Jensine Larsen, founder of the Portland-based international women's magazine World Pulse, smiled while talking about the global AIDS crisis, last year's tsunami and Sudan's civil war. In fact, the 31-year-old Larsen beamed almost nonstop during an interview with WW, reflecting an unflagging optimism unusual for someone so focused on dire global problems. Larsen sees in those ills the opportunity for positive action and views the world's oppressed women and children as potential engines of change.
World Pulse, whose international coverage was nominated last month for an Independent Press Award, aims to harvest that potential, its pages filled with triumphs of courageous women in the face of calamity. Though the magazine sometimes stumbles into New Age faux-profundity, even the most cynical reader can't help but feel that World Pulse taps into something sorely missing: the voices of the oppressed.
WW: Why doesn't World Pulse just blame men for the problems facing women? It's pretty obvious who screwed up the world.
Jensine Larsen: Blaming is the old cycle. This is the pulse; this is the new movement. It's time to stop blaming and to roll up our shirtsleeves and start finding answers, and men are our greatest allies. It's not about "women know better" or "women are smarter," it's simply that women have the skills to form strong, equal partnerships.
Why should men read World Pulse?
These voices are very much a part of our future, and there's an awareness in men that, "Oh, here's another world that I hadn't even thought of." A lot of men—men that you wouldn't think of, like the guy at my 7-Eleven around the corner or 60-year-old CEOs—say, "Yeah, I'm ready for women to take over. We messed up." Men are often more blaming about other men than women are.
Your second issue featured a critique of U.S. foreign policy by Caroline Myss, "a pioneer in the field of energy medicine and human consciousness." How is an energy healer qualified to analyze foreign policy?
This is how women are changing the dialogue around foreign policy. We know how we can have healthy relationships with our partners or our communities, so women are saying, "Let's talk about collaboration, and let's talk about listening and apologizing." Most people hear this angle and it resonates with them.
How does publishing a magazine help a woman in Bangladesh?
There are three waves of empowerment. There's the empowerment that goes back to the writers—young children in the brothels in Calcutta got so much confidence because we published their poetry that they started their own magazine. They get monetary support, the career advancement and confidence that people are listening. The second wave goes to our readers. They'll say, "Oh, this woman is somehow holding it together and changing her community with barely anything. I can live my dream, or I can start my business." The final wave is direct action and political support. We're connecting two of the world's greatest emerging powers: the emerging leadership of women in countries against all odds and the economic and political clout of women in the U.S.
Portland isn't exactly a hotbed of international publishing. Ever think about moving to New York?
We're not going anywhere. Portland is a hotbed of publishing, and it will be a global mecca. Portland's going to be a model for the world. Creativity is highly valued in Portland and there is a sense of do-it-yourself, start your own business—a lot of social entrepreneurs. There's a strong feminine pulse here.
Are you worried about missing the story of the many oppressed women who really have no reason to hope?
We strive to never gloss over the story. We look directly at the issues. We tell the stories directly from the women's mouths. We want our readers to get a visceral sense of being in her shoes, and then we always give a sense of a way out, of solutions that women see. And it's already under way. Women are truly taking leadership roles in all areas. Women in Afghanistan are working together like never before. It's very real, the potential that women have to offer.
in 2002, Larsen was a freelance journalist in Ecuador and along the Burma-Thailand border.
Larsen started World Pulse (www.worlpulsemagazine.com) on a $20,000 credit-card loan and raised $250,000 through grassroots fundraising to support the 50,000-circulation quarterly.which has a circulation of 50,000.