Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Why I heart Bust magazine

Bust magazine is not your average women's magazine.  It's a feminist magazine, unapologetically.  It features discussions of current events, reviews of feminist or women-centered books and movies, and interviews with prominent female figures, frequently celebrities.  But it also has a crunchy, DIY element that I love, even though I rarely take part in its suggestions to make a handbag out of an old cassette, or cross-stich a scarf for my loved one.  The recipes, on the other hand, I frequently employ.  In addition to these features, Bust includes all the standard elements of a women's fashion magazine, with feminist tweaks.

Fashion: Instead of page after page of editorials with rail thin models, and ads for clothes we can't afford, Bust hand-picks quirky, lovely, affordable clothing to be modeled by real-looking women.  That's right, the biggest progression from other pseudo girl-power mags like Glamour and Jane is that Bust actually walks the talk and features real-sized models in their editorials.  All the women are beautiful, but all of them look like a pretty woman you would see on the subway, not an unreal ideal.

Beauty: The problem with most magazines' beauty sections is that the makers of the products on their pages are also advertisers.  That precludes them from offering a critical perspective.  Moreover, the products they feature in any given month are not "the best," but rather the ones with the best marketing team, capable of trading a paid ad for a laudatory editorial mention.  Making you feel like products are "must-haves" keeps the advertisers flush with cash, which keep the ad pages selling, which...you get the idea.  Bust, on the other hand, will never tell you that you need a product, or that it will make all your problems go away.  Instead, they have their interns actually try out the products they're featuring (and who are notably not advertisers), and offer praise and criticism in equal measure.

Sex: Bust will never feature a list of 101 ways to please your man.  Instead, they offer frank sex advice from experts Betty Dodson and Carlin Ross, reviews of different products that they've actually tested, and female-centric erotica.

And yes, Bust has advertisers, too, but they tend to be the kinds of things you want to hear about, like handmade vodka, female-friendly online stores, and new music.

I've been a fan of Bust ever since I read it in a college magazine journalism class, where each class member picked out an interesting magazine for us to read each week.  My professor, an older gentleman, would have to go pick up the magazine like the rest of us to prepare for class.  When he asked for "Bust" at the news stand, the clerk asked him, "Is that a girly title?"  Yes, sir.  In the best possible way.

Bust comes out every other month, and costs $19.95.  That's a little more than most women's magazines, because the subscription cost isn't as heavily subsidized by advertising revenue (hence their ability to offer unbiased coverage) and news stand sales.  It's $4.99 on the rack, but you'll usually only find it in book stores.  Subscribe here.  (I knew my boyfriend was a keeper when he secretly got me a subscription after seeing me read a copy: If the men in your life can't handle Bust, maybe they can't handle you.)

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