BITCHfest Ten Years of Cultural Criticism from the Pages of Bitch Magazine

Edited by Lisa Jervis and Andi Zeisler; Foreword by Margaret Cho

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

400 Pages



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Bitch was launched in the mid-'90s as a xerox-and-staple zine covering the pop landscape from a girl's-eye view. Both unabashed in its love for the guilty pleasures of consumer culture and deeply thoughtful about the way that culture reflects and impacts women's lives, Bitch stands today as a touchstone of hip, young feminist thought, looking with both wit and irreverence at the manner in which pop culture informs feminism—and vice versa—and encouraging readers to think critically about the messages lurking behind their favorite television shows, movies, music, books, blogs, and the like. BITCHfest offers an assortment of the most provocative essays, reporting, rants, and raves from the magazine's first ten years, along with new pieces written especially for the collection. Smart, nuanced, cranky, outrageous, and clear-eyed, BITCHfest is a recent history of feminist pop-culture critique and a taste of feminism's future.


Praise for BITCHfest

"Bitchfest is a collection of some of Bitch's most provocative essays. Topics include feminine and masculine identity, domesticity, sex, beauty, and activism. The essays in each chapter progress chronologically, so the older articles provide a retrospective or postmodern gender fallacies—as well as of pop's more deliciously defiant moments."—Michelle Humphrey, Women's Review of Books

"Lisa Jervis and Andi Zeisler have culled some of the finest pieces published in the mag, including pieces on female masculinity, performance art, 'hasbians,' feminist fame, slash fiction, racism, reality porn, female facial hair and the 'paradox of Martha Stewart.'"—Rachel Pepper, Curve

“BitchFEST is a thrilling and punchy read, appropriate for ‘bitches’ of any age or wave. Its widely ranging voices speak just as powerfully in book form as they did from between the cover of a monthly magazine.”—Alycia Sellie, Feminist Collections

"As delicious as a day spent with your funniest, smartest friend, this collection is also a call to action, inspiring readers to fight the fear of female power. As the many writers in here show, few wrongs are righted without a bitchfest first."—Cristina Page, author of How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America: Freedom, Politics and the War on Sex

'We love Bitch and think BITCHfest is an essential component of any feminist's library."—Guerrilla Girls

"In a society as celebrity-obsessed and fad-saturated as ours, we ignore pop culture at our peril. Hurray for the women of Bitch, who raised their banner of intelligence right at the intersection of pop culture and feminism. They've done so with humor, vision, fire, and guts, as this book of selections from their first decade proves. Read it, learn from it, enjoy it, argue with it, revel in it."—Robin Morgan

"With humor and insight Lisa Jervis, Andi Zeisler, and their contributors explore what it means to be female, a feminist, a lover of pop culture, and that other thing that rhymes with rich but is so much more fun."—Ariel Levy, author of Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture

"Bitch is my favorite magazine. It makes feminism fun, relevant and approachable—it's like the Marlo Thomas of our time."—Joel Stein, columnist, Los Angeles Times

"We were working at Ms. magazine in 1996 when a xeroxed pamphlet arrived at the office bearing the name Bitch. We opened the zine and found what we'd been fearing didn't exist: feminist writing that was funny, engaged with pop culture, and yet intellectually rigorous. Eureka! BITCHfest is the greatest hits, and reading them is like hanging out with the smartest people you know."—Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards, co-authors of Manifesta

“No other magazine out there so effectively reveals and repudiates the subtle and frequently unsubtle sexist imagery and language that permeate every facet of our lives . . . There’s certainly enough material [in this book] to keep you alternatively amused and outraged.  Every reader will find essays and even whole chapters of particular and personal interest . . . Most of these essays will challenge the way you think.  Without exception, every author here raises the difficult questions that need asking if we’re to move toward a more fundamentally decent society . . . If you’re new to Bitch or merely willing to see the world around you in a more revealing light, this anthology provides a wonderful way to get started.”—Andrew Ervin, The Miami Herald

“The range of material in this anthology is as persuasive as the message behind each piece . . . Many of the pieces in the book are filled with comic insights, proving that being a feminist is not antithetical to having a sense of humor . . . The thing that really sets Bitchfest apart . . . is its willingness to be overtly and unapologetically political.  Again and again, the essays make a point at once obvious and frightening.”—Malena Watrous, San Francisco Chronicle Book Review

"Essential reading for the modern woman."—Margaret Cho

"Feminist-energized pop-culture essays that appeal to a wide array of tastes and reading preferences as they celebrate Bitch's tenth anniversary. Margaret Cho doesn't mind being called a bitch, she quips in the introduction: 'I have taken it as a compliment.' So have many of the 43 writers assembled here, all equally frustrated by the force-feeding of mass-media values and the lack of motivational role models. Jervis and Zeisler founded the 'zine to eschew the complacent postfeminist viewpoint. Among the inspiring and the outspoken are features on young-adult novelist Norma Klein ('Stormin’ Norma'); 'the trials of female adolescence' via horror film ('Bloodletting'); the empowering androgyny of '80s music videos ('Amazon Women on the Moon'); the atrocity of rape ('The Collapsible Woman'); and current hot topics gay parenting ('Queer and Pleasant Danger') and cosmetic reconstruction ('Plastic Passion,' 'Vulva Goldmine'). Many of these pieces are spirited with a unique feminine bravado, but the editors don't leave out the male point of view; there are terrific essays on the emasculating effects of male bonding ('Holy Fratrimony') and the notion of the fading usefulness of men ('Dead Man Walking'). Less engrossing offerings include discourses on speech tics ('The, Like, Downfall of the English Language,' 'On Language'), the art of peeing ('Urinalysis'), 'humilitainment' ('XXX Offender') and the 'tragedy' of lesbians who sexually desire men ('What Happens to a Dyke Deferred?') . . . Smartly written, socio-cultural vignettes that speak to everyone, loud and clear."—Kirkus Reviews

"Readers new to this feminist quarterly will find the articles, almost without exception, original, intelligent, and well written. This compilation has staying power. Highly recommended."—Library Journal

“This often mind-stretching . . . and generally entertaining collection of articles from Bitch magazine has something for every feminist, postfeminist and reactionary.”—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

1Hitting PubertyBEING A GIRL HAS ALWAYS MEANT NAVIGATING A TIDE OF mixed signals and unexplained directives, and when I was ten, none filled me with more free-floating dread than the Movies. If you're a woman between the ages of twenty-five and forty-five, you know what I'm talking about: that fateful day in fifth or sixth grade when the boys and girls were separated (the boys herded, invariably, into the school gym), sat down, and told, via filmstrip, all about what makes them different.Those of us schooled by Judy Blume's Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret knew, if only vaguely,
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  • Edited by Lisa Jervis and Andi Zeisler; Foreword by Margaret Cho

  • Lisa Jervis is the founding editor and publisher of Bitch. She lectures regularly about media and feminism on college campuses nationwide and is a founding member of the training and advocacy organization Women in Media & News. Her writing has appeared in Ms., the San Francisco Chronicle, LiP: Informed Revolt, Salon, Punk Planet, The Bust Guide to the New Girl Order (Penguin), and Women Who Eat (Seal Press).
    Andi Zeisler is Bitch's founding editor and current editorial/creative director. Her writing has appeared in Ms., Mother Jones, Bust, Utne, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Women’s Review of Books, and the anthologies Young Wives' Tales and Secrets and Confidences.
  • Lisa Jervis