I have an embarrassing confession to make: It happened to me. That is, I regularly read xoJane.com.
I’ve tried begrudgingly, in the past, to read many, many sites for women and I just can’t get into them. I’m a feminist. I support other women in their work and I want to be a person who champions my fellow females. But I can never find anything interesting to read on that group of sites. Either I’m not angry enough, or twee enough, or cool enough, or I’m not into the “right” things. I’ve never felt spoken to by any site that purports to be “for women.” Which is fine. Really. I sort of reject that divisive idea that blogs have to be for specific genders with everyone from that gender NEEDING to read those blogs otherwise they have to hand over their lady card.
When xoJane came on the scene, I’d given up “women’s blogs” for blogs about specific interests like science or Doctor Who. I was mainly like, “Oh great. Another site where every time I read it I wonder if I’m doing ‘being a woman’ wrong despite you know, being a woman all day err day.”
But no. Far from telling you what is right or wrong, xoJane is just like, “LOL WHATEVER. DO YOU.” It’s a delightful carousel of unapologetic crazy (and I mean that in the best way) and the minutia of everyday living is both picked apart and celebrated. I think the part that K-holes me the most is the comments section wherein people just freely share all the information from their daily lives and compliment each other and chat about political issues and whatever. Each comment is like an individual Lifetime movie. You just wanna get popcorn and chill out there.
Why am I shamefully kind of hooked on xoJane? It’s everything I should hate in a site for women, and often I’m second-hand embarrassed by it’s unflinching, navel-gazing content. (Disclosure: I’ve written one article for them and then I could never come up with anything that seemed dramatic or interesting enough again.)
The sensational headlines annoy me. A friend and I would jokingly come up with fake xoJane headlines like, “Top 5 Moisturizers for People Who’ve Been Molested” or “It Happened To Me: My Boyfriend Lied About Being A Ghost!” The content is really great, informative, eye-opening hits and really big lazy, self-involved misses. (Though no site can ever be perfect.) The whole place just seems like a sticky, no-holds-barred indulgence in womanhood in a way that I am both unfamiliar with and somewhat uncomfortable with.
And then I look both ways, hunch over my keyboard, type in “xoJane.com” and read EVERYTHING.
And look, I get it. A female editor at Thought Catalog reads xoJane. HA. Well, congratulations, superior being who is also reading blogs on the internet, but it’s not for the reason you’d smugly think. Most of the time, instead of relating, which I think is xoJane’s intention, I’m doing the opposite. I’m voraciously consuming the thoughts and lives of people who are so unlike me and I am fascinated by their gall, their brutal honesty and their sheer uncultivated sincerity and lack of self-awareness.
Women: we have it all together, and we definitely don’t. Just like most people. And XoJane doesn’t represent women or “portray” women because I am a woman and I would never write like that, but it has something unflinching, a peephole to the unpretty.
So what is my secret xoJane reading providing me that I’m clearly craving in my real life? Female drama, sure, but also female support and female honesty. I don’t really have a good group of female friends and reading xoJane is what I imagine it’d be like if I did and we all hung out and talked to each other without shame — abortions, IUDs, our mothers, make up, dating, career woes, sexual assault — and without a veneer of intellectualism or self-righteousness.
The writers there admit to racism. They admit to bad parenting. They admit to selfishness. They admit to being vain and mentally ill and to worrying about nothing and to kinky sex lives and to BEING PEOPLE. And why not? Writing was never about being a good person. If it was, all of classic literature would cease to exist.
I have a bunch of bizarre mixed feelings about this confession though. If you asked me if xoJane was a “good” blog, I might say “no.” But I read it almost every day in a way I never have with other women’s sites. It’s like a powerful car crash that, through it’s refusal to censor, or even, let’s face it, to think sometimes, exists as the most real portrayal of — maybe not even women — but people.