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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.

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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;.

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;.

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.