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Don’t Trust the Founder of Bleacher Report with a ‘Website for Women’

Slate’s Amanda Hess has a ripping satire of Bustle.com, Bryan Goldberg’s just-launched website for women, but anybody concerned about the level of feminism of any form at Goldberg’s new site need read no further into his self-interview than “my last company, Bleacher Report…”

Back in the day, I briefly edited for Bleacher Report, a crowd-sourced sports website that run a little heavy in the slideshow department. Here’s the particular slideshow that got me to quit.

This was not the first, or last, of its kind, and I was informed it was well within their guidelines. Forget that this post might as well be entitled “BOOOOOOOOBIES.” The slideshow was nothing but commentary on the appearance of women who committed no greater crime than attending a college basketball game. It was an aggressive reduction of women to their sexuality, and then a punishment for allowing that sexuality to cross the gaze of male onlookers—a giant, gross catcall forever archived on the web. And again, it was one of many.

Goldberg, to his credit, seems to recognize that BR was not the classiest of sites:

We made mistakes at Bleacher Report that will not be repeated. When we launched Bleacher Report, we did not screen our writers, nor did we pay them. At Bustle, we thoroughly recruit and review prospective writers, and we pay them. Today, Bleacher Report employs both of those practices, but it didn’t do it early enough.

An accurate diagnosis. Bleacher Report‘s stream of drool-stain posts was as much a product of its rabble of submitters as any explicit anti-woman vibe of the website. Lots of awfulness sluiced through, including a post I edited just before the gem above that compared the potential NFL lockout to the Holocaust.

But this well illustrates that publications aren’t just a mission statement, and that their politics will respond to structural flaws and incentives. BR had no interest in being a sexist rag. But combine unvetted writers, a heavily masculine sports culture, and a gnawing demand for content, and you’ll get sexism whether you want it or not. Goldberg could the be biggest feminist in the publishing industry (I never worked with him), but that didn’t stop his previous site from becoming a sewer of misogyny, and whatever Goldberg’s protestations, the sludge he allowed at his last site runs directly beneath his stated good intentions for his new one.

So when Goldberg writes, “You’re damn right this is a feminist publication,” it’s hard not to read the emphasis of this statement less as confidence than cover. It’s heartening to hear that he’s made structural changes to prevent the worst of Bleacher Report’s abuses; and from what I can tell, Bustle seems to have a quality Books page focusing on women authors, a nice start. But in this context, I’m actually not comforted that he swears he’ll be “neither the face nor the voice” of the site. If Goldberg cares about curating a site that respects women, he should be paying attention to it. For an example of what happens when he doesn’t, scroll through the slideshow above.

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>> Follow Evan McMurry (@evanmcmurry) on Twitter

Image via Bleacher Report

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