After much criticism, the women’s site xojane.com, owned by Time.inc, apologized and unpublished a first-person story, “My Former Friend’s Death Was a Blessing,” about a woman who said she thought it was good that her friend died by suicide.
When iMediaEthics read the article earlier today, the byline read “Anonymous” but, according to Jezebel and Google Cache, the article was originally credited to Amanda Lauren. Lauren wrote about a former friend who she said had schizoaffective disorder. She blocked the friend from her Facebook page, then became Facebook friends with again. From that, she learned that her had become a sex worker and had personal issues, before dying by suicide.
“It’s hard to share my thoughts and tell Leah’s story — or at least her story from my perspective — and not judge myself on some level for exploiting an awful situation,” the article says, before going on to say of her former friend “it was as if mental illness took demonic possession over her.”
“It’s a strange and deeply insensitive piece; simultaneously judgmental, self-absorbed, and unreflective, particularly since the subject matter is a young woman who suffered from schizoaffective disorder,” Jezebel described.
“For the site to publish during Mental Health Awareness Month feels like an especially cruel slap in the face,” Salon commented.
The xojane.com article criticized her former friend, who was referred to with a pseudonym, for having had a messy apartment, no “real boyfriends,” quit a job the writer helped her get, and “blatantly tried to hook up with a guy I had a crush on.”
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The article said her friend “wasn’t in her right mind to consent” to being a sex worker, yet went on to criticize her deceased friend and her life.
In an apology in place of the essay, xojane.com editor-in-chief Jane Pratt said
“I apologize for an article that was posted here yesterday, entitled ‘My Former Friend’s Death Was a Blessing.’ I deeply regret the hurt that this article has caused and understand that it has perpetuated stigma and diminished the lives of people with mental illness. I am committed to immediately reviewing our vetting process to ensure that this experience has a positive influence on the ways in which we at xoJane present all women going forward. I appreciate all of you who took the time to let us know how you felt about this issue.”
Separately, Lauren’s article “Staying Hot for My Husband is Essential to a Successful Marriage” received “backlash,” ABC News reported.
iMediaEthics has written to xojane.com and Lauren for comment.
UPDATE: 5/20/2016 9:47 PM EST xojane.com’s parent company Time Inc’s Reid Myers responded to iMediaEthics’ inquiry pointing to the apology.