B.E.T.C.H. and the dirty word "Feminist"
The Feminist movement has made huge strides in the past few decades. But along with the advancement, backlash against identifying as feminist has also grown.
B.E.T.C.H. is here to give voice to one of the many faces of the feminist movement and, hopefully, educate and enlighten those who still use “Feminist” as a term to exclude and ridicule. For B.E.T.C.H., the word Feminist is used to empower their community, and it seems to be doing just that.
In July, B.E.T.C.H. hosted its second zine release party at Bernadette’s Bar off Airport. A themed masquerade party, the event played with the ideas of performance and presentation according to gender roles and the ideas of femininity. With the powerful female punk trio Kay Leotard headlining the party, it was a wingding of body, politics and dancing. The fabulous DJ duo “Alien She” kept the dance music going between sets and the kind bar owner E Lotsey generously kept the drinks flowing.
I sat down to talk to some of the ladies of B.E.T.C.H. so that they could break down what B.E.T.C.H. itself is all about. They speak in solidarity, and their collective voice speaks to action and celebration.
Leah Moss: What is B.E.T.C.H.? Where did the name come from?
B.E.T.C.H.: Our first few meetings were informal with some talk about goals. When we decided we wanted to do more concrete things we started brainstorming names. We talked about the W.I.T.C.H. (women's international terrorist conspiracy from hell) movement in the 60s and really liked the idea of a fun acronym. Melody jokingly said the word "betch" and we did a brainstorm and came up with Beautiful, Educated Thunder Cunts from Hell. We feel like the terms "beautiful", "educated" and "cunt" are all sometimes used against female bodied and identified people in some way and really liked the idea of both reclaiming and redefining those words.
We did a brainstorm and came up with Beautiful, Educated Thunder Cunts from Hell.
LM: Who are you?
B.E.T.C.H.: Right now B.E.T.C.H. is made up of Arwyn, Julie, Melody and Stephanie. We're a lady-identified-only collective but have friends of all genders who help us out at events and have conversations with us. We started from all of us having desires to get together and talk about feminism, sexism, patriarchy and our lives. Ultimately, B.E.T.C.H. is every lady (regardless of being born with female genitalia). What we do we do with the intention of making connections with all wome(y)n, empowering all wome(y)n and working towards a world in which all genders feel liberation.
LM: What does the zine cover?
B.E.T.C.H.: The zine coming out right now covers the navigation of space. How people move through their daily lives, their family, their jobs or their communities. A lot of the submissions are very personal, focusing on specific experiences the writer has gone through, the feelings around those experiences and how she moved through it. The submissions range from poetry, essays, comics and stream of consciousness reflections.
The last zine was about consent and empowering sexuality. We had submissions ranging from de-shaming S.T.I.s to examining the importance of consent and working through the silence surrounding sexual assault.
LM: Who contributes to B.E.T.C.H.?
B.E.T.C.H.: All of us! We get contributions from our friends and family, as well as our extended community in and outside of Austin.
LM: What else do you do other than the zine?
B.E.T.C.H.: We put on a zine release party, involving lady lead bands and projects. Part of this is to have a fun way to get the zine in the hands of everyone and anyone. Another part of it is that one of our goals is to create safer spaces in which women and trans people can have fun. There are a lot of spaces for fun in Austin; it's a party city, but that doesn't mean that everyone feels safe or welcomed.
We also have movie nights, put on a consent 101 workshop, hold discussions on things like friendships between women, have a breakfast event to make money for printing costs and as individuals all of us make it a point to go to events supporting ladies and queer people in bands or movies.
People have a lot of stereotypes about what a Feminist is. It's a lot easier to go on believing, fearing and/or making fun of something than to take the time to find out what it is.
LM: What are some of your favorite things about being a feminist in Austin?
B.E.T.C.H.: Inspiring other women to voice and explore their own liberation is pretty fulfilling. The support you receive for endeavors is nice feedback, too.
LM: Why do you think people think Feminist is a dirty word? Is it?
B.E.T.C.H.: People have a lot of stereotypes about what a Feminist is. It's a lot easier to go on believing, fearing and/or making fun of something than to take the time to find out what it is.
LM: What are you trying to do that is contributing an innovative voice in feminist politics?
B.E.T.C.H.: Part of what B.E.T.C.H. is about is refreshing and redefining feminism for ourselves so that we can have it play out in our lives and relationship dynamics. We all seemed to have somewhat of a background in feminism but agreed that there wasn't space to incorporate feminism and deconstruct patriarchy in all of the areas that we wanted. Making the political more personal and vice versa.
LM: What kind of events do you have coming up?
B.E.T.C.H. : Our zine release went really well! After July, we should be looking at more bi-weekly craft nights, discussions and movie nights. We try to support different causes in town as well. We’re always tabling opportunities!
LM: What is your favorite thing to do in Austin?
LM: If B.E.T.C.H. had a tag line what would it be?
B.E.T.C.H.: We want to see more ladies having fun, rather than being accessories to someone else's fun.
It is quite evident from their passion and convictions that these ladies will never be arm candy. But candy is for children, B.E.T.C.H. are women.