Reductress combines feminism, comedy


Sarah Pappalardo

Reductress is a satirical news website aimed at the female demographic.

By Arts & Culture Reporter

“I Can’t Tell if my Three-Week-Old Daughter is a Feminist Yet” is one of the many headlines on the first and only feminist satirical website Reductress.

Founders Beth Newell and Sarah Pappalardo created the site in 2013 after performing comedy together in New York. The website, often referred to as being the female version of The Onion, illustrates a Cosmopolitan-like format poking fun at people who body shame women.

“One hard and fast rule is to make sure you’re punching up and not punching down in comedy,” Pappalardo said.

Pappalardo, who has had Chicago ties for more than a decade, was a musical intern at the Second City while attending DePaul University from 2003–2008. She also took classes at other local theaters including iO Chicago, located at 1501 N. Kingsbury St.

Sections of the site include news, entertainment, love and sex, and “womanspiration,” a section aimed at women but in a nontraditional women’s magazine style, satirically discussing women’s issues like pregnancy, relationships, hair color and advice. One of the headlines from the section reads, “How To Open Your Second Vagina Through Meditation.” 

Pappalardo also said most of the writers get inspiration to write from current events or popular trends by making them comedic.

“The way people talk at a certain point in time can influence how pieces are written,” Pappalardo said. “We play on things a typical women’s magazine would latch on to and have fun with that.”

Stephanie Weber, a Chicago-based contributing writer for Reductress and stand-up comedian in the city, developed her love for comedy performance in Chicago, but said her true passion is writing. Weber has pitched and written for Reductress since December 2014.

She also writes for “The Whiskey Journal,” a satirical, fake-news website, and said she appreciates the female audience and staff at Reductress.

“A lot of times, male editors don’t get it,” Weber said. “That’s what I love about Reductress; it’s a female-driven audience. Smart, funny women read this, and guys, too. I like that there is no consideration that ‘Oh, our audience won’t get this.’”

Although Reductress has seen a rapidly growing female fan base in the last three years, men have also enjoyed the site. More than 66,000 people have “liked” the Reductress Facebook page.

“Since we’re dealing with a lot of things that women have been drowning in since they were teenagers [women respond more], but I don’t think that means men are excluded from the conversation,” Pappalardo said.

Jen Ellison, an adjunct professor in Columbia’s Theatre Department and a director at the Second City, is a fan of Reductress and thinks it is one of the best-written satirical women’s websites.

But what makes Reductress stand out from other “Onion” rip-offs is the quality of writing as well as its specific point of view for the audience to read.

“Its aim is at a world where we seem to think it’s alright to tell women they are trolls in order to sell them some mascara,” Ellison said. “Sometimes the idea is ‘let’s make [the website] as general as possible, and it will hit a wider mark,’ which is not always the case. When it’s really specific, it winds up hitting more people because it’s relatable.”

The website also produces a podcast called “Mouth Time,”which premiered in March and plays on how the tropes of a magazine can be interpreted by podcast culture.