Molly Fischer's review of ladyblogs is interesting, which is good, because as a young woman working in media I felt myself contractually obligated to read it. She discusses four sites--Jezebel, XOJane, The Hairpin and Rookie. Her argument is that they put such a high premium on niceness that they risk being as doctrinaire as traditional women's magazines:

Surely one can’t, and shouldn’t, strive to like and be liked all the time. But how else can one be? This is not a likable enough question for the ladyblogs to entertain. In the end, they tell us less about how to be than about how to belong, and they are better at this than Sassy ever was, because no place is better for performing inclusion than the internet.

The implication is that the pursuit of likeability prevents these blogs in question from being more substantive. I think that's a false choice, although Fisher is correct to say that none of the sites in question are overly cerebral.

She's also correct on the broader point that inclusion has its ups and downs. The sites in question can be great at raising issues that disproportionately affect women but that are often ignored in the mainstream media. Sometimes the result is the kind of mutual support and information-sharing that you might have seen happen at a good 1970s consciousness-raising circle (or rather, what I imagine would have happened at a consciousness-raising circle, which has always sounded like a fun exercise to me). Offline, you don't see that happen very often and when you do, there's always a sense of wishing you had known what you just found out years ago. In that sense, these blogs are a valuable part of the digital public sphere.

Beyond that, the traditional women's mags have been pushing a rather rigid conception of what it means to be a woman for decades even if the ladyblogs are a little ideological, at least they're adding a different strain of thought to the available options.

On the other hand, the danger of inclusion is groupthink, no matter who's doing the including. To read Jezebel or XOJane, in particular, is to feel at times that you're being browbeaten into holding a certain set of norms too. There are didactic moments that come across as slightly passive-aggressive, given the aforementioned self-aware niceness.

My favorite of these sites is the Hairpin, which is generally clever and funny. As Fischer says, it's "too charmingly self-effacing to take itself seriously, too tirelessly entertaining to ever bore a visitor." She seems to mean it as a criticism, but the site's not particularly vapid or frivolous. Jokes often have substance, and any iteration of feminism that frowns on fashion, makeup, and animal videos is too dour for my taste.

On that note, here's a video of three baby schneeleoparden (their mother doesn't look very impressed):
 



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