Bitch Magazine co-founder gets the NYT Sunday Magazine treatment

by Jennifer L Pozner, Women in Media and News

Ever notice how most major corporate media outlets seem to care about the supposed trivialization of feminism primarily when they are attacking progressive feminist activists for prioritizing issues or ideas deemed unimportant by the media elite — yet these same outlets rarely call conservative, antifeminist activists, politicians or business leaders to task for actively campaigning against women’s rights causes?

I have this thought often; most recently, while reading yesterday’s New York Times. To mark the tenth anniversary of Bitch: Feminist Response to Pop Culture magazine, the Times’ Sunday Magazine featured a Q&A with Andi Zeisler, Bitch’s cofounder and editorial/creative director.

A mixed blessing of major, mainstream publicity for a radical feminist indy mag coupled with typical Timesian antipathy toward the F-word, the Q&A was laced with condescension (as when Times’ scribe Deborah Solomon wondered whether her successful independent magazine’s “goal [is] to rouse an entire generation of women to become bitches?”) and disparaging editorializing (as when she rebuked Zeisler for being “trapped in a pop-culture bubble” along with everyone else vane enough to be born after 1970).

Much like her magazine, Zeisler — who blogs for WIMN’s Voices on women, media and feminism – was witty, cogent and insightful during an interview in which she was told that her work is selling out an entire generation of women in which feminism is supposedly passé:

New York Times: Do you think television representations of women have improved since Mary Tyler Moore became a working-girl icon in the 70’s?

Andi Zeisler: No, I think they have devolved. Sitcom women have gone back to the role of the doting, harried wife, like in “The King of Queens.” Working women are more likely to be found on procedural dramas, like the various “Law and Order” or “CSI” shows.

Times: That’s true. I think Chloe, the hunched and crabby counterterrorism agent on the Fox drama “24,” is probably the most appealing female character on television right now.

Zeisler: I think Chloe would probably be it. I love that actress, Mary Lynn Rajskub, but I never got into “24” because it makes me too tense.

Times: On the other hand, you can’t say Chloe is a feminist. She is a more of a postfeminist who instinctively takes control in a world mismanaged by men.

Zeisler: I don’t believe in postfeminism. The media love to trot out the idea that feminism is dead, and every so often it will be the cover story in Time or somewhere else. But feminism is as alive as ever.

Times: Is it really? It seems as if its original vision of social equality has been undermined by third-wave feminists like yourself, who limit your critiques to, say, Tori Spelling’s breasts. Doesn’t the obsession with pop culture risk trivializing feminism?

Zeisler: I think that could be a risk. But if you are going to be working in feminist activism, you have to look at pop culture, because that’s what everyone else is looking at. Young women today have more day-to-day contact with “Desperate Housewives” than with the radical feminist writings of Germaine Greer or Shulamith Firestone.

Zeisler’s declaration that the phrase “post-feminist” is a media fallacy was delicious in that it appeared in the same newspaper that has perpetually pushed the myth of postfeminism since the early 1980s as a way to discredit and stunt the women’s rights movement. Regular Times readers would easily be able to identify their “paper of record” as one of the main culprits the Bitch editor was referring to when she noted that the feminism-is-dead falsehood pops up periodically in “Time or somewhere else.”

It’s encouraging that the Times was interested in sharing Zeisler’s thoughts on feminism and popular culture with their readers — even in the context of denying the importance of pop cultural analysis and deriding feminist attempts to address sexism in the genre.

But if the New York Times or other corporate news outlets really want to know about the broad range of feminist activism taking place in the U.S., there’s a prime opportunity awaiting them this coming weekend at The Real Hot 100 honors brunch and party, an event that will bring together young women breaking barriers, speaking out and making change in a huge range of sectors in American society. Press passes are available via the Real Hot 100 website…

article originally published at

The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey