21.4 Million Visitors Isn't Enough? iVillage Re-Vamps

Two women seated on bench, interior
Image by George Eastman House via Flickr

iVillage is re-vamping its site, determined to gain even more than the 21.4 million visitors it saw in July. That’s not enough?

I’ve never visited and likely never will, even though they now promise “really usable tools that help women manage their day to day life,” offering readers tips on food, health, beauty, family and home. At the risk of insulting a wildly successful business model, I already have the tools I need: cookbooks, a checkbook and accountant, years of experience making my own decisions, piles of smart books and magazines I read for pleasure when I have time, a few trusted friends at different stages of their lives I turn to for advice.

I admit it, I read little on-line. Nor do I get the appeal of a site aimed at “women”, when we each live through such a wide range of experiences, whether widowed, engaged, mid-divorce, single or happily married. And each woman’s relationship, with herself and others, remains unique. Isn’t the whole point of the web to create micro-niches for our own geeky little interests? How does mass work? Do you really want to be viewed, one more time, as a demographic? I don’t.

And who’s got the time to hang around a site? If there’s a narrative I hear relentlessly about women’s lives, it’s how unbelievably time-starved most working women are, juggling the demands of a spouse, kids, employer and — oh, yeah — herself, usually last on the list. Maybe I’m just not that into the Internet, but when I have free time, (maybe because my work already attaches me to a computer like a cow to a milking machine), I want to do anything but stare at a screen. The women’s sites I’ve found, and I’ve looked, say little to me. Maybe it’s who’s writing them, usually upper/middle class white women tracing the same familiar lines.

(Yes, I may likely be just as guilty!)

I’m a crappy consumer, girlwise. (Travel and items for home remain my biggest luxury.) If I spend $30 a year on make-up, that’s a lot. I use drugstore products, buy at consignment and antique shops, typically save 20 percent of my income each year. I don’t have kids or a pet or a full-time job with a long commute or a kajillion relatives whose lives I keep track of as well, all ways advertisers divine our “needs” and try to sell us products and services to fill them. Even when my income was a lot higher, I just didn’t lust over, or buy, $1,500 boots or an “It” handbag or a 4,000 square foot house filled with stuff. Women like me are a Mad Men’s nightmare. I’m no ascetic — I love jewelry and perfume and lace as much as I treasure my softball cleats, winch handle and toolboxes — but I hate being handed over on-line as one more predictably sliced market segment.

Sites like iVillage, and most women’s magazines, are mass market, de facto aimed at most women choosing conventional lives. I remain forever starved, instead, for stories of the kind of women whose lives really intrigue me: risk-takers, cage-rattlers, brave, bold adventurers. Their hair tends to be messy, their nails short and unpolished, their skin probably wrinkled from working in the sun, their most valued possessions perhaps a passport filled with visas, their health, good friends, work they value — not a smooth forehead or thin thighs.

Instead of heading to iVillage to check out their tools, I’m excited instead about Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s new book about women worldwide, and a new film about Amelia Earhart starring Hilary Swank, opening October 23.

What do you think of “women’s” sites and publications? Do you find them fun or helpful? Do you have any favorites?

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