacqueline Sneyers on

      Femsplain is wonderful community that is empowering and supportive.

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