Ms. editor-in-chief quits

Elaine Lafferty, the best thing to happen to Ms. magazine in years, has resigned.

The Observer reports on Lafferty’s tenure at the magazine:

When she started as editor in chief of Ms. in March 2003, “there was no inventory, no staff–it was like a startup, and they needed a summer issue,” said Ms. Lafferty. She assembled a masthead, with a handful of employees based in California and a poetry editor, fiction editor and designer scattered along the East Coast.

“My vision of Ms. was that it would be a thinking woman’s magazine–a feminist magazine for sure, but my vision of feminism is a big tent,” said Ms. Lafferty. “As the original Ms. was; they didn’t check membership cards at the door. I don’t believe in dogma, in exclusion or rhetoric. I thought it could be a magazine that invites women into the conversation about how we live today.”

One of her ways of doing that was by drifting into territory that might be seen as sexier–or, to some, fluffier–and possibly beyond the realm of concern for traditional feminists, who remember the days before anti-discrimination laws and Roe v. Wade. One such example was a feature about the television show Desperate Housewives, which is on the cover of the current issue. The cover text: “Desperate Housewives: Do We Hate It or Secretly Love It?” appears in block letters on a pink background, as stark as a Bank of China billboard. Inside is a debate about whether the show objectifies women or empowers them.

According to Ms. Lafferty and other staffers at the magazine, lawyers for the Feminist Majority Foundation objected to the original cover that had been designed for the issue. It featured the apron-clad torso of a buxom woman with the words “Desperate Housewives” across her ample bosom and a triangle of black text between her legs. Just as the issue was going to press, the cover was pulled and exchanged for the plain one.

Christine of Ms. musings, the blog associated with the magazine, hasn’t offered any comments on the story yet. And as far as I know, there’s no word yet on the future plans of Ms. fiction editor Amy Bloom.


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