No Criticism is AbsoluteA Vision for Reviews (And How to Pitch Us)

I was 19 when I began pitching stories to editors. I had no idea what I was doing, but I was drunk with confidence in my writing as well as my ability to persuade editors that my words were worth publishing. A lot of those editors took a chance on me. Many of them didn’t pay me for those stories (shame on them), but I gained experiences and perspective that made my writing stronger.

Eight years later, I am the editor being pitched. Recently, I’ve joined Bitch Media as senior editor. It is a dream come true. For more than 20 years, Bitch has been using a feminist lens to respond to culture and push it forward. I joined Bitch because I believe that popular culture is a lens that can be used to theorize larger social issues, especially when it’s analyzed by people across identities.

I am here to continue Bitch’s mission, specifically when it comes to reviews. I will be soliciting and publishing reviews about under-the-radar as well as mainstream books, movies, TV shows, podcasts, and music that’s shaping culture. Culture is a buzzword at the moment. It adds a touch of sophistication to the blandest Twitter bios, including mine. Personally, I am not bothered by this phenomenon because I believe covering culture, especially popular culture, is important work.

For many years, culture has also been inaccessible. Many people, myself included, didn’t have the money to peruse art galleries and museums or purchase tickets to the latest plays, operas, and ballets. Yet, for so long, culture was restricted to these media. Television dramas and talk shows and movies and hip-hop music and books was all culture for me. My experiences with everything from the Ricki Lake Show to I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings to Beyoncé’s last album shape the prism through which I understand culture.

Now, we’re entering an important moment where social media platforms are making culture more accessible to people across identities, and as a senior editor focused on reviews, I am committed to making space for new voices from marginalized communities.

Here’s how:

I am always accepting submissions through Submittable. Before submitting, here are some tips:

  • It is good practice to read what Bitch Media has previously published to insure that you’re pitching something we haven’t covered, but it is timely, original, and takes a stand on a piece of popular culture.
  • Pitch about movies, TV shows, books, and other pieces of popular culture that you’re really passionate about and have a distinctive perspective on.
  • It is also important to know the difference between a review and a feature. Reviews delve deeper into the book, music, TV show, movie, or podcast and make connections between similar content. Features use a piece of popular culture as a peg to make a larger point about culture. For instance, “Anti-Blackness in The Handmaid’s Tale” is a review because it explores the content itself. However, “Whitewashing in Death Note” is a feature because it explores how the practice of whitewashing impacts Hollywood overall.

Are you wondering what to pitch? Here are possible ideas:

Book reviews

  • Smaller presses with books that center marginalized identities.
  • Couple smaller press and mainstream books together and explore their similarities and differences, especially as it relates to representing marginalized identities.
  • Reflective anniversary pieces about books that have shifted culture, similar to Jenn Jackson’s “Beloved, Black women, and the Limits of Freedom.
  • Interviews with authors before their books are released.
  • Don’t pitch listicles about books e.g. 15 feminist books all women should read unless it’s so extraordinary it has to be created by you and you only.

Screen reviews

  • Independent movies and TV shows that center marginalized communities.
  • Mainstream TV shows and movies that tie into bigger issues Bitch is discussing e.g. the conflation of capitalism and feminism, invisibility, etc.
  • The reviews should not be absolute e.g. deciding whether a show is feminist or not, but should delve into the show’s flaws and strengths as it relates to feminist political commitments.
  • Retroactively review shows that have had a cultural impact and are celebrating golden anniversaries.
  • Exclusive reviews from independent media festivals, like Sundance and the Tribeca Film Festivals.
  • Interviews with creators, directors, writers, etc. about themes within their shows.

Music reviews

  • Under-the-radar albums, singles, and artists that creates music that explores feminist themes.
  • Retroactively review albums that have shifted culture.
  • Exclusive reviews from music festivals, like SXSW, The Roots Picnic, Afropunk, etc.
  • Interviews with creators, directors, writers, etc. about themes within their shows.

Are you ready? Send a pitch.

by Evette Dionne
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Evette Dionne is Bitch Media’s editor-in-chief. She’s all about Beyoncé, Black women, and dope TV shows and books. You can follow her on Twitter.

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