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Bitch Issue 53

Bitch Issue 53: The Underground Issue

Looking for thought-provoking feminist perspectives, recommendations, and reflections on pop culture? Bitch magazine, a project of Bitch Media (they have an active online presence with blogs, podcasts, and more) is exactly what you’re looking for. I devour each new issue on my commute to work (don’t worry, I take the T), wondering how many people will notice I’m reading a magazine entitled Bitch, how many strange looks might be cast my way, and how many approving, conspiratorial nods I might be getting. I wonder this because I’m too wrapped up in reading to notice. From in-depth analyses of current pop-culture trends and politics to recommendations on the latest awesome music, movies, and books, they offer such a range of compelling fodder for feminists—and everyone else, too!

I love the frame that Bitch Media uses to look at our modern world and the ways they creates such rich dialogue. That’s why I was especially excited to open the new issue (53) and see a letter to the editor I wrote! After reading an article in the last issue that posited the word “victim” is a powerful tool for people who’ve survived sexual assault, domestic violence, and other forms of violence, I sent the following response:

I appreciated Carrie A. Rentschler’s desire for powerful language that can describe “the harms, injuries, and experiences of oppression and domination” (“Waking Wounded,” no. 52), but I find it curious and worrisome that she doesn’t mention using “survivor” language as a way to do that (for cases in which the person is alive, of course, such as with survivors of sexual assault that were mentioned). Using “survivor” acknowledges the negative power of oppression and domination while also highlighting the strength of the person who has endured them. In work that I’ve done as an advocate and volunteer for organizations supporting survivors of domestic violence, I’ve found such language important and empowering.

Language is so important and powerful—we use it to shape our worlds, our lives, our experiences. That’s one reason I think “survivor” is such an vital word when we’re talking about domestic violence, sexual assault, and other forms of oppression. And that power of language is also one reason I am so glad that Bitch Media is out there, empowering people with their contributors’ compelling words, cultivating discussion, and just generally totally rocking.

If you are still making last-minute decisions re: end-of-year donations, definitely consider donating to Bitch Media—or if you’re looking for a perfect gift for your favorite feminist friend (or maybe someone who might not think of themselves as a feminist), a subscription is an awesome way to go!

PS. Goal for 2012: submit a piece to Bitch!

This past weekend, I was on a super-short visit in the Shire to spend some time with my parents. After my mom and I went to Whitney’s Farm to pick out carving pumpkins, we were driving back to her house when we passed this billboard:

Billboard for M. Edward Jewelers in Berkshire County

It reads: “Hardware Store for Women,” with a photo of a big, huge diamond and the name of the business: M. Edward Jewelers. “Wow, that’s a sexist ad,” I said. “That’s exactly what I was just thinking!” my mom responded.

The implication that women have no place or interest in actual hardware stores — you know, the ones with hammers and nails and duct tape — is preposterous, of course. I was just in a real hardware store the other day, picking up flashlights and screws for Occupy Boston.

When I think of hardware stores and women, I think of my mom buying canning supplies, gardening tools, and chicken wire. I think of Mimine, a 30-year-old woman who is the lead construction engineer at the building site of the eco-village the Papaye Peasant Movement is creating in rural Haiti.

It makes me sad — and, yes, angry too — to see a local business using old, tired gender stereotypes to try to sell its products. Even if I were interested in buying a diamond, I’d choose another place to do so after seeing this ad. But really, I much more need a hammer than a diamond, thank you.

Feminist Hulk

"HULK SAYS FUCK PATRIARCHY. HULK HERE TO SMASH GENDER BINARY."

If you haven’t met the delightful genius that is Feminist Hulk on Twitter, you are truly missing out. Feminist Hulk self-identifies as a cisgendered male that totally digs feminism and taking down all sorts of oppression. His motto? “HULK SAYS FUCK PATRIARCHY. HULK HERE TO SMASH GENDER BINARY.” Feminist Hulk even extends his desire to end oppression to language (with an exception for bell hooks): “HULK USE ALL-CAPS. HULK CHOOSE NOT TO IMPOSE HIERARCHY ON LANGUAGE. PLUS, BIG HULK FINGERS MAKE SHIFT-KEY PROBLEMATIC.” Feminist Hulk’s hero is Judith Butler (who I haven’t read, but it’s about time). He says things like, “HULK VALUE THE RISK IT TAKE TO SHARE DELICATE HULK FEELINGS.” He likes to smash things that need smashing. Plus there’s the tiny purple shorts. What’s not to love?

I highly recommend reading Feminist Hulk’s tweets from the very beginning. And once you do, if you want more, check out the Ms. interview and Salon highlight. Then enjoy the daily musings of Feminist Hulk from here on out.

I just got back from an AmeriCorps reunion, during which my friend Angela told me about this fascinating Kotex ad she had seen on TV the week before. Check it out:

So, my first reaction was: this ad is genius and refreshing in the meta way that it blatantly calls out all of the stock ways that big-time advertisers (in this case, for feminine products) try to sell to women. Rock on for pointing out that advertisers so often use lame mainstream tactics of playing on standard definitions of beauty and trying to convince viewers that this or that product will make you and your life “better” and more like what you see in the commercial—and for pointing out that such appeals are boring and obnoxious.

But my second reaction: but, wait, they’re still selling something. Only now they’re just marketing themselves as a “cool” and “alternative.” Even though their product, from what I can tell, is pretty standard (and I’m not even going to start thinking about what they’re made of, the environmental impact of their production and use, etc.). So basically they’re just co-opting “subversive” to sell a product? Ugh.

So, I’m torn. What do you think?

I love WAM, and this is the icon they're using, but I must say that I cringe at the "RU?"—it's just too much.

This past spring, I attended the WAM! conference (I know, it’s like an old Batman cartoon—wam! pow! kazaam!). What is WAM? Women, Action, and the Media, a yearly conference for journalists, activists, and everyone else, dedicated to strengthening women’s voices in the media. Imagine hundreds of women writers, bloggers, filmmakers, journalists, and activists coming together to discuss all sorts of topics at the intersection of the media, activism, and feminism. My favorite panels I attended this spring were:

And in addition to awesome sessions like this, there are free film screenings by Women Make Movies. And the opportunity to connect with other amazing women up to exciting, important work in the world. Plus, the conference is just a starting point. As WAM director Jaclyn Friedman says, “Every day, WAM!mers help each other place op-eds and articles, get powerful media jobs, leverage new technology, hold the media accountable, produce and promote books, films, and other projects, get stories told about our lives and work, and change the very structure of the media itself.”

Up until recently, WAM was a project of the Center for New Words, a Boston nonprofit whose mission is to use the power and creativity of words and ideas to strengthen the voice of progressive and marginalized women in society. But now the Center is transforming into WAM, which will be an independent national organization that will launch local chapters, build a thriving online community and resources, and continue to produce a yearly conference “creating an unstoppable force for gender justice that will change the media landscape for good.” Totally awesome.

This also means that 1) they have to postpone the next conference until 2011 and 2) they really need financial support at this critical transition time. If you think they’re as cool and important as I do, consider chipping in.

She started with a story: She was on a plane coming home from South Africa. The man sitting next to her asked her what she had been doing there. Contemplating whether she wanted to get into that conversation with him, she turned the question on him. He replied, “I was in a golf tournament.” Oh, what the heck, why not, she figured. “I was there doing work as a radical feminist lesbian,” she told him. He was taken aback, and hemmed and hawed, asking, “is radical really necessary?” and “aren’t men and women already equal really?” She spent the rest of the plane ride writing a poem for him, which she performed last Friday night at Word X Word. It was amazing. It offered a litany of examples of the ways that women are oppressed and treated unequally in our culture, ending with the words: “and that is why I am a radical feminist.”

Alix Olson is profound and hilarious, full of fire and strength. Totally right on. Her performance left me excited and fired up and ready to ask questions and challenge the status quo. She also performed “Womyn Before”:

On Friday, towards the end of that piece, she elicited names from the audience as she quietly chanted “womyn before me.” Urging us to break through the initial silence, she motioned with her hands for us to shout out names, saying, “I believe shyness is a tool of patriarchy.” I made the first contributions that popped into my head: Ani DiFranco, Frances Perkins, Eleanor Roosevelt (I feel a future post coming with a more extensive list!).

I’m new to Alix’s work, but I just ordered a few CDs, and I am totally excited to dig into her stuff. Some initial pieces to check out (lots of YouTube out there): America’s On Sale!, Picnic Table, Cute for a Girl, Subtle Sister, and Armpit Hair. Any recommendations?

To round out this post, here she shares a few words on feminism:

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