5 Reasons We'll Miss AfterEllen (and All It Was for Queer Women) the Most
AfterEllen, the premier site for content for queer women, is shutting down after 14 years, and it's a loss to us all.
It’s a strange time to be a lesbian. This past Sunday four out women won Emmy Awards — Kate McKinnon, Jill Soloway, Sarah Paulson, and Nina Jacobson. Jill gave a fiercely feminist speech in which she proclaimed the word “queer” several times on prime-time TV and finished by demanding we “topple the patriarchy," and Sarah said “I love you, Holland Taylor” to her beloved. These moments were celebrated far and wide, at least on the social media pages of people I know. But even as we strive toward visibility, recognition, and validation, there is a sickening reality that spaces for queer women are disappearing. Today we lost a big one.
Editor in chief of AfterEllen Trish Bendix announced today that the 14-year-old website that Sarah Warn launched well before queer characters were visible across networks, DADT was overturned, marriage equality became the law of the land, social media pretty much ruled over everything, and YouTubers qualified as insta-celebs, would shut down. As of this Friday, AfterEllen, owned by Evolve Media, is shuttering its virtual doors. Thankfully, it will exist as an archive so that this marvelous chronicle of our recent history is not lost entirely.
Regarding AfterEllen’s final days Trish wrote:
“Evolve Media purchased AfterEllen from Viacom two years ago. They gave us two fiscal years to become their LGBT property and profit in that space, and they found we are not as profitable as moms and fashion. And, yes, “they” are mainly white heterosexual men, which is important to note because not only is this the story for us, but for a lot of other properties — large-scale media outlets, lesbian bars outpriced by neighborhoods they helped establish, housing in queer meccas like Portland that is being turned into condos and AirBNBs.”
Because I ran SheWired, our company’s site for queer women, for eight years before we moved its archives to Pride this February, this narrative about what the market values is not new to me, and still, having fought long and hard for women’s spaces, the loss of AfterEllen, once a competitor, always a resource I valued and respected, is palpable and upsetting.
Trish goes on to say in her letter titled “Eulogy for the Living: On Losing AfterEllen and Queer Women's Spaces,” “AfterEllen is just one of the homes lesbian, bisexual, and queer women will have lost in the last decade. It was a refuge, a community, a virtual church for so many. I’m not sure that some people outside of us can really ever understand that.”
While AfterEllen will continue on as an archive with possible occasional posts from freelancers, according to the letter, we (I) will miss it in its current form as a living document to and for queer women.
Here are 5 reasons we'll (I'll) miss AfterEllen.
The Morning Brew:
I don’t remember when AfterEllen began calling its morning roundup “Morning Brew,” but I’ve read it (or an earlier iteration of it) nearly every morning for the better part of a decade. Loaded with links, videos, red carpet photos, and pithy musings on what queer women in pop culture were up to, Morning Brew was a one-stop news source for all things pertaining to queer women. It even included an exhaustive guide to what to watch on TV each day.
I don’t read recaps exhaustively, but when you’re a writer in the queer space and you need to know what happened to a lesbian or bisexual female character on a show you don’t have time to watch or barely knew existed, AfterEllen’s recaps were always there to fill in the blanks. They were often tinged with biting sarcasm about characters we loved and loved to hate on everything from The L Word to Pretty Little Liars to American Horror Story.
Long before YouTubers became ubiquitous, AfterEllen produced original video that included a group of writers offering video commentary on The L Word, actress and comic Bridget McManus interviewing celebrities in her pajamas, and workout and travel series featuring lesbian hosts.
AfterEllen’s history of interviewing queer celebrities, musicians, and actresses playing lesbian and bisexual is impressive. AE has given voice to aspiring directors, web series writers, YA novelists, A-list celebrities, and more.
The interviews are an integral piece of modern history for queer women as far as tracing the arc of acceptance and representation beginning back when it was considered edgy and brave to play a lesbian.
A Space for Women:
The lesbian bar is disappearing, as Broadlyinvestigated in a thoughtful video last year. And while that loss is deeply upsetting, it feels easier to reconcile the closing of brick-and-mortar businesses requiring a steady flow of women walking through the doors and spending oodles of cash. It’s mind-boggling to comprehend losing virtual spaces, sanctuaries on the internet, a place that was envisioned as the great leveler, a place where barriers were broken and people came together. The reality is that the great leveler is advertising and money, especially in terms of how women (without men) are valued. I’d like to collectively, virtually, pour one out (since there are no bars left to go to) for AfterEllen, even as I appreciate it for all it’s offered queer women since 2002.