In the “About Us” section of their website, the creators of theSkimm proclaim: “We see ourselves as a part of a generation where women are out-earning men in paychecks and degrees. We’ve grabbed our seats at the table, now it’s time to Skimm to the head.” I researched the daily newsletter after it was recommended to me as something “super helpful” by my brother’s wealthy, educated girlfriend who works in an art gallery. Despite their message of female empowerment, examining the content of this news service created by women for women reveals it to be anything but empowering.
Carly Zakin and Danielle Weisberg founded theSkimm in 2012 with the idea of simplifying the enormous amount of news headlines into a short, sassy report subscribers receive daily via email. theSkimm openly admits that it targets an audience of female professionals who are educated, but apparently not educated enough to understand the news. Their homepage displays the silhouette of a rail-thin woman accessorized with pearls, matching handbag and stilettos, and her iPad. It describes theSkimm as “the daily newsletter that simplifies the headlines for the educated professional who knows enough to know she needs more. We do the reading for you and explain it with fresh editorial content, breaking down what you need to know to start the conversation.” This description, as well as the newsletter’s content, reveals the service to be problematic.
I don’t have a problem with the idea of condensing the excess of news headlines, or the declaration that people don’t have time to be constantly up-to-date with all the news that comes out each day. The superfluity of news sources on the web makes it virtually impossible to read, let alone skim, each piece of news.
I do have a problem, however, with the implications of targeting women, as theSkimm does. By gearing their quippy, abbreviated news reports towards women specifically, they are implying that keeping up with the news is a women’s issue, not a universal one. They outwardly acknowledge that their female readers need them to “break down” the news for them, as if they are too stupid to understand it themselves.
They also imply that professional women don’t care about current events, and just want to know the basics so they don’t sound stupid in front of their bosses or boyfriends. While theSkimm promotes awareness about the news for the advancement of women’s careers, it implies that women shouldn’t genuinely concern themselves with the goings on of the world—they should just stay up-to-date for their own personal advancement.
theSkimm takes a cue from Cosmo in the wording of its newsletters. News briefs are given bolded headings like, “What to say when you like your friend’s outfit…” “What to say to your friend named Muffy…” and “What to say to the new guy…” With its intended audience of educated, privileged, girly girls and a distinctly sassy voice, theSkimm is reminiscent of “Betches Love This.” Sadly, it lacks the self-parody of “Betches.” theSkimm seems very clearly to be for betchy women who acknowledge their own stupidity and apathy, but it was created with a serious functionality. The women in my life who use theSkimm—all of whom are highly educated adults—use it not merely for laughs, not to poke fun at their own privilege and laziness, but to obtain the news.
And anyone could do so if they wanted to. The news theSkimm provides doesn’t seem to be much different from a summary of the actual news, except that it is quite colloquial and very often mixes in proportionately unimportant news about shopping and clothing companies. The only difference is that theSkimm communicates the news to you with the implication that you overheard someone discussing it and had no idea what they were talking about. Instead of just telling you who Ted Cruz is and what he did, for instance, theSkimm only tells you this after saying “HOLD UP. WHO THE F IS TED CRUZ?”