How to Waste Your Time on the Internet and Still Feel Good
About Yourself

The Internet can be a guilty pleasure, so much so that at times it stirs up the residual guilt inherent in my raised-Catholic conscience. Everything I look at is harmless enough; I’m not an Internet porn addict or anything, and I’m proud to say that I’ve recovered from my compulsion to rate cute kittens. But it makes me feel guilty when I realize how much time I spend on lolcats and celebrity gossip when I could be writing the Great American Novel, tutoring pregnant teens, or reading a leather-bound classic by the fireside with an expensive glass of brandy. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying The Superficial and Stuff on My Cat, but if you’re looking at them instead of doing the laundry or putting a cover on your TPS report, it’s hard to find the redeeming value in web-surfing.

That’s why I love Jezebel, a site that describes itself as “Celebrity, Sex, Fashion. Without Airbrushing.” The editors provide a healthy serving of intelligent, timely discussion about issues that actually matter, while never skimping on all my guilty pleasures. As they put it, “Jezebel is a blog for women that will attempt to take all the essentially meaningless but sweet stuff directed our way and give it a little more meaning, while taking the more serious stuff and making it more fun, or more personal, or at the very least the subject of our highly sophisticated brand of sex joke.” (Go here for their complete, very entertaining mission statement.)

What does this add up to? It means I can enjoy reviews from Paris fashion week, complete with copious pictures; then, when I start to feel guilty about wasting all that time looking pretty clothes and overly skinny girls, I can turn around and read a serious article about whither our society goeth when today’s young women confuse being confident with being just plain old drunk and slutty. Or, if I just want to laugh away my guilt, I can enjoy a lolcat take on fashion photography (“i can has nootreentz?”), a joke so attuned to my personal fascinations that I almost feel as if it had been written specifically for me. (Seriously, are there that many people out there who are obsessed with both lolcats and haute couture?)

Some of their regular features are the kind of brilliant gems that you can’t believe you didn’t think of yourself. For instance, there’s the “Cover Lies” feature, in which their staff writers translate the dishonest headlines that fashion magazines somehow get away with issue after issue. There’s also the video advice column “Pot Psychology,” wherein the hosts get baked and then answer random hilarious questions sent in by readers. (For instance: Is it true that ladies should sleep without their panties on to let things air out at night?) And there’s the sentimental-yet-sarcastic Fine Lines special every Friday, in which they take a look back at the young adult books you read and re-read before you were even old enough to read Glamour or smoke pot. (Remember V.C. Andrews, gals? Or perhaps Judy Blume was more to your taste?)

There is a feminist bent to all this, and it’s the kind of feminism I like: intelligent, sex positive, and with a never-ending “we’re just not gonna take this shit” kind of attitude. Instead of bewailing the existence of strip clubs, they instead point out the stupidity of laws mandating pasties (and find a great picture to go along with the piece). It’s also where I heard about the Los Angeles High School that censored its school paper because it printed an article featuring an anatomically-correct diagram of a vagina because it’s obscene. (That’s right, young ladies, please take note: your vagina is offensive. Could you please pretend you don’t have one when you’re at school?)

Their combination of clever humor and social awareness results in gems like “Missdemeanors,” in which degrading punishments are handed down to popular gossip bloggers for “crimes against womanity” (like calling pregnant women “fat”). Or consider their hilarious review of the innovative “Clone-a-Willy” and “Clone-a-Pussy” kits, which enable you to make a chocolate copy of your own … ahem… personal area. How is that feminist, you might ask? Well, why should the boys have all the fun? To me, being a feminist has always meant being able to accept and embrace the fact that women can be just as raunchy, horny, and demeaning to the opposite sex as men.

While some of this might sound pretty silly or lightweight, they also feature consistently interesting, intelligent coverage of politics, world events, the economy, race issues, and other issues of indubitable seriousness, such as the civil unrest currently happening in Tibet, or whether the mainstream media still covers black athletes in an inherently racist way. And while it does at times have a fairly obvious “Men Are Jerks” editorial policy, it isn’t mean enough about it to turn me off.

For my blogging dollar, with everything else seeming to fall irredeemably into either the “ridiculous waste of time” category or the “so boring and serious I feel like I’m watching Frontline” pile, Jezebel is a good way to spend 20 minutes while you eat lunch at your desk. And for the cherry on top, the site seems to post new items almost constantly.

So take a minute and check out Jezebel: it’s the Internet’s way of letting you have your cake and eat it too!

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