Why This Popular Queer, Feminist Website Is Shutting Down After 14 Long Years

Posted on September 22, 2016 in Cake, Cake News

By Cake Staff:

In a post on her personal Tumblr, Trish Bendix, the Editor-in-Chief of AfterEllen.com, a popular site which explored queer women’s perspective on culture, announced that after 14 years, the website would shut down on Friday, September 23.

The site (which is owned by Evolve Media) had been an inclusive, safe space for queer female voices all over the world, and had not just included pop culture commentary, but also meditations on LGBTQ politics and issues. Founded in 2002, AfterEllen had begun as a unique platform for queer feminist commentary on popular culture and it’s various social implications. Named after Ellen Degeneres, one of the most iconic lesbian pop culture icons of contemporary times, the site quickly rose to prominence and became one of the most celebrated LGBTQ spaces on the internet. Its impact has been huge – bringing together lesbian, bisexual, pansexual and trans women from all over the world and giving birth to a strong virtual community. It even had a sister site called AfterElton.com (aimed at queer men), but sadly, that website had been acquired by a corporate and was ‘revamped’ with a new name a couple of years back.

According to Trish Bendix, the decision to close down AfterEllen was made by its parent company because it “wasn’t as profitable” as its other ventures. Bendix wrote:

“[Evolve Media] 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 out-priced by neighborhoods they helped establish, housing in queer meccas like Portland that is being turned into condos and AirBNBs. At the very same time, queer women and culture [are] being celebrated on the Emmys, in the legalisation of both mothers being included on their newborn’s birth certificate, and our namesake, Ellen DeGeneres, being one of the most well-known, well-liked and undeniably profitable television and lifestyle personalities of our generation. Somewhere, there’s a disconnect. 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.”

Bendix, who has been with the site in various roles for a decade, further wrote in her post that Evolve will likely keep old stories alive in the archives and occasionally publish freelance pieces, but she indicated that she was uncertain of and unhappy with that promise. She concluded her post by asking AfterEllen readers to “support queer women, women of colour, trans women — give other deserving women your money, your eyeballs, your attention.”

However, in a post published a few hours ago, the general manager of the parent company rebuffed Bendix’s claims, calling the rumours of the site shutting down “false.” But he did state that due to the lack of the site’s “growth”, it’s corporate owners cannot continue to invest in it at the same levels, even though they will continue to accept freelance writing – which confirms Bendix’s fears on some level.

The shutting down of a space like AfterEllen will be yet another blow to the queer community. In the past year, quite a few LGBTQ blogs have been shut down or have moved to corporate-owned properties. Print outlets covering LGBTQ issues have also faced insolvency, due to this very same ‘inability to make profit’. Queer media is struggling to stay alive in an atmosphere which stresses more on a platform’s economic viability rather than it’s social or political relevance; so much so that popular queer media outlets like Out Magazine or Queerty often has to resort to amping up the sensuality of their content to ‘sell’ it.

While the representation debate rages on in popular media, it’s disturbing that queer journalistic voices or opinions are being suppressed due to commercialisation for a white, heterosexual audience and capitalist pressures.