What if a clueless “skinny white woman” has fantasies about what a “heavy set” black woman in her yoga class is thinking? XoJane.com editor Rebecca Carroll published such a story and now admits that the white woman’s fantasy article that has since gone viral needed “more work” before publication.
By publication time, the yoga article had more than 2,200 comments.
The author imagines all sorts of things. She even remarks that she’s never really noticed there aren’t usually black people at her yoga class.
XoJane.com website describes itself as “where women go to be their unabashed selves, and where their unabashed selves are applauded — regardless of age, size, ability, location, occupation, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, economic status, relationship status, sexual preferences or lifestyle choices.”
Yoga Article Author Byline changes?
The yoga article, “It Happened to Me: There are No Black People in my Yoga Classes and I’m suddenly feeling uncomfortable with it,” was published yesterday, Jan. 29. The byline reads Jen Caron and the article is nearly 1,000 words long.
Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan noticed that, at some point after the controversy began, the author’s name was changed to a diferent byline. “As many eagle-eyed readers noted after the essay started going around, it was originally published under the writer’s actual name: Jen Polachek,” but at some point the name “was changed, with no notice, to ‘Jen Caron,'” he wrote. iMediaEthics has asked XoJane.com about the byline change and will update with any response.
The article is about how the author never really thought about diversity at her yoga class and what she thinks the black woman in her class is feeling. She writes, too, that, “Even though yoga comes from thousands of years of south Asian tradition, it’s been shamelessly co-opted by Western culture as a sport for skinny, rich white women.”
The author also describes the typical student at her yoga studio, “As such, the studio is populated largely by students, artists, and broke hipsters; there is a much higher ratio of men to women than at many other studios, and you never see the freshly-highlighted, Evian-toting, Upper-West-Side yoga stereotype.”
And, she finally realizes that her class doesn’t usually have black students: “I realized with horror that despite the all-inclusivity preached by the studio, despite the purported blindness to socioeconomic status, despite the sizeable population of regular Asian students, black students were few and far between. And in the large and constantly rotating roster of instructors, I could only ever remember two being black.”
This afternoon, Rebecca Carroll, managing editor at XO Jane.com blogged about the blowback to the piece. She denied that the yoga article was posted as traffic bait, instead arguing she wanted to promote “the conversations surrounding race.”
“Throughout my life as a person, a black woman, a writer and editor, author, mother, daughter, partner and friend, it has always been an integral part of my existence to listen and question, invite and engage in dialogs about race,” she wrote.
Carroll said she assigned the article after talking to the author in a “casual conversation” about the author’s “suddenly realizing the impact of her white privilege.” Further, Carroll admitted that a regular reader would probably be “offended” by the article.
Apparently, Carroll is new at her job (four weeks) and tried to use it as a partial shield for the article’s failings:
“I SHOULD have asked Jen to do more work and questioning before writing about her experience. Instead, I read it too quickly before running it by only one other editor at xoJane, and published it without giving a thorough enough consideration to the response of the xoJane community, and readers at large.”
Pia Glenn says author ‘crossed every line’
Actress Pia Glenn even weighed in with her own post on XoJane, “It Happened to Me: I read an essay about a White Woman’s Yoga Class/Black Woman Crisis and I Cannot.”
Glenn, a black woman, argues the author had no basis for her comments about the black woman on the yoga scene. “You may not even be aware of the level to which you dehumanized the Unnamed Black Woman behind you,” Glenn wrote. “You see, unless you are an FBI profiler trained in reading facial expressions, there’s a chance you imagined her ‘panic and despair.'”
Further, Glenn wrote that the author “crossed every line” and had no support for anything she imagined. “You crossed every line from describing your experience into assuming hers,” she wrote.
And, to the point, Glenn simply asked, “If you were having so many thoughts about Unnamed Black Woman in Your Yoga Class, why not make direct contact?”
Glenn, you may remember, is one of the panelists who, on MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry’s show last month, was in a controversy herself when she joined in the mocking of a black baby in the Mitt Romney family photo. The family photo, a Christmas card, showed 23 Romneys, one of whom is a black baby who is Romney’s adopted grandson. Glenn was the one who quoted the Sesame Street song “One of these things is not like the others.” Harris-Perry, the host, apologized multiple times for the segment.