XoJane and their “my friend’s death was a blessing” article

Almost every day on my lunch break at work I read XoJane, former Jane magazine editor Jane Pratt’s website. I used to be devoted reader of Jane when I was in high school. They were known for off beat, humorous articles and most importantly the magazine celebrated women and paid attention to what women around the world were going through. I wanted to work at Jane after graduating from college, but unfortunately the magazine folded when I was still in high school and I do not work for any magazine whatsoever.

The website XoJane was launched a few years ago, I forget specifically when, but I signed up for their newsletter because I thought it was going to be a similar concept to Jane. I think it is in the sense that women from all different points of view share their stories. Unfortunately that means some abhorrent view points are going to be published and while I applaud XoJane’s commitment to free speech, they also need to take into account that their publishing of these items can make it look like they endorse these viewpoints. And worse, many of these articles are about tearing down other women which is the antithesis of what Jane was about and should be against what XoJane is about.

XoJane has been known for many articles that are racist and classist as not all writers have been introduced to the concept of intersectional feminism. Many of these writers are educated by other XoJane writers writing counter essays or by readers posting in the comments section. I hope that these writers actually have been educated and changed their way of thinking and developed at least some empathy and self awareness about the fact that not every single person has the same advantages and circumstances in life.

Mental health is another area in which some XoJane writers need an education in, most specifically, the woman who wrote that her friend’s death was a blessing. The original article is gone, what is linked to is an apology from Jane Pratt for that article being posted on her site. The original article probably exists somewhere and in screen shots, there is no point looking for it. But in summary, the author had a friend dealing with significant mental health issues and the friend upset her in other ways such as by hitting on a guy she liked and quitting a job that the author had gotten her. Stuff that might be legitimate to end a friendship over depending on other complicating factors, however, this woman ending up dying and the author felt her death was for the best because her life made the author so uncomfortable.

I have been on both sides of this. I have dealt with mental health issues and I have ended a friendship because the ongoing problems made our friendship unsustainable. That said I cannot imagine ever thinking that someone should just die (or being grateful that someone actually did die) simply because their actions make them incompatible with us being friends. Of course I want them to get better and be happy with their lives, and for their sake, no one should ever live their life for the enjoyment of someone else. Sometimes there is no completely getting better which is a harsh reality, there is only learning to manage an illness just like with chronic physical illnesses, but it is what it is and there is no right to judge whose life is worth living or not.

I do feel guilty for having a friendship end over what was largely related to mental health issues and I tried for years to help her. I feel bad because it would be awful to drop someone over a physical illness and mental illnesses should be treated the same way. On the other hand though, I do understand and feel that sometimes issues and problems create such a boundary between people that it is impossible to remain friends even in the absence of anything pertaining to mental health. No one is obligated to remain friends if there is no mutual positive experience anymore.

But to be so gleeful in someone’s death? I find that horrifying and wonder how many people read that article wondering if that’s how people secretly view them. While the former friend described in the article did have a diagnosed mental illness, none of her behavior was so incredibly outlandish that it would have been out of the ordinary had anyone else done it. Her actions became terrible though once they were linked with her mental illness and therefore her life was not worth living according to this author.

It wasn’t clear whether or not the friend described took her own life or died by accident, but maybe since XoJane published this article they should, in addition to apologizing, re-post some decent essays they’ve previously published or seek new essays pertaining to the actual experience of mental illness and how it is possible to get help and that it is possible to connect with and be friends with caring people who believe that people who are not 100% perfect deserve to live.

I am not going to quit reading XoJane and I believe they have learned their lesson since as Jane stated, there will be tighter editorial control, but it is a very harsh lesson and reality check to see how cruel people can be. I am glad the article was removed and so many have spoken up about it. I do not believe in publicly shaming, but I do hope the woman who wrote that article is deeply ashamed of herself.

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