“How To Get Men To Chase You But Not When You’re Jogging At Night ” and “5 Ways To Fight the Patriarchy Without Coming on Too Strong” are just two of the attention-grabbing headlines from the website, Reductress, a satirical women’s online magazine created by Beth Newell and Sarah Pappalardo. On Thursday night in Cushing 001, Newell and Pappalardo spoke to students about starting Reductress, how they use satire, and the types of topics they aim to tackle.
Newell and Pappalardo met while doing sketch comedy together in New York City. While writing comedy pieces with other women, Newell noticed that many of the ideas they were writing focused on poking fun at the way advertisers target women. In April 2013, Newell approached Pappalardo with the idea of creating a satirical publication that poked fun at the way media portrays women.
Reductress started with an idea, practically no budget, and 50 or 60 articles. From there, Pappaladro and Newell hit the ground running and have not stopped since.
“Media has this legacy of talking to women in a particular way, talking down to us and using our fears and insecurities in order to sell us things,” Newell said. “That was part of the inspiration for how we developed a satirical women’s magazine.”
She then went on to mention how other outlets, like The Onion, had satirized the standard news website, but a take on a women’s publication had not been done yet.
The website aims to satirize both big and seemingly trivial issues that women face. From rape culture and police brutality to microaggressions in the workplace, Reductress tackles it all. They aim to shed light on the fact that, although women are treated better now than they have been historically, there is still room for improvement.
Newell and Pappalardo then went on to explain how and why they use satire as their medium of choice. Part of the strategy of writing satire, Newell explained, is to heighten the topic, which means exaggerate to the point of ridiculousness. She explained how this style of writing can make tough subjects more palatable to readers. When they plan a piece, Pappalardo explained, the writers try to hone in on one core truth and focus the article around that.
They differentiated what Reductress does with its satire from how other blog-style websites operate. Pappalardo explained that blogging websites often use snark to make a point, but do not exaggerate like Reductress does.
“Media has this legacy of talking to women in a particular way, talking down to us and using our fears and insecurities in order to sell us things.”
—Beth Newell, Cofounder of Reductress
Along with writing satirical magazine pieces, Reductress creates fake ads that parody the way marketing campaigns target women. One of the campaigns they created was called “Bologna for Her,” a comment on the “For Her”-type of campaigns many companies run.
In November 2014, Reductress did a “rape culture takeover” of its homepage in response to the rape allegations against a man who was kicked out of the Upright Citizens Brigade, a New York sketch comedy group. For the first time, every article on the homepage was dedicated to the same subject.
“We kinda took it from all angles, how people talk about it on the internet, witch hunts, just being an ally and what that means right now, and also kinda dealing with the aftermath of being a victim,” Pappalardo said.
This past October, Reductress published a book titled How To Win At Feminism: The Definitive Guide To Having It All—And Then Some! written by Newell, Pappalardo, and Anna Drezen. How to Win is a satirical guide that “teaches” women how to be “good feminists.” The book aims to critique the way feminism is perceived in the mainstream media.
At the end of the talk, Newell and Pappalardo opened up the floor to questions. One of the audience members asked Newell and Pappalardo what they hoped to accomplish with their writing. Newell said they don’t expect to change the world, but hope some people can relate to the truth behind the satire.
“I think the goal is to have people say ‘Oh, I never saw it that way,’ and then they might experience their world differently, being aware of things they weren’t aware of before,” Pappalardo said.
Featured Image by Celine Lim / Heights Staff