BUST - Y ROLE MODELS

By Marla Lehner

BUST proclaims itself "the voice of the new girl order," and it just may well be true. This gutsy, glittery girl-power zine turned magazine was conceived by editors Debbie Stoller, Marcelle Karp, and art director Laurie Henzel in 1993. They felt that mainstream women's magazines didn't reflect the reality of their lives, express their voices or address their concerns, so they created BUST as an alternative for women.

The original BUST (now surely a hot commodity) was a several page stapled, no color Xerox distributed mainly in New York City. Now, six years later, BUST is still as homegrown as ever-Debbie, Marcelle and Laurie still pour over every detail of this twice a year magazine-but it's taken on a decidedly glossier look and feel. The latest issue, called "She's So Money: Broads on Bucks" is devoted to the one final taboo subject especially in women's lives-money. Past issues have included Girlfriends, The Goddess, Sex and the Mother issue. They have all featured interviews with famous ladies of note and stories contributed from women and girls all over the country.

The popular press, including the New York Times, the New York Observer, Time and Details have all devoted ink to BUST, calling it the new alternative voice for women. Time's June, 1998 issue spotlighting feminism pointed to BUST as the new feminist magazine of the 1990s, taking the place of that old stand-by Ms.

I thought if anyone would have some profound thoughts about role models, past present and future, it would be BUST, so I cornered editor Marcelle Karp and asked her to share her thoughts with me and the Moxie readers.

Q: BUST has been touted in the media as being the new voice of feminism. Do you ever think of yourselves as role models?

A: I never really considered myself a role model-I'm human, for goddess' sake, but I do consider BUST to be foraging new terrain, to finally be saying what women have been yearning to hear from women's mags, to see in women's mags and to be represented in women's mags.

Q: Do you feel pressure to present a certain type of woman as a role model
to your readers?

A: It's important to me to represent all kinds of women, not just one woman. For instance, there have been lots of issues where one woman will be saying white and another woman will be saying black. Obviously, BUST will not appeal to every woman and that's fine too. But I don't want women who do kneel at the alter of mainstream women's magazines to think that what they are reading is the definitive party line on being a woman. Cuz it's not. We provide an alternative. But it's not an answer for everyone.

Q: The success of BUST speaks to the fact that you're filling a void in women's lives, giving them an alternative voice to traditional women's magazines. Who do these "new feminists" look to as role models?

A: I think the women's movement has seen some exciting, interesting and controversial women come into the picture in the 90s. Everyone from Katie Roiphe (author of: The Morning After: Sex, Fear and Feminism and Last Night in Paradise: Sex and Morals at the Century's End) to Wendy Shalit (author of: A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue) to The Spice Girls has generated controversy and thought and debate. No matter what you say about these feminists, they are not afraid to put their versions of words of wisdom out there. These women are our generations Brownmillers, Firestones and disco queens. That's exciting!

Q: You've published articles about Judy Blume, Erica Jong, Nancy Friday and of course you feature a regular column by Susie Bright. Are today's role models more sexual and/or in control of their sexuality than in the past?

A: I think Judy, Erica, and Nancy have paved the way for the Susies of today. I don't know if people are more sexual, but I do believe women have more confidence to come out and say touch me there today than ever before. The more women writers are out there espousing the virtues of vulva, the better off we all are.

Q: Who were your role models growing up? Looking back, do they stand the test of time?

A: Gloria Steinem, hands down. She is timeless, and I have always held her close to my heart because I see her as a real woman, a real person. A lot of people, when they think of role models, are star struck and don't believe that their ideal could ever be tarnished or make a mistake. I have always been wary of that aspect of looking up to someone. Gloria Steinem stands out in my mind because I have always thought of her accomplishments,
the change she's made in my life, and the change she's affected in the lives of generations of women past present future.

Q: How has feminism affected who women look to as role models?

A: I think feminism has created celebrity women: these are the famous chicks who I can look up to. By giving feminists a spotlight, we've had the good fortune to hear what other women think, their philosophies, their takes on things. I always welcome another idea on an old trick.

Q: Even now, 25 years into feminism, women are still not paid equally to men in the corporate world...there are still more men in top management
positions...what do you think are the biggest changes yet to come in
women's lives as we approach the millennium? How will this change influence
who we look to as role models?

A: The biggest changes? Wow. Politically, personally, where do you want me
to start?

Due to crazy schedules and busy travel plans, Marcelle and I never did answer this question. But I think it's a point from which all our minds can jump. What will the millennium bring for women? Where will feminism go? More importantly, where do we want it to go? These are the questions for generations of women to consider, and take into their own hands.


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