I tried to like Slate’s new Double X site. For one thing, they got some genuine feminists to write for their inaugural postings, including Latoya Peterson and Linda Hirschmann, and they seemed poised to acknowledge a difference between the sorts of issues that fill up the pages of Ladies’ Home Journal and actual feminist content, a distinction frequently overlooked by those responsible for Salon’s Broadsheet. But alas, this was not to be, and actually the signs were there from the first. The same inaugural post roundup, which asked a group of women writers what is the new ‘problem that has no name’ for feminism, also included the noxious avowed anti-feminist Christina Hoff Sommers and the increasingly inexplicable Terry Castle. (Who is listening to her? Why are they doing so??) Under the guise of earnest debate (What do you really think of late term abortions?), the site strives to stir up cheap controversy, trying to up its hit rates through the spectacle of supposed feminists excoriating each other.
Yes, debate over feminist issues is necessary, particularly among those committed to the cause. But the point of such debate is to locate and/or generate points of consensus around which to organize and plan actions that will meet shared goals. As five minutes spent at Double X makes clear, the site has absolutely no investment in creating that sort of consensus–quite the opposite. If women didn’t get furious with each other and post vengeful screeds in the comments section, there would be no drama, and hence no clicking. A bunch of women agreeing with each other and getting down to business doesn’t sell ad space. Don’t get me wrong–I think the commentators on the site whining ‘Why can’t we all get along?’ are living in a dream world. A feminism worth anything is going to piss people off, even other feminists. But when we get to the point where debates about the status of race politics in feminism are being used to make money for the media giant that owns Newsweek, we’ve definitely made a wrong turn somewhere.
jke, with props to htg for insights about capitalism and the third wave (shared off line).