On Bitch Magazine, Female Bodyguards, and More Feminist Superheroes

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Over the last few days, quite a few articles about women have been messing with my mind. In a good way. With all the gloom and doom out there, it’s crucial to be reminded that we chicks are still in the trenches making art, fighting the power, and refusing to shut the ‘f’ up.

First, Bitch magazine. Sadly, and to my chagrin, this is a mag I’ve never read, though I keep reminding myself to. Running after two kids and living the vida loca freelance life, I pretty much only read print mags I’m comp’d for (meaning: They send it to me free either because I’ve written for them or because they hope I’ll reference them in my own work). My beloved New Yorker is the only magazine I remember to pay for anymore. I actually sigh with pleasure when it arrives, carve out precious time to read it in peace, and feel sad when I get to the cartoon contest at the back. (More is another must read. I love it so much, I spoofed it. I’ve written for them, so when my comp runs out I’ll move my keister to subscribe. There’s also MoJo, of course, which goes without saying). Pre-munchkins, I subscribed to 12 mags, read books galore, and saw every indecipherable foreign movie, too. Damn, where’d my life go? I can’t wait to get old and be a burden to those two life-drainers. Maybe I’ll fake early onset…something.

Where was I? Oh yeah. Bitch magazine.

From womensenews:

Twelve years ago, Andi Zeisler was fresh out of college, living in the San Francisco Bay Area, underemployed and searching for a creative outlet.

Today, as the only one of three founders of Bitch magazine still on the masthead, the 35-year-old editorial-creative director is struggling to keep that outlet going.

On Sept. 15, her cultural quarterly released a May Day appeal in the form of a “Save Bitch” video message from Zeisler and publisher Debbie Rasmussen, posted on both the publication’s web site as well as social networking sites like MySpace.

The goal was $40,000 to fund the next issue, due out on Dec. 1. Within two days the goal was reached. After four weeks, $70,000 had come in from individual donors giving an average of $40 each.

Read the entire piece to see what real dedication, creativity, and sound business management look like. These babes actually moved from San Francisco to Portland, Oregon to keep their magazine alive and, not unimportantly, so they could finally give their employees health care. Nice. Also see womensenews for a guide to 500 foundations supporting women and girls.

Moving from chicks with computers to chicks with guns, here’s CNN:

The women line the mountainside, locked hand in hand in their green battle fatigues, and begin dancing. It’s a victory dance, they say, that is routine after raids across the border on Turkish troops.

The PKK women say they are fighting for their rights…”We want a natural life, a society that revolves around women—one where women and men are equal, a society without pressure, without inequality, where all differences between people are eliminated,” says Rengin, the head of a female battalion of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.

…Women grow up enslaved by society. The minute you are born as a girl, society inhibits you,” she says. “We’ve gone to war with that. If I am a woman, I need to be known by the strength of my womanhood, to get respect. Those are my rights. And it was hard for the men to accept this.”

Really? One male PKK member summed it up thusly:

Back in 1998, the fighters say, their now-jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan declared the group “a women’s party.” It was initially difficult to accept, says Karim, a 42-year-old male member of the PKK.

“There was an intense discussion about the role of women,” says Karim.

“We didn’t want to accept it at first. Women by nature are physically weaker, and in war that hits you like a boomerang. You need to watch the way you fight, the way you move. So we were against this. We didn’t want the women with us because it makes combat tougher on us. But Ocalan said in his book, if we are really trying to create a new society, we have to develop women. If women are enslaved, then so are men.”

I’m no one’s expert on the Kurds. I’m just giving a shout out to a fighting force which incorporates human rights (which is all feminism is) as one of its governing principles.

If female, feminist insurgents weren’t startling enough, it turns out that Britain is experiencing a boom in, of all things, female bodyguards to the rich and famous. Meet Jacquie Davis and Helen Cliffe:

‘We’re worked off our feet at the moment so it’s lovely to have a day off to stock up on cat food,’ says Davis, a smiling woman in a smart white blouse. ‘Between April and November is our busiest time of year, what we call “the season”, when all the rich Arab families come over. Luckily we have a lot of private clients at the moment. What I hate is when you get a member of the royal family. It’s the same thing every year: You have to be vetted by a guy from the Saudi embassy saying, “Oh, my God, you are a woman!” At which point you have to throw one of his blokes on the floor and stamp on his windpipe to prove you can do the job.’

Davis and Cliffe are bodyguards. Over the years they have protected a huge variety of clients, from the Saudi royal family, to Benazir Bhutto, to Liza Minnelli, to J K Rowling. Both aged 48, they are doyennes in an overwhelmingly male field. There are estimated to be about 2,000 bodyguards in Britain, of whom only about 30 are women.

They’re so badass and sure of themselves, they find facing death less of a challenge than motherhood: Friends and family help with babysitting. “It’s far more stressful than being shot at, sorting out the childcare,” says Cliffe.

Not that the clients themselves aren’t stressful on occasion. Says Davis on former client Benazir Bhutto’s assassination: “That’s why I loved Jo [J K] Rowling. She did what she was told. That’s where it went wrong for Benazir Bhutto. The only person who died in that car was her and that’s because she stuck her head through the sunroof, which her team would have told her not to do. But she was an obstinate cow. I know that from personal experience.”


Ok, I just have to end with the wonderful Anne Lamott in Salon, on how Sarah Palin can only be a wolf in the White House. The pay-off takes awhile, but as is usual with Lamott, it’s well, well worth it. The wacky wisdom of it silenced those pesky “we’re all going to hell in a handbasket” voices in my head. Let’s hope America heeds her warning.


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