Thursday, January 24, 2008

Jezebel: The jury is still out

"Jezebel reads like a women-only dorm room conversation at a college for the retarded." - Gawker commentator Thehonjudgesmails2
I religiously read jezebel.com for reasons I can't really explain. (That could be said for most of what I read on the Internet, I suppose.) It's supposed to be a send-up of women's magazines, gossip rags and reality television. Its fashion coverage is abysmal. It publishes paparazzi shots with impunity and faithfully summarizes everything that tabloids report, despite decrying our celebrity-fetishizing culture at every turn. It makes fun of the fluffy articles printed in all sorts of publications, then turns around and asks readers' opinions on equally fluffy subjects.

But every so often it will bring up a story that sparks an interesting discussion about something I care about: women's place in the workplace, raising children, getting married, rejecting stupid fashion and beauty trends, managing finances, sexual health, and so on.

Jezebel first debuted about seven months ago, and I loathed it at first. The writing was awful and the overall tone and message uneven, disjointed and self-congratulatory. Its sense of humor was crude, and its bloggers lacked any real insight or direction.

So, I hated it at first, but they hired more writers/editors and hit their stride, and one day I realized that it had been weeks before it had pissed me off.

I'm still sort of torn on Jezebel. The fashion coverage still annoys me, and even though it purports to approach things from a feminist perspective, it falls into most of the anti-feminist traps that mainstream magazines and media outlets fall into. It's written by a bunch of young New Yorkers who think making jokes about drunkenness and drug use is the height of comedy and sometimes bring attention to themselves in a way that I really don't like. The site thinks it's edgy, and any sort of media outlet that purports to be edgy usually comes across as trying waaaay too hard.

To its credit, though, Jezebel has attracted an amazing base of commentators. They have truly intelligent and funny opinions and insights, and - weirdly enough - reading lots of comment threads has helped me crystallize my positions on a variety of issues.

If pressed to explain what they're *really* trying to promote through the site, I think Jezebel's writers and editors would talk in circles (as they are wont to do). In a way, Jezebel exemplifies all the things that women hate about themselves, as well as our thoroughly cynical, dishonest culture - all while preaching honesty, empowerment, enlightenment and equality.

Inasmuch as I admire honesty and transparency in people and institutions, I continue to hate Jezebel. It makes money off of the same things it purports to reject - celebrity paparazzi shots, consumerism, reality TV, and trends of all sorts.

This is all a very roundabout way of saying: I don't know. I don't know about you, Jezebel.

(Does anyone else read Jezebel out there? What do you think?)

1 comment:

Shannon said...

I was on the fence about jezebel for a couple of months myself as well, for the reasons you mentioned. Most of the time, the commentary was far funnier and more insightful than whatever article or blurb inspired it.

I've ended up taking it off my reading list for a couple of reasons. The biggest one was there was just more cynicism (especially with the self-congratulating celebrity coverage) there than I want to expose myself to every day.

What honestly made it an easy choice for me is when Tionna from Ask Tionna got let go suddenly. Her column was one of the only actual columns that I looked forward to.