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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.

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;.

Expanding “Sex” to “Sexuality” and Women’s Issues

Instead of direct retellings of sex stories, many of the posts in the “sex” category on Jezebel detail issues of women’s health and equality, especially how it relates to sex. This creates a segment of the blog that is more sexual/political, aimed at advocacy and change.  Stories like this one, both a story of a women’s encounter with rapist and a cautionary tale about digital privacy bridge the gap between the more explicitly sexual and the political. There are also segments about the ongoing debates about  abortion (Pill Baby Pill) and abortion (Roe v. World)

With their coverage of women’s issues, Jezebel is engaging in the power of blogs for potential political and social change. For Jezebel, different political issues, especially those related to women are monitored. There is detailed coverage of recent issues of abortion and birth control. Recently, Jezebel posted about the “Top  Scariest Places to Have Ladyparts In America,” which detailed the different anti-female laws around the country.

This links with the recent trend within the Feminist community of blogging about women’s issues with the intention of raising awareness and making change.  While Jezebel may not be explicitly feminist, it does cover issues that fall under concerns of third wave feminists (Mowles 2008: 31). Third wave feminism, like Jezebel is not a cohesive unit, but a compilation of parts around a set of ideologies (Mowles 2008: 31). One of the first blogs to blend feminism and attention to women’s health issues was Feministing.  Founded by Jessica Valenti in 2004, Feminsiting promised, “to be a platform for us [young women] to comment, analyze, and influence” (Mowles 2008: 33)

Mowles’s analysis of Feminsiting and the potential impact of Feminist blog describe many of the same characteristics present in Jezebel.  Feministing was created in 2004, three years earlier then Jezebel, in the height of George Bush’s “War on Women” (Mowles 2008: 32).  For both sites, there is a definite focus on women’s issues. However, “the content of the [blogs ranges] from media analysis, to political commentary, to frustrated rants about pop culture. Posts address diverse topics in an engaging and witty way” (Mowles 2008: 38).

Part of the sexual/political focus of the women’s issues on blogs is the intersection of different forms of oppression (Mowles: 2008 36) On Jezebel, African American writer Dodai Stewart often discusses the specific issues facing women of color.  In an interview with Madame Nior, a  “black women’s lifestyle magazine” Stewart explicated on the role of her gender and race in her writing. Stewart explains she “could never write from the vantage point of “black people are like this.” I try to write with honesty, from my personal perspective, which is as a woman of color” (Stodghill 2011). With the recent show Girls, which has been hailed as speaking for the generation much of Jezebel’s readership falls into, Jezebel writers has critiqued the absence of minorities in the show which purports to capture a universal experience (Stewart 2012).

Of course, through all of this coverage, these women’s issues, ranging from pregnancy to the difficulties of finding love in the modern era are all treated with the signature Jezebel snark.  Jezebel has expanded the meaning of sex in the tagline to mean “sexuality” and has focused on many issues that push it further into the realm of feminism.

Source:

Mowles, Jessica M. “Framing Issues, Fomenting Change, ‘‘Feministing’’: A Contemporary Feminist Blog in the Landscape of Online Political Activism.” International Reports on Socio-informatics 5.1 (2008): 29-50. Print.

Ryan, Erin. “The Ten Scariest Places to Have Ladyparts in America.” Jezebel. 18 Apr. 2012. Web. 22 Apr. 2012. <http://jezebel.com/5887627/the-ten-scariest-places-in-america-to-have-ladyparts&gt;.

Stewart, Dodai. “Why We Need to Keep Talking About the White Girls on Girls.”Jezebel. 19 Apr. 2012. Web. 22 Apr. 2012. <http://jezebel.com/5903382/why-we-need-to-keep-talking-about-the-white-girls-on-girls&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.

Feminist-ish?: Is Jezebel a Feminist Blog?

While Jezebel self identifies as a “women’s blog” it does not explicitly define itself as feminist.  However, looking over the content it can be seen that Jezebel can be classified as a feminist blog. Part of the issue of defining what a feminist blog is lies in the different ideas of defining feminism itself. (Wazny 2010: 1) There are many working definitions of a feminist, and some people who may follow feminist ideologies who shy away from the word due to negative associations. (Wazny 2010:2) Feminism has a long and varied history and is often divided into different waves.  (Wazny 2010 1-2) There is heavy debate whether modern digital movements count as a new wave of feminism, or whether the idea of the ebb and flow of waves is even an accurate depiction of the movement. (Baumgartner 2011)  An article for the University of Iowa Academic Journal “B Sides” breaks down the argument whether Jezebel can be considered a feminist blog. According the author, several factors define a “feminist site,” such as a discussion of women’s issues and a mission statement that discusses furthering the ideals of feminism. (Wazny 2010:1-5) There are some feminist websites, such as Feministing.com and Feminist.com, which are more explicit about their contents feminist nature. (Wazny 2010)  However, as the article points out it can be gleaned from the user comments following a controversial episode where two of the editors made distasteful comments on a talk show that the users view Jezebel as a feminist icon. (Wazny 2010 10-18) Jessica Valenti, who is a noted feminist claimed that the site was feminist because “when you use feminism as a justification for writing controversial pieces and when you call yourself a feminist to a tremendous audience, you are representing feminism whether you like it or not” (Wazny 2010: 13)The blog does file certain stories under the category of “feminism.” A quick glance at the stories reveals that many of the stories that Jezebel considers to be “feminist” deal with issues of women’s health or rights issues, such as birth control, abortion, and married women changing their name.  However, there are related stories that are not filed under “feminism” and there are not new postings every day.

Opinions of bloggers from explicit feminist sites are mixed on whether Jezebel is among their peers. Regardless of the view of the content, all of the articles acknowledge that many to be feminist view Jezebel.  In her article on “The Pursuit of Harpyness” blogger  Pilgrim Soul uses the metaphor that Jezebel is a “gateway drug” to feminism, not quiet traditionally feminist but enough to pique interests. (2009) The article agrees that Jezebel has some feminist content, but is more important in its ability to attract young women to feminist ideas.  (Pilgrim Soul 2009) Amy McCarthy, from Feminist Choices argues that while Jezebel may have feminist goals, it is actually an “anti-feminist” piece, engaging in slut shaming and mocking those with alternative sexual habits. (McCarthy 2011) The title of McCarthy’s article, “Self-Righteousness, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Celebrity Gossip: Why Jezebel Is Ultimately Bad For The Feminist Movement” is enough to share her opinions of Jezebel as a feminist entity. (2011) McCarthy discusses that much of the content on Jezebel originates from other feminist blogs and urges that  “young feminists …come to the realization that shaming and self-righteousness that is all over that blog, and move on to greener, more feminist pastures. (2011)

Works Cited:

Baumgardner, Jennifer. “Is There a Fourth Wave of Feminism? Does It Matter?”Feminist.com. Seal Press, 2011. Web. 23 Mar. 2012.  <http://www.feminist.com/resources/artspeech/genwom/baumgardner2011.html&gt;

McCarthy, Amy. “Self-Righteousness, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Celebrity Gossip: Why Jezebel Is Ultimately Bad For The Feminist Movement.” Feminists for Choice. Feminist for Choice, 8 Sept. 2011. Web. 20 Mar. 2012. <http://feministsforchoice.com/self-righteousness-gwyneth-paltrow-and-celebrity-gossip-why-jezebel-is-ultimately-bad-for-the-feminist-movement.htm&gt;.

Pilgram Soul. “In (Partial) Defense of Jezebel.” The Pursuit of Harpyness. The Pursuit of Harpyness, 12 May 2009. Web. 23 Mar. 2012. <http://www.harpyness.com/2009/05/12/in-partial-defense-of-jezebel/&gt;

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

Jezebel’s Manifesto

The creation of Jezebel was intended to provide, according to Holmes, “an antidote to superficiality and irrelevance of women’s media properties” (Mascia 2010). Jezebel expressed  these goals in the article “ The Five Great Lies of Women’s Magazines,” labeled as Jezebel Manifesto.  The article outlines the goals of Jezebel by deconstructing the  different flaws of women’s media (Holmes 2007).  The beginning outlines the main goals of the publication.

 “To put it simply, Jezebel is a blog for women that will attempt to take all the essentially meaningless but sweet stuff directed our way and give it a little more meaning, while taking more the serious stuff and making it more fun, or more personal, or at the very least the subject of our highly sophisticated brand of sex joke” (Holmes 2007).

The post then breaks down each of the “lies.” The first of these is “The Cover Lie” which discusses how women’s magazines set up unrealistic expectations from before they are even opened (Holmes 2007).The women on the cover fail to show a diversity of races and are often Photo shopped to non-human perfection (Holmes 2007.  The cover lists outrageous promises for “tasty tidbits” which are predictable, but draw people in on the hope they are not (Holmes 2007).

The second lie is “ The Celebrity-Profile Lie” which criticizes the narrow focus on the minutiae of the lives of celebrities (Holmes 2007). Additionally, magazines bestow celebrity like descriptions and standards to normal people, and “focus on only the most photogenic cancer survivors/assault victims/environmental activists” (Holmes 2007). In this environment, even those people who want to be every day heroes must live and act as celebrities, and are subject to the same scrutiny (Holmes 2007).

The third lie is  “The Must-Have Lie,” where editors push products that they have been given for free, promoting bias and forcing the perpetuation of the image that certain styles and expensive items are necessary (Holmes 2007).

The fourth lie is “The Affirmation Crap Lie,” where magazines cause women to second-guess themselves by showing them constant criteria to compare themselves (Holmes 2007). Women are analyzed on the smallest details of their lives, from the color of their lipstick to their ability to cuddle (Holmes 2007). This creates a need for affirmation, which magazines happily supply with ways to continue to check on how adequate a woman is mixed with lessons about loving themselves and how all women are goddesses (Holmes 2007).

The last lie is “The Big Meta Lie” where people try to justify addiction to and the content of women’s magazines (Holmes 2007). People attempt to deny the effects of these medias on their self-esteem and world views (Holmes 2007).

Jezebel hopes it is “planting a little seed, so that maybe people will think about this stuff a little more critically” (Johnson 2007). However, various criticisms have questioned the changed trajectory of Jezebel, and if it truly qualifies as a blog with feminist ideas.  The next few posts will break down Jezebel as a product for women, by analyzing if it is feminist, and the content and driving factors behind the four major categories. (For what those categories are check out this post)

Sources:
Holmes, Anna. “The Five Great Lies Of Women’s Magazines.” Jezebel. 1 Nov. 2007. Web. 22 Mar. 2012. <http://jezebel.com/262130/the-five-great-lies-of-womens-magazines&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;
Mascia, Jennifer. “A Web Site That’s Not Afraid to Pick a Fight.” NYTimes.com. New York Times, 12 July 2010. Web. 23 Mar. 2012. <http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B0CEEDB103BF931A25754C0A9669D8B63&gt;.

“Celebrity, Sex, Fashion [and cute puppies]. Without Airbrushing.”

The role of advertisers plays an important role in the format of Jezebel’s page. The organization of Jezebel  reveals important information about the content categories. Denton’s goals to emulate traditional media was  reinforced with a redesign of the front page of Jezebel,and the other Gawker Media holdings to look more like the front page of a magazine or tabloid (Denton 2010). In an article published on Gawker’s life advice/organization blog Lifehacker, Denton explained how the different changes are a result of media convergence, blurring the lines between digital communications and traditional media (2010). The format allows the editors to differentiate, and highlight certain articles or categories as more important or popular (Denton 2010). In fact, much of the redesign was based on the intrinsically linked process of drawing viewers and advertisers (Denton 2010). This reflects further Jezebel as a profitable media enterprise, which could have an unknown effect on the content present and could effect how the material may be edited to cater to drawing in the most advertisers. However, this cannot be proven without thorough content analysis at the scale this blog cannot complete.

Specifically for Jezebel, each article is tagged with a different label, which indicates the content of the article.  Underneath the highlighted article on the main page there are headlines for other articles divided by some of the more popular labels. Along the side of the page is a traditional blog view, which shows the label and article title. Some of the labels are features such as “Dirt Bag” and “Rag Trade” which are published regularly, while others are adjusted to more current issues such as “Pill Baby Pill” which covers issues with the current debate about birth control.

The blog defines itself as describing “Celebrity, Sex and Fashion for women.”  These three categories loosely divide most of the content on Jezebel. The “celebrity” indicates content that focuses on gossip and celebrity news, including a feature called “Dirt Bag” which lists celebrity gossip, and “Snap Judgment” which shows pictures of celebrities, and asks commentators their opinions.   One common celebrity article is “midweek madness,” which analyzes the celebrity tabloid magazine covers for the week, playfully mocking the focus on celebrity pregnancy (Mascia 2010). The “sex” content focuses on issues related to women, including women’s health news, personal relationship and motherhood anecdotes, accomplishments by women in news and similar content. The “fashion” category harkens back to Jezebel’s proclaimed roots as an alternate to traditional women’s magazines, (Holmes 2007) and takes up a smaller portion then the other two categories.  There are segments such as “Rag Trade,” which outline news about designers and the fashion world, snf “Photoshop of Horrors”, which shows egregious use of Photoshop in advertising, as well as reviews of fashion shows (Mascia 2010). However, as a member of Gawker empire, the payment of the writers is driven by page views (Grigoriadis 2007). This leads to a de facto fourth category, composed of labels such as “squee” and “aww” which, as their titles suggest include videos of cute children, adorable animals and other videos which are going viral from websites like YouTube and Vimeo. These videos  are what Denton describes as “palette cleansers” – softer pieces to dilute the snark that may driver advertisers away. (Denton 2010) All of this content is compiled to form what Jezebel views as what women want to hear about.

Works Cited:

Denton, Nick. “Why Gawker Is Moving beyond the Blog.” Lifehacker. Gawker Media, 30 Nov. 2010. Web. 21 Mar. 2012. <http://lifehacker.com/5701749/why-gawker-is-moving-beyond-the-blog&gt;.

Grigoriadis, Vanessa. “Gawker and the Rage of the Creative Underclass.” New York News & Features. New York Magazine, 14 Oct. 2007. Web. 22 Mar. 2012. <http://nymag.com/news/features/39319/&gt;.

Mascia, Jennifer. “A Web Site That’s Not Afraid to Pick a Fight.” NYTimes.com. New York Times, 12 July 2010. Web. 23 Mar. 2012. <http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B0CEEDB103BF931A25754C0A9669D8B63&gt;.

McCarthy, Amy. “Self-Righteousness, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Celebrity Gossip: Why Jezebel Is Ultimately Bad For The Feminist Movement.” Feminists for Choice. Feminist for Choice, 8 Sept. 2011. Web. 20 Mar. 2012. <http://feministsforchoice.com/self-righteousness-gwyneth-paltrow-and-celebrity-gossip-why-jezebel-is-ultimately-bad-for-the-feminist-movement.htm&gt;.