Six months ago, Amber Gordon, Gabriela Barkho, Jeanette Fabre and Jacqueline Mirell were four Twitter friends living in New York City. When they finally decided to meet in real life last fall for dinner, they got to talking about what a safe space for women on the Internet would look like. A few months and a lot of hard work later, Femsplain was born.
Femsplain is a content publishing and shared experience platform that offers a space for women to tell their stories. Blog posts include topics such as art, music, health and personal anecdotes.
"We all really wanted a place where we could just write openly and comfortably to each other," Amber Gordon told The Huffington Post.
Femsplain is a "diverse collective (sexuality, racial, economic, career, geographical, etc.) of doers who have made it our mission to change the dialogue of what it’s like to be a woman –– and in doing so, make our world a better place," its website reads. At the beginning of each month Amber presents a theme such as "Desire," "Change" and "Firsts," which give some general guidelines for blog submissions.
Femsplain has been relatively successful since it launched in October 2014, receiving more than 200 blog submissions and even a mention from Lena Dunham on Twitter. Their Kickstarter has raised more than half of the funds necessary to back the project.
"We sought to elevate these conversations by curating content that challenged the way the world saw us, but we couldn’t find anything that resonated. So, we decided to build it ourselves," their Kickstarter page reads.
We spoke with Amber Gordon and Gabriela Barkho about how they started Femsplain and what they want to do with the platform.
How did you start this project?
Amber: I knew I wanted to build something for myself, and I used to be a community manager for Denny’s so I really love building communities. Femsplain just kind of happened. We weren’t going to do it for ourselves because we had a group chat between the four of us where we could be so open with each other, but we wanted to build a community where other people would feel comfortable telling their stories.
Once we had the name “Femsplain” picked out I was up the entire night getting ready. We bought the domain name on October 6, 2014 and launched the website on October 27 with about 20 pieces of content that we had gathered from our friends. I don’t think I slept at all, but I was so excited about the idea and happy to see the support it was getting -- it just kept pushing me to keep doing it.
Femsplain's Kickstarter video.
What kind of content will the website feature?
Amber: All four of us have talked a lot about what kind of content we’d want to showcase on the site. Before we launched we considered what categories we would have to put the content into. But we felt that categories would prevent people from creatively expressing themselves because they would be too worried into fitting their stories into certain content buckets.
We’ve received all types of content from art submissions to composed music and video content. Honestly, I would love to continue receiving all different types of media as long as they keep the personal and relatable tone that we’ve been getting up to this point.
Femsplain is a place for people to feel safe, to take the stories that they might not be able to put on any other publication to ours. People are throwing their voices out to the wild and they know they’re going to get feedback from people who are interested.
How do you hope to keep this space safe for women?
Gabriela: This is one of the major pillars of our mission. Everywhere you look online, you see female voices being silenced or dismissed. I think by being available to our contributors and providing them with resources to tell their stories without negativity is where we really stand out. Even if it means DMing a writer in the middle of the night to comfort and encourage her, (or talk about lipstick!). I'd like to keep that connection between our team and the contributors strong and open.
Amber: I feel that the reason why people are so comfortable writing a post and attaching their name to it is because they read everyone else’s posts who are also putting themselves out there. I try to instill that comfort every month when we announce a new theme. I relate myself and my experiences to theme as the first post for every monthly theme. In December our theme was “Secrets Of Secrecy” and I actually came out to my friends and family in that post. I’m putting myself out there in order to make others feel safe and comfortable enough to share their thoughts.
From left to right: Akilah Hughes (Contributor), Amber Gordon (Founder), Jeanette Fabre (Content Coordinator), Ryan Sartor (Friend), Treat Harpy (Contributor)
What are you hoping to accomplish with this project?
Gabriela: What I'm hoping to accomplish with Femsplain, personally, is to keep building this genuine collection of voices via our contributors. I'd like us to keep working toward maintaining a rich, diverse, yet cohesive platform via multiple mediums -- whether it be writing, video, art, etc.
Amber: What I’m most excited about is the events that Femsplain is hoping to put on in the near future which are offline. We had one in November and we have another one in February, a comedy show. I really want to take this community that we’re building, made up of super supportive women and men, and bring them offline where they can meet each other. The best things come from when good people come together to collaborate.
How have people reacted to Femsplain?
Gabriela: Most of the feedback I've gotten, editorially speaking, has been very positive, which of course makes me happy. It's great to hear readers as well as media members comment on how consistent and strong Femsplain's voice is. It's something we take pride in and are working hard to maintain as we grow.
Amber: Every time someone publishes an article we always try to follow up to see what positive feedback they’ve gotten but most of the time we don’t even have to, they just come to us. I get almost 50 emails a week telling me, “Thank you so much. I thought I was completely alone but this article has made me realize that I’m not.”