Self-Righteousness, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Celebrity Gossip: Why Jezebel Is Ultimately Bad For The Feminist Movement

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.]

 

 

About Amy:
Amy is a social media strategist living in Dallas, Texas. She likes music, trashy TV, and ladybiz. tweet: @aemccarthy

Comments

  1. As a longtime Jezebel reader, I find a lot to agree with in this post, particularly in terms of the commenters. Thank you for writing a thought-provoking and insightful piece!

  2. Tracie Egan Morrissey is a former “BUST” staffer, who happened to “diss” “Bitch” magazine back in 2008 in Jezebel questioning Bitch’s relevance during a fundraising drive to save the print edition of the magazine (which, due to ever-increasing print-publishing costs, they had to do again in late July/early August of this year) . What it really did was drive “Bitch” devotees into seriously considering supporting the magazine and project “Bitchmedia.” Jezebel happens to be corporate owned while Bitch/Bitchmedia is a non-profit that depends more on reader support than advertising in order to keep its content opinionated and free from outside influences (corporate influences, in particular). Personally, I don’t need Jezebel. They are misogyny run amok consistently “hating on” women (and men!). In order for feminism to work, it must be respectful of ALL women, not just those we agree with politically and socially. Unfortunately, too many people use feminism as a “free pass” to hate on those they disagree with on virtually anything. No wonder so many women and men (Especially pro-choice/reproductive rights men and women!) refuse to acknowledge themselves as feminists, let alone the problems feminism has today. This hating-on misogyny must stop, so that we can encourage feminism to not be the “dirty word” it unfortunately is.

    • Agree with all points, Lola. I don’t think that feminism should be an excuse for putting other people down. It’s totally counter-intuitive – how can we expect non-feminists to be accepting of the ideology with so much in-fighting and catty crap?!

      Thanks for your comment.

  3. I’m a feminist and a long time reader of Jezebel (and Feministing and others) though I’m not a commenter/community member.
    I do often roll my eyes at Jezebel, but I think this bashing is completely unfair. Jezebel is not a feminist blog along the same lines of Feministing or Feminista.. Just look at its title:
    Jezebel: Celebrity, Sex, Fashion for Women. Without Airbrushing.
    Jezebel is not a feminist blog, it’s a blog with a particular tone that attracts a lot of feminists. There’s a big difference. And when discussing celebrity, sex and fashion it does so with a little more of a feminist frame than any of the many awful celeb/fashion websites for women, and I applaud them for that. and though it’s not in their description, they also slip in a lot of stuff on reproductive rights, politics etc, and I also applaud them for that. This is a pretty mainstream, corporate site we’re talking about here.

    Any feminist can recognise how Jez sometimes rags on women (though I didn’t know feminism meant you can’t ever put down any woman ever, and personally hate blogs that gush over every single celebrity without reason), and can choose to look at a different blog if they don’t like it. Also, if you start with a critique of the actual blog, and then move to criticise the drinking habits of the writers.. it looks about as petty as being mean to Gyneth Paltrow.

    • My biggest point is that they can’t decry slut-shaming, fat-shaming, and other decidedly non-feminist behaviors and continue to do them.

      I don’t understand why a discussion of sex, celebrity, and fashion can’t be entirely feminist? While Jezebel doesn’t label itself as a “feminist blog,” many people across the web do, and that perception is why Jez is damaging to the movement, IMO.

      Thanks for your opinion, though. That’s why I wrote this piece – we need to be having a discussion of not just Jezebel, but any blog that would position in such a way.

      • And I don’t think I criticized their “drinking habits,” though I do think it is disrespectful to show up to an event (that people paid good money for) completely sloshed and go on to say some of the crap that they did. Lizz Winstead’s article gives some really excellent perspective on that night, you should check it out.

  4. Thanks for this post. I never really read Jezebel, being turned off by what seemed like junk food stories when I wanted some real information.

    • I love me some good “junk food,” Juliana, but you’re right. It’s really hard to take their political stories seriously when sandwiched between “What Happened to Ali Lohan’s Face” and a “Dirt Bag” column.

  5. I used to be a daily Jezebel reader and commenter, until I noticed that it was really more about snark and ganging up on those who dared disagree than it was about useful information for a budding feminist. I got tired of scrolling through endless snark about how evil Gwenyth Paltrow is, or how Suri Cruise should NOT be wearing heels, etc. Not to mention the quality of writing went from earlier days of readable pieces to short summaries with no actual information in them. I moved on.

  6. I really enjoy reading jezebel, so of course my opinion is biased, but I don’t really agree with you.
    First of all, there are different people writing for jezebel, and that means not only that there is more content than on the average feminist blog, but there are different opinions represented. There is no one voice of jezebel (and I have to say, I think I haven’t read anything by the writers you mentioned… did they leave? Or did I just not notice it?).
    Also, I don’t think the comment section is bad *at all* – often, it is better than the article because it provides perspective, life experience and corrections. If there are slut-shaming or other anti-feminist mindsets to be found in the article, this is nearly all of the time called out in the featured comment (for instance on the article about the stolen pictures of Scarlett Johansson).
    Of course jezebel is more mainstream than, say, Feministe – but it is also more diverse.
    So…I’d encourage complaining about certain aspects of jezebel. But saying it is universally bad for the feminist movement is, imho, too harsh.

  7. Two years ago, Irin Carmon wrote a snotty piece about a mother fighting to have a vaginal birth, who drove over four hours away to avoid a completely unnecessary cesarean surgery that was only being forced because of a change in hospital policy. I called Irin out on her total lack of factual medical analysis of the situation (along with the many commentors who bashed the mom for wanting to have a vaginal birth and accused her of trying to cost the system more money – hello! Vaginal birth is cheaper, DUH!) I sent her an email and asked her to investigate further. But Irin never wrote me back. Who else is shocked?

  8. ReasonableDem says:

    I’m a man who is very far from identifying with third wave feminist thought. This is in large part due to the inconsistencies you mention here, (not even the tip of the iceberg), along with the deluge of misandric vitriol that pours from the ranks of the “jezzie” types. From what I’ve observed in the femblogosphere, it’s incredibly difficult to maintain a presence that sacrifices none of those ideals without delivering most content in the form of nasty diatribes. You seem to have done it though. I do not always agree, but I respect. Jezebel transmits a powerful signal, but the only ones receiving it will be those who were already a little snarky and/or bitter. You might not be getting the same page hits, but somebody who disagrees with you is way more likely to listen.

  9. I just went through Mrs. Morrissey’s tumblr, and am deeply appalled. She engages in a lot of public shaming and humiliates men, women, and even children. She especially seems to enjoy targeting people based on their appearance, and uses ableist language. I am disappointed that she has so many supporters who don’t seem to acknowledge this harmful behavior. Tracie uses her privilege as a white, upper middle class woman to discriminate against minority groups of all kinds.

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