A few months ago, Bitch Magazine asked for handouts from the feminist community. In their words “We need to raise $40,000 by October 15th in order to print the next issue of Bitch.” Even though my conspicuous eye-rolls and pages of Bitch are well acquainted, I considered donating some cash as a practice of my conviction that we must support feminist discussions of all kinds everywhere, period. But given, like, a fraction of a second thinking about it I realized how ludicrous it was for Bitch to feel it so crucial to print anything at all.
As their wildly successful begging campaign attests to (which I commend them for running so splendidly), the internet is a much more effective method of community-building and communication than one-sided print media.
No one is wringing their hands and gnashing their tongue more than me about the impending death of print media. The whole industry has been flipping out with all the grasping moans and lashing desperation of a Joan Crawford death scene. But what puts the “tragi” in “tragicomedy” here is the possibility that high quality content that deserves to be one-sided is losing its forum. Some writers are still great—few, but some—and deserve to speak and be heard. Those writers do not contribute to Bitch.
Websites like Feministing, Feministe, Racialicous and the Curvature consistently produce high-quality analyses and critical essays, and spark insightful and community-building discussions online. The emphasis on discourse-based content is not just a given in web communities, it was the foundation of the feminist movement and will continue to be the bedrock of our progress.
Bitch’s endeavor to fund their one-sided anachronism for as long as they can con us into giving our money to them, as opposed to proposing a more cost-effective online presence which fuels the productive work of an inter-play between professional and user-generated content, is short-sighted and bizarre.
In their appeal, the Bitch editors claimed that “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”. This assertion isn’t just false, it’s self-destructive. In fact, it is precisely because the major media players are giants that they’re falling so hard to their knees. They’re cumbersome and steeped in decades of tradition. The sentimentality they lug around for the glory years of their industry is making it hard to be lithe and adapt in a changing landscape. The young, hip, women who hail from a tradition of community building that pre-dates the internet are at an extraordinary advantage to be at the helm of innovation for successful online community building. The absurdity of measuring themselves against the large media conglomerates and demanding special help in order to mimic the terms of Goliath’s survival is the exact opposite of the approach that we need to take.
(As an aside, I consider it manipulative for the editors to name US and Vogue magazines in particular in their appeal, which will immediately read to Bitch subscribers as “bad, stupid, harmful to women, and therefore less deserving of such corporate protectionism than the comparatively righteous Bitch, which we now feel obligated to ‘save’”. You know what else won’t be disappearing? The New Yorker and Harper’s to name a few. How about Vanity Fair and O Magazine? They’ll survive too. And why? Not paternalism but superior content. Bitch aggressively steers the conversation elsewhere).
This is not a piece of writing geared toward scolding Bitch or their supporters. I want to underscore only the invigorating fact that the websites I mentioned above have leaped gloriously ahead of Bitch, and it serves us feminists to recognize a number of things this proves:
1) As hard as it is to admit or confront, the contemporary feminist community doesn’t have “public intellectuals” worthy of a print publication. Just something to chew on there.
2) What we do have in spades, is interested and interesting women of all ages ready to engage with one anther online as Feministe and Feministing attest to. This is extraordinary and could be key not only in generating feminism’s “next wave” but (one hopes) the accompanying public intellectuals to support it.
3) Women’s online communities could be key in unlocking the future of publishing and written media. Women need to figure out why this may be (I’m working on it), and how to capitalize on it, before anyone else does.
More on the future of publishing to come. Stay tuned. Bitch: all the best! Keep the techno-zeitgeist alive.