‘Feminism and Popular Culture’ was the title of Saturday morning’s session at WORD. Debbie Stoller is the co-founder and editor of Bust magazine, and the author of the Stitch n Bitch books. There were more men at this session – at least ten – but they all appeared to be there with a female partner. The session opened with an inquiry as to whether anyone had brought their knitting.
Bust magazine (“for women with something to get off their chests’) has been published since 1993 and just produced its 100th issue. The aim is to publish the truth and variety about women – ‘girlie feminism’. Debbie spoke of the difficulty of producing a feminist magazine in print and said they need to ‘pull themselves up by their brastraps every day’. There is no money in feminism, and a hard copy magazine is considered retro and vintage these days. She spoke of how they started by doing the layout by hand, copying by xerox, and stapling the sheets together. I was reminded of my days editing the Values Party Linkletter (doing layout with removable cow gum), and the early days of Broadsheet.
Debbie talked about how those working in the private sphere, e.g. stay-at-home mothers, get no public recognition, but these days they can start a ‘lifestyle’ blog with photos, and this transforms their work into something more satisfying. People in the public eye used to be afraid to say they were feminists, for fear of backlash, but nowadays celebrities are afraid not to be feminist because of possible backlash. She pointed out that the myth that feminists are ‘ugly and hate men’ goes right back to suffrage days. Many issues are too complex to be discussed on Twitter, and there is no real arena available to explore issues affecting women. These days mainstream media is the site of change and power, where once it was politics.
It was interesting to hear a younger woman talk about today’s feminist issues. Most of my feminist friends are in their sixties or older, and I sometimes wonder where the young feminists are. There is no feminist magazine in Aotearoa since Broadsheet ceased in 1997. The Hand Mirror is a local blog which discussed feminist issues, and there must be more? Debbie said that while women may now be able to make choices, they are still making them within a sexist society, and just being able to make a choice doesn’t mean you’re a feminist. She wondered whether the fact that we can say anything is feminist may mean that feminism will die. Having a satisfying paid career is often seen as the aim for women, but that comes from a male culture, We need to re-value and re-consider the things that come from a female culture, e.g. knitting and cooking.
Asked about the U.S. Presidential election Debbie said that although she had supported Bernie Sanders she would be voting for Hilary Clinton, because the U.S. system means people are obliged to vote strategically ‘for the lesser evil‘.
“Feminist future seems to me
to be uncertain as can be.”