In my shock at seeing a Wal-Mart ad on the Mother Jones website, I neglected to include a link to the article I was searching for in the first place, which is the story of the California Secretary of State's office rejecting the name Bitch Publications on the grounds that it was obscene.
Bitch, Bitch, Bitch
Commentary: Big Dick, sure; Bitch, no way. A capricious corporate-name policy in California lets pornographers slide while giving a feminist magazine the boot.
By Michael Mechanic
February 2, 2000
It may not sound like it, but being a corporation documents examiner for the California secretary of state's office can be fun. As a CDE, you're on the front lines of the state's war on corporate bad taste, with de facto authority to reject any corporation name you deem offensive or inappropriate.
Lawyers for San Francisco-based Bitch magazine, an up-and-coming feminist publication (to which this reporter has contributed) learned this the hard way after its application to incorporate under the name Bitch Publications was rejected recently.
Editor and publisher Lisa Miya-Jervis says, "When women are called bitches in the insulting sense, it's generally because they are outspoken and don't take any shit. If speaking my mind makes me a bitch, I'm proud of that. Plus, from a purely mercenary marketing perspective, people are more likely to pick up the magazine if it's called Bitch than if it was called Women's Media Critic."
Attorneys for Bitch have applied for a trademark for the magazine's name, since federal law allows such words on the grounds that, though perhaps offensive, they are not obscene.
But corporate-name watchdogs are stricter than either the trademark folks or the registrars on the information super- smutway, where since 1996 the only obscenities not allowed in domain names are comedian George Carlin's notorious Seven Dirty Words.
According to Connie Christensen, one of 14 CDEs employed by the state's corporations division, examiners follow no written policy regarding sketchy names. "It's just kind of everybody's opinion, just what somebody would consider offensive," she says. "It's partly for the people who work here; it's not pleasant to have to deal with these [distasteful] requests."
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