Hélène Van Herck & Ann Lemmens zijn allebei WIFTY – Women over Fifty. Ze bundelden hun creatieve-, content- & media skills + heel veel goesting, passie én humor en lanceerden in april 2013 WIFTY – een online en offline community voor, door en met 50+ vrouwen. Met een netwerk van hier tot in Tokyo en een enthousiasme tot de maan en terug slaagden ze erin om van WIFTY op korte tijd een fenomeen te maken. Naast het succesvolle online verhaal organiseren ze ook Wifty Party’s, Wifty Talks, Wifty AbFab Nights, Wifty Menopauze Feestjes en zoveel meer.
WIFTY interview for FLANDERS TODAY
Flanders Today is een Engelstalig magazine dat financieel wordt ondersteund door de Vlaamse overheid. Flanders Today wil buitenlandse beleids- en opiniemakers in alle velden (politiek, cultureel, business, academisch …) informeren over Vlaanderen en daarbij de brug slaan tussen de Vlaamse actualiteit en de activiteiten van de Vlaamse overheid.
Blog rescues women over 50 from media blackout
Flemish journalists have created a hugely popular blog that aims to correct misperceptions about women 50 and older.
Not your typical women’s magazine
Ann Lemmens and Hélène Van Herck, both in their 50s, met 30 years ago while working at the Flemish women’s magazine Flair. Their careers subsequently took separate paths, until one day they rekindled their friendship via Facebook.
“We were both annoyed with the representation of women over 50 in the media – grey hair, dazed by menopause, without any ambition or sex appeal,” says Lemmens (right in photo). “We got in touch and not long after, our blog was born. Together, we felt we mastered the right tone of voice to reach our age group and discuss topics we all could relate to.”
Wifty.be (the founders’ self-coined term for women over 50) went live in April of 2013, under the motto “een haha-erlebnis” – a reference to the German phrase for the Eureka effect, the founders’ initials and the humour that runs like a red thread through the website. “At the same time, we often hear from our readers that they have finally found a platform that matches their personalities and interests,” Van Herck explains. “That’s a real aha-erlebnis.”
The women, who both still work in the media, call their blog a “full-time hobby” and regularly write about almost any topic. “We get the most reader interaction in posts related to life after 50. The empty nest syndrome, for instance, is a recurrent theme,” Lemmens says. “I have children, Hélène doesn’t, so we’re really complimentary in our writing. Hélène is the expert in all things ab fab.”
Party like a Wifty
Guest writers also regularly contribute to the blog. “We invite specialists to talk about the menopause, amongst other topics. And we’re always happy when other women share their stories on our website too,” Van Herck says. “It’s very inspiring and we have women from all over the world. We call them World Wide Wifties.”
There’s also a real-life dimension to the popular online platform: Wifty.be organises events and talks for readers. “Wifty talks are in collaboration with experts and focus on heritage or dating. It’s never too late,” Lemmens explains, quoting another one of the website’s mottos.
“For our Ab Fab evenings,” she continues, “we always pick an exclusive location, chat about fashion and have our Wifties discover a new brand of sunglasses, for instance.” There are Wifty parties, too (pictured above). The next one takes place in October at the MAS restaurant in Antwerp.
So what, at the end of the day, makes Wifty.be different from traditional women’s magazines? “Compared to younger generations, there seems to be no competition between Wifties,” Van Herck explains. “We’ve all already achieved so much, so the jealousy is gone and has been replaced by admiration for each other. Whenever the Wifties are together, it rains compliments.”
And while the blog might be aimed at women in their 50s, some readers are younger – or a lot older. “We trust our gut feeling and our experience working for women’s magazines and seem to get the tone right to reach a lot of women,” Lemmens explains. “Since we both have full-time jobs, we don’t need to rely on commercially binding content. We’re selective in what we do and always keep it real. That’s probably why many women keep on reading.”
And men in their 50s are familiar with the publication, too. “We call them Mifties,” Van Herck laughs. “They pop up on the blog every now and then or join their Wifty wife or girlfriend at our events. Some of them have told us we’re the best-looking and most-fun group of women they’ve ever spent the evening with.”
After more than two years, the Wifty founders are ready to take their blog to the next level, starting this autumn. “We’d like to involve more women, go international and find out how women deal with typical Wifty issues on the other side of the world,” Van Herck says. “It’s never too late for something new.”
And what if the sky really was the limit? “We’d love to sit on the couch and chat with über Wifty Oprah Winfrey,” Lemmens laughs. “That, and having a cup of tea with Michelle Obama.”
Text: Katrien Lindemans for Flanders Today.