And in 2014, the comments section became the target of a harassment campaign.
Jessica Coen: We were getting flooded in the comments with violent GIFs, really nasty pornographic stuff. We flagged it to management multiple times, and we were essentially greeted with a collective shrug.
Madeleine Davies: To get the company to respond, we had to write an article about it. It took us having to essentially protest publicly for this primarily male leadership to take it seriously.
Ms. Coen stepped down as editor that year, but stayed on to oversee Jezebel’s new travel and weddings verticals. Emma Carmichael took over the top role, championing a mix of absurdist blogs, cultural criticism and Jezebel investigations into misconduct, abuse and justice. By 2015, the year Hillary Clinton became the likely Democratic nominee for president, well-funded competitors had popped up — including Bustle, Lenny Letter and Broadly — and so-called women’s empowerment seemed to become more marketable.
Emma Carmichael, editor in chief, 2014-2017: When I took over Jezebel, I remember feeling like all the other women’s sites had started to mimic and replicate the tone of the site. It felt like a relief, because the site could lean into the strength of the writers that we had on staff, and it didn’t have to keep doing just genre-defining work every day, because the genre had been defined.
Joanna Rothkopf, staff writer, 2015, to senior editor, 2018: There was this piece from Refinery29 called “Allison Williams Is the Feminist We Need.” It was this blog that was about how Allison Williams is a feminist, but was paid for by Keds, the shoe. I thought that was the pinnacle of feminism being co-opted by brands. So for Jezebel, I wrote “Joanna Rothkopf Is the Feminist We Need,” and I had mine sponsored by this kind of inscrutable cable clip organizer product.
Jia Tolentino, deputy editor, 2014-2016: We all were skeptical — if not actively negative — toward the mugs that said “male tears,” and the little Instagram banners that said “staunch feminist” or whatever. Jezebel ushered in and was tied to that commercialization and the celebrity focus of a feminist ideology, but it also fought with it constantly.