The F-Words: Faux Outrage Over Slutty Feminists Is F-cking Hurting America

Well, this is some bullshit! (Of course, so is my hyperbolic headline.)

On Sunday, the Guardian Observer published a feature story titled “Sex, drink and fashion. Is this the new face of American feminism?” (Sounds like a gem of an idea for an Onion story.) In it, writers Amelia Hill and Eva Wiseman recount a supposed online “war” between this site – which will celebrate its 2-year anniversary this Thursday – and Double X, an offshoot of Slate that launched a week ago with an array of impressive essays on modern feminism.. and a handful of badly-received ones, including one by professional tantrum thrower Linda Hirshman, who accused Jezebel of harming the young women of America.

If Hirshman’s piece sounds absurd, it’s because it IS absurd. In fact I laughed it off when it went up online, not only because it’s patronizing to our readers, but its author made it embarrassingly clear that she was completely unfamiliar with our work and very bad at both basic facts and common decency when arguing her point. (Hirshman’s screed contained an attack against two of this site’s editors – current and former – and the decisions they made not to report their respective rapes; she may or may not hold a grudge against one or more of these editors.)

But back to the Observer piece. In addition to a misleading, accusatory, reductive and sensationalist headline, it, just like Ms. Hirshman’s piece, spent numerous column inches misrepresenting our website, its staff, and a now-notorious, long-over public appearance by two of its writers. It, just like Hirshman’s piece, was at best willfully ignorant, and at worst, deliberately nasty, except that the Observer attempted to assume an air of journalistic respectability with actual “reporting”, i.e. the inclusion of a few more “traditional feminist” voices, including that of Briton Julie Bindel, who, after unilaterally revoking this site’s feminist club card, went on to accuse us of being “lazy, bone-idle women who have no interest taking part in a political movement for change but are trying to get credibility for their selfish lives by playing identification politics.”

Yeah, fuck you too, lady.

Which brings me to this: The F Word. It seems to me that all this manufactured brouhaha can be blamed on the fact that a few people have VERY specific opinions as to who can or cannot call herself a feminist. (I used to believe that the reluctance of young women to call themselves feminists could find its roots within the culture wars of the Reagan era; now, I’m not so sure. Perhaps Ms. Bindel’s suggestion, “dickhead,” is an unintentionally inspired alternative?)

And let’s be clear: this this brouhaha WAS manufactured. Last Thursday, an Observer writer, apparently unaware of this site’s clearly-visible masthead, contacted a few of Jezebel’s junior staffers requesting an interview; after the query was forwarded to me, I called her, chatted briefly, and agreed to answer some of her questions via email. (Apparently, none of these answers – my electronic back and forth with her can be seen here – warranted inclusion in her piece; another blogger had the misfortune of being misquoted, the second in as many days.) The writer suggested that she was interested in feminism and young feminists, but, as mentioned above, the piece ended up hyping a supposed “online war” that simply does not exist. (Don’t women have to grapple with enough manufactured rivalries – for jobs, for the attentions of men – as it is?) If the Observer was actually interested in the sturm und drang between “traditional feminists” and other “young bloggers” – and I’m not convinced there really is any – why didn’t their piece focus on the proprietors and activists behind any one of the dozens of well-written, carefully-curated, provocative feminist blogs? If they were interested in the debut of a new, high-profile, female-focused website, why didn’t they write about that?

The former question could be asked of a few other people who purport to care about young women and the state of feminism today, including Ms. Hirshman and a certain Noted Comedy Show Creator. Unfortunately, the answer to that question seems to be that, for whatever reason – laziness, insecurity, need for attention – there is less interest in actually parsing the work of young feminists and more interest in stupid shit that fits a headline-worthy, time-honored, ultimately dishonest narrative: That women who drink alcohol, have sex, and talk or joke about it occasionally are committing Crimes Against Womanity. (It’s no coincidence that within these critics’ protestations and related stories there are a few – but very telling – factual inaccuracies and gross generalizations that underscore their utter ignorance of this site, its editors, its readers, and feminism in general. Naomi Wolf is the “newest strain” of feminism? The Spice Girls are on par with Buffy the Vampire Slayer?) Fuck the patriarchy: With all this slut-shaming and victim-blaming, maybe it’s fuck the matriarchy.

If I’m starting to sound pissed, it’s because I’m starting to GET pissed. These adventures in unhelpful, self-righteous semi-hysteria (yes, I went there) completely overlook the dozens of thoughtful, passionate, courageous and engaging women on self-described feminist blogs who actually deserve to be featured in fancy Sunday newspaper editions and on the pages of ambitious new websites, women who are grappling with and debating issues of a whole host of issues, including the wage gap, women of color, the ongoing epidemic of violence against women, the continued attacks on abortion rights…I could go on. I suggest people begin paying more attention to THEM – they can start by looking at the blogrolls on these well-regarded websites – because there are only so many times a person can cry wolf before everyone else stops paying attention.

[Image via AllPosters.]

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