September 17th, 2008

book - key

For anyone interested in independent feminist voices...

I still remember discovering Bitch Magazine. I was wandering the streets of Berkeley, probably while I was doing an internship at the library there, and wound up in Cody's. At the time, I was casting about for progressive news sources -- I had attempted subscriptions to Mother Jones and The Nation, but I found the former was too radical and the second too much reading to come up with as a busy grad student -- and so I went to the alternative section of the magazine rack and bought a couple of titles. One of them was Bust; I liked it, but I found it focused a little more on girly stuff like crafts and fashion than I really wanted. I'll still pick up an issue from time to time, but it has never really spoken to me.

Bitch was, of course, the other. It was this issue (I can still recognize it by the cover!) and I was immediately taken with it. I liked that it took pop culture seriously, I liked that it came explicitly from a feminist perspective and wasn't afraid to own that. So I bought the next issue, and the next, and about a year later I got around to subscribing. I've read every issue ever since (several years as a subscriber, then let it lapse out of pure laziness and went back to buying single issues off the newsstand). I don't agree with everything in every issue; far from it. But the articles always make me think and look critically at the how women are portrayed in pop culture and treated in the world, and it brings books and music to my attention that I would never notice on my own. It's been my favorite magazine for years...

And now it's in danger of going away.

The print publishing industry as a whole is staring into a void. Across the board, newsstand magazine sales are in a slump, subscriber numbers are down, and paper and postal costs continue to rise. But it's not magazines like US Weekly or Vogue that you'll see disappearing from the newsstands—they have the parent companies and the resources to weather industry ill winds. It's the small, independent magazines like Bitch that will disappear, because the odds are already stacked high against us. And simply put: We need to raise $40,000 by October 15th in order to print the next issue of Bitch.

Now it's true that Bitch is no longer the lone voice it seemed to me back in 1999. There are many blogs and other online sources that cover similar territory these days. But I don't see the blogosphere as a substitute for print publications. For one thing, as Latoya at Racialicious reminds us, Bitch publishes articles by many of these same voices, and it's one of the few places that a feminist writer can know that her work won't be gutted. And even today not everyone has easy access to the Internet. A magazine can catch people's attention in places and at times that the Internet isn't practical, or even available.

So I've finally renewed my long-lapsed subscription, and donated a little bit over and above that. Not only because I, personally, adore this magazine, but because I think independent media sources are more important than ever. If we've learned nothing else from this presidential campaign, it's that the mainstream media has a long way to go in its coverage of women and women's issues. Alternative voices like Bitch are a breath of fresh air, and we need them.