Anna Holmes on ‘The Book of Jezebel’ and the evolution of women’s interest blogs
Anna Holmes founded Jezebel in 2007, and what originally started as a small women’s only offshoot of Gawker has since exploded and become the Internet’s premier women’s interest blog.
Now, the blog has led to “The Book of Jezebel,” an encyclopedia of “everything important to the modern woman.” The book includes entries ranging from famous suffragettes to “The Fake Reformed Ex.” Metro spoke with Holmes about the new book and the impact of Jezebel on women everywhere.
Metro: I heard you bumped into Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan at one of your book signings. What happened?
Holmes: She was at the bookstore we went to in D.C., and she walked in and I was sitting outside. And I thought, ‘Oh maybe she’s coming to our event,’ but she wasn’t. She lives in the neighborhood and the book manager let me know she comes in a lot. We washed the sweat off our brows a bit and approached her and showed her the book because she’s in it as an entry. She looked interested but she said she didn’t like the photo of her that we used.
Why was this an important book to write?
I wouldn’t phrase it that way. I thought it was a fun book to oversee and hopefully people will find it important in some ways, but I don’t know that I think it was an important book. It was more something that would be an interesting book.
How is the book similar to the blog, and how is it different?
It has the same sensibility because the writers are writers who wrote for the site or work for the site right now. It’s similar in tone and has a similar view of the world. It differs in that it’s not a blog. On a blog, posts go away because new posts come and replace them. A blog moves very fast but a book is very still in time.
Why do you think Jezebel became so successful?
I think because nothing like it existed before and I think it had a very specific point of view. And it was unapologetic about that. I think it attracted like-minded readers who didn’t want their content dumbed down or tiptoed around certain topics.
What do you think is the impact of Jezebel on other women’s interest blogs?
It’s hard for me to say because I don’t really know. I feel like there are other women’s interest blogs that are similar in sensibility but it’s not anything I can prove. I do think the site helps underscore that there are lots of women who want to read smart content on the Internet and not just be told what to buy or to shop a lot, and you see a lot more sites that treat women as diverse individuals than you did before.
Which blogs do you read?
I don’t really read the Internet the same way I used to, so if someone tweets an interesting story I’ll click through to it, but it’s not like I’m typing in the web addresses of blogs the way I used to. I use Twitter as my curator of information. I don’t visit any of them regularly but if someone tweets something about them – someone tweeted a link to XX on Slate the other day – I’ll read things on the Hairpin, Jezebel itself, the Huffing Post’s women’s blog. It depends a lot on the topics right now than the fact that it’s coming from a women’s blog.
What issues do you think Jezebel has brought to light?
Body images. Race. Politics. Feminism. I’d say those are the big ones.
How has Jezebel changed over the years?
It’s gotten bigger and it’s gotten a broader audience. We had a smaller audience before and it felt like a more intimate website because we had a smaller readership, and as it got bigger and bigger we had to broaden the subject matter and be more professional and not so personal. I think that it’s matured from a kind of troublemaking adolescent to a semi-troublemaking young woman.
Urban Outfitters decided not to sell “The Book of Jezebel” because they felt the blog had burned them before. How do you feel about that?
I guess I’m not surprised. If they’re hurt, then they’re feeling they’re hurt. If people are feeling hurt then they don’t want to be generous, do they? I wasn’t surprised but I was disappointed. I think it’s the kind of book their clientele would be interested in. I think it’s more their loss than our loss.
What are your favorite entries in the book?
I love them all. I don’t want to pick favorites. Some I think I like because they’re funny and some I like because they’re informative. But I’m not actually giving specific entries as an answer.