• Thu, Oct 24 - 1:33 pm ET

Rape And Vagina Are Not Banned Words At The Gloss

Woman feigning outrageTheGloss is a fashion and beauty site. It has been since its inception in 2010. In May of 2012, it was purchased by Alloy Digital (now Defy Media). As Editorial Director of B5Media and now Vice President of Editorial at Defy, I have overseen content on the site for three years. On Tuesday, Amanda Chatel, a former freelance writer of ours, wrote a post for The Atlantic claiming that the words rape and vagina were not permitted on this site. This was news to me.

Amanda did not publish the name of our site, but a simple Google search would lead you here. In her piece, Amanda wrote that she was sent an email on August 22 stating “that the site’s editorial mission”… “apparently didn’t have room for words like ‘sexual assault.’” As far as I can tell, Amanda based her article on an email that was sent on August 20 that included the following:

Please avoid the words slut, rape, abortion, sexual assault, and curse words in post titles. If someone on the team wants to cover a topic like that, we need a very compelling reason for why this should be included on a fashion and beauty site.

This email was sent after the writers had repeatedly been asked to focus on subject matter relevant to TheGloss’ core focus–editorial direction that began before the site was purchased. Before and after the above e-mail was sent, stories about rape, abortion, sluts, and sex workers have appeared on TheGloss when relevant. Here is a smattering of examples to prove that point:

Wildfox CEO Accused Of Horrifying Manipulation Of Underage Model For Sex
A Man Tried To Assault Me Last Night, But Strangers Intervened And Restored My Faith In Humanity
Are These Domestic Violence Ads Too Beautiful?
Harlotry: Why Sex Workers Settle For Horrible Partners
This Blogger’s Eyebrows Are Promiscuous

And, for good measure, this article about vagina cakes at baby showers was the most popular post on our sister site Mommyish last week:
10 Vagina Cakes For Baby Showers That Are Disturbing And Awesome

Before and after TheGloss launched, writers have been subject to the directives of their editors and bosses. This writer did not appreciate the editorial shifts of TheGloss and she left the site, which was her right. Amanda’s best stories were always personal essays. I’m not surprised that she turned her departure into one that she pitched to The Atlantic. But it is disappointing that The Atlantic published it as fact. After I emailed them, they told me that they will publish an addendum to her post.

I contacted The Atlantic before writing this post. I wish that they had given us the same courtesy.

UPDATE (10/24 4:12P): The Atlantic has not yet updated their post with an addendum. Moreover, they haven’t approved my comments linking to this post.

UPDATE II: The Atlantic has now updated their post here.

(Image: Shutterstock)

Share This Post:
  • http://Mommyish.com/ Eve Vawter

    AMEN. I write, and continue to write about all these topics. I’m amazingly proud of all the comment we publish on all the sites and to say we don’t cover rape, assault and women’s issues is a bunch of bullshit… I also swear all the time in my work.

    • Cee

      I love you. That is all

    • http://Mommyish.com/ Eve Vawter

      I have a very funny story to tell you. My mom called me the other day and she seriously spent about 10 minutes talking you and how much she likes you just based on your comments. It was a lot of CEE IS THE BEST. However, am not 100% sure that she doesn’t think you are actually your avatar.

    • Cee

      Fact: Other people’s moms have ALWAYS loved me more than my own. I will be adopted by one of them one day!

      And, I can BE the cat with the dress. She already captures my essence. Like LSP says: I can be whatever (s))he wants!

  • Alexis Rhiannon

    Holy shit. Go hard or go home. I love this.

    • http://Mommyish.com/ Eve Vawter

      NO fucking shit. (haha)

  • Joanna Rafael
  • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

    I work for Mommyish, the sister site mentioned, and we certainly don’t have the restrictions mentioned. Why? Because we are not a beauty and fashion site. To imply that The Gloss or its parent company is adverse to covering these topics is disingenuous. I am highly disappointed that The Atlantic would cover something like this without fact checking and disappointed that a former writer would be so disloyal to such a supportive editorial team. I wrote an article about late term abortion last month. If this company was so adverse to the subject I highly doubt that would’ve been allowed.

  • Guest
  • CaitlinCorsetti

    Perfect.

  • Jenni

    I give this 5 vaginas out of 5!

    • Alexis Rhiannon

      Hahahahaha!

  • Julia Sonenshein
  • CMJ

    That article made me pretty angry because it’s simply not true.

    And PS – no addendum by The Atlantic yet.

  • bl

    I picked up on the editorial shift here, which is why I stopped reading (Mommyish brought me here. No kids yet, but an awesome site!) It’s nice to see it explained. I’m only one reader, but for the record, i liked the old Gloss. I appreciate Amanda’s frustration, but I don’t think quitting ones job warrants a rant session in the Atlantic, either. No worries, though. I’m sure this will actually benefit you. Especially once they mention you in the piece.

  • Sarah

    What you’re saying may be true, but I have noticed a marked shift in the content of this site since Amanda and a few of the other writers left. I started reading the site when I was interning for Blisstree, and I watched as The Gloss became a really unique, subversive place on the internet where makeup tips and first account stories of sex work could coexist.

    I knew that the Atlantic article was about The Gloss before I even saw who the author was. Your content is changing, and the site is suffering for it. I loved the Gloss for its diverse mix of content.

    Thank you for helping me to learn and grow as a woman and feminist, and for making me feel more comfortable in my own skin.I really hope that you continue to produce groundbreaking content in the future. Nobody needs another Allure or Cosmo. You were providing something truly revolutionary.

    • Jane

      Do we know that the site is suffering because of the shift? Or is the shift (not necessarily a shift, just more of a focus on fashion/beauty) due to the site not performing because of the content they were previously publishing? We don’t know, so we cannot judge the reason for the changes. The tone, message, and voice have stayed the same. They will never be an Allure or Cosmo.

    • Alexis Rhiannon

      Also they do still post those first-hand accounts of sex work stories, if you’re missing them. They’re under a byline called Harlotry, and they still coexist with makeup tips!

    • Sarah

      Thanks for pointing that out! I actually knew they were still there, but I was flustered trying to write a coherent comment at work, and that was the quickest example I could think of. I still read and love Harlotry, and a lot of things on the site.

      My main point was that The Gloss was becoming this website that was unlike anything I was seeing on the internet, and I loved it. The posts about rape and slut shaming were helping me to feel more comfortable yelling back at street harassers, while the coverage on plus size fashion helped me get over my hangup about buying a “plus size” bikini (it’s bitchin, thanks!). Even my boyfriend was obsessed with the site and would call me in the middle of the day to ask if I’d read Shelved Dolls yet.

      Now when I scroll through the site I see a lot of Kim and Kanye, and sponsored make up tip posts and stuff. I understand you ladies need to make money, and I love Kimye gossip as much as the next person, I just hope that you retain some of those things that made this my favorite website for so long. Sorry for the long post!

    • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

      There might be another aspect you haven’t considered. When a writer who is comfortable writing about certain subjects leaves, it’s not always a given that someone will be there to fill that space (content-wise). I’ve found that anytime a write moves on from a site that I love (and I have a wide variety of tastes, we’re talking Buzzfeed, Cracked, Fashionista, etc) the tone seems to change, temporarily. Perhaps that is what happened. I know this is a bit old, but I just saw this and wanted to give my two cents. I think your input is definitely valid, just maybe there are facets you haven’t thought of!

    • CMJ

      A scroll through of the recent articles published still shows diverse content. Maybe the “marked shift” you see is because the authors you read often left….Amanda’s voice may be gone but I think others have stepped up in her place to provide equally valid and important content that spans from lip gloss to douchebags to fat shaming and back again.

  • Tania

    The shift explains a whole lot. I’m not saying for worse or better, but for noticeable.

  • http://poorgoop.com/ Samantha

    Certainly there’s been a tonal shift in the site – that’s expected when staff changes, new voices and whatnot – but I don’t think it’s become less subversive or interesting. TheGloss remains my favorite fashion, beauty and culture sites because of the excellent balance of the superficial with the blatantly feminist.

    I have always found Amanda’s work compelling, and I respect her point of view, but the article feels rather unfair. The Atlantic should have done its due diligence. This bums me out. I hate when interesting women create false problems and dichotomy’s for other interesting women in the name of feminism. It doesn’t help anyone.

  • Guest

    I realize that with a change in ownership comes a change in tone, but that was the point of Amanda’s article (and she isn’t wrong). Honestly, I think she was extremely tactful in her article by not mentioning names or the site — unlike this piece here and the obnoxious clapping GIFs.

    • CMJ
    • http://2beapaperdoll.blogspot.com/ Cori

      Don’t you think the change in tone might also be due to several writers moving on and new writers replacing them? If the new writers aren’t yet comfortable talking about these things, they won’t write about them. TheGloss has been naming names for years, why would they stop today?

    • Bob

      The change in tone actually shifted before Jennifer and the other writers left.

    • JLH1986

      It’s a fashion and beauty site, first and foremost, certainly it addresses women’s issues, (see the Harlotry series for some really well written aspects of women’s issues I didn’t even know existed), but the point is to focus on fashion and beauty. It has sister sites that have specific focuses as well. For example, Mommyish. The main focus of that sister site is parenting, but they also discuss women’s issues. I think it’s perfectly acceptable to say “let’s stay on topic, unless you can articulately explain why we need to cover this” Which is precisely what the email Keane published states. Not “We aren’t covering this anymore” but “show my why it’s important”. For people who visit the site for fashion/beauty, perhaps the serious tone of “rape, slut-shaming” isn’t their cup of tea. Also, if you want to write an article, I would assume it should resonate with you in some way, so if you can’t articulate why it’s important to write, maybe it’s not worth writing. I’m a huge fan of all of these sites and like others I’m waiting out the recent shift in authors to see if I have any new favorites. And given the from what I can see based on emails provided, the absolute fabrication of “can’t use slut, rape, vagina”, I think Chatel was childish. The email clearly says “without compelling reason”. Sounds like Chatel couldn’t provide that compelling reason. Also, it’s just tacky and unprofessional to talk poorly about your former employer even if you don’t name them.

  • LynnKell

    “Please avoid the words slut, rape, abortion, sexual assault, and curse words in post titles.”

    I’ve read every word or curse in articles by the gloss in the las 2-3 years i’ve followed it. I really don’t know where this came from since the gloss has articles about stopping slut-shaming, coverage on rape trials, following the new laws about abortion, abortion-clinics and such, and once in a while you can read a well placed curse.

    It is a fashion and beauty blog, but it has loads of articles about life style and world news that to me, are priceless.

  • Cee

    Hmmm I am disappointed with Amanda.

    She was not my favorite. I appreciated her as a commenter but I felt her posts were kinda shock value posts, which I think this one is too.
    As far as The Gloss is concerned, I have noticed a change, though I don’t think I would blame it on the company, but, what do I know? But, I think the change comes from different writers and their experiences and their strengths.

    The new writers are not Jennifer2, Jamie Jr or new Amanda. Each one is its own person. They write differently, live differently, THINK differently. And, I like it! I came here because I couldn’t find a lady site that is as interesting and different as this one *looks at Jezebel, Hairpin, Feministe, XOJane (shudder)* and I still think it is the most interesting. I just can’t comment anymore cuz fuck work firewalls, though my job still likes Mommyish! But it has the right mix of everything for me.

    • Ms. Pants

      Cee, I just want to point out that Amanda wrote about abortion before Alloy bought The Gloss and before the rules changed.

  • Maria

    I used to think there was a lot of irony in calling this a “fashion and beauty site”. When telling people about something I read here, I described thegloss as a feminist culture blog or something along these lines. I feel like now the irony has been taken out of the genre description. That’s not to say I don’t love the new writers; you’re all great and there still are awesome pieces in this site. It’s just the plain-out “what stuff to buy” posts and makeup tutorials (not all of them, bloody nails are cool, Samantha) that bug me. A little more shock value would be nice, because it’s abvious that you are better writers than the standard, superficial women’s magazine brigade.

    I also applaude the excellent use of gifs in the comments section, by the way.

  • Bob

    Since Alloy purchased The Gloss your content has shifted from relevant issues to what a 12 year old girl would be interested in reading. The Gloss has turned in to an online teen magazine. Definitely something I would have read about ten years ago, but not something I regularly read now.

    As you just proved you are allowed to use rape and abortion, but you have to admit your content in general is not the same. In my personal opinion, The Gloss has changed from a site that posts interesting and relevant articles, to one that posts articles about things that really don’t matter.

    Even your writers have changed. Most left around the same time that this shift occurred in management. You cannot say that The Gloss is the same as it was before Alloys takeover.

  • Sabrina

    To be fair, as some other long-time readers here have commented, there has been a very noticeable change in this site since it was bought out. The Gloss used to be a place where it seemed that almost anything goes. It had a balance of being a site directed at fashion and beauty, but also directed towards feminism and more serious topics that are extremely important to women. There was also the fun stuff, illustrated guides (miss those terribly), the intellectual stimulation (Shelved Dolls, how I miss thee), and valuable personal essays. Now, it’s a bajillion articles on Halloween costumes (we get it already) and eyeliner tutorials. OK.

    I have found that in the past year, I check it less and less because in between every ten makeup how-to’s (gag me now) and guides of clothes to purchase, there is maybe one article of interest. I’m sorry, but to be completely frank and honest, The Gloss has lost the touch of what made it special to those of us who have been here from the beginning. Not to mention, it used to be obviously for adults, it now feels very watered down and directed towards a younger crowd.

    Also, to be fair to Amanda, the email above states that you can’t use the words she described in the titles of posts. Whether or not they’re included in articles, that sure sounds like you’re censoring the writers by telling them exactly what words they can and can not use and what subjects to focus on. Which, that’s totally fine considering you have an editorial direction and all, but don’t get down on Amanda for telling her side of it. Considering that a majority of the old writers and Jennifer left around the same time, I’m inclined to believe that it’s because of the site changes detailed above.

    To The Gloss: if you want to change and have your focus concentrated on fashion and beauty and cater to a younger crowd, that’s cool. But then don’t be upset when those of us who were here for other reasons leave. And Amanda has every right to share her side of it.

  • smk

    Frankly, I started reading the Gloss because it DID cover hard hitting stories about slut shaming and rape and assault as well as the fashion stuff. I’m uninterested in this new editorial shift and have been sort of bored of the watered down content of the past few months. I think this is where this reader parts ways.