I was pretty excited for the launch of Double X, Slate’s online feminist magazine. They have some thoughful writers, a great editorial staff and a big platform, so I was hoping for good things. Unfortunately, the magazine seems to have kicked off by hosting a feminist pissing contest — because what’s more fun than telling other feminists that they aren’t quite feminist enough?
The article in question is by Linda Hirshman, and it’s entitled “How Jezebel is hurting women.” Hirshman starts out by criticizing Jezebel writers Tracie and Moe for going on the Lizz Winstead show drunk and saying a variety of idiotic things — and I agree that Tracie and Moe did look like idiots on that show and did say some incredibly anti-feminist stupid shit. Tracie and Moe have admitted as much, and apologized. This is all old news; it happened a year ago, Moe has left Jezebel and Tracie primarily writes reviews of TV shows at this point. Jezebel’s more feminist-minded writers have gained prominence on the site — Anna, Megan, Dodai, Sadie and others write regularly, often with a feminist bent. Which isn’t to say that Jezebel is an explicitly feminist site; it isn’t, and it doesn’t bill itself as such. It’s a site that a lot of feminist writers certainly take issue with from time to time (but of course, so is Feministe and lots of other explicitly feminist blogs). Some of the Jezebel writers have put up posts that have made me want to throw something — that’s not an unfamiliar feeling when someone’s feminism doesn’t look all that much like mine. And as much as I find Tracie and Moe’s writing to be very entertaining, their feminism isn’t much like mine. At the same time, other Jezebel writers regularly produce content that is thoroughly feminist-minded, progressive and thoughtful; it’s a group site, and there’s a diversity of opinion and content. That’s ok.
Given the high level of risk the Jezebel life involves, it is surprising that the offense that arouses the liberated Jezebels to real political fury is the suggestion that women like them might be made responsible for the consequences of their own acts, or that there might be general standards that define basic feminist behavior. Suggest that women report the men who rape them for the sake of future victims, say, or that women should be asked why they stay with the men who abuse them, or urged to leave them, and the Jezebels go ballistic. Judgmental, judgmental!
Linda is referring to the fact that Jezebel writer Megan didn’t report a sexual assault that she survived when she was 17 and in a foreign country, and that Megan also wrote a post criticizing Linda’s article about how good feminists should hound domestic violence survivors with the question, “Why don’t you just leave?” Linda is also referring to the fact that the Jezebel writers often pepper posts with personal anecdotes — stories of crappy sexual partners, nights of too much drinking, and experiences with pregnancy, STDs and sexual assault. In other words, the Jezebel writers live “high-risk” lives of whoredom and then get mad when you tell them they got what they had coming to them. In fact, Linda argues, women are sexually vulnerable, and there are risks to the liberation that the Jezebels embrace; by not properly avoiding those risks, they’re responsible for the “consequences” of their actions — “consequences,” ostensibly, like getting themselves raped, or getting themselves beat up by their partners.
Women can pretend they’re female chauvinist pigs, but it’s still women who are more sexually vulnerable to stronger men, due to the possibilities of physical abuse and pregnancy. These Jezebel writers are a symptom of the weaknesses in the model of perfect egalitarian sexual freedom; in fact, it’s the supposed concern with feminism that makes the site so problematic. How can Tracie, who posted this picture, criticize the men who go to Hooters? How can writers who justify not reporting rape criticize the military for not controlling…rape? It’s incoherent.
If failing to report a sexual assault at 17 in a foreign country when you’re young and scared and the assault itself is what too many writers have termed “grey rape” or “date rape” — an assault that doesn’t fit into the Lifetime Movie image of a horribly violent stranger rape — is all it takes to be a Bad Feminist who loses her right to criticize the U.S. military for not cracking down on rapists, I’m happy to turn in my Feminist Club membership card right now.
In a paragraph I quoted above, Linda writes, “Given the high level of risk the Jezebel life involves, it is surprising that the offense that arouses the liberated Jezebels to real political fury is the suggestion that women like them might be made responsible for the consequences of their own acts, or that there might be general standards that define basic feminist behavior.” I was under the impression that one standard of basic feminist behavior is not arguing that women bring rape or assault upon themselves — and not saying that rape or assualt is one way that “women like them might be made responsible for the consequences of their own acts.” But maybe that’s just my shiny-shiny slutty-girl feminism.
I’m not arguing that feminism should be a movement of No Judging, or that we can’t criticize anything women say or do. I’m not arguing that because Jezebel is a feminist site, hands off. But I will argue that how women deal with surviving sexual assault should not be a deciding factor in evaluating whether or not they qualify as feminist. I will argue that a feminism which requires perfection from all women is not something I can be a part of. And I’ll also just throw it out there that one probably should not pull the “You’re a bad feminist” card when one writes for a feminist website that launches with front-page articles like “Whine, Womyn and Thongs: How feminism has failed” and “How I Got Bored With Feminism.”
Just to be clear, this isn’t an indictment of DoubleX. Their editorial staff is great, and I’ve heard that they have some amazing pieces lined up. I am genuinely excited to see what else they put out. But the “I’m more feminist than you, you slut” stuff? I hope it stops.