Pop culture blogger Jen Zoratti, "professional feminist killjoy"
What does Seinfeld's Elaine Benes, a brown M&M, a 1983 Playboy and Canada's prostitution laws have in common? They've all been ranted (and raved) about on Winnipeg writer Jen Zoratti's pop culture blog, Screaming In All Caps. Along with her co-blogger Marlo Campbell, Jen delights in offering a smart, funny, insightful feminist take on pop culture's hits and misses.
As part of our ongoing series on great Canadian blogs, we chatted with Jen about embracing controversy, her blogosphere idols, and what exactly she'd say to Kimye.
How would you introduce yourself at a party?
"Hi, my name is Jen Zoratti and I am a professional feminist killjoy. Here, let me tell you all about why that joke you just told is sexist. AREN'T YOU HAPPY YOU ENGAGED WITH ME?"
You come from an alt-weekly background, and you're a newspaper writer by day. How does writing and running a blog differ? What outlet does it give you?
I am an Arts & Life reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press and, while my main beat is music, I am afforded a lot of flexibility. Quite a few ideas that began as blog posts have ended up on the op-ed pages and in other sections of the paper. My editors seem keen to bring my feminist snark to the paper and I'm keen to deliver it. The biggest difference is the audience. People who seek out SIAC tend to be feminists; you are preaching to the choir, so to speak. With a general newspaper readership, you need to offer a little more background. Not everyone is necessarily versed in feminist theory. I don't need to define concepts such as rape culture or mansplain on the blog, for example. In the paper, these terms may be new to some people. And that's OK. Also, I use the F-word much more liberally on the blog.
Your tagline is "Another feminist response to pop culture." Which other feminist media sources inspire you?
Bitch magazine's tagline is "A feminist response to pop culture" so ours is both a nod to that—please don't sue us!—and a wink to the fact that we're not the only ones writing about pop culture through a feminist lens. I generally gravitate towards specific writers as opposed to outlets. Melissa McEwan at the blog Shakesville is brilliant. Fellow Canadian feminist blogger Anne Thériault, who runs The Belle Jar, is also great. Mikki Kendall. Roxane Gay. Amanda Hess. Anne Helen Petersen. Ann Friedman. Jessica Hopper. I read these women's words religiously.
What's the most controversial post you've ever written on the blog, and what did you think about the response?
Everything we write is controversial to someone, but by far and away, the most divisive post we've had is about the song "Rude," by Canadian pop-reggae act Magic! It has the most views, the most comments and has yielded the most vitriol from commenters.
It's not easy being a woman on the Internet, especially one writing about feminist issues. We moderate our own comments so, while we don't post the ones that don't meet our guidelines, we still see them. It can be incredibly frustrating. I wrote an op-ed on rape culture for the Free Press, and many commenters disturbingly likened rape to auto theft. We don't always get combative comments on the blog; often it's just very polite, very misinformed people. Our hope is that we've planted a seed. Perhaps they'll think about that commercial or that pop song or that movie in a different way. Because pop culture is important. It's how we relate to each other. It's worth dissecting and discussing. I think SIAC offers a good entry point for people on some of these issues because we use a great deal of humour in our pieces; you have to laugh to keep from crying.
A category of your blog is "miscellaneous piss offs." What things piss you off the most?
Women getting denied basic reproductive rights. Women being treated as objects while corporations are treated as people. Women being told that only they can prevent rape. The tyranny of body ideals. The fact that it's always up to women to change their behaviour in order to fit into a system that works against them. I can go on, forever. This is why we need feminism, contrary to what now-viral Tumblrs say
If the story of your blog got made into a movie, who would play you?
Janeane Garofalo, circa 1994.
Flash back to Kimye's wedding. You're there. You're giving a toast. What do you say?
I feel like I would get hopelessly smashed at Kimye's wedding, but my wish for them is a happy, healthy daughter who grows up knowing she's smart and worthy—even though she lives in a world in which her mother's "elbow fat" is pointed out with arrows on the covers of tabloids.
What advice would you give to aspiring bloggers?
The same advice I would give an aspiring writer: Write. Just go for it. Be brave, be candid, speak from the gut.