The Bitch (Magazine) Is Back

Readers step up to save their favorite independent magazines

| September-October, 2009

  • Bitch Magazine Cover

  • Bitch Magazine Cover

Last September, we witnessed a rare indie press miracle: The much-loved but long-struggling Bitch , a small feminist quarterly based in Portland, Oregon, issued an urgent appeal for funds. We need $40,000 in one month, they declared, or we can’t print our next issue.

I began to steel myself for an Utne library without Bitch, a spirited favorite of staffers since it first started showing up 13 years ago. A consistent nominee for our annual independent press awards, it’s one of the only women-oriented magazines I can think of that has unswervingly retained a fearless, rough-around-the-edges, fundamentally indie appeal. Bitch is also, surprisingly, the only magazine out there that’s dedicated to feminist critiques of popular culture. It is irreplaceable.

In other words, I shouldn’t have assumed the worst.

The “Save Bitch” video, in which both the magazine’s editorial director and its publisher straightforwardly announced the shortfall and explained the magazine’s plight, went viral. Within just a few days, feminist pop culture enthusiasts coughed up thousands of dollars more than the $40,000 Bitch needed; in the subsequent weeks and months, they kept on contributing to the tune of nearly $75,000.

This fundraising success is due, in large part, to the fact that even though Bitch is relatively small, with a circulation of 50,000, it has built a strong community around its work, says Jen Angel, cofounder of the now-defunct social justice magazine Clamor. “In the retail world, this is called ‘branding’—individuals having an emotional attachment to a product, company, or organization,” she says. “Bitch, as an organization, has consistently been putting out reliable content for 13 years.”

The magazine’s editors were also “transparent about what they needed, what they were going to do with the money, and why they were in the situation,” Angel says. “Readers appreciate honesty, and the biggest lesson for any fundraiser is that no one is going to give you money if you don’t ask for it.”

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