December 6, 2010

How Jessica Coen Pulled A Maura Kelly

In 2007, when Jezebel first launched, and I started reading it, I never imagined it would be deleted from my “Bookmarks” folder.  They’ve had their share of controversies over the years, but I honestly can’t remember any of them being as bad as the one that took place in the last two weeks.

November 24th, an article titled “American Guy In Paris Freed From The Idea of Consent” was cross-posted on the front page of Jezebel.  Typically when Jezebel does cross-posts or re-posts, they include a lead-in or follow-up at the bottom of the post with information on the original website, author, and possibly why it was chosen to be included.

For example, when my “10 Commandments Of Pop Culture Feminism” piece was re-posted on Jezebel in May, the following information was included:

“By Rachel O’Connor

This post originally appeared on the site Feminist Fatale. Republished with permission.

The author of this post can be contacted at

Simple referencing – who wrote the piece and where it came from.  “American Guy In Paris…” had none of the above mentioned links or explanations.  Instead, Edward Pasteck’s essay on how French women feel empowered by being street harrassed and assaulted and how consent is overrated only included a link to an email address.

If you’ve read the post, you likely already know that it was in very bad need of a lead-in or wrap-up with some sort of explanation for why Jezebel felt this was worthy to give space to.  The title, all on it’s own, is completely disgusting.  Honestly, when I finished reading it, I wondered for a few minutes if the website had been hacked – ‘surely the editors will delete this and post some sort of explanation for what the hell is going on’ I thought.  Needless to say, I was wrong.

Commenters were obviously, and justifiably furious.  (As of my writing, the post has over 75,000 views and over 2,000 comments.)  Why the hell was an essay that disputed consent being posted?  Had the editors taken into account how triggering and upsetting this would be for assault or rape survivors to read?  Apparently they hadn’t.

Now, this is where the Marie Claire/Maura Kelly comparison comes in.  The new editor-in-chief of Jezebel, Jessica Coen, offered a non-apology-apology in the comments of the original post over the Thanksgiving weekend.  She told readers that it wasn’t posted for traffic-baiting purposes, because that has no bearing on their success or paycheck (untrue – see here.)  She told those concerned about the triggering aspects of the post, that Jezebel never claimed to be a “safe space”, and that Edward Pastek may have bullshit views, but he’s articulate, thoughtful, and earnest! Attention Jessica Coen: “His misogynistic beliefs are really well articulated” isn’t a valid reason to give that type of shit space on one of the most popular feminist-leaning sites on the web.

The following Monday, Ms. Coen posted her “official” response, explaining that “Edward Pasteck” is a pseudonym, and he’ll remain anonymous.  Like Maura Kelly, Jessica only apologized for people being upset, and explained that she was just trying to start a discussion.  Apologies if this is starting to sound a lot like the Maura Kelly piece I wrote, but there are some “debates” that aren’t really debates at all – like, “Should fat people be treated like human beings?”, or now, “Why is consent a big deal?”.  Newsflash: people who think they don’t need another persons consent to touch/grope/have sex with them are criminals.

As if all of that wasn’t offensive enough, the same day Jessica Coen posted her official apology, she also posted a “Counterpoint” to the original piece.  An anonymous French woman was given space to dispute Edward Pasteck’s piece, although there was no deconstruction of any of the horribly offensive drivel he had written.  Instead the counterpoint can be summed up thusly – French women don’t really like to be street harassed.  Way to go Jezebel – you missed the point of the outrage entirely.  Soon the French woman’s post filled up with comments saying so.  Obviously the issue wasn’t “Hey! Women don’t like to be street harassed!”  Rather, thousands of readers were outraged by the “consent is for puritans and prudes” aspect of the original essay.

Apparently Jezebel isn’t concerned with keeping their reputation.  One as a blog that is feminist, forward-thinking, and progressive.  A website that doesn’t tolerate comments wherein people try to make excuses for street harassment, sexual assault, and rape.  I’ve felt the website has been in decline ever since the new editor-in-chief came on board – posts about feminist issues are more few and far between, the pages now being filled with more snap judgments and silly celebrity articles.  And as long as Jessica Coen is in charge, and the above mentioned policies are cast by the wayside, I won’t be reading.

March 11, 2010

A solution for workplace sexual harrassment

Filed under: Gender,Media,Sexuality — Tags: , , , , , — Melanie @ 4:10 pm