I found Molly Fischer’s essay about Jezebel, The Hairpin, xojane.com and Rookie interesting, provocative, and deeply frustrating. Her dissection of these blogs’ aesthetics and the rhetorical styles they’ve bred in their commenter-bases is skillful, but what is its point? There are a lot of filler posts and overt invitations to commenter sycophancy on blogs. This is a little like saying “there are blogs.” I’m also suspicious when anyone tells me what “the Internet” did, as if the Internet ever packs its collective bags and moves anywhere as a whole, as in, “Thenceforth, the internet noticed xojane only when it perpetrated something really egregious.” The internet, at least my internet, has noticed a couple of things about xojane lately that have not been really egregious: Michelle Tea’s interesting diary of her attempts to get pregnant springs to mind. Which leads me to my other point. In composing an essay that ranges from the smell of Moe Tkacik’s forgotten tampon all the way to whether it’s creepy that thirtysomething women revere Tavi Gevinson, it’s going to be hard not to leave anything out. But here are some things that don’t fit comfortably into Fischer’s theory that these blogs’ internet is “a place to make people like you: the world’s biggest slumber party”:
1. Sady Doyle’s sharp-edged, honest, explicitly didactic Rookie essay about how to survive sexual assault, written sensitively and clearly for an audience of teenagers and adults.
2. The Hairpin’s ongoing series about the work and lives of abortion providers.
3. Rookie’s guide to masturbation.
These pieces are not likeable. They are not about “performing inclusion.” They are not about “how to belong.” They are about some of the most treacherous and controversial aspects of being female, and I am so glad they exist. They exist alongside lesser stuff, a lot of which annoys me. But that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. It means that blogs have to pump out a lot of varied content to stay economically viable, “lady-” or no.
Media that’s explicitly created “for women” is inherently problematic, but simultaneously, women-only spaces (ha! sorry! So Sarah Lawrence!) can be important sites (again, sorry) of radical change. They can also be sites of retro eye makeup tutorials. Whether they can successfully be those things simultaneously remains to be seen. But to completely ignore the former while focusing the latter trivializes something that, appearances to the contrary, is not actually trivial.