Since the upheaval at xoJane many months ago, the commenting numbers have remained lower than they were previously. It wasn’t unusual for most articles to have between 100-300 comments. Now most articles (expect for some particularly “click-baity” fair) appear to have fewer than 100 comments. It is unrealistic to think that this represents a significant financial hit to xoJane – their Alexa rankings still show an upward trend since 2013 – but it does seem to represent a real and significant change in the culture fostered on the site. Occasionally one will see a reference to The Flounce or to the freeforums board, demonstrating that this is an issue that has left its mark on the community.
TheFlounce.com was started as a reaction to a perceived flaw, not only in xoJane, but in women’s media in general: that flaw being that the people running the site seem to have become far removed from their audiences. The women who are running it are all volunteers, and have never been part of the publishing establishment. Here is the mission statement from the site:
“The Flounce believes, first and foremost, that women are people, and should be treated as such. We believe that whether the output is a personal narrative or a well-researched journalistic piece, a beauty review or a pop culture critique, one thing has to hold true–our content will be compelling, empowering and self-aware.”
Currently The Flounce is posting a handful of articles a day, most of which manage to garner a few comments. Not bad on the whole, considering it’s only existed for about a month. Although it has not been without conflict within its short lifespan – already there have been some emotional debates in the comments over a variety of issues – The Flounce appears to be going strong.
The exjaners freeforums site continues to be going strong as well. I feel like it would be an ethical violation for me to post anything too detailed about the site, as the freeforums requires a username and password for login privileges. To me, this is a clear request for privacy amongst the community. However, I do think that it would be OK for me to speak in generalizations. Initially, xoJane was a popular topic on the site, with it being immediately apparent that many of the users are still reading the site regularly, and taking the comments they would have posted on xoJane on to the forum instead. However, this aspect seems to be dying down as people find new sources to read, and generate some of their own discussion topics. Issues tend to be relatively personal; rather than broad philosophical or social issues, people talk about something that pissed them off that day, or something they thought was funny, or asking for advice about an issue they may not be able to talk about with their friends or family. Although people definitely vent, the venting or complaining seems to be equally balanced with more banal talk, and positive or happy events. Although there was initially a sharp drop off between the number of users who registered and the number of users who had logged on within the past 24 hours (a reasonable measure of general group activity), the numbers appear to have stabled out, and the small number of active users seem unlikely to go elsewhere.
On the whole, it seems that the more time goes on, the more these communities differentiate from one another and begin to separate. Exjaners sprung from the desire of many disgruntled commenters to have a space in which they felt safe, and in which they could, in effect, virtually “hang out” without an intermediary. Although The Flounce and exjaners were once closely affiliated, they are now completely separate entities with different management and different active participants, although there is still some degree of overlap between the two. As these sites are still so new, it seems almost impossible to predict what will become of these communities in the future. However, what is clear now is that the people involved have been incredibly vocal, passionate, and willing to take action and call out perceived injustices.