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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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Susan

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. I couldn’t help myself from writing on Anna North’s public Facebook page.  And I wish everyone else woudl too:  Jezebel won’t get another of my pageviews, plus they would censor my complaint immediately anyway.  I know it’s been a little while but I really want something to come out of this…if anyone else is willing to let her know that nobody’s forgotten how awful her actions are, the link is here (click on posts by everybody):

     

    http://www.facebook.com/AnnaNorthFanPage

  2. Hi, there.

    The article in question made me reconsider my “agree to disagree” stance about the problems I had with some of Jezebel/Gawker’s actions, as saying that, “it’s appalling for the story and fallout to be dealt with in this way” is a fact, not an opinion. Otherwise, I’m in the opinion that Earth has a positive gravitational field and some beings can draw super-powers from our own yellow Sun.

    Tangential: I’m a longtime Jezebel lurker (never registered) trying out the community thing here. I liked a lot of the comments on Jezebel but didn’t care for the heavy-handed modding, in-fighting, and popularity games. The points thing–I’ll look into it, am hoping it’s not like a popularity contest. So, um, hi again!

    1. The points thing is definitely just for fun – although some people (ahem, me) get competitive and do things like update statuses just for the satisfaction of a few good points.  To prove my point, I’m going to see if I can donate points to you.  I’ve never done it because I am a miser, but seriously!  It’s all in fun.

      And welcome.

      1. Wow!

        Thanks for the welcome. Please accept the following weak joke as my token of gratitude:

        Why did the chicken cross the Möbius strip?
        To get to the same side.

        :D

  3. I’m part of the exodus as well. I’ve been reading Jezebel on and off since the beginning, and only started commenting about a month ago, but now I’m done. I’m in the midst of a Facebook conversation with a friend about what it is that bothers us about Jez, and I realized that I’ve been reading it solely out of habit for at least a year now. The commentariat and one or two of the writers have been the bright point on that site for a long while now, though frankly I find a lot of the comments lately to be troubling as well, so… yup. Done.

    As so many people have pointed out, Jez trades on its feminist image in order to get people like us reading, but then when the writers or editors pull something like this, they suddenly remind us that they’re not a feminist site and never claimed to be. Well, that’s fine, I suppose. They’re right in that they never were a particularly feminist site, though some of the writers certainly are, and I’ll continue to keep up with them through their RSS feeds. I don’t particularly enjoy being condescended to, though, especially in such a transparent way, so I don’t intend to contribute to page hits any more. And really, what bothers me most about that post is not that they were bad journalists or bad feminists in posting it, but that they were bad human beings. Whoever looked at that and decided that it was okay to post didn’t even meet the minimum requirements for being considered a halfway decent person. It’s despicable.

    1. Yup, I’m out too, it’s been getting worse and worse with JC in charge, the MizJenkins ban was unbelievable.  I loved Jezebel when I first discovered it, they’ve chased off too many of the better writers and commenters (though Morning Gloria is still pretty entertaining).

      Anyway, we’ll see how Persephone goes :)

    1. We’re glad to have you!  I left there in a different mass exodus.  I miss some of the commenters, but since that same community feel can be felt elsewhere, it wasn’t as shocking to the system as I thought it would be.

  4. Honestly, I always had problems with Jezebel, and had been a mostly Gawker poster for some time, because it had previously been the case there that if you thought either a writer or a commenter had said something assholic, you could at least call them on it and discuss it.  Then came the redesign, and the advent of editorial petulance, particularly on the part of Brian Moylan, who loved to post nasty crap about older women but somehow couldn’t handle taking what he dished out.  Annoyed, I started commenting less frequently on any Gawker site.  I had hoped for one brief moment that the new editor at Gawker might restore some semblance of vertebrate behavior, but no, he turned out to be multiple times worse.  I repaired to Jezebel hoping that it might hold at least a few kindred spirits among commentators, and it did, but that story is just… No.  Whatever Jezebel editors might want to pretend to themselves, it’s Nick Denton’s site, and his agenda comes first, and the very last thing Denton is is a feminist.  So — hello, Persephone.  I am known for being cantankerous and opinionated, but I hope also mildly entertaining.  Nice to meet you.

    1. Welcome aboard! We like cantankerous and opinionated, and some of our favorite commenters are the ones who call us on our shit. (Or call out the shit of others.)

      I wanted to like the new Gawker editor, but I don’t know what to make of him.

      Make yourself at home! Last I saw they were passing out sidecars and Manhattans in the open thread.

  5. Just joining the chorus of a) Jezebel, this makes me sick, and b) so happy to have found this website.  I “left” Jezebel a year or two ago.  It was sometime around the MizJenkins banning, but particularly so after there was an article on whether Rachel Zoe was too skinny to have a baby (wtf?), and after I had both commented on a post and emailed Jessica about the story of the young homeless guy who died in a movie theatre.  I was told in the comments that if I found the “joke” in the article to be not funny, I could just not read the article, and my email to Jessica expressing how distasteful I felt the whole thing was was, naturally, ignored.  Also: I found myself hating just about everything Anna North wrote, so I can’t say this shocks me.  I can’t wait to dig in here and read more of what the site has to offer, and what wonderful things I can learn from the commentors.

  6. I deactivated my account a couple of weeks ago. I’ve had an account since 2007; never had a star, but occasionally commented. The whole site seems to have gone downhill. There were some good commentors, but I haven’t really liked the hive mind that has developed in the past year or so. I almost wish I still had access to the old account just so I could quit all over again out because this is just sick. I’d rather they just stick to puff pieces if this is how they are going to cover issues of rape. And could that editor’s note be anymore smug? Jezebel sucks.

  7. I switched from lurking at jezebel awhile ago (circa Miz J round 2? I think?) to lurking here and finally got an account when I realized how nice and cathartic and fun it is to talk to people on the internet and geek out.

    I feel like Jezebel is getting more and more incendiary and insensitive in nature, and it’s like reading Ms. mag sometimes. I can’t get through an issue without getting angry and appalled, at social injustice, but it’s more like a “look! this is bad, you should agree it’s bad, LOOK HOW BAD IT IS EVEN IF YOU’LL BE POTENTIALLY SCARRED (AGAIN) AND YOU SUCK IF YOU DISAGREE” kind of a thing and is a little on the infantilizing side of things sometimes. Often. I understand the desire to motivate people to change and recognition of a problem, I do not understand the desire to shock, frighten, or appall them into it.

    I also feel like Jezebel only recently began addressing things that are racially offensive in addition to misogynistic, but some of the commentary on some of the less socially-charged articles came off as willfully ignorant to me in terms of race and privilege.

    Either way and regardless, even though I was continuing to read it for more of my everyday/pop culture/guilty pleasure news, I think this action was really tasteless, doesn’t reflect well at all on the editor/s(?), and Jezebel seems like even less of a safe space now, especially to people for whom those images may have been personally traumatic (well, who wouldn’t be traumatized by it?). I’m incredibly turned off, and while it’s going to be difficult to find a way to get all my pop culture in, I’d rather find a way to do it elsewhere.

    And I like the point system better, it’s less stick-and-carrot.

    1. Also, I find their star criticism/outfit critique really harmful and against the vague policy of generally not body/character/outfit snarking. The whole Whitney post-clubbing posts, ESPECIALLY in light of her recent death, was really, really tabloid. If I wanted that, I could’ve read US Weekly.

    2. I agree. In regards to the outfit snark and racial insensitivity, I totally understand what you’re saying. When I was banned, which has been oh, two years ago now, it was over the BET Awards outfit commentary that was guest blogged by Tavi Gevinson. She made some joke about “Oh, these are the BET awards, I have no idea what that means or who these people are and I don’t really care, but look at their weird and crazy outfits!” It was really quite offensive on so many levels that this girl didn’t research what BET was, and then proceeded to make fun of a bunch of celebrities that she wasn’t even familiar with. Miz Jenkins was one of the ones who called her out on it, and Jessica & Co jumped on anyone (including me) who agreed with her. Their excuse was, “Oh, she’s only 14. We’re not going to let you lot of shrieking harpies jump on a fourteen year old. She doesn’t have to know what BET is. She’s a hipster! She doesn’t have a TV!” None of that is verbatim of course, but that was the gist. Even Tavi herself apologized, which showed a lot more maturity on her part than the actual, grown editors. Who refused to even admit that they understood the situation. They went on a disemvoweling, destarring and banning spree that day and I was one of the ones who was banned.

      1. Ohh, BET. I was an unstarred commenter back then, but that was awful. I went away for a while…came back with a different account/name later because I couldn’t remember the old one.

        And while Gevinson was responsible for what she wrote, the editors were at least as much to blame. If you’re working with a kid guest writer, there’s a chance she’s going to be ignorant or lack judgement about some things, and I think you’re obligated to educate them a little when you write something stupid, and you’re also obligated not to post stupid crap. Yes, I found it very ironic that the 14-year-old was the only one who apologized and seemed open to learning!

      2. Oohhh I remember that! One of the bigger shitstorms that happened while I was still commenting… I remember finding it both hilarious and sad that Tavi had no idea who Travis Barker was! And that no one editing her post realized dismissiveness towards the BET awards coming from a relatively privileged white teen would come off as racist…

      3. Well, that kind of makes you a badass.

        And, my goodness, it’s like every time there’s something that mentions black hair (like that “Shit White Girls Say to Black Girls” post, and one awhile back about afro-having) it’s like self-righteous comment carnage from people who don’t get it and don’t try to. It’s insane.

        I stopped bothering with the outfit run-downs when one writer was basically “I don’t know half of these people because I’m too educated  to own a tv, but she looks funny”.

  8. Like many others, I was also pretty disgusted when I read this. I think that, although many people also disagreed with the post, they won’t leave completely. I think that I will be getting my women’s news elsewhere though… It had already been going downhill for a while.

      1. it pretty much had been going down hill for a while but this post made me leave, I’d love more links if you have them of better places (besides this awesome place) to get our feminist news.  I am glad to finally leave though too many times I’d just get angry reading the blog and thats no fun.

  9. I was a longtime Jezebel reader, and very infrequent commenter (mostly due to the arbitrary and aggravating complexity of posting comments there), but I enjoyed the insightful comments of many of the posters there.

    And found out tonight that they were banned because of their comments about this post.

    This is beyond horrible, the entire debacle. I was all set to break up with humankind tonight and find a shack in the woods to live in with my cats, and i found this site linked in several of the comments. So I stopped packing and read this article – and YES! Everything you said, everything everyone said!!

    I have found like minded women and I am so relieved.

    Also: thank you for taking the time to articulate so much of what was wrong with what jezebel did in posting the screen caps. It couldn’t have been more inappropriate if they had actually posted the damn vid.

    1. Thanks for your comment.  It made me a little teary, mostly because we are happy to have you here and I hope that Jezebel faces SOME sort of consequence over this – that the readers vote with their mouseclicks.

  10. Thanks to VaVaGetMyBroom and Kirov1934 and others on Jez for speaking out repeatedly about this, and thanks to those who linked to here. I guess after years of loving Jez and being “starred” and recommending it as such a good place for great articles and even better comments, I’m out too. I can’t really understand why they’d think it was OK to post those pictures, and the “apology” just makes it worse.

    I hope more of us come over here!

    1. I personally got so much from Jezebel – I learned so much and I grew so much.  But at some point I realized that the benefits were not coming from the article, but were coming from the commenters.  The more of the commentariat we can recruit over here, the better, as far as I’m concerned – I want to be a part of a place where thoughtful discourse is encouraged, and pageviews don’t justify disgusting choices.

      1. Yeah I really enjoyed Jez for the last 2 years, but I was increasingly becoming tired of either fluff articles that didn’t have much to do with anything (which I can get from facebook thanks) and then this and a few other articles were just the tipping point, and so tonight i’ve left and I really am excited to see what its like here and other places with women’s news.

      2. I’ve been a jeze-lurker since mid-2007 , and I went to the site from a link by Meg Cabot (YA author, famous for Princess Diaries) . I got so much of my feminist-leaning ways from Cabot, and Jez was kind of integral to my education (I grew up real oblivious of these sorts of women’s issues) It really opened my eyes to so much more outside my sheltered SoCal childhood, and I always felt weird about being one of the great commentariat on that site and so delayed joining up for ages. This thing hurts, it really does. But I knew it was bound to happen, Gawker really got unreadable too these last few months. I think of the Gawker media sites, only Lifehacker stands a chance of not being butchered by the new reigme, because they’re already very successful and popular. (I hope, it makes no sense to change a good thing, and I like their tips and tricks a lot) Jez groupthink is still worth hanging out at, but there are rumours that it’ll be gone too, if the powers-that-be have their way. Frankly, at this point, I’d just take my eyeballs (and rather limited time) elsewhere.

        Edit: And Hugo Schwyer? Seriously? That guy gets to write a “general interest” column. He doubles my blood pressure every time I see one of those articles.

      3. That’s why I elected to straddle Persephone and Jez for a while.  I think the commentariat is great and now that I’ve been commenting there a while I wantd to stay and keep learning from those women.  But even though I’m more excited about the articles here, it seems like the conversation is diminished by the lack of a notification system for replies, but mostly because the articles are so thorough and well done.

        Since I can’t decide if I want to yell or learn, for now I’ll do both.

    1. It is.  It really is.  And to me, the worst part about it isn’t the mistake that was made – it was the refusal to accept it as a mistake and to plow forward, to continue to violate, in the name of page views.  Even if it was an oversight (it couldn’t have been, but let’s say for the benefit of the doubt it was possible) – the first comment from the first person should have made the editors think, and it should have been taken down.  But Jezebel has really shown their true colors here, and it is awful.

  11. Hey I know this is off topic but because of this article and the one about the woman who is persecuted for sleeping with two few people I’m just done with Jez, and I am glad people posted a link to this site otherwise I would have never found it, so I am glad for that!

  12. I just posted in the Jezebel thread asking them again to take down the photos of the victim. This is what I posted:

    “I know most people have abandoned this thread, and maybe no one is going to read this, but I’m going to try anyway. As far as the assertion “The images ARE the story” goes, I could not disagree more. The pictures took away from the story. After I read this post (and I looked at it quite a few times, pre-edit), I could not remember anything about the story. I could not remember where this took place or who was raped, even though it was in the title. I could not remember any details from the actual article, and I read the whole thing. All I could remember was that Jezebel posted incredibly disturbing photos of a woman being sexually assaulted.

    You’re right, this story is important, but not just because the video was posted to YouTube. It’s important because rape is being used as a tool of warfare. It’s important because journalists are being attacked for doing their job. It’s important because this woman was revictimized by having her rape posted to YouTube. It’s important because these horrific things happen all the time and they get little mention in the mainstream news, and the pathetic excuses for human beings that do this almost always get away with it. And here’s where the video comes into play: if the video is so important, use the one good thing that came out of this–that the attackers are shown–and put their images back up, unpixelated, in the hopes that maybe it will contribute to them being identified. That’s it. That horrible, smiling face and the accompanying descriptions convey what happened just as well as any other screenshot, and it leaves the victim out of it. I had so much respect for Jezebel for not posting the beat-up Rihanna photos, because it could be construed as “exploitative.” Even though the pictures weren’t posted, the story about what happened was not lost, and no one forgot who did it. We don’t need images of the victim to be outraged and horrified by this story; in fact, a lot of us have lived it.

    As others have already done, and because I love Jezebel, and because I want this story to be remembered for what it is rather than the outrage it caused, I respectfully ask that you remove the victim’s images (which, as others have pointed out, are now so pixelated that they don’t contribute anything anyway), and restore the photos of the rapists. I think it is a fair solution that shows the most important part of the video while allowing the real message to be remembered over the controversy that this article has caused.”

    It probably won’t do any good, but I felt like I had to try.

    1. Probably won’t, but it was a very carefully worded and nice post all the same. Mine was less charitable and more angry, which sometimes makes people tune out.

      If someone can’t read such a sensitive post as yours and take the pictures down, then nothing will, and that website is doomed.

    2. I just came here because someone in the Saturday Night Social thread recommended this site as a counter-Jez. I had actually been unaware of the “article” in question until tonight. I used to be so impatient to read Jez that I would risk opening it up at work. I have been a once, maybe twice a week at most, visitor since the redesign. I won’t be reading Jezebel again.

        1. Yes! It’s the commentariat that I’ll miss. I learned a lot from them. I’m definitely a better feminist because of the comments that pointed out things to read, how to frame things differently then I had been.

          That said, I’m glad to be here already.

          1. I never realized that was so much of the reason I loved Jez so much. I think some of the writers (MoGlo, for example) are great, but the commentariat is what kept me coming back. There were articles before that definitely upset me, but the commenters always had such thought-provoking things to say, and coverage of certain things (MoGlo’s coverage on the Komen fiasco, for instance), would make me  feel like the good outweighed the bad. I don’t think I can say that anymore. It makes me sad, because I discovered Jez when I was just beginning to identify as a feminist and it really opened my eyes. I don’t know if I can cold-turkey it, but I definitely won’t be commenting/reading as frequently and will be mostly sticking to Groupthink.

            So glad to be here, though. Looking forward to experiencing a new community of thought-provoking people!

    3. I loved your comment over there.  I just couldn’t bring myself to comment on the article itself, because I knew my comment would be nothing but a long string of expletives (in regards to Jezebel and their lame editor’s note).

       

      1. Thank you. I actually wanted to comment on it sooner, but had I commented when I first saw it, my response would have just been expletives as well. I wanted time to gather my thoughts and calm down a bit (although I was still shaking when I typed my actual response).

  13. You know how they should know that they missed their mark by oh say a fucking billion miles?

    The fact that the discussion is centered on the images and not what happened to the victim.

    Just disgusting all around.

          1. It’s actually Jean, but my mom used to call me “Kristin Jeannie” when I was little, so I went with that.

            And thank you again! From what I’ve seen, this looks like a great place, and it’s nice to see some familiar names here!

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