Bitch and the End of Independent Feminist Media
Bitch Media is shutting down after a quarter-century. What’s left to take its place?
Last night, like just about everyone I know, I received an email telling me that Bitch Media — an independent feminist publication that had been running for a solid quarter-century, the first feminist magazine I read and one of the first I ever wrote for — would be ceasing operations in May.
I’m gutted by this news (again, like everyone: my social media dashboard was filled with people confessing that they’d burst into tears). This is one of the most heartbreaking signs of the current anti-feminist backlash; the shuttering of feminist publications and the impending repeal of Roe v. Wade are intrinsically linked. Yet Bitch would have been such essential reading throughout that backlash. Its end signifies that the kind of smart, hip, accessible, theoretically dense, instantly readable feminist writing I grew up with — the kind of writing that Bitch perfected, and subsequently taught the entire “feminist blog” generation — is on the brink of extinction.
It’s hard to see how special Bitch was precisely because it was so often imitated, and rarely imitated well. The publication that really established “third-wave feminist media” as a market niche was Anna Holmes’ (equally brilliant) Jezebel, in the late 2000s. There were already popular feminist blogs — Feministing drew huge traffic — but Jezebel, which was promoted as a “sister site” to the then-hip Gawker, was a cultural moment. It got mentioned on Gossip Girl and parodied on 30 Rock. It had controversies and main characters. It was a publication where bylines and fortunes were made.
It also started a gold rush. Suddenly, every publication needed a “feminist blog,” and many of them were run by people who had little or no interest in feminism. To give you an idea: Salon’s Broadsheet (for which I also worked) was run by Sarah Hepola, who recently wrote an essay defending convicted rapist Brock Turner and railing against “cancel culture.” Vice’s Broadly was edited by Mitchell Sunderland, who lost his job when it was revealed he’d been targeting “fat feminists” with Milo Yiannopoulous on the side.