Jezebel.com: Home of hypocrisy

By Emily Merlino

Jezebel.com

If one is to believe the hype, websites like “Slate” and “iVillage” have replaced ESPN and Barstool as the new bastions of high Internet traffic.

Jezebel.com, a feminism-centered branch of gossip blog Gawker, is a major player in this so-called “estrogen revolution”.

Jezebel.com proclaims its focus to be on “Celebrity, Sex and Fashion for women. Without airbrushing.” This tagline is certainly appealing to a young female student still coming into her own. It seems, albeit superficially, as if the website contains just enough frothy, sassy fun to stay interesting while still stubbornly sticking to its intellectual, feminist roots.

However, for a website that extols feminist values and strong women, Jezebel.com spends an ample amount of time making fun of women who don’t fit their definition of a modern, feminist woman (i.e., promiscuous, urban, young and sexually brazen to the point of being crass).

For example, in one recent article detailing the hiring of “The Daily Show’s” new correspondent, author and former “Attack of the Show” host Olivia Munn, Jezebel spent more time and print detracting from Munn than the hiring practices of “The Daily Show”. The article reprimands Munn for being on the covers of Playboy and Maxim, remarks that one of Munn’s jokes was “so passé” and includes sexually charged pictures of Munn to undermine her credibility as a quasi-news correspondent. Overall, the tone of the article was that Munn isn’t funny enough and is too sexy to be credible.

The issue here is not whether or not Munn is indeed unqualified for the job, but rather that instead of focusing on “The Daily Show’s” hiring practices, Jezebel.com demeans Munn by focusing more on the fact that she posed for the cover of Playboy than the fact that she has published a book, hosted a show, has a college degree and is active in philanthropy and charity work. This is exactly the kind of behavior that the website gets angry at men’s magazines and tabloids for, but by masking its cattiness as feminism, Jezebel.com gets away with it.

“Writers … are pushing readers to feel what the writers claim is righteously indignant rage but which is actually just petty jealously, cleverly marketed as feminism,” Emily Gould wrote in a recent “Slate.com” article on feminist blogs.

It gets all the more confusing when, after publishing an article on why Munn and her sexuality is bad, Jezebel.com publishes an article on why Rihanna and her sexuality should be left alone.

The article, which is demurely titled “Rihanna Does Whatever She Wants With Her Vagina and for Some Reason That’s a Problem”, discusses in depth the various ways the media has wrongly “slut-shamed” the singer. Lindy West, the author of the article, hypothesizes that the media has targeted Rihanna’s sex life so negatively and aggressively because she “seems to be truly having an awesome time and women owning their sexual pleasure veers dangerously close to women wanting to own their bodies.”

Wait, but didn’t Jezebel.com just “slut-shame” Munn and say she was, essentially, too sexy to be credible? What makes Rihanna different? Does Jezebel.com have two different definitions of the word?

Later in the article, West begs everyone to “stop shaming celebrities for having sex”, because, as West explains, “what you’re saying, essentially, is that women’s sexual behavior is shameful and should be hidden and/or mocked. Women’s sexual behavior needs to be accepted.”

Again, the hypocrisy seen here is incredible. Jezebel.com cannot scold Munn for her sexual behavior but then chastise everyone for scolding Rihanna for her sexual behavior. Secondly, the last line of the article instructs Rihanna to “slut it up.” Far from being empowering, telling a woman to “slut it up” just continues to make light of a very real issue and, obviously, utilizes the stigma of the word “slut” illogically. Jezebel.com cannot call a woman a slut, even in jest, if they want the stigma of female sexuality to crumble.

Yet another example of the website’s hypocritical tone emerges while looking over their Olympic coverage.

Instead of focusing on the wonderful achievements the athletes in London have achieved, Jezebel.com entitles its Olympic photo album “Olympic Thighlights.” Now, if ESPN or GQ did this, Jezebel.com would be shrieking about misogyny and chauvinism faster than ESPN could release a pre-written apology statement. But because it proclaims itself to be a feminist website, Jezebel.com again gets away with doing the same things they get angry at others for doing.

This, however, seems downright mild when compared to the duplicity the website showed during a live interview program from a New York theater. The program, entitled “Thinking and Drinking”, featured two bloggers, nicknamed “Moe” and “Slut Machine”.  The topic at hand? Why one of them could not be bothered to call the police when she was raped. The two giggle as “Moe” says she has unprotected sex and was date raped and as “Slut Machine” admits she “decided to go home with someone I never would have, had my vision not been impaired by 14 hours of drinking.”

This is not sexual liberation; this is remarkable ignorance and provides a laundry list of reasons for those against sexual freedom to continue their cause.

In a world where young women are constantly being told what to be, how to dress and whom to be with, one would hope that a website that supposedly values progressive ideals would provide a bit of aid in helping women discover themselves. This, however, is yet to be the case with Jezebel.com.

A feminist website that speaks candidly about sex and feminism would be a wonderful addition to the Internet, if, of course, done correctly. Unfortunately, Jezebel.com has become a confused, petty mess, a blog that no longer puts out coherent, reasonable advice for young women to follow.

Until Jezebel.com speaks sense, the young women of the world will just have to keep looking for a rational and straightforward alternative.

Emily Merlino can be reached at [email protected]