Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I Stopped Reading Jezebel, but I Miss the Commenters

One of the great things about the feminist blogosphere is that it seems to reverse the usual internet trend: the comments section is often the best part. I know we certainly get some great comments here :) And this seems to be especially true of Gawker daughter blog Jezebel.

Jezebel is aimed at women readers and is kinda feminist, though not explicitly so, if I recall correctly. Its comments section is heavily moderated so that you generally only get a comment published if it is germane, intelligent, and not redundant. Being funny helps as well. And I say this as someone who has attempted a couple times to comment without success; I appreciate the result of their moderation techniques to the point where it's hard to talk sour grapes.

The blog itself, though, has been problematic at times. They prioritize maximizing page views over consistency, and so occasionally betray their massive devoted readership in the attempt to bring in new readers; one such example, in which they published a guest post that criticized the value of consent, prompted me to stop reading the blog. But now and then other writers link to Jezebel, and I always scroll down to see what the commenters have to say.

For instance, check out the comments on the above post. (You may have to click "Featured" or "All" to view them.) There's a ton of good ones, so it's hard to pick one representative, but here's a comment I like from Hiroine Protagonist:

A woman's sexual autonomy is kind of the first principle of feminism. A Nice Guy who can't get laid and blames it on American puritanical attitudes is the first guy you meet as a feminist. You've really never heard this before? This is just ... circling the drain. Dude goes to Europe and projects his own wishful thinking on his ignorant interpretation of another culture? That women are so uptight and it's because of the semantic difference between consent and decision?

But there's a whole wall of awesome to go along with it; Jezebel posted a bullshit article, and the commenters totally call them out on it.

They did it again this weekend. Jezebel posted about an amateur comedian who related the tale of what sounds like a rape. (I initially wanted to post about how very tired I am of hearing sexual assault presented as zany hijinks, but I need a couple days to turn my incoherent rage into words.) People who maybe haven't thought about rape very much sometimes are confused when victims choose not to fight their assailants; if you're one of those people, it's a strategy rape victims sometimes adopt to minimize injury. It doesn't mean the victim wasn't raped. One of their commenters, Donovanesque, seems to suffer from this confusion:

[T]hat sounded like a really messed-up story to me, but not a rape story, since she had him pinned down, and later took off her pants and lay down.

In response, like, a bajillion other commenters straighten Donovanesque's ass out:

Judging from the inconsistencies in his intro and the story, I feel that he might have judiciously edited the story to sound less like "raperape". And he clearly lied to her in order to get into her room.

If anything in that story is fabricated, it's definitely the pinning down thing. He saw how awkward and uncomfortable people were getting, first he threw in the "she was bigger than me" thing so he didn't look like an overpowering male rapist and then he swooped in with the pinning down thing.

Just because a woman lays down or takes her pants off doesn't make it consensual. It could simply mean she's terrified for her life and is trying to minimize the physical damage she already knows she will suffer.

My friend handed her rapist a condom as she didn't want to get pregnant or infected with any STDs. She also wanted to ensure she had his DNA.

Things get a little heated and some people get a little rude, but in the end Donovanesque changes hir mind and some warm fuzzies are exchanged. It's an ... unusual form for a comments section to take.


  1. OMG. I just read the comedian story. You know what the other perfomers shold have said?

    "Ladies and gentlemen, the man deserves a big round of applause for identifying himself as a rapist, so all the women in the audience know who to avoid. We appreciate you saving us the trouble! Cheers, Sir! Rapists are rarely so forthcoming. Let's end the night on a positive note: does anyone have a cell phone with which to call the cops? One more rapist off the street! Hurrah!"

  2. Hello. I was Donovanesque on Jezebel. When I commented on this particular story, I was in sort of a bad place emotionally. I was trying to find a medical specialist to repair a vaginal fistula (a hole between the vagina and the rectum) that I've had since I was a little kid, because I was raped by an adult relative. I was feeling pretty shitty and wanted to believe that rape wasn't a common occurrence, and I made a stupid original comment.

  3. Thanks, Bryn, it's good to be reminded that I never really know the motivations behind a viewpoint. I'd also like to point out that your willingness to hear the other commenters was what made that discussion productive and heart-warming rather than just another ugly internet brawl.