The vast majority of media companies are regulated by men. Dazed Media is run by Jefferson Hack; Condé Nast by Bob Sauerberg; Vice Media by Shane Smith; Time Warner by Jeff Bewkes; Netflix by Reed Hastings; 21st Century Fox by James Murdoch. The list is endless.
The Front, a New York-based online creative platform, was born out of a frustration with this male-dominated world. “During my career, I found that the media was overwhelmingly male. I wanted to make something that was by women and for the world. It is often assumed that work by women is immediately for women. This has really infuriated me. I don’t understand why half of the population can only speak to itself. Feminism is for everyone,” Thalia Mavros, The Front’s founder, tells It’s Nice That. After working as Executive Creative Director at Vice Media for many years, Thalia felt that the alternative youth voice Vice was fostering was innately male. Her reaction? To set up a platform of her own.
Thalia launched The Front in 2015 in order to place women’s voices and experiences at the heart of storytelling. In the course of two years, the media collective has collaborated with a diverse range of female creatives, producing and curating written articles, photographic essays and short films across the online platform. From art and motherhood to the aesthetics of female resistance, the various genres provide a unique insight into a broad range of topics that span women of all ages and walks of life.
‘If women work the floor why does it matter who owns the company?’ Thalia was repeatedly asked when she first started building her brainchild. “It blew my mind. If you don’t have ownership of a company then you also don’t have a say. Women can work the field but we can’t own any of the property,” she says and lets out an exasperated laugh. Her anger was a motivator. Tired of listening to herself and her friends complain, she decided to channel her rage into a creative platform for change. “It just takes an intention, a commitment and a love. It was really about focusing on a need bigger than yourself. I saw The Front as something we needed in the world.”
The Front is an experimentation ground that gives female creatives the visibility they need to bring new ideas into the world. Self-initiated and self-sustained, the platform pursues projects out of passion rather than obligation. “You can’t put a brand on these stories and you can’t profit from them because that’s how you end up with the sanitised versions. We want to explore issues in a way that is transformative.” The Front’s strength lies in its determined commitment to represent ordinary women as extraordinary and showcase female artists as the talented champions they are. This is in part achieved through two documentary mini-series; Under Her Skin, a celebration of female artists across a broad range of disciplines, and Working Woman, a series of shorts about professional women’s everyday lives.
“Encouraging conversations about issues that matter is an important part of what we are doing,” Thalia says. “We screen many of the pieces we produce because we want people to come together, reflect and discuss. We helped an artist featured in Under Her Skin set up her first solo show and invited high schools students to watch our short film and talk about her art. Some of the best conversations I’ve had have been with 15-year olds. As a teenager – especially as a girl – I felt like no one listened to me. It was stifling. I am excited about the young generations because today’s youth have become so politicised. They need to be central to the wider social and cultural conversations we are having.”
The past year has seen such conversations – that have long been marginalised in the mainstream media – permeate all tiers of society and shake up long-standing prejudices. Movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp have forced the world to confront systemic gender biases and power abuses across industries. “What’s exciting to me is that we are all realising the strength of our voice in real, applicable ways. I think most women have had private conversations about these injustices in the past but now, for the first time, we are realising that our individual stories are contributing to a larger, collective voice. Only then can change come about,” Thalia says. These recent explosions of feminist activism resonate the intentions of The Front, which has been at the forefront of gender activism before many others.
“We are finally finding the words to have these formative discussions. I have felt these feelings for many years but I haven’t had the words to express what was bothering me and why. We simply didn’t have the vocabulary. The more we can collaborate and the more we can contribute to this collective voice, the more powerful it will be,” Thalia says. The Front seeks to forge a new, inclusive vocabulary that extends to everybody regardless of gender, sexuality and race. In spearheading dialogues around cultural change, the platform is an exemplary form of media activism. By providing an alternative model of media ownership and challenging existing power imbalances, The Front reimagines a new way of producing and delivering content. Bob Sauerberg and James Murdoch, take note.
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