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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/

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OMG!!!! DID YOU HEAR ABOUT LINDSAY/BRITNEY/MILEY/ANGELINA?

Popular wisdom and Yahoo Ask! User theone78 maintain that gossip is inherent to women, something inherent.  Curious user honeybee posted on Yahoo’s general forum for knowledge asking “ Why do women love to talk & gossip? I’m one of them so no judging here.”   The answer she received from theone78, whose self-stated source is an “Associate Degree—In Social Behavior Science” was not an unheard of.

“ It’s the way you girls are made…more social and emotional!! …. It has more to do with out genetic structure/makeup of survival. Gossiping however is not being to control your tongue which BTW takes discipline.” (theone78) This prominent perception (whether or not the somewhat dubious science checks out) has lead for the industry of celebrity gossip to become immensely popular.

Gossip has been a widely researched subject, and “ the sheer bulk of five centuries commentary on gossip suggests a phenomenon worth taking seriously (Spacks 1985: 26) Most of this discussion of gossip has been decidedly negative, with potentially positive elements being acknowledged rarely.  (Spacks 1985: 26)  There are ethical questions inherent in gossip relating to its position on the “borderline” between public and private (Spacks 1985: 262; Podneicks 2008: 56). It is clear that sites like Jezebel push this line, forcing private information of celebrities and even self selecting contributors into a more public forum.  Like the snarky attitude of Jezebel, gossip draws heavily upon humor. (Podniecks 2008:57)  Gossiping is a performance, meant to create a reaction, whether of amusement or disgust, from the audience.  (Podneicks 2008: 57). When it is “framed by humor gossip ‘rises above its pettiness and viciousness’ and is redemptive” (Podneicks 2008: 57).

While gossip was in previous era was limited to the exchange of information about personal acquaintances, celebrity gossip has supplanted that. (Feasy 2008:693)  This is a relatively new phenomenon, and has been shaped by and defined a new definition of celebrity.  From Louella Parsons, the first gossip columnist to todays gossip blogs, the discipline has changed (Fairclough 2008) The growth of celebrity has given a consequence free way to share information about others, a process which gains the sharer social capital (Feasy 2008: 690). Since it does not involve personal acquaintances, gossip is not as problematic (Feasy 2008: 690). Initially, the idea of nationally knows stars came to fruition with the era of the powerful movie studios (Fairclough 2008). Monolithic, the studios were able to control the images of stars with a heavy hand (Fairclough 2008).  However, the invention of the zoom lens changed that (Fairclough 2008). Salacious pictures of Elizabeth Taylor’s extramarital affair caught from a distance breeched a new form of celebrity information(Podnieks 2009: 56). Now, any aspect of a celebrity’s life, especially their faults and private shames, were fair game (Podnieks 2009: 56). Having a taste of something more,  people were not longer satiated by the static stupid images (Podniek 2009: 56).

Feasy’s 2008 study group of readers of heat, a British gossip magazine, revealed that the consumption of celebrity gossip is not the sole voyeurism traditionally associated with it. In fact, women like to read the information for the main purpose of sharing it with others (Feasy 2008: 693). Knowing this information gives people a desirable expertise.   It allows them to share it with others to create a sense of community. There is also a desirability to be the first to obtain this information, expressed by Feasy’s study participants (Feasy 2008:691). While this is not reflected on Jezebel itself, this desire for primacy is the meaning of Gawker.com’s tagline “Tomorrows News. Today.”  There is a certain appeal to be the first of a social group to know something, to even, as Gawker suggests, be a whole day ahead.

Additionally, the presentation of celebrity flaws and personal news creates what  Feasy identifies as a double edged sword (Feasy 2008: 696) Women  feel validated for the own imperfections, comforted by the normalcy of celebrities. (Feasy 2008: 695) However, women also feel a sense of guilt for intruding and pointing out people’s weaker moments, even if they are in the public eye (Feasy 2008:696)  The popularity and social benefits of celebrity gossip have embedded it in popular culture. With the digital age, celebrity blogging has grown.  Check out the next post for more on that!

Sources:

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>

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

Honeybee, and Theone78. “Why Do Women Love to Talk & Gossip?” Yahoo! Ask. Yahoo!, 28 Apr. 2011. Web. 17 Apr. 2012. <http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20110428163842AA9TcJ0>.

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

Spacks, Patrica. Gossip. New York: Knopf, 1985. Print

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>.

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;.

Jezebel’s Intended Audience and Viewpoint

The truth revealing, no holds barred attitude was part of Jezebel even before the first words were written (Johnson 2007).  As expressed in its tagline, Jezebel strives to tell “the news without airbrushing.” The phrase was offered up by Anna Holmes, who would become the founding editorin chief of Jezebel, during her job  interview for the with Gawker media (Johnson 2007). While over 70% of Gawker.com readership was female, Gawker media decided to create a “straight women’s blog”(PR Week). They hired Anna Holmes, whose resume includes work at Entertainment Weekly, Glamour, and InStyle. (PR Week) Holmes experience with women’s fashion magazines had fostered a frustration with much of the media created for women and formed ideas that would become core to the site. (PR Week).  In an interview with the New York Times, Holmes explains that she “felt disillusion by magazines to a certain degree, because they perpetuated this insecurity factory and present solutions to the insecurities they just created (Mascia 2010).

Jezebel’s target audience is young, urban, educated, liberal females. Advertising Age praises Jezebel as uniquely successful in ability to “[appeal] as creatively and non-patronizingly to women in their 20’s and early 30’s” (Dobrow 2008). In an interview with PR Week from 2007, Holmes expressed the target range of the audiences as women from 18-40, “who take things more seriously than the magazines that are geared to them would have you believe.” (2007) According to Gawker media’s demographics page, 82% of the readership is between 18-34. (Demographics) Holmes makes it clear that Jezebel is intended for a more clever, critical audience. In fact, 81% of Jezebel’s readership has a college education or higher, and over a third (37%) have post graduate degrees. Additionally, it can be assumed that Jezebel appeals to higher income women,  as over 70% of readers are employed (Demographics). The targeting has clearly worked, as the Jezebel readership is 95% female (Demographics). The website also has a link to a live updated chart on the demographics of viewers. The chart indicates that the popularity of visiting the site rises in the afternoon, stabilizing around 3 PM and declining after 8 (Chartbeat). The chart also indicates where in the country users are, and how many people are on each page (Chartbeat).

It is clear that when they set out to make a women’s blog, Gawker media succeeded. However, this date does not display what Jezebel explicitly meant by its idea of a “women’s blog,”  This was stated in the Manifesto, and continued to be reaffirmed by the content they publish.

Works Cited:

Chartbeat. “Jezebel.com.” Chartbeat. Web. 19 June 2009 < http://chartbeat.com/dashboard2/?url=jezebel.com&k=2b3d990a244b3531b681932ac5c8ce33 >.

“Demographics.” Gawker Media. Gawker Media. Web. 23 Mar. 2012. <http://advertising.gawker.com/demographics/&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/>

 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;.

PR Week. “Journalist Q&A – Anna Holmes, Jezebel.” PR Week. 4 June 2007: 12. Print.

Snarky, Much?

What unites all of the different sites is the self-described “wickedly delicious” prose, which both draws in and repels readers and critics. (Who Are We)  Jezebel itself is noted for its sharp prose and makes no attempts to soften its information.  The New York Timeshas described Jezebel as “certainly cutting, and frequently incendiary”. (Mascia 2010) In an interview with New York Magazine, one of Jezebel earlier writers Moe Tkacik explained the writing style and general attitude toward the more neutral style of other media.  “Quite frankly, fuck discretion…. discretion is why women’s magazine editors persist in treating their fellow humans like total shit; and when you’ve spent a career trying to catch others in their own indiscretions, discretion just feels a little dishonest and superior.”  (Grigoriadis 2007) This candor may have Tkacik’s downfall, after she was let go following a controversial interview (Wayzn 2010) )This attitude to uncensored ideas and prose creates the “snark” that Jezebel prides itself on.   The blog does not pander, but according to current editor-in-chief Jessica Coen Jezebel’s “readers are not condescended to, but leveled with.”(Mascia 2010) Jezebel seems to frame its website not just as a source of news but as one of the few sources of unfiltered truth.  For others, this sharp tone can be seen intentionally trying to cause controversy. (Gould 2010)  Indeed, Jezebel “suffers no fools” and “packs no punches” but “is frank and unapologetic about sex, drug use and other topics.” (Dobrow 2008) Instead of calculated criticalness, some view that Jezebel’s tone is established “by writers who are pushing readers to feel what the writers claim is righteously indignant rage but which is actually just petty jealousy, cleverly marketed as feminism.” (Gould 2010)  As a result the tone can be read as  “less sisterhood-is-powerful than middle-school clique in-fight”. (Gould 2010)  (More about Jezebel critiques and controversies in a later post)

The site further specifies the tone with detailed guidelines for commentators on the site.  The guidelines emphasize that Jezebel is reaching a tone that is sharp, but still expects commentators to be respectful. A commentator can earn “starred” status by offering comments that are repeatedly promoted by other readers and approved of by the editors or one of the group of readers who serve as moderators.  (Coen 2010)  The guidelines reflect the controversial nature of some of the content  and the cruelty that comes occasional with digital anonymity. This is not in a traditional sense of being nice to others, but cautioning people to back up any critiques they have, and not to get involved with so-called “shitstorms” on the site that surround controversial issues. (Coen 2010) Jezebel does not hesitate to deactivate the profiles of commenter’s that have offended them or have become overly engaged in controversial postings, which the site has been critiqued for. (Wazny 2010:14-15) This also creates a hierarchy of commentators and insures a consistency of tone. (Wazny 2010)

Works Cited:

Coen, Jessica. “Commenting On Jezebel: Rules Of The Road.” Jezebel. Jezebel.com, 27 Aug. 2010. Web. 22 Mar. 2012. <http://jezebel.com/5621055/a-friendly-note-on-commenting&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/>

Gould, Emily. “How Feminist Blogs like Jezebel Gin up Page Views by Exploiting Women’s Worst Tendencies.” DoubleXX. Slate Magazine, 6 July 2010. Web. 15 Mar. 2012. <http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2010/07/outrage_world.html&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;.

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

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