[Marxism] Fwd: H-Net Review [Jhistory]: Harrington-Lueker on Groeneveld, 'Making Feminist Media: Third-Wave Magazines on the Cusp of the Digital Age'

Andrew Stewart hasc.warrior.stew at gmail.com
Mon Dec 31 19:33:41 MST 2018


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From: H-Net Staff <revhelp at mail.h-net.org>
Date: Mon, Dec 31, 2018 at 3:23 PM
Subject: H-Net Review [Jhistory]: Harrington-Lueker on Groeneveld, 'Making
Feminist Media: Third-Wave Magazines on the Cusp of the Digital Age'
To: <H-REVIEW at lists.h-net.org>


Elizabeth Groeneveld.  Making Feminist Media: Third-Wave Magazines on
the Cusp of the Digital Age.  Waterloo  Wilfrid Laurier University
Press, 2015.  250 pp.  $36.99 (paper), ISBN 978-1-77112-120-0.

Reviewed by Donna Harrington-Lueker (Salve Regina University)
Published on Jhistory (December, 2018)
Commissioned by Robert A. Rabe

Harrington-Lueker on Groeneveld, _Making Feminist Media_

In _Making Feminist Media_, Elizabeth Groeneveld explores the
complicated terrain of third-wave feminist publishing--the
pre-Twitter and Tumblr world of titles like _Bitch _(1996-), _Bust
_(1993-), _Hues_(1992-99), _Venus Zine_(1994-2010), and _Rockrgrl
_(1995-2005) that helped shape feminist discourse in the 1990s and
early 2000s. Rooted in the D.I.Y. (do-it-yourself) culture of the
girl zines of the early 1990s, each of these publications began life
as zines themselves, and, as they grew, each confronted the
challenges that politically radical or alternative publications face
in a capitalist marketplace. Their negotiations with
capitalism--Groeneveld rejects the term "co-optation"--are
meticulously traced in this well-researched and impressively
contextualized study.

Groeneveld, an assistant professor of women's studies at Old Dominion
University, advances her argument in two parts. Part 1,
"Historicizing Third-Wave Magazines," explores the early influence of
_Sassy _magazine (1988-96), the groundbreaking, socially progressive
teen magazine that covered fashion and beauty like other teen titles
of the period but with a hefty measure of body positivity, female
sexuality, and indie culture alongside. _Sassy_'s impact on
third-wave publications was significant: some of the editors of the
magazines that Groeneveld focuses on started their publishing careers
at the teen magazine, and the first issues of many of these
third-wave publications acknowledged the early _Sassy _as their
inspiration. _Sassy_'s demise--largely at the hands of a conservative
boycott of its content and a change in ownership--foregrounds the
challenges feminist magazines face in the marketplace. A second
chapter in this first section provides further historical context.
Women's suffrage publications of the nineteenth century dealt with
the politics of a magazine's name. (An attempt on the part of the
prominent Beecher family to secure a name change for _The
Revolution_, the radical suffrage publication edited by Elizabeth
Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, was rebuffed despite the family's
offer of funding for the cash-strapped publication.) Faced with
financial challenges of their own, later magazines sought solutions
in the world of nonprofit publishing. In the late 1970s, for example,
_Ms. _magazine sought financial stability in nonprofit educational
status. But, as Groeneveld notes, that decision was not without its
tradeoffs. Nonprofits were eligible for reduced postal costs and tax
exemptions, and the designation gave a magazine a legitimacy that
made it "appear unthreatening to potential advertisers" (p. 53). But
that status also meant that as a nonprofit, _Ms. _could not engage in
direct political activities, such as endorsing political candidates.

In part 2 of the study, "The Politics of Third-Wave Magazines,"
Groeneveld shifts the book's focus to a deeper analysis of specific
titles, offering four case studies that explore the ways in which
these publications shaped feminist discourse of the third wave on
issues like race, fashion, domesticity, and sexuality. The first case
study focuses on _HUES _magazine (Hear Us Emerging Sisters), which
grew from a zine created in an introductory women's studies class at
the University of Michigan to a glossy magazine with the likes of
Rebecca Walker and Gloria Steinem on its board and a circulation in
both the United States and Canada. Drawing on womanism and black
feminist thought, _HUES _trained an intersectional lens on women's
issues to decenter whiteness and explore instead the interlocking
influences of gender, race, class, and sexuality on women's lives.
For its co-founders, _HUES _was "a magazine that gave women of all
cultures, shapes, sizes and lifestyles a chance to speak for
themselves" (quoted, p. 79). That intersectional approach,
though--that commitment to exploring women's experiences across race
and cultures--ultimately was at odds with a magazine marketplace that
saw uniform and easily identifiable niche markets as the path to
profitability.

Other chapters in in this section explore how third-wave publications
negotiated feminism's often conflicted relationship with fashion and
with their reappropriation of crafting and domesticity. In terms of
fashion, Groeneveld charts _Bust _magazine's evolving consideration
of fashion and its readers' not-always-sanguine responses to that
coverage. Despite pushback from readers, the magazine's commitment to
fashion increases during its most cash-strapped periods as it tries
to attract more advertisers (p. 107). A renewed embrace of
domesticity marks the magazines of the period as well. As Groeneveld
points out, all of the third- and post-wave publications of this
period reclaimed activities otherwise associated with the domestic
sphere, from motherhood and sourdough to perfume-making and knitting
circles. A final case study takes on female sexuality and the
relationships between advertisers, magazines, and readers in its
discussion of _Bitch _magazine's controversial sex toys
advertisement.

_Making Feminist Media_'s strengths are many. In terms of
methodology, interviews with third-wave editors enrich the book's
discussion of the political economy of feminist publishing, and close
consideration of readers' letters from the magazines' archives
provides glimpses of the complex interplay between the publications
and their readers. Important, too, for those who study periodicals,
the book raises questions about the nature of archives and of what
gets preserved and what does not. _HUES_, for example, was published
for nearly seven years, but issues of the publication are not part of
the major archives of third-wave feminist periodicals, raising
questions, Groeneveld argues, about the documentation of third-wave
feminism and the inclusion of voices of women of color. Deeply
sourced, the book layers discussions of archival materials with
prominent voices in feminist theory and history, and a useful
appendix documents the sometimes labyrinthine publication histories
of the six publications in question. Most important, _Making Feminist
Media _explores the limits of the so-called wave metaphor typically
used to describe the arc of feminist history--a metaphor, Groeneveld
argues, that "often functions to obscure many similarities between
second- and third-wave feminisms" (p. 11).

In "Sex, Lies, and Advertising," published in 1990 after nearly a
decade of trying to court advertisers for _Ms_. magazine, Gloria
Steinem famously detailed the advertising industry's resistance to a
new vision for women's magazines--its insistence on favorable
coverage and congenial copy along with its reliance on harmful female
stereotypes. _Making Feminist Media _brings that argument into the
twenty-first century, providing those working in periodical studies
and women's studies with a compelling analysis of the intersections
between feminism and commerce.

Citation: Donna Harrington-Lueker. Review of Groeneveld, Elizabeth,
_Making Feminist Media: Third-Wave Magazines on the Cusp of the
Digital Age_. Jhistory, H-Net Reviews. December, 2018.
URL: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=52663

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States
License.

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-- 
Best regards,

Andrew Stewart


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