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Category Archives: Jezebel

This Blog is Ending… But Social Media is Just Heating Up!

It is only after thoroughly analyzing the part that any conclusions about Jezebel can be drawn. It is clear that Nick Denton’s vision for Gawker media run’s through Jezebel’s core.  It is a magazine that knows its audience, and knows how to attract them. It does this through selective content, which parallels and aggregates other popular forms. It is part celebrity blog, part fashion blog, part feminist blog, and draws upon the appealing and crucial elements of all of them.  It also draws upon a rich history of women’s media, which blossomed creatively in an era of oppression. Jezebel is a new form of women’s media; in a new media for a savvier, and more well educated audience then some other forms of women’s media. This helps account for its differences, but acknowledges its similarities.  Jezebel defines itself by its critical voice, an inheritance from its older brother, Gawker.com. Even though Jezebel is “for women,” it has many similarities to Gawker. Throughout the blog, examples from Gawker that made pieces of Jezebel more salient, such as the idea of timeliness and Gawker’s transparency about its use of videos to draw attention.  Jezebel is framed by the taboo-ness of its name, which projects the type of image they want to craft.

While the issue of Jezebel’s feminism is inconclusive, it is undeniable the feminist strains it has. This is especially evident in its coverage of both personal stories and political/social narratives. However, it draws a closer comparison to other forms of digital media with its fashion and celebrity coverage. The cute videos are an Internet staple, and as the science shows, are guaranteed to draw interest.

Jezebel is the snarky girl in the friend group who eggs others on from the back corner.  She knows when to calm down enough to be liked, and occasionally causes a stir. After all Jezebel has been the part of national news and critiques, such as with the Redbook corner. But for the most part she just cleverly spars, talking over the television so that her commentary becomes a part of what the reader/watcher sees.

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Armchair Analysts: Jezebel and Inaction

After breaking down the pieces of Jezebel, it is still hard to draw full conclusions about how it is a women’s blog.  One of the unclear pieces is if Jezebel fits inside the category of a feminist blog.   There are many undeniable parallels in goals and content. However, where Jezebel falls short is it full commitment to political activism. In her piece analyzing Feministing, Moswel discusses the activism built into the site. (2008) However, in Jezebel, the topics are too varied to really stir activism, but err more on the side of social critique. Jezebel writers are the armchair anthropologists of the digital age, sitting on chairs and jotting down notes on what they observe and hypothesize.  To truly be feminist, Jezebel would need to push beyond just observance to ask readers how they are going to take action against what has been elucidated by the writers of Jezebel.  In a similar way, Jezebel tries so hard to critique the magazine industry in their manifesto. Yet, with Nick Denton’s goals of creating the pixilated Conde Nast, they cannot help but fall into many of the same patterns.  The rhetoric penned by inaugural editor Anna North has cooled. In an interview with Madame Nior, popular current (and newer) writer Dodai Stewart reacts strangely, and almost in a coached fashion to this very question about magazine disapproval.

“Jezebel is not anti-magazine, we are anti-cover lies, anti-unrealistic Photoshop and anti-exclusionary content — whether it be targeting only white people, only thin people or only rich people. Personally, I love print…. But many mainstream ladymags are disappointing.”

But for as much of a fight that Jezebel puts against mainstream magazines, its content falls into many of the same patterns. There is the celebrity gossip, the analysis of who wore what, splashed with human-interest pieces. What sets Jezebel apart is its acidic tongue, but even that seems to fall short of really piercing celebrity culture.  Of course, Jezebel has made it clear that they do not deal in cruelty, Holmes pointing out in interviews that they never mention weight. (Johnson 2007) Really, in these areas they are treading into worn territory. Perhaps this is because their manifesto and begging was so focused on the fashion piece, that they forgot to really establish their goals for the rest, and fell fumbling into patterns of puppies and dresses.

However, this so far may be selling Jezebel short. One area they excel in is their attention to women’s issue. They have exhaustive coverage of LGBT issues, sexual health, reproductive rights and more. However, none of this coverage comes with the real impetuous towards change, only the passive resignation.

Sources:

Johnson, Steve. “Jezebel: A Few words with the editor [Chicago Edition].” The Chicago Tribune.25 July 2007: Web. <22 Mar. 2012 < http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2007-07-25/features/0707230542_1_jezebel-gawker-media-celebrity&gt;

Stodghill, Alexis. “Black Beauty With Buzz- Dodai Stewart, Editor at Jezebel.com.” Madame Noire. Moguldom Media Group, 18 Oct. 2011. Web. 22 Apr. 2012. <http://madamenoire.com/78847/black-beauty-with-buzz-dodai-stewart-editor-at-jezebel-com/&gt;.

Sexy and They Know It: Sex Blogging and Jezebel

In addition to critiquing and altering its form, like discussed in the previous post, there has been a long history of the keeping of female’s body issues and sexual desires under wraps. However, new digital media, like Jezebel, are providing an outlet for these sexualized discussions. All of these different blogs promote a greater understanding and dialogue about women’s health and issues that have been traditionally taboo, from birth control, abortion to sexual desires and experience.

For sex blogs, it is often described that the Internet as one of true place that a woman can express her sexual wants and desires (Muise 2011: 416). Most of the dialogue on women and sexual desires is very heteronormative, and rests on the cultural standards that women should not talk about wanting or liking sex (Muise 2011:412). However, this is changing increasingly as culture becomes more sexualized and dialogue about women’s issues increased in media (Attwood 2009:7) These blogs are more “masculine” and “aggressive” as “they resist the sexual passivity that characterizes traditional feminine discourses” (Muise 2011: 416). Many of the blogs about women and sex on the internet are written in a single narrative format, and include accounts heteronormative to the point where many think they are written by men (Attwood 2009: 8). This is because socially these women are seen as writing male fantasies, and it is easier to imaging these pieces being male originating them imaging that females would express their feelings in such a way (Muise 2011: 412). The “entitlement to sexual pleasure” expressed in these blogs is “ consistent with a masculine version of sexuality” (Muise 2011: 414)

While there are some of these more personal account of sexual activity on Jezebel, there is less of an emphasis on personal encounters.  In a female targeted equivalent to the NCAA tournament, Jezebel held a “March Madness” bracket to compare chocolate to sex, with different types of chocolate and different sex positions as the competitors (Missionary Sex won over Brownies in the final round) At first, this aspect of Jezebel was more prominent, especially earlier in the site with very sexually open writer Tracy Egan who posts under the pseudonym Slut Machine. Egan posted details about her sex life. This sexual content reached its full saturation at the time of the  “Thinking and Drinking” incident, (which is described more here) when Egan and Moe Tkacik gave a very sexually charged speech, and said many things that people deemed highly offensive (Wazyn 2010: 11). During the event, which was ticketed and live-streamed, they demeaned rape victims (Egan: I think the reason I haven’t been raped, is cause I’m like smart) and downplayed the importance of safe sex (Tkacik: “Pulling out always works for me,” Egan: “ And I know this is irresponsible to say, it’s the most fun way not to get pregnant”(Wayzn 2010:12).

More recently, the sexual nature of Jezebel has been toned down. Egan, who now has a toddler, is more prone to write posts like this one about motherhood, on “How I Went from Being a Heartless Bitch to a Sappy Cry-Baby” (Egan 2012) There are still pccasionally personal accounts of sexual tales (such as this women who sold her underwear online to people with fetishes) However, looking at the bottom of these posts show that many of them have been aggregated from around the internet, originally sourced to other blogs.  The “sex” in Jezebel still has some element of actual sexual encounters, but has  evolved beyond the smaller scale personal blogs.

Sources:

Attwood, F. “Intimate Adventures: Sex Blogs, Sex `blooks’ and Women’s Sexual Narration.” European Journal of Cultural Studies 12.1 (2009): 5-20. Print.

Egan, Tracie. “How I Went from a Heartless Bitch to a Sappy Cry-Baby.” Jezebel. 19 Apr. 2012. Web. 22 Apr. 2012. <http://jezebel.com/5901791/how-i-went-from-a-heartless-bitch-to-a-sappy-cry-baby&gt;.

Helmsley, Fiona. “I Sold My Panties Online, and My Mom Found Out.” Jezebel. 3 Feb. 2012. Web. 22 Apr. 2012. <http://jezebel.com/5881749/i-sold-my-panties-online-and-my-mom-found-out&gt;.

Muise, Amy. “Women’s Sex Blogs: Challenging Dominant Discourses of Heterosexual Desire.” Feminism & Psychology 21.3 (2011): 411-19. Print.

Stewart, Dodai. “March Madness Sex vs. Chocolate: We Have A Winner!” Jezebel. 3 Apr. 2012. Web. 22 Apr. 2012. <http://jezebel.com/5898770/march-madness-sex-vs-chocolate-we-have-a-winner&gt;.

Wazny, Katelyn M. “Feminist Communities Online: What it means to be a Jezebel.” B Sides 8 (2010): 1- 23.

Loosing Faith: The Redbook Photoshop Incident

Digital technology has also lead to more controversial changes in the fashion industry. It is one of these unfortunate consequences that put Jezebel on the digital map.  (Johnson 2007)  The website was able to gain a great deal of media attention and a reputation off of a contest it held. The rules were simple. Readers were asked to find the most egregious use of Photoshop, and send in their submissions to the newly founded Jezebel. The results were, according to then editor in chief Anna Holmes, frightening (Johnson 2007).

The winner was a picture of singer Faith Hill from the cover of the July 2007 issue of Redbook magazine.  Previously, Redbook had gained negative attention from a cover with a doctored image of  Jennifer Aniston (Holmes 2007).  Although there were more famous stars in submissions for the contest, Holmes was struck the most with the picture of Faith Hill (Johnson  2007). For Holmes “the Hill image was perfect for Jezebel’s purposes, because you see what was done to the whole body ‘of a beautiful woman who is not 25 and starving herself.’”(Johnson 2007)

Jezebel posted an annotated guide to everything that was changed about Faith Hill’s picture.  Dozens of edits were made, from as large as editing in an arm to as minute as changing the shape of an earlobe (Tkacik 2007 b). The computer also took off several pounds, and whittled away at her figure to the point of changing her posture.  Jezebel’s frustration with the situation and their view of its inevitability is evident in their incendiary title for their article: “Here’s Our Winner! ‘Redbook’ Shatters Our ‘Faith’ In Well, Not Publishing, But Maybe God”(Tkacik 2007 a) This type of egregious use of Photoshop is most common in magazines, as they have more time to edit each issue then other media (Reaves et al 2009: 59).

There are several reasons why this episode was seen as so troubling. One of the reasons was the  nature of the publication itself. (Holmes 2007) Redbook is a magazine intended for a more mature audience, one who should be able to dissect and criticize the imagaes they are given. (Holmes 2007) In a criticism written the day after the initial article was published, then editor-in-chief Holmes lamented “ that even in and on a women’s magazine meant for a more mature female audience (working moms, etc.) and featuring a more mature female celebrity (career-woman and mother-of-three Faith Hill) the lies and half-truths continue to be perpetuated”(2007). Even as a working mother of three, Faith Hill is not afforded anything less then perfection.

The problem lies in the standards that this sets, when editors use “ a little digital pixie dust” (Reaves et al 2009:56) Jean Kilbourne has spent over the lat 30 year studying the impact of advertising and media depictions of women. (Kilbourne 1999) She has released a series of videos explicating the topic called “Killing Us Softly”(Kilbourne 1999) In her third video, released in the early 2000’s Kilbourne  discusses the negative impact of the advent of digital image altering. While there were already impossible standards of beauty, the “image has become more flawlessly perfect in the ea of computer retouching” (Kilbourne 1999) Women are striving for an image that they cannot achieve because it is not real, but culture establishes that their only block is a lack of concerted effort. (Kibounre 1999)

The result of this digital retouching and unobtainable standards is a growth of low self esteem.  The impossible beauty standars thart “beauty equals goodness” can have a profound effect on formation of identity” (Reaves et al  2009: 58) A study of Canadian women by Dove indicates that “only 4% of women worldwide consider themselves beautiful” (Dove 2011)   This process begins as early, as a “girl’s inner beauty critic moves in by the time she is 14 years old and continues to erode her self- esteem as she ages” (Dove 2011)

All of this, according to Holmes, fits into the greater world of lies. ( 2007)  This incident embodies the full range of Jezebel’s tagline. It deals with a celebrity, on a fashion magazine, and emphasizes that there should be no airbrushing. As for the sexy, Holmes implores the reader to “look at the picture above, and tell us that Faith Hill is not fucking gorgeous and vibrant just the way God — not Photoshop — made her”( Holmes 2007)  As with much of the more serious content on Jezebel, it is meant to engage the viewer in a dialogue about the state of culture.  As an article about the incident on Vh1 said “The more you look at the touched up cover picture, the more you’ll wonder why we as a society like our celebs to look like straight-up aliens”(Vh1 2007) The Redbook incident embodies Jezebels’ critiques of the magazine industry.

Sources:

Dove. “Surprising Self-Esteem Statistics.” Dove Canada. Unilever, 23 Mar. 2011. Web. 21 Apr. 2012. <http://www.dove.ca/en/Article/Surprising-Self-Esteem-Statistics.aspx&gt;.

Holmes, Anna. “Faith Hill’s €˜Redbook “Photoshop Chop”: Why We€™re Pissed.” Jezebel. 17 July 2007. Web. 21 Apr. 2012. <http://jezebel.com/279203/faith-hills-redbook-photoshop-chop-why-were-pissed&gt;.

Johnson, Steve. “Jezebel: A Few words with the editor [Chicago Edition].” The Chicago Tribune.25 July 2007: Web. <22 Mar. 2012 < http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2007-07-25/features/0707230542_1_jezebel-gawker-media-celebrity&gt;

Killing Us Softly 3 Advertising’s Image of Women. Dir. Sut Jhally. Perf. Jean Kilbourne.Killing Us Softly 3 Advertising’s Image of Women. Media Education Foundation, 1999. Web. 21 Apr. 2012. <http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-1993368502337678412&gt;

Reaves, Shiela, Jacqueline Bush Hitchon, Sung-Yeon Park, and Gi Woong Yun. “If Looks Could Kill: Digital Manipulation of Fashion Models.” Journal of Mass Media Ethics 19.1 (2004): 56-71. Print.

Tkacik, Moe. “The Annotated Guide To Making Faith Hill ‘Hot’.” Jezebel. 16 July 2007. Web. 21 Apr. 2012. <http://jezebel.com/278978/the-annotated-guide-to-making-faith-hill-hot?tag=gossipdistortbynumbers&gt;.

Tkacik, Moe. “Here’s Our Winner! ‘Redbook’ Shatters Our ‘Faith’ In Well, Not Publishing, But Maybe God.” Jezebel. 16 July 2007. Web. 21 Apr. 2012. <http://jezebel.com/278919/heres-our-winner-redbook-shatters-our-faith-in-well-not-publishing-but-maybe-god?tag=gossipphotoshopofhorrors&gt;.

Fashion Blogging

Tied with the coverage of celebrities is the coverage of fashion on Jezebel. Its manifesto declared Jezebel as an alternate to the fashion-heavy women’s magazine industry set Jezebel up to be a critique of fashion. However, looking at the fashion tag shows that this has mostly devolved to reviews: the fashion industry,  celebrity fashion  and products by Jezebel writers.

Fashion blogging has become a major factor in the industry. While at first, fashion was resistant to embrace social media, companies themselves are now  using it in addition to acknowledging the influence of independent fashion bloggers.( Amed 2011) An article for Women’s Wear Daily‘s website explains that there are  two million fashion and shopping focused blogs, many with linked to similar products available for purchase embedded in their site (Cochoran 2006).  The influence of digital fashion critiques is forcing fashion institutions to change, and involve a more democratic process of inclusion (Cochocran 2006). While fashion was once a “dictatorship” the growth of the fashion blog, and its critiques of the fashion world have forced a type of transparency on the industry, forcing them to involve regular citizens in their decision (Cochoran 2006). Industry giant/PR Rep Kelly Cutrone commented to the New York Times that  “Do I think, as a publicist, that I now have to have my eye on some kid who’s writing a blog in Oklahoma as much as I do on an editor from Vogue? Absolutely. Because once they write something on the Internet, it’s never coming down. And it’s the first thing a designer is going to see. (Wilson 2009)

This change is infiltrating long-standing bastions of the fashion industry.  Wilson’s 2009 New York Times article about the changes in the industry noted that “Jezebel.com (a saucy blog that includes coverage of fashion) shot ahead of Style.com (the Condé Nast fashion site) for the first time this fall with more than a half-million visitors” (Wilson 2009).The attention given to a wider variety of designers, such as the detailing in Jezebel’s “Rag Trade.”

Similar to “Dirt Bag,” but focused on the fashion industry, “Rag Trade” reflects both caused the increased humanization and celebrity of industry giants, and increased the name and coverage of smaller scale designers. These changes, wrought by Jezebel and other online fashion blogs have caused a more macro examination and restructuring of the industry. A recent story on Jezebel discussed changes in America’s Next Top Model, a show that has long been merging the world of fashion with the American people.  (Stewart 2012) Tyra Banks, show star/producer has fired long standing judges and creative director, to take the show in a more digital/ online directions. (Stewart 2012) She is currently courting BryanBoy, one of the most popular fashion bloggers to become a part of the show. (Stewart 2012) Bryanboy is so influential that in 2008, Marc Jacobs named a purse in his collection after the blogger. (Wilson 2009)

In “Rag Trade” Jezebel also covers the gossip of the industry, mentioning not just the design changes but inner lives of the designers. Social media has become a major player in perpetuating rumors about the fashion industry. (Amed 2011)This reflects the trends of celebrity gossip, but extended to the names of the fashion industry. What is interesting to note about this section is that it differs from the others in that it assumes baseline knowledge of the players in the fashion industry, and does not just draw upon popular culture, like “Dirt Bag.”

Another element that reflects celebrity trends is Jezebel’s coverage of celebrity fashion at red carpet events in a feature called “Good/Bad/Ugly.” In this feature, pictures of celebrity outfits at red carpet events are shown, with commentary. This dissection of celebrity fashion is a part of the fashion blogging trend, which magazines have had difficulty adjusting to. (Wilson 2009) The analysis of celebrity fashion can have multiple functions. In Feasy’s study of heat readers (talked about more in this post) the women described why they enjoyed the fashion section of the magazine.( Feasy 2009: 693-696)  For some, they liked both the inspiration of the style, but also the confidence it gave them to try off new styles after feeling validated by seeing a certain look on a celebrity. (Feasy 2009: 694) Most magazines have launched digital components, which readers enjoy due to their interactive and search features, which allow them to tailor the content the consume. (Inghanm and Weadon 2008: 218These online pieces are able to be more in depth then the virtual pieces.  (Ingham and Weadon 2008:217)

The fashion industry is being changed by social media, but is still managing to maintain its gendered identity. Fashion blogs merge the celebrity, gossip and fashion elements, whether fashion is the main focus or one element of a larger site.

Sources

Ahmed, Irman. “Fashion 2.0 | Fashion PR in the Digital Age | BoF – The Business of Fashion.” Fashion 2.0. Business of Fashion, 5 Apr. 2011. Web. 20 Apr. 2012. <http://www.businessoffashion.com/2011/04/fashion-2-0-fashion-pr-in-the-digital-age.html&gt;.

Corcoran, Cate T. “The Blogs That Took Over the Tents.” WWD. Women’s Wear Daily, 6 Feb. 2006. Web. 21 Apr. 2012. <http://www.wwd.com/fashion-news/fashion-features/the-blogs-that-took-over-the-tents-547153?full=true&gt;.

Feasy, Lauren. “Reading heat: The Meanings and Pleasures of Star Fashions and Celebrity Gossip.” Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies 22 5 (2010): 687-699

Ingham, Deena, and Alexis Weedon. “Time Well Spent: The Magazine Publishing Industry’s Online Niche.” Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies 14 2 (2008): 205-20. Print.

Stewart, Dodai. “Tyra the Tyrant Has Fired Mr. Jay, Miss J and Nigel Barker from ANTM.” Jezebel. Jezebel, 20 Apr. 2012. Web. 21 Apr. 2012. <http://jezebel.com/5903702/tyra-the-tyrant-has-fired-mr-jay-miss-j-and-nigel-barker-from-antm?tag=america.s-next-top-model&gt;.

Wilson, Eric. “Bloggers Crash Fashion’s Front Row.” The New York Times 27 Dec. 2009, New York ed., Style sec.: ST1. Print.

Perez and More: Celebrity Gossip Blogs

There are hundreds of celebrity gossip blogs, providing a way for the average citizen to expressing feelings about celebrities and even establish celebrity of their own(Podnieks 2009: 53).  Celebrity culture has been altered by the gossip blog, becoming a core part and gaining prominence over traditional gossip outlets. (Fairclough 2008)  This blogs “ exert a considerable influence on the way that celebrities are mediated in a contemporary media culture (Fairclough 2008) Instead of a passive consumer or a third party source, “ today, the gossip blogger becomes both the producer and consumer of the celebrity, offering a route through which to deconstruct the celebrity image, while also contributing to, and even reshaping its cultural connotations. (Fairclough 2008) Part of what is unique about these digital gossips is that, unlike magazines, they are not beholden to any journalistic standards (Fairclough 2008.) It is practice, like Jezebel to report unsubstantiated rumors. There is one segment called Blind Items, where they list rumors about celebrities, leaving out their names and allowing commentators to discuss their guesses.  The lack of journalistic objectivity also increases the involvement of commentary, reflecting personal beliefs in the depiction of others (Podnieks 2009:63). For Jezebel, this means they do not just report news, but comment in a way that is shaped that their declare goals and feminist tendencies.  This looser structure also allows for a stronger involvement from readers, who contribute content and opinion. (Podniecks 2009: 65) This engages readers of gossip blogs in a process of sharing and group blogging that make it socially appealing (Podniecks 2009: 65)

These celebrity blogs have also been a product and contributor to the growth of what Fairclough calls “Bitch” culture. (2008) Fairclough’s description of Bitch culture- acerbic and terribly clever- resonates with the description of Jezebel’s snark. (2008) Fairclough’s description of a celebrity blogger matches some of the phrases used to describe Jezebel  (like here)  “ outspoken, flout codes of courtesy and are fiercely opinionated” (Fairclough 2008) Ironically, against its manifesto, Jezebel does engage in the micro level criticism of female celebrities, which is a trademark of the modern attitude towards female celebrities in gossip blogs in these “Bitchy” discussion.   These celebrity’s blogs offer cutting remarks to critique celebrities. (Fairclough 2008) However liberal Jezebel claims to be, they are policing social norms by calling celebrities (and others) out on their social deviance.  With this bitch culture, celebrities are often called out for being “train wrecks” and carefully scrutinized.  A recent headline about Kim Kardashian illustrates this bitch culture, prefacing an article about her response to critiques by actor Jon Hamm by saying “Stupid Person Responds Stupidly to Jon Hamm Calling Her Stupid” (Beckman 2012).

However, celebrity bloggers need to be careful before going too far down the path of negativity. Perhaps the most famous celebrity blogger si the self-appointed “Queen” of gossip- Perez Hilton.  Hilton is widely read, and focuses on the details of celebrity lives. He built his reputation based on the sharpest of the “Bitch” media voices (Fairclough 2008). Perez went further then Jezebel ever has, editing photos to show penises and drugs on celebrity faces and calling them cruel nicknames. However, after the rash of gay teen suicide, Perez had a change of heart about his cruelty and declared that he could not fight bullying while being a self-described bully. Since then, Perez has focused on creating a more positive image.  He announced the change on Ellen DeGeneres show, and then posted this YouTube video.  So far, Jezebel has weathered most of their storms without major change. It will be interesting to see in the future if Jezebel follows in Perez’s footsteps and tones down their social critique.

Sources:

Beckman, Leah. “Stupid Person Responds Stupidly to Jon Hamm For Calling Her Stupid.” Jezebel. Gawker Media, 12 Mar. 2012. Web. 18 Apr. 2012. <http://jezebel.com/5892663/stupid-person-responds-stupidly-to-jon-hamm-for-calling-her-stupid?tag=kim-kardashian&gt;.

Dobrow, Larry. “Lets Hear It for Women Who Suffer No Fools.” Ad Age Media Works. 13 March 2008. Web.  20 March 2012 < http://adage.com/article/mediaworks/hear-women-suffer-fools/125671/>

Fairclough, Kirsty. “Fame is a Losing Game: Celebrity Gossip Blogging. Bitch Culture, and Post Feminism.” Genders. 48 (2008) Web. 18 April 2012. <http://www.genders.org/g48/g48_fairclough.html&gt;

Hilton, Perez. “I’m Going To Be Doing Things Differently.” YouTube. YouTube, 13 Oct. 2010. Web. 18 Apr. 2012.<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=glRZpHuGj6Q&gt;

Podnieks, Elizabeth. “Celebrity Bio Blogs: Hagiography, Pathography and Perez Hilton.” a/b: Auto/Biography Studies 24 1 (2009): 53-73.

http://perezhilton.com/

Behind the name Jezebel

The word “feminist” is not the only loaded word to be associated with the website. The site’s name itself is a word with an extensive history and meaning, which has been co-opted by the site to be used as a form of self-identification.  The negative meaning of the word “Jezebel” stems back to biblical times, to the story of  Queen Jezebel present in the New Testament, and “throughout the ages Jezebel’s very name has carried sexual connotations, become a term of serious become linked with prostitution and become a term of derision and abuse.” (Gaines 1999:xv) Jezebel has been characterized as both a maleficent and martyred character in the way that many strong female biblical characters have been (Gaines 1999 16-18).

According to Biblical stories, Jezebel was the beautiful young Phonecian wife of King Ahab, ruler of the Israelis (Gaines 1999 xiii). The Israelites did not approve of her polytheistic beliefs or luxurious lifestyle, and when the country was said to devolve into sin, Jezebel was used as a scapegoat and was killed and left to be eaten by wild dogs. (Gaines 1999 xiii) Jezebel clashed with societal standards, as “ feminine influence was equated with evil, for Jezebel’s wickedness undermined patriarchal authority to enforce societies’ rules.” (Gaines 1999 xv)This story has lead to the characterization of a Jezebel as an overly sexualized women: prurient and beautiful, drawing men astray.

Today “Jezebel is firmly ensconced in popular culture,” portrayed in various forms of media from the name of a deadly weapon developed in WWII to a style of push up bra, accompanied by salacious advertising. (Gaines 1999 xvi) It can be seen in plays, poems and stories from throughout the ages, and with an overwhelmingly negative context (Gaines 1999).  It has been a logical transition to extend the word to newer media platforms such as blogging.

However, by calling their website “Jezebel,” Gawker Media  is clearly doing something that has become culturally common in recent years: co-opting the use a word used to shame a community, controlling its social power. To reduce the social power of a damning insult, the community that it hurts the most will often adopt it and alter the use to a more positive form of social identity (Celious 2002 88). A word with similar connotation the Jezebel that is a common part of lexicon is bitch, a word which some view has been co-opted by females as a form of strength and power (Celious 2002 90). Many posts on Jezebel use the word bitch, in quotes from other women or even in the titles of stories. In her article, Celious argues that the use of “bitch”  in this fashion is empowering because

“one, the act of naming or defining oneself is empowering; secondly, access to these representations and what these women represent make them empowering; and third, the perceived group identity of the consumer and the [creator] makes it possible for the definition of “bitch” to be viewed as benign and even empowering when used by individuals perceived to be members of the “same group.”

In a context like Jezebel, where the product is catered to a specific group. (For just how narrow, check out this post) the understanding could be positive, using Celious’s definition. Conversly, there are many who view the use of insulting words like Jezebel and Bitch, even by women, as further hurtful and a sign that the negative views have been internalized.  As Celious points out in her article, some believe that sex and power are so intertwined in society that in “ such a cultural setting, it is impossible to use the same tools, like one’s sexuality, which is used to oppress one’s self, to empower one’s self in a way that is not debilitating.” (Celious 2002 91) In Jezebel, editor Anna North also wrote a post about the same subject, entitled “Has The Word ‘Bitch’ Lost its Bite?”  In it, North discusses the different uses of the word bitch, not drawing any conclusions. (2009) She also recounts the first time that she was called a bitch.  Instead of being insulting, North found it empowering, implying that she was a women with conviction and intelligence. ( 2009)

It is important to unpack the meaning behind the title of Jezebel to fully understand the angel of the content. The use of co-opting a negative word pairs with the edginess of the content, and frames the information the blog shares.

Sources:

Celious, Aaron. “How ‘Bitch’ Became a Good Thing- or At Least Not that Bad” University of Michigan Perspectives 8.2 (2002): 90-96. Web. 11 April 2012 <http://www.rcgd.isr.umich.edu/prba/perspectives/fall2002/celious.pdf>

Gaines, Janet Howe. Music in the Old Bones: Jezebel through the Ages. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1999. Print.

North, Anna. “Has The Word “Bitch€”Lost Its Bite?” Jezebel. Jezebel, 17 Dec. 2009. Web. 11 Apr. 2012. <http://jezebel.com/5428773/has-the-word-bitch-lost-its-bite>.