Well, this is one way of starting a conversation

door

I'm not really sure where to start on this one, so I'll just jump right in. This is a photo of our office door in Portland -- on which someone scrawled "Hustlers Bitches." The reason? We sponsored an event called Tease-O-Rama -- which bills itself as "The best of the best in new burlesque" -- of which Hustler magazine was also a sponsor.

We've heard from a number of folks who are angry, and we'd like to open up a space for people's thoughts about our decision to sponsor the event, but we also want to clarify a few things before the conversation begins:

  • A couple of people have accused us of sponsoring a "Huster magazine event." This isn't true. Hustler was another sponsor, but it was not a Hustler event.
  • We don't have a policy of checking to see what other organizations/businesses are sponsoring an event when we agree to sponsor. This isn't to say we shouldn't, but that up until now, we've trusted that folks seeking Bitch sponsorship will let us know of any conflicts of interest. In this case, we didn't know until we started receiving emails that Hustler was also a sponsor.
  • For the most part (and true in this case) Bitch folks don't attend the events we sponsor. We simply don't have the time or people power to do so. I'm clarifying this upfront so that if -- when all is said and done -- people conclude that we made a mistake, it's understood that the mistake lies in hasty decision-making and not active involvement in something mis-aligned with our mission.
  • Related to the above: A couple people have also expressed anger/disappointment at the idea of us giving away our money away when we were in a time of crisis. When we sponsor events, it is never ever a cash sponsorship, and as such, it wasn't in this case. We've never had the financial means to do this. Sponsorship simply means we donate magazines and allow our name to be used in promotion.   

Where I think the crux of the matter lies -- and possible accountability on our part -- is the event itself. Did we help promote an event that reflects -- rather than rejects -- oppressive values about things like sex, sexuality, and gender?  Should we have said "no" to the request that we lend our name and donate magazines to it?

The truth is, up until now, we've made sponsorship decisions on a case-by-case basis, relatively quickly, and without any objective criteria to check our decisions against. I'm not suggesting this should shield us from criticism (quite the contrary -- perhaps this situation proves we need to be much more thoughtful and selective about who we align ourselves with), but I just want to be clear about what's happening internally.

And please... I think we've proven ourselves to be open to criticism, and we'll remain so... but can it be a constructive, productive conversation, and not a fight with permanent markers?  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments

21 comments have been made. Post a comment.

Debbie

I feel I need to introduce myself: I am a straight guy in the military. Usually that statement is enough for most liberal women to judge me. I just read several articles from the bitchmagazine.org website; a website I found only today. I also watched a couple of videos. I think I'll be back. And, by the way, Debbie is drop-dead gorgeous. Yeah, yeah; I'm a hetero pig. Sorry; getting tangential. The point is, I was truly impressed with the intellect and common sense, as well as with the writing styles of Andi, Debbie, and KL Pereira (forgot the spelling already, so I apologize if I screwed up--the Wonder Woman article). Rebecca Onion made me interested in the environment--well, at least a website or two (contrary to her intention, I think). (Regarding her article, Tree So Horny, yes, sex sells, and sex and sexism is effective to a much larger audience than any of you can ever wish to have. So if it's one of many ways to help the environment, why not use it? It needs all the help it can get. Use it, accept it, and eventually it's no longer an issue--just like the B-word.) I could have spent most of the day checking out the site and previous articles, but I must confess, I have terrorists' babies to kill (SARCASM!!).
Lastly, the website and magazines appear educational, entertaining, witty, and skewed. I think that's the way you want it, isn't it? Good luck with your future endeavors, publicly and privately. ...Hustler's Bitches. (j/k) LMAO!!
~SSG Bob

a more appropriate comment....

I read about this on the Feministe blog and yes, it offended me slightly, and it reminded me of Suicide Girls in a way. I think an easy solution is to look more into what events you sponsor, who is putting them on, and who else is taking part. As long as Bitch's methods of choosing who to sponsor are corrected, I think this blunder is forgivable.

First off, I think it is

First off, I think it is really sad to vandalize someone's property. Just because you do not agree with the actions of others does not mean that it is okay to write harmful phrases on their doorstep. I believe that if you feel so strongly about something that there are other ways to express yourself instead of resulting to stupid actions. For example, write a letter to an editor of a local newspaper or even making a comment on this blog. Honestly, I think it is very noble to try and clear things up for the angry bystanders. At the same time it is pretty sad that you should feel obligated to do this. Whatever happened to freedom? From the freedom to support whoever or whatever to being able to dress another "gender."

What's the intent?

To me the more important thing is that the events you choose to promote are researched, rather than necessarily who else is sponsoring them. If the material being presented is in line with your politics and ideals, then great, right?

Also, as far as outreach and education go, if anything it's probably a good thing that copies of Bitch were available at an event that also had copies of Hustler! I cringe at the thought of Hustler being a stand-alone representation of magazines featuring women at any event.

In fact, aside from the problem of attaching your name to an event, it almost seems like there could be an argument made for sponsoring events you disagree with just to get the magazine into normally less accessible hands. Not that I'm suggesting this, I'm just pointing out that it's not necessarily as black-and-white a situation as financial sponsorship would be.

And finally... really, sharpie troll? If you aren't into having productive conversations and you just wanna f*ck sh*t up, go target companies that cause more harm than good in the world rather than taunting your local maybe-made-a-mistake-but-trying-to-help, non-profit magazine with a marker.

Really?

I'm really kind of shocked at this post. I'm surprised to see a magazine run so, well, shoddily and with little very little explanation for it. Especially a magazine that relies on "selling" feminism. You'd think a little more care and thought would be put into how the name is used.

In light of this post, it's not surprising that the magazine is in danger of going under.

@Ruby88: I'm not sure I

@Ruby88: I'm not sure I understand your objection to this post: the tension between "pornography" and feminism is a huge issue and always has been. Do you think that's something that shouldn't be discussed?

@the sponsorship of events: Guilt by association is a difficult concept to outrun. Can the right thing be done for the wrong reason? Possibly. It's the same with events: if the organizer's intent is to put on a quality event that matches the magazine's principles then that's primary. Who else is signed on has to be considered, it's true: e.g I'm all for lgbt pride events but would I want to go to one that was cosponsored by Nambla? Probably not no matter how good the actual event was.

As for the graffiti itself: it took me a while to get it what with the missing punctuation and all.

Admitting mistakes="shoddily

Admitting mistakes="shoddily run"?

I have a soft spot for people and organizations willing to evaluate their systems and own up to a better way to do things. To me, it's actually a sign of excellence.

I don't see anywhere in that

I don't see anywhere in that email where mistakes were admitted to or new procedures implemented. Do you?

Vandalism & Activism

I think so-called vandalism has its place in the realm of community activism. I think citizens have the right to shape the public space in which they dwell. I love the "this degrades women" and "a lesbian was here" stickers for awareness raising. However, whomever drew this failed in her/his mission because of:

1) The placement:This is on a door, not on an advertisement of the protested event so passersby have no frame of reference. Also, this door is not very "public" and as much as I hate my neighbor's "Choose Life" bumpersticker, I'm not going to deface his property to reflect my own viewpoint. Free speech is not just the speech you like.
2) The message: Are we to agree with a feminist avenger who continues to use the word "bitch" as a way to denounce someone as being easily manipulated and controlled?
3) The punctuation: Oh, how I long for the days of correctly placed possessive apostrophes! If the vandal had simply written "Hustler's bitches", I would have gotten the message much faster. As Lynne Truss points out, when one is writing, punctuation is just good manners.

I think the explanation points out the best way to get one's point across. Bullet points 2, 3, and 4 make it pretty clear "Bitch" will choose their sponsorship more carefully in the future. They might as well read "We receive a crapload of angry emails (holy crap!), our bad, please don't stop giving us money!"

Now I get it!

Wow, I totally didn't understand what this meant before! Thanks for pointing out the missing punctuation Cookieput (not verified... could this be an imposter Cookieput?). I was thinking it was something totally different, like missing a comma or something. This makes much more grammatical sense, though it doesn't make any more actual sense than it did before.

Just a little context...

To offer a little history and context: Tease-O-Rama was not always the Hustler-sponsored extravaganza it is today. It was founded by a burlesque performer and former Bitch contributor named Alison Fensterstock, and was kind of the Ladyfest of burlesque in its earlier incarnations. Obviously, things have changed. And I'm not suggesting that the fact that the festival was once very grassroots and independent cancels out the current reality that it's now sponsored by Hustler, but Bitch's association with it predates Hustler's, and that goes some way toward explaining why we're still a sponsor. That said, I agree that had we known Hustler was also sponsoring the event, we might have reconsidered, and, as Debbie said will certainly be more proactive about doing that kind of research in the future.

However, I do want to point out that Bitch aligning itself with an event that's also aligned with another, less progressive organization is not the same as, you know, cuddling up with that less-progressive organization itself. We have sponsored conferences in the past that have been cosponsored by the likes of Whole Foods, donated to events that also took donations from big ol' corporations, etc. If we had to make the decision to be part of an event or not based on the other companies and entities that were also a part of it...well, we probably wouldn't be sponsoring too many things.

Irony is so 2002

"Did we help promote an event that reflects -- rather than rejects -- oppressive values about things like sex, sexuality, and gender? Should we have said "no" to the request that we lend our name and donate magazines to it?"

Oh c'mon. Seriously? You have to ask this? You're really unsure as to why so many feminists roll their eyes at Bitch Magazine nowadays?

YES, you helped promote an event that perpetuates women as objects. As to whether you should have said "no" to the request - well, you certainly have been consistent in moving the magazine further and further from feminist critique that asserts women's humanity and closer and closer to a worldview that equates feminism with all that stuff that actually harms women. Who gives a crap if women's status ever improves - we can just be ironical and pretend like we ENJOY being shit on! It's only harmful if you acknowledge it, right? Being cool is so much more important than actually being free, right?

I canceled my subscription years ago when it became clear Bitch had become more vapid, insipid, and insufferable than much of the pop-culture it was claiming to respond to. Your magazine's demise would be a welcome one.

Hi AC, Thank you so much

Hi AC,

Thank you so much for just participating and regularly watching the website. You comment because you care. Sweet!

raggin on another mag?

sounds like you might be talkin about the other magazine that starts with the letter B???

Speaking of this other B

Speaking of this other B magazine, did anyone else catch this latest issue with "Gypsy-chic fashions?" If Bitch ever publishes anything so ridiculous then you might warrant some anger. But in the meantime, save your ire for something that deserves it.

"Patriarchy Lite"

You know, I'm so tired of Feminists embracing sexuality as being labeled as objects of the patriarchy and tools of the men it employs. Is there really anything more offensive than a woman telling another, "You're a tool?" In my opinion, this subjugation of the "ignorant, pro-sex" woman by the "enlightened, anti-sex" woman is exactly what true patriarchy strives to achieve. As long as we're busy fighting each other, we won't focus on the real problem. In that respect, our social preferences become contrived to make us think we're free and we really aren't.

My point is, "bitch" is the new generation of Feminism. This means embracing the body and looking to sexuality for part of our liberation. Inga Muscio is an excellent scholar in this area. Yes, pornography is largely run by men and has hurt women. But in the last ten years, there has been a monumental switch of power. We have more women than ever before calling the shots--Nina Hartly, Tina Tyler and Samantha Lewis, just to name a few. A tenancy of the New Wave is to recognize that the best way to challenge a system is to work within it to change it. Generally speaking, suppression isn't an option, especially about "purity" issues. Removing pornography or our selective participation in it will make it disappear in the same way banning booze made it disappear almost a century ago. Oh, wait.

Real change doesn't come from removing an obstacle. Real change comes from "bitch" doing what "bitch" did. Furthermore, isn't it more liberating to support the idea of a woman choosing for herself to use her mind or her body? Wendy McElroy thinks so. http://www.secularhumanism.org/library/fi/mcelroy_17_4.html

A few questions

1. How many of the people who object to this actually read "bitch"? So far, I've counted one.
I don't know what e-mails you have been getting, but the majority of blog posts and comments I have seen say something along the lines of "well, I don't read 'bitch' anyway, they're too sex positive," with a few words like "hipster" and "ironic" thrown in for good measure.

2. How many of these people object to burlesque in the first place, and not just to the fact that it is also sponsored by Hustler? If "bitch" wants to remain neutral on this subject and any other areas of conflict in the feminist world, then maybe it would be best to avoid sponsoring anything that feminists are likely to disagree about. Personally, I do not have any objections from what I know of this event.

If someone regularly uses "sex positive" as an insult, I am not personally inclined to put much stock into their opinions.

Meh

My response to those who would criticize Bitch for not being totally prescient about this event AND to those who would caution Bitch from staying away from areas that are likely to stimulate disagreement among feminists is exactly the same: MEH.

If Bitch did not support events like Tease-O-Rama during its grassroots inception, Bitch would have been perceived by many as a puritanical, anti-sex and (heaven forbid!) second-wave organization. On the other hand, I'm sure there were quite a few who have been offended that Bitch has dared to support burlesque - or similar movements - because they smack of anything patriarchal.

There are plenty of great reasons to sponsor Tease-O-Rama, not the least of which is that it promotes Bitch to an audience of men and women who may have never heard of the magazine. Do I think it's in Bitch's best interest to support an event that is also supported by Hustler? Conventional wisdom says no, but think it's kind of awesome that Hustler readers might have gained exposure to Bitch.

Yes, I know: it's problematic when a woman-centered event like Tease-O-Rama becomes a big, corporately sponsored entity. I know there are all kinds of issues about how "empowerment" gets co-opted.

Do I think that means that Bitch should backpedal? No. Should Bitch play it safe and avoid topics and events like burlesque because feminists might not all agree? Absolutely not! Should Bitch vet their sponsorships to filter out anything that might cause any kind controversy? Forget it.

I applaud Bitch for proactively bringing up this topic on the Web site and promoting dialogue about it. But should you apologize about this? Whatever.

Feminists DON'T agree on what "sex positivity" means or if it's a good thing. Feminists also don't agree on whether or not Hustler is the most extreme anti-woman agent of evil out there.

Bitch, I heart you because you're totally not afraid to wade into areas of disagreement and to promote conversation and dialogue. Don't let this set you back. Seriously. Insisting on unanimity is a short path to irrelevancy.

... and if AC can't take it ...

... too bad. As far as I am concerned, AC's loss is my (and others) gain(s).

I have grown with Bitch in the 10+ years I have been reading it. Keep on growing along with me as we become part of the conversation. Remember ... there are no such things as "sacred cows." For example: If a certain other "B" magazine isn't quite "with it" at times - take it on, at will!

How about instead of

How about instead of justifying it, you pull your sponsorship of this horrid event? Maybe you should go look up the word "feminism" in the dictionary. Just because the word feminism has been taken over by the girls gone wild sect doesn't mean you need to jump on the bandwagon, too. I don't like the term "sex positive," because that implies that women who don't want to objectify themselves for male consumption are "sex negative." I love sex, but I am a human being who is not a commodity or a sex object.

Hustler's Bitches?

dear "bitches"
you "MIGHT" have reconsidered if you had known that Hustler magazine was a sponsor? Are you aware that Hustler is at WAR with feminists? We do know that one of your events, started by one of your founders or a person closely associated with your magazine, is now being sponsored by Huslter. Have you received money from Hustler directly. It's about time you let your readers know this? Someone wrote their speech on your door, oh boo hoo. I have no idea who did that, what you call vandalism? But some of us, and more and more of your readers and subscribers, call what you are doing to feminism vandalism. You need to come out with a much clearer statement than you MIGHT not have sponsored it, don't cha think? There's a number of other problems with the violence associated with the sponsors of that event, like the book store that sells on their front page "the history of torture" with their other so-called "adult" books and that can be gone into in a more lengthy article about your affiliation with one of the most vile, sexually violent, woman hating magazines in the history of the world, larry flynt's hustler. In the meantime you can read up on their cooptation efforts it @ http://www.hustlingtheleft.com now that you are now complicit by sponsoring that strip tease with them with a damn monkey in the advertising poster presenting the women doing the tricks. Ugh. I think your magazine should be boycotted for this cosponsoring and your weak ass response about it alone! l8er bitches. nikki craft
P.S. Don't miss our "gallery" of Hustlers SEX POSITIVE images.