Editors' Letter: Is Biology Destiny?

Fomenting Activism in the Face of “United We Stand”

We sat down to write this editors' note more than two months after September 11. Since that morning, it's been hard not to feel that the work we do and the things we choose to write about have become far less important in the face of a sickening sense of loss; a looming, amorphous enemy; and renewed support for many of the right's potentially disastrous policy initiatives, both foreign and domestic. Furthermore, in addressing recent events without benefit of a news editor or an investigative-reporting staff, we risk simply regurgitating a mess of clichés. Sincere, heartfelt clichés—but still. The point is that while everything we could think to say seems utterly banal, everyone has been affected by the events of and in the wake of that day—those who lost family members and friends, those who lost jobs, those who have been targets of racist vitriol from wrongheaded "patriots," those who are off to a dubious war, and those who, like us, have simply tried to return to normal life with the tacit understanding that normal means something a little different than it used to.

In the weeks after the attacks, and particularly as the Bush administration launched its bombing campaign in Afghanistan, we've struggled with doubts about our own relevance. And many readers and colleagues have asked us the same questions we were asking ourselves: How are we going to cover the crisis? How can we continue to fulfill our mission of fashioning feminist response to pop culture while acknowledging the hold that recent events have over us?

What's inescapable is this: As much as these events have transformed us all, they can't remake this magazine. We've never been a news magazine. We have neither the resources, the skills, nor the publishing schedule to cover breaking news or current events thoroughly. There's a lot of mediocre analysis out there, and the last thing we want to do is add to it. But for many of us, the understanding of current events is profoundly mediated; we can't experience much relating to the war in Afghanistan that is not filtered through newspapers, television reports, and the like. Healthy skepticism regarding this mediation—never in short supply at Bitch—seems that much more important these days.

We've always written with the goal of fomenting activism, and now more than ever will strive to bring you information about independent media and activist groups that are bucking the relentless tide of watch-what-you-say, united-we-stand, you're-either-with-us-or-against-us rhetoric and policy that characterizes our suddenly new era. (In this issue, "Living with 9-11: A Resource Guide," pg. 28, takes the place of Where to Bitch, our usual call-to-action section.)

Of course, we'll still be brimming with the pop culture critique you've come to know us for—this issue includes a look at The Learning Channel's insipid daytime fare (pg. 52), race and gender in science-fiction film (pg. 34), and the enduring marketability of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen (pg. 26). Giving voice to the indignities, absurdities, and pleasures of pop culture might still feel a tad petty. But it reminds us how lucky we are to have such freedom—and underscores further that activism and ongoing media analysis can, and should, move beyond a single context. —eds.

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