Friday, November 20, 2009

Squabble in the Sisterhood

I’ve been a loyal fan of BUST Magazine ever since I discovered it in my college women’s center. It was love at first sight, and I never looked back (only back issues).

I’ve also been a fan of Jessica Valenti and her contributions to feminist culture. I own two of her books, read her rants on feministing religiously and wish I could be her every day of my fucking mediocre life.

But on this November Friday, I opened my BUSTLine Weekly e-mail to find – say it isn’t so! – Ms. Valenti has, for lack of a better term, poo-pooed BUST as a feminist publication!

In her [condensed and edited] interview for the New York Times, Deborah Solomon asks Valenti about other feminist publications, to which she responds:

“Bust used to be a feminist magazine, but now it’s more crafty and about making things out of yarn. I’m not a D.I.Y. feminist. I once tried knitting a scarf but threw it away after 15 minutes.”

Note to self: yarn = not feminist. Wow. I wonder if Jessica knew that many of her fans and readers are also BUSTies. Sure, BUST offers a lot of D.I.Y. projects, but how does that make it any less feminist? Let’s not forget that the D.I.Y. movement was (and still is) strong because of empowered women. What could be more empowering than creating your own shit, I ask you? Perhaps I’m biased because I’m crafty. Although, I will admit, I also tried knitting a few years ago, but quickly lost interest.

I still adore BUST.

Valenti posted an apology in the comments of the BUST article. A student of journalism, I understand how interviews can get nipped and tucked until they hardly resemble the conversation you had – but still, there’s no denying that quote and the feelings it elicits in the BUSTies who read it. Why is it that we as feminists can never seem to move past this “I’m-more-feminist-than-thou” attitude? I’m really sick of people propagating their narrow-minded views of what’s feminist and what’s “not”. I understand that women, as a whole, are extremely different. We come from different regions of the country/planet, different religions/spiritualities; race and class still play a role in each of our worldviews. What makes feminism so amazing is that it has so many different facets – yet, that very fact can also be a curse when we don’t respect other women’s interpretations. We lose sight of the focus and the big picture of the movement; why we’re uniting in the first place. Instead, people want to call attention to irrelevant crap.

What upsets me is the hypocrisy behind the quote. Valenti, feministing, as well as all this other 3rd/4th-wave-feminist-new-media-lit have been criticized as “not feminist enough,” “too girlie” or “too fun” by staunch 2nd wavers. Valenti pretty much made a name for herself by preaching that feminism doesn’t have to come out of a can. Now, the tables are turned, and Valenti is trivializing a magazine that has introduced many to the cause, and kept us here.