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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137 Comments

  1. Jessica
    Posted May 14, 2009 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    I just want to apologize – I’m moderating the offensive stuff from last night and early this morning. I really hope you’ll consider staying.

  2. dawn_of_the_bread
    Posted May 14, 2009 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    “It was intended that when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all and Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought should be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words.”

  3. CJ76
    Posted May 14, 2009 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Because, I am not ok with Orwellian restriction and destruction of language. Censorship is more offensive than the speech it seeks to silence. It’s also hypocritical to have a “FUCK YOU” segment and then do this PC thing with other phrases. Doubly so because I would think “FUCK YOU” would be far more offensive to your sensibilities.
    I sincerely hope this post has offended people.
    “Take away the right to say ‘fuck’ and you take away the right to say ‘fuck the government.’”_____Lenny Bruce

  4. Pantheon
    Posted May 14, 2009 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Wow, seriously? You deleted that comment? It was polite and did not attack anyone, and didn’t even refer to anyone specific. Why did you delete this one and not my one lower down that says basically the same thing? Why didn’t you delete the one that I quoted above that says the same thing?
    I get that some people have complained that they don’t like some of the comments here, but I think you’re responding in the wrong way. Trying to censor anything that might conceivably upset anyone leaves us with nothing. The censorship quotient has really gone up around here recently (for example, I’m surprised you closed comments on the FGM thread without even posting an acknowledgment of it in that thread, and a lot of polite comments have been deleted lately. I also wrote a community post that never got posted, with no explanation why– and it was only saying that abortion should be legal.) If polite and interesting conversations around here keep getting shut down, I’m probably going to stop checking this site. It makes it simultaneously frustrating and boring.
    I wonder what your reaction would be if you woke up and found that all of your “friday feminist fuck you” posts had been deleted due to offensive, vulgar, sex-negative language and direct attacks on people and groups.

  5. Pantheon
    Posted May 14, 2009 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    Serious question: How many times do I have to say I’m offended by sex negative and vulgar hate speech before you will go back and delete all posts and comments that use the phrase “fuck you” (or similar phrases)?

  6. Pantheon
    Posted May 14, 2009 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    Let me say that more clearly.
    This site has a regular feature called “fuck you”. Your logo is a woman making the gesture for “fuck you”. (You have also defended your right to call people “douche”). Your choice of logo and feature titles means that to a certain extent you’ve chosen to define yourselves and this blog with the phrase “fuck you”. That’s offensive on a lot of levels: vulgar, sex-negative, abusive language, personal attacks, etc. Presumably its supposed to be offensive. That’s fine if that’s what you want, but it sets a certain tone for this blog, where its natural that people will assume that offensive language is ok.
    If you want this site to be a happy safe space for everyone, where nothing offensive is ever said, you might want to reconsider the tone that you yourselves are setting for the site.

  7. Edgy1004
    Posted May 14, 2009 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    No snark intended!
    How do you decide what is offessive? There have been times where I felt like I was being attacked in some of the comments but no one stepped in. I don’t want anyone to feel like this is an unsafe place but at the same time I feel like there must be the opportunity for people who disagree with eachother to talk about it.
    If there are word we can’t use please post them so this doesn’t happen again.

  8. Hershele Ostropoler
    Posted May 14, 2009 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    My partner, who is female did address this, taking on the infighting thing that I really don’t think I’m in a good position to observe.
    And without using the word “lame.” Or “retard,” which means she’s ahead of Susannah Breslin.

  9. rustyspoons
    Posted May 14, 2009 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    Wait–are you suggesting the writers at XX are feminists? Now that confuses me. The site has several articles and quotes against feminism.

  10. Pantheon
    Posted May 14, 2009 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    I might have mixed up who was being quoted– but I also thought we were referring to kind of phony “feminists” disparaging other feminists for their choices about how to deal with a rape.

  11. bifemmefatale
    Posted May 14, 2009 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    “Please do not use this word” does not equal government censorship. Logic FAIL.
    “Fuck you” is not pointed at any oppressed group. Further FAIL.

  12. bifemmefatale
    Posted May 14, 2009 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    Anyone with enough computer skills to read this blog has enough skills to google the term “ableist” if they are unfamiliar with it. I can’t think of a nicer way to call someone out on oppressive language than the way I did it.

  13. bifemmefatale
    Posted May 14, 2009 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    Let me say this more clearly: “douche” and “fuck you” are not terms specifically targeting a particular oppressed group. There is a difference between oppressive language and vulgarity. Do you really feel victimized and marginalized because the logo girl is flipping the bird? Seriously?

  14. idiolect
    Posted May 14, 2009 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    Why isn’t it enough to just ask people to behave with decency and respect in response to a request that they stop using a term that is offending people? Isn’t it enough for someone to tell you “This term is offensive, please don’t use it”? Shouldn’t the response always be “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t know, thanks for letting me know”? You don’t even necessarily have to agree with whoever’s complaining about anything at all, you can even roll your eyes all you want in the comfort of your own home (although a more thoughtful reaction would be better) — all that’s necessary here is a simple apology and increased sensitivity about that sort of thing.
    I don’t see why we should need to hammer out any “standards” beyond that, or start creating lists of banned words or something (eek); let’s just be human and decent and normal about this.

  15. Edgy1004
    Posted May 14, 2009 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

    I understand that not purposefully offending people is the only way that people who can disagree can reach a compromise. My point is that in some case (in my opinion this is one of those cases but I understand if someone else disagrees) instead of engaging in discussion people just say “your opinion offends me so stop it”. I believe that in this particular case a word was used that meant something to someone but did not mean the same thing to the person who used it. I think that it is good to say “I am sorry that I offended you but please know that when I used “____” I mean “_____”.” So when people started to explain what they meant the response felt like “It doesn’t matter how you mean it, it only matters how I take it.” I don’t think that is the way to have a conversation. I want to be able to use words as I understand them and communicate my experience. I want everyone to be able to do that.
    I really believe that no one wanted to offend anyone and that should be taken into account before we banish words.
    I think that if you read my posts I try not to be dismissive. I have an opinion and I try to support it but I don’t just say that something is BS or stupid.
    Let’s have a discussion about language! Let’s talk about snark and anger and hate speech. Let’s talk about how our words tell other people about what we care about and about making people feel welcome. Let’s talk about respectful disagreement. But, please, let’s not be so dismissive of people we disagree with.

  16. Pantheon
    Posted May 14, 2009 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    Using the word “douche” as a negative thing makes it sounds like vaginas are icky and gross. That’s a specific group– women. The word douche as currently used has at least as much to do with stigmatizing vaginas as the word lame has to do with stigmatizing disabled people. And I do feel offended when people use phrases like “fuck you”. If this were a site where everyone always used polite, reasonably formal language, I wouldn’t be surprised at any requests not to use certain words that could be viewed as offensive. But I think its odd that on this site, some people’s offense counts for more than others.
    As I recall, when one of the editors last used the word douche in a post, they had to edit it later to defend why they were using a word like that on a feminist website. So I’m clearly not the only one who finds it offensive.

  17. Pantheon
    Posted May 14, 2009 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

    Which other blog do you prefer?

  18. evann
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 1:48 am | Permalink

    “douche” as an insult has the exact opposite effect that you describe. Douches are used with the understanding that vaginas are gross and smelly and unnatural- and part of the patriarchy. So perfectly reflecting something that is stupid and innapropriate.
    As for “fuck you”? As others have pointed out, it does NOT address an oppressed class, so it is in NO way the same league as an ableist, sexist, or racist word. It is a matter of personal preference of the bloggers.

  19. evann
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 1:51 am | Permalink

    for some people in the disability community it is NOT archaic. Just because you don’t hear it doesn’t mean it’s not used any more. Please respect those that point out the offensiveness of the word. There are many non-offensive alternatives!

  20. Ithika
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 5:14 am | Permalink

    Please don’t spread prescriptivist poppycock on any site.

  21. Pantheon
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 5:56 am | Permalink

    Well, I really don’t think that lame references disabled people any more than gay references happy people. If you can tell me what the interpretation of a word should be so as to not see it as insulting, why can’t I do the same? The precise meaning of douche may be cleaning the vagina in a way that is usually unnecessary (there are cases where its medically necessary to put creams and stuff there), but the way that I hear people using it is just as “ew, vaginas are gross.” That may not be what you mean, but then, referencing disabled people with “lame” isn’t what most people mean either.
    I really think that douche is a vulgar and offensive term, as is fuck, and words like asshole and to a slightly lesser extent words like shit and screw.

  22. idiolect
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    The problem is that when you say I am sorry that I offended you but please know that when I used “____” I mean “_____”. you sound like you’re trying to “make excuses” or tell the speaker that they were somehow “wrong” to be offended. Just let it go — as far as the other person’s being offended is concerned, it really doesn’t matter what you meant, they’re already offended and there’s nothing you can do about it besides apologize. So just apologize gracefully and move on with the conversation. A simple apology — without any buts — will amend the situation and allow both of you to return to the subject at hand respectfully.

  23. Edgy1004
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    I understand, the desire for an apology.
    I am sorry. I don’t mean to make excuses I mean to explain.
    Now what happens the next time when my opinions are offensive. Should I defend them or just apologize and not speak anymore.
    I am here because I expect people to disagree with me sometimes, and I want to talk about it. I don’t just expect when people do disagree with me they either stay quiet or when I point out to them how offensive their opinions are to me they apologize and not say another word.

  24. idiolect
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    God, you were doing so good there at the beginning.
    No one is telling you to stop speaking. They just find a certain word offensive. Arguing over your right to use that word is not some key point in continuing the original discussion, all it does is distract and further offend someone who is already offended. So just say your “I’m sorry” and then return to the actual subject at hand.

  25. idiolect
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    encouraging good moral behavior != “prescriptivist.” I mean, sure, literally I suppose it does prescribe, but telling someone something like “Please do not say ‘GAY’ (or, say, ‘womanish,’ etc) like it’s shameful” isn’t exactly being “prescriptivist.”

  26. idiolect
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    I just want to say, THANK YOU for posting the link to that video, he is so, SO right on. Fantastic.

  27. idiolect
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    Oh, this whole argument is a big pile of crap. People get all “Oh noes Big Brother wants to convict me for thought crimes!” about using word A, but the same people will be just completely offended and taken aback and angry when someone else uses word B — the only difference will be that A isn’t quite as well recognized as horribly offensive by wider society as B is (I have considered making some comments using such a word just to prove that point here, but decided it was in bad taste). The debate isn’t about whether we can “censor” words — people do find certain words offensive and 95% of the population, any regular dude on the street, will get all up in arms over an offensive term. The question at hand right now is over whether ‘lame’ is offensive at all. Someone says “lame,” someone else says “that’s offensive,” a further person says “no it’s not,” someone else says “yes it is,” and after several more steps finally here we are at ZOMG CENSORSHIP. Besides the fact that the term ‘lame’ manifestly is offensive to somebody, as evidenced by that somebody’s actually being here and being offended — aside from that particular obviousness, why not just consider apologizing simply the polite thing to do here? As I said below, there’s an easy way to get out of this whole ‘derail,’ which is to just apologize and move on. It’s really not that hard.

  28. bifemmefatale
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    So you don’t think any words should be banned from a feminist site? Would you mind if I called you a sexist term like “honey” or used racial slurs like the n-word? How does a site stay feminist if it allows any behavior?

  29. bifemmefatale
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    lame
    Adjective
    1. disabled or crippled in the legs or feet
    http://www.thefreedictionary.com/lame
    1lame Pronunciation: \?l?m\
    Function: adjective
    Inflected Form(s): lam·er; lam·est
    Etymology: Middle English, from Old English lama; akin to Old High German lam lame, Lithuanian limti to break down
    Date: before 12th century
    1 a: having a body part and especially a limb so disabled as to impair freedom of movement b: marked by stiffness and soreness
    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lame
    lame ?/le?m/ [leym] adjective, lam?er, lam?est, verb, lamed, lam?ing, noun
    –adjective
    1. crippled or physically disabled, esp. in the foot or leg so as to limp or walk with difficulty.
    2. impaired or disabled through defect or injury: a lame arm.
    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/lame
    Want to tell me again how lame does not reference disabled people?

  30. evann
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    the difference is that YOU don’t get to decide whether a word that references an oppressed class is offensive or not. So just fucking stop. If you hate the word douche, then don’t use it, and don’t support those that do. But you can’t argue out of offensive ableist, racist, and sexist terms.

  31. Edgy1004
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

    The use of the word “God” as a curse is actually offensive to me. I am sure you would like to opportunity to apologize and not do it any more. You are welcome.

  32. Edgy1004
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

    Listen to yourself. You are ordering me to say I am sorry and shut up. I am sorry you were offended but instead of engaging in a conversation about our differing opinions you want to silence me.
    But you are right, let’s get back to the topic at hand which was originally this site that is not really made for me. I don’t know who they are trying to draw but it isn’t me. The next topic was that some one was offended by a word that was used and said “Please don’t us that word”. Then some one else said “that isn’t how I meant it and I would like to keep using that word in the context that I understand it” and then the discussion went “No, I said no to that word and so it shall be law.”
    So then I made the point that if there are words we can’t use then post a list so we all know.

  33. FollowTheMomeraths
    Posted May 18, 2009 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    yay! it’s the oppression olympics!

  34. FollowTheMomeraths
    Posted May 18, 2009 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    “the risks of liberation” makes her sound *concerned*

  35. FollowTheMomeraths
    Posted May 18, 2009 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    you know, i have had my own mental disgreements with you, but damn did you take the words right out of my mouth.
    WHY THE FUCK IS ANYONE DEFENDING THEIR RIGHT TO USE AN ABLEIST TERM, ESPECIALLY ON A FEMINIST SITE.
    we are not all about “PC garbage” but i thought a site debating about issues of marginalized groups might have had a tad more respect for others. is it just OK to say this because you’re able-bodied, and you’ve never had an experience with someone disabled who might be hurt by this? would it be ok to use an “outdated” term for POC? no? it would still be racist and offensive, and time doesn’t take away all connotations or offenses? ok then. stop it.

  36. Squarah
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    It’s beyond bananas to me to get upset over someone using the word “lame” when they are obviously not being hateful or referring to the handicapped in any way. The word has a legitimate, unoffensive use and to remove it from one’s vocabulary just because it can be used offensively is nonsensical. “Honey” can be used offensively but that doesn’t mean we should stop using it to refer to bee spit.
    Using the word “lame” in an offensive manner is so rare that it has nearly died out, making the word all the more legitimate to use for it’s other definitions as it won’t be relatively long, in the grand scheme of things, before no one remembers the word was once used that way. Every time someone employs that word in an unoffensive manner they are further establishing it’s offensive usage as dead.
    I don’t think anyone should have to stop using that word just because someone else says “please.” If they were being hateful, that should absolutely not be allowed, but that was not the case. The argument that you should always stop using a word if it offends someone else is obviously ridiculous to the point where it really shouldn’t even be entertained.

  37. cheezwizard
    Posted May 20, 2009 at 12:22 am | Permalink

    This train wreck of a thread is a perfect example of why I stopped reading this site. Enjoy your echo chamber.

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