BUST - Y ROLE MODELS
By Marla Lehner
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
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
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
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.
Copyright 1999 Moxie Magazine All Rights Reserved