Feministing and Jezebel Blog Reviews / Dustin Rowles
Blog Reviews | October 2, 2008 | Comments ()
Topic: Women’s Issues
Review: I realize it’s not exactly fair to compare Feministing to Jezebel — they’re not exactly apples and oranges, but they’re certainly not the same variety of apple, either. Nevertheless, they are the two most high-profile female-centered blogs on the Internet, so I’m going to compare them anyway.
In terms of content and tone, the difference between the blogs is significant. Feministing is outstanding if your aim is to read about feminist issues, while Jezebel is (mostly) an outstanding blog if you want to read about pop culture from a feminist perspective. Both blogs can be brilliant — they contain some of the most insightful, well-written content on the Internet.
From a feminist angle, Feministing gets it most right. Fronted by Jessica Valenti, Feministing gives feminism some sex appeal without ever betraying a core message of empowerment. You can get a fairly decent idea of the angle Feministing takes by exploring the controversy that erupted between Valenti and legal blogger Ann Althouse, after Valenti dressed provocatively (at least according to Althouse) when she and some other bloggers posed with Bill Clinton during a luncheon. It was a fairly innocuous pose, but Valenti’s top revealed that (gasp!) she had breasts, which is apparently something you don’t want to advertise if you’re a feminist. Or, at least that’s the argument Althouse tried to make. Althouse wrongheadedly (in my opinion) insinuated that feminism and public displays of female sexuality are mutually exclusive (totally chauvinistic aside: Althouse ain’t a looker). Feministing thinks otherwise: Tits, ass, and sex are all part of womens’ lives, and as such, belong front and center on a blog about feminism, where the issues revolve around sex-specific topics, like reproductive rights, violence against women, and gender equality. By injecting sexual candor and a scintilla of humor, Feministing makes feminist issues palatable for those who might otherwise be turned off by the more radical approach of a blog like Majikthise (another favorite of mine). In short, Feministing is the best blog on the Internet when it comes to presenting and discussing feminist issues, though it does occasionally lack a hard edge, which is perhaps by design — it’s unlikely to alienate women who are interested in women’s issues, but don’t necessarily self-identify as feminists.
My one reservation with regard to Feministing is a minor quibble, and it’s probably an unfair one at that, coming from my white male point of view, but it’s this: As a site devoted exclusively to feminist issues, I occasionally find that they strain to detect sexism in places where it may not necessarily exist (an accusation that’s been leveled at me from time to time) for the sake of adding material. When you’re life revolves around feminism, it’s easy to get myopic about it. Moreover, when something really gets stuck in their craw, the writers can occasionally (though arguably justifiably) lose their sense of humor.
That’s not the case with Jezebel. The feminist writers over on Jezebel have the opposite tendency: To sacrifice their message for the sake of a good quip. It’s that fault, however, that makes Jezebel one of the most entertaining blogs on the Internet, it’s affiliation with Gawker notwithstanding. It also owes a debt to Femisting — Jezebel took the sexual attitude of Femisting and broadened the appeal by adding a celebrity gossip element and a lot of fluffery. Jezebel boasts it’s the kind of “women’s magazine that women would want to read,” and it’s a fair assessment: They tackle the same topics you’d find in an average issue of Redbook or Cosmo, but they offer substantive, thoughtful discussion, whereas your typical women’s mag freelancer seems to be aiming to fill a word count. They do, however, cover a lot of gossipy stuff (This Week in Tabloids), but they do it with that distinctive Gawker style (and their Snap Judgments are killer).
That Gawker sense of humor, however, may be Jezebel’s biggest drawback — it was introduced as an alternative to the Gawker brand, a more welcoming site than their brother blogs. And while it certainly is less mean-spirited, there is often a level of droll nastiness in its tone. I didn’t detect it, really, until I watched the talk show appearance of two of their writers, who showed up drunk (Chez wrote extensively about it), and their lack of professionalism and dismissiveness of feminist issues was … unsettling (I stopped reading it for a few weeks after that, but ultimately got sucked back in). They sounded like a couple of drunken frat boys talking about chicks, and since then, I’ve been unable to separate that attitude from the blog (even after one of the women was conveniently promoted to Gawker.com). I was also a little put off by their fascist guide for commenters, but on a blog devoted to women’s issues, it was probably necessary (both Jezebel and Femisting have a fairly hostile relationship with their trolls. They’re not as cuddly as ours, unfortunately).
The dismissive attitude and occasional arrogance notwithstanding, it’s a fantastic blog. In their gossip coverage, they manage to eviscerate celebrities without resorting to misogyny, and their political coverage is smart, biting, and rarely self-serious. Indeed, I can’t recommend either Jezebel or Feministing enough, though neither, I believe, strike the blend of substance and humor that Rachel Maddow has perfected after only two weeks on the air.
Last Friday, a speaker from the Republican party came to my high school and gave a speech on why he worked for the Republican party and what his daily schedule consisted of during an election year. After he gave the speech, the audience was allowed to ask questions. I raised my hand knowing he was sexist, because before the Q&A session he said, “now girls will need to speak louder, because I have trouble hearing girls”. However, when I raised my hand he told me “I will answer your question in a minute young sir” and answered the boy with the Sarah Palin button’s question first. When he got back to me, he continued to call me “young sir” until I told him “actually I am a woman”. The look on his face was priceless! But I was hurt by his comments.(the entire school saw this conversation) I do not want to be called “sir” until I get knighted!
I am proud to be a woman even if I don’t look “stereotypically female” and comments like that are a slap in the face. I hate it when people call my gender into question! Yes, I could conform, but that is not me either! I am a woman, a woman that doesn’t wear makeup or pluck her eyebrows or wear “girly” clothes, but I still LOVE the fact that I am female!
I guess my main question is, what is the best way to remain calm when someone calls your gender into question when you don’t want it to be called into question?
Yesterday’s episode of Tyra was about “barsexuals,” straight women who kiss other women in bars for “fun and attention.” I’ve always been put off by women who put on such displays for attention rather than for their own pleasure. The annoying thing was that the women on Tyra’s couch explained that they make out with other females for attention or free drinks, but are offended and disgusted that guys admit to buying them drinks because they want to have sex with them. Like Tyra said, “Are you doing this so they will respect your mind and your intellect?” Mostly, I’m just annoyed that these ladies made me agree with Tyra on anything regarding women’s sexuality.
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