I sometimes post some problematic comments or stories from Jezebel but I hardly ever thought of the Jezebel phenomenon as a whole (separate from the individual stories posted). The thing is, the site itself is, according to their own mission statement, about “Celebrity, sex and fashion”, hardly anything revolutionary, really. However, the vast majority of its readers define it as a “feminist site”, which I think is Jezebel’s biggest achievement. That a site that clearly states its intention to sell fluff is defined as the paragon of feminism is certainly a marketing feat of major proportions. Here, the owners are telling you, this is a ladymag but the readers themselves are refusing to acknowledge it and, instead, continue spreading the myth that this is “feminism”. Well done, I say.
But here’s what bothers me the most about the site though (let’s leave aside the lack of representation of minorities, the racist undertones of some articles, the cissexism, ableism, etc.) and what I hardly ever see the commenters mention: the whole enterprise is devoted to teaching young women how to successfully embrace (and assimilate into) the status quo (and the most mainstream version of it as well). The beauty101 series, the Dresscode posts, the Social Minefield how-tos, all are designed as tutorials to be “normal”, to “fit in”, to be mainstream, to erase any trace of individuality or personal identity and conform to social norms as old as the patriarchy.That most of their readership calls this “feminism” is a misappropriation of the term and a pretty dangerous one to boot.
Do away with rebellion, get rid of any trace of individuality, conform to whatever standards have been imposed by society, advance your working life at the expense of your identity; those are the messages they are sending. Become mainstream, embrace the beige colors depicted in the how to dress tutorials, blend in, join the social expectations of accepted cultural norms. Sure, everyone needs to concede something in order to fit in the current social models (some people more so than others) but that is never mentioned in the context of these posts. Instead, unironically, uncritically, these posts are presented as a “guide to better living”. In that sense, Jezebel is like a reimagined guide to femininity from the Victorian era.
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