title of Lisa Jervis' popular feminist magazine is meant to evoke
reactions. "Bitch," says the 1994 grad, is a term of empowerment,
a reclamation of a word once used against women that now celebrates
their ability to speak up and fight. Bitch magazine, she
says, offers a "feminist response to pop culture."
Through media critiques, investigative articles, personal
essays, and a healthy dose of humor, Bitch covers politics and societal
issues with the aim of changing stereotypes. Its readers are inspired
to think, reflect, and act upon such issues as protecting reproductive
rights, working for peace, and combating discrimination.
Bitch was launched in 1996 by Jervis and her
San Francisco roommate, Andi Zeisler, now co-editor. Fresh out of
college and feeling stifled by their jobs, the women had been searching
for a creative outlet to express the problems they saw in popular
culture. "We were tired of sitting around throwing bricks at
the TV," Jervis says. Although neither of the women had much
editorial experience, Jervis was aided by her Oberlin creative writing
workshops and her job as a writing tutor, both of which taught her
to be a careful reader of other people's work. The editors learned
as they went and hired Ben Shaykin '95 as the first art director.
A self-described "longtime magazine junkie,"
Jervis admits to a love-hate relationship with the mainstream media
and their consumerist bent; the mainstreams, she says, are slow
to speak out against the status quo because advertising is essential
for their survival. Bitch, on the other hand, with just a
handful of ads, can be as frank as it wants. The magazine attracts
writers who work practically for free and a "volunteer brigade"
of proofreaders. At $4.95 a pop, its 42,000 copies are mailed to
subscribers and sold at 1,500 book and record stores around the
--Courtney Mauk '03