[4 May 2007]
Please, don’t be intimidated. I, too, approached Bitch with caution, wary of man-hating columnists and Bush-bashing feminazis. But surprise! My shameful stereotypes were blown to bits after reading this self-proclaimed “feminist response to pop culture,” and so I apologize to Bitch senior editor Rachel Fudge for all of my unprovoked generalizations. Bitch is one heck of a magazine.
The colorful and eye-catching cover was what first struck my interest and, looking back at its previous 34 issues, this seems to be a trend. Every issue has a theme; this season’s is “The Super Issue,” with articles on superheroes, supermoms and super-cool art. Previous themes: “Green,” “Masculinity,” and “Fake.”
But open the cover and receive a nasty surprise—no colour. It’s a dramatic change from most magazines we read today, where pages are as slick as satin and covered with brightly-colored advertisements. Not so for Bitch, and perhaps that’s the point.
The paper itself has a coarse and commercial feel to it, and nearly every page is content—no filler here. It’s Bitch’s way of slapping us in the face for even expecting to see half-naked Guess models here. Instead, we get ads like “Smitten Kitten: a truly feminist sex toy store!”
Once you get past the cover, Bitch starts off by doing exactly as it’s name suggests: bitching. “Dear Bitch” and “Love it/shove it” are both opinionated features that appear every issue. While I do not have much to say about readers’ letters to the editor (only that there were lots of them), “Love it/shove it” is a whole other matter entirely. It is a compilation of short articles that either bash or embrace various bits of culture, though from the very start it is apparent that there is a lot of bashing going on.
Celebrity racism, The New York Times and Donald Trump are all criticized in one way or another, as is Vanity Fair columnist Christopher Hitchens (“not funny, plus bloated and self-important”) in a particularly scathing article. See a trend? It would have been nice to see a little more loving and less shoving, if only to preserve the integrity of the feature title.
But despite all of the shoving, none of the articles steered out of their realm of control and into states of incoherent ranting. The writers at Bitch seem calm, rational and, above all, in possession of a great sense of humor—definitely a must-have when it comes to dealing with controversial issues.
Jesse Rutherford, for instance, author of “Love it/shove it” article “My Little Calliponian,” puts America’s favorite toy on display in a new light: “The latest herd of ponies—called ‘G3s’—look more like sexually available human children than anything remotely equine.” The rest of the article continues in a similar fashion, but doesn’t get diluted with one-liners. Rutherford manages to come out in the end with a valid argument about the sexualization of children’s toys—which is not discussed nearly enough as it should be—and concludes that My Little Ponies are good for “everyone… who is ready, hot, and panting.”
Another consistent feature in Bitch is “The Bitch List.” It’s actually “an annotated guide to some of [Bitch’s] favorite things,” and includes everything from music to Dorothy Gale to “Quick and Dirty Tips 4 Doing Things Better.” This random collection has the same personal feel as a mix tape, and the accessibility of a grocery list. Many of the items are websites (check out nationstates.net), which makes actually experiencing “The Bitch List” a whole lot easier than, say, a list of “Spring Must-Haves Under $500!”
Aside from its staple features, Bitch has some great stand-alone articles—centered around the “super” theme, of course. “Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters” describes the modern phenomenon of “the all-star girl”—Mommy’s little valedictorian/track champion/student government president/model-thin daughter. “We are the daughters of feminists who said ‘You can be anything,’” author Courtney E. Martin writes, “and we heard ‘You have to be everything.’”
There is also “Wave Lengths,” an article on third-wave feminism in America, and “Cold Shoulder,” a column by Shannon Cochran that gives Batgirl and Wonder Woman the limelight they deserve.
And so I apologize once again, Bitch; you have truly impressed me. You handle the ups and downs of the female life with grace, covering everything from abortion to makeup to eating disorders—but with the humor of The Onion and a writing style that far surpasses that of other “girly magazines.” Well done, Bitch. I’ll see you next season.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/post/mag-review-bitch/