Feminist-energized pop-culture essays that appeal to a wide array of tastes and reading preferences as they celebrate Bitch’s tenth anniversary.
Margaret Cho doesn’t mind being called a bitch, she quips in the introduction: “I have taken it as a compliment.” So have many of the 43 writers assembled here, all equally frustrated by the force-feeding of mass-media values and the lack of motivational role models. Jervis and Zeisler founded the ’zine to eschew the complacent postfeminist viewpoint. Among the inspiring and the outspoken are features on young-adult novelist Norma Klein (“Stormin’ Norma”); “the trials of female adolescence” via horror film (“Bloodletting”); the empowering androgyny of ’80s music videos (“Amazon Women on the Moon”); the atrocity of rape (“The Collapsible Woman”); and current hot topics gay parenting (“Queer and Pleasant Danger”) and cosmetic reconstruction (“Plastic Passion,” “Vulva Goldmine”). Many of these pieces are spirited with a unique feminine bravado, but the editors don’t leave out the male point of view; there are terrific essays on the emasculating effects of male bonding (“Holy Fratrimony”) and the notion of the fading usefulness of men (“Dead Man Walking”). Less engrossing offerings include discourses on speech tics (“The, Like, Downfall of the English Language,” “On Language”), the art of peeing (“Urinalysis”), “humilitainment” (“XXX Offender”) and the “tragedy” of lesbians who sexually desire men (“What Happens to a Dyke Deferred?”). Pieces that make room for humor are stronger than the indignant, alarmist entries; some of the strongest works get right to the awful truth: Martha Stewart is man-less because “she doesn’t seem to exude that warmth and caring nature men enjoy” (“The Paradox of Martha Stewart”); both Jane Magazine (“Pratt-fall”) and Carnie Wilson (“Your Stomach’s the Size…”) should just go away. By volume’s end, alas, feminism fatigue definitely sets in and deep, anti-conspiratorially cleansing breaths are in order for all warrior princesses.
Smartly written, socio-cultural vignettes that speak to everyone, loud and clear.