[ED 10/15: See below for Jane Pratt’s explanation]

The Skepchick writers are having a bit of an argument behind the scenes at the moment – the topic is whether XOJane’s Health and Beauty Director Cat Marnell is doing some kind of performance art or whether she is in fact willfully, forcefully ignorant. Here’s what she wrote, and the evidence for each theory.

First of all, XOJane is the fairly new site for women that comes from Jane Pratt, the creator of former awesome girl mags Sassy and Jane. I’ve always thought of Pratt as being a strong, cool feminist so I was happy to hear that she was starting her own site.

Cat Marnell is the site’s Health and Beauty Director. She was, according to her bio, formerly the beauty editor for Lucky, a magazine for women who love to be sold things to make themselves pretty. (ED: note that one can read/write for brainless magazines and still have brains . . . I am merely listing her credential here and want it to be clear that nothing about Lucky would require one to know anything other than make-up and clothes. I’ll also take this moment to point out that the image with this post is the only one I have of Cat and comes from her bio on XOJane.)

The article she wrote the other day is difficult to sum up, but apparently it has to do with birth control. Cat doesn’t like it. She hates condoms and thinks the pill will maker her fat, give her pimples, and make her spot (bleed randomly), so she relies on Plan B, apparently oblivious to the fact that Plan B is basically just a heavy dose of birth control pills that costs a lot of money and occasionally causes spotting. Also she’s had, like, millions of abortions or something even though she hates them. She hates living in an “abortion-friendly culture.”

She almost starts to describe how Plan B works, but duh, biology and chemistry are haaaarrrrd so boo hoo the end.

Again: this is the Health and Beauty Director for XOJane. Before we move on to the decision-making (performance art/idiocy), consider the comment section:

OK, time to cast your vote:

PERFORMANCE ART

  1. No one is that old, that wealthy, and that ignorant. To be that ignorant, you either have to be very young or from a culture that does not give you access to basic sexual health information.
  2. The job description for Health and Beauty Director would require she knows basic things about women’s health.
  3. Jane Pratt is an intelligent person who would never hire someone that stupid and dangerous to women.

GROSS IDIOCY

  1. Performance art usually has a point. This doesn’t seem to have any lesson or greater truth to be revealed.
  2. A performance artist would have to be callous or near-sociopathic to spread misinformation about reproductive health like that.
  3. Reality TV has shown us that there are people who appear to be older, wealthy, and happily ignorant.
  4. These people are occasionally given platforms.

COMBINATION OF BOTH

  1. Maybe it’s just the worst performance art ever?

You decide!

ED 10/15: Jane Pratt has written a pseudo-explanation without ever actually mentioning Cat’s name or talking about condoms or AIDS or anything. The tl;dr: diversity! xoJane doesn’t want to be just one voice, they want to have a diversity of voices!

It all makes sense now. Remember how Skepchick is looking for another writer, and we want someone who will improve the diversity of the site? We should have mentioned that in addition to having someone from a different race, culture, sexual orientation, or whatever, we should have also specified “stupid.” Someone who is really, really stupid, who refuses to do the least bit of research before posting, and who spreads misinformation about really important topics like women’s health.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org and appears on the weekly Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

Previous post

FL Governor Suggests Turning State University Students into STEM Clones

Next post

AI: Cleaning your penguin

54 Comments

  1. Profile photo of Amy Roth
    October 14, 2011 at 6:14 pm —

    I know I am the resident artist here but I vote no way this is art. Yeah, yeah life is a stage and all that but I think this is straight forward ignorance. Sad and scary at the same time especially considering her job title has health director in it. WTF.

    • Profile photo of Rebecca Watson
      October 14, 2011 at 6:31 pm —

      See, Amy, you luck out if it turns out to be “idiocy” because then she’s not giving artists a terrible name. But what about us writers? “This is what writers get paid to write. Writers are idiots.”

  2. Profile photo of davew
    October 14, 2011 at 6:26 pm —

    It’s a flavor of stupidity. The people I know who try to get money for writing are paid for word count, not accuracy. They throw up as many posts as possible per day without too much thought: “Seven types of sparkling water that will kill your cat!” I don’t know if she gets paid for her contribution to that column, but it is the most charitable explanation I can think of.

  3. Profile photo of Tony
    October 14, 2011 at 6:26 pm —

    Well her profile at http://www.xojane.com/author/cat Does actually say “What I Do, Job-wise: Beauty and health director for xoJane.com (more beauty than health, honestly).” lol

  4. Profile photo of banman
    October 14, 2011 at 6:36 pm —

    I’m leaning towards gross idiocy. I glanced at one of her other pieces, which was titled “Why We All Need to Get Off Adderall.” I’m no psychiatrist, but a non-doctor giving blanket advice to everyone to get off a prescription seems recklessly stupid to me. Combine that with the ill-informed and destructive advice in the Plan B column, and you get the idea that she might not grasp how sex or the human body and mind works.

    Then again, she could be a cunning actress pulling off a long-term fake persona. Kinda like Ali G and just as funny. That is to say, not.

  5. Profile photo of feministwhore
    October 14, 2011 at 6:56 pm —

    But isn’t most performance art gross idiocy already? Whatever she’s up to, it’s annoying.

  6. Profile photo of emmastaf
    October 14, 2011 at 7:01 pm —

    If Jane Pratt is as savvy as described, Cat Marnell will be out of this job soon.

  7. Profile photo of scopi
    October 14, 2011 at 7:08 pm —

    They also posted this.

    http://www.xojane.com/sex/even-more-scandalous-birth-control-post-we-didnt-run

    Which seems to imply the first story was satire. Or something.

    • Profile photo of Elyse
      October 15, 2011 at 9:37 am —

      Or seems to think that everyone’s problem with the article is that she said she doesn’t like having guys pull out… or I think she said that. It’s hard for me to figure out if that was what she was saying or not.

      Also, they seem to think that if you have a problem with an xoJane article ever, you are a fucking asshole and you can go fuck yourself because they don’t need fucking asshole uptight bitches to read them.

      Maybe this is the internet equivalent of burning down your restaurant to collect the insurance.

      • Profile photo of Buzz Parsec
        October 15, 2011 at 9:33 pm —

        Can you buy blog insurance? “Hello, my blog burned down, how do I file a claim? Yes, it got struck by lightning. No, it’s an atheist blog so the acts of god clause doesn’t apply. Huh, what do you mean, negligence? I had surge protector!”

    • Profile photo of Rebecca Watson
      October 15, 2011 at 9:55 am —

      The weird thing is that people in that thread seem to think Cat’s article is “controversial.” It’s not. It’s stupid and terribly written. There’s really no big controversy about those facts.

      • Profile photo of DataJack
        October 15, 2011 at 11:33 am —

        Exactly so.

      • Profile photo of BeccaTheCyborg
        October 15, 2011 at 7:22 pm —

        The definition of “controversy” has slipped to the point where all it takes is a response of “WTF? No.” from someone whose brain cells have not been replaced with sawdust and navel lint to be “controversial”, thereby requiring that this “controversy” and attending nonsense be given a media platform.

        See also: “Teach the Controversy”.

  8. Profile photo of Improbable Joe
    October 14, 2011 at 7:15 pm —

    Wow, that chick is totally hot! She doesn’t want me to use a condom? That’s cool, I don’t like the damned things either. If we both get tested a bunch, there’s no way we can get sick, right? The best part is, she’s totally cool with having an abortion every couple of months if she runs out of that Plan 9 shit… which is good, because fucking a bitch that hot would make me cum buckets. She’ll be oozing jizz out of her ears, swear to God! Well, no. The best part is that she’s not like one of these dumb bitches who doesn’t care about her weight. She’s not going to get on the pill and fuck up that smoking bod, and she’s going to scrape out any potential rugrats before they give her stretch marks and make her cunt all weird and pulled out of shape. All you haters must be homos and dykes, cuz this is one hot chick that everyone wants to be with, and I’ll bet anyone can including me! And if not, a couple of drinks or a brick to the back of her head should loosen her inhibitions lickety split, right? Amirite? Y’all talk it out, I gotta go hit the tanning bed and then it is vodka and Red Bull until noon Sunday. Healthy living is important to me, and nothing says healthy like three hours a day in the tanning bed!

    Peace out bros!

    Is THAT how you do performance art?! :)

  9. Profile photo of foolish-rain
    October 14, 2011 at 7:25 pm —

    Weirdly enough, I’m going to come down on the side of bad, bad performance art. Her riff about David Foster Wallace establishes that she is being “funny”. The rest is just the same persona, a stereotypical ditzy slut.

    Given that this site is designed to appeal to the Sassy/Jane demographic AND given the piss-poor quality of most schools’ curricula on sex, birth control and STDs, this “act” amounts to a travesty. In fact, it’s nearly criminal.

  10. Profile photo of Donna
    October 14, 2011 at 7:46 pm —

    I’m staying with this: I really think she’s attempting a stunt piece. And failing like few I’ve seen in a long time. I would go so far as to suggest that she’s attempting to become some sort of net celebrity based on what she might perceive as some brash and radical way of approaching a topic. Also, she’s an idiot, a horrid writer and has a profound lack of self-awareness. Or else she would understand she’s an awful writer and not attempt this in the first place.

  11. Profile photo of jalyth
    October 14, 2011 at 7:59 pm —

    I’m voting for C. She’s trying to play a dumb blond, but succeeding instead of lampooning.

    If she were just “humor writer” nobody would care. Or care less, anyway.

    There’s a lot of good info in the comments, but hit and miss.

  12. Profile photo of Kammy
    October 14, 2011 at 8:17 pm —

    I vote she got a two for one deal on crazy pants.

  13. Profile photo of pegasaurus
    October 14, 2011 at 8:21 pm —

    Stunt piece by an idiot.

    FYI: from what I’ve seen, beauty/health magazines will give the job title of “editor” out to anyone with a pulse who works for them. I think they do it to compensate for the piss-poor pay. (“Oh hey, I have to ask the ‘rents to help me with rent this month, but I’m now the editor-of-looking-at-pretty-shoes!”)

    Even if you are completely incompetent and a horrid writer, once you have the title of “editor,” some clips (usually fixed up by another editor/layout department), and some coworker-friends as references, you can jump from job to job before anyone actually catches on.

    (At least that’s what I’ve observed)

  14. Profile photo of Rebel 16
    October 14, 2011 at 8:57 pm —

    I’m going to go with the “horrible combination of both” option. It seems unlikely to me that someone as savvy as Jane Pratt is reported to be would hire a person who was actually like this. However, it is a poorly thought-out act; there are far better ways to be relevant to your audience than idiocy. Factual information presented in a supportive fashion, for instance.

  15. Profile photo of Buzz Parsec
    October 14, 2011 at 9:02 pm —

    Uh, I was misled by the headline. I thought this was going to be about lolcats. WTF?

    BTW, I’m sure the average lolcat could give better health advice, and would certainly be funnier doing it.

    Maybe she’s vying for next year’s Ignobel Prize for Medicine and Public Health, but I think she’s more likely to win a Darwin.

    I’m with option C, no one is really that stupid, but some people think it’s funny to pretend to be.

    P.S. That’s what I think when I try to invent conspiracy theories too, but what ever I make up, it always turns out there is a similar real conspiracy theory*, but I’ve missed several of the major loony elements in my version.

    [*] “real conspiracy theory” is one that people actually believe, not a conspiracy theory that is actually true.

  16. Profile photo of daedalus2u
    October 14, 2011 at 10:04 pm —

    The feminist/anti-feminist equivalent of Poe’s Law?

    • Profile photo of BeccaTheCyborg
      October 15, 2011 at 7:24 pm —

      I was thinking the same. It’s like every right-winger’s straw-lady come to life.

  17. Profile photo of jes3ica
    October 14, 2011 at 10:59 pm —

    So this more recent article seems to be saying it’s all meant to be a joke and they did it for pageviews: http://www.xojane.com/sex/even-more-scandalous-birth-control-post-we-didnt-run

    I think both articles are stupid. And Sassy was way better than Jane.

    • Profile photo of izilari
      October 15, 2011 at 12:10 am —

      The comment section on that post you linked especially, makes my heart hurt.

      You’d think if a publication found itself having to say “we were joking!” often, after a while they’d realize it’s not a problem with readers’ comprehension, but of poor execution. Gotta love a supposed feminist site calling it’s demographic stupid.

  18. Profile photo of James Fox
    October 14, 2011 at 11:24 pm —

    Life imitates art.

  19. Profile photo of ekimbrough
    October 15, 2011 at 12:59 am —

    Looks like Jane Pratt has responded to the uproar. Sort of.

    http://www.xojane.com/fun/first-rule-xojane-fight-club

    • Profile photo of benjaminsa
      October 15, 2011 at 2:24 am —

      They are making the stupid CNN ‘diversity argument’. We need balance, so lets get crazy crazy mcnuts over here and see what her opinion is. I was going with C but have to change my vote to A…

  20. Profile photo of mrmisconception
    October 15, 2011 at 1:24 am —

    No one is that old, that wealthy, and that ignorant. To be that ignorant, you either have to be very young or from a culture that does not give you access to basic sexual health information.
    Sure, or be a candidate for a GOP nomination.

  21. Profile photo of Rei Malebario
    October 15, 2011 at 2:57 am —

    C: Both of the above?

  22. Profile photo of Bjornar
    October 15, 2011 at 4:22 am —

    I think the evidence points to Cat being ignorant on several of the issues the article touches upon, which leads to a satire fail.

  23. Profile photo of Elyse
    October 15, 2011 at 9:43 am —

    Based on the responses from xoJane, this is an actual article that (I think) was supposed to be funny.

    I suggest that the Skepchicks have a drunken Ambien party and we each write a blog post on birth control. Then berate our own readers if any of them mention that there’s anything wrong with the articles, either factually or that it’s totally indecipherable. But if anyone complains, we’ll just make it about them not liking that we’re not all of a singular mindset and that sometimes some of us say things they don’t like.

  24. Profile photo of Donna
    October 15, 2011 at 10:13 am —

    A stunt done for page views. Sounds like some sort of net prostitution.

    Oh wait- but it was done in the name of “opinion diversity”. Yeah, that makes total bloody sense.

  25. Profile photo of neatoburrito
    October 15, 2011 at 10:17 am —

    There’s a fine line between performance art and trolling. It shows up a lot in real life performance art, but on the internet shit can get pretty wild. My vote is that it’s intended to be satire to show off the prevailing American point of view on women’s sexual health. I have a hard time believing that a young sexually active woman could be that much of a Neanderthal about her own vagina.

  26. Profile photo of catgirl
    October 15, 2011 at 11:16 am —

    It appears to be a case of trolling just to get page views up (and more money from advertisers). But in case she’s sincere, I have to say that I’m very glad Plan B is so easily accessible. She’s the perfect example of the the straw-feminist who is irresponsible, but she’s also the last person that should be in charge of caring for a child. Anti-feminists would want to see someone like this punished with a baby, but as a feminist, I’m just glad that no baby will have to have a parent like her.

  27. Profile photo of auroraerratic
    October 15, 2011 at 1:19 pm —

    Poe, says I.

  28. Profile photo of pzmyers
    October 15, 2011 at 1:59 pm —

    But Plan B costs, typically, $30-$60. So every time she has sex she’s plunking down $50 the next morning to a pharmacist?

    Are we sure this article wasn’t planted by Big Pharma?

    • Profile photo of BeccaTheCyborg
      October 15, 2011 at 7:26 pm —

      Plus extra for anti-nausea drugs if my experience is anything like the norm.

      So, so glad I got fixed. And still use condoms. And the pill for other reasons. NO BABIES FOR ME!

    • Profile photo of criticaldragon1177
      October 16, 2011 at 11:08 am —

      PZ,

      It might just be that she didn’t think things through. Its possible.

  29. Profile photo of Anne S
    October 15, 2011 at 3:30 pm —

    After reading the article, I am pretty positive that it’s supposed satire. Maybe they assumed everyone old enough or wealthy enough to be reading XOJane would make that distinction? Unfortunately, because the humor fails so miserably, this was not a safe assumption.

    Cat’s article being a humor piece would seem to make Jane’s response about diversity of opinions irrelevant–after all, no one actually holds the opinions expressed in the article, so there is no need to defend them…but I think Jane was using the situation to make a point about it being okay for women to disagree. Not a bad point to make, but not the best context, especially when an apology for publishing unfunny false information is what was really called for.

  30. Profile photo of violets
    October 15, 2011 at 10:47 pm —

    Jane Pratt ain’t what she used to be. Or maybe she never was? I was 12 when I was head-over-heels in love with Sassy. Maybe it’s just me, but I was excited when XOJane started, and then I wished I had never looked at it after reading some of Jane Pratt’s own posts. I realized that she’s actually a person I don’t even like very much, although I still have fond memories of Sassy, and I still believe in Christina Kelly and my favorite Sassy writers.

    • Profile photo of rockitqueen
      October 16, 2011 at 10:21 pm —

      violets, don’t read Christina Kelly’s posts on the site. Very disappointing.

  31. Profile photo of Cabbageman
    October 16, 2011 at 4:21 am —

    It’s missing the “wink”. Almost all satire that lampoons idiocy like this has a “wink” to indicate that there is something tongue-in-cheek going on. I can’t find it. Maybe I’m reading it wrong, though.

    That means that it’s either crap performance art or real stupidity. But to forget the “wink”, you’ve gotta be a pretty big moron anyhow.

  32. Profile photo of greenstone123
    October 16, 2011 at 11:43 am —

    I think taking a hard look at Cat Marnell is like taking a hard look at Charlie Sheen. My vote is C, crazy pants is writing to entertain (or whatever is passing as entertainment for some people). (I say crazy pants as I don’t know what is going on there: possibly ignorance, drugs, her environment, and/or a mental health issue, some or all of the above?)

  33. Profile photo of rockitqueen
    October 16, 2011 at 10:20 pm —

    Rebecca, I am so glad you posted about this. I have been in a rage spiral about this for days (OK, not really, but it really ticked me off). Jane Pratt used to be my hero and she was the reason I went on to study magazine journalism in college. Her post-Sassy ventures have been disappointing, but none so much as xojane. The site is EMBARRASSING. Cat Marnell’s “writing” is schizophrenic to the point of being unreadable. She is vapid and annoying, but I also believe that Jane is exploiting a mentally ill woman for page hits (Cat herself often mentions her mental illness and drug use in her posts and wrote one about a recent stay in an institution). Of course I am all for thinking outside the box when it comes to writing, but hiring this woman to be the HEALTH editor and then playing off this ridiculous, rambling, idiotic drivel as simply a diverse point of view is absurd. Would Jane have allowed something like this to be published in Sassy for the sake of offering up a unique viewpoint? Absolutely not.

    Anyway, having read quite a bit of Cat Marnell’s posts, I don’t think she can concentrate enough for it to be A. I’m going to go with B and a little bit of D: irresponsible “journalism” for the sake of getting hits on the site.

  34. Profile photo of Madfishmonger
    October 17, 2011 at 11:14 am —

    If I want humour, I read Cracked.com, which is conveniently also accurate and researched.

  35. Profile photo of
    October 17, 2011 at 11:22 am —

    Well, she’s right about one thing: condoms do suck. :-)

  36. Profile photo of Joshua Zelinsky
    October 17, 2011 at 7:47 pm —

    I’m going to go with a combination of stupidity and ignorance.

    If I were in a more charitable mood I’d suggest that this may be mainly due to Dunning-Kruger issues. But I’m not so I’m just going to go with stupid and ignorant. This decision is made also by the fact that she apparently can’t write at all. The piece reads like something I’d expect a fourteen year-old to post on Facebook, not something I’d expect an adult to write for a magazine.

Add Comment Register



Leave a reply