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female readership

Maybe we have a branding problem


Jezebel, one of the mostly widely read feminist blogs, is sassy, irreverent, fun and has had its own share of is it feminist enough controversies. Jessica Coen, the editor-in-chief of the site that has led the online estrogen revolution, talks to TOI-Crest about why the F word is unpalatable to several young women.

Why do you think the stereotype of the angry feminist still endures?

It is because the radical feminism of '70s, the Andrea Dworkin (a radical American feminist best known for her tirade against pornography) kind, really forced itself into the conversation. It was also very jarring, with the kind of images and language that they used - they were totally foreign. It is a very enduring image.

But even more importantly, the real issue is that this image is sexist. All these women are/were demanding change, things need to be fixed and that we must be angry. But we are not shrieking harridans. How do you prove that you are not angry? By not being angry. Sure, we have anger but we don't exist in this bubble. We are actually pretty happy people. Laughing is a core human instinct and if you can make people laugh, then it is the best way to communicate. Let's take, for instance, a grave topic like abortion, Caitlin Moran says something funny about abortion rights and suppose I had a personal experience with it (abortion) and if both of us can laugh together at the same thing, it creates a special moment.

Whether you call yourself a feminist or not, much of the ideology (of feminism) is ingrained in us. But the word itself has become undesirable with younger women. With women today, who are in their early 20s, everything that comes out of their mouth is feminist but they don't want to be called that. Maybe we have a branding problem. We have to decide if this is a branding game. Who knows, 20 years from now we will be using some other word. We spend so much time talking about what exactly is feminism that it kind of defeats the purpose. We spend more time debating this than the real issues.

Do we need a movement like feminism to be snarky, edgy to remain relevant with this or the next generation? Does it make it more accessible?

Often, laughing along with a joke changes a mind without the person even realising it. A joke is easier to grasp, especially at an emotional level.

Are there some aspects of feminism/gender rights that can never be joked about?

We actually had a post last year on how to make a rape joke and whether it can ever be funny, explaining why people say rape jokes are not funny. My opinion is you can make a rape joke but it cannot be about the victim and the violence. You can joke about the unfathomable inhumanity of it all. You can joke about the culture that perpetuates it and make fun of the rapist. You can make them (the jokes) but the problem is that the people who are usually making these are not talented comedians.

Most feminists do not believe that men should be part of the movement. What is your opinion? Do you get a lot of male feedback?

Although we have a predominantly female readership, a surprising amount of men visit the site daily. Guys are definitely reading it and sharing it over social media. It is a cause for women but we can't do that without men. In the power structure, men are in power, so, if we are trying to affect change, it will have to be from the top down. They have to start taking steps. So many men in my generation (mid-30 s) are very much engaged on this issue on larger platforms and various conversations.

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