Print Reviews
bitchfest
by Edited by Lisa Jervis, Andi Zeisler
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (2006)
bitchfest
10 / 10
Most of the women (and handful of men) who write for BITCH came up during an era in pop culture that I barely remember; the early '90s offered bisexual Kurt Cobain in a dress, a surge of female musicians fed up with a mostly male punk scene, and straight, butch women like Cheers' Carla and Roseanne Barr, who got sex, love, and respect without reaching for lip gloss. It was an era that widely assumed that feminism was dead and declared postfeminism's rule. It also was an era when editors Lisa Jervis and Andi Zeisler were "freshly minted liberal-arts college graduates with crappy day jobs and a serious media jones," and while the current climate gave them hope for a future free of gender dichotomy, they were skeptical of the notion that feminism's battles were already won.

Thus, Jervis and Zeisler founded the feminist pop-culture critique BITCH, which celebrates its tenth year with bitchfest, a collection of "the most provocative" essays of the decade. Jervis and Zeisler included a variety of feminist voices; there are pro- and anti-porn arguments, a piece on being a black female metalhead, a piece on how women generally wear too much makeup and a piece on how hard it is for women of color to find good makeup, pieces by trans women, bearded women, screenwriters, comics, teachers, and an odd piece suggesting that masculinity would go away if we would all just stop acknowledging it. The essays are sharp, sometimes prophetic, and even nostalgic for more optimistic times. Rachel Fudge's essay tracking the inevitable commercialization of "girl power" is noteworthy both for the way it exemplifies bitchfest's fixation on Kathleen Hanna-era genderfucking, but also for exemplifying BITCH at its best--straightforward, fresh, frustrated, and written with the well-researched detail of a grad school thesis. Other pieces examine pop culture phenomena with a damn-I-never-saw-it-that-way twist (an unmarried Martha Stewart as a feminist antidote to the housewife stereotype; female jealousy as latent homosexual desire), nerd-girl rapture (linguistic studies on "choice," "like," and "you guys"), and sheer, satisfying smartassery (an open letter to Carnie Wilson asking her to kindly stop speaking for and to fat women). And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that my straight-girl crush, Keely Savoie, has two essays in the collection. Bitchfest is a brainy, funny, and terrifying account of where women have gone, and how we are portrayed.
Posted by: Christie Church

Print Reviews (January 7th, 2007)