Like many other young feminists, I have been reading Jezebel for a few years now. I’ve never been a “Jezzie,” or a frequent commenter and community member, but I found myself logging on frequently to get the scoop on good feminist news and opinion. In between articles on access to birth control and the rape culture, though, you’ll find a lot of celebrity gossip, lifestyle, and cat stories – all of which I have zero problem with. Who doesn’t love a cute cat or a Teen Mom recap? What I do have a problem with, though, is the fact that what the site has become just isn’t good for the feminist movement, or young feminists.
Perhaps you’ll recall the 2008 controversy where writers Tracie Egan Morrissey and Maureen “Moe” Tkacik were interviewed for Lizz Winstead’s “Thinking and Drinking” show. The two showed up visibly drunk, and made some pretty terrible statements about rape and just all-around acted like jerks.
In a Huffington Post article titled “Jezebelism,” Winstead wrote a pretty scathing criticism of the two authors’ actions, noting that they “had no regard for the people who came that night and paid money to hear them speak,” and that they “do not understand the influence they have over the women who read them, nor do they accept any responsibility as role models for young women who are coming of age searching for lifestyles to emulate.”
Even though I wasn’t at the speech, Winstead’s point is visibly clear on their website. The snark and sometimes outwardly anti-feminist bullshit has hit its peak, and it’s definitely time to revisit Jezebel as the young feminist’s blog destination.
The articles can sometimes be pretty rough, especially the celebrity coverage. In a recent article about Kim Kardashian, writer Dodai Stewart describes Kardashian as possibly being embarrassed about a video showing her “sucking Ray J’s dick and getting banged from behind,” now that she’s married. A few sentences later, she says “slut-shaming” is lucrative.
But wait. Isn’t that what that last sentence did? Assuming that she’s embarrassed by her sexual romp and using some of the same language that feminists use to refer to dehumanizing porn? (Not that there isn’t a place for that type of language, but her tone is particularly dismissive here.) I think so.
Similar attacks have been waged against Real Housewives cast members, The Daily Show correspondent Olivia Munn, and most frequently, Gwyneth Paltrow. Paltrow is a subject for much hate in the Jezebel community, and a lot of it is just downright mean.
None of this attacking women and gossiping bullshit is doing any of us a bit of good, and their “Dirt Bag” category is full of it. Spend a week on Jez and count the times you roll your eyes, it might surprise you.
The editorial pales in comparison, though, to the commenting. The Jezebel comment section is a locked community, meaning that you must practically “audition” to become a Jezebel commenter. Once you’re in, though, your snark is safe – unless it’s “excessively sarcastic,” or includes “hyperbole.”
Well that’s pretty damn arbitrary. What’s even more rich, is further along in the comments policy they note that “Ganging up on commenters who don’t share your point of view is not only unnecessary, it is tacky and contributes to a cliquish atmosphere that is not in the spirit of this blog.” But isn’t that what you’ve done to Gwyneth and Kim? Isn’t that what happens on a daily basis in the comments section? The comments section is a whole other beast than Jezebel’s editiorial offerings – it is as cliquish as it can be, and dissenters are attacked and yes, ganged up on. To these “Jezzies,” Jezebel’s words have become law. And that’s a problem. Dissent from the Jezzie ranks is a capital offense, and it’s discouraging those with different viewpoints from participating in the conversation. From semantics jabs to blatant ad hominem attacks, sometimes these commenters are just nasty. I get that this is the Internet. I get that Jezebel can’t control their community or what their commenters say, and I don’t think that they should. Except, they do control their community. They can control fat-shaming, slut-shaming, and other anti-feminist crap.
What’s worse, I think, is the level of reporting. Jezebel isn’t breaking stories. They rarely consult expert opinion other than what is listed in their sources – they’re not Q&A-ing with famous feminists. They’re adding pithy commentary to already reported stories, and isn’t there enough of that on the internet? And aren’t there a LOT of bloggers who are doing a better job of it?
For example, my friend Jeremy and his girlfriend were featured in a New York Times story about sex toys. In the article, Jeremy expresses his “enthusiasm” about including sex toys in their relationship. In their coverage, Jezebel completely dismisses his opinion by calling he (and other men quoted in the story) “random men,” as opposed to loving partners. Jezebel even further cements the blow by throwing a sarcastic little “good to know!” bit at the end.
When I asked Jeremy about his experience, he said, “It’s a particular brand of feminism – self-righteous, PC, anti-men closed-minded nonsense. But I will say that it’s just as likely that they’re being paid to be inflammatory to people like us, to get pageviews.”
Equally bad. I get that Gawker Media is corporate, but they shouldn’t be trying to piss off the very community they were created to support, especially in such anti-feminist ways. Feminist blogs are a place for quality intellectual discussion, not tabloid-esque sensationalism. Our views and opinions are our passion, not clicks measured in Google Analytics.
I wrote earlier this year about a very disturbing Twitter conversation that I had with Irin Carmon, and that was sort of the beginning of the end of my relationship with Jezebel. Since then, I’ve found myself being more and more disgusted with their content and community.
Moving forward, I will be linking to and directing traffic to the actual sources of these articles, and cutting them completely out of the equation. Between Feministing, Tiger Beatdown, and this wonderful home for feminist bloggers, I think my Google Reader will continue to stay full.
Sady Doyle, the Feministing crew, and the wonderful coverage you get here are a perfect diet of feminist news, opinion and discussion. Check them out, and let me know your thoughts in our comments section. I promise we won’t ban you for excessive sarcasm.
Goodbye Jezebel, I hardly knew ye. I can only hope that young feminists will come to the realization that shaming and self-righteousness that is all over that blog, and move on to greener, more feminist pastures.
[Edited to add: Take a look at Tracie Egan Morrissey's Tumblr if you need more evidence. Between "14 year old skeezers" and fat remarks, it definitely proves my point.]
Amy is a social media strategist living in Dallas, Texas. She likes music, trashy TV, and ladybiz. tweet: @aemccarthy