How feminist blogs like Jezebel gin up page views.

What women really think about news, politics, and culture.
July 6 2010 1:28 PM

Outrage World

How feminist blogs like Jezebel gin up page views by exploiting women's worst tendencies.

(Continued from Page 1)

Instead of mimicking the old directly anxiety-making model—for example, by posting weight-loss tips and photos of impossibly thin models like a traditional women's magazine—Jezebel and the Slate and Salon "lady-blogs" post a critique of a rail-thin model's physique, explaining how her attractiveness hurts women. The end result is the same as the old formula—women's insecurities sell ads. The only difference is the level of doublespeak and manipulation that it takes to produce that result. Recently, Broadsheet's Tracy Clark-Flory elicited 32 mostly sycophantic comments by closing a post that rehashed a news story about a controversy over a model's age by saying that it was "skin-crawling" that a mother of a 15-year-old model was quoted as saying that "age is irrelevant if you're beautiful." And XX recently got in on the Olivia Munn debate with a post about how Munn isn't funny enough to be on the show. The writer cited an interview with Munn but no examples from any of the 374 episodes of G4's Attack of the Show that Munn hosted between 2006-10.

It's certainly important to have honest, open conversations about the issues that reliably rake in comments and page views—rape, underage sexuality, and the cruel tyranny of the impossible beauty standards promoted by most advertisers and magazines (except the ones canny enough to use gently lit, slightly rounder, older, or more ethnic examples of "true beauty"). But it may just be that it's not possible to have these conversations online. On the Web, writers tend to play up the most jealousy- and insecurity-evoking aspects of controversy, and then anonymous commenters—who bear no responsibility for the effects of their statements—take the writers' hints to any possible extreme. It's just how the Internet works.

Advertisement

At the same time, many posts on these sites aren't consciously written with the twisted mess of intentions I just described. Probably many of the writers feel that their work is helping women by exposing sexism and getting important women's issues onto their radar. But especially for Jezebel writers, whose page-view-generating skills are a matter of public record, and whose careers are dependent on maintaining their stats, the pressure to continuously hit "outrage world" topics must be intense. As I write this, two of the five top stories on Jezebel have to do with weight loss: "Isn't It Time We Called 'Curvy Models' Simply 'Models?'" and "Lily Allen's Face Not Thin Enough For British Elle?" In the comments sections, readers are responding with naked bitterness: "The thin and pretty are like rich people. They are freely given advantages they already have," says sensitivitycop. NewWaveBatMitzvah chimes in with "I'm just glad that finally someone is paying attention to skinny women with large breasts. It's high time they get out from living in obscurity in the shadows where they cry themselves to sleep with tears of sorrow and loneliness."

On and on it goes, as commenters click again and again on the same post to follow the conversation, generating the traffic that enables the site to sell ad space. Right now, the ad alongside those headlines is for Cheetos.

Disclosure: Emily Gould worked previously for Gawker Media, which owns Jezebel.

Like Slate on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 21 2014 8:00 AM An Astronaut’s Guided Video Tour of Earth
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.