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Rogue Feminism A look into the new digital feminist rhetoric

By looking at BUST and Bitch as the Third Wave Feminist rhetoric classified by Brenda M. Helmbrecht and Meredith A. Love to be an 'improper' form of feminist rhetoric in comparison to the traditional one, I am arguing there is a new form of rhetoric even more extreme in 'improper,' which I am terming Rogue Feminism, that is exemplified in babe's online articles that I have visually mapped below.

Various screenshots from BITCH's articles online

In Brenda M. Helmbrecht and Meredith A. Love's article, "The BUSTin’ and Bitchin’ Ethe of Third-Wave Zines," they point to several categories in Bitch and BUST that demonstrate how the two magazines bring forth the Third Wave Feminist rhetoric that has stemmed from traditional feminist rhetoric.

Helmbrecht and Love discuss how the two magazines bring forth alternative voices to the traditional feminist rhetoric: “Like others before us, our work on third-wave feminist rhetoric is intended to integrate alternative voices into rhetorical study with the goal of transgressing the conventional rhetorical tradition and opening up new spaces that make meaning and create knowledge. The zines Bitch and BUST offer such voices. In these alternative discourses, we witness the third wave’s desire to forge a feminist movement that both absorbs and reconfigures the progress of its feminist ‘foremothers’” (151).

The recognition of “feminist foremothers” is a key component to the argument Helmbrecht and Love make for teaching magazines like Bitch and BUST to students of rhetoric. When looking at this Third Wave feminist rhetoric, there is a distinct and direct nod to the past of feminists before them. The ways in which they write their articles stem from the traditional academic research paper, as well. This is important to the argument for Third Wave feminist rhetoric to be acknowledged by those who study the field.

Helmbrect and Love classify what these two magazines focus on in the following categories, which they argue for being important to look at for contemporary feminist rhetoric: women and their bodies, individual experience, socially active, women's fashion, domesticity, engaging readers, featuring role model women, 'talking back' to media, and 'improper' rhetoric.

Women and their bodies are discussions these two magazines have on women and masturbation, sex, and protection.

Individual experiences are from one woman's perspective, rather than focusing on the issues related women as a group.

Socially active articles engage in issues of women's rights globally. Helmbrecht and Love noted that both magazines could do better to have a more socially active presence that acknowledges the struggles of women in other countries.

Women's fashion addresses body types, but tend to focus the mainstream consumerism, while Bitch even tends to promote not shopping at all as a critique on the media for harming women's self images.

BUST also tends to focus on domesticity, discussing ways to be crafty or doing DIY projects. Helmbrecht and Love even go as far as to call the magazine for the "more girly, fun-loving feminist of the third wave" (165).

For Bitch, readership is crucial and they engage with their readers in the magazine by having topics that are aware of how 'in the know' their readers are, and even have a section of their magazine dedicated for readers to respond.

Both Bitch and BUST also feature women who are making strides for the feminist movement, which can be viewed as role models for other women to look up to or point to for others. However, Helmbreht and Love address how BUST magazine focuses on women on its covers like other magazines made for women, which Bitch focuses more on the art created by women (160).

Bitch magazine also prides itself in 'talking back' to the media by discussing the issues that matter and critiquing the media at large. BUST, also does this to perhaps a lesser degree.

However, both are deemed to have 'improper' rhetoric by Helmbrecht and Love who argue that while the magazines do approach their articles from the familiar academic paper style and research, the language used in both set the tone of anger and outrage in some instances that do not follow along the traditional feminist rhetoric of formal academic writing.

Various screenshots from BUST's online articles

How Rogue Feminism takes on the extreme through its rhetoric featured on babe's online articles.

Screenshot of the Aziz Ansari article on babe's website, written by Katie Way

babe is an online only magazine and does not have the same history as Bitch and BUST, but this may be what is beneficial to the feminist news source.

The articles on the website do address the same kinds of categories in which Helmbrecht and Love discuss, but babe takes on an extreme and nonacademic approach to these categories that appeal to a younger audience. This audience that babe is writing to is not acknowledging the feminists before them, and so there is not a message of looking back at what women have done to gain the rights they have now.

There may be no nod to the past on babe's website, or little direct language to feminist ideology, but the messages that babe promotes are fundamentally feminist. They are taking on topics in a manner that others may find inappropriate, but they are for the benefit of young women today who did not grow up in a society with messages of fighting for rights and equality.

When looking at the same categories, babe does speak on them in a way that would appeal more to young women today in a more "aggressive" and "improper" manner:

babe's article (left) and Bitch's article (right) on the topics of sex
babe's article (left) and BUST's article (right) on the individual experience
babe's article (left) and BUST's article (right) on social activism

For these reasons, I am terming this new form of rhetoric Rogue Feminism. While the ideologies are similar, the traditional forms and conversations have changed in the Rogue Feminist Rhetoric to a new extreme from traditional feminist rhetoric.

Various screenshots from babe's online articles

What is essentially different is the separation from the past. The most significant difference between the two magazines and babe is the digital space. babe was born online in May 2016. Their “about” page even jabs at magazines: “And because we aren’t owned by a magazine empire which needs [to] cover stars, we can say what we like” (babe). There is a friendly, girlfriends-hanging-out vibe, from babe that greatly appeals to a larger audience of women who may 1) not be familiar with the academic space and 2) are often online where they feel most comfortable expressing themselves and agreeing or disagreeing with others. babe continues this friendly atmosphere stating, “On babe we put out the kind of media we want to read – stories and videos and memes that are as spontaneous and savage as what goes down [on] our group chats. And then on Fridays we get drunk together” (“about”). This atmosphere created on a space to promote feminist ideology is essential for Rogue Feminism, which is creating a warm and inviting space for young women to “get drunk together,” a tone that would not appear in more traditional, or Third Wave, forms of feminist rhetoric.

babe's article (left) and BUST's article (right) on featured women

The extreme rhetoric of babe can be seen in their language use and “improperness” in contrast to traditional feminism. Language is a large factor to how they are able to reach their audience. The writers are aware of terminology popular in social media. The “improperness” that may arise is from focusing on topics other traditional feminists may not care about, such as how the website discusses YouTubers and Celebrities famous on Twitter.

The articles are also often shorter and easier to digest for readers. Their audience are those young women raised on social media; however, this does not solely define babe or Rogue Feminism rhetoric. They were also the ones who released the Aziz Ansari story during the #MeToo movement, which was a very detailed interview with the woman who accused Ansari of sexually harassing her. The article highlights some of the serious topics this website is able to produce, but it also points to women telling their stories on a format they are more comfortable with: social media. More traditional feminist magazines might not pick up on such stories due to a lack of awareness of the stories and issues on social media that babe writers are more inclined to follow.

babe's article (left) and Bitch's article (right) on critiques of media

The need to look at Rogue Feminism is to take note of the new form of rhetoric that is reaching a new audience of women. Rogue Feminism represents a new counter narrative in traditional feminist rhetoric that can appeal to a younger generation of feminists.

Whether acknowledged or not in the eyes of Third Wave, or even traditional, feminists, Rogue Feminism is here and gaining in popularity with young women.

Screenshot of Ari Bines's article "I asked white guys on Tinder to be my slaves..."

Rogue and Third Wave Feminism Mapped Out

When looking at the map, you will notice that there are cluster of dots in New York City area. You will need to zoom in order to see each dot. This is due to one of the limitations of Google's Fusion Tables.

When you look at a popup window, you will be see a screenshot of website's article. It will be followed with the URL to the article itself, date, author, and type of feminist rhetoric (either Third Wave or Rogue).

Zoomed Out View of Rogue and Third Wave Feminist Rhetoric

Update: Google Fusions is no longer in service. Map link does not work.

Conclusions found from Mapping Out the articles:

My goal was to see if Rogue Feminism was condensed in a particular area that would, perhaps, show a revelation in where this new form of rhetoric was being produced. I did find that the majority of babe's writers were centered in NYC, and that this is the same for BUST magazine. The reason for this is that both are based in the area. However, this also revealed to me similarities in the way in which both online articles are heavy-handed with images of women and the body. Perhaps this is in relation to their location, but further study is needed to bring forth concrete evidence to show connections.

I was also hoping to map out more digital images than the screenshots of online articles, but with this particular project, it was important to focus on the articles and the content within to see their messages produced through rhetorical moves. In continuing research, however, I now have a set of categories in which to expand my search field in order to find similar conversations.

As said previous, babe proved to be more of an extreme in the rhetorical moves made in their articles to address similar topics, such as language and tone. However, I did take note that some of the articles from Bitch and BUST had instances of similar language use to babe's. Regardless, I still found more instances of extremeness consistently throughout babe's site than the others. In the future, if I were to look more closely as to why this is, I believe it could be related to age with the writers. As mentioned before, those writing on babe's site tend to have grown up without seeing traditional feminist rhetoric that demonstrated the struggles and protest of women fighting for equality.

babe's article (left) and Bitch's article (right) on women's fashion/body types

Social media and the online spaces are also a big factor of babe’s success with going to more extremes than Third Wave feminism. babe has an easier time connecting with its targeted audience, which are young women with feminist ideologies who may not know they follow those same ideologies. This does lead to more interesting questions on feminism and what young women today think of it, but from what I noticed online, there are not many direct connections to the word feminist or acknowledgement of past struggles for women.

In regards to my mapping method, using Google’s Fusion Tables, I found several limitations that made it difficult to make this a proper mapping project. The first problem is Fusion Tables’ inability to acknowledge different rows with the same location. There cannot be multiple entries with the same location on the map. This was challenging since the majority of my collected instances were located in New York City. With this in mind, I had to manipulate the locations to be around New York City. This was not difficult to do, but it did change the way I hoped for my map to appear.

Despite the limitations of the mapping method I used and the categories I searched for in regards to feminist rhetoric, I believe I found valuable information on this new form of Rogue Feminism rhetoric with the material I collected. New insights have been found and that is essential for looking at the rhetoric.

Various magazine covers from BITCH and BUST behind babe's webpage cover from their "about" section

Read more:

Helmbrecht, Brenda M. and Meredith A. Love. “The BUSTin’ and Bitchin’ Ethe of Third-Wave Zines.” College Composition Communication, vol. 61, no. 1, 2009, pp. 150–169. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/40593520.

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