Slate’s new women’s website disappoints. Hugely.

I really want to like Slate’s newly launched “women’s”* website Double X. They have some great writers and contributors on board, so I was stoked for the site’s launch. And then…not so much.
Why? Well, let’s take a look at the headlining pieces that the magazine chose to kick off with:
Whine, Womyn, and Thongs: How feminism has failed.
What’s the Problem Now? Feminism’s Dilemmas
Yes, Virginia, Feminism Really Is Dead.
and the slightly more optimistic…
How I Got Bored With Feminism: And why it still matters.
Oh, and the quote of the day? “‘Feminism’ had come to seem, well…just the teeniest bit tiresome.” – Terry Castle
It seems my excitement was a bit premature! Here I thought that Double X might be a site for forward-thinking conversation about feminism and women’s issues – alas, it’s just a sounding board for warmed-over stereotypes and an oh-so-tired “those darn kids” take on younger women.
But what’s even stranger to me than a supposedly progressive site for women that relies on hackneyed anti-feminist pieces is the response to criticisms of the site. Susannah Breslin writes:

Apparently, if you launch a website for women in 2009, the most important question is whether or not it’s feminist. At least, that’s what you’d think, judging by today’s launch of the women-oriented website you’re reading. Only, the funny thing is, I thought feminism was dead. I mean, didn’t we kill it already?

Breslin, who calls feminism “cultural road kill,” takes issue with the fact that recent criticisms of Double X assume that “the only way to judge a female-oriented site is by whether or not it’s ‘feminist.'”

Get over it. Get on with it. I hope the feminist mantle doesn’t fit Double X. I hope this site is bigger than that.

Um, okay. But perhaps if you don’t want folks to talk about your site using a feminist lens, you shouldn’t launch said site with a series of posts asking writers to reflect on Betty-frigging-Friedan. Sorry, you don’t get to publish a handful of feminism-is-in-the-crapper articles and then expect the responses and critiques to ignore feminism.

In addition to the articles declaring feminism boring, dead and whiney, there’s also a piece by Linda Hirshman about how Jezebel is hurting women, focusing on last year’s “Thinking and Drinking” debacle. Hirshman uses that as a jumping off point to make the claim that the women at Jezebel have no place writing about feminism because of their supposedly high-risk lifestyle and the fact that (sigh) two of the writers there didn’t report their rapes.

Given the high level of risk the Jezebel life involves, it is surprising that the offense that arouses the liberated Jezebels to real political fury is the suggestion that women like them might be made responsible for the consequences of their own acts, or that there might be general standards that define basic feminist behavior. Suggest that women report the men who rape them for the sake of future victims, say, or that women should be asked why they stay with the men who abuse them, or urged to leave them, and the Jezebels go ballistic. Judgmental, judgmental!

Now, I was seriously critical of what went down on Lizz Winstead’s show last year. But, as Jill points out, there’s a big difference between critiquing folks when they say stupid anti-feminist things and suggesting that they are crappy feminists because they didn’t want to subject themselves to a criminal justice system that we all know is just so friendly to sexual assault survivors. Jill hits the nail on the head:

I’m not arguing that feminism should be a movement of No Judging, or that we can’t criticize anything women say or do. I’m not arguing that because Jezebel is a feminist site, hands off. But I will argue that how women deal with surviving sexual assault should not be a deciding factor in evaluating whether or not they qualify as feminist. I will argue that a feminism which requires perfection from all women is not something I can be a part of. And I’ll also just throw it out there that one probably should not pull the “You’re a bad feminist” card when one writes for a feminist website that launches with front-page articles like “Whine, Womyn and Thongs: How feminism has failed” and “How I Got Bored With Feminism.”

Double X as a whole seems to reflect an increasing trend in online women’s and feminist media – and frankly, it is making me tired. Tired of the manufactured feminist “cat-fighting,” tired of the hating, tired of the notion that the only way to write about feminism is to smugly (and incorrectly) point out where it is failing. I am all for an accountable feminism and constructive criticism; I think it’s necessary in order to make our work as writers and activists better. But the never-ending bullshit masquerading as good faith critique is simply exhausting. And we can do better.
Maybe I’m jumping the gun. Maybe Double X will turn out to be a great site that simply got off to a weird anti-feminist start – I certainly hope that’s the case. But in the meantime, I think I’ll stick to reading sites that give me hope, that point out all of the amazing work women are doing, and that shine a truthful light on the feminism I know and love.
*As has been pointed out elsewhere, the name of the site is a reference to chromosomes – making how ‘woman’ is defined a tad problematic.

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