"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 13 March 1998. Updated every WEEKDAY.
New Girl Order


[Girls Rule]

The revolution won't be wearing

boxers. Or briefs. It will not

wear a thong or a girdle. Frilly

panties, sensible panties - the

revolution won't be wearing

them. Not because the revolution

will be naked - furthest thing

from it. It's because the

revolution isn't fucking



Bust fooled my mom.

When she saw it on the floor, she

thought it was a "vaguely

pornographic, male chauvinist

magazine." With sultry, made-up

cover models posed on a white

furry substance, the two big

words "BUST" and "SEX" didn't

seem to need any interpretation.

When I went ahead and gave her

the interpretation - this isn't

men using images of women for

the purpose of male sexual

enjoyment, but women using

images of women for the purpose

of male sexual enjoyment ("in

the end, it's the same as any

other fling - all about

what he wants from

you" [p. 101]), I had to correct

myself and said it was a fanzine

for the purpose of female

empowerment and liberation. Not

able to identify the cover

models as successful alternative

rockers (hence sly, knowing,

exploitation-proof?), she still

seemed confused. She said that

(a) it didn't look like a

fanzine and that (b) even if it

was a fanzine, I still shouldn't

leave it on the floor.


[Shopping Rules]

My mom,

who is older than me, is part of

the pre-ironic generation and

hence suspicious of the idea

that a bunch of women standing

around looking like 1960s

Playboy playmates is empowering

- silly mommy! But she had a

point about not leaving it on

the floor.


And my mom is also

right that Bust doesn't look

like a fanzine, a genre that now

seems somehow deviant and

self-mutilating next to its

bright, confident-looking

competitors. As Courtney Love

gushed in the letters column,

"It's great when you get to tell

the truth AND have really nice

graphics." Bust's graphics are

nicer than fanzines that have

refused to ape the look of

Playboy or Vogue: The latest

Rollerderby, for example,

features a bludgeoned waif lying

immobile on the street, her

skirt bunched around her thighs.

Next to Bust's cover vision of

heterosexual happiness, lurid

but hard-won (the alternative

rockers on its cover are

interviewed inside about being

married), Rollerderby's cover

image is negative and sick.

Flagrantly pornographic, its

gratification seems achieved at

the cost of a young life with

horrible quickness and no

negotiation. Well, maybe some -

the photos come from a sexual

fantasy of the cover girl, which

she choreographed herself.

Still, Love is undoubtedly

correct that Bust, with its

legible, clean layout and

consistent images of

well-endowed white women (the

emphasis on breasts ["Boobs are Power," p. 61]

rather than

hips, bellies, thighs, or butts

plays to hetero white male

desires, ironically or not)

radiates "really nice." But is

Bust telling the truth?


If it is, it's about shopping and

fucking, two categories that

postfeminist writers have worked

hard to rehabilitate. In Bust's

world, even the vibrators are

branded (that's no dildo, it's a

Hitachi Magic Wand!). No one

would deny that both feel good,

and that they seem close, easily

confused, if not the same thing:

Promiscuous sex provides an

instantly accessible language of

liberation for these "sexual

revolutionaries." Bust

articulates even vanilla romance

in fuck-me terms ("[if] what

really gets our juices flowing

is bedding someone for whom we

feel both love and lust ... then

that's what we're going after"),

and the smartest Suck writers

have resorted to a language of

sex and nature to talk about the

terrain of marketing, "where the

biggest bogeyman is no corporate

ogre but our own naked desire."

Money and sex are surely tied

together, but their connection

is both more intimate and more

disturbing than these writers



[Shopping Rules]

The long shadow of

shopping and fucking alone

flickers in Laura Kipnis' A

Man's Woman video; the single

career woman reporter, fresh

from ridiculing an

ultra-conservative Phyllis

Schlafley character as a "cow,"

turns to the camera and

articulates the stereotyped

anxieties of the backlash victim

in a creepy mantra: "I'm single.

I'm over 30. Statistically

speaking, it's all over for me.

Married or gay, married or gay.

Sometimes I want to just give

up. Men are such pigs. Sometimes

I think, 'Why bother to get up

at 6:00 a.m. and go to aerobics

class four times a week?' Who

cares if my thighs rub together

when I walk?"


Schlafley's alternative,

in which shopping

and fucking bound you up with

your husband's cock and credit

card in a web of power and

restraint, isn't attractive or

available to the reporter-care

of the self, by and for the

self, seems to have taken its

place. In this world, Bust's

happily married cover models are

an aberration, perhaps a

deviation from reality allowed

them because they're rock stars:

The relationships in the

confessional narratives within

usually provide some sexual

gratification and then vanish or

fail, hardly missed. And this

vision of the individual,

personally and politically

isolated yet triumphant through

sheer 'tude, reaches its apogee

in the editorial statement of

the Minx webzine, a "rant" in

the classic sense about an

imaginary self that defeats age

by ceaseless mobility and

furious remaking: "When I'm

40, I'm going to be the fiercest

fucking girl in town. I'm going

to have all the fun, all the

influence, all the clothes, all

the attention, and anything else

I want all of. Because

empowerment is about the freedom

to experiment using your own

body and mind...."


[Girls Rule]

Finally, the

New Girl Order evokes a rather

old one: In 1912, in the midst

of an astounding remolding of

the American imagination that

resulted in the huge, beautiful

offices and department stores of

the teens and '20s, Eleanor

Porter published the novel

Pollyanna. Its heroine, the

11-year-old Pollyanna Whittier,

never stops smiling or feeling

"glad" about life. Among her

loves are "rainbows," "ice

cream," and "carpets in every

room." A reshuffling of consumer

goods, replacing ribbons with

sex toys and candy with makeup,

and the figure starts to look

familiar. If the Bust girl has

more resonance, it's because of

her weird patina of sadness and

horror: Each of her orgasms

seems to resound in a different

interchangeable shoddy apartment

paid for by a different isolated

woman in a different alienating

urban job. As Conrad might have

said, we come as we dream:


courtesy of Hypatia