The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Could The Jokes Be A Bit Less Rapey? Salon Vs Jezebel

Posted by Elmo Keep on July 9, 2008

We’re big fans of Jezebel, the most un-Gawker of the Gawker stable of websites, where smart young things are flying the feminist flag with a winning combination of self-deprecation, wry humour, hard-hitting story breaks and cute animal pictures. It’s like a map of what we’d like to think the inside of our head looks like, only on the internet. It’s also rarely, if ever, mean-spirited, which makes it all the more a rare island floating in the web sea of snark.

On Salon today, Sarah Helopa takes issue with the appearance two of Jezebel’s editors made on Shoot The Messenger. They were drunk (as is the point of the show). They made horrible, off-colour “jokes” about rape. Their editor then publicly reprimanded them. The Huffington Post commenters had a field day. In all, this is probably embarrassing enough for all concerned.

It raises a lot of complex questions about the role of media commentators, who in this instance, are also seen to be blazing a trail as role models. But are they? What are the responsibilities of internet writers beyond their jobs? This was no doubt something they will live to regret, but is having a remarkable chop with words enough to equip you with the savvy needed to navigate the world of traditional media? Liz Weinstead who hosted the Thinking and Drinking session definitely thinks not: “They do not understand the influence they have over the women who read them, nor do they accept any responsibility as role models for young women who are coming of age searching for lifestyles to emulate.”

Is Jezebel the new Girlfriend?

Over to you.


15 Responses to “Could The Jokes Be A Bit Less Rapey? Salon Vs Jezebel”

  1. audrey said

    God, I’ve been reading about this all morning. From Salon, to the Huff Po to backpedalling, to Traci’s personal blog.

    It is very exhausting.

    I think Moe and Traci came across quite badly in the interview. More importantly, it’s not like they were hijacked on the street. In their role as well known Jezebel writers, they boast a certain cultural cache and influence that directly benefits them. They actively SEEK that out.

    So I don’t actually think it’s expecting too much that they take an interview seriously, even if it is as dodgy a premise as ‘thinking and drinking’. If anything, you’d think they’d be slightly more on guard when alcohol and public performance are concerned.

    I don’t really dig all their talk about how wasted they get and how much they love to drink. It seems kind of lame to me, and the criticism about nonchalent, disaffected hipsters consumed by equal parts malaise and self importance are quite apt.

    I am also a big believer that rape jokes are never funny, no matter how ironic you fancy yourself. Also, when Traci wrote about this on her private blog, she and her readers went the hack on another blogger who’d made a (admittedly tasteless, ignorant and dumb) joke about avoiding Traci’s STDs on the toilet seat by double layering the seat paper.

    Considering so many of them scrambled to reassure her that THEY found her rape joke about Williamsburg absolutely hilarious, it’s pretty hypocritical of them to get all uppity about STD toilet humour.

    I don’t know. That whole Gawker self promotional schtick irritates me. It can definitely be clever, but writers of that ilk on the whole can become a bit too enamoured with themselves – particularly when hordes of people are constantly congratulating them for being so ‘edgy’ and ‘honest’.

    So yes, I do think as media personalities actively engaging with the public on important issues (albeit it often in a flippant way) and reaping the benefits of such expose, they have a responsibility to not be dicks when acting in a professional capacity.

  2. I’m a big fan of Jezebel – your line about “It’s like a map of what we’d like to think the inside of our head looks like, only on the internet” pretty much mirrors the way I describe Jez to people when I’m pimping it: “It’s like someone wrote the internet for me!”
    I haven’t yet read about the rape joke incident, but reading your post reminds me of the recent skewering Jez did on a women who attending a feminist con and then posted lots of “fat hating” defaced photos of attendees online.

    Sometimes people behave badly online. Or when they’re drunk. How they handle it after they’ve been called out is important.
    Rape jokes wouldnt’ go down well on Jez, and I’m glad that after that incident, it was made clear on Jez that it wasn’t ok, regardless of where the interview appeared.

  3. elmokeep said

    For anyone not reading the whole circle-jerk of blog rounds, what Salon has posted as excerpts of the interviews includes this:
    Winstead asks the pair about sexual responsibility and whether they feel the need to caution young readers against the dangers of going home with strange men. MOE: “What’s going to happen?” WINSTEAD: “You could get raped.” MOE: “That’s happening too, but you live through that.” WINSTEAD: “Sometimes you don’t.” MOE: “That’s true if they have weapons.”
    This might be shocking to a lot of people, to other people it might be tame compared to their own drunken ramblings among their friends. It’s shocking to me because of the context. To be that uncensored on television is always a semi-scandal, and why emotionally heavy episodes of Enough Rope rate so well.

    What further complicates this story is that Moe HAS been date raped, and has written extensively about this experience both on her blog and on Jezebel. So who is anyone to tell anyone else how they should appropriately “cope” with that? Making light of horrible situations is why emergency rooms are full of medics cracking jokes. Or why people tell jokes at wakes; it’s kind of healthy. It does however, make a lot of people uncomfortable.

    The other problem I have with this, is that as much of the criticism is directed at the Jezebels for acting irresponsibly, there’s also the underlying insinuation that they aren’t “real writers”. There’s a questioning of their abilities which is also wrapped up in the one-two punch of “Oh, see, you didn’t know how to handle yourself and that’s because you aren’t a professional.” There’s a lot of envy about the influence that bloggers (not that you could call the Gawker media blogs anymore, they’re online magazines as much as Salon is) have over the traditional media. It often comes across as scrambling to discredit them, and I think there’s a hint of that here. Even with all the “I think they’re wonderful, and I sometimes want to hug them” and “I have to be careful to check my own narcissism,” leveling in the Salon piece, there’s still enough “oh shit, we are going to be out of jobs with all these stars on the rise.”

    In the end, Jezebel/Gawker is not traditional journalism, it’s opinion and other content geared specifically for its medium. The writers are paid to be personalities that stand out enough from the hundreds of thousands of other voices competing for our attentions on the web. And Jezebel particularly are doing a great job of that if you believe the stats. So new media calls for new kinds of writers, and it’s the tone set by them that dictates their audience. So this might be ill-advised ways of behaving, but it sure won’t stop me reading Jezebel every day.

  4. lozzy said

    totally agree with audrey. i’m not a massive jezebel fan but this is how i see it – they aren’t role models, they aren’t ‘journalists’, but they ARE representing a well known blog that they get PAID to contribute to, and as audrey said i don’t think it’s asking too much that they take it a little more seriously. i don’t give a shit if they were nervous and hadn’t eaten anything etc etc – they shouldn’t have agreed to participate if they weren’t completely comfortable in front of an audience answering possibly difficult questions. traci’s whiney reply about her shitty day and being on meds is such a cop out. if she’s as ok with being confrontational as she says she is surely she wouldn’t need to include those details, y/y?

    i love to get smashed and talk shit too but there is NO WAY i’d do it in that situation.

  5. audrey said

    Hey elmo – I was specifically referring to Traci’s joke about Williamsburg, not Moe’s discussion about her own rape.

    I get what you’re saying about the implication that they aren’t professionals and how that probably comes from people threatened and/or envious of their success. But I think there’s a pretty big difference between being unapologetically controversial and treating your audience like you don’t give a fuck what they think because why should you?

    If they’re going to agree to public appearances, I think they might at least try to make themselves vaguely watchable. Isn’t that part and parcel of the profession they inhabit?

    Having said that, I think Lizz Winstead could have handled it all a lot better, especially the follow up post at HuffPo. That did smack of ‘oh look at these dismissive, rude young feminists getting all trashed and shit and not representing’.

  6. audrey said

    Oh, also, I think Traci’s recent piece on the Emotional Conquistador was sensational.

  7. elmokeep said

    I don’t mean to condone their behaviour – they’re adults and can do what they like. I just think it’s a little bit of a beat-up is all. 🙂

  8. audrey said

    Yeah, I think Lizz Winstead’s post at the Huff Po is exceptionally ‘disappointed teacher’.

    Jessica makes some great points at Feministing, particularly about the fairness of asking people to care about your writing and then telling them not to take you seriously when it doesn’t go your way.

    Either way, I bet Traci and Moe are feeling pretty embarrassed right now and it’s a shame it had to come to that, especially when Lizz Winstead has probably not done as much soul searching in the wake of it.

  9. Mel Campbell said

    I was thinking about this in the shower this morning and I think that, as Audrey mentions in her first comment, the key issue is blog celebrity and fandom. The first thing I thought about was Emily Gould, who seems to have an almost pathological need to overshare online, and who’s also floundered in an offline interview.

    From what I’ve read online, a lot of Jezebel fans are disappointed in such shabby behaviour – because it comes from people they kind of idolise. Yet it doesn’t seem particularly out of character for these two, who seem to have built themselves snarky, disaffected personas that they can hardly be expected to let go of in public.

    Perhaps this incident should make us question why women feel the need to adopt an ironised TMI persona online, and why we put such women on such a pedestal and call them “a map of what we’d like to think the inside of our head looks like”.

  10. Clem Bastow said

    Yeah; on the topic of Jezebel, more often than not I find myself wanting to like it more than I actually do. I mean, I love that there is a female-run, feminist-toned pop culture magazine out there – but so often I just find the whole “whoa it’s cool to be disaffected and sex-mad and you can’t judge me and rape pfft whatever” angle, well, sort of saddening, in an odd way.

    I don’t know that we’ve reached a point where we can rest on our laurels and make gags about “date rape” yet, because I don’t think all of feminism’s work is over. If anything, the way gender roles are skewing and regressing at the moment, there’s more work to do than there has been in a long time.

    Let’s face it, there are still people out there who think that “date rape” etc is “okay” in certain cases; how do we show them that it’s not if we’re making jokes about it?

  11. audrey said

    Clem, I actually don’t think we should ever get to a stage where rape gags are okay.

    I know this has been quoted over and over and over and over, and all of us commenting on this thread have probably read it more than once, but it is such a badass quote that it bears reprinting:

    “Cause the thing is, you and the guys you hang out with may not really mean anything by it when you talk about crazy bitches and dumb sluts and heh-heh-I’d-hit-that and you just can’t reason with them and you can’t live with ‘em can’t shoot ‘em and she’s obviously only dressed like that because she wants to get laid and if they can’t stand the heat they should get out of the kitchen and if they can’t play by the rules they don’t belong here and if they can’t take a little teasing they should quit and heh heh they’re only good for fucking and cleaning and they’re not fit to be leaders and they’re too emotional to run a business and they just want to get their hands on our money and if they’d just stop overreacting and telling themselves they’re victims they’d realize they actually have all the power in this society and white men aren’t even allowed to do anything anymore and and and …

    I get that you don’t really mean that shit. I get that you’re just talking out your ass.

    But please listen, and please trust me on this one: you have probably, at some point in your life, engaged in that kind of talk with a man who really, truly hates women: to the extent of having beaten and/or raped at least one. And you probably didn’t know which one he was.

    And that guy? Thought you were on his side.”

    Fuck, it doesn’t matter how many times I read that I always end up completely floored by its brilliance.

  12. Clem Bastow said

    Oh wow. Who wrote that?

  13. audrey said

    Yeah, I realised after I posted it that I forgot to attribute the quote. My bad.

    It was Kate Harding.

    Isn’t it a great quote?

  14. elmokeep said

    It’s a shame that things like this are overshadowing the really great stuff that goes on Jezebel, which is in my opinion, 90% of what goes up on the site. And when something like this happens, it’s all the traditional media jumps on, and not say, the stories in which they called out Lori Drew.

  15. […] Drunky McRapejoke Moe announced to the world wide worriers that she lurves being penetrated by condomless weiners. […]

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