Issue 12  •  Spring 2013

The Rise and Fall of MISSBEHAVE

Written by Jaquita Ta'le
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Nearly gone are the days when a reader would compose a letter to laud or criticize their favorite magazine. Ink printed on paper, how novel! Today, dialogue between the press and their readership takes place predominately on the comment threads of blogs and microblogging sites (hello Twitter!). And as the method in which we communicate changes, so does the manner. In place of formal “Dear Sir or Madam,” phrasings of yesteryear are the “OMG,” “STFU,” and “KTHXBAI” of today’s pop culture lexicon.
Nearly gone are the days when a reader would compose a letter to laud or criticize their favorite magazine. Ink printed on paper, how novel! Today, dialogue between the press and their readership takes place predominately on the comment threads of blogs and microblogging sites (hello Twitter!). And as the method in which we communicate changes, so does the manner. In place of formal “Dear Sir or Madam,” phrasings of yesteryear are the “OMG,” “STFU,” and “KTHXBAI” of today’s pop culture lexicon.
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Recurring employer of the “KTHXBAI,” MISSBEHAVE Magazine (and subsequent blog) often encouraged readers to give feedback during its three year run. So in May 2009, when founder Samantha Moeller announced her decision to end the “girl-centric” magazine and focus on her growing family, it came as no surprise that readers would be eager to weigh in…and weigh in they did.
 
Moeller’s announcement sent large waves throughout the girl-centric blogosphere. And Jezebel, the blog that offers news on “Celebrity, Sex, Fashion for Women. Without Airbrushing” exploded with commentary. Amidst a number of contentious comment threads, some questioned whether or not Moeller’s choice of family over career was inherently antifeminist and regressive. As one commentator so politely noted: “Way to fucking set an example for thousands of young women everywhere. In 2009, it’s okay to be a manicured, bon-bon eating housewife? Bitch please. Get a nanny. I’ll be your fucking nanny. Just do something positive, instead of being stuck in the goddamn fifties.”

Perhaps formalities and pleasantries have indeed gone out the window with the “fifties.” Moeller’s decision is a similar example of this natural evolution: a changing of the guard from old school to new school feminism. Although Moeller once proclaimed on Jezebel, “…we are not fuckin' feminist by any means,” MISSBEHAVE arguably had strong feminist, if not neofeminist, overtones.

MISSBEHAVE was a quarterly “fashion, lifestyle, and girl culture” magazine geared towards the “downtown girl”: chic, cheeky, and unabashedly enthusiastic. As sister magazine to the now-defunct Mass Appeal Magazine (co-founded by Moeller’s husband, Adrian Moeller), MISSBEHAVE quickly established itself as a go-to guide for the alterna-“IT” girl, gaining a loyal fan base and celebrity endorsement. Past cover girls included a number of indie film and music darlings, amongst them actresses Bijou Phillips and Chloë Sevigny, socialite and model Lydia Hearst (yes, daughter of Patty), and singers M.I.A and Santigold.

Boasting an ’80s inspired flashy typography layout and pause-worthy pieces (the DILF: Dad I'd Like to Fuck column, for example), MISSBEHAVE made great efforts to surpass the legacy of its equally sassy namesake—Moeller also once owned a clothing store called Missbehave, as well, located on the Lower East Side. To all appearances successful, MISSBEHAVE filled a unique void in the oversaturated world of glossy magazines.

However, feeling the widespread impact of a struggling industry, and after three years and eleven published issues, MISSBEHAVE announced late January that it would cease print and continue solely online. In its newest incarnation, the online mag’s future seemed promising under the direction of Moeller and editor-in-chief Lesley Arfin (author of Dear Diary). But after a few months, and the departure of Arfin, Moeller announced on her other Web site, thehipstermom.com, that she was discontinuing the online magazine as well, this time for good.

In the aftermath of MISSBEHAVE’s final demise, self-identified feminists argued themselves into circles over “the issue,” debating its racial, cultural, and socioeconomic implications. Although criticism of Moeller’s choice to become a stay-at-home mom came from a so-called feminist point of view, the denouncement of a woman’s right to choose is in itself, ironically, antifeminist.

Granted, Moeller never waved the feminism banner in the first place, explaining on Jezebel, “When I say I’m not a fucking feminist it means I don’t need that kind of label (like some women do)…” However, what some might find to be a blatantly antifeminist admission should actually be viewed through the scope of neofeminism. According to Neofeminism.org, neofeminism “is about women making their own choices that don't limit the choices other women get to make…It's about you being whoever you want to be.”

Is it fair then to judge someone by the standards of a label they shun or an ideology that they reject? According to Jezebel commentator laureltreedaphne, “…It is valid to critically exam[ine] a woman who was in charge of such a groundbreaking magazine choosing to take a much more traditional path in the end[.]”

While the debate in question might be a provocative and litigious one for readers to examine, whether or not Moeller identifies with the feminist (or neofeminist) movement, is actually inconsequential. Her right to choose, however, is the real marrow of the matter. Jezebel commentator CFinWV reflects this sentiment, stating, “How about the fact that she CAN MAKE A CHOICE? THAT to me is what feminism is about. There's no set rule on what path society expects you to take, whether it be with or without children.” Indeed, the feminist movement spearheaded by the likes of Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem has gone through a profound evolution since the 1960s.

No longer does a woman have to choose between family and career, yet, her decision to choose one over another does not render her an antifeminist. As another Jezebel commentator, mysterygirl, so aptly put it, “Being a stay-at-home mom and being a feminist are not incompatible positions.” Samantha Moeller, neofeminist perhaps by default, has the right to choose what labels she “needs.” It seems as if “mommy” was the best (and obvious) one for her.

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