Last week, the Washington Post Magazine debuted the “XX Files,” a weekly feature that will spotlight personal essays by female writers. The first piece was awesome—-a story about how bullshitting can land you naked in a Finnish embassy sauna, by local poet Sandra Beasley. In an online chat today, Beasley and Washington Post Magazine editor Sandy Fernandez answered some questions about the new column.
Beyond the usual fanfare and old-middle-school-classmate appearances, the chat also featured questions from readers wondering if designating a feature specifically for women writers was a bit, well, regressive:
Falls Church, Va.: Isn’t XX Files a bit of a throwback to the days when Style was the “For And About women” section? In 2008, do we really want to present women’s voices as something Other—-something separate from “normal” voices—-to be segregated and literally put in the back of the magazine?
Washington, D.C.: Is it just me, or does the XX Files read a bit like those old “Women’s Sections” I’ve read that newspapers used to have? The ghetto’s updated for the times, but it’s still a ghetto.
Fernandez’s response:”I think there is a limiting aspect to ‘ghetto’ that isn’t there for ‘XX Files.’ In the olden days, they said the Style section was a ghetto because it was the ‘only’ place in the paper that published women, or published on topics of interest to women. These days, we welcome women in all sections of the magazine. Except for Gene’s page—that’s strictly a Gene ghetto.”
I think the feature’s great; I’m interested in any writing about women’s issues that manages to avoid “When Your Boobs Act Weird” and “The Girlfriend Habit That Will Deepen His Love” territory. What do you think: Should the Post send this feature back to the kitchen?