A View Of Feminism In Light Of Pop Culture

By Jennifer Gish
Times Union, Albany, N.Y.

Andi Zeisler’s look at feminism is more about what Miley Cyrus is up to than 19th-century suffragette Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s work.

Zeisler, the co-founder of Bitch magazine, will speak Monday at Russell Sage College in Troy to open Women’s History Month, but her focus is on the here and now.

Zeisler, who serves as editorial/creative director of the magazine, will bring depictions of women and discussions of feminism in popular culture to the forefront.

“We started Bitch back in 1996 to sort of look at popular culture as a place where feminist activism could really be, as a site of feminist activism, because it seems to us that what a lot of people thought of as a mainstream feminist magazine, which at that time was Ms. magazine, wasn’t really looking at (that),” Zeisler said.

“People still say it’s ‘just a TV show, just a movie.’ Our point is it’s really not because pop culture is the way that most people, particularly young people, get their sense of who they are, who they want to be in the world. It’s where they get their views of politics. … There’s a lot of messages in there.”

And the advent of social media has shaped our ability to talk about those things, opening the door for feminism to take a new shape.

While young people once said they consider themselves feminists, but would never attend a march or rally, now they will share views in a tweet or viral YouTube video.

At times this digital interaction leads to change, such as when social media campaigns have resulted in a sexist advertisement being pulled, or when online activism contributed to the Susan G. Komen Foundation reversing its decision about defunding Planned Parenthood.

“One of the really big things that social media has done is it’s really redefined what activism is and it’s really lowered the bar for entry,” Zeisler said.

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