The Cleavage Between Bitch and Bust

Behind the airbrushed thighs gracing the Glamours, Cosmos, and Vogues on the racks, two magazines stand out with provocative names: Bitch and Bust. Both are feminist magazines. And both publications are products of the Third Wave, an age of feminism still exploring and forming an identity, which is illustrated by the magazines’ divergent approaches to the subject matter. 

Bitch says it is a “feminist response to pop culture,” while Bust claims it “tells the truth about women’s lives and presents a female perspective on pop culture.” From a consumer aspect, Bitch is more likely read in the classroom and Bust at the beach. In chauvinist terms, think of Bitch as more feminazi and Bust as more fembot.

Of course, the contrasts are mostly a matter of politics. Bitch tends to reject society’s view of femininity, featuring critical essays on topics ranging from attitudes toward female virginity to the hyper-sexualization of My Little Pony. Bitch is mad. Bitch is strong. And Bitch contributors speak their minds in the magazine’s low-budget, matte-paper pages.

Bust, however, presents the feminine in full-color gloss with quirky celebrities such as Miranda July and Amy Sedaris. The magazine celebrates the unique woman and her child-bearing hips. Rather than dismissing socialized desires, Bust embraces the craving for cute, red shoes, but straps the Mary Janes on models who, yes, actually have busts. 

Perhaps the biggest difference between Bitch and Bust are the magazines’ online components. In terms of content, Bitch, unfortunately, has little. The magazine’s Web site, bitchmagazine.org, maintains a database of every issue, yet only provides titles and authors, and not the text. The Bitch site says it will have every article up soon, but in the meantime a back issue comes at a $6 cost. Any supplementary content, besides ordering and advertising information, is in the “Bitchblog,” noted as “stuff we love–and love to hate.” Sadly, the blog has not been updated since August 23, 2006—the last post criticizing the now-folded Jane magazine—which is never a good sign in the Web world. No doubt the dot-org domain name signifies Bitch is a burden of love and not a means to make a profit, but is there any harm in knowing how to market a message?

On the Bust Web site, bust.com, the magazine creates an inviting atmosphere. Like Bitch, the “Stories” section reads “coming soon,” but the site offers so much to click on, readers will stay busy until the hard-copy comes in the mail. Web visitors can stay abreast by reading daily blog posts commenting on everything from pubic hair trends to rockin’ Rilo Kiley concerts to upcoming embroidery workshops. The “Lounge” forum allows women to connect and share. If readers want to make a romantic connection, they can visit the “Personals” page and search for men, women, or double-indulge by finding a couple. Bust.com also offers a fully-stocked “Boobtique” for the shoppers and keeps a “Media Taster” to listen to new tunes. But the best is under the “Travel” tab, allowing visitors to post and search for the must-see spots, whether they are destined for Redding, Calif., or Tallahassee, Fla. 

The Bust staff certainly knows how to cultivate a community. With plenty to entertain and encourage participation on the net, it’s no wonder the magazine is able to produce six pretty issues a year. Political and social views aside, Bitch can learn a thing or two from its sister in feminist literature. 

S. Holland Bivins 

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