Mallory Ortberg, co-founder with Nicole Cliffe of women's site The Toast, announced on Tuesday that it has hired literary superstar Roxane Gay to head its new venture, The Butter. The site will start as a vertical of The Toast and then move onto its own domain. In an interview with Capital New York, Gay said The Butter will focus on cultural criticism and personal essays that "make readers think and feel."
In addition to being in total control of editorial content on the site, Gay will have an editorial budget to commission freelance work. Manderley LLC, the holding company that owns The Toast, will provide Gay with tech and business support, along with advertising to monetize the site, according to Capital New York.
The Butter will launch Oct. 15, coincidentally Gay’s birthday.
Gay is the writer of countless essays in literary journals of note as well as the author of several books -- “Ayitia,” “An Untamed State” and the forthcoming “Hunger” (Harper, 2016). Her critically acclaimed book of essays, “Bad Feminist,” charts her evolution as a woman, taking the reader through the cultural artifacts that shaped her, from Vogue magazine and “Sweet Valley High” books to HBO’s “Girls” and Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained.”
In an NPR interview, Gay admitted she likes pop cultural things that are “terrible for women,” but she noted that in describing herself as a “bad feminist… I wanted to acknowledge and own my feminism but also acknowledge that I’m not perfect at it.” Vanity Fair called her the “‘It Girl’ culture critic.” Los Angeles Times book critic Erika Schickel wrote, “As a feminist who has been around a while, I have a message for these girls: It’s OK — you can skip the rigors of Betty Friedan and Andrea Dworkin and go straight to Roxane Gay, where feminism is not just friendly but [also] more relevant than ever.”
Ortberg told Capital New York that when she, Cliffe and The Toast publisher Nick Pavich had been talking about who they wanted their next writer to be, they kept saying, “a Roxane Gay type” or “Roxane Gay 10 years ago, when she was still gettable.” But over the summer, Gay, who teaches at Purdue and lives in Indiana, met up with Ortberg in Los Angeles and the deal was struck – she was in. Ortberg told Capital that when she realized Gay wanted to join the Toast, it "felt like asking out the quarterback of the football team (who is also the head cheerleader) as a dare from our nerdy friends and hearing 'yes' when we expected to hear laughter."
“[W]e expect to build out a series of broad niche sites offering advertisers access to specific demographics cultivated by the sites' editors,” Pavich told Capital. “The voices that the network curates already carry a lot of authority in social media, and it's our belief that advertisers want to be associated with a brand that offers integrity with a social conscience. Basically, our radical vision for the network is that women should run media for other women.”
Perhaps sites like The Toast -- and soon, The Butter -- will hasten what Time called the “slow-going” nature of “women … inching toward media equality.”