The meaning of Life

We change our name and readers tell us what they think.

Published February 27, 2001 8:51PM (EST)

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We can't really say that the disappearance of Mothers Who Think is surprising (although it seems very disingenuous to call this a simple name change for that formerly wonderful, unique section of Salon). As readers once dedicated to Mothers -- and contributors to it -- we have been shaking our heads and avoiding the site for months now, disgusted by the frivolous, irritating and downright disappointing writing in the section.

As far as we could tell, the mothers and the thinking were banished from Mothers Who Think quite a while ago. Instead readers were regularly subjected to whiny rants about, among other topics, the burden of large breasts and oppression felt by women who are model-thin. Perhaps you should be commended for finally owning up to kidnapping the section for good. But please don't insist that everything is the same with this new name, when mothers who think have known for a while that it isn't.

-- Natalie Pearson and Jennifer Creer Hatala

I never liked the name Mothers Who Think, the clear implication being that the editors thought most mothers didn't actually think and they would cater to the elite few who did.

But Life? How vague and uninspiring can you be? The nation already has a fluffy publication called Life. Does it really need another one?

I did learn to love reading Mothers Who Think. Maybe I'll learn to love Life, but I'm going to have to work hard to get over a name that clearly implies drivel.

-- Katherine Gould


Now you've gone and done it. Changing Mothers Who Think to Life is a horribly dull move. Sure a rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but a magazine section inevitably loses some of its thorny goodness when you reduce its identification to a banal, meaningless moniker.

I understand that Salon is reaching out to other readers in hopes of drawing in an audience that may have felt alienated by the gender-specific, parenting-centric term Mothers Who Think, but the new name is too vague and amorphous.

Life?! That could mean anything or nothing. If I wanted to read about life I'd go grab a cereal box. I'm not a parent, but I've always been drawn to the term Mothers Who Think, comforted by the notion that when and if I finally do give birth, I won't leave my brain in the hospital nursery.

-- Rachel Leibrock

Can anything good be said about a name as pallid and unmemorable as Life? Maybe someone, somewhere can say something good about it, but I won't have that person over for dinner. Mothers Who Think had punch. You are fools to drop it. Who cares if it wasn't entirely accurate? It was entirely good. Go directly to the office of your superiors and ask to be slapped.

-- Charles Roos

Life? That's about as MOR as a Shania Twain tune. I'm disappointed in you, gang. Letting go of the name Mothers Who Think makes me suspect that you're having a knee-jerk fear of marginalizing ("What will the men think?"), or that you're looking to find a way to fold more fashion into what you see as the "women's pages." Mothers Who Think always seemed a pretty clever way of pigeonholing myself, and a lot of the women I know, in a way we actually found flattering.

Hope the content still keeps me coming. The name surely wouldn't.

-- Donna Bartolini

Just a thought: I want Mothers Who Think, not Life. I want to read stuff that fits into that single niche that appeals to me, not wade through lipsticks and indoor pools to get to it.

I really hate you people. You build this awesome online mag that really appeals to me, and then you can't sustain it. You lay people off, consolidate your sections and generally water down the high expectations you set for yourself.

-- Tom Jorgensen

I got online today and discovered that Mothers Who Think is now Life. I read the "Meaning of Life" explanatory column with a heavy heart.

I absolutely loved the old title Mothers Who Think because of its many meanings -- that there is a little mother in all of us, whether we are men, women, old, young, straight or queer. It implied that we all have a stake in raising the world's children, reflecting on our own childhoods, and that we are responsible for our share in "mothering" the world.

The title Mothers Who Think stood out, stopped the new reader for a half-second, made the old reader feel part of something not quite mainstream.

Life is boring.

-- K. O'Keefe

A sad goodbye to the Mothers Who Think moniker. Sure, the stories published there spoke to a wider audience than we moms with a head, but why change the name? I find your reasons less than compelling. We deserve a gender-specific, role-specific site. Life is a generic, soporific substitute, which, by the way, is already being used by another magazine. A sad goodbye from a Mother Who Thinks.

-- Susan Saylor

When a formerly refreshingly different forum for women begins making excuses for adding coverage of "lipstick and indoor swimming pools," under not one but two lead stories about celebrity style, it is clearly the beginning of the end.

The world needs more places where what is real in women's -- and men's and children's -- lives can be talked about with perspectives not drawn entirely from the bandwagon of conventional wisdom. One thing it does NOT need is more outlets for more of the usual tired fluff about celebrities and fashion trends.

I'm a mother, and I think. I think about family, gender roles, books, science, society, raising kids, working, politics -- just about everything but Britney Spears and Pamela Anderson. Will I have to stop reading these pages for the same reasons I haven't read any print "women's" magazines in years? I hope not.

-- Jean Gazis

I was very disappointed to hear that you are changing the daily feature Mothers Who Think to the more general feature, Life. Despite your assurances to the contrary that you are not changing the editorial direction of the site, this name change confirms a shift in editorial focus that has been going on for several months now. Increasingly, the site has been less by and for mothers, and more akin to the lifestyle section of a daily newspaper. I hope the editorial staff will reconsider its decision, and return to thought-provoking articles for Mothers Who Think.

-- Jessica Kerrigan

By changing the name of something that was original and good to one that could easily be a section of USA Today, you are selling out your readership.

Little by little, you become your enemy (i.e. mainstream mindless pap).

-- Jonathan E. Snow

Though surely borne from the best intentions, your decision to rename this truly unique section of Salon smacks of the same groupthink that turned firms like MacTemps and Andersen Consulting into Aquent and Accenture. Those flimsy phonic proppings might as well be in Arabic for all they communicate to the reader, and your new title -- although it is, thankfully, a real word -- suffers from the same declarative impotence. Mothers Who Think may not describe your content verbatim, but it does indicate your ethos with clarity and velocity. Ironically, Life -- as a word, thin, bloodless and sluggish -- implies anything but.

-- John Pavlus

By Salon Staff

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