Early in January, Minnesota playwright, Presbyterian pastor and feminist Kristine Holmgren was asked to create a website for multi faith blogging network Beliefnet. "I'm negotiating 'terms' now," she announced excitedly on Facebook. Unfortunately, the negotiations have since fallen apart after Holmgren and the Beliefnet marketing analysts got in a disagreement about including the word "feminist" in the blog's title.
Holmgren received this email from Beliefnet marketing and business analyst Sharon Kirk:
We're ready to get started on the header for your blog however first we need the title of your blog and any creative direction you may have (i.e. colors you want to include, any themes, a headshot, etc.). I believe you and Jana previously tossed around a few title possibilities including "Feminist Pulpit Notes."
While I agree that title is certainly straight forward, I think it would resonate with our readers more if the title was a bit "softer." Our readers are looking for editorial that's uplifting, motivational, inspirational, etc. and I think your blog will perform better if the title speaks to that aspect of your blog. Do you have any ideas along those lines?
Holmgren then suggested "Sweet Truth — Thoughts of a Faithful Feminist." Friendly, chipper and soft as a puppy, right?
Then came the response from Beliefnet. Kirk wrote:
I love "Sweet Truth" however I would suggest changing the tag line or deleting all together as I'm concerned about the negative connotation that our readers may associate with the word feminism. In addition, we'll want this blog to focus more on Christianity/spirituality as opposed to issues related to feminism. What do you think of simply "Sweet Truths with Kristine Holmgren"?
Sure, or why not call it "Tasty Thoughtsy-Woughtsies"? Or "Blah, Blah, Blah: Unchallenging Thoughts from a Woman Who DEFINITELY Shaves Her Legs"? (Just spit ballin,' here.)
Side note: While Beliefnet is worried that the word "feminism" might offend someone, they have no issue about running ads and advice from Focus on the Family. Neat!
Holmgren posted this update on her Facebook wall Wednesday:
I spoke a few moments ago with the contact at BeliefNet. She told me — not only can I not use the word "feminist" in my title, I cannot use it on the blog..."The word offends so many people," she said. She said I should come up with a word that was "softer." I told her I didn't think there was anything "softer" than feminism; a word that denotes equality for men and women and respect for children and families. She said "I agree, but. . . " so I told her their inflexibility on this was a "deal breaker." She regretted my "feeling" on this (by the way — this isn't a "feeling." It's a "thought system." Some people's kids!!! ) and said, "We can conclude this without rancor." I said, "Oh, no we can't." I'm writing about this one.
On one hand, Beliefnet is a private company that's allowed to associate with whatever words they like. On the other, a private company that refuses to associate with an ideology that's fundamental principle is that you shouldn't treat women like garbage is a little fucking questionable.
Strangely, Beliefnet knew what Holmgren's point-of view was from the beginning. "I said to them ‘You've got to know that I'm a Presbyterian pastor, but I come to the world as a feminist.' They said, ‘That's fabulous. We want a wide range of views on the site,'" the writer said of her first interview. Later, of course, they got scared. Scared of offending people with something that isn't even offensive. Scared of offending people with women's rights. So much for faith...
Beliefnet Tells Writer: Don't Use the Word 'Feminist' On Your Blog [Jim Romenesko]