Letter From The Editor | fall 2004
So What About That Election???
At the March for Women’s Lives in Washington, D.C., last April, I met and talked with Sandra Bernhard oh so briefly. She was friendly. We talked enthusiastically about the mission of the new Ms., our strong ties to our past and our plans for the future.
“So. What you’re saying … Ms. magazine is not going to be namby-pamby?” Bernhard said in that way of hers.
“Ms. magazine is not going to be namby-pamby,” I said.
What the hell were we both talking about?
When Ms. magazine hit the stands in 1972 it was nothing if not bold. Even the name of the magazine — the notion of not identifying a woman by her marital status — was radical. Over the years, Ms. magazine covers and stories broke new political, cultural and artistic ground.
Things have changed, times have changed. Yet a brief glance at television (page 50) or our health-care system (page 67) or any other area of society tells us that there is plenty of new ground to break. We believe we are back on the road to naming and identifying the forces that most affect women’s lives. We believe we are again celebrating women’s power and accomplishments, at the same time taking the opponents of women’s progress to task.
Having said that, and considering that this issue is in your hands as the November 2004 election approaches, we need to tell our wonderful readers what our ownership structure is and how it sometimes affects our coverage.
In 2002, Ms. magazine was taken over by a nonprofit foundation, the Feminist Majority Foundation. That foundation is called a 501(c)(3) — IRS-speak for a public charity that is nonpartisan. It has been a great match; the FMF has been working on behalf of women’s rights for 17 years. They were not experts in the magazine business, but they had the expertise, foresight and ingenuity to turn Ms. over to feminist journalists. They had the commitment to excellence to recognize and support Ms. as a key voice for independent, non-corporate-owned media.
But there are advantages and disadvantages to this arrangement. On the plus side, Ms. is largely reader- and donor-supported, although we have begun to selectively accept some advertising again. Being a wholly owned subsidiary of a 501(c)(3) allows your contributions and membership to be tax-deductible. That helps you while helping us.
On the other hand, a 501(c) (3) cannot endorse candidates for any public office. Moreover, it cannot “publish or communicate anything that explicitly or implicitly favors or opposes a candidate.”
And so, we don’t. We play fair, journalistically and legally. We always try to interview both sides. We cannot, and we don’t, take positions on who should win any election. We do not favor Democrats over Republicans in any race. (As an aside, I personally find that very easy since most of the time I can’t stand either party.)
We do take political positions on women and women’s rights. Can you imagine Ms. magazine not doing so? We know that society still has a long way to go before women reach parity in the political, business and artistic worlds. We look for a world where children count, where fathers and mothers both have choices in the workplace, where love between people of the same gender is simply recognized as entitled to the same rights as others. We do advocate a world where female concerns are prominent on the public agenda.
So just because you don’t see us endorsing candidates doesn’t mean we are sitting on the sidelines. We are as subversive as the day that Ms. put a pregnant President Jimmy Carter on the cover. We may do it just a little differently now … but never, Ms. Bernhard, never will this magazine be namby-pamby.
— Elaine Lafferty
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