Relevance at Relevant


Relevant Magazine recently published an article by scorned "Professor of Feminism" Hugo Schwyzer. If you don't know the scoop behind why he's a problematic figure, my friend Grace has written up a nice summary of why he's not trustworthy. There's a conversation to be had about Hugo and safe spaces and the room for redemption. There's also a lot to be said for how redemption does not erase consequences for a man who abused and then failed to disclose fully his abuse when he had a redemption experience. There's also the question of whether or not a problematic figure who posts things that I agree with should still be allowed a voice in the movement (I come down on a no in this instance - making women feel safe within our movement is much more important than making a good policy argument).

But I'm not necessarily writing this to discuss Hugo Schwyzer. There are other blogs and spaces that have done so more fully and more extensively than I ever could. I'm writing to discuss Relevant itself.

Full disclosure: I have written a total of four articles for Relevant magazine, and I am grateful that they gave me a boost in getting my writing career started. But around the time of the third article - a review of Tina Fey's Bossypants - I began to feel uneasy about the commentariat and the nature of Relevant's editorial policies, and decided to stop writing for them altogether. They do, every so often, publish articles that I agree with, but too often, there are articles that are heavily problematic and contain massive amounts of unexamined assumptions that I simply cannot let slide.

I like and respect the people at Relevant; I really do. And I know I've become a sort of lightning rod for criticism of their work as a magazine, and they would probably be happier if I just dropped it altogether and stopped caring.

I've had a number of email conversations with Relevant editors about these issues - always with them contacting me first. I have found them to be gracious, kind, and open to criticism, which is not an easy thing to do. I commend their willingness to engage with me on this discussion, and that they seek to improve their magazine. I am not writing this post to condemn them and I ask that you not do so in your comments. This is not a private vendetta, and I do not have a grudge - I do not consider Relevant to be an enemy but rather a resource in need of an outside voice.

I am writing because - in replying and having this conversation with Relevant - I feel quite alone. It's a little hard to bring others into an email conversation, and it can be hard to say "others have felt this way too" without concrete comments to point to - it feels hollow and disingenuous. In other words, I'm finding it hard to make it clear that problems at Relevant extend beyond just my own disagreement.

So I am opening this comment space to be a safe space to discuss experiences with the way Relevant magazine handles women's issues. I am not looking to create an echo chamber here, but rather to gather together a survey of Relevant's audience and disillusioned readers. If you disagree with my assessment, fine; all I ask is that you be kind in your commentary.

I have my hesitations about doing this in so public a manner, but I also feel uncomfortable having these conversations one on one with Relevant every couple of months. This is a kind of last-ditch effort to clarify, once again, what's wrong, and to keep my own blood pressure from rising every time a friend says, "Hey, did you see that article on Relevant magazine?" I think, quite often, people who disagree and criticize something that is such a behemoth in young Christian culture can feel very alone in their thoughts, and I want to provide a space to air those thoughts safely.

Thank you for your time and your contributions to the discussion.