Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Feminist Blogger Covering a Feminist Blogger who Wrote about A Feminist-ish Blog

Warning...feminist blog meta-ness to follow

I stumbled across this interesting piece at Feminists for Choice which has one central thesis: Jezebel is bad for feminism. The author, Amy, makes her case by citing times that Jezebel has participated in a lot of really un-feminist stuff: slut shaming, fat shaming, cattiness, and general assholery to other women.

Anyone who spends about 2.5 seconds around here can see that I read Jezebel. A lot. And for the most part, I really enjoy it. I am not someone who does a lot of research. I'm not a reporter or creative writer out there gathering my own original material. So my main focus is to serve as a reactionary writer. I pull material from all over the internet, mostly from other feminist blogs, and put my own analysis on it. (Which is what's happening right now.) Because Jezebel is part of a media conglomerate (Gawker) I let them do a lot of leg work for me. I mean, they're the ones making money off blogging. I'm the chick with a day job.

So while I do read Jezebel unapologetically, I can definitely see what Amy means. Oftentimes the topics at Jezebel can tread into the cringe worthy. But while I understand her view, I don't think that Amy is giving Jezebel enough credit for what it really is.

I see Jezebel as a feminist-ISH blog, and I see it frequently described in this way. At the end of the day, Jezebel describes its self as about "Celebrity, Sex, Fashion. Without Airbrushing" for women. No where in there do we see the word feminist. Sure, many people at the blog write about feminist topics and identify as feminists, but the reality is that it's owned by Gawker and is not a small, grassroots activist site. Full stop.

I see Jezebel as a sort of primer or introductory place for budding feminists. I've written before that I do think there is a place for 101 feminism, and Jezebel is this place of sorts. It's still accessible to the mainstream by focusing on less serious topics (like celebrity gossip) but it does infuse some legitimate feminist content and spin. Like anything, it's not perfect, and it does have its drawbacks, like Amy so thoroughly pointed out. I'm not saying that Jezebel is craftily bringing covert feminism to the masses--they directly reference feminism on the regular. But I am saying that their look, topics, and voice appeals to a much wider, and often younger, base than Feministe, Feministing, Shakesville, Pandagon, or Tiger Beatdown. This allows Jezebel to open a door with individuals sympathetic to feminism, who learn and eventually move to those other sites when they have their horizons expanded a bit.

This in no way excuses or justifies the cattiness and other issues that are often present, but it does better explain how I view Jezebel. Sometime they fail at feminism because it's not a feminist blog that discusses pop culture; it's a pop culture blog with feminist elements. Like I's feminist-ish.

One point that Amy makes which I do not agree with is about the Jezebel commenters. She writes:
The Jezebel comment section is a locked community, meaning that you must practically “audition” to become a Jezebel 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 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.
This has not been my experience at all. While I do feel it's really weird how commenting does have an audition feel, the actual cliquish nature of the commenting at Jezebel is neither unique nor exclusive to their blog. Most feminist websites experience this piling on against those with differing view points. In fact, the "commentariat" at Feministe has a pretty strong reputation for being unnecessarily cruel and that website is valued as a fully legitimate feminist blog staple.

I guess what I'm getting at is that while I understand the complaints about Jezebel, I'm not ready to write it off. I still can see Jezebel's place. That is not to say we shouldn't challenge Jezebel to be better, while still knowing it for what it is.

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