Amber Gordon, Founder of the online community Femsplain, is giving a voice and resource to women through storytelling. The community-driven site posts stories from female contributors across a wide variety of topics allowing for issues to be raised, discussed and solved.
I had a chance to sit down with Amber and ask her why Femsplain is an important digital outlet for working moms and how you can join her mission.
1) Tell us about the birth of Femsplain. Did you create it knowing how high the demand would be for a forum for women's voices?
Back in 2014, I met the girls that I built Femsplain with on Twitter. We were huge fans of each other and things we'd written and built, and so 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 had decided that we're going to write to each other when we were either sad or drunk or both, but that never happened. The idea was still there: writing open letters to each other, our real experiences -- and so eventually that came to be Femsplain.
2) You describe Femsplain as a "community-driven publisher". What exactly does this mean? How is it different than other sites with unique, contributed content?
Basically what we're doing is building a community through storytelling. Our writers submit stories about pretty much anything and everything, and as unique as it might be, there are always others out there who can sympathize and relate. Over the past year, we've seen so many relationships grow between contributors and readers -- readers that often later become contributors -- that go from online to IRL, and that sort of built-in support network is something that's really important to us.
One of the things that really sets us apart is that while we love publishing people with a writing background, we also love publishing people who are super green in the writing world, just as much. A lot of our contributors -- especially ones submitting for the first time -- have never written anything for another outlet. That's also partially because they're writing about such sensitive topics and haven't really been able to find a place to put their story out there on, and we try really hard to make sure our contributors feel safe and supported when they write for us.
3) What does "Feminism" mean to you?
When I came to understand Feminism and how it affected me, I was in my late teens. It was a word people I formerly associated with used as an insult. As I grew older I saw how much I needed it in my own life, and educated myself so that I could help others. To me, Feminism means using my privilege to do my part to help create opportunity for others.
4) At Inkwell we have a very focused mission of changing the traditional 9-to-5 work model, addressing the imbalance between men and women in the workplace, and helping women return to work after they have children. How do you think Femsplain can help push this mission?
I think firsthand experiences are some of the most powerful ways to fight against imbalances like that. We've had a lot of writers tell stories about how work, or certain aspects of their jobs, are hell for them because they're treated different from men. It's easy to just say, "Women are often treated unfairly in the workplace" but it doesn't necessarily mean anything. When someone can stand up and give their own personal example of these sort of injustices, people will listen.
5) Based on your reply above, what sort of changes do you think need to happen to make Inkwell's mission a reality?
It's crazy that this is still even an issue, but one of the places we need to start is equal pay -- equal everything, really. No matter what someone identifies as, workplaces need to recognize that if an employee has a new child, that employee needs time off. The default, at least in heterosexual relationships, is that a woman will leave her job for however long she can while her partner continue to work, which puts an unfair burden on both parties.
And what about single parents? They can't work and raise a new baby at the same time. The system currently in place very much favors a traditional family model, in a time when that model is becoming less and less the norm.
6) We at Inkwell don't see the plight of working families as a "women's issue" so much as a major social issue (e.g., the loss of skilled professionals from the workforce after they have children). What sort of public policies can help widen this issue as an economic agenda?
Again, better benefits for new parents. It shouldn't fall on one person's shoulders to be responsible for a family's income, just like it shouldn't fall on the other's to take care of the child. Current policies can make it very difficult for partners to have an actual equal partnership.
Companies should also try to make it easier for employees to work from home if they can, and it should be illegal for a company to replace and then fire someone who's on maternity or paternity leave.