As a note on the Aziz Ansari thing and the ‘debate’ over the definition of sexual assault, #MeToo, and feminism generally: I admit to a deeply ambivalent response to the Babe article for reasons that many other people have highlighted well. I admit to deep discomfort with my ambivalent response. But I was interested in the magazine and their journalistic/reporting standards because I think some of the decisions they made were fundamentally unethical.
I hadn’t heard of Babe before ‘Grace’s’ account went viral, so I was curious about the web publication and its take on being a feminist publication (for the record, babe doesn’t directly define itself as a feminist publication but it does take on the voice and style of a feminist pub directed by ‘girls’ who grew up with and thus have presumed feminist alignments). I have to say I wasn’t heartened by what is there. I’m going to post some title articles, subjects, and quotes without commentary. From the site, some articles generally:
“Period trapping is the only way to find out if you are in a relationship or not”: about how you can’t ask a guy if you are in a relationship so you need to trick him into having sex with you while on your period. Then you’ll know he’s committed.
“How to trap a man who doesn’t know he’s your man but is still your man before Valentine’s Day”: declaring ‘cuffing’ season is over, you have six weeks until the day and here are some strategies to make sure he’s still around for Valentine’s. The first piece of advice is to make him jealous.
“‘Fish-hooking’ is the slutty new Instagram trend guaranteed to get you 100 likes”: how to get attention on Instagram by getting that finger in your mouth pose right.
“2018 is the year of the praying mantis”: Because in 2017 we went through shit, we realized that “literally every woman we know has been sexually assaulted”, and we are going to take what we deserve from the people we deserve it from. Advice?
“Cut off the Tinder date who paid for your dinner but explained your degree to you while you guys split dessert. Ask for a raise. Hurt-trap. Spit on your ex who cheated when you see them in public. Make guys pay to follow you on Instagram.
We’re wringing men’s necks for everything they’re worth, whether we’re suing them for workplace harassment or bleeding them dry as FinDoms. This year, we’re finally gonna have some fucking fun again.”
“Here’s a list of easy ways you can scam money out of idiot men online”: “I’d never call all men idiots because that would be ~misandrist~ and also because I’m not trying to get doxxed by 4Chan. But what I will say is when it comes to women they wish they could fuck, most men become kind of total idiots…We as women have to put up with a lot from them. Wage gaps, sexual violence, workplace harassment, fuckboys (less bad, but still!) etc. And if we have to deal with all that garbage from a population of shitbag dudes, the least we could do is try to scam a lil something out of the situation, you know?..I’ve asked IRL/online friends and coworkers to tell me their money-making tricks and there are (unsurprisingly) a ton. Kind of amazing what dudes will do for a snowball’s chance in hell at touching boobs.”
Article on what faking what you like to make your crush like you more: “It’s not easy (and almost never worth it), but I honestly believe that everyone’s guilty of faking interest in something to reel in a crush…Maybe you went through a “vegetarian phase” for the cute Ponytail Guy in your creative writing class, or maybe you dipped your toes into EDM for the first time to snag a SoundCloud DJ. No shame in the game, though! It’s not like men don’t lie…Here are some of the most outrageous things babe readers have done (or pretended to do) to fool a dude into thinking he found his dream girl…”
There are also good horoscopes and a quiz to find out what percent hoe you are.
From author of the Aziz Ansari article, Katie Way:
“Here’s every fight you will get into with your boyfriend and why you’re right”: about how you are always right in disagreements with your boyfriend, you just don’t realize it yet. Let Katie show you how you are always right.
“Here’s how to drop hints that he’s finishing, like way too fast”: about how guys are insecure, sensitive and thus can’t take clear communication on sex, so here are some tips on how to let him know you’re not being satisfied without telling him directly (because it would apparently bruise his delicate ego), including “Offer to go down on him, bob on it like three times, then fall asleep. If he gets mad, just tell him it’s a metaphor.” Passive-aggression is a ‘girl’s best friend’.
“If ‘securing the bag’ isn’t on your 2018 agenda you’re fucking up in a big way”: securing the bag is getting financial security, which can include a lot of things. From the article: “But netting a finance bro or the heir to a throne isn’t your only path to securing the bag. You can also do it by finessing people into paying you to do what you love, like humiliating men online or starting your own company.”
“You’re not an ‘introvert’ — you’re just an asshole”: essentially about how self-described introverts are not cool and should get with the program. “Do some people like spending time a lot of time alone? Totally, and that’s fine. But if you think I’m interested in hearing about the fact that you drank tea and read Anna Karenina instead of partying like your extroverted peers, you’re so fucking wrong.”
Apparently all women have been sexually assaulted, all men are fuck-ups whom you have to manipulate and be passive aggressive with in order to trick them into relationships or into getting what you want because clear communication isn’t a thing, and men are dogs so women can and should get away with whatever they can to take advantage of the situation.
I should say that there are some good articles are pieces of advice from the author and on the site. There is a mix, of course, as with all publications. But I have to say they are not at all representative.
I think it also important to think about and be able/willing to debate the espoused feminist vision of this publication and its general take on relationships between men and women. It is certainly one I take issue with. And it is also worthy to consider the perspectives of feminists who are taken aback by the account and its labeling as sexual assault. Not all criticism, by definition, sexist, slut-shaming, or any other word you would like to use to shut down anyone who might take issue with the writing and publishing decisions that were made or their potential impact on #MeToo or Ansari. But the article also resonated with so many women for a reason–simply dismissing it as a ‘bad date’ (a new one to me) is not only a strange description at best for the account, but also shuts down any woman who rightly says his behavior, which most of us have experienced far too much, was way over the line.
Debate on this is not, in and of itself, a bad thing—it’s the only way we figure out how to redraw the map. So we need to do so with honesty, sincerity, and compassion—with a willingness to talk and listen rather than a self-righteous delight in posting links, memes or other simplistic bullshit that aligns with pre-determined sides based on political leanings.
What does this have to do with reporting, ethics, perspective and online publishing in the age of viral media? That’s more interesting. In an interview with another site about the story, the editor discussed the history of the site and the impacts it has had: “For Babe, Grace’s story was a big break — good for traffic and for the brand.” They also now intend to do more serious reporting, though they will keep the horoscopes and fun make-up stuff as well.