Editors' Letter: Premiere

Article by Lisa Jervis, appeared in issue Premiere; published in 1995; filed under Social commentary; tagged body image, conditioning, confrontation, female sexuality, magazines, media, sexuality.
Introduction

This magazine is about speaking up.

I've always been a media junkie. Magazines, movies, television—I love them all and tend to consume them voraciously. But indiscriminate media consumption, maybe more than any other binge, can make you sick. When I was twelve years old I was looking for something to reflect who I thought I was. I wanted to confirm that I was not a freak, that my feelings and desires were normal. Unfortunately, in the mass media I found affirmation only for my I-desperately-need-to-be-skinny and I-need-to-have-a-"boyfriend" longings. And those weren't even mine, they were just the charred remains of I-really-want-to-like-myself and what-are-these-urges-and-what-can-I-do-to-satisfy-them? I couldn't identify my desires accurately because so many sources had already told me what they were supposed to be. None of my sources said that it was ok—hell, even possible—for girls to want sex just for the sake of pleasure; none of them said that a woman's brain is her most important body part. None of them said that I wasn't crazy for feeling like I was under assault from all the directives being tossed at me. I've continued to read magazines that tell me, both implicitly and explicitly, that female sexual urges are deviant. I've continued to watch tv programs that tell me I should care more about what I'm wearing than what I'm thinking. I've continued to see movies where the only women onscreen get ogled or killed without ever speaking a word.

This magazine is about speaking up. Because when we hear, over and over again, without responding, what the mass media has to say—that women are stupid, shallow, incapable—we will believe it. Too much of the time we're told to shut up, to calm down, to take a joke. Well, we won't. Because it's not a joke, and what we have to say is too important to leave unsaid.
This magazine is about speaking up. It's about formulating replies to the sexism that we see every day. It's about using those replies to maintain our sanity. It's easy to point a finger at the most egregious of what we see and say simply, "This is bad." But we also need to recognize the more subtle assaults; they're more pernicious. We need to talk about what they're saying and why. We need to find and make girl-friendly places in the mass media. Where are the things we can see and read and hear that don't insult our intelligence? How can we get more of them? This magazine is about theorizing and fostering a transformation of pop culture.

So why Bitch? Because—regardless of those who still think it's an insult—it's an action. Because a confrontational stance is powerful. Because Bitch connotes anger, and I agree with bell hooks when she says, "Confronting my rage, witnessing the way it moved me to grow and change, I understood intimately that it had the potential not only to destroy but to construct. Then and now I understand rage to be a necessary aspect of resistance struggle," ("Killing Rage," in Killing Rage, p. 16).

This magazine is about thinking critically about every message the mass media sends; it's about loudly articulating what's wrong and what's right with what we see. This magazine is about speaking up. Will that make us bitchy? Yeah.
You wanna make somethin' of it? —lj.

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