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. 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…?

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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”

  5. 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.

  6. 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?”

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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 ?

  12. 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?

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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).

  17. 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.

  18. 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.)

  19. 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.

  20. 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…

  21. -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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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)

  25. 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.

  26. 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!!!

  27. 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.

  28. 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!

  29. 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.

  30. 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.

  31. “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.

  32. 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).

  33. 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.

  34. 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.

  35. 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?

  36. “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!

  37. 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

  38. 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.

  39. 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.

  40. 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.

  41. 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.

  42. 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.

  43. 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.

  44. It makes me crazy when otherwise straight publications decide to include something about queer stuff, and whoever writes the piece is then positioned as the authoritative interpreter of all things queer for that publication’s audience and editorial staff (because none of those baffler boys actually read autostraddle and would therefore be able to say, hey, this seems a little off); but this is worse than usual because it’s such an ill-informed, poorly thought-out hit piece. I hope that Diana Clarke is reading your great rebuttal and these comments and realizing that she should have done more homework (speaking as a queer studies prof!) and might need to make it right somehow, because if she wants to talk about commodification, mainstreaming, and de-radicalizing, she’s aiming at the wrong target (you guys do genuinely thought-provoking, nuanced intersectional work, when most gay/lesbian media does not even try) and if she’s objecting to the “feminine” quality of the website’s collective voice (friendly, goofy, comic, pop-culture-immersed, concerned with beauty, crafting, food, sex, and love) that’s actually a sexist and elitist argument (I seriously doubt the baffler has a readership that spans class in the way autostraddle’s does), and it’s also missing the many other tones writers have used when talking about all kinds of subjects. Butch Gets Emotional comes to mind: taking a moment to remember how darned good that series was. And as others have said, to compare a site as committed to re-thinking normative standards of beauty as autostraddle to cosmo is just…wrong.

  45. Doesn’t she understand that we are radical simply by dint of existence? I am apart from the norm when I walk down the street, when I hold another girl’s hand, when I plan a future that doesn’t involve a man, when I take a Buzzfeed quiz and it asks me to choose between Ryan Reynolds and Ryan Gosling as my “ideal husband”. It doesn’t matter whether I’m talking about my cat, or the cat shaped marshmallows I saw online, my presence in the same room as my conservative christian family members is a radical act of defiance.
    I don’t comment often on this site, because I am shy. But I read every day. This community stops me from feeling alone. I turn to your articles for advice, and to seek the reassurance that other people the same stories as me. I come on autostraddle when I’m confused, or lonely, or hurt because my mother just had coffee with my brother and his girlfriend of two days, when she refused to meet my partner of two years.
    I read to try and muddle through the social “rules” of the LGBTQ community. Straight (cis)girls spend their whole lives being taught how to be a straight girl, in a relationship with a straight man, through fairy tales and Disney and Sweet Valley High and Gossip Girl and by observing every single visible fucking couple around them. No one teaches us how to be queer.
    And the fluffy pieces. I click through to every single one. Because they are joyful and whimsical and light and funny, and it’s like listening to banter between friends. Except every friend is different, like me, and in our differences we become the same. Autostraddle is sometimes the only place where I get to feel normal that day.
    Dear Autostraddle writers and editors and magic makers, you are important. What you are doing is important. Your thoughtful articles are important, your academically serious articles are important,and I actually think your fluffy articles might be the most important. Because god knows we are bruised enough, we have enough to think about, we have enough to fear.

  46. So, queer people shouldn’t have any distinctive linguistic patterns, or use them to communicate with each other; we shouldn’t have interests in or share knowledge on anything besides political issues; and even if our values in that realm are sound, they should never be presented in anything other than the most normative, sterilized package: “I do not know how to accept my values reflected in a voice I do not recognize as my own.”
    This sad ramps-eating white lady’s argument boils down to “queers shouldn’t have their own cultures, that makes me uncomfortable.”

  47. You have created a fantastic, international community. I, an ancient professor of 50, enjoy the way you write and speak and have learned a lot from your site about the current state of the queer community and my own students. To make up for the snarkery from this idiot, I just made a donation. I’d love to see all the commenters here donate something to AS, whatever amount you can!

  48. Thank you autostraddle for creating this space and being accountable to it. This woman should really just spend some more time on this site. Also, I will never apologize for needing lists of cat movies!!! Keep those coming too!

  49. Adding my voice to say thank you to the staff, writers, community, and more here at Autostrattle. You were there for me when I thought, hey maybe just like I felt a shift from atheism to a more spiritual outlook, I could feel a shift from asexuality to some sort of queer sexuality, and it was all okay. Then when a cute girl asked me out on okcupid and disclosed her trans* history, I came here to learn more. Now that we are trying to increase the size of our little family I am grateful for articles about other families making babies in a lesbian relationship where one partner is trans*. It makes me feel less alone in my small town where my partner is not out.

    I am looking forward to subscription membership so I can do a bit more of my part. I had been waiting to make a donation until there was more information, but I went ahead and bought a few things from the store for my birthday and as a small contribution.

  50. I read this website because you all have been an important resource for me, an older woman, coming out. You’ve made it possible for me to come out and date the women that I want to date. I used to read Cosmo: I never got that from them. Yeah, you’re not always on point on the intentionality but I see more representations of women of color and women of different sizes than I do on any other site. Ya’ll are doing the right thing even if it’s the hard way. And I’m so grateful for that.

  51. If the range of topics disconcerts her so much, is it really that hard to not read the articles that she’s not interested in? I’m not that interested in most of the fluff pieces either – my preferred fluff is different fluff – so I don’t read them, instead reading the pieces that I DO want to read. What a novel concept.

  52. I forced myself to read the original article before I read this rebuttal, because I wanted to form my own unbiased opinion, but mostly it just made me angry and confused. The article is judgmental and contradictory; its clear that the author is not a member of this community, and spent minimal time here “researching” her piece.

    Autostraddle is a unique site in that it’s more than just a collection of articles, it’s a community. I’m sure there are readers who only come here for certain things, like the TV recaps or DIY series, or even those who click through from search results, read the one article, and don’t delve any deeper into the site. Obviously their traffic is welcomed and we hope they keep coming back.

    But I feel like to really understand the community aspect, you do need to spend some time here. And you need to read the comments. The articles are wonderful in and of themselves, but a lot of the “action” – the discussions and feedback that show AS to be different from other sites – happens in the comments. I don’t know any other site where the writers are so open to suggestions and comments from their readers as this one. I feel like every writer here acknowledges that their viewpoint is just that – theirs – and others may have different experiences or knowledge to bring to the table. No one here presumes to be the expert on any aspect of queer experience, because everyone’s experiences are different and we can all learn from each other.

    The other thing that makes AS unique is the integrity of the creators and the dedication to the values that form this site. I have the utmost respect for a team that *knows* certain content on their site is a deterrent to advertisers, yet continues to print that content because they feel the information is important and needed by the community they serve. That right there is the definition of integrity.

    Hand in hand with that is their transparency when it comes to the financial realities of running the site. AS has no problem sharing with readers what their operating budget is and there that money goes; I feel good giving money to AS when I can, because I know where it’s going (and that, in some way, it’s helping to support the queer community of which I am a part).

    Sorry, I’m completely rambling, but I do have one more point (which is what I intended to comment on in the first place), and that’s this quote:

    “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.”

    THIS. To an outsider looking in, it may seem “vapid” for adults to watch television shows/movies meant for teenagers, but this is why we care. Media representation of queerness has changed dramatically in the last 15-20 years, and for those of us who grew up in the 80s/90s, this is the first time we’re seeing representation of our adolescent selves in mainstream media. I watch “Glee” and “Faking It” not because I identify with them now, but because I see a little of my 16-year-old self in characters like Santana Lopez and Amy Raudenfeld. Someone who grew up seeing themselves all over television and movies can’t possibly understand what it’s like to have grown up never seeing yourself (or only seeing yourself as a joke or meeting some tragic end) and now suddenly seeing the teen version of yourself being happy and thriving and getting the girl in high school. It means a lot, and AS gets that.

  53. I am a longtime AS reader and an even longertime Cosmo reader (also an older AS reader – I’m 41) and I’ve been sitting here befuddled as to how the two publications could even be compared. Completely different editorial focuses (Cosmo would not publish anything on kitten marshmallows, and AS would not recommend using a scrunchie as a sex toy), completely different audiences/markets (which the above comments have already addressed), and completely different language/style tones (ditto). There’s just not a lot of common ground between the two publications, and while I am in the apparently very tiny middle of this Venn diagram, I can confidently say that I read both for (wait for it) completely different reasons. Calling AS a “queer Cosmo” makes about as much sense as calling an apple a “queer orange.” Sure, they both function similarly, but that’s about where it ends.

  54. I am legitimately afraid to share my thoughts about all of this. After reading nearly 300 comments varying in AS celebration from “Thank you for all you do, AS, please keep it up!” to “I love AS and this bit*h can go fuck herself,” I see no room for my perspective.

    I have a hard time trusting a community in which there are 300+ voices in nearly absolute agreement, and hardly any that land somewhere else. I feel like this thread has become a “yr with us Or yr against us”–evidenced by framing this person’s article as a “take down” or “diss” rather than a critique or observation or analysis (whether or not you agree with it).

    It seems as though if you don’t unwaveringly agree with the voices in this thread, with the editors, with the content.. you have no place in Autostraddle’s community. This does not sound like the strong, accepting, elastic queer family that demands diversity and variation and celebrates those multitudes inside of us so many in this thread spoke of.

    • I, for one, would be really glad if you voiced your agreement with Clarke’s article (which you don’t). Honestly, and I speak only for myself, I really wish AS is as open minded as I believe it is, and I do believe it strongly. But, you know, maybe, maybe, we just happen to agree a lot that Clarke’s article… well, didn’t do it for us. Just because no one voiced their concerns doesn’t necessarily mean some people had concerns but didn’t actually feel welcome or free to voice them. Until someone does it, takes a stand and goes in another direction than the most common one, we’ll never know how open we really are. ;-)

    • “This does not sound like the strong, accepting, elastic queer family that demands diversity and variation and celebrates those multitudes inside of us so many in this thread spoke of.”

      While I don’t agree with most of what Clarke’s article said (how about her critiquing XO Jane and all the garbage on that site including its frequent racism and transphobia?) I do agree with your statement here. ‘Rah, rah, rah, ain’t we great’ is not conducive to real diversity. You can still love Autostraddle and have an open mind to criticism or a serious discussion about its values and modes of expression.

    • We’re absolutely not above criticism, and we get emails and tweets and comments every single day reminding us of that — and we take those emails very seriously. We just did a huge reader survey full of feedback on what we’re doing wrong. As we suggested in this piece, part of what was so weird about Clarke’s article was that it didn’t actually call us out for any of our actual problems, but instead invented problems that we feel don’t exist. And I think that’s all people are responding to here — whether or not what Clarke said was valid or came from a genuine place of wanting to improve queer media. I don’t think anybody is under the illusion that we’re perfect, or that we don’t have areas where we need improvement, as heaps of other comment threads (and our initial fear of responding at all, considering the glass house we live in) can attest. None of us are reading this thread and thinking “ah ha! our work here is done! we’re the best website ever!” — we’d have to be total idiots to feel that way. (and no amount of praise could ever drown out the burning fires of self-hatred and doubt that largely define our personalities in general.) but the past few months have been tough, we’ve felt pretty disheartened about a lot of things, our emotions have unfortunately often drowned out our intellect, and yeah… this comment thread has given us back the energy and the empowerment we need to tackle the problems with renewed vigor.

      • I hear you, Riese. And I am glad that this article and the response from the AS community has reignited the editor’s fire(s) and made you feel renewed and ready to continue your important and valued work.

        I don’t think you are above criticism from dedicated readers–it seems like, largely, the editorial team is doing the best it can with what it has to address its diverse and shifting and growing audience of AS fans.

        My issue and nerve lives more in the community response here and the overall hive mind mentality (which is often true for other parts of the site). So much dialogue and conversation and discussion can and should happen between readers when a site is conversational and accessible to begin with–when an article reads like you can hear queers talking about it casually then it makes sense that we should sometimes feel inspired to talk about it with each other. The things is, though, too often there is not respectful conversation that is diverse and reflective of several different voices.

        It is often a monolith of queers agreeing with the author/perspective/idea and a few voices that land somewhere else in the spectrum of agree OR disagree (and it is so common that those few voices are immediately called out/questioned/flushed out of a thread). I believe so strongly that if a queer response starts to look and sound like everyone feels the same way, something is not right.

        • Yeah, you’re right, and I appreciate you bringing that up — I disagree about this thread specifically, but in general, I agree about the hivemind that happens. I don’t want to dismiss that at all. A lot of issues that need to be approached with nuance have become very black-and-white, and the fact is that we did begin, honestly, as a genuine personality cult, and now we’re awkwardly growing out of that. The reason we opened up our Associate Editor search last summer to outside applicants instead of promoting from within was one of our baby steps. I do feel, however, that when it comes to evaluating Autostraddle itself, there has been no shortage of disagreement and dissent over the last five years, which we’ve participated in. I feel like this thread is a rare exception? Which is why it’s been empowering, perhaps, instead of draining, as we expected based on past experiences. Because those conversations are draining. And fuck these have made us so much happier. Although Clarke’s argument suggested an unfamiliarity with the site that resulted in my distrust of any potential validity contained therein, the “So Many Feelings” essay we referenced does, I think, speak to making ‘safe’ points that encourage a hivemind response, which is the area of hiveminding i suspect we are guilty of. I’d be really interested to hear your thoughts on that essay. I do think part of what squelched dissent initially was our tendency to take everything as a personal attack and go apeshit with defensive despair. That sort of set the tone for all future dissents to be treated as personal attacks, even when they weren’t.

          That being said, on the internet in general, often people go after the publication or the writer instead of the writer’s argument, which inspires knee-jerk reactions and energy draining. As in; so many arguments become about whether or not [site] should have published [article] by [writer] and what [article] and [writer] says about [site], instead of the reason the issues raised or argued in [article] are contentious or complicated to begin with. The best conversations we’ve had on here were those in which that didn’t happen. Often, this makes a writer scared to make risky or potentially controversial points at all, because nobody wants to be the latest thing held up as What Autostraddle Is. then we have #hivemind happening on the writer side, instead of the reader side.

          We need to really get over that and I don’t know how, yet, especially when sometime we’re just dealing with thin-skinned writers who don’t want to fight about anything, ever… is that what you’re saying the problem is? That we’re not an effective political force and can’t claim to be when we often shy away from more challenging, radical or potentially explosive conversations. And that a complacency and eagerness-to-please often associated with a certain style of femininity could perhaps play a major role in that failure to be truly progressive?

        • I’m really interested by this. In what ways do you think there is a hive mind? What issues have bothered you specifically? I disagreed strongly with an article about Willow from Buffy being portrayed as a lesbian, and wrote a comment about the article not acknowledging the way that bisexual erasure could have played a role in how her identity was constructed and portrayed by the writers. I found that the comments were very diverse and many were critical. Honestly, I can’t think of a single other Autostraddle article I have even had a problem with. Maybe I’m just not critical enough, but I feel like I’m ultra-critical in every other part of my life!

          I’d be really interested to hear what kind of problems you have with this article. This article really moved me and seemed excellent, so maybe I’m just not thoughtful enough!

        • Riese–I am attempting to reply to your comment written at 1:11pm, but cannot figure out this newfangled Macbook technology and I am 8 kinds of sleepy. I appreciate so much your willingness to listen and to hear and to understand where I am coming from. I totally may have some misplaced worries that could apply less to this thread and more to others if we are thinking about how to make AS a good as it can be for the people who read it and write it and make it happen on the daily.

          “That sort of set the tone for all future dissents to be treated as personal attacks, even when they weren’t.” — This is something I have to work on all the time because feelings and because QUEER FEELINGS. So I absolutely get it, and I know how much that everyday mountain can feel like an impossible summit..especially when you are trying to make your writers AND readers feel valued and understood.

          “Often, this makes a writer scared to make risky or potentially controversial points at all, because nobody wants to be the latest thing held up as What Autostraddle Is. Then we have the #hivemind beginning on the writer side of things, rather than the reader side.” — It was brazen of you to inhabit that space and I am grateful for it. Complacency is a cold hard bit*h and so often claims good ideas before they are able to see the light of day, let alone the AS dashboards of queers ’round the world. I feel like I am often the person shitting in people’s morning oatmeal and bringing up the hard, political stuff and I worry all the time (even in spaces like AS) that people won’t like me/respect me/come back and read my comment/read anything else I might write in the future because I’m that guy. It is so hard and scary to make yrself and ideas and thoughts vulnerable through writing. But it also supremely powerful and necessary to sustainable and electric online queer communities–especially when the hard, uncomfortable shit isn’t always right. There is power in taking the risk and there is power in getting it wrong. And that power could light up our queer sky if we’d let it.

    • I would like to hear your thoughts on Clarke’s article. My main problem with it is that she’s critiquing AS but seems not to have a good understanding of what AS actually is, where it came from, and the community it serves.

      I do see what you’re saying about the comments, though. The people who comment are mostly the people who agree with the original post, because it’s easy to agree. It’s not as easy to be the lone dissenting voice, especially when the topic is personal & emotional for both the writers and many of the commenters. But if there’s one thing I’ve found in my time here at AS it’s that as long as your comment is not a personal attack on anyone, the writers (and most of the other commenters) are willing to listen to and engage with differing opinions.

      So please post what you have to say; I for one would like to read it.

      • Seconding (thirding? fourthing? whatever) that it would be great to hear more thoughts from people who reacted differently to the article, and also that it would probably be a good idea to try to keep the conversation alive once people have processed their initial, knee-jerk reactions (I, for one, know my own reaction was not primarily driven by the logic portions of my brain).

        It would be too bad if once this post cycles off the front page, that was the end of the community discussion. I haven’t really made use of the groups portion of the site, as I’m a newer reader; would it make sense to start a thread there for people who want to say (and hear) more?

    • I’ve criticized Autostraddle a number of times, and seen many others do the same. Overall, I don’t feel like this is a community where people are unwilling to share their opinions. In fact, one thing that keeps me coming back is the fact that the editors/writers actually seem to respond to critiques (for example, coverage of trans, bisexual, and racial issues has improved immensely in response to community criticism – though of course the site is still imperfect).

      I think the opinions are pretty uniform in this particular thread because the article in question had nothing of value to say. If someone wrote a genuinely thoughtful critique of this site I suspect you would see many more varied opinions. This one was just really off the mark.

      • That said, I’d be interested in hearing from people who had different reactions to the article. It’s entirely possible that some people took something valuable away from it that most of us missed. Constructive criticism is definitely a positive thing.

      • “I think the opinions are pretty uniform in this particular thread because the article in question had nothing of value to say.”

        I disagree that the article had nothing of value to say–I think any criticism of a major queer website is something of value, whether or not I agree with the bulk of the person’s argument. I would never say that an AS article with which I wholly disagree/missed the mark/think is downright wrong is not of value. It is valuable because it is dissent it is different it is criticism and, if anything, it inspired the editors to spend a long (4000+ words) reviewing their editorial practices and choices in a transparent way.

        Also, I don’t know if I really want to point to the specific times I’ve felt smoked out of a thread for having a ‘dissenting’ opinion–I think it should be enough for me to have shared my feeling and pointed to some potential reasons. Honestly, most of the time I’m having a “I don’t know..I don’t know..maybe this is problematic?” I just do not comment because I am certain it will be met with defensive fanfare. And yes.. I could take the leap and comment because as I keep hearing “it will be okay because I did it and it was fine..!” But, I am more interested in having a discussion about why I (and others) identify discomfort at the sometimes echo chamber that can happen at AS.

        • ok i think i thought you were talking about something else — i think maybe what i was identifying as a problem that sometimes gets in the way of nuanced discussions on important issues is exactly the thing you are saying we need more of, if what you are arguing is that all criticism of a major queer website is valid and worthy of deconstruction? i am actually nervous to comment my next comment because i feel like i am “part of the problem.”

          but like, i think i just fundamentally disagree with the idea that all criticism is valid and worthy of attention. and not just ’cause there aren’t enough hours in the day … which isn’t to say there wasn’t a value it considering that as a thought experiment. i think a major place to discriminate w/r/t how much you consider a thing, though, goes back to motive — perceived motive probably has a huge bearing on how much a person will want to engage, usually for better but perhaps occasionally for worse.

        • I’m not sure I agree that disagreement is always a good thing, and consensus always bad. Most of the internet is about fighting and most of the time that achieves nothing. It’s a relief to me to have a space where there is progressive consensus about at least some things: like, people’s gender identifications should be respected, for example. That consensus allows different kinds of conversations to happen than in what might be called more “diverse” internet spaces in terms of political viewpoint. Now, does this lead to a community culture in which disagreement feels like a transgression? Probably, and that’s worth talking about, but I don’t think we have to assume that disagreement is the only or most important sign of a healthy community/conversation. In fact I think that’s an assumption embedded in the adversarial TV culture that blocks, rather than produces, learning.

          • figilina, I’m with you (= agreement, hah! :-D ). I don’t see disagreement as a systematically valuable thing, I really don’t, and I don’t find consensus worrying in itself either.

        • Hey Figilina–

          I definitely don’t think that disagreement is the only sign of a healthy community conversation. I think that a healthy amount of diversity in response that lands all over the spectrum of agree/disagree is the sign of a healthy community conversation.

          Of course, there are more universal queer values that most/if not all AS readers will agree on. For example–respecting a person’s pronouns OR AS’s work in response to folks criticizing a lack of content about trans* folks (specifically trans* people of color). These are two things that, if a comment thread said something along the lines of “Thank you AS for continuing to work to make this website better!” and “Yay! Trans* women’s voices belong on AS” I would likely not have the response of “I think there is too much agreement here…this is not healthy.”

          Instead, my problem lies in the hivemind echo chamber that can sometimes happen about the topics that are not 2014 political and of popular queer thought (like gender pronouns and trans* visibility).

          I think Riese did a good job of addressing this in our exchange–she wrote a bit about editors and contributing writers being afraid to take on the articles and issues that will prompt a more diverse response and demand that conversation because it is scary and vulnerable and can feel confrontational and personal [even if it is neither a fight/diss nor personal attack]. I think there is danger in seeing disagreement and variation as “fighting.”

          I am totally unsure about what you mean by “adversarial TV culture..” Do you mean shows like Jerry Springer? Respectful discussions in the right queer container do not look anything like people screaming and fighting and name calling. Sure, people can do that and likely have on AS. I am not talking about those disagreements and conversations. And I think there is so much learning that can happen in seeing other people’s perspectives–especially when they vary pretty deeply from your own.

  55. This website has been really important for me. I’d just like to say thank you. It has really shaped and educated me. Where I grew up there wasn’t really an outlet, community or much information. I didn’t know queer 101 let alone anything else. To have access to so many voices in the community is such a blessing. I just wanted to thank you so much from my queer heart.

  56. This is absolutely ridiculous. If anything, Autostraddle made me way less scared of finally admitting to myself that I was a lady-lover, because it had a culture I could 100% relate to. Part of this culture was some of the “frivolous” things that are part of AS. Gah, I can’t really say anything here that others haven’t already articulated much better than me, but yeah.

    • Hey hi–I don’t think it has been confirmed that Diana Clarke is a straight-identified person. Just thinkin’ that using a person’s assumed sexual orientation is not necessarily the best way to voice disagreement.

  57. Sadly, there is no place to comment on Diana Clarke’s article because otherwise she’d have 332+ comments about how she has misrepresented us. Basically, Diana Clarke is disappointed that we don’t fit her stereotype for how queer people should sound. We should invite her to A-Camp and show her that we can be both fun and politically aware (and yes, we buy and wear clothes). And hon, some of us are cheerleaders.

    • Yes to the cheerleader comment! I know that my 10th grade sweet and confused cheerleader self would have poured over Autostraddle as a high school student who just was not sure why being in a cheer costume felt like drag (and why that drag queen feeling felt so right).

      • Oh no! I accidentally commented as my sweetie (Lauren0h) above. They definitely do not have the same cheerleader history and drag queen dreams I do.

        Hah. Accidentally commenting on AS under yr partner’s account because you share a Macbook is pretty gay.

  58. The funny thing is that when the Cosmo that we know of now started (before that it was a literary magazine, and before that a family mag) it was actually pretty damn feminist and ground-breaking for its time. The head editor had written a book encouraging women to own their sexuality and that they didn’t need a man to be happy, and the magazine followed suit: the first ever issue covered the birth control pill, which was brand new at the time.

    Praising with faint damns, or something.

    There is this weird tension that happens with marginalised societies where a lot of them barely get enough social support to function, but once some of them manage to get mainstream success they get shot down as “selling out” or “not authentic enough” or something. And sometimes those that did get successful berate the others for not working hard or “stop being poor”, because if they could do it why shouldn’t anybody else? You can’t win.

    and oh man. thanks for the fluff. It’s why I get frustrated at people who denounce all “vapidity” (reality TV, fashion, celebrity goss, whatever) as bad because it’s not intellectual (other reasons aside) – dude, sometimes we just need a mental break.

    (also hi again)

    • Yes I was thinking about that last night! That when she started Cosmo, giving sex tips to women, period, was as paradigm-shifting as it has been for magazines to give sex tips to queer women over the past few decades.


  59. I created an account just so I could comment! I just wanted to say that even though I don’t read all the articles, I do really enjoy the website. I was pretty surprised at the reference to Autostraddle being white and bourgeois. I suppose the majority of articles I click on and take the time to read are written by the handful of PoC writers you have? It’s possible! I love the playlists and recipes you guys post but I think what ultimately won me over was that Autostraddle posts articles about First Nations people in Canada! Nobody mainstream does that, so thanks for that!

    Also that avocado article was possibly the most exciting thing ever for my fianceé. :D

    When I started dating Lacey, and we were like okay, so we’re in love, that means we’re lesbians! I bought every lgbtq book, googled all the websites, followed them all on google reader. And 5 years later Autostraddle is the only one left that I consistently check on. You guys are great! Even if I don’t read articles about weird marshmallows. :)

    • Thank you!!! And actually no it’s not that surprising that you were surprised by that characterization — about 30-40% of our content on any given month is written by writers who are qpoc. obvs that number tells a very limited story and is one of maybe 20 factors that go in to making a more racially diverse website and community in general (and i’d like it to be more like 50%). as i’ve said before, we still have a lot of work to do in that area and are committed to doing it.

      And Mazel Tov to you and Lacey, and thank you for sticking around and supporting us!

  60. I love this whole thread. I just looked at Ms. Clarke’s twitter and find it very disingenuous that her feed is: a link to a poetry project for Latin@ queer poets, a link to politial article about queers, link to article about how tequila is necesary to writing, link to a tee-shirt from the Toast she wants to buy, etc. Her twitter feed is basically the Autostraddle format! How does her own twitter feed not baffle her when she looks at it?!

  61. Ugh, what a queerphobic article dressed up like it’s helping us.

    People that aren’t part of the queer community really shouldn’t be saying what is and isn’t right for the queer community.

    I really appreciate that you have fluff pieces. I honestly can’t handle too much serious stuff at once, because it’s emotionally overwhelming. (Which is why I’m behind on all of my current blogs, including AS.)

    Thanks for doing so much great work for so little. I really look forward to being able to subscribe to the site and seeing what you come up with when you’re actually funded.

  62. I’m late to this thread and everybody’s said it so much better AND you’re probably on a mountain without internet, but I wanted to say that Autostraddle has educated me in so many aspects of queer culture. The language of the lighter articles sometimes bothers me, but there are so many articles that I love and that are more serious in tone. I also like that you explained your ‘business model’ of publishing light pieces to have money for the in-depth articles. I never really thought about it that way.

    Autostraddle has really been a guide for me since I started reading autowin as a ‘straight ally’ with an interest in the L-word until now that I’m looking to buy a house with my girlfriend.

  63. I’m late to this even though I really shouldn’t be, but yeah, I agree with this wholeheartedly and that really criticizes why that article bothered me. A lot of what initially attracted me to Autostraddle as a commenter, and why I’m proud to write for it, was its combination of high-brow and low-brow stuff. It’s interesting that the writer is okay with sites ostensibly aimed at straight women having fluffy elements, but not us. Why does being queer always have to be political and radical and angry? It’s a really condescending and, yes, privileged attitude that we’re not allowed to enjoy some “fluffier” topics, too.

    Because I still want my Hollywood gossip and entertainment and romance advice, but I feel alienated as a bisexual woman by websites and magazines that assume I’m only interested in men. And that’s, of course, to say nothing for women who are exclusively into ladies…

    It ties into some attitudes that even some queer people have about our community, but especially a lot of condescending fauxgressive straight people have, that we always have to be political and radical. And I’m sick of that. I’m much more than my politics and my marginalized status. I like that I can write an article about hot anime girls or a cooking website and have that just as appropriate for the site as my politics coverage. And same with everyone else’s work, too. I love Autostraddle because it has such a range of things it covers, and it can make me think and laugh at the same time.

  64. I love autostraddle, I like the writing style and I love the fact that diverse individuals have a space to relate to others. But this article reminds me of one thing I do not like about autostraddle and it popped into my head the second I started reading the first paragraph…
    It’s hard to have an opinion differing from the popular opinion here. What I mean is, if you have a strong opinion that differs from those in the comments section, even if you state it respectfully and clearly, it will make other users angry and they’ll almost seem offended that you even bothered. And I see it happening right now, to this baffler article. Yes, it’s a criticism. But there are plenty of things you have criticisms for and you are happy to share them. I think it’s ridiculous that people feel like they can display their criticisms but criticisms about them are uncalled for.
    Keep doing your thing, keep respecting others, and respect the fact that your voice is not the only one.

  65. So I accidentally stumbled on this piece by following another archived post and I realize nobody’s going to read this comment but I still want to write it. After getting over the initial shock caused by Clarke’s ludicrous arguments and then reading most of the 360 comments left in response, I am actually amazed by how beautifully the Universe operates and how generously it spilled all these gifts into the AS lap. I can’t imagine how satisfying, how validating and affirming it must have been to stand in this outpouring of support. People were coming out of the woodwork to testify on your behalf! Wow. Now THAT is community.
    Well done Diana Clarke. Who knew she’d end up serving such a glorious purpose?

  66. Hehehe I just read this because it popped up in the archived articles, and then I read the original (offending) article for the first time. Wow, she’s amazing. She can’t even decide what she’s angry about, beyond AS’s accessible tone being “limiting” and “infantilizing.” You do you, weird lady journalist, but I don’t think calling myself a girl is infantilizing, and I think that hating accessible language JUST FOR BEING ACCESSIBLE is incredibly elitist. Yes, I went to university, yes, I have a degree in literature, but that doesn’t mean I constantly want to read articles full of academic or highbrow language. Where would be the fun in that?

    And what, exactly, was her problem with FOT? That it’s nice, and nice is “cloying?”

    People are so funny.

  67. Part of why I lurk around here is for the fluff. Everything is so scary and heavy and serious, especially lately (hellooooo depression relapse), and sometimes I just want to read about TV and cats. And I get to read stuff written by other queer people and not feel like an outsider. So… fuck the haters.

    PS I didn’t realize this was from 2014! I’m so late to this party.

  68. This popped up in the archive feed so I had to revisit it. This marks the birth of the Vapid Fluff tag, my very favorite AS tag.

    And it’s also nice to be reminded of how far AS has come in terms of diversifying their editorial and writing staff.

    • cosmo for queers doesn’t seem like the insult that lady intended, and i can’t help but feel like she wrote that (w)hole thing to use the word ‘subaltern’.

      also, i am 7ish years late to learn the history of vapid fluff and like i kinda want to thank her? it’s not my favorite thing about AS, but also fun is nice.

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