Tuesday, 8 October 2013

The Hardest Word To Say Is Goodbye: Why I'm Quitting Jezebel

Last night I quit Jezebel. It sounds like a dumb thing to be writing about, but for me, it's really, really significant.

I'm 23. I'm black. I'm West Indian. I didn't have a lot of exposure to feminism growing up. I cringe when I recall the things that I said about other women when I was a freshman in college, and the attitudes that I had towards sexuality and womanhood. I went to a Catholic school in a country that is still largely misogynistic. It was pretty much a given that I'd grown up to be an anti-woman little shit.

But then I found Jezebel. I found Jezebel and I started reading. I'm the kind of person who just likes to know things, so perusing the site pre-Kinja was like a revelation to me. All of a sudden I had this entire vocabulary to explain the little microagressions that I'd faced all my life, and a community of women who were engaged in parsing those issues. I could finally vocalize why I felt an inconsolable rage when I was tone policed. I knew how to defend myself against slut shaming. I could explain in detail why rape culture was so insidious and why restrictions on reproductive freedom were a devastating step backwards for women.

Jezebel taught me how to be a woman.
And then it taught me that it didn't care about the kind of woman that I am.

In a weird way, it feels like being betrayed by a trusted friend. I've been a regular on Jezebel since my junior year of college in 2010, and a fervent feminist ever since. But little by little I could see that there wasn't much consideration for a feminism that included the diversity of women. There was a blatant disregard for the difference in perspective that WoC have in relation to various issues by virtue of their different experiences of the world.

And then Kinja happened, and I was locked out of Groupthink during the switchover. I finally got posting privileges in July 2013. And then Solidarity Is For White Women happened and I talked about it. And Jezebel ignored it. So I talked about it some more.

In the three months since I've had posting privileges, all of the following have happened:

  1. Solidarity Is For White Women called out Jezebel's complicity in allowing H. Schwyzer to become a prolific voice in online feminism, despite his continued abuse of WoC.
  2. Instead of apologizing for their mistake or even acknowledging the situation in any way, Jessica Coen wrote a satirical post about the stages of grief, effectively trying to absolve herself of any responsibility.
  3. When Jezebel did finally acknowledge SIFWW, rather than take the opportunity to address their role in the situation, they simply aggregated tweets without context, and then forgot to mention the WoC who started the hashtag.
  4. Then Miley at the VMA's happened. And instead of talking about both the way that Miley was needlessly slut shamed and the way in which Miley's performance perpetuated racist narratives, they ignored the racist aspects of her performance altogether.
  5. Pissed, I tackled it myself, and then Miley-Gate happened, and they ignored that too, instead choosing to recycle and old piece of one of the few WoC on staff, and tacking on the name of the white EIC.
  6. And yesterday, a month later, they published a piece that made light of and mocked Chris Brown's admission that he had lost his virginity to a much older girl when he was eight. That's right. They diminished the fact that Chris Brown was RAPED AS A CHILD, because flagellating the misbehaving black man is more important than sympathy and support for a rape victim.

Three months. Three MONTHS! That's how many times Jezebel has majorly fucked up in three months. And it started to feel like I was just banging my head against a brick wall. It was getting pretty clear that Jessica Coen & Co. didn't care about the commentariat said and why should they? Jezebel isn't about feminism, or change, or making a difference. It's about page views and clicks. It's about money. "Corporate Feminism" at its finest. If it helps them hit their numbers, they're going to continue to troll the very readers that make their success possible. I refuse to be part of it anymore. Jezebel has become like that toxic friend you keep around out of nostalgia for the days when things were better. Fuck that. Time to cut the fat.

I know that Jessica Coen will likely never see this, and if she does she won't give a shit, but I sincerely hope she gets her shit together. I know that Jezebel likes to pass the buck and claim that they aren't technically a feminist site, but it is staffed by women who identify as feminist. And if they're as feminist as they claim to be, none of this stuff would be acceptable. So this is me calling you out Jessica. Get your shit the fuck together. Make some changes. Expand your perspective. Improve. Do better. Either do that, or never tackle another feminist issue on Jezebel ever again. Feminism isn't situational. Either you're feminist or you're not. Right now, you're not, but you keep pretending to be. Stop it.

It'll be hard to just drop Jezebel cold turkey, especially since it's my main source for feminist news (maybe that was the problem!) but I'll survive. As I said last night:
"I'm not letting them make any more money off my page views. I'm not enabling them to keep demonstrating that people who look like me are worthless to them. [...] It genuinely hurts me to feel like a space that is supposed to be feminist and inclusive, continuously rejects intersectionality and routinely reasserts the hierarchy of privilege. I'm not game for that."
So instead of spending all my time trying to strike back at Jezebel's bullshit, I'm going to get my own shit together. I'm gonna get back to my photography and I'm going to start spending more time on feminist websites that actually understand what feminism should be. Because they exist. There are spaces on the internet that allow diverse voices to be heard. Here's to signal boosting:

In addition to supporting the work of WoC, I'll continue to follow them on twitter. I have learned so much from so many incredible women just by sitting back an listening; just by watching the conversations unfold organically and genuinely considering perspective I'd never come across before. 

So I'm gone. I will dearly miss the lovely ladies of Groupthink, but they know they're all welcome here should they wish to come. I won't miss Jezebel. 

Good riddance to bad rubbish.


  1. This is BTCommittee from Groupthink. I will definitely support you throughout this issue and on your blog. And I agree that Jessica Coen needs to get her shit all the way together.

  2. I will miss you over there but I already added you to my bookmark bar. Thank you so much for the other blogs because I knew about 6 of them. Just keep it up and looking forward to seeing your photography.

  3. Thanks. Really appreciate the support. I know it totally sounds like I just issued a rallying cry, but I really just want to them to at least acknowledge that they fucked up. Just apologize. Commit to doing better. I feel like I'm not asking a lot.

  4. No problem. I was totally guilty of this too, but people like to pretend that there aren't other conversations going on outside "mainstream" feminism. Lots of women are taking part in the conversation; we just aren't listening. Time to start listening.

  5. I don't think it is just Jessica. I think it is a lot of people over at Gawker Media. Like a lot of those writers.......

  6. I never knew about any of this until I found Racialicious (somehow) and Jezebel. However, the Gawker Media has a whole has been getting under my skin. I really haven't been around GT/Crosstalk either. I will though start participating on those blogs you mentioned.

  7. I tend to not pay attention the bylines unless it's Lindy or Doug or Jessica, so if they individually have problems, I don't really know. Either way it all falls on JC's shoulders for not exercising a more discretionary editorial policy.

  8. Blarg. Sorry if this is a double post, but apparently Disqus hates me as much as Kinja does. Maybe it's a blessing because I can keep this shorter: You'll be missed. I'm looking forward to following your writing further. Keep kicking ass because you've taught me so much.

  9. Grandad Freeman here. I found your blog through Twitter. I would hate to see you leave, but since you have your own blog, I'll just have to come here instead. Bookmarked and stuff.

  10. I miss Anna Holmes and I find it hard to believe that Jezebel is what it is now - but your criticism is valid. I first learned of intersectionality drom Jez commenters and you have shown a bright light on the exclusivity inherent in modern feminism. I will follow you here and on twitter - not because you're a teacher, but you are an important voice that I highly regard. Jez commenter "Devonna".

  11. This was pretty hard to read, Cate. It's true. It's all true. And I'm not sure Jez does a lot better with trans issues, but it's a very valuable platform. I want to fix Jezebel, not abandon it. And that's probably a fool's errand.

  12. I completely get what you mean about wanting to fix rather than abandon. I did too. I tried. HOLY HELL I tried. But it got to be too much, especially since it didn't seem to be making any impact on the way the editorial board approached intersectional stories. I couldn't put myself through that anymore. It stopped being worth it after that atrocious Chris Brown article. I mean, I get that he was black, but if they couldn't even get how to treat a RAPE VICTIM right? There was no hope. It meant to me that blackness was a bigger affront to them than any pain I might suffer, and there was no point in staying.

  13. Thanks for the support love. I really tried my best, but my efforts were clearly futile if they could post that CB piece after SIFWW. I really couldn't stay.

  14. Do it! And then if you do go back to GM, you can better recognize the holes in their coverage. I'm not sure if I still think that if the entire commentariat was constantly on their case it might force a change, but I do think they might be forced to apologize at least.

  15. I said it at Jez and I will say it here, you will be missed and it is a
    huge loss for Jezebel. You will never be able to not be a teacher.
    Simply by acting you teach those who are willing to listen. I second
    the comment that states that you are a voice that needs to be heard and I
    will be here to listen. I hate that this entire thing has been so
    traumatic for you. Thank you for everything that you have given and
    continue to give through this blog and your other outlets. Your sharing
    has been transformational for me. -La.C.

  16. My suggestion? Try Shakesville, my new favorite source for feminist discussions: http://www.shakesville.com/2010/01/feminism-101.html
    They are radical feminism at its finest.
    You can also check out Bust E-magazine, which sometimes has links to interesting discussions.

  17. I know this feel, so hard. I quit back when HS jizzed on the collective face of the Internet (that's how I felt about that "article," which matches up with what he said that piece was all about in his recent candid tweets). It's so hard to resist, but you'll probably end up happier and better-informed. That's what happened for me.

  18. I feel you! I quit them a while ago, and it was weird and strange. I still post occasionally at Gawker, mostly just to snark at the assholes, under the name Valkyrie607. I'd love to keep you on my radar. My suggestion: Shakesville is okay but can be restrictive in terms of acceptable language. Check out Freethoughtblogs.com and FeministHivemind.com.

  19. As long as it's a part of the Denton online tabloid franchise, nothing will change.

  20. Ohmygod -you're- Valkyrie607! (: I follow (though not as much as I used to) Jezebel and love your comments.

  21. Just wanted to leave a credit for the borrowed image at the top of this page. It from Natalie Dee's daily comic: http://www.nataliedee.com

  22. You really should give credit to the artists from whom you borrow images. Natalie Dee, above.

  23. You're totally right. Fixed. I'm a big fan of her work actually, and had written about her awhile back. (http://battymamzelle.blogspot.com/2012/07/natalie-dee-and-other-things-i-think_26.html#.UnuWypSglcQ) I was upset when I wrote this post so attribution wasn't exactly the first thing on my mind, and I haven't come back to this post in a while. But thanks for pointing it out. Not getting credit for your work is pretty shitty and I wouldn't want to do that to her.

  24. Thank you! I like her, too. A real internet pioneer, that one!

  25. I think our time on GT/Jez barely intersected, but it and Jez are both worse without you. That said, Jez doesn't deserve you. And all those sites that you recommended are amazing.

  26. Jezebel, "Miley-gate" - Women are fueling this puerile, junk and deliberately outrageous media by following it and providing it with a market.


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