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Emily Gould, “Blog-Post [Not-So] Confidential”

2009 February 23
by Hannah Mueller

Here’s some context for the person I’m representing tomorrow:

Emily Gould is a 20-something writer living in New York, who rose to infamy in 2006-7 as an editor at, a “Manhattan media gossip” blog that criticizes and calls out the rich/famous. I heard about her when I read her cover-story, “Exposed: Blog-Post Confidential” in the New York Times Magazine in May last year. I was especially interested b/c it was right after I had finished taking Anne’s class Emerging Genres (not Gender and Technology, actually :), where we had ended by talking about blogs and the weird changes they’re making to our notions of private/public, social/nonsocial, etc. Emily’s story is that she way overshared online. Putting personal details into her Gawker posts made her posts more accessible to her readers, but it also made her more vulnerable to attack. After breaking up with her boyfriend she started a ‘secret’ blog called Heartbreak Soup, creating a place where she could let out ALL her feelings–it gradually became more and more disasterously public. Her article ends as her (new) ex-boyfriend writes about how violated he felt when she wrote about him on her blog, and Emily loses the will to blog altogether for a while. Her experiences changed the way she thinks about how she blogs about herself.

I chose to represent Emily even though I don’t like her. She got 1216 comments on her article on in 24 hours after it went up, and the overwhelming majority of them were negative. I tend to agree with some of them. She did make a living writing “catty” (her words), mean things about people she didn’t know. She admits to having exploited people in her life for material to amuse her online friends. But she doesn’t seem to have really learned anything at the end, either. Now she keeps “the personal details of my current life to myself…as if my thoughts might actually be worth honing rather than spewing.” As a commentor said, that’s called growing up.

OK, but I’m still ready to defend her and portray her. I also read an article called The Ambition Condition by Anna Clark in Bitch Magazine. It defends Emily on the grounds that the negative response to her article is sexist. A lot of the comments on her article had the same insult, along the lines of calling her a “stupid little girl.” The Bitch article argues that culture sets us up to believe that female ambition is selfish and leads to unhappiness. I’m interested in why so many of the comments on her article were gendered, but also how/why she herself perpetuates gender stereotypes in her writing about herself.

Michelle’s post about heroes using masks while villians use makeup could be useful in thinking about what happened in Emily’s life. Someone left Emily a comment with a quote attributed to Bansky, English graffitti artist: “In order for people to truly listen to what one is saying one has to wear a mask and not be recognized.” There is this difference between letting your face show, but as a painted face (as Emily wrote/constructed her life as she “revealed” it online), and putting forth a purely constructed face or mask (as someone who has one ‘life’ online and keeps is separate from their ‘real life’ offline). Which is more believable? Which is really better? And do we associate a certain gender to someone online based on how or how much s/he talks about her/himself?

One Response
  1. April 23, 2009

    I think that the masked person speaking the truth is much more believable than someone who has taken the time to build an entire persona around what they want to say. Someone revealing their face (painted or masked) is taking a much bigger “risk” by putting out whatever information they are spreading.

    Someone who is “John James”, product tester could just be a paid shill hiding behind a keyboard.

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