First, it was the death of Sassy that left me brokenhearted. When it arrived at my door with the same title, but contents that made it look like I'd subscribed to Seventeen instead, I knew a little something had died. Then there was Bust. Sure, they're still carrying the feminist torch on issues like craft-power and fashion, but page after page of entirely positive record reviews and the not-so-subtle pages of advertising (Okay! I get it! You need money!) have removed the glow from their insightful articles. And don't even get me started on the never-quite-cool Jane.
For me, opening my first copy of Bitch (subtitle: A Feminist Response to Pop Culture) was like learning I wasn't alone in the world. Sure, maybe there weren't a lot of people who thought the way I did in Kalamazoo, Michigan, with its closing GM plant and two plastics manufacturing compounds, but somewhere, far from the Midwest, there were other women who actually cared about the messages behind daytime TLC and evaluating the current 'girl power' messages for what they really are.
I know feminist might be a dirty word to some of you. But this is not the 70's feminism you're thinking of -- take, for example, the (s)hitlist, which appears at the front of every issue (there's also a more extensive listing on the website). All those little advertising quirks that have annoyed you over the past year? Mentioned and dissected. What does it mean that Abercrombie and Fitch make thong underwear for ten-year-olds? When popular music magazines feature fashion spreads involving female models made up to look dead? When Jane magazine continues to crank out the same boring crap as Cosmo and calls it revolutionary? It's like someone compiled all the snarky comments I make with my friends and did enough research to make them valid.
The best part of Bitch has to be the articles. Interesting, well researched, and even footnoted (!), they take pop culture and its messages seriously. Interviews have included bell hooks, Margaret Cho, and Gurinder Chadha. Articles include titles like "Righteous Step, Ferocious Yoga: Towards a Feminist Theory of Exercise", "Go Fish -- Chasing Tail at Coney Island's Mermaid Parade", and "One-Track Mind: Is Record Collecting Really a Guy Thing?" The message here is powerful: not only is feminism alive and well, but everyone I know is living it.
And that's really the point of Bitch. It takes feminism from a theory to a practice. All the time we spend at the gym, watching TV, reading the hot novel of the summer -- it's all worth a second look, an evaluation. Which is what the magazine does extremely well, praising the aspects of pop culture that deserve our love and critiquing those which we all love to hate. Plus, there are pages and pages of book, record, and movie reviews which help you figure out where that spare ten dollars is best spent.
Visit their website for information on subscriptions and an archive of some recent articles: www.bitchmagazine.com