In Making Feminist Media, Elizabeth Groeneveld, currently assistant professor in the women’s studies department at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, investigates the magazines that defined feminism of the 1990s. From third-wave publications like Bitch, Bust, and Venus Zine to their more contemporary post-wave counterparts, like Shameless and Rookie, Groeneveld leaves few applicable publications unexposed to her critical eye. And, with provocative chapter titles like “Join the Knitting Revolution” and “Dildo Debacle,” Making Feminist Media offers incisive arguments as to why it’s important for all generations to understand third-wave feminism.
Though it seems counterintuitive, Groeneveld dedicates a lot of attention to the topic of money. The financial hardships of maintaining a feminist publication often meant adopting practices that were counter to the moral pillars espoused in the magazine’s pages. Advertisements were a necessary evil, but running financially fruitful sexist ads came at the hefty cost of offending dedicated readers.
The seamless integration of smart, biting letters to the editor shows a healthy discourse among feminists and between writers and editors. That feminists are often at odds with one another, even when riding the same “wave,” indicates the disagreement that is necessary to achieve progress.
Groeneveld hits a crucial note when she discusses how readers often held editors accountable for harmful actions, especially when it came to a magazine’s lack of racial and ethnic diversity. In analyzing the third-wave’s pandering to mostly white women, Groeneveld offers an unforgiving look at various influential publications that, frankly, could have done better. Zeroing in on the lack of women of colour on magazine covers, Groeneveld spotlights the disappointing yet unsurprising reality that third-wave feminist publications often perpetuated the very norms they toiled against.
Though she is clearly passionate about the third-wave movement, Groeneveld doesn’t necessarily advocate for its excellence. Instead, Making Feminist Media shows that feminism is often messy, complicated, and imperfect – an imperfection that is reflected in its media. By looking at its recent past, Groeneveld teaches us how to better understand feminism today: not only how to improve, but also how far we’ve come.