Upon learning that Jane magazine had officially folded Wednesday morning, I was struck by nostalgia and went out and bought myself the latest and last issue. I haven't read Jane in years, but Jane and I go back a long way.
As a quirky, confused teenager stuck in a conservative Midwestern suburb, reading Jane made me feel like there were other girls like me out in the world, girls who owned their dorkiness and wore their non-conformist status like a badge of honor. They were outspoken and unafraid of being labeled as feminists. They weren't embarrassed to act silly or admit to having cheesy interests. They were adventurous and willing to take big risks. And they called "bullshit" when they saw it.
I loved that Jane didn't talk down to me with those obligatory first-person rape narratives, or list 100 ways to make my man moan. They spared me celebrity profiles on vapid actresses and guides to a bikini-ready bod. Amazingly, I could actually afford to buy a lot of the things featured in articles. And who didn't idolize editor-in-chief, Jane Pratt, who founded her first magazine at 24 and her second at 35? The girl had guts.
I'm not going to pretend that Jane was some sort of profit-blind organization created for the purpose of bettering womankind. But for the most part, they did a good job avoiding the formulas and cliches of other women's magazines, and refused to prioritize product promotion and advertising sales over a general message of female empowerment and acceptance of oneself.
Sadly, this is why they no longer exist.
The lesson I get from Jane's demise is that there is no hope for a mainstream alternative women's magazine. As much as a magazine like Jane may have hated it, they had to stay beholden to the bottom line, and that meant not pissing off potential advertisers and making enough money to keep their corporate owner happy.
This is really disappointing for those of us who get depressed flipping through issues of Cosmo, In Style, Allure and Elle, feeling like we're reading the same articles every month. The same viewpoints are always presented, and the aspirational lifestyle they're selling is one we can never achieve.
Luckily, there's the internet and the opportunity for anyone to present their opinions for free online, for the whole world to read. Independent bloggers don't have to worry about selling enough ads or subscriptions each month. They don't have the overhead of a magazine or newspaper and they can write on their own time and terms, about whatever topics they want. There's incredible freedom, and it's interesting to think what Jane could have been like, and whether it would still be around, if it existed online only.
While the standards of women's magazines continue to drop, it's encouraging to think about the endless possibilities that online media can offer. I'm sure there's a smart, young version of Jane Pratt out there, coming up with ways to revolutionize women's blogs. In all likelihood, there's more like 1000 of them.