Slate’s new online women’s magazine Double X launched yesterday and one of the site’s first articles was a direct attack on Gawker Media’s women’s issues blog Jezebel. Double X’s debut front page included a scathing piece by writer Linda Hirshman entitled “The Trouble With Jezebel.”
Hirshman’s post is largely based on a much discussed incident from June, 2008 when Jezebel editor Tracie Egan and former editor Moe Tkacik appeared at a “Thinking and Drinking” panel hosted by Daily Show co-creator Lizz Winstead where they made a series of controversial, seemingly cavalier statements about rape and casual sex.
At the time, Egan defended herself by saying that she thought the event “was supposed to be a comedy show.” In her article, Hirshman points to these comments arguing that the liberated attitude towards sex on Jezebel is “hurting women” and that it’s “a symptom of the weaknesses in the model of perfect egalitarian sexual freedom.” Hirshman’s article doesn’t make mention of the fact that Tkacik blogged for a time at Slate’s XX Factor site – Double X’s predecessor, or that Double X managing editor Jessica Grose is also a Jezebel alum.
WebNewser spoke to Double X founding editor Meghan O’Rourke who told us that they “didn’t include a disclosure about Moe because Linda Hirshman had no connection to Moe Tkacik within Double X.” O’Rourke added that “Moe didn’t work for us in a full-time capacity; she blogged for us for a period” and that “Jessica Grose’s association with Jezebel is plainly stated in the About Us section” of Double X.”
Egan responded to Hirshman’s post on her personal blog “One D at a Time,” where she wrote “if Hirshman has a problem with warts-and-all honesty, then she has a problem with reality.” Jezebel editor Megan Carpentier was also criticized in Hirshman’s article for a post she wrote about her decision not to report a sexual assault she suffered at the age of 17. Carpentier published a response on Jezebel criticizing Hirshman’s “slut-shaming diatribe” as supporting a blame-the-victim logic that “if a woman is raped, she should accept that as a consequence of her ‘Jezebel’ lifestyle.” In the same post, Carpentier also hinted that Hirshman may have had personal reasons for taking on Jezebel saying “I’m sure Hirshman felt Moe had it coming” because of an op-ed Tkacik wrote criticizing Hirshman’s views on feminism that was published in the Washington Post and promoted on Jezebel.
For her part, Jezebel managing editor Anna Holmes says she thought she would be “annoyed” by the piece but “ended up being a little exhausted and a lot amused by it” because she’s “not sure what the writer was trying to say… and because [Hirshman’s] arguing 2007-8 and it’s 2009.”
Hirshman’s post ran as part of a symposium on Double X about feminist Betty Friedan’s belief that American women suffer from “the problem that had no name.” O’Rourke told WebNewser that Hirshman, like the other writers participating in the symposium, “wrote what she wanted” and that the Double X editors “did not collectively assign a piece about Jezebel.”
A source at Jezebel, who asked to remain anonymous, forwarded us e-mails Hirshman sent to Jezebel back in January 2009 asking to write for the site. Though Jezebel editors expressed interest in working with Hirshman, at the time, her pitch to the site did not work out. Our source pointed out that it’s interesting Hirshman wanted to write for Jezebel several months after the “Thinking and Drinking” incident that left her with such a negative impression of the site. Hirshman did not respond to many of the other questions we e-mailed her, but we did receive a statement from her saying that her piece was “an intellectual argument” that “has to do with my broader stance toward the new ‘feminism’ of Jezebel” and “has nothing to do with being rejected or not.”
Both Holmes and O’Rourke seem to dismiss the notion that they’re caught up in a ladyblog turf war. When we asked O’Rourke if she views Jezebel as a direct competitor she told us that Double X is “striving to include a broad audience of women and men, including older women” adding that “we have more of a focus on news and politics.” Holmes said Hirshman’s article made her feel “flattered that they consider us a competitor, but I don’t think that, in the end, we’ll be sharing that similar of a demographic… I think they’re going for an older, more elite, Ivy League audience like that at Slate proper.”
Back in November, when plans for Double X were first announced, Slate editor in chief Jacob Weisberg also rejected the idea that his site would be competing directly with Jezebel.
Double X and Jezebel staff may be downplaying the idea that their sites are in competition with each other, but with posts like these flying back and forth, we doubt that this impression will be going away any time soon. Double X’s discussion of the controversy surrounding Jezebel certainly isn’t ending just yet. O’Rourke informed us that since “it’s the spirit of Double X and XXFactor that people argue with each other in the context of the blog” Tkacik and “several other writers” will be responding to Hirshman’s piece on Double X this week.
We look forward to watching this heated debate continue.
Update: Anna Holmes contacted us after this article ran to point out that her statement that she was “flattered that they [Double X] consider us a competitor” was a response to our “questions and others’ assertions” about competition between the sites and not a direct response to Hirshman’s article.
-HUNTER WALKER for WebNewser
Disclosure: Hunter Walker worked as the assistant editor of Gawker Media’s Gridskipper travel blog from August 2007 until April 2008. Walker also worked on the political blog Cynics Party with Jezebel editor Megan Carpentier.