Takedown: Jezebel.com’s Editor’s Note

[Trigger warning: discussion of rape, rape imagery, and victimization.]

Ahh, the editor’s note. Cure for all that ails you, the antidote to any poison. Except when it’s not.

On Wednesday, Jezebel.com posted screenshots of a woman being raped. They posted screenshots of a woman being raped.

They didn’t post the video, because the video had been removed from the Internet. Luckily for everybody, though, Jezebel had screenshots from the video, so even as the victim may have been feeling relief that it had been wiped from the Internet, hey! Jezebel still has screenshots. Like a white knight on a trusty steed, raping and raping and raping and raping and raping the victim with every pageview.

The commentariat was, thankfully, incensed: “As far as I am concerned they have raped her a second time”; “Seriously what the fucking fuck. Maybe I should have been better warned from the article title but jesus christ. Now I need to go drink a bottle of whiskey in the shower. Exploitative goddamn voyeuristic bullshit”; “I will say that rule #1 in dealing with a survivor of any trauma is to not retraumatize them – to respect them and their choices. So unless and until you can prove to me that the woman in this video gave you her blessing to post this exactly as you did, fuck you all.”

And because Jezebel is a responsible website, the editors… apologized? Explained? Justified? Justified their action in a short and sour editor’s note.

Justified like so many men justify rape: she was dressed like a whore, she was drunk, she went out to a bar alone. Or like a woman who beats her child: he was asking for it, he makes me so mad I can’t control myself. Or anybody who wants to believe that it’s okay to be a perpetrator, that it’s okay to use your power to victimize the weak.

This picture taken from when Jezebel decided not to post pictures of Rihanna’s black eye. “We won’t ignore it, but we also won’t post or link to it.” What the fuck happened, Jezebel?

The justification:

We have since added additional pixelation to all of the images, including those of the attackers. This post is ultimately about the existence of a video, thus the images ARE the story – without them, there’s nothing. To remove them would be, in effect, to un-report the story. Which is not going to happen. -JC

Right. The images ARE the story. To take them out would be to un-report the story, and would be morally wrong. Because readers surely can’t be trusted to understand the horror of rape just by reading the words. Just like it is impossible to understand a story on child pornography without reposting the offensive images and then narrating each one in detail. Bull fucking shit.

I don’t need to see a picture of Rihanna’s black eye to understand domestic violence (oh, how Jezebel has changed), and I don’t need to watch a woman be raped in order to know the story.

Trust me, I understood what happened without watching the video or seeing the unpixelated shots (which were apparently left up for over a day, identifying features and all. Awesome.). Contrary to the editor’s belief, the story is not the play-by-play. The story is the horrendous re-violation of a rape victim through a publicly available video. A heinous crime became exponentially worse because the victim was not just raped but, in essence, she was publicly raped. The posting of the video took the violations to a whole new level.

So Jezebel got one thing right: the posting of the video is the story – a story that Jezebel became a part of. Instead of being reporters, though, they are on the same team as the rapist. They are complicit in the crime.

Jezebel’s post opens with a few questions; who raped her, who posted it on the Internet, and will she ever get justice? The first question remains unanswered. As to “who posted it on the Internet,” that award goes to Jezebel.com, and “will she ever get justice” – I sure hope so, and I sure hope that Jezebel feels some of the wrath. The post itself is disgusting, but the editor’s note, the non-apology justification, makes my stomach turn.

Apparently, if you want Jezebel to be a co-conspirator to your crime, you just have to promise them pageviews.

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I am old and wise. Perhaps more old than wise, but once you're old, you don't give a shit about details anymore.

192 thoughts on “Takedown: Jezebel.com’s Editor’s Note”

  1. The thing that bothers me the most about this debacle is that it WAS NOT AN INNOCENT OVERSIGHT. This issue has underlined the terrible people that are the editors and a purposeful lack of concern for rape victims or victimizing others. this is not just an oversight. Anyone with a shred of humanity knows not to do this. It was PURPOSEFUL and so evil to me. (is evil too strong a word? It fucking feels evil to me though. That’s why this has disturbed me so much). If they had taken it down, it still would be awful. But them NOT TAKING IT DOWN is what makes this truly evil.

    I think that there are many male websites with enough sensitivity to actively avoid posting PICTURES OF A RAPE on their website. Just because of basic humanity. Like another commenter said, Jezebel is the ultimate Judas. They masquerade as a site that cares about women, and then traumatize large groups of them with triggering content. They are borderline sadistic to do this.

    I think “evil” is when making money means more to you than your basic humanity. And it is truly apocalyptic times when this is seen as more valid in our culture than being able to access your goodness and humanity. We’re in the end times, folks!. See you at the rapture! (ha ha)

    1. Yes to all of this, and to add: it takes a lot of foresight to watch a movie and get screenshots and then choose which screenshots you think are the best ones to post.  It’s not like it was a copy-paste deal and then OH SHIT THAT WAS STUPID.  They had lots of time, and lots of deliberate actions, to figure out it was wrong.  So even before the bullshit justification, before the pixilation, it could in no way have been just a mistake.

      It was calculated.  And it got them their pageviews.

    2. This is so spot on and so true. That is exactly what they do. They appeal to a certain demographic of women and then deliberately trigger them over and over for pageviews and sensationalism. And yes, that is evil. And it makes me really ashamed of the writers involved in Jezebel because they must be aware of it, and willingly participating.

  2. I was never an avid reader of the site and I remember a controversy back a long time ago over one of the [former?] editors being confronted on her own experience with rape(?). That (though I only remember it vaguely) situation made me scratch my head and say:  that ain’t right.

    But I understand the appeal of meeting like minded people, which I have found on here and on tumblr (for the past 4 years).

    Honestly, I think they do controversial things now for the explicit purpose of getting page views. At least that’s how it appears to me, as a total outsider.

    This particular incident makes me livid and outraged, even if I was never a reader of the site. They have sinned in the name of “feminism” against feminism. That ain’t right.

    1. I felt so betrayed when I left them.  Like, legitimately heartbroken.  It was a similar situation, when they posted the Duke fuck list, and then, when people got upset about it, they were like “yeah, we’re not taking it down.  Sorry you’re so sensitive.”

  3. I signed up just to comment on these posts and laud the contributors here at persephone for running with this story. I’m an starred commenter over at Jezebel and I really want to express how disgusted a very large number of us are at all of this; an amazing commenter was banned for posting on every Anna North story she could asking why Anna North was still qualified to post on a feminist website, and simply by changing my username to something mourning hers (taking my cue from MizJenkins, I think) I’ve been able to spread the word to a lot of other commenters.

    I’ve had my reservations about Jezebel’s reporting style for a while. Jezebel was the first online community I’ve seen that had intelligent, funny feminists of all stripes commenting and talking and generally getting on with their bad selves; I only joined in October, and even since then I really have come to see that there’s a disconnect between the amazing commenters (and even mods) who are there being awesome and the editors/contributors who do very strange things with the word “feminism”.

    I suppose I’m posting to say that there are a lot of us spreading the word and talking about this. I sure as hell know I would’ve left by now if it weren’t for the commenters. I think I may be switching directly to groupthink and reading Persephonemagazine.com from now onward. Thank you for proving feminism can exist without a bottom line.

    1. To be honest, a lot of us can relate.  I was (still am, actually, because I just signed in last night for the first time in about a year) a starred commenter there, as were a bunch of other of the writers.  Teri had her star removed during the MizJenkins debacle, I think.  I was reticent to leave because the commenters were so fantastic – and I am so happy to have found a place where the same people can be the same fantastic, but don’t have to support Gawker’s bullshit bottom line.

      1. Jezebel’s heart and soul is in the commenting section. WE ARE JEZEBEL, you know? the editors and writers suck, but it was the commenting community that was so unique and great. I’m so disgusted with them that I can’t even go on their site without awful feelings.

        They should just let the commenters run the thing.

      2. Yes, I was banned during one of the many debacles that took place when Miz Jenkins and the writers/moderators would butt heads. I had taken her side in a debate about a post from a guest blogger, and was banned for stating my opinion by Jessica Coen herself. She accused me of making grand, sweeping exit speeches (when I’d really just said I was done with Jez) and then banned me. I had lost my star long before that.

  4. When persephone first rose from the flames of jezebel, I started to take a measure of posts, evaluating rate (eg how much were posted per day/week/month), type (advertorial, gossip, news story, editorial, sex, etc), author, views, and comments. I also looked at how many comments were posted per day/week/month. I did this for the entire time that Jezebel had existed, that is, from 2007-2011 (at the time).

    Specifically in my observation I found that Jezebel was always about gossip and never about humanitarian stories to begin with. So this idea that we believed that Jezebel was sort of feminist hangout…. I’m not sure where that came from. Now I’m not saying that it wasn’t a great place to be, or that we are wrong in meeting like-minded people there. But perhaps we got this idea by well-targeted marketing moves by Gawker.

    Basically, Jezebel has never been about the interest of women. It’s simply about pandering to what most women will pay attention to, and if most women will pay attention to the construct of a feminist editorial blog, sure let’s give off that vibe.

    So how does this relate to the topic at hand? Jez has never really cared about the interest of women, and while we were fooled into thinking they did, it’s simply not true. Let me point out something else. I don’t believe writers and editors of Jez, such as founder Anna Holmes, are not aware of this issue. Although I don’t believe anyone is telling them what to do. I believe that the magazine created its own mess by inciting expectations from readers they couldn’t fulfill.

    I don’t read Jez anymore, but if this is any indication, it’s Jez again trying to reach the feminist audience and not understanding how to do it, because the words don’t match the message.

    Oh let me also point out I noticed a rise in ads and advertorials in 2011. These did not exist on the site until then.

    I don’t believe I have this data anymore. If I did I would write an article for Persephone.

    1. I disagree that Jez has never cared about the interest of women.  I remember a time when there was a story about a woman being on the run after her husband killed their daughter for being immoral, and they got in touch with somebody at the Guardian and gathered money to donate, and tried to get her out of Basra.  I think that was in 2008.

      Although you are probably right in that there were more gossip items than anything else – it would be interesting to see your data.

    2. I think a lot of the perception that it was feminist came from the fact that it was a blog for women that wasn’t just about weddings or babbies, which is the only thing most of the major websites aimed at women ever talked about. A lot of the commenters were feminist, and sometimes the fact that GroupThink really was a feminist hangout led a lot of us that participated to sort of average that out with the dumber stuff that was actually published. The longer I stayed around, the less I read on the main page because I realized I was only interested in a couple articles a day, but I still had my friends in GT and could spend hours there. Once they alienated a lot of us, it became easier to see what the site really was all along.

  5. I never really kept up with Jezebel.  But I have visited several other feminist sites to see if this specific issue was covered, and I haven’t found it.  Why isn’t everyone talking about this??

    This is the most heinous thing I can think of a women’s site doing, other than actually airing the video.  I’m just not understanding why Forbes (?!) is the only other place I can readily find an article about this.  Am I living in bizarro world? wth?

  6. This makes me so sick.  I’m not sure what to do about reading Jezebel now.  I don’t read it much any more, but they have one writer – Erin Gloria Ryan – who I think consistently writes great, thoughtful, provocative, funny, and meaningful pieces.  And I don’t want to stop reading her, but I’m not sure I really want to keep reading Jezebel anymore.  Ugh.

    1. I always liked MoGlo back when she was just a commenter, but I had headed out before she started writing (I think).

      My transition away from Jezebel started with boycotting certain writers, and then eventually I just felt like I couldn’t support the site at all.

      Is it possible to set up an alert so that her articles pop up for you, but you don’t have to go to the homepage to find them?

      1. I should look into the alerts thing. Because I seriously don’t want to give her up, but I think I could give up the rest of Jezebel with only a few pangs (I’m a little addicted to pop culture, so Jez did have a place there, but I can find pop culture/pop culture critique in other places.)

        I’m glad I’m not alone in the MoGlo love, she’s great – she writes about a variety of topics (a lot of current events and athletics/running articles, and a weekly feature called “Lady MacGyver” among other things) and she’s always funny, always smart, always has something worthwhile to say, and I have never yet felt uncomfortable/offended while reading her stuff.

    2. My thoughts as well. MoGlo’s takedown of the whole Komen debacle is pretty much the only shred of the early Jez days there are left. I just can’t justify giving the Gawker network any more page views, even if it is for MoGlo. Hopefully she’ll find a far less problematic home in the near future.

    3. I liked moglo’s writing too. She seems like a good person, and it is highly likely that she is just as fucking disgusted by this debacle as anyone. I would love what went on backstage– to know her views and whether she attempted to remedy the situation. Maybe she tried to have it removed and the higher ups told her to fuck off. There’s got to be at least ONE sane human being on that website, right?

      Although, if I was her, I would leave Jezebel pronto considering what they just did really means. She’s surrounded by snakes.

      1. I haven’t been reading recently (for about a year, since the redesign), but I would like to give some of the other writers some benefit of some doubt.  Not much.  But some.  I think a lot of shit is dictated from above.  It is terrible to not take a stand, but I am hopeful that a lot of “fuck offs” come from higher ups.  I just want to believe better of them.  (Some of them, anyway).

        1. There are some other writers who do some good stuff (and some that I avoid like the plague,) but MoGlo is the only one I actively like enough to keep reading Jezebel for.  My temporary solution is
          I have bookmarked her author page, and I’m going to try accessing Jezebel only through that.  It’s still pageviews, but they’re all attached to her, and no main page views.


  7. It was astounding, this horrid fall from what little grace was left at Jezebel. The sound of the crash has reverberated through the Internet, and the faint echoes may not die out for some time.

    There was a time when news was reported straightforwardly and without the lurid visual accompaniment; newspapers were filled with reported news that only required the writer to supply the details and the context, and allow the reader to supply the scene in their mind. Reporting was the sometimes dry and often detailed recitation of facts, with perhaps a cursory snatch at commentary. Now, within moments of a thing happening, every manifest and gory happenstance bombards the eyeballs and turns the stomach in high-definition technicolor replete with the outrage (or ignorance) of the viewing public.

    No one could expect Jezebel to be a paragon of journalistic virtue, being a web site that is part of network of sites that sometimes manages to be newsworthy but is often filled with sap and sensation. It was a site that held great promise and was a wonderful clearinghouse for women’s issues when it started; now it is merely another sordid and tabloidish corner of the Internet, best avoided if one has a weak constitution and/or a petulant turn of mind. Having been happy to be a part of its rise, I am now wracked in sorrow to see its fall into iniquity.

      1. This is a typical cycle for the Internet. Early adopters find a site they like, that fills them with hope and joy, and then the changes start, and pretty soon, it’s no longer the place it used to be. I jumped out of Slashdot because I saw it heading in some bad directions, owing to squabbles over moderation and the constant barrage of crap from homophobes, racists, and other undesirables. I never thought Jezebel would fall to a similar fate, though for very different reasons.

    1. You can’t delete your account anyway. They have a policy of ‘not deleting comment accounts’. You know… Because it is not like Gawker has ever been hacked and their members’ information was stolen and perhaps some people might feel uncomfortable with keeping an account open with them.


      OH WAIT.

        1. Not to mention that they got hacked a few years ago so everybody’s username (connected to an e-mail) and password were stolen.  That alone should mean that it’s possible for accounts to be deleted.

          But that would not make them money, so.

  8. I don’t go to Jezebel anymore, haven’t in years. The place is an ED/PTSD triggerfest for me—I ended up on this travesty of an article thanks to one of those link shorteners.

    For me, this excuse that pictures of rape or domestic violence need to be shown resonates with the concept of these ultrasound-before-abortion laws cropping up. You can’t be trusted to know what this is unless you look at the picture. (Did you look at the picture? Are you horrified and hurt? Okay. You can go now.) We know what it looks like. You don’t have to show us. You don’t have to frighten us with this reminder of how much power someone else has over us.

    With a site like Jezebel, it feels like a way of trapping readers, to get people coming back for some sense of safety and validation. The world is horrible, we’ll remind you how horrible, but come huddle in the comment section and we’ll all say how horrible it is. (Rape is wrong, right? Yes, it is, don’t worry… here, look at more to see how wrong it is.) It feels like self-help sites that create the anxiety they claim to be there to heal, and so on.

    Create a need—create a construct of rape culture–and then fill it by claiming to be protection against that rape culture. It’s a clever loop that relies on trauma to suck people in and to keep them with a false sense of safety and camaraderie in a community that will remind you again and again how terrible the world is so you’ll be grateful they’re there to hold your hand.

      1. I’m sure it’s not a conscious thing, but manipulative people with conscience deficits are well-versed in the art of ‘negging’*, as the pick-up artists like to say. It’s a classic move, and it keeps people engaged so long as you never let them get too comfortable.

        *sliding negative or hurtful commentary into conversation in order to shake the self-esteem of the other party, creating anxiety and causing them to become more deeply invested in the exchange in order to regain their previous level of comfort. Also confers more authority upon the speaker as reversal of the effect relies largely on their magnanimous recanting of the insult or bandaging the injury to the ego with a compliment.

  9. I have no pity for Jezebel. Jezebel is Judas. They exploited a rape victim; they pandered to lurid interests; they triggered readers; they squandered their readers’ and sources’ trust.

    They’re bloggers; they’re not journalists. Period. I won’t be looking to them for information about women’s issues again. They blew it.

    They pandered to the lurid for clicks. I have no pity or tolerance in a case like this. Epic fail. No do-over. Period.

    Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics

    Minimize Harm
    Ethical journalists treat sources, subjects and colleagues as human beings deserving of respect.

    Journalists should: — Show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage. Use special sensitivity when dealing with children and inexperienced sources or subjects.
    — Be sensitive when seeking or using interviews or photographs of those affected by tragedy or grief.
    — Recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance.
    — Recognize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than do public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention. Only an overriding public need can justify intrusion into anyone’s privacy.
    — Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.
    — Be cautious about identifying juvenile suspects or victims of sex crimes.
    — Be judicious about naming criminal suspects before the formal filing of charges.
    — Balance a criminal suspect’s fair trial rights with the public’s right to be informed.

    1. I promoted your comment when it was pink on the article post in question at Jezebel, because you just summed this up so well. It seemed they once held themselves to some kind of standard, or at least tried not to actively harm their readership (ie: no numbers rule and a seemingly honest attempt not to trigger or exploit when under Anna Holmes, herself a survivor). In the last year or so, Jezebel has become rife with ED triggers, casual racism and victim-blaming, and this bullshit just proves that they’re just one more site that utilizes cruelty to women as their business model.

    2. This is what’s so tricky about bloggers.

      They ARE acting like journalists. But they aren’t held to those standards and so much horribly unethical stuff ends up happening. They like to say they’re journalists when it suits them, but they don’t have the responsibility to the public that journalists do. They have no code of conduct, and that’s how this horrific stuff ends up being posted.

      Journalists have responsibilities and need to have integrity in order to be taken seriously. Jezebel is like a news source, so people begin to take it seriously and put their faith in it, and in the writers. The people that put faith in it are sometimes people that have traumatic pasts (me included), that want responsible news reporting that is sensitive to others’ plights and treat such a story the way that someone like Dan Rather would treat it. They believe they are dealing with respectable people.

      Instead they get something that is horrifyingly unethical, triggering and deeply traumatic to witness. Jezebel reels them in, makes them comfortable and then basically just traumatizes them.

  10. I’ve seen a lot of god-awful crap at Jez before, but every time I see I it I think that there is no way that they will possibly be able to top this, only to be proven wrong every time.  Until now.  I really don’t know what they could do now that would be a bigger fuck up than this shit.

  11. I’m probably asking to have my vowels removed but Imma say it anyway.

    This is why I don’t visit that site anymore, and haven’t for over a year.  When the only response to a very carefully worded question about something similar was to have my star taken away, I was done.

    I’m glad I found Persephone.

    And I’m glad I never saw that post this one references.

    1. I have visited it a handful of times over the past year (probably…4), for the same reason.  Well, I didn’t have my star taken away, because I gave up on the main page and hung out in groupthink, but the non-apologies were infuriating.  What got me was the Duke fuck list, but this is way worse.  I hope more people will vote with their mouseclicks, because people were (rightfully) incensed.

    2. This whole situation makes me sick.

      And it is even more infuriating that you cannot delete your comment account as a sign of protest. I sent an angry email demanding that they delete my account as I don’t want them artificially inflating their readership by claiming they have bakajillion accounts. They said it wasn’t their policy despite several pages on Gawker media sites showing that they used to delete accounts. From what I gather, the only way to get your account removed is if you break their Terms and Conditions.


      So I’m going to go spam their threads with links to pirated copies of Air Buddies. Should be good fun.

    3. Pssh, we’ll give you extra vowels for that response! It makes me sad to see what they’ve become, because when I first started commenting in ’09 I loved it. It introduced me to some amazing people, Susan here included, and I learned a lot. It led me to tumblr and Persephone and I’ll always be grateful for that, but I just can’t with them anymore. Hell, I lost my star for a sarcastic jpeg. Not even a gif!

    4. As far as I know, the disemvoweling button was added after somebody called me a disgusting heartless pig, just in case something was really abusive.  I didn’t use it then.  I’m not sure anybody has used it at all.  We like thoughtful conversation around here.

  12. Bravo. I am still completely sickened that this was posted, and I am ashamed of and for Anna North for such a horrendous lapse in judgement. I won’t be buying her book or supporting her or any of the Jezebel staff in any fashion. Disgusting. I hope this signals the end for them, as they’ve been steadily declining ever since they peaked in popularity.

    1. I’ve found a certain appalled fascination in imagining the thought process that led to this travesty.

      1. There’s a horrible thing happening to this woman on the internet!

      2. Let’s put it on the internet again, but bigger, so many other people know about this horrible thing

      3. ??

      4. Justice!

      1. It reminds me of slactivism. PUT YOUR COLOUR OF BRA ON FACE BOOK TO RAISE AWARENESS seems to me to be the same as PUT SCREENCAPS OF A WOMAN’S RAPE ON JEZEBEL FOR JUSTICE. Neither will reach the end they purport to do. There will be no justice for this poor woman from this, only more money lining Denton’s wallet.

            1. Oh, I didn’t mean to cut your response down – I think you are right in that the flimsy excuse of “but how will we catch the rapist” does not hold up at all.  AT ALL.  But the fallout of this is way worse than bra color.

              1. I tend to get a bit carried away sometimes, so I always appreciate it when someone calmly says “Hey Cesy, that’s not quite right”, particularly when it’s from someone I really respect. I knew you weren’t cutting me down, just giving me a little bit of education and I always appreciate that :)

    2. I cannot for the life of me understand how they’ve stayed popular. Really, they have become just celebrity snark (which, you might as well read TMZ for if you are into that sort of thing) and rape apologists. This is not feminism, this is not advocating for women or giving them a place and a voice, this is victimizing them.


      1. I like how under Jessica, they have said “Oh we’re not a feminist site”, but Jessica I believe was happy to accept acknowledgement of being a feminist leader. You can’t have it both ways. Recognise you are shit to women and own it. Don’t hide behind words.


        /Hat tip to the person who informed many of us of Jessica’s two-faced feminist nature, I can’t recall who it was.

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