First, I want to go on the record and say that rape is bad — it’s icky, it’s mean, es no bueno. I think everyone can agree with that, besides maybe rapists, but they’re pretty mentally fucked up, so their opinions are irrelevant. Another fucked up group of people are those who would subject others to unwillingly watch rape, whether it be live, a recording, or via GIF. I’m not quite sure how in a one-second long GIF, you can identify whether sex is consensual or not, but, reportedly, Jezebel is no stranger to what it says are rape GIFs in its articles’ comments section.
The women over at Jezzy are being subjected to “violent pornography,” because some insane Internet troll is posting them, daily, from an “anonymous untraceable burner” which is nerd speak for “no IP address.” Essentially, Jezebel doesn’t know who the culprit is, and it can’t ban his ass or report him to authorities until it does.
It bites the big one, surely, to have to see that, but unfortunately, unwanted Internet harassment is one of the downfalls of really awesome Internet jobs. We’ve dealt with a slew of gay porn GIFs on our brother site, TFM, not to mention the influx of dick pics and shit pics we’re sent regularly. I’m not comparing those to rape, because none of that compares to rape, but I am saying that in the business, unfortunately you have to deal with moderating really upsetting content and comments for the good of the site. It’s not glamorous, but until the genius (and I’m not saying that sarcastically) tech guys figure out how to automatically flag nasty images and comments, these things need to be done manually–not, like, with your actual hands, of course, but by clicking the “delete” button.
After months of this, Jezebel handled the situation in the most Jezebel way possible. One of them wrote an article, attributed it to the entire staff, and told the world how awful Gawker Media (its employer) is. In the article, the writer cites specifics of company meetings. Gawker has stated “that there [are] no plans to enable the blocking of IP addresses, no plans to record IP addresses of burner accounts” because doing so would put tipsters who wish to remain anonymous at jeopardy. Though the specifics were not explained, Jezebel admits that “moderation tools are supposedly in development,” to deal with this “but change is not coming fast enough.” So, Jezebel decided to put its own company on blast to get what it wants and make its bosses look bad in the process.
Unsurprisingly, Jezebel made this a women’s rights issue.
If this were happening at another website, if another workplace was essentially requiring its female employees to manage a malevolent human pornbot, we’d report the hell out of it here and cite it as another example of employers failing to take the safety of its female employees seriously. But it’s happening to us. It’s been happening to us for months. And it feels hypocritical to continue to remain silent about it.
First of all, use of the word “essentially” always indicates, to me at least, that you’re essentially claiming something that isn’t entirely true. See? It’s not like you’re telling a straight up lie, but you are using words to call one thing something it’s not. Second of all, I am all for women’s rights. ALL for them. But this is not a women’s rights issue. This is a tech issue. This is an industry issue. This is a freedom of speech and freedom from harassment issue. This is NOT a women’s rights issue. The same issue could just as easily have been happening to men (read: gay porn GIFs on TFM’s site). Jezebel provided no evidence of Gawker handling similar situations differently when they happened to men, so its NEED, as a feminist publication, to expose the mean patriarchy here just doesn’t make sense.
I’m not saying Jezebel’s staff doesn’t have a right to be upset, and I’m not saying if Gawker understood the severity of the situation, it shouldn’t have handled things sooner. But I am saying that when you are told that people are working hard to come up with a solution to accommodate all parties involved, you don’t respond by publicly humiliating them, because it’s “not fast enough.” Gawker is a company that Jezebel itself states, “has always been a place that would really go to the mat for its writers,” and it sounds like the parent company is trying to come up with a way to do that now, without compromising the anonymity of Gawker Media readers and users.
There was a way to handle this situation, and I’m not claiming to know what it is, but I do know that this wasn’t it–and this is exactly the reason so many people hate Jezebel.