In Which We Are Accused Of Being “Cosmo For Queers”

by the editors

“In Autostraddle, I expect a performance of complexity from a publication covering issues that are not saccharine. I do not know how to accept my values reflected in a voice I do not recognize as my own. I don’t expect the voice of the subaltern to sound like a cheerleader. You no longer have to be straight to be square.”

-Diana Clarke, Cosmo for Queers, Or How To Sell A Woman To Herself

We spend a lot of time around here thinking about what we’re doing wrong and how we can better represent and engage the rapidly expanding Autostraddle community. We don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how to make our site more appealing to the “mainstream” or how to perform a style of tentative, giggly womanhood popularly considered a patriarchal convention. So yesterday, we were surprised to find ourselves accused of doing precisely that in a full-length article written on an intelligent non-profit literary-minded website we respect, The Baffler.

The article, by writer Diana Clarke, who (as far as we can tell) has never publicly identified herself as a member of the queer culture she accuses us of degrading, argues that Autostraddle is effectively “mainstreaming” queerness because we have a colorful site design, publish a mix of serious content and fluffy content, sell merchandise and sometimes employ a chatty and conversational tone. The article is misrepresentative, chock-full of unsubstantiated points, void of constructive solutions and also confusing, frustrating and hurtful. The things Clarke chooses to praise and to criticize about our site suggest a selective understanding of our content and business practices overall, and the majority of what she links to was published within the last two weeks.

Normally we’d ignore this and move on with our lives, but we feel it’s important to talk about because this is about more than Autostraddle and because maintaining and building a readership for our important, complicated and chronically under-trafficked work is incredibly important to us right now. Using the platform of a magazine founded by men in academia who likely hadn’t heard of Autostraddle before now, like The Baffler, to criticize independent women’s media doesn’t indicate a good-faith interest in pushing women’s media to better itself and more suggests a recognition of the fact that feminine internet infighting is good for pageviews. More troublingly, Clarke’s piece fits into a larger and older feminist tradition: that of policing the groups of marginalized women within mainstream feminism and imposing standards of required behavior and rhetoric in order to be considered valid and appropriately feminist.

The Queer Cosmo

Clarke’s essay opens with a few factual misrepresentations, such as describing Autostraddle co-founder Alexandra Vega as a “writer” despite the fact that, as Alex reminds us every time we ask her to write something, she is not a writer, she’s a designer who “went to Fashion School.” Clarke then immediately describes us as “the queer online equivalent of Cosmopolitan.” In fact, The Baffler tweeted the following promotion of this article:

Obviously, it’s difficult to “imitate” a magazine none of us have even read since the ’90s and it’s also insulting to suggest that five years of extremely hard work by many legitimately talented writers was merely our silly little attempt to sound like Cosmo. I mean, at least accuse us of trying to imitate Sassy, whose tone undoubtedly influenced our own, or call us Lezebel, as others have done. It can’t be Cosmo‘s sudden interest in feminism that we have in common because we’ve identified that way since launch, and it’d be ignorant to suggest that whatever “marketability” feminism has in the context of straight magazines would be true about queer magazines. One thing we do have in common with Cosmo is that we also publish sex tips, but somehow Cosmo‘s able to do that and still snag millions in ad revenue whereas a fundamental discomfort and pornographic association with lesbian sexuality means that our commitment to providing accurate sex info to an underserved population is why those same companies refuse to advertise with us.

But no, the reason Clarke calls us “Cosmo for Queers” is because apparently we don’t talk like Women, we talk like Girls (like cheerleaders, even!!!):

Like many community-oriented websites, it hosts an open comment thread on Fridays. The pre-jump text on last week’s post reads, “It’s Friday which means it’s time for the Friday Open Thread! The article that is just like your journal but also someone else’s journal and also it talks back to you!” There’s something consistently trivializing about the breathy, hyperbolic tone of Autostraddle’s language.

Absolutely, our tone is trivializing sometimes, but it’s not a conscious choice we made in order to better “sell” our queerness to this elusive “mainstream” — it’s just how we actually talk. Yup, the two most senior editors for this publication are in their early thirties, and that’s how we talk. We can’t change, even if we tried, even if we wanted to.

Furthermore, our “breathy, hyperbolic tone,” often employed ironically, helps us transcend the often self-defeating reality of our daily existence, which is punctuated by articles like this one and other emotional assaults with physical ramifications. Sometimes, we do wrap hard news in shiny packages, like listsrecaps or slangy headlines, but that’s not an effort to make our “queer voice palatable to the mainstream.” That’s an effort to make progressive politics digestible for a diverse audience of queer readers from varying backgrounds, because a well-informed community is a politically stronger one, and we aren’t learning this shit or hearing these stories in school. The overwhelming majority of our content isn’t written in this tone — but on a Friday Open Thread? Come on! It’s a Friday Open Thread. Of course it’s gonna be chatty! We’d also be interested in hearing how our tone is more “basic” than other sites that Diana Clarke writes for, like xoJane.

She goes on:

It’s confusing to read vapid fluff pieces like “I’m Sorry But You Still Can’t Have These Marshmallows” alongside (often smart, serious, articulate) deconstructions of gender identity and social expectation like “Notes from a Queer Engineer: Can Inanimate Objects Be Sexist?,” “Five Things You Should Know About Your Agender Acquaintance,” and a new column on sexuality, religion, and wellness.

Like every popular magazine, we do publish vapid fluff pieces to garner traffic, because we wanna make more than $20 a day on Google AdSense, they’re fun to read and write and ’cause those posts attract casual readers who then, oh-so-conveniently, will consequently notice the (often smart, serious, articulate) article next to it. However, Laneia’s ingenious and experimental meditation on kitten marshmallows isn’t one of those pieces — that’s just us being weirdos, like we’ve been doing on our own personal blogs for eight years. If we’re really going to talk about “vapid fluff,” here are some better examples — although we’d also argue, perhaps unpopularly, that our celebrity stuff has always been an attempt to reinvent and reclaim a style of magazine writing invented by straight men to objectify conventionally attractive straight women for all the wrong reasons. The truth is that many older queer and trans women end up with “adolescent” attachments to various female celebrities and TV show fandoms because we were denied those experiences during our actual adolescence.

Her point about the trivializing nature of the term “girl-on-girl culture” is valid, and it’s something we go back and forth on a lot. We’re also talking near-daily about how to better appeal to our older readers (and older senior editors) and how our language impacts our success in that arena. Her acknowledgment that we’re building a valuable community was also very affirming. But our agreement with her ideas pretty much ends there. The diversity of content on “gender variance” she praises us for isn’t even something we feel we can honestly take credit for because it wasn’t a top-down initiative; it was a response to feedback and submissions from you, our community, and our newer writers.

A Dangerous Double Standard

What’s especially troubling about Clarke’s argument is that she’s defended feminist websites against the same criticism she’s now directing towards us, and uses the 2011 n+1 piece “So Many Feelings,” the very essay she railed against in a 2012 Dissent Magazine essay, in order to delegitimize us:

To be clear, what troubles me is not exactly the language itself—there is plenty of hyperbolic writing on the Internet—but rather what the language stands for, the stereotype in which the language situates itself. Superficially, my argument has a great deal in common with that of Molly Fischer’s 2011 essay, “So Many Feelings.” Fischer criticized the straight “ladyblogs” for baking “pies with low-hanging fruit: they are helpful, agreeable, relatable, and above all likable,” that is, for visibly performing the traditional emotional work of womanhood.

In Dissent, Clarke discredits Fischer’s criticism of xoJane, Jezebel, The Hairpin and Rookie, arguing that “ladyblogs provide an outlet for mixing high and low” which “gives them the potential to make readers who don’t consider feminism integral to their identity friendlier to feminist ideas.” Why is it okay to make straight feminism “friendlier” but not queer issues or queer feminism? Why does Clarke think xoJane’s vacillation between frivolous prose and “serious issues” is strategic and smart, but ours is simply a reflection of our misguided immature desire to conform profitably? How can she deny us agency and call herself a feminist at the same time?

When we read “So Many Feelings” back in 2011, our first thought was, “Oh wow, we are also guilty of all these things, especially our tendency to avoid conflict, we need to pay more attention to this problem.” We also found Clarke’s rebuttal fair and fierce, especially paragraphs like this:

“Jezebel and xoJane are written in a inflammatory, gossipy tone, but if covering celebrity and fashion brings readers to the sites and provides a more inviting forum for discussion of women’s issues than Feministe or Feministing, I can’t object. By placing s.e. smith’s critical pieces on unionizing and the profitability of fat shaming alongside Cat Marnell’s glamorously grody and frantically superficial beauty posts, by covering both celebrity gossip and changing housing patterns among low-income couples, these websites acknowledge the varied reality of modern women’s lives.”

We also agreed wholeheartedly with her take on “the false and harmful division between old and young, lady and woman, frivolity and seriousness” which “classifies certain concerns as irrelevant simply because they are articulated by or for women, and in a roundabout way reasserts a patriarchal censor on the media, with no room for emotion or variety.” We didn’t realize that she was only talking about straight women.

She’s also among many who have argued that the language characterized as “breathy” or “hyperbolic” and most tellingly “trivial” are those speech mannerisms and verbal tics which are most often associated with women and femininity. Why are we still stuck on the preoccupation with policing gendered speech or labeling it superficial? It’s not clear from Clarke’s critique where this sweet spot of “women’s” linguistic performance lies, and in what meaningful ways it’s different from “girl’s,” or “men’s.” Exactly what kind of gendered speech is necessary to be taken seriously?

Big Business

Clarke then makes some grossly unsubstantiated claims about our business model, quoting very smart people we like, such as Sarah Schulman:

In her very smart 2012 book The Gentrification of the Mind, novelist and lesbian activist Sarah Schulman argues that gays and lesbians—and queer culture as a whole—only became acceptable to the American public when the facts of their oppression and difference were erased or silenced. Schulman points specifically to the queer radicals who died during the AIDS crisis, many of whom were poor, or people of color, or both. She argues that the lack of their presence and their stories in contemporary discourse allows for the (straight) public to be “suddenly convinced that gays and lesbians are white, bourgeoisie, [and] privileged,” and therefore socially acceptable and untroubling.

This passage, I believe, attempts to position Autostraddle as making itself palatable to the “American public” by silencing/erasing “the facts of their oppression and difference.” In fact, we write so much about our oppression and difference that we often require that vapid fluff just to keep our own faltering sanity intact. After reading about systemic economic injustice leveled at queer people, the overwhelming challenges facing LGBT workers of color, the ways in which neocolonialist rhetoric is leveraged in international LGBT news coverage, the reach of the prison industrial complex and the misplaced values of the mainstream LGBT equality movement, is it that unreasonable to want to make a list of five movies with cats in them?

Clarke insists that “by cultivating an unchallenging linguistic similarity to Cosmo, that bastion of white, bourgeoisie privilege, Autostraddle makes its queer voice palatable to the mainstream.” But she provides no evidence that we are actually palatable to the mainstream, quickly moving on to this ridiculous point:

Moreover, a constant among the bourgeoisie and the privileged in America is that they like to buy stuff, and Autostraddle doesn’t disappoint in that department. The Autostraddle store features by-ladies-for-ladies pinup calendars, flasks with “You Do You” etched inside a triangle, and “Straddle This” logo boxer briefs. All cute, appealing merchandise—what easier way is there to adopt and advertise an identity than by buying into it? Like Cosmo, the site makes accessible what once was radical, both by providing personal-branding items to queers who are looking for an easy way to self-identify, and by situating queer culture in the marketplace.

Of course, what she fails to acknowledge is that we don’t sell merchandise in order to to “situate queer culture in the marketplace” or commodify radicalism, but rather, we do so in order to make money to stay in business. (Also, Clarke recently tweeted about her desire to buy a t-shirt from the undeniably excellent website The Toast — why is it okay for them but not us?) Nor can Autostraddle be easily defined as having a universal political philosophy — as we’ve grown, we’ve been able to publish a wide variety of voices, some of whom are radical, some of whom are absolutely not. Despite our socialist hearts beating still, we also have never described our website as universally “radical” because we’re fully aware that our participation in a capitalist marketplace as a for-profit publication categorically excludes us from that label.

We built this ship ourselves, almost entirely supported by the community we serve (that’s YOU!), and we are VERY proud of that. We’ll soon be launching a membership program that we hope will improve our financial fortunes, because this is both a transformational and an obscenely stressful time for us, attempting to pay five full-time staff members, four part-time staff members and 20 or so contributing editors every month with about $20k. (About one-tenth of what other sites this size have to work with — maintaining this large complicated beast and its five revenue streams takes a LOT of labor.) Do the math: Nobody is walking home with what they deserve, and we’re still plainly unable to pay all of our writers and columnists. We’ve made some really fantastic ad sales, but not nearly enough. Consistently attracting advertisers has always been a struggle for us — but if it wasn’t, you can bet that we’d have even more of that intelligent, challenging work that Diana likes so much!

Her argument is actually an inversion of what our real editorial and financial realities have been — not only have we never turned away transgressive or politically radical writing in favor of publishing something more SEO-friendly or “mainstream” instead, we’ve done the exact opposite. Whenever we’ve gained some small amount of economic ground from publishing “vapid fluff,” we’ve turned around and used it to pay for writing, putting money in the pockets of writers and boosting their voices. When we’re paid to produce sponsored content for advertisers, we offer those assignments to our underpaid staff at four times the rate we pay them for regular content. Following our redesign fundraising campaign, we were kids-in-a-candy-shop excited to be able to pay dozens of queer trans women writers during our Trans*Scribe themed month. After receiving a financial gift last December, we funneled it immediately into paying our team of queer writers and publishing memorable work from writers like Roxane Gay, Kim Crosby and Arabelle Sicardi. We celebrated meeting a very early traffic goal, in 2011, by dedicating an entire month to talking about our favorite poets.

The goal is, and has always been, to make enough money to be able to feature writing like this, not to bury it under the carpet so that we’re able to buy four-dollar lattes (with kitten marshmallows in them), as Clarke seems to think. This isn’t a new model, either; the model of publishing some less intellectual but relatively profitable work to enable more progressive, less commercial work is older than dirt. It would be very surprising if Clarke weren’t aware of the concept. So why, then, is she so committed to not recognizing it at work here?

Clarke’s invocation of Schulman, especially alongside her apparent repulsion at the idea of our attempt to earn money to live on by selling goods in exchange for currency, seems to suggest a troubling conclusion that she stops short of articulating in the actual essay. It’s confusing that Clarke defends other sites for the same things she criticizes in Autostraddle — until you consider our queerness. Clarke seems to have interpreted Schulman’s critique of bourgeois values as meaning that having profitability or even financial stability as a goal is inherently antithetical to a radical queer political identification. It’s true that radical politics aren’t usually a profitable institution, and it’s possible to hijack radical rhetoric for the sake of a bottom line. But the fact that Clarke’s critique isn’t aimed at feminist websites in general but instead a queer feminist website suggests this isn’t her thinking. Instead, the idea seems to be that the only way for a community’s radical politics to be taken seriously is if they present themselves as abjectly poverty-stricken and marginalized, and make no attempt to change that — because attempting to make a living in order to continue furthering those same political values cheapens them, somehow. The subtext is that queer voices are only valid when they’re articulating their pain and oppression, but never their small pleasures or pop culture interests; that the best and most valuable part of ourselves is our marginalization, and that our marginalization should be accessible to everyone for free.

This last point is the most outrageous; marginalized people creating media is labor, and deserves compensation. The voices we most need to hear from are the ones who are least able to write without pay, and there are a lot of voices we don’t hear enough from on Autostraddle. Clarke’s point is a terrible catch-22; working hard for little to no money as a marginalized person is commendable, but only as long as it’s totally economically draining; but if at any point you work hard enough or become good enough at it that you can support yourself, your politics are in bad faith. When these are the rules of the game, it shouldn’t be surprising if we don’t want to play. And if this is frustrating for us at Autostraddle, who are relatively privileged within LGBT media in a variety of ways because a majority of our team is white and cisgender, what does this dictate mean for queer media created for other intersecting identities?

Besides setting up ideals of political realization that actively discourage queers from being financially stable, this critique seems to ignore that LGBT people aren’t just a socially marginalized class; we’re economically worse off in many respects than straight people. Clarke’s laser-like focus on the idea that Autostraddle might try to make some money from its queer readers doesn’t take into account that the money in question would also be going to queer editors, who would then use it to pay queer writers. This isn’t a money-grab with a “radical” label slapped on; this is a community choosing to sustain itself financially, keeping its money within itself. If Clarke can’t recognize the radical potential of that, it might be more likely that it’s because she’s writing as an outsider without firsthand knowledge of these kind of concerns than it is that there’s a bourgeois plot afoot.

Perhaps It Would Make More Sense to Just Talk About Cosmo, Though

The biggest tipoff that the bourgeois plot isn’t real is mostly how hard we’re still struggling every day when it comes to money and solvency and even, still, with maintaining those impressive traffic numbers. If every single queer woman in America read Autostraddle, we’d still have fewer unique visitors than Jezebel. That’s just math. If we were, in fact, the queer Cosmo, if we had, in fact, succeeded in “mainstreaming” queerness in a palatable and commodified way, then perhaps we’d have the advertisers, offices, marketing staff, older experienced reporters, institutional support and resources that make us oh-so-very-different from publications like Cosmo. None of us went into this with business savvy or strategy. In fact, that makes us different not only from Cosmo and pretty  much every mainstream women’s magazine with similar traffic levels — even the indies — it makes us different from a lot of LGBT publications too. Whether it’s AfterEllen & The Backlot, Out, SheWired, Buzzfeed LGBT or HuffPo Gay Voices, these are publications that produce great work and put money in the pockets of talented queer writers, but also are owned by large companies that make money. We’re not. (AfterEllen and AfterElton did start out as indies, but were purchased by Logo in 2006.) We’re concerned with telling interesting and complicated stories and we’re also interested in being entertaining and fun. We’re also interested in making enough money to be able to tell those interesting and complicated stories.

If we want to discuss the “mainstreaming” of queer culture, however, let’s talk about how Buzzfeed, The Huffington Post and now Cosmopolitan started LGBT verticals only when it became safe and popular, after a civil rights movement and media push that had been tirelessly executed by tiny, underfunded queer publications for decades. Those sites have managed to eradicate our Google News presence, and we obviously have it better than pretty much every other independently-owned lesbian website, so those less popular than us have likely been hit twice as hard. They do produce a lot of fantastic, inclusive and even groundbreaking work, it’s true, but they also don’t do the community work we do (we have an actual CAMP, y’all) and do probably profit enormously on the clickable stories they publish. Undoubtedly, Buzzfeed’s likely gotten major traction on stories similar to stories other queer publications did years earlier, to much less acclaim. All at once, the whole country realized that queer people have money, and spend it, and they used that knowledge to their advantage, not ours. Although one straight editor of queer content from a mainstream website did offer Riese a cup of coffee in exchange for telling this editor what LGBTQ people like to read about. (She declined the offer.)

Ultimately, what seems most troubling about Clarke’s piece isn’t even just what it argues (which isn’t always clear), but where it’s being argued from. For all her claims about the “mainstreaming” of queerness, Clarke doesn’t seem to write for any publications that address historically unprofitable niche queer audiences like ours. The move to try to tear down an independent queer publication rings some serious alarm bells when it’s coming from the part of the playground that has the prestige, the support and the editorial resources. In the ether of the Internet, it can be hard to see the differences in publications’ experiences and backstories. It can seem as though, if a website exists, they’ve “made it” just as much as anyone else. But the truth is that some have had to work much harder than others to even get a seat at the table. So if you’ve had your name on a card marking your place there since the start, the choice to use your platform and power to knock down those who are trying to succeed with much less isn’t a brave or insightful move, but a juvenile one.

There is plenty we do wrong around here, undoubtedly, and Clarke actually missed a few opportunities to further her own point that we’ll politely keep to ourselves. In the end, Clarke makes a very strong argument for why she personally isn’t a huge fan of our website, but fails to provide an example of the real-world ramifications of her characterization, or why her personal aversion to our language is even relevant. Her piece doesn’t end up being as much about what Autostraddle might mean for queer feminism, but about what confusions mainstream feminism and women’s media still have when it comes to queer feminist culture. Baffling indeed.

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  1. Fortunately, the key to autostraddle is in the phrase at its very DNA: You Do You. It’s a collective of people who share a certain hard-to-pin-down ethic, and giving them a platform to say what they think they need to say.

    Personally, I like many of them! Well, I like all of them, I should say. I like to read many of them! As long as Autostraddle stays true to the vision of the team, and provides an inclusive, empowering platform to real queer women, it’ll rise above the tsk-tsking of voices from outside our culture like this one.

    Keep it independent, and Make Mine Autostraddle!

  2. Killer takedown! I didn’t have any idea AS got dissed but this is a powerful rebuttal that is extremely well-argued and really inspiring. Y’all have built an amazing thing which is, like anything, not above critique, but Clarke is completely off base. Way to thoroughly eviscerate that BS.

  3. This honestly disgusts me. I can’t believe she can think she can sit in judgment on a community that she makes no claims to be a part of. Honestly, your merchandise makes me happy, because I know that it IS explicitly queer, not just something that might, just, maybe be able to be interpreted that way. She may not like Autostraddle, but her ‘takedown’ is ludicrous and says nothing about the amazing writers and articles that have been featured here. Is it not radical enough for her to look at fucking marshmallows? Sometimes I get sick and tired of the doom and gloom of the serious stuff that comes with gay issues so often and I want to think about marshmallows. Uggh.

    • “Honestly, your merchandise makes me happy, because I know that it IS explicitly queer, not just something that might, just, maybe be able to be interpreted that way.” This.
      My Fiancee and I were shopping for internship outfits at Value Village before she flew out for her interviews. She happened to have won the coin toss, and was wearing her Autostraddle shirt. She is 28 years old, and soon to be a Clinical Psychologist. We separated to look for things, and a few moments later, she came running back to me. She’d been approached by a teenage girl who recognized the shirt and asked her about it. When she replied that the T-shirt was from Autostraddle, the teen said “Badass!” and walked off. That interaction made my partner’s day! (She doesn’t get described as “Badass” often.)

  4. fried cheezus.
    that is a weird axe to grind. like, not everything is for everyone, so if you don’t like AS, it’s not because it’s fucking cosmo.

    nobody here is perfect but it is clear that this is a goddamn labor of love and folks here are in an ongoing process of trying to do better for community’s sake and not for their bankroll. cosmo never sent you any damn cookies for subscribing. step off, jerk.

    • Right! It seems to me like she visited AS a few times just for the purpose of writing this article, rather than spend time here, observing our community. Because I think that’s what a lot of us queers LOVE about this site, and something she entirely overlooks in her piece. There isn’t a better community online, period, especially one for queers.

  5. Does “Écriture féminine” mean nothing to Clarke? Ok, yea there are some serious debates about Écriture féminine in general…but what is so wrong with writing how you speak? Especially if you feel that your writing and your speech appropriately reflect your mission and your lady-queerness.

    You’re right, her article is very policing. AutoStraddle, you’re great! Keep it up! This is legitimately the only site I trust to be even-keeled, thoughtful, respectful, and GROWN UP.

    • As opposed to women or men who are not queer. And more importantly, not just from one single subculture. In particular, there’s genderqueer people here, trans women, moms, college kids, women of color, women in countries that are not in North America, activists, homebodies, geeks, partiers, makers, and all sorts of other voices you just don’t hear in the Cosmo-style monocultures. Autostraddle is a pluralism, of people living out in the real world and not in an ivory tower or a particular coffee shop in Los Angeles.

  6. I’m a college professor at the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha, and I regularly use Autostraddle posts in both my Women in Popular Culture and Intro to LGBTQ Studies courses because they are both accessible and super-smart. My students have really enjoyed these readings, and the readings been the basis for thoughtful class discussions. So, in my professional queer opinion, I’m calling bullsh*t on this person’s entire argument.

  7. You know, I could go on to write a long, reassuring comment reminding you that what this website does is important and how I wish it was around when I was 16.
    But I’ll just take a page out of your book and say, “you do you”, Autostraddle. I’m also reminded of a line from Ani’s “willing to fight”….
    “We’ll see what you’re made of by what you make of me.”
    Keep on doing what you do.

    • I’m coming from the same place as all y’all Straddlers who commented before me, except I’m 17. I can back up Leanne’s position that this website would be (is) super helpful to any queer teens who are trying to figure out who we are and how we fit into this great big world, and how much queerness and feminism and even marshmallows are a I want to celebrate the excellence that is Autostraddle and the excellence that is this article. Never stop doing you, guys.

      • Going to chip in and say me too! So much of my identity has been formed by Autostraddle- I’ve been reading religiously since I was 15- and I feel like a better person for it. This website feels like home because of your ‘breathy tone’, and your willingness to evolve because of community requests is impressive. You guys are amazing and it physically pained me to read that article- Autostraddle will always be the place for ‘girl-on-girl’ culture. Screw her.

    • I’m coming from the same place as all y’all Straddlers who commented before me, except I’m 17. I can back up Leanne’s position that this website would be (is) super helpful to any queer teens who are trying to figure out who we are and how we fit into this great big world, and how much queerness and feminism and even marshmallows are a part of our lives. I want to celebrate the excellence that is Autostraddle and the excellence that is this article. Never stop doing you, guys.

  8. The only problems I have with Autostraddle are when you try to do serious articles. The style of writing on this site (more or less stream of consciousness) is not conducive to serious topics. It honestly just makes the writer sound like the person at the party ranting to no one with “facts” that may or may not be true.

    • I respectfully disagree. There are many ways to approach serious topics, and the less formal approaches are still valid. And in fact, they are often more accessible to people who have a hard time reading formal, academic language.

      One thing I respect about Autostraddle is the editorial commitment to not interfering with or changing the author’s voice. I had the opportunity to do some volunteer copyediting with Autostraddle a while back and I have respect for this approach. Yes, it results in more variation and more instances of not-so-standard-English writing. But that’s okay, because this isn’t Newsweek or even Ms. Magazine. It’s less formal and should be approached in that context.

      Many publications—print and online—feature fluff pieces alongside serious pieces, so this isn’t unique to Autostraddle. Do you take the New Yorker less seriously because of the cartoons scattered throughout?

      • It’s not that serious/fluff are printed next to each other it’s the style of writing of serious things. As if someone is talking (which is a very very popular style especially online), it will usually have some jokes, and rarely objective. All writer’s have biases but because Autostraddle caters to a fairly niche market writers really like their opinions go. Which is fine. And I get some like that but it often just feels like an echo chamber.

    • At the risk of sounding defensive (though perhaps in the context of this article, I think I’ll just give myself a free pass on this) and with the caveat that I don’t speak authoritatively for anyone other than myself, we don’t have a single “style of writing” when we “try to do” serious articles; we’re many different people writing about many different things in many different ways – things that we genuinely care about and that we think that you guys would too. Especially as someone who writes almost exclusively on non-US topics for a 70% US audience, I’m always super conscious of 1. writing in a way that’s accessible (because this is the internet, not the academy, and there’s no reason that only one realm should be considered conducive to serious topics) and 2. backing that shit up with a tonne of research (y’know the anxieties around “I read it on the internet and therefore it’s true”? Imagine that anxiety x100 knowing that people are reading what you write). I’d give more of our serious articles a go, if I were you, starting with the plenty that the editors have linked in the post.

      • When there’s a serious topic I like for it to be approached in a serious manner. Minimal jokes and more structure than articles here usually have. That’s just me though. I get that other people might like that style but I hate it.

    • Also speaking from the perspective of the 30%(-x%) audience who are non-US as well non-native English speakers, I actually prefer fluffy, bubbly, easily accessible language over pretentious fulfillment of some (white + male) academia criteria. I could (and do) read academic publications in English, but it takes up much more time and effort to get into that kind of writing when it’s not your day-to-day language, so.

        • Not to speak for red, but I think what was meant there was not that being articulate is a pretension but that the standards of what “articulate” means are set by people of power and privilege. They’re a non-native English speaker and (making the assumption that that is not the case for you) theie perspective on language is different from yours and, this being a forum for conversation, they have every right to share it.

        • “Standards of what “articulate” means are set by people of power and privilege” – Yes, that is exactly what I meant.

          Also being thoughtful and analytical is not mutually exclusive with using a language that is bubbly and fluffy?! Gatekeepers of academia, however, use language standards (among other things) as a tool to delegitimize opinions of minority people. Voices are still being silenced for their association with a class, race, gander, age, etc. that is not considered “the norm” – which transcends and reflects in language.

          People can write however they want, it does not make them fake. However, specifically asking for academic language is also asking for a display of privilege + higher barriers (=exclusion) for people who are not from academic background and/or non-native speakers. And this is something to be aware of.

  9. Keep up the good work, team! This takedown of Clarke’s piece is a beautiful thing, and a reminder of the oppressive dynamics we face in making our voices heard (and surviving while doing so). I am so in love with all the serious, important work that goes on around here, and with the fluff–taking care of our mental health with fun and humor is important, too!

  10. I just have to say that some if the smartest and most challenging reading is stuff I have read in autostraddle. The end.

    Oh wait, and also I have never, in any other Internet forum, encountered so many people willing to be called out on their bullshit and make positive changes. Autostraddle writers consistently introduce me to new ways of thinking about disability, race, age, and a multitude of other issues it would be so easy to ignore as a white, young, able-bodied person. Autostraddle keeps me accountable to my community, and for that I am very grateful.

    • YES! And from the top down all the writers and editors seem to be genuinely interested in being accountable to US, and in apologizing and repairing any mistakes, and in constant improvement. Like I just know that if any of Clarke’s criticism HAD been substantial, they would have responded in kind.

  11. When I come here, I’m never expecting to perfectly agree with everything that is said everywhere, but truth is I very often do agree.

    The platform of Autostraddle is a wonderful way to come in contact with different ideas. There is no clear convention for the values transmitted, no clear guidelines for the content, other than global respect.

    Because the articles are written by so many different people, Autostraddle’s content has taught me, for example, how to be less transphobic, and how to treat disabled people more appropriately. I don’t think it’s something I could find on The Baffler. Much less Cosmo.

    I’m also sorry for the way us young people speak informally?

    • I’m with you on this. Also though, I struggle to think of a platform on the internet with which I do totally agree.

      What I value most about Autostraddle is the feeling of comfort and acceptance. As someone who grew up in a culture of binaries it’s refreshing to have meaningful content outside of those systems. Although there are many voices weaving the fabric of the “straddleverse” there’s also a common discourse… and who better to offer the language of this discourse than members of our own community? Furthermore, thank goodness this discourse exists at all.

      Yes, language is important, so important in fact that to discredit the casual atmosphere of conversation is to dismiss a huge population of our main social platform — the internet. In other words, NEWS FLASH the internet is casual, open, and generally accessible, that’s why we’re all here.

      Clarke talks of infantalization then in the same article uses generic homogenized imagery of “gay culture”. So… like, what’s the angle here? Cuuzzzzz a few fifty cent words and a rainbow umbrella does not a manifesto make… Or least not an acceptable one according to her, AMIRIGHT?

      • Clarification: I realize Clarke’s imagery is meant to be ironic, but think that’s a difficult pill to swallow.

        Also, this ended up being a critique of Clarke’s article and not so much a response to Michelle. Sorry if I imposed on your space dude.

  12. This takedown is WONDERFUL. I saw the clip thing on Tumblr and read her piece first, wrote my own tiny takedown, and then read this. You guys hit everything right on the head. One of my favorite points didn’t receive as much emphasis as I’d like though: yes, sometimes AS gets a little Cosmo-y. But are queer women not entitled to bougie superficial media that caters to us as an audience? When we read actual Cosmo, it can be isolating and alienating. That doesn’t mean we’re not interested in our appearances/having better sex/traveling/trends/TV/whatever. It means we’re not interested in our unique perspective & concerns being ignored.

    Queer doesn’t have to mean heavy and radical all the time. We are just as entitled to lightness and frivolity as straight people are.

  13. This really hit me in the feels. I mean, who doesn’t like kitten marshmallows?

    No, really, though–wtf??? I hate how the media works. It’s so unfair! And I know I sound like I’m five! But seriously, wtf!

    It’s Autostraddle’s combination of fluffy and serious that made being gay accessible to *me*, an actual gay person. I don’t know if it’s accessible to the mainstream, but I don’t really give a fuck if it is. It’s educational, but the tone always seems to encourage self-acceptance and acceptance of others. Not tolerance–acceptance. AS encourages community, and building connections, and being true to who you are, and reclaiming all those things you thought you couldn’t have or participate in because of your queerness. It encourages self-care, including liberal doses of humor as needed, because the world sucks and is hard to live in sometimes. AS is not perfect, sure, and neither am I. But that’s kinda the point–we’re still learning and growing, and we’re doing it together as a community.

  14. Autostraddle, this is an excellent, honest rebuttal that made me furious on your behalf. I’ve been reading Autostraddle for a couple years and have to say I am really emotionally invested – it fulfils a role that nothing else does. And this rebuttal was so real – I had to turn to my girlfriend and go “oh snap!” and “buuuurn!” quite a few times. I read most of what you put out, will share this on my Facebook and am going to start buying your stuff.

    The fact that you can keep a website like this open on so little money is incredibly impressive. You have to know what an excellent resource Autostraddle is. There’s nothing else like it. Having such interesting, insightful, complex articles available that are written from a queer perspective has meant the world to me. The range and complexity of content is just unbelievable for such a small team.

  15. The fact that you all are able to deconstruct her argument and construct yours in this way invalidates her entire (weak) comparison, in my opinion. It’s also pretty disheartening to see someone who (I am inferring) to be a feminist attack another feminist and queer-centric publication for not being “feminist enough” – I mean, can we agree as a movement and a community that we have bigger fish to fry than whether or not MARSHMALLOW SHAPED KITTENS THAT MAKE MY QUEER HEART EXPLODE WITH SHEER HAPPINESS WHILE I ATTEMPT TO RAISE ENOUGH MONEY TO KEEP COMMUNITY SERVICES FOR LOW-INCOME FAMILIES ALIVE disqualifies someone/something from being feminist? Because kitten shaped marshmallows are the paragon of feminist self-care, okay.

    I am having all the fucking feelings right now about her claims, and I am trying my best to be more constructive with how I convey said feelings, but I truly believe there are more important things she could be covering that could actually advance the feminist and queer movements. Especially since too many of us have to fight every day.

  16. Part of the beauty of the evolution of this website has been to constantly self examine and say “what are we missing? who are we missing?”
    To imply that Autostraddle is trying to profit on the backs of its marginalized community is to completely miss the transparency and joy of the community in every success that Autostraddle has fought to gain. Look no further than the articles on the calendar girls and the comment policy on those articles. How they talk about the models as people with hopes and dreams and careers and the intolerance for critical remarks on those articles. Yeah that sounds really terrible and for-profit to me. The outpouring of joy for You Do You flasks!

    What my brain is trying to say but my fingers are struggling with is that if Cosmo’s readers were to begin frequenting autostraddle and learn even a fraction of what I’ve learned about feminism and queer identity and how to be myself in a world where I don’t always see people who look like me and want like me, then I think there are worse things.

    And never get rid of the stress relief articles, I need to know what to do with peanut butter as much as I need to know how to redefine my queerness without alcohol and what is going on in this country and others with homelessness and immigration and other social issues that really matter.

  17. I take people who actually take the time to criticize Cosmo’s sex tips about as seriously as I actually take Cosmo’s sex tips. Criticizing them is laughably low hanging fruit (no terrible euphemism intended). Autostraddle is a queer rabbit hole full of tools, like how to have safe queer sex, as well as not-so-heavy material. Also, I’m pretty sure the tone used on Autostraddle is 90’s slumber party, not cheerleader, and her saying that without making a “But I’m A Cheerleader” reference is just ghastly.

    • I also wish that people would realize that criticizing the term “girls” as infantilizing is actually a problematic social construction within language by the patriarchy and we should throw that hate at the patriarchy rather than each other. I’m pretty sure that Autostraddle uses this term because it is more casual and friendly than saying “woman on woman”, rather than to appear vapid and infantilized. Unfortunately, the English language is more user friendly to men in this sense. If this were a website for male-identified humans saying “boy on boy” would be invoking a younger culture and saying “man on man” would be more inclusive, but subtly point to an older audience; however, they could just say “guy on guy”and call it a day. Saying “human on human” is rad, but since this is a space for womyn and because womyn are other-ed and chances are the general population would assume that was a space created with male privilege in mind. Ideally, Autostraddle could say “Grrl on Grrl” and hope that playing with the word conveyed both the construction of gender and this unique space as well as nod to the rebel grrl.

      • What is even more gross, though, is devaluing girls in the first place (and then use them as a prop to criticize women). Because apparently everything that is considered stereotypically girly has no worth whatsoever and is therefore ridiculous – simply for it’s association and value with/to girls. Funny how this is considered “proper feminism” by Clarke, yet I thought we already have the Patriarchy for that.

  18. I’m sorry, I had to stop reading because I got mad. There is no reason for her to be policing my homogay home on the internet.

    I think that autostraddle works because it addresses the whole of the reader’s humanity – the thoughtful, the angry, the connected, the confused, and the whiskey-kitten-loving nuance.

    I like that the content is not merely queer, but that there are thoughtful, fun, interesting articles that I can share with my friends, regardless of their gender/orientation, without feeling like I’m flaunting inside jokes to people who will never be inside of my strange little world.

    If she doesn’t like the tone or the content? Guess what? There is a whole internet out there, and she can feel free to read stoic proto-feminist writing with no soul, feeling or community.

    No, I mean, feel free. Like right now. Get out, mean lady; we don’t want you here if you don’t want to be here.

    • Oh I totally agree about loving Autostraddle because not every single article is strictly queer, even if they’re informed by our queerness. I mean come on, there’s more to us than just being queer. We are not poorly-written side characters in some soap. Each one of us has a million other things about us that inform our personhood and make us smile or cry, and Autostraddle addresses it all. We can be complete people here. <3

  19. what. i wanted to be a lurker forever but this ruined that for me!

    sooooo this sounds lame but AS has been invaluable to me in the past year in helping me discover my identity. i’ve been introduced to concepts and radical ideas and politics I never would have learned about or gotten interested in otherwise. if there is some fluff, it has only helped me. with that being said, AS is definitely not feminism lite.

    obviously, nothing should ever be above criticism and re-evaluation, but this lady just doesn’t get AS. also i think you have to hang around for a while to really understand the language you guys use and the context around it. i did… but maybe because english is not my first language. ps. lately i’ve caught myself speaking autostraddlish to the bemusement of my straight nordic friends

  20. The phrase ‘girl on girl’ has never bugged me. Honestly, it is used by women and for women and it has a bit of a cheeky whimsical note to it. Why should it have to sound formal and grown up? There is nothing formal and grown up about swooning over the Ellens and taking pot shots at the L-Word. If she wants us to be serious, tough titties.

    Also, the whole thing about you guys sounding ‘nice’ when you write about politics is total bull. You can sound disappointed, angry, triumphant, self assertive, wearied, emboldened but never ‘nice’. Honestly, every time something big political happens in the queer lady world I immediately check to see if Autostraddle has done an article because you have the best voice out there for me.

  21. To be fair to Afterellen (which holds a special place in this baby dyke’s heart as being the first lesbian-focused website I found), they didn’t start out as being a LOGO talking head. In the good old days it was just Sarah Warn’s opinions and recaps of the L Word and video re-enactments of South of Nowhere. They made the valid, but ultimately unfortunate, choice to go corporate years after their start as an independent entity.

    Other than that. I love this article. Brutal and honest and wonderful. So glad to have your voices.

  22. i finally created an account (which i should have done a long time ago) just to comment on this. so many people above have said it better than i. autostraddle is where i know i can go to feel like not only are my tough conversations, problems, ideas and discussions valid, but so is my obsession with pretty little liars and large portioned guacamole-based foods. it has made me feel so much better in so many ways. sometimes, just feeling like someone else, even very far away, even from a different place in their lives, can relate in some small if insignificant way makes all the difference. bravo to autostraddle for working so hard to try and create that place. i’ll trend #teamAutostraddle forev.

  23. She is very judging and who the hell is she to judge?
    Seems like she has nominated herself as Police Chief of the Playground.

    She needs to have more fun, more vapid, fluffy, girl on girl type of fun, but we all know whose door she’d have to knock on, cap in hand, furtively, tentatively, as a marginalised outsider to get some of that, Autostraddles Door.

    This is an excellent and transparent response of Autostraddles high ideals and strategies in building a critical, fun and entertaining queer women’s community, with profit that can be built upon, which normally enables a community to further it’s goals. I support Autostraddle easily, it has CREATED a QUEER WOMEN’S COMMUNITY, which no doubt, Clarke may be a bit jealous of.

    Success, intelligence and being vapid with one’s posse is the best revenge, Autostraddle.

    • I know its bad form to like respond to my own comments, but, I’m not going to even read her critique of Autostraddle.

      I don’t know where to start with my critique of her critique. So I’m not going to bother.

      If she thinks that Autostraddle is going to remain a poor, marginalised voice that is grateful for the crumbs she has left behind for us, as some sort of guideline/feminist role model/etiquette standard, she can go elsewhere.

      The internet is a great place to get lost in, and she can fuck off.

  24. God I can’t even begin to describe the fury I felt while reading this. I can’t believe someone who’s not even a part of our community would feel she has the right to deride us based on the aesthetic and content choices WE have made for our OWN community. What the fuck. We ALL created this site, we have all built this up to be what we want it to be. Like you said, this is a site for queer women by queer women, and this is what we want. What gives her the right to say it should be something else?

    Autostraddle is so so important and I honestly don’t know who I’d be right now if it wasn’t for having found it right when I was coming out. You’ve all brought together this nationwide queer girl community that would not exist as it does without you! Personally, I can find representation of every single part of my personality and identity within Autostraddle’s pages and readership, and where else could I possibly say that? It’s exactly because you make so sure to be inclusive and diverse in what you offer that I can feel that way. It’s why there are so many of us here. Because no matter what we’re looking for, it’s here, and it’s safe. I love you all so much. Thank you for doing what you do, and I’m so sorry that there’s someone out there trying to tear you down for continuing to exist and for not being a fucking raincloud all the time. <3

    • Can I also just say that I think it’s really stupid of her to talk about Autostraddle as if all it is is a website of articles? I mean what about A-Camp? What about the Autostraddle Meet-ups? Autostraddle reaches way beyond the confines of this website. And look at this conversation we’re having right now! Not to discount all the amazing work done by the Autostraddle staff, because that’s why we’re here at ALL, but half of what happens here happens in the comments, because this is a community, and not just a bunch of articles disconnected from its readership.

  25. While I vehemently disagree with her…Would you think less of me that I now want to be featured in one of your style articles ala “Cosmo don’t”, including the black bar across my eyes to protect my identity?

  26. Random indignant thoughts vying for attention in my head:

    1) As a devoted reader who is probably getting close to twice the age of your average visitor, can I just say that I come here to read about important topics BECAUSE your (collective) voice is more interesting, honest and refreshing than anything found in mainstream media.

    2) Ms. Clark apparently fails to understand the effectiveness of the rhetorical approach by which the seriousness of a topic can be sharply delineated through the use of a contrastingly flippant tone.

    3) A website targeting the queer community is by definition not targeting the “mainstream”.

    4) Even if you were trying to target the mainstream (which you’re not), she’s essentially saying that serious news should be told in a serious way… like they do in the mainstream. So by not acting like the mainstream you are clearly trying to appeal to the mainstream… ?

    5) Anybody who hates on kitten marshmallows is a bad person.

  27. What a ludicrous thing to criticise Autostraddle for, and what an eloquent takedown.
    A really minor correction ought to be made, however: you keep writing the noun ‘bourgeoisie’ when it should be the adjective ‘bourgeois’, otherwise totally brilliant!

  28. AUTOSTRADDLE 5EVER. I have learned more from this website than from any other queer online place. This is a community. We’re the biggest tiny community on earth. We even have our own state on Tinder. I’ve found that on Autostraddle, the contributors write about things that I personally really care about. Things I don’t read anywhere else.

  29. Oh how revolutionary!! A straight, white, class privileged cis woman tone policing the Autostraddle community under the guise of “feminist analysis.”

    Some of my (least) favorite lines:

    -“the personification of this magazine isn’t a she, necessarily; Autostraddle also regularly features writing by and about trans*, intersex…”

    So suddenly trans and intersex women aren’t women anymore and have no right to use the “she” pronoun. Thanks for the identity policing!

    -stuff about the “linguistic vapidity” representing the “bastion of bourgeoisie privilege”
    Um… Ms. Clarke, do you not think your own inflated, overtly academic writing reflects the very bourgeoisie privilege you’re denouncing?? Seriously.

    /rant over

  30. Dear Everyone:

    When The Queers are interested in things that regular people are interested in, it is not because we are trying to “imitate the mainstream”, it is because we are ALSO REGULAR PEOPLE.

    Being queer is my life, not my job. When I get sad and overwhelmed reading serious stories about the struggles of queer people that is my queer reality, but when I laugh at a cartoon about falling in love with a zombie that is queer laughter.


    • I wholeheartedly agree!

      Having opportunities to express ourselves as actual people with actual feelings and opinions- i.e, on the friday open thread- is pretty darn radical IMO, as our human identities are too often erased just by being queer.

      Inclusive, conversational spaces like that show that we don’t have to politicize ourselves 24/7, as so many people seem to think is a requirement being LGBTQ.

    • THIS! Yes I may be queer 24/7 but I’m also a human being who loves Beyonce videos and wants to learn how to make a killer lasagne. In short, we’re here, we’re queer, and we’re also a bunch of other stuff too (that’s the saying, yes)?

    • Yes! “I don’t expect the voice to the subaltern to sound like a cheerleader.” Ughhhhhhh. So she wants us to sit around being sad and wallowing rather than finding enjoyment in life. She wants us to be the perfect picture of oppressed queers so she can pity us and feel good about herself by pretending to be an ally. Worst.

  31. I don’t have a fancy platform to say this on, so I’ll leave it in your comments: When I was a teenage girl, I took out a subscription to a kiddie version of a grown-up fashion mag in a conscious effort to learn femininity – or, y’know, “femininity.” I knew that reading magazines like that was part of “being a teenage girl,” though I had zero interest in it myself except that I was “supposed to” read these magazines and learn from them. All I got out of it was increasing body hatred (which I never had before; literally, I made it to sixteen or seventeen without dieting or anything) and frustration with my class status (white collar lower middle class and falling; seriously, a $50 turtleneck is not the “affordable” option in a rural town like mine). So I had my mom cancel the subscription. I could feel it ruining my confidence; I didn’t want “femininity” badly enough to hurt myself for it.

    What I’m saying is: reading the kiddie version of Cosmo was harmful for me. It killed my already shaky confidence and I felt my self-esteem improve again once I stopped. Autostraddle has been nothing but a positive experience for me. In the last week alone, the tarot column, the sobriety article, and the girls’ happiness article have all mattered to me in a way kiddie Cosmo never did. Even the girls’ happiness article, which hurt my feelings, made me sad but in a way I could do something about it as an educator, not hate my thighs.

    So, yeah: fuck that noise. Thank you.

    • Wow, this is exactly my experience too. I actually completely forgot that I also had my mom subscribe to CosmoGirl for a while, because I felt acutely that I was not “girly” or clued in enough to the other teen girls around me and needed to educate myself on how to be one of those girls. I thought that was how one grew up as a woman. All it did was make me feel even more isolated and filled with despair that I would NEVER be one of those girls and no one would ever like me ever because I was super ugly and boring and uncool. Wow. I can’t believe I forgot about that.

      • Yes, exactly! Mine was ELLEgirl, but I remember thinking that reading it would clue me into whatever the other girls already knew, and that feeling of despair as I realized that I would never be fashionable or rich enough to be “fashionable” (or heterosexual, although I didn’t articulate that to myself until later).

  32. I mean, I definitely think parts of it were legitimate. There’s always room for improvement. It is strange to read an eloquent piece on prison abolition and then all of a sudden there’s an article about how to build my own bar full of expensive alcohol for hundreds of dollars. Maybe there could be a better way of organizing topics so that readers who want the news can read the news, and readers who want to/have the resources to do little crafts and buy expensive pumps can go to that section. I definitely saw what she meant by it being “palatable,” but I understand the necessity of being palatable for Autostraddle to survive (please survive; I need you in my life).

  33. Words I messaged my distraught questioning friend earlier today along with links to your writing: “Riese made my life better.”

    Your voice is brilliant. Outside of Autostraddle, I hear so much about “gayness” and so little about the lived experiences of queer people. When I was beyond confused and disconnected from both straight and gay narratives your writing was the connection I found to queerness.

    Thank you so much for writing. Regardless of what Diana Clarke did or didn’t appreciate, it has mattered so much to me (and likely many others).

  34. #teamAutostraddle for sure. y’all have helped this girl feel more comfortable in her own skin. that is what matters. i laugh, i cry, i learn, i take detailed notes, and i fantasize about kitten shaped marshmallows. #youdoyou #thankyouforbeingyou

  35. Everything wonderful has already been said above.

    I’m not sure that Cosmo (because I do not read it) has the sense of community AS has, either on- or off-line. How many straight cis people “discover” Cosmo and praise it as the community they needed because they felt so alone in their straight cisness? How many Cosmo readers have banded together in real life to form valuable friendships and relationships? How many Cosmo readers frolic in the woods together to learn, grow, play in a safe space?

    As I have mentioned many times before, I discovered Autostraddle when I was at the lowest point of my life. I found community and through that, accepted my own queer identity as being something my own. Not something attached to my partner or relationships. Perhaps Cosmo does this for it’s readers too.

    But I doubt it.


  36. I remember the feelings I had when I discovered Autostraddle, way back in 2009. I was a small-town queer baby who had never seen anyone like the people represented on the site, and quickly became a regular reader. Gaining access to your content opened up so many possibilities in terms of who thought I could healthily be.

    Thanks for putting different queer voices out into the world, and for working to make it possible for people like me to find the site.

  37. This response is perfect. I read pretty much every article posted, but there are some days when the injustices in the world feel overwhelming and I have to give myself a break. That is what makes this format so perfect. It also allows articles to be posted that straddle (zing!) the line between pop and scholarly.

    To be fair though, I have pretty fierce brand loyalty to AS. If I heard someone making unfounded comments about the site I would probably argue pretty passionately. Is it perfect? No, but it is run by humans and all people make mistakes. The important part is that the people who run the site listen, change, and grow. It is not hyperbole to say Autostraddle has changed my life for the better, I want to support it in any way that I can.

    You do you.

  38. I’m sorry but I majored in English and I can barely understand what she is trying to say in her quote. I know what she’s trying to say (I guess?) but the way she’s saying it is really annoying to me… Is she being purposely obtuse?

  39. Really amazing takedown by the sometimes serious/sometimes fluffy/ALWAYS BRILLIANT geniuses behind this extraordinary site. This was more enjoyable than watching Bill Nye talk to Fox News.

  40. I just wanted to take this opportunity to tell y’all how much it means to me that AS does so much coverage of trans women’s issues. This is the best non-dedicated-trans site on the net by far, and the fact that it’s situated in the middle of a fantastic larger community of diverse queer women makes it that much better to me still.

    Far from selling out to appeal to the mainstream, you do an amazing job of appealing to all sorts of smaller communities that can’t be big enough to drive much revenue.

    It makes me sad that anyone would even think to label those kinds of charges at you, but I’m glad that you weren’t afraid to stand up and defend what you’re doing here, because it’s pretty amazing work from where I sit.

    • Oh yes, I also forgot to say that as soon as I read there would be a membership situation happening, I was like “yep, doing that”, without knowing what it would be or how much it would cost. Because I love you guys, and I need that membership and you all deserve it. <3

  41. Maybe Autostraddle does seem a bit cheerleader-y but only in the sense that the site’s writers are a group of really supportive people who want me and every other reader to do well and be successful? Because that’s how I feel anyway.

    When I visit the site I feel like I’m amongst the most welcoming club I’ve ever been part of (I even have a backers t-shirt!), amongst super smart friends who like to talk about why the oppression of our little group sucks but also why baked goods and things made out of potato are fricking awesome because both are equally as important to me and my interests and I love that the site appreciates that. I love that you don’t have to just do fluff and you don’t just have to be smart because even when you’re the most outspoken human you don’t just talk about the smart stuff because that would be really flippin’ boring.

    The comments on this article were probably meant for some really smart discussion about Clarke’s piece and the ins and outs of it but in the end all I can really say is that I owe so much of my confidence in my identity to Autostraddle and that I’m so glad that it exists in a space where Cosmo and Jezebel and Buzzfeed’s male-centric LGBT vertical just make me sad.

    So thank you, Autostraddle, for existing<3

    • “When I visit the site I feel like I’m amongst the most welcoming club I’ve ever been part of (I even have a backers t-shirt!), amongst super smart friends who like to talk about why the oppression of our little group sucks but also why baked goods and things made out of potato are fricking awesome because both are equally as important to me and my interests and I love that the site appreciates that.”


  42. There’s not much to say about this that hasn’t already been said (and I only read half the above comments) but I just want to agree with a couple of things:

    – AS is one of the few sites I check almost daily and that is simply because of the quality of writing, the broad spectrum of articles and the amazing community.

    – After reading AS almost daily for 2 years or more, I have such respect for the writers, staff and contributors for their dedication to the site and their willingness to take aboard criticism and act on it.

    – Personally, I appreciate the light-hearted or ‘breathy’ style of writing for some of the articles, as it breaks up the more serious and thought provoking articles, and gives us a chance to have a laugh.

    – I hate Cosmo and I really cannot see the comparison between it and AS.

    It’s 1am UK time and I’m very, very tired, so I don’t know if I’m making any sense, or even typing what I want to say, but I just want to show my support for you guys before I head off to bed, and thank you for being amazing.

  43. You guys speak to many people! Also kickass rebuttal! I’m a newer reader, only about a year since I found you guys and became hooked. My wife and I love the variety of articles and everything, your site rocks. – 30 something cis queer girl married to a super awesome transwoman

  44. Just another thank you to add to the pile to say that I really appreciate your efforts, and the efforts you constantly make to improve yourselves. The writer of the diss clearly doesn’t know what they’re talking about AS is amazing and the only place I can go to read quality queer content about a whole range of things, so thank you very much

  45. Is it just me or is her main argument that queer girls write like queer girls?

    I mean shit you guys are so awful for writing like people who have grown out of the lj and tumblr communities SO AWFUL so so very awful how dare you not professional serious literature

  46. 95% of that article she wrote was stupid, AS does great work and is a very valuable resource and one I’ve donated to more than once. I think it is critical to have something for queer women that is mainstream because otherwise it is damn hard to find eachother.

    HOWEVER, I do think she may have a point on the fluff posts. Fluff posts are great sometimes, I love fluff! But if you want to be doing the quantities of fluff that I’m seeing on AS these days – I want to see that matched by a significant amount of serious, interesting articles about real issues for queer women.
    I also think its kind of a shame how the level of community interaction has decreased like formspring friday and other advice columns. ACamp is great but I like many of your readers don’t live in America so theres just this massive chunk of the year with loads and loads of articles about a thing I’ll never be able to go to. I dunno, #teamautostraddle for definite, but maybe like #teamautostraddle with some slight alterations.

    • I’ve always considered AS to have like 30% fluff and 70% serious stuff, so I’m not sure what kind of further balance is necessary since a lot of the community spoke up about wanting more fluff and light-hearted stuff. Reading about the depressing nature of our oppression every fucking day (and living it) is…well, depressing.

    • well, i do agree that we need to do more advice columns, for sure, and we got that feedback on the reader survey a lot, too. those also do well, traffic-wise, so it’s a win-win. we have done them in fits and starts throughout the year, usually after we have a meeting about how we need to do more of them. formspring shut down last year so the flow of questions needing answering has also slowed, as has our ability to do formspring friday.

      we’re having a bit of a rough time right now with how our editorial team is structured, how many writers we’re currently managing and a messy distribution of labor that has left those of us who write those columns without any time to write them. in july, me, rachel, yvonne, laneia, chronic intern grace and alex will be hiding in a cabin for a week and the top item on our agenda is figuring out how to restructure stuff so that we have more time to write. we’re only doing one camp this year and i think that will help. personally, certain business situations this year have been so time-consuming and stressful that many days i spend way more time being a CFO than an editor-in-chief or writer. so yeah, we’re working on it! i am at peace 100% with our fluff/serious factor, however. and honestly the days when a fluff piece does SUPER well traffic-wise, it makes EVERYTHING do much better. it’s a dramatic difference.

  47. Autostraddle is one of my safe spaces.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for being that for me, and for other people.

    Comments on an Autostraddle article inspired me to come out to my family.

    Then when I couldn’t get out of bed due to the reaction of said family, I buried myself in AS articles.

    When I dug my way out, my feminism was stronger and more articulate, and my knowledge of queer issues had broadened. And, I knew how to make floral bow ties.

    And both of those things were important and valid.

    Thank you.

  48. Autostraddle – you amazing people – you do not have to justify yourselves in this way. We, your readers, commenters, contributors, fans, are here because this is our SAFE SPACE, a place where we can enjoy chatty and ‘insubstantial’ stuff alongside amazing political dialogue. YES I want to read about the marshmallows I can’t get yet AS WELL AS the experiences of trans parents AS WELL AS reconciling my sexuality with my possible spirituality AS WELL AS celebrity crush celebrations. I spent years wishing for a fucking magazine which would reflect the way I talk and the way I think> and things I haven’t even thought of thinking yet WITHOUT selling me anti-ageing anti-body anti-woman anti-queer anti-anything-that-doesn’t-represent-a-corporate-market and then a friend put me onto Autostraddle and I felt like I had come home.

    Keep doing what you’re doing, PLEASE run your membership scheme and let those of us with the means pay a little more for what we love and please please PLEASE keep being our safe space. You are amazing and beautiful and funny and deeply politicised and SO SO SO SO IMPORTANT TO ME and I can’t bear it that you’ve had to write this defence of what you, what we, what we all, do so brilliantly and cleverly and funnily and beautifully.

    I love you and I need this.

    Thank you for existing.

    Beth xxx

  49. Your site is the only time that I actually feel like the member of any community.

    Be it queer or female.

    I am willing to do the “hard work” of scrolling past the all of the TV recaps that I do not give a fuck about because beyond them, I will find lots of interesting articles that I do care about.

    As far as tone goes, her old is showing. She sounds like an old guard history teacher frowning on the way that the newly minted English teacher engages his students in roundtable discussions as opposed to lectures.

    All in all, You guys are awesome and she can do all of the things that most feminists don’t like me saying.

  50. I also created an account to say that this site performs a wonderful service for so many of us. I live on an honest-to-god island and it means so much to me to have even this kind of incidental contact with a real queer community.

  51. Not many sites confront criticism towards them head on like this and in such depth. I am not sure if I fully understand all the criticism being made towards Autostraddle and if I agree or not, though certainly not understanding some of it makes me doubtful. Definitely don’t agree with the idea of policing gendered speech and the idea that Autostraddle should not sell merchandise, etc. to support itself.

  52. I’ve been reading Autostraddle for years, but I finally created an account to tell y’all how much I love you. That Baffler article was such crap. Her main beefs seem to be that Autostraddle is too well-rounded in the kinds of topics it covers and too “friendly” and “accessible.” The article also seemed to imply that queer women should be sad and full of angst all the time, and never enjoy fun or “fluffy” things. Which makes me incredibly angry.(Irony!)

    Her tone policing is absurd and I would suggest she watch this video where Corin Tucker, Kathleen Hanna and Allison Wolfe talk about how it’s possible to talk like a “valley girl” and still have incredibly important things to say.

    Autostraddle is so important to me. I appreciate that I can read about the serious struggles queer women face but also about how to buy a bra when you’ve got big boobs. (Seriously, I loved that article. I’d been wearing the complete wrong size bra until a couple of years ago.)

    Anyways, thanks for doing you Autostraddle.

  53. If purchasing the softest and most perfect hoodie in the world is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

    Also, how does someone outside of a marginalized community have any right to assert that that community is being misrepresented by the members of that community?

    BRB, need to go read some fluff about marshmallows to simmer my outrage…

  54. I agree with pretty much all the comments above, but I still wanted to add my two cents. I love AS and the feeling of community it’s brought into my life. Don’t let the haters get you down you guys are the best.

  55. I’m so enraged with the judgement and entitlement of this person to take down a website that is not aimed at her. IF YOU’RE SPENDING ONLY TWO WEEKS EXAMINING THE SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR OF A GROUP AS AN OUTSIDER, YOU’RE GOING TO PRODUCE A FUCKING SHITTY ETHNOGRAPHY. Absolute horseshit.

    Since I’m incapable of saying anything more intelligent, I hope Clarke chokes on those kitten marshmallows she seems to hate so bloody much.

  56. Just the other day I was telling my momma “I love writing for AS because I can write about my favorite poets, coming out, and the fucked up death penalty system all in the same week. I can read about sexy dinosaur facts and international trans rights in the same Facebook feed.”

    We are queer. We contain multitudes. I use a different tone when I write about how hot Angel Haze is than when I write about unjust national policy. These things are all our stories.

  57. At 53, I’m guessing that I’m probably a bit older than most of your readers, and I LOVE the look, layout, and breadth of articles in Autostraddle. The well thought out political articles, essays, etc. are always interesting, and the lighter fluff pieces are fun and give me a window to what the world is like for younger lesbians. I have never read Cosmo, the closest I’ve come to reading it was picking it up in the doctor’s office then putting it right back down, but even that tiny exposure made it clear to me that Autostraddle is nothing like Cosmo. Keep up the good work on all fronts, and Yes! to marshmallow kitties. I sent the link to that article immediately to my daughter who used to live in Japan, hoping that she would have a connection that could send me some, but no luck!

  58. I really don’t get what she’s upset about. I like the fact there are a range of tones in the pieces you publish. Sure, as someone in their late 30s, not all of them speak to me, but at the same time, this website is not all about me (or any one person). I love the diversity of topics you post – I have learnt a lot, and been encouraged to think about topics that I might not otherwise have thought about or that I thought I knew my opinion on. This website is beautiful blend of entertainment, learning and thought-provoking information, and I for one am very grateful for its existence. Cosmo, on the other hand, I am more than happy to live without.

  59. Just want to say, one thing I love about Autostraddle is you know when a conversational tone is appropriate and when a more serious or academic tone is.

    I’ve been having feelings about how many online publications overkill with academic sounding wordiness. Academia can be great and smart but can also be non-inclusive and isn’t necessarily based on the actualities of the world.

    I love when media keeps it real. So thanks for that.

  60. Autostraddle publishes serious, intelligent work from women who would not normally get a platform like this. The caliber of work I have seen on this website is astounding.

    Your response is pointed and pretty much lays everything bare. I especially liked this bit:

    “Using the platform of a magazine founded by men in academia who likely hadn’t heard of Autostraddle before now, like The Baffler, to criticize independent women’s media doesn’t indicate a good-faith interest in pushing women’s media to better itself…”

    I don’t think it’s incongruous to have fluff pieces alongside serious ones. I respect Autostraddle because it showcases a complex view of a complicated world.

    Cosmo has not done that…ever. I think to suggest Cosmo and Autostraddle are similar is disingenuous, and like you say, is good for pageviews.

  61. Clarke’s article was bullshit click-bait, and this response is so well written, thoughtful, and absolutely spot-on.

    This website has become such a huge and essential part of my life and development. It was there for me before I even knew I belonged in this community, and it has consistently offered me the warmest and safest of places since.

    Autostraddle plays such a central role in this growing community, that I honestly cam imagine myself bragging to people years from now that I was here to witness the golden days. I don’t use this language loosely, but you all are leading a revolution here.

    Revolutionaries always make the establishment nervous. Keep doing you.

      • Yes, I love the nowness and interactivity of the Internet Autostraddle. Committing something to print, would, for me, take all the discussion, injokes, updateyness and currentness out of it for me. Autostraddle is a living breathy/hyperbolic/serious/vapid, yet informed and pop culture reference fanatic meta creature. Long live the beast!

  62. Ok so I’ve read Clarke’s article four or five times now, and I honestly can’t even tell what she’s trying to say. But I keep coming back to this line:

    “I . . . take issue with . . . the disparity that the site’s vapid linguistic choices create with the often important work it does to normalize a variety of gender identities and sexualities.”

    She then goes on to say that “When linguistic specificity is so essential to normalizing and dignifying those identities that Autostraddle claims to include . . . its casual treatment of language undermines its own important work.”

    Wait, what?

    No, seriously, what does that even MEAN?

    The implication seems to be that somehow, the ‘purpose’ of Autostraddle is to make us weirdo queers not just “normal,” but respectable. And apparently the “proper” way to do that is to formalize our language? Or should I say, to utilize linguistic specificity?

    Because I guess women only deserve to be taken seriously when we talk the right way.

    yeah, fuck that.

    There’s something so gross about associating young women’s speech patterns with being undignified or unworthy of respect. And I don’t see how making that the cornerstone of your argument can be anything other than standard-issue misogyny.

    • “There’s something so gross about associating young women’s speech patterns with being undignified or unworthy of respect. And I don’t see how making that the cornerstone of your argument can be anything other than standard-issue misogyny.”
      ^THIS. Boom.

      • AND AND AND she’s simultaneously critiquing Autostraddle for mainstreaming queerness AND for failing in its purported mission to “normalize” queer identities. But since “normalize” means, the last time I checked, “to make conform to or reduce to a norm or standard” (thanks Mirriam-Webster!), I’m left really baffled as to what the fuck her point is.

  63. How about the fact that queer women want and deserve a space of our own? How does that tie into the mainstream whatsoever? That makes it sound like we’re out trying to recruit straight women. This site was never intended for Cosmo readers – but we’re women, too, meaning we like a variety of serious and goofy/light topics. I don’t see how catering to the varied interests of a minority group of which the author of the critical piece isn’t a member is tying to gain mainstream acceptance.

  64. I just want to throw my name in as a supporter of this amazing website, without which, 2 years ago, I would have been a sad, lost 29-year-old newly queer woman living in a new city where I didn’t even have any friends.

    I love almost everything you people do, and when I don’t, I just skip it. It ain’t hard to scroll.

    Thank you for what you all do for all of us every single day.

  65. I tried to understand where Clarke was coming from, I really did, but I just found the entire article to be ridiculously pretentious and entitled. “I do not know how to accept my values reflected in a voice I do not recognize as my own.” Really? Challenge yourself. And anyway, since when has that been a valid reason for criticism? She calls Autostraddle out for “cultivating an unchallenging linguistic similarity to Cosmo, that bastion of white, bourgeoisie privilege,” and instead advocates – what? Policing its standards of language to limit its accessibility? But language standards uphold privilege. Particularly the white, bourgeoisie privilege she is so quick to identify in Autostraddle and Cosmo. Why is she disappointed that Autostraddle has found a way to talk about issues important to our community without limiting their audience to a small group of people who have the time/energy/vocabulary to understand and learn from them? If anything, Autostraddle should be lauded for its accessibility. So you go, Autostraddle. Four for you.

  66. It’s funny how y’all can be accused of cynicism (Yvonne) and misandry (Riese, Laneia, etc.) while also being accused of breathy optimism and mainstreaming queerness and feminism. Like…what? Also, great point about how she doesn’t criticize mainstream online or print publications that totally jumped on the LGBT train when it became more profitable like Glamour, Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, etc.

    As you can tell from the outpouring of support in the comments, we love you and you’re doing us a service in providing this community. As others have pointed out, queer grrrls are people too and we come from all different backgrounds and speak in all different voices. We’re not required to be “serious” and “womanly” just because we are feminists or members of the LGBT community. But I do think Autostraddle’s writers, readers, and supporters turn a critical eye towards everything, even the fluffy stuff, and that we are all committed to furthering equality and demanding integrity in our media. So there!!!

  67. Clarke’s article is so blatant in being an opportunistic hit piece that it almost reads as self-parody. The Cosmo comparison itself just doesn’t make any sense because AS is obviously a very different platform. What similarity is there between the two ‘publications’ other than both run some fluff pieces? (and I notice while writing that sentence I end up using ‘publication’ as a shorthand catch-all here, because the two don’t even originate in the same media form).

    Something about the Nina Power quote in the last paragraph I find particularly grating: “female achievement would culminate in the ownership of expensive handbags, a vibrator, a job, a flat, and a man”… like obviously the “expensive handbags” and the “man” have not so much to do with AS… and as for having a “vibrator, a job, [and] a flat,” I do in fact have all three, and you know what, I feel pretty okay with myself on that. Is the implication that as a queer woman I am somehow supposed feel guilty over that??

    The Clarke piece is basically written for one reason and one reason only: because it could be written.

    • right? like i feel like most people are interested in having the stability of a home and consistent income flow, ideally from work that’s rewarding on other levels too, not just ~ladies

      and god forbid you should want a fulfilling sex life and a loving partner on top of that???

      and then maybe the occasional luxury, be it a handbag, a nice bottle of whiskey, craft supplies, or what have you

      god forbid the queers should be happy

  68. i had a really hard time finding a safe queers space online and that’s why i love Autostraddle. i love that you open my eyes to being intersex and having to deal with questions about menstruation, while addressing why i just can’t with Glee right now, and what’s going with queer women of color. i have been let down repeatedly by other queer spaces, but pretty much every day i find myself thinking “Autostraddle got it right, again.”

    also, until VERY recently wasn’t Cosmo 50% just fashion/makeup/dieting 95.6% how to get a guy to keep having sex with you? How do you even make that comparison???

  69. Two things.

    1) Put a banner ad for your calendar above the fold on every page she links to, cause that shit is about to be poppin’.

    2) “How can she deny us agency and call herself a feminist at the same time?” Boom!

  70. Holy mother of ridiculosity.

    Thank you for being an amazing, informative, entertaining online community. Don’t change.

    Unless you want to add a 3D-printer-type element to the food articles (and perhaps also for the occasional NSFW Sunday). I would be down with that.

  71. I’ve always loved the diverse voices on AS. I’ve been fortunate enough to attend a couple of camps and meet them in person, and I can attest to the genuine love, care, and concern these editors and writers have for this community. Becoming “mainstream” is the farthest thing from their minds. Would they like to be able to make a living doing this? Absolutely. But have they made personal sacrifices for the greater good of keeping this community alive? You better fucking believe it. And I’m thankful for that every damn day.

  72. Guys –
    You’re doing great.
    Your website has been a total and utter godsend to me and I’m sure lots of other lost and confused queer girls.
    For me, when I first came across this website, I honestly didn’t have the vocabulary to process some literary, theoretical discussion of queer feminism. This website has enabled to me learn about myself, queer culture, feminism and probably a hundred other things at a pace that worked for me, by allowing me to pick the things that appealed and expand that bracket as I went. It has also encouraged me to read lots of other things I never knew existed and, perhaps most importantly, feel less alone.
    Thank you.

    • Exactly. This website made me so much less fearful about the process of coming out, because I was able to see that there are lots of other queer women in the world going through similar experiences. Queer women who are concerned about feminism and LGBTQ rights, but also possibly interested in fashion, or campy television. You’re doing a major service to our community and we appreciate everything you do, lovely Autostraddle peeps!

  73. Not much to add but just wanted to say I created an account simply to show my support for this site. I’ve been reading Autostraddle for almost three years now, it’s my go-to site for both the “fluff” and the serious articles and has taught me a lot about the depth of our community. Don’t let this article get you down because your work is important and interesting and reaches more people than you probably realize!

  74. It’s been pointed out elsewhere that virtually all of the praise Clarke is getting for the piece on twitter is coming from dudes.

    However, I also noticed this… apparently she had to BORROW the Sarah Schulman book she references (from one of those very dudes, no less):

    • this fact really has made it all click for me — what i think happened here is that she read that book, thought “oh this is a good point,” determined vaguely, “hey this seems relevant to that autostraddle website i’ve seen a few times, i will apply it there,” came up with her thesis, and then spent a cursory few hours finding a few things to back up the point she wanted to make, assuming that whatever examples she pulled were probably only the tip of the iceberg. it very much came off as the kind of thing you would turn in for a school assignment (a context in which your public identification with the group you’re critiquing is irrelevant — and let me be clear that nobody is saying she’s definitively not queer, only that she has never publicly identified as such), and had she submitted her piece to a website staffed by people who actually read Autostraddle, it maybe would’ve never made it to press. I imagine the people at The Baffler were thrilled just to get a submission about queer shit and maybe didn’t feel qualified to offer critique of a piece about a subculture they aren’t a part of. She references friday open threads as a thing we “do” when it’s a thing we’ve only done for a month, and criticizing a post that is essentially a chat for being chatty is silly, especially when, as I said, there are much better examples elsewhere. (“JOKE IS ON HER I have said so many fluffier things in AS. One of my most popular articles this year was 25 sweaters with cats on them.” – lizz) The marshmallow post was another strange choice, and even her examples of what we do well were definitely not the most representative examples, only the most recent. (her example of our thoughtful reflection on race surprised me too, because it was the only not-super-recent example she pulled, and although the essay she linked to was great, it was also about being white-passing, so imho, not an example somebody familiar w/auto would’ve pulled). what she came up with is a thing that would probably float in a classroom but doesn’t translate to the context in which it was published, because it relies on the fact that proving a specific thing applies to a specific theory is enough, in and of itself, to be a complete piece of writing. but in this context, proving a theory isn’t enough, you have to explain why the fact that you could prove that theory matters. there’s a huge gap here between theory and practice.

      • As someone who has about 7 years experience reading college essays that are of the “take a theory about society and apply to it to something” variety I was also struck by how college essay-esq her piece was and how shallow her understanding of the site was. So you are spot on in your assessment in my opinion.

        I’d give her a B-, but only because of rampant grade inflation.

      • I came to a similar line of thinking, which is why the ‘borrowing’ tweet jumped out at me in the first place. In my mind, she comes across as someone who Wants To Be A Writer in all capital letters and with all the self-importance one could possibly cram into that statement, but doesn’t have the skill to pull that off effectively (at least not yet, although I fear I’m at risk of being overly generous). Reading over her xojane piece just a moment ago did a lot to solidify that impression in my mind; it also comes across as over-wrought, like she’s trying to shove a bunch of pieces together that don’t really fit, and interestingly several of the commenters there came to somewhat similar conclusions as us; one of them even specifically pointed out the piece sounds like something out of a creative writing class, similar to what you said.

        I have to admit though that I actually feel a little bit bad for calling her a bad writer. I guess that’s mainly because, as a writer myself, I can think of few insults that would cut as deeply as that. But even as a writer who is sometimes over-ambitious (I think you know by now that I’m terrible about starting pieces and taking forever or just simply never finishing them!), I know better than trying to build my reputation with a half-baked attack piece on a major publishing platform, particularly one that represents a marginalized community, and one that can obviously out-critique her any day of the week! And after all, essentially what she is doing is calling *us* bad writers, so I guess she pretty much opened herself up to that line of attack.

        And while I certainly do get the point that we don’t necessarily know whether or not she identifies as queer, for her to write this blatant attack piece without even stating anything about her own positionality with respect to the queer community just makes it come across as extra sleazy.

        I do agree that different (better?) editors probably would have known better than to run the article, and again I do feel a little bit sorry for her in that, but she ultimately made the mistake of putting it out there, so beyond acknowledging that one point the most optimistic thing I can for her is that I think she would do herself quite a favor by seriously reflecting and learning from her mistake on this.

  75. I must de-lurk in order to ask: did I wake up in a fabulous new world in which being mainstream means trying to include the most different voices? That would be cool.

    But for reals, I come here to read people’s stories and perspectives. I can’t say enough how grateful I am to the awesome writers (and commenters!) hereabouts. I learn so much! I can feel my knowledge of the world and other humans growing! It’s not quite like the Grinch’s heart in How The Grinch Stole Christmas, but it’s still awesome! It’s making me a better person, friend, and ally. I am entirely certain that I say and think less stupid, (unintentionally, but still) hurtful stuff having read work by folks here. I am especially grateful to the awesome trans* writers who, through putting their work out in the wide, wide world of the internet, have helped me begin to think about the world in a new, more inclusive way.

    Also, all the feelings I’m having about this Clarke piece just make me want to donate money to autostraddle. Think I’ll go do that now….

  76. she clearly missed the “before autostraddle” (media is one circle, queer media is another. the circles do not intersect) and “after autostraddle” (media is one circle, queer media is another. the circles intersect to make a vagina-ish shape) venn diagrams. autostraddle hasn’t turned mainstream, it’s helped make mainstream media more queer.

  77. ok I just have to say: Autostraddle probably saved my life. seeing the diversity of queer culture, the fact that it could be an amazing and inclusive and yes goddamit FUN place is the reason why I am a 20 year old with a job and a girlfriend instead of, well, let’s not even go there. even for someone who lurks, who didn’t comment for 2(?) years while a terribly depressed college student, who may never get to go to A-Camp. still, this website is like a…queer big sister.

    so thank you, keep on keeping on, excited for this membership situation, YOU DO YOU and thanks for such an articulate response to the haterz! <3 xo

  78. “It’s confusing to read vapid fluff pieces like “I’m Sorry But You Still Can’t Have These Marshmallows” alongside (often smart, serious, articulate) deconstructions of gender identity and social expectation like “Notes from a Queer Engineer: Can Inanimate Objects Be Sexist?,” “Five Things You Should Know About Your Agender Acquaintance,” and a new column on sexuality, religion, and wellness.”

    That’s what confuses the poor dear? Bless it.

  79. I haven’t read through all of the comments yet, so if this has been already been mentioned, please forgive me.

    While reading through this I couldn’t help but think of another article I read a while ago (I can’t recall where I read it, probably right here on Autostraddle) regarding queer representation in other forms of media, namely television and film. It talked about how whenever TV shows introduce a queer character (or any minority really), that the character is often depicted as this incredibly noble, selfless person who carries the burdens of the world on their shoulders. And they really only serve the purpose of making the main (white, heterosexual, “emotionally stunted”) character a better person for having interacted with the “magical minority”.

    So, in reading through Diana Clarke’s criticisms it seems to me (and y’all do mention this in the ‘Big Business’ sub-heading) that she is faulting Autostraddle for not being saints and paragons of queer/feminist wisdom and virtue, as if it’s an innate quality distilled in all of us because of the simple fact that we are anything other than 100% heterosexual.

    And that is just the biggest pile of bullshit.

    How many times a day do we hear (or read or whatever) people harping on about how “nobody’s perfect” and everyone has their vices and faults, and that nobody should be reprimanded or crucified for them if they’re not hurting anybody else? I know I encounter it a lot, but I am from a very small, conservative town where people drive around with conferderate flags on their cars and bumper stickers telling how many people saved themselves from violence in the last year because they had a gun. Why is it that any minority group or anyone subjected to any form of oppression always has to be completely flawless in order to be deemed worthy of respect?

    I got a little off track there, but I really want to say is that I can’t believe that it’s 20-fucking-14 and some people still can’t grasp the idea that what works for person A (what makes them happy, what interests them, what really gets them going) is not necessarily going to be the same, or even remotely similar, to what works persons B, C, D, etc., etc.

    And that’s why appreciate Autostraddle. I can read up on really intense political issues that I may not otherwise be exposed to; I can read about a fellow queer lady’s life experience that may or may not relate to my own; and I can also read a ridiculous tongue-in-cheek recap of that one show with that one character that everybody has crush on and flails over in the comment section. Basically, I appreciate that y’all don’t have your heads stuck up your asses because I have to deal with enough of that elsewhere.

  80. Except this site is pretty much white, bourgeois, and privileged. The article even admiTs most of the writers are white and cis. At least Cosmo, xoJane, etc. don’t go on about love and community and how they’re changing the world. AS does just that and then fails to deliver due to lack of diversity and the insistence that everyone share the exact same beliefs/opinions/politics or else they are silenced in the comments section. I wish more queer women related sites realized that just because we are attracted to other women doesn’t mean that we have the same likes and dislikes, goals, upbringings, politics, etc. the hivemind mentality sucks.

    • We are incredibly invested in and have been working on becoming a more diverse site and specifically getting more women of color on our team and writing for us, as well as just talking and writing more about race in general and moderating our comments better. We’re definitely aware that we have a lot of work left to do in that area and we want to do it.

      We decided to mention in the article that the majority of our team is white in order to acknowledge the privilege that gives us in so many arenas, including the business arena we focused on in this piece. As co-founders out in the world representing this site as a business, I’m sure that me being white and Alex being white-passing has given us advantages in the advertising/marketing realm, and as you can see, we’ve never totally kicked ass in that category, and I know for a fact that it’d be even harder for us if we didn’t have that privilege.

    • “…the insistence that everyone share the exact same beliefs/opinions/politics or else they are silenced in the comments section”.

      I dunno mate- I think there are certainly a lot of people who think and feel similarly about many things on here but I also see a lot of discussion, and certainly have seen discussions featuring very different views?

      I’d be interested to hear more of your feelings of people being silenced. It surprises me and goes against my personal understanding of what this community is about and what I consider to be one of the best parts of it- the open discussions.

      • I have seen a few such “shutdowns” during my lurkdom on AS. However I don’t think this is the fault of the webmasters and authors. It seems to be a problem endemic to comment threads (imho) and people sometimes creating this aggressive culture of homogeneity, that rides on the back of the “culture of casual tone” taken by the authorship but sometimes uses it to exclude other types of voices within the space. I have especially observed a silencing in relation to strongly-opinionated voices, and I do think this can be an issue of cultural and/or racial misunderstanding at times!

        It’s in the nature of a smaller and more intimate readership to create cliques, I think, and these ones often reflect a very white, privileged, educated, overtly PC (not saying that PC is a bad thing), middle-class outlook.

        I think the only way to claim a unique space for other viewpoints is to doggedly participate in discussions. But I would also like to see some more respect for divergent opinions (provided they aren’t blatantly trolling/misogynist/racist/homo + transphobic etc etc) on the part of fellow commentators.

        In my opinion the hosts and writers are doing a great job, though. Keep up the good work y’all, this site and the potential of its communal space is invaluable to a great many.

    • Gandhi’s quote (or paraphrased quote) about being the change you wish to see might apply here. Both Riese’s response to this comment and Kate’s response to your criticism of her article show that the site is open to dialog about other points of view. Maybe you could submit a piece to the website that reflects a perspective that you haven’t seen represented here…?

  81. Sigh. I am….really disappointed.

    AS is an excellent website and produces sooo much fantastic material on so little.

    A key difference between other publications and AS is that AS is responsive to it’s readership.

    AS listens to the readers, and takes on criticisms and changes. One issue I want to draw attention to is the way bi-phobic comments are handled. In older articles on bisexuality such comments were permitted. In recent articles, they are not. This is fantastic, and it’s an example of AS listening and taking on the concerns of bisexual readers.

    Of course, it doesn’t mean that everybody will agree on everything but there’s listening and thinking and consideration from both the AS writers and readers.

    If AS sounds like a cheerleader, that’s because AS is, in a sense. She’s a cheerleader for the idea that there isn’t one way to be queer and that every reader should be who they are, without feeling that they have to conform to one standard way of being queer. AS is the most inclusive queer space I’ve ever found, and I am so grateful for that.

    If there’s a lot of fluff on AS, so what? I love reading fluff at the end of a hard day. It’s funny, it’s light and it’s easy. There’s plenty of serious articles too.

    I take issue with the idea that the language is I don’t know, not serious enough or something? I like that difficult concepts, or complex ideas are put to the audience in accessible language. That’s something that’s really important to me. I have so much experience with academic writing and as a feminist activist as well, but there are plenty of feminist works that I still can’t read. I’m super excited about Carmen’s new column, and I think it’s really important that academic works, which can be really exclusive sometimes, in the way they are written, are made accessible to the wider public. Not to mention all the articles on AS that talk about what’s happening in the world in accessible language.

  82. Autostraddle being the “cosmo for queers”? What a lazy-ass comparison. Jesus fucking christ.

    I’m buying a t-shirt right now and I hope to one day run into Diana Clark while wearing it.

    “an effort to make progressive politics digestible for a diverse audience of queer readers from varying backgrounds, because a well-informed community is a politically stronger one” – THIS.

  83. You guys. I love this place. All the comments I get to read and react to, the contributors. The passion in writing. It would be cool if we had AS like a shiny magazine but seriously, the community part. So much community. All the feelings. Also I know where to buy clothes now. And the strap on thing. That article was the first thing I ever read on AS and I was like “Where has this place been my whole lesbian life”

  84. This takedown of the takedown is brilliant. Diana Clarke’s piece is mean-spirited nonsense. One of the things that I love most about Autostraddle is that it’s consistently *not* mean-spirited; writers and commenters here are very good at discussing heavy, sensitive topics in a thoughtful, respectful manner, with an openness toward learning new things and correcting their own prior misconceptions. On the Internet, that is extremely rare and valuable.

    Also, to Clarke’s implication that Autostraddle somehow doesn’t come across as smart enough because the language is “breathy” or because of the juxtaposition of serious and less-serious topics: I am a professional full-time academic researcher. I get paid to spend my days reading, writing, thinking, and talking with people about the issues I study, which mostly have to do with the structures and dynamics of various forms of social exclusion and oppression. (And I do realize that I am incredibly lucky and privileged to have such a job.) And you know what? One of the main reasons why I regularly read Autostraddle is that *I learn stuff here.* Just because an argument or a perspective isn’t couched in academic jargon doesn’t mean it can’t be incredibly useful and insightful. If Clarke can’t recognize that, she apparently has a problem with communication. That’s not AS’s problem.

    Also, I love the light-and-fluffy content because the work I do, and the experiences I have in the world as a queer woman, are pretty damn tiring and depressing. It’s nice to have a space to relax a little bit and talk about the things that make us happy. Blessings on AS for providing that space.

  85. Alright, now I am actually (and already deeply regretting) reading her article. “Basic bitches?” Seriously? I have sympathy splinters on the roof of my mouth from how hard she scraped the bottom of the rotted girl-on-girl crime barrel with her teeth for that one.

    PS. How’s this for “nice?”

  86. One of my favorite things about Autostraddle is that it has everything. Anytime I’m looking for something on the Internet, is my first stop. Need a book or movie recommendation? Check Autostraddle. Don’t know what to make for dinner? Autostraddle can help. Want to know what’s going on in the world? I want to hear Autostraddle’s perspective. Just need to smile or laugh? Autostraddle’s got my back. To me, calling you “Cosmo for queers” isn’t quite an insult. Because you’re not just my Cosmo. You’re also my New Yorker, my Time magazine, my Better Homes and Gardens. It’s so valuable having a media source that provides all these things written by and for queer women. Going through my day-to-day life, it makes me feel less alone and like I belong somewhere in the world. Thank you.

  87. chiming back into to say two things:

    1) i think diana actually might be queer, judging (v stereotypically sry) from her facebook. i don’t know her but she and i have a bunch of mutual friends cuz we went to the same college. so idk something to keep in mind, maybe just maybe this is an intra-community critique and we should stop straight-hating her.

    2) the tone of this actually reminds me of something i might have written in college. like i was reading a lot of fascinating radical books and theories and wanted to apply them to everything i was currently doing in my life, even when they didn’t fit. (“what would judith butler say about that lady gaga video?? i’m gonna write about it for my seminar this week!”) i feel like she thought “what if i crossed Gentrification of the Mind and critiques of mainstreaming and capitalism with Autostraddle?? how do those work together?” maybe it was a thought experiment that, honestly, was not well thought out. just like the writers said, it would have been a MUCH stronger critique had the subject been Buzzfeed, After Ellen, HuffPo, etc. too bad she got it all wrong.

    • You know, if she is queer, then I think it’s only legitimate for her to include that as part of her perspective because otherwise it’s impossible to see her writing as anything but an outsider’s perspective.

      And yes, I know that not everyone wants to be out in a professional setting, but if she’s making her claim by critiquing a queer website then it’s only fair that she justify her credentials in doing so in the first place.

      • very this, exactly what i was gonna say

        are we perpetuating heteronormative….ism (i already took a sleeping pill ok) by assuming she’s straight? yeah
        but you know what? in this situation it matters a lot that she didn’t say she was queer.
        like even if she was queer but didn’t say so…i would criticize that choice.

        • What? Since when do you need “queer credentials” to critique a queer website? Anyone is allowed to critique anything, otherwise it’s a very slippery slope into “you can’t have an opinion because I say so.” And what does it even mean to have the right credentials? How queer do you have to be and who gets to decide that? And since when is it ok to demand that someone come out online?

          Obvi, there’s so much she gets wrong about Autostraddle, and if she is straight it might make sense that she would miss so much of the nuance (and miss how weird the comparison to Cosmo is), but that could also be for a thousand different reasons. Maybe she’s just shitty at doing research. Maybe she wanted to write something ~edgy~ and realized no one had written a takedown of Autostraddle yet and wanted to do it. Maybe she’s a baby queer and is new to the straddleverse and this was her first reaction. Whatever the reason, we should point of the flaws of her argument (like the AS writers did), not debate if she’s allowed to make it.

      • But her entire thesis is based on the notion that she can’t relate to anything that’s written here and she’s policing how queer women write content for other queer women because it doesn’t fit her project expectations of how that should look like…if she is a straight cis woman, then that’s because this content IS NOT WRITTEN FOR HER DEMOGRAPHIC.

        However, if she *were* queer, then obviously that’s a completely different takedown of the website. It makes a huge difference if she’s going to be writing from an emic vs an etic perspective (yes, I can throw in academic buzzwords too to substantiate my critique).

        If she’s preening herself on using academic concepts to critique a website, you damn well better believe she should be able to back-up her claims on her analysis. I wouldn’t give as much credence to an art historian critiquing my work on paleopathology as I would someone else from my field.

        • (First off: not all the comments in the thread have a reply button and I’m not really sure where this is going to get nested, so sorry if it pops up in a seemingly random order.)

          I think the reason so many of us are concerned about the outsider/insider issue is not because we’re arguing straight people shouldn’t have opinions about queer issues and media. And I agree that nobody should feel like they have to out themselves online. However, the privilege level of the author has a huge impact on the context of her argument. If she is in fact straight and cis, that means she’s chosen to critique AS from a position of privilege without unpacking that in her argument, and without publishing her piece on a queer media site where direct engagement with the community would be easier. Even if she is part of the queer community, she still chose to publish the piece through a more privileged platform, without making any call for discussion. I think that’s really what matters, not her personal identity, which is ultimately none of our business.

          People don’t need to have credentials or be out to formulate opinions, but it’s also a choice to publish those opinions in a certain outlet, without identifying the author’s relationship to the community. There are probably ways to do it right and in good faith. But it really doesn’t feel like the article was handled with any sort of thought to this community’s place as a marginalized group, and that’s not okay.

  88. first of all, ugh @ the fact that the article was written by a straight woman, and second of all-

    I’ve found that within most online communities, there’s often a hierarchy in place- kind of like high school, in a way. what absolutely blows me away about autostraddle is that there just…. isn’t one? as a queer with long blonde hair and various social anxieties i’m constantly feeling like i’m not ~legitimate enough to exist in queer spaces, and i’ve never once felt like that on here. like, Riese replied to me one time! the sense of community and acceptance here always goes above and beyond my expectations, and that is always going to be more important than ill-thought out cheap shots about fluffy content and ‘cheerleader’ writing.

  89. This is right up there with my friend who refuses to read Autostraddle because she’s dedicated to AfterEllen. Allow me to roll my eyes and be totally pleased to be on a site with as many gay/bi/queer/alphabet soup folks that make me feel like my goofiness is normal. There isn’t enough eyerolling I can do for that.

  90. This is kindof tangential, but Sarah Schulman has made a series of incredibly gross comments about students with disabilities who ask for accommodations, especially survivors of sexual violence, in a bunch of articles about how harmful asking for trigger warning is (she went so far as to compare survivors asking to be warned about violent content to people who want to criminalize AIDS), could you maybe not refer to her as a really smart person you like ?

  91. I admit I didn’t read this woman’s essay, because I didn’t want to give her page the traffic. But I did read your rebuttal. And then I clicked over to the store and bought something, because I do think that the writers and editors deserve financial support. If this lady feels that feminist authors shouldn’t get paid, why is she writing articles for pay?

  92. I’ve been a silent reader for the past 4 years but the moment has finally come.

    It took a really long time for me to feel comfortable claiming queer community as “my” community for a variety of reasons but primarily that the condescension and hostility towards bi, queer, and questioning women pervading so much of the internet terrified me. Circa 2010 I was looking for help understanding my feelings and attractions but instead became increasingly insecure.

    Finding Autostraddle and reading almost every single piece published (for 4 years!!) helped me gradually realize that there were “girl-on-girl” spaces where I could feel welcome. To this day, Autostraddle is the only site where I’m ever glad I read the comments section, and if that doesn’t speak to the incredible community that’s been created then I don’t know what does.

    Thank you for NOT being the kind of site Clarke describes, and thank you for publishing pieces that make me laugh alongside pieces that make me furious in all the most important ways. I can only make a small donation to show my gratitude, but maybe some other lurkers will read this and donate too.

    • “Autostraddle is the only site where I’m ever glad I read the comments section, and if that doesn’t speak to the incredible community that’s been created then I don’t know what does.”

      I couldn’t agree more! Especially right now, scrolling down this particular thread.

  93. I can’t tell you how much it pisses me off that someone who is not a member of our community in any way, shape or form, thinks her criticism of the queer editors of AS, on behalf of readers (THAT ARE QUEER) is valid or worth something. Thanks but no thanks. You do no get to police our community or decide in which tone it would be best for queers to read news in.

    I just want to add that I’m yet another reader for whom AS has meant a helluva lot; it’s guided me through a lot of very serious and tough real life things like coming to terms with my own queerness and coming out. That AS also entertains my Ellen Page fantasies is a great fucking bonus.

    And Laneia’s thing It’s more fun when we’re co-conspirators is the single article on AS that has meant most to me. She can write about whatever they fuck she wants, including marshmallow cats and Ellen Page, all day every day.

  94. Just wanted to add yet another comment to the outpouring of love, support and outrage. You have always been my favorite place on the internet, the only site where I read the comments and feel good about it, the only place where I consistently see people being called out on things they have done wrong, only to apologize and correct the mistake.
    You have made me a more considerate and well informed human, I can never thank you enough.
    You do you.

  95. Reading AS’s humanizing and hilarious “fluff” pieces… $0

    Reading AS’s fiercely intelligent yet accessible articles… also $0 but decidedly worth >>>$20k/mo

    Knowing that when you inevitably get to the end of said articles, you *still* get to read all the AS-reader comments for even more delightful/challenging thoughts, experiences, and humor on the topic – oh and not to mention respectful discussions… F-ING PRICELESS

    Y’all rock and I’m donating to Autostraddle on a monthly basis from now on (probably though perhaps not exclusively with a MasterCard).

  96. What I love from Autostraddle is that I can always find an article relevant to my interests, no matter which they may be at the time. There are always articles that I can learn from, articles that can make me laugh, articles that can make me reflect on things, articles that can make me cry and articles that can fill my heart with fluffiness. I don’t understand how that can be bad. Autostraddle is also a community that is inclusive tolerant and a safe space in which we all can grow and keep learning and being better. I certainly don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. That’s what Autostraddle is all about, You Do You.

  97. I’m also a long-time lurker and first-time commenter – I’ve been reading this site for about 10-11 months now. I consider myself a ‘baby queer’ in that I’ve only recently figured out what the bulk of my sexual/romantic identity is, and I still feel like I’m pinning down the details. It’s a work in progress thing.

    Anyway, I’m absolutely certain that Autostraddle has helped a *lot* in making me feel more comfortable in my skin. I don’t live in a community with many accessible queer spaces, and heck, I don’t even read news sites or established blogs that often. What drew me to Autostraddle in the first place is both the writing tone *and* the wide variety of content.

    I’ve read plenty of news and articles on important social issues before, ones written with stiff language that any professor would be happy with, and you know what? I never wanted to follow those sites. I would read the articles and agree with them, but not go back for more. When I read Autostraddle, I feel like I would talking to my friends and peers, instead of like I’m sitting in a lecture I’d rather sleep through. I don’t know about Clarke, but I’ve had plenty of discussions with friends and family on important topics, and none of us had to break out a thesaurus to do it. Saying that it’s somehow demeaning to write on a topic in a conversational manner is pretty much an insult anyone who’s *ever* had an in-person conversation. You shouldn’t have to feel pressured into writing articles like you’re TIME for Gays, when that’s clearly not the goal of your site.

    As for the content, it’s equally important to me to know what fellow queers think about celebrities and TV shows and sex toys and good boxed wine as it is to know what they think about world events and social issues. I could go anywhere else on the internet to find a cis straight view on any of those things. Not only is that the opposite of what I want, the fact that I can get such a variety of topics from a feminist queer viewpoint right here is another big reason I stay. And if any other magazine can have space for comics or useless lists of trivia or lame jokes, then why is it so criminal to have a few fluff pieces? It’s heartwarming to know that cute kitten marshmallows exist, and Sherlock Homo really made me giggle.

    My tl;dr is, I’m personally really happy with both the tone and the content, and Clarke is clearly just disappointed in her expectation that all queer websites be challenging and angry in a perfect essay format. (The accusation that you’re trying to *earn money* is almost not even worth addressing – what, does she expect you to run a website and pay writers on pixie dust? Amazing.)

  98. I went to bed (quite angry) just after reading this article, now I woke up and it has more than 200 comments defending you and supporting you. Well, that says it all, right? You created all this, you created this amazing community (the first, and maybe only, I ever felt being a part of, even if I live on ocean away) and you did it just by being YOU. With all your fluffiness and serious stuff. And in my humble opinion, the balance between the two of them is perfect.

    You changed my life being you, you make my life better being you, so.. never stop being you Autostraddle.

  99. All of her arguments were just plain stupid. That’s not very academic of me, but I seriously can’t think of a better way of saying it right now! They were clearly not well thought out and it seems to me that she just needed something to rant negatively about, randomly picked AS and came up with a bunch of lame, weak , unsubstantiaded arguments. All of her points have already been taken down expertly here but I just wanted to say that AS is in NO way like Cosmo! Has she even read a Cosmo? I know I have. Comso’s entire strategy is geared toward making women feel they are severely lacking but won’t be if only they purchase the magazine and follow all the degrading nonsense therein, which means essentially replacing every part of who they naturally are as human beings. AS is a FREE online publication that writes articles of inclusion and self acceptance. AS and Cosmo couldn’t be any more different! The fact that she protested so strongly with such weak arguments makes me strongly suspicious that she is merely attempting to increase her own audience by putting a “competitor” down.

    The point that she is putting down writers within a community with which she doesn’t even identify says volumes! Some of her statements are also transphobic.

    Getting a bit personal here; I am a heady feminist and love serious academic writing just as much as the next WGS student but I am also a survivor who was almost murdered and I can’t take endless articles about those kinds of things day in and day out!!!!!!!! I need a break!!! And I need a community! On other possibly more academic feminist websites there is no sense of friendship, whereas there is here! I feel I have friends here that I have a lot in common with other than feminism! The other stuff we have in common is our queerness and all sorts of other stuff that goes along with it. All of this makes AS so much more important to me than those other “serious” academic feminist sites. AS provides something us queer feminist ladies could not find anywhere else. Perhaps she is jealous!

    • This this this. She has no right to stomp her muddy hob nailed boots through our temple/home/sanctuary/concert. If she wants to join us, she has to get to know us, respectfully, and WANT to be here. Otherwise, I’m more than happy to set her free…

  100. -tw suicide-

    I definitely would have killed myself at age 18 had Autostraddle not existed to remind me that I wasn’t alone and the world is full of beautiful, strong, smart, sassy queers. I could have died as a closeted, insecure, depressed teen, but Autostraddle reminded me that things could get better.
    Things did get better. I’m now 23, nearing the end of my law degree, and an out and proud bisexual. I can honestly say that, in my late teens, Autostraddle was my only – and first – real connection to a wider queer community, and the hope, advice and support it gave me ultimately saved my life.

    How many people owe their life to Cosmo?

    That woman needs to STFU with her baseless criticism.

  101. I’m seventeen. I’ve been reading Autostraddle for over three years and it would not be an understatement to say that this website has shaped me.

    I don’t have much else to add, as everything has been eloquently and brilliantly addressed both in the article in the comments – except, you keep doing you! I love it here, and I know I’m not the only one.

  102. Dammmn, so many good comments here. I was just going to read them all and not post, but I think it’s important to be a visible voice here.

    First things first, I’m imagining all of Autostraddle being read in a “breathy, hyperbolic” voice (I’m imagining Anna Nicole Smith mixed with the dog from UP). Can we get on that, as a subscription service?

    I probably lurked here for several years, but only really kept up with reading and commenting on occasion for the past year or so.

    In the past year, due to direct interactions I’ve had either by reading an Autostraddle article or comment I have:

    -thought about what the movie Blue is the Warmest Colour does for queer media representation
    -read and loved Zami by Audre Lorde
    -made a lemony lentil soup
    -definitely had an awesome first date because of saying “Did you see on Autostraddle…”
    -looked up the LGBT homeless shelter in D.C. in order to volunteer
    -thought about Twitter activism and the politics of increasing exposure of LGBT issues in commercials for corporations
    -bookmarked the Break Up Advice article and returned to it, over and over
    -played and played over again the Surviving Finals playlist
    -looked up gifs to describe my first time
    -educated myself on trans issues and went beyond where this site started me to present to classmates about how to be better counselors to someone who is trans or consider transitioning
    -thought and journaled deeply about what it means to label or not label oneself as queer, bisexual, or gay
    -giggled with a housemate over Orphan Black recaps
    -looked up alternative haircut pictures
    -celebrated the coming out of Ellen Page
    -felt for the first time in my 27 year old life that I could fit into a LGBT community, that there were people here like me and that would listen to people like me

    *thought about the ways that Autostraddle still needs to improve in terms of issues of intersectionality, bisexuality, and gender issues:

    That last point — I add because without Autostraddle’s editors admitting this and without some of the things I’ve read and conversations I’ve had on this website, I wouldn’t have thought about it as much — I wouldn’t have even have the language for it.

    I contain multitudes, and so does Autostraddle.

    Also, I may be poor but I’ll vote with my dollar when the time comes for member subscription. This is too important of a place to too many people.

  103. I have read AS for a few years now and during this time I have watched it become an even more inclusive safe space of diverse voices- more trans* voices, more people of color- and I love it. That’s what feminist and queer work needs to be- so if she doesn’t want us to talk the tough stuff and then get to rant about how avocados rock our world, then she just is on another planet. Cause come on guys, avocado grilled cheese deserves it’s own column. And did I mention we represented MULTIPLE voices on avocados- Brittany said she hated ’em right!? BOOM self-critical and dissenting within. Last time I checked none of that happened in Cosmo (which I tried to read as a teen hoping I was straight HA didn’t work)

  104. I am SO beyond pissed off right now, but I will try to keep my comment short and to the point.

    Members of minority communities (and publications from within minority communities) do NOT have to submit to the pressure from dominant society to undertake the IMPOSSIBLE task of representing an entire community of people, OR attempt to be the “perfect” stereotypical version of their minority to please someone else. They do not have to be more serious, silly, sexual, prude, butch, femme, straight, queer, ANYTHING than they actually are. Policing within a community (or in this case from an adjacent one?) is never okay.

    There are many legitimate reasons why this policing occurs in minority groups, and its healthy to talk about them. I think the main two reasons are:

    1. There is a lot at stake if we are misunderstood.

    Because dominant culture is unfamiliar with or unwilling to acknowledge the diversity within our communities, and because we are (hello) still living in a very homophobic world, any queer person’s words, actions, art, etc can be taken as a blanket statement meant to represent us all, and of course, homophobic opponents will choose whichever representation helps their cause the most.

    2. We are hungry to see our own story and experience told.

    With the incredible lack of representation in mainstream culture, members of minority communities become very emotionally invested in each portrayal. There is nothing more frustrating that feeling like you never have a voice, and then when someone from your community is given a voice, you don’t agree with what they say, leaving you to feel even more alone.

    Both of these reasons are incredibly powerful forces in our lives as queer women, but we cannot allow them to blind us to what is really important, and attack our brothers and sisters. They are products of our unequal status in society, and we must always remember that.

    Autostraddle, I have always felt that you were extremely thoughtful, careful, honest, and real. You understand the pressure that is on you, and you strike the incredibly difficult balance between being responsible and being authentic. No small feat. Just keeping doing exactly what you have been doing; thinking, expressing, and listening.

    Autostraddle is a group of people who got together to tell their stories, not THE SINGULAR REPRESENTATION OF LESBIANISM IN AMERICA. If you don’t find their articles speak to you, don’t read them! If you find that no queer publications strike your fancy, I encourage you to create your own.

  105. yes!!!! so many things I agree with!!!!

    1. fluffiness can also = accessibility, since non-fluffiness easily translates to dry, un-absorbing language which is shitty from a privilege perspective and also from a more general pedagogical perspective
    2. what I like the most about Autostraddle, aside from its fluff or less-fluff, is that it publishes a vareity of views. I’m sure there is a certain ideological vision driving it, but you still publish a wide variety of views that don’t reflect one easily coherent whole – for example, maybe some radical queer politics clash somewhat with celebrating marriage ‘equality’. My point is that its so important to have multiple points of view in one place because there is no point of view that is truly right or fully complete. So having a variety also means you let your readers decide for themselves.
    3. I remember my girlfriend didn’t like AS at first because she felt it was too fluffy and, yeah, got a bit close to assimilation . . . that it created a whole other sub-culture that was equally fluffy. And I agreed – and agree – with her to a certain extent. But I think it is also inevitable. I am 100,000,000% in favour of Autostraddle having fluffier stuff – and with that fluffier stuff, and attempting to create a community, some kind of sub-culture is going to be formed and if it’s not wildly, explicitly, ‘scarily’ radical … then yeah, it is going to get a little close to the mainstream. but that’s okay, it’s part of the weird tensions involved in activism. it’s not a total downfall if that happens. SImilar with the merchandise – in a queer anti-capitalist utopia it wouldn’t happen, but there are also practical realities that need to be met daily, without which none of this could happen at all. They’re slightly awkward compromises that you learn to live with.
    4. I do appreciate that this particular article demonstrated the double standards of Clarke’s analysis of queer and non-queer websites, and the implications of that. But I’m glad you also took down her argument in itself – after all, someone else could have raised those same points without having praised other, similar, websites. Yeah – the cosmo-for-queers claim in itself is invalid, too. :)
    go team!!!

  106. Autostraddle saved my life. Camp gave me a real place and time to hold on to. Every time things get dark (and they can get very, very dark) I remind myself that I need to make it to the next camp. This place is my family, my home, my community.

    You Do You, but more importantly, as my good friend (who I met through AS) says, Us Do Us.

  107. Just throwing my comment in the pile of support for the AS community. I owe this site a debt of gratitude in terms of shaping my identity.

    Now I’m a happy, healthy out queer adult. As with the readers behind the hundreds of comments before mine, AS has helped me with tons of things, most recently feeling comfortable about dressing and being out in the workplace (personally, I was pretty psyched to see Notes from a Queer Engineer.

    Your rebuttal to Clarke’s point that bothered me the most was spot on: “working hard for little to no money as a marginalized person is commendable, but only as long as it’s totally economically draining; but if at any point you work hard enough or become good enough at it that you can support yourself, your politics are in bad faith.”

    So I’m paying the debt I owe AS back most immediately by purchasing Autostraddle Merch. I’m also in for the membership program when you roll that out. I love the idea that I can pay it forward to help AS become and remain sustainable. I remember seeing how you used the indiegogo campaign to immediately pay your writers and thought that was super, super cool. You have my support.

    Keep on doing you!

  108. Autostraddle has given mup a lot andthe best eggnog recipe ever, and has thus improved my Christmas/Saturnalia celebrations for the rest of my life.

    I also consider the Anonymous Sex Toy reviews compulsory reading and yes, sometimes on NSFW Sunday I skip the actual reading part till later and just look at the hot pictures.

    Just because those things are true does NOT mean that Autostraddle is anything like Cosmo.

    There have been a tonne of fantastic articles on this site written about current events and personal experiences that have helped me so much, which is why I take such offence at the implication that AS is no more than fluff or a money-grabbing exercise.

    An example: I have lived my whole life in a country that, until quite recently, has been virtually racially homogenous. The articles by women of colour on this site have opened my eyes of viewpoints that I never imagined existed.

    Another example: the articles on trans* issues have genuinely opened my mind beyond the binary gender norm I was raised with and enabled me to be much more sensitive and informed on those issues.

    Oh look, another example: the Butch, Please articles have helped me to understand how diverse we all are, even if others brand us all with the same label.

    I may not comment much, but AS has been a great resource for me. It has helped me grow up a lot and mature into (I hope) an informed and generally cool person. I doubt I’d have gotten that from Cosmo.

    As for the money thing, it’s obvious that you guys need to, you know, eat, and that running this site isn’t free. I wish you could get MORE money for it.

    And sometimes being queer can be kind of depressing, what with all the mental health issues, marginalisation and legal prejudice, so if sometimes I want to read articles about kitten marshmallows or all the foods that Brittani wishes would just die, then I’m allowed. I hope you’ll continue writing them.

  109. Firstly, I want to say that I love Autostraddle. I’ve been here for four years, and I have watched it go through a lot of changes. I’ve seen threads on here I absolutely love, and I’ve seen stuff on here that made me want to throw my computer out a window (I didn’t, thankfully). I’ve seen stuff that made me laugh, made me cry in a good way, made me cry in a bad way, made me angry, and loads of stuff in between. The thing is, nobody is going to like everything on a website, and the website can’t please everyone.

    I can see how sentiments like this would anger/hurt the people who put their blood, sweat, tears, and heart into making this place what it is every day…but…opinions are like assholes. Everyone has one. You aren’t always going to like what people have to say about you or your site. In short, the TL;DR is that they’re allowed to have an opinion. I get that you don’t like said opinion, but, they are allowed to have it, and you’re allowed to not like it.

    ****DISCLAIMER: A lot of what they had to say was ignorant and, from what I can tell, downright false, which is definitely a problem.

  110. “Cosmo for Queers, or, How to Sell a Woman to Herself” is a fine example of really shoddy and pointless journalism. Like other readers, I’ve read the article twice and Clarke’s point is still lost in a murky pit of bitterness and contempt.

    It seems apparent to me that Clarke’s research didn’t go very deep. And who edited this? I’m guessing no one, because I would hope that if it had been edited it would have made more sense.

    I’m guessing she wrote it because she has a laptop and thought “I have an opinion on something” and “Cool, I can name drop Sarah Schulman and Jill Filipovic.”

    News to you Clarke, you have just embarrassed yourself in front of this clever and adorable little gaggle of queers, trans*folk, dykes, with your pretentious bullshit but also and more importantly, pointless article.

  111. Here, in this “cloying” internet place full of silly gay cheerleader feelings, I’m going to share my feelings about Ms. Clarke’s argument: It’s absurd that her blatant, unfocused concern trolling (packaged in the language of privileged academia) is supposed to be taken more seriously than AS’s community-focused, reader-driven content(packaged in the language of actual queer people).

  112. For me Autostraddle has contributed so much to ridding me of my ‘fear’ of being gay and what being gay meant – mainly through its constant reinforcement of You Do You and that their is absolutely no ‘right’ way to be gay (or queer or trans or bi or any other way any of us straddlers identify). The balance of serious and truly educational (to me) articles, along with recaps and in depth reviews of marshmallows is one of the reasons I come back every day! So pleased to see this brilliant response to an attempt at criticism.

  113. Autostraddle: don’t come for us unless we send you an Evite.

    This response was incisive, comprehensive, and utterly brilliant. Words cannot express how much AS means to me, and for all y’all do- from the most in depth sociopolitical pieces to the fluffiest marshmallows, I am truly thankful.

    Four for you Autostraddle. And none for Diana Clarke, bye.

  114. I just want to say that one of the reasons I love this site is that it brings makes feminist theory fucking ACCESSIBLE to the people.

    As someone who did some gender topics at university, something that’s given me the shits* since is the fact that there’s so little translation of incredible feminist theories from wanky academic drivel to a language and format that everyday people can understand and connect with, let alone one that also incorporates HUMOUR (God forbid).

    I LOVE this website and how writers say fucking intelligent things with some sass and with jokes and without using every 4000 syllable word available. That shit gets old and sometimes, ain’t nobody got time for that.

    AS is writing the book for merging serious queer/feminist smarts + accessibility.

    Love your work people.

    The end.

    *do other people know this phrase? Am I just being very Australian?

  115. “In fact, we write so much about our oppression and difference that we often require that vapid fluff just to keep our own faltering sanity intact. After reading about systemic economic injustice leveled at queer people, the overwhelming challenges facing LGBT workers of color, the ways in which neocolonialist rhetoric is leveraged in international LGBT news coverage, the reach of the prison industrial complex and the misplaced values of the mainstream LGBT equality movement, is it that unreasonable to want to make a list of five movies with cats in them?”

    Not unreasonable at all! Keep up the good work!

  116. this is a brilliant reminder of how important it is to consider who our pageviews, clicks and cash go to in order to pull our community up, whether from without or within. also it’s a brilliant everything

  117. Well, I’m going to have some hyperbolic fluffy bunny feelings at you, Autostraddle. One of the most important, and most difficult, things I had to do as a queer person was to figure out how to take care of myself, how to deal with trauma in a healthy way, and learn how to be happy. Doing important work and helping people is one way I do that. The other way I do that is fun things like crafting and cooking and hoping that someday kitten marshmallows become vegan and make it to the US. Autostraddle reflects that all of these things are important and valid.
    If you can’t see that self-care is important, well, you can’t sit with us.

    Also, anyone who points at a marginalized group and says, “the way you talk is wrong/annoying,” is part of the problem.

  118. I love autostraddle. I have identified as a feminist since I was maybe, I don’t know, eight? I am not wishy-washy on how I feel about the language and manner of speaking that people use when they address really important issues. I have never had an issue with your content or tone. Your serious articles have always shown serious regard for the dignity of others and a furiousness when that dignity is abridged. Your funny articles are indeed funny and perfectly proper in their “breathy” and “trivial” tone. I’ll ask for something from your store for my birthday, I think it’s 100% fine to financially support good reporting produced by the people it’s meant to be consumed by. I’m sorry this article came out and so radically misunderstood this wonderful corner of the internet. I am extremely grateful to autostraddle, it’s writers, editors, and other staff, and the community/commentors who have made my slow, awkward transition to being out and loving myself for who I am tolerable.

  119. The fact that neither the website that published the article nor the author herself has even acknowledged this article (or the hundreds of comments from the community) is pretty telling.

    That article was never about improving discourse. It was a piece of click bait, attempting to silence us.

    I am yet another person who would not be here if it were not for this site and camp. Camp literally saved my life. I would not have made it to the end of 2013 without it.

    I still have a long way to go, but thanks to the autostraddle team and community, I still exist to make that journey.

    I will also sign up for membership when you guys introduce it.

    This website is so vital to the queer community.

  120. I just said the sentence “I have an Autostraddle membership” out loud and felt really good. Can’t wait to say it when it’s actually true! :) Also all the love, luv and wuv for this piece. Best thing I’ve read on the internet in 2014.

  121. While AS isn’t perfect and homonormativity might be a real concern in other venues, I think Clarke’s criticisms reflect only a shallow skim of the site and ignorance of all the meaning-making that happens here.

  122. I hardly ever actually comment, but I just want everyone at Autostraddle to know that I absolutely love all of you and the community that you have brought together via this website and through the A-Camp gatherings. You work hard to keep it all up, you really care about the readers input and make decisions that are beneficial for all of us. Anyone making a judgement about this website and community that is negative has clearly not taken the time to see what it is really all about. Autostradde is not just a .com, it is a family and a damn strong one at that. The diverse writing and readership is what makes this group so amazing! Thank you to each person who has poured their personal experience into an article, comment, or contributed to this community in any way. I appreciate you and all that Autostraddle does for the community! Thank you! <3

    See you at camp,
    Ashley B.