I’ve been away for a while – some serious things have been going down over on xoJane, to the point where I believe the course of my project may have been entirely changed.
The relationship between regular xoJane commenters and the editorial staff have been tense for a while. Comments have frequently ridiculed the number of typos left in articles, complained of a general decline in quality of content, and have expressed anger at articles perceived as “click baiting.” Click baiting refers to the practice of editors making the deliberate choice to publish articles that they know will make their audiences angry, causing them to click on the article to complain. Since advertising revenue is heavily based on the number of clicks a site generates, the practice of click baiting is seen as an under-handed attempt to garner profits at the expense of readers.
A massive argument broke out in the comments of this article that ran in January. (http://www.xojane.com/it-happened-to-me/it-happened-to-me-there-are-no-black-people-in-my-yoga-classes-and-im-uncomfortable-with-it) There are currently over 3,000 comments on the article – extremely high numbers for a site that typically has between 100-300 comments even on pieces written by popular authors. Accusations of racism and click baiting abounded. xoJane responded to the piece the next day with an article by the assigning editor (http://www.xojane.com/issues/i-assigned-that-yoga-class-piece-and-heres-why), but never apologized for running the piece. Comments became even more livid when it was revealed that the assigning editor referred to the angry commenters as “fuckers” on her Facebook page. People made frequent references to other sites they could attempt to jump to as a community, and also made reference to the fact that many of them had jumped ship from Jezebel when they perceived it had gone downhill. The crisis eventually quieted down, but it was clear that the readers had not forgotten xoJane’s decision to run that piece, and frequently referred to “yogagate” in comments on other articles.
All of this is necessary to understand the context for what happened next.
About two weeks ago, on a Sunday, xoJane ran a piece in their popular It Happened to Me series, which is designed to give amateur writers a chance to publish pieces about their unique life experiences. This particular entry contained a graphic description of the sexual abuse the author suffered at the hands of her step father, and revealed that she was still living with him as she had no money to move out of his and her mother’s house. The article ran under her nickname, contained a photo of her face, and had no indication of the graphic descriptions that were within the article.
The commenters on the piece acted quickly, setting up a fund for the author to help her move out of that house. As of now, it has raised $5,395. (https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/help-ceci-xojane-community) Commenters expressed outrage at xoJane’s decision to run a piece with the author’s face and name, as there was concern that her abuser would be able to discover she had written the piece. People became even more angry when it became clear that Jane Pratt, the head of xoJane, had not read the piece, or even known of its existence, before it was put up on the website. The author initially commented on the piece stating that she did not feel exploited by Jane and the staff and was glad to have a place to receive the support of the audience, but later became uncomfortable when people were able to discover her real identity on social media via the photo and name she had provided. The xoJane staff responded by moving the piece under an “anonymous” credit and taking the photo down, as well as linking to the fund in her name.
A few days later, the editors issued a brief statement, and ultimately took the piece down entirely. (http://www.xojane.com/issues/a-statement-from-jane-the-editors) However, that statement did not do much to repair the editors’ relationship with the commenters. People accused them of refusing to do anything to prevent editorial scandals, and for being unprofessional by not giving the author of the IHTM piece proper warning about the ease with which people would be able to discover who she was.
The commenters had finally hit their breaking point. A forum for “exjaners” was quickly created, and the link was distributed throughout various commenting threads on xoJane. The new forum now has thousands of members, and they are working on developing a permanent, brand-new women’s website for themselves, and others.
So, that’s what has been happening over the past few weeks! What do you guys think? Tweet me @ID_the_N!