Yesterday, DoubleX tweeted the following teaser to a story on Sarah Palin‘s recent profile in “Runner’s World”:
“Sarah Palin, in spandex, discusses her ‘throbbing thighs,'” is the classic ladymag linkbait-and-switch:
A. Write about an issue of great interest to the American public. Ex. Sarah Palin; tight-fitting clothing; throbbing body parts; the portion of a woman’s leg nearest to the vagina.
B. Present the story as a feminist critique on the political ramifications of said topic; in other words, issues of lesser interest to the American public. Ex. “Anyone who still thinks Sarah Palin isn’t trying to use her enviable physique to her political advantage should read this Runner’s World profile in which Palin says, ‘I knew my thighs were going to just throb.’ The throbbing thighs are accompanied by a slew of cheesecake shots of Palin in close-fitting running gear” (courtesy of DoubleXer Jessica Grose)
C. Write headlines and teasers for the story that are indistinguishable from the T&A treatment. Hey, I clicked on it!
I happen to disagree with Grose’s post. I see nothing particularly exploitative about Palin discussing her running techniques and wearing running gear in a magazine photo. On Runner’s World‘s end, you could say that the full slideshow was overkill—-though this short-shorts photo of David Paterson shows that Palin isn’t the only victim of the magazine’s political cheesecake.
That being said, I understand why the the piece was packaged in the strange way that it was—-pull in the readers interested in Palin’s “throbbing thighs,” only to criticize Palin for showing them off.
DoubleX has needs. We all do. It’s no secret why my critique of local media sex writing, “Teen Sex Scandal!,” is consistently one of the most-clicked blog posts on the Sexist. Sure, I could have titled it something a little more to the point—-and a lot less sexier—-but that would have meant sacrificing the slew of impulse google clicks from readers that are certainly more interested in porn than whatever feminist critique I have to offer.
Are these ladymag link tactics any better than Web sites which deal in fleshy linkbait, only to offer real flesh on display, and not a feminist critique of the same? Probably not. But there is one upside to the T&A bait-and-switch: The pleasure in knowing that Web surfers searching for Sarah Palin cameltoe are unsuspectingly clicking through to a big dose of feminist theory. Sometimes they even stick around to write long-winded negative comments—-another reliable source of linkbait!