Jezebel Cake Walk
I used to have a lot of respect for feminist blog Jezebel. I started reading Jezebel in 2007, the week I moved into my college dorm. At a time when my life was rapidly changing and my views of the world were quickly expanding, I embraced Jezebel’s community of smart, savvy women.
A highlight of Jezebel has always been the commenter community. While the comments section should usually be avoided on most websites, full of vapid, racist, lunatic, misspelled musings, Jezebel was different. Their articles almost served as springboards, with the real in-depth discussions taking place between the readers. I used to spend hours reading the comments; the comments and opinions on Jezebel played a huge part in helping me form my identity as a feminist.
That community doesn’t exist anymore.
At some point I got burnt out and drifted away from Jezebel; when I go back, I don’t like what I see. Take for example author Luke Malone’s post “The Awesome Sex Worker Who Loves Disabled Clients.” The article introduces a trailer for a documentary about a sex worker in Australia. She works with disabled clients and sees herself as someone starting conversations about the fact that people who are disabled still have sexual needs. Malone is enthusiastic about the topic, and respectful of his subjects. But the commenters jump him:
“Confined” to a wheelchair? What decade is this?
How is this not another facet of the paradigm of how guys (and somehow it is always guys and only guys) are entitled to sex?
Blades “suffered” from MS? […] He could have had MS and still been a happy, productive person.
Seriously? This article provided an opportunity to discuss society’s views of people who are disabled and the problems that creates. Instead, people are happy to nitpick the author’s barely, albeit, ‘language’ (someone with a degenerative disease isn’t suffering? Someone who cannot get out of their wheelchair without aid is not confined to it?) and complain about the fact that the movie features no disabled women using sex workers(women in general using sex workers would make for an entirely different movie, much less disabled women navigating the politics of using sex workers). The commenters just throw out some “you are wrong, woe is me!” complaint and call it a day instead of actually thinking about the topic at hand.
I’m willing to accept that that particular article stepped on some specific toes. Maybe that’s why the comments got so hostile. But there is no explanation for the outburst a few weeks later.
Over bake sale cookies.
Let me repeat that—readers of a popular feminist blog were getting into fights over whether or not it is acceptable to bring store bought goods to a bake sale. This, naturally, lead to women accusing each other of being lazy or not caring enough about their children. They completely ignored the real problem with bake sales- that mothers must demonstrate their love for their children by being able to bake. Regardless of whether or not they have a career. Regardless of whether or not Dad has more free time and can take over the baking for a day.
No, the commenters immediately started judging each other, crowing that “no one is too busy to bake,” “baking is so easy, why can’t you do it?” and “if you won’t bake, don’t participate in the bake sale.”
What happened? Why, in the space that used to house thought-provoking discussions and the respectful opinions of so many women, was there this oddest of backlashes? What changed, and made people feel it was okay to act so petulantly, so humorlessly? Did a time-traveler give computers to 1950’s housewives?
There are plenty of reasons for feminists, for women, to be angry. Tapping into that anger can be a good thing. But to take that energy and turn on each other, and tear down others to make yourself feel superior, on a feminist blog while discussing cookies no less, is just pathetic and sad.
I’m still grateful to early Jezebel. But I’m not sure anyone from early Jezebel would stand this nonsense.