Vag Magazine: The Laugh’s on Feminist Journalists

The first episode of Vag Magazine, a six-part web series, has debuted online–and even though we’re in the line of comedic fire, we’re grinning, if not yet guffawing. The show was created by some funny women from the Upright Citizen’s Brigade, an improv and sketch-comedy group where famous peeps like Amy Poehler got their start.

The first episode opens with a Vag staff meeting. The Vag founders have just bought out a fashion magazine–with funds raised from selling reusable menstrual pads on Etsy–called Gemma. Meghan, the only former Gemma staffer who retained her job after the takeover, arrives at the Vag office confused. When she asks what happened to the fashion mag, Vag staffer Fennel says, “Like all patriarchal regimes will, fashion magazine Gemma has fallen.” (The Gemma name is either purposefully or accidentally amusing, considering that Gemma was the name of a decidedly anti-patriarchal magazine in the ’70s dedicated to lesbians with disabilities.)

When the Vag staffers then ask Meghan if she even knows what feminism is, she responds that it’s about men and women being equal. The Vag Mag staffers shout her down: “No! Feminism is about women doing whatever they want. Feminism is about fun!”

All the characters are intentional caricatures (the gonzo cultural journalist, the roller derby grrrrl), and the creators characterize their parody target as a “hipster, third-wave feminist magazine.” But, fortunately, the jokes don’t cut as much as tickle. If I were to pinpoint the one magazine the show might particularly be critiquing, it’s Bust (rather than, say, Bitch or Ms.). I’m reminded of a brouhaha last year in which author and Feministing founder Jessica Valenti mentioned that she didn’t identify strongly with Bust in a New York Times article, which then Bust quoted while explaining why it’s indeed feminist. And I’m reminded of a surge of articles published in recent weeks questioning what feminism actually means: who can call themselves a feminist, whether or not we need feminism anymore and a confusion over whether feminism is a vehicle for change on a personal level or as a class. (Can’t we multitask and make feminism about both personal and class liberation at the same time?)

Vag Magazine made me think about feminism even as it parodies some aspects of it–and that makes it smart and funny. What do you think of Vag Magazine? Useful critique? A mean girls’ joke? A characterization of how there is no one feminist movement? All or none of the above?

Photo from VagMagazine homepage

Comments

  1. Thanks for the great write up! For the record, I wish the Gemma reference was intentional, but it wasn't. Still: awesome.

  2. I thought it was funny. "Do you know what feminism is?" Ha! :) I think that most of the people watching the series will probably get it.

  3. The new generation of women is disconnected from the fight…taking for granted things we older women struggled to get for women. I guess the more things change…the more they remain the same. I find it disappointing to see that the world we worked so hard to change has remained the same with different faces.
    Younger women are not radical enough, in m,y opinion!

  4. I LOVE this!!! so funny! Best line "all of the slurs we called each other were gender neutral"

  5. femmepolitical says:

    This seems to me to be a brilliant critique of the lack of politics and "movement" in third-wave feminism: "Feminism is about women doing whatever they want. It's about fun." This is the third "wave" in a nutshell.

  6. I thought it was targeted at the middle class vacuousness and superficiality (not to mention the viciousness) of 'pop culture feminist' zines like Bitch and Jezebel.

    Of course, Bust & Ms are likely targets too, what w/their drift toward pop culture feminism, and tendency to fill content needs w/reactionary pieces to daily corporate media feeds on the internet, instead of original content that drives it's own agenda.

    And yeah, I'm a 2nd waver, but my 26 yr old feminist daughter won't read any of the above because of their pop culture obsessions and that "let's react to the newsfeed" content.

    Like she says~she doesn't need their help interpreting the misogynist corporate pop culture propaganda machine.

  7. heatheraurelia13 says:

    LMAO

  8. Wow. This post has been up for two years, and not one persyn has yet commented on the giant missed opportunity here. If they’re going to name the magazine “Vag,” shouldn’t they be viciously skewering the transphobic correlation of vaginas with womanhood that mainstream feminism is still so guilty of? The skew towards trivial pop culture bullshit isn’t the only reason I avoid Bitch, Bust, Ms, Jezebel – and Feministing, for that matter. When it comes to critically examining the relationship between gender and body from an anti-transphobic perspective, most writing in these outlets has barely passed the starting line. The fact is that as a non-binary-gendered trans feminist radical, I have to educate a lot of the cisgender feminists around me out of their bigotry, despite their own good intentions. I get the feeling that this is also the case for other minority feminists – Deaf feminists, feminists of color, with disabilities, etc. These mainstream outlets could be really seriously tackling these problems, but they’re not. Apparently, celebrities and soy ear candling are more important.

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