Beyond Sassy: Jane Pratt On the Importance of Supporting Other Women
At the age of 24, Jane Pratt created Sassy, a magazine for teenage girls. Still a young woman herself, Pratt was responsible for the magazine's soaring success. Refusing to turn it into a cookie-cutter, recipe-style, droll publication, Sassy talked to chicks about their sexuality, fed their passion for music and womanhood in ways no other magazine had. To this day, Sassy reigns as one of the most iconic generational voice of young ladies. Unstoppable, Pratt went on to found the popular Jane Magazine. In May 2011, the same month HelloGiggles was launched, Jane came back for more, this time giving women a community on the web at xojane.com.
Jane rang us from her office in New York City to talk about her upcoming panel at SXSW. During our chat, she shared with us her three decades of knowledge gained being a fearless woman. Pratt's voice is ever evolving and her messaging, unstoppable.
Lianne Stokes: You're speaking at SXSW next week.
Jane Pratt: Yes, I honestly didn't think I'd get picked so it's really great. I could talk for a year about what I've been through and done and how it all translates into what I'm doing now. Now my focus is to condense it.
LS: One thing that's so fascinating about you is that you keep popping up and reinventing yourself. How has that been as a process for you? Have you ever felt beaten down to the point of giving up?
Pratt: When I first moved to New York City many years ago, I ran a marathon. I hadn't really trained for it. I just ran. I kept telling myself that I wasn't going to stop. If you keep going you're either going to do what you want to do, or you're going to die trying to do it.
LS: There's 50 Cent's mantra, "Get rich or die trying."
Pratt: Yeah, I'm not motivated by the 'get rich part', but I am driven to do the projects I want to do.
LS: I think that you have amazing perseverance. It's easy to feel rejected and give up. You have an amazing fortitude that all women need to adopt.
Pratt: Thank you so much. What motivates me to do the kind of work that I do is to bring other women up. I know that it sounds archaic, but I feel there's still this attitude that women should be competing with each other. Whether it's on The Bachelor, for that one guy or in their careers, for that one high level position. I feel women are pinned against each other a lot. It's so important to pull women up. Because when you can help women do what they want to do, it's a success for all of us.
LS: When you create this friendly female environment, how do women react?
Pratt: A lot of times women are taken aback by having a group of women really support them and want to promote them as well as what they're doing. The joy is when they get used to it. They start to assume that other women have their backs.
LS: It would have been easy for you to pander to the huge male demographic, but every magazine you've started has been for women.
Pratt: Yes, what I liked about Sassy, and Jane [Magazine] is that we had 15% male readership. I believe it's about the same at xoJane. I think there's something cool that you get to do something female driven, but then you have guys coming to read it where they're kind of the outsiders, as opposed to most media which is male-focused.
LS: I feel like there are a lot of topics on xojane.com that are not just about being a woman, it's raw, honest writing, and that's where the male crossover comes in.
Pratt: Yes, women writing about their bodies, about their sexuality, about what they want and don't want. They are able to write about it with no shame attached.
LS: What do you think women need to do to become more unified?
Pratt: I think it starts with you. Stop yourself when you're going to say something snarky about another woman's appearance. Even if that woman is a supermodel, it's not cool to cut them down. Have a more positive attitude and stop yourself from going the other way. One thing that I enjoy from almost a maternal standpoint is watching these women become huge successes. I love hearing people talk about how Chloë Sevigny was once a summer intern at Sassy.
I feel like there has been progress in a lot of areas. Since I started Sassy back in 1988, I've seen a lot of change in the world. But I feel it's wild that women's media has been so slow to change.
LS: What's your favorite part about running xojane?
Pratt: The community. Knowing that you can put something up there and get hundreds of thousands of comments. In those comments people spill their own personal stories, and feel like it's a safe place to do that. The community is super supportive. It's just fun to be part of it.
LS: That's the great thing about the internet.
Pratt: Totally. I also love how so much more of our content is coming from the people, like our 'It Happened to Me' section. Since Sassy, one of my favorite things has been the content written by our readers. We have some upcoming posts where we're running reader's pieces unedited and letting the community decide who should win the $1,000 prize. We have twice as many readers just going by unique hits as I did when I ran Sassy and Jane. And, this is after 7 to 8 years.
LS: Jane, thanks so much for talking to us. We'll be at your panel. See you in Austin!
Pratt: Yay. See you there.
Featured image courtesy of: xojane