Edited by Lisa Jervis & Andi Zeisler. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $18 paperback.
Thu Aug 10 2006
Photograph: Nick Himmel
Time Out Ratings<strong>Rating: </strong>0/5
The San Francisco--based Bitch is one of the few magazines operating under the auspices of feminism that actually feels rigorously feminist. There are no women modeling clothes, as there are now in the once-heralded, disappointing Bust. And in an age in which it is a commonplace that everybody is inured, the tireless Bitch performs watchdog-style calling-out work in incisive columns and decidedly antifluffy articles, 54 of which appear in this tenth-anniversary anthology.
BITCHfest opens with a pointless foreword by Margaret Cho, and an introduction that needlessly and defensively justifies the magazine’s focus on pop culture. But the pieces that follow fervently pick up the pace. Examining patterns of response to rape, the experiences of a black feminist metalhead, women’s use of the word like, and the “new homosociality” (think Frodo and Sam), BITCHfest draws on a deep range of cultural references and is often quite funny—even uproariously so.
The book’s most salient feature is its persistent critique of the virulent ways capitalism and gender intersect. This topic finds its most explicit treatment in invaluable essays such as “Girl, Unreconstructed: Why Girl Power Is Bad for Feminism” and “On Language: Choice,” in which Summer Wood argues that an uncritical language of personal “choice” has become, erroneously, the very definition of feminism itself. This collection provides clearheaded, refreshingly unsnarky perspectives on problems that the authors—male and female alike—worry are becoming more entrenched. Mixing passionate writing and a fix-things ethos, BITCHfest is an excellent primer on how consumers of culture can also become its producers. — Hillary Chute