50 years of the revolutionary feminist magazine


In the summer of 1972, the Women’s Liberation Movement fought hard, through rallies and marches, for social, sexual and reproductive liberation. The “second wave” of feminism was at its height, gaining notoriety after a group threw flour bombs at the Miss World beauty pageant in 1970, highlighting the objectification of women. It made headlines again in the UK in 1972 when a group of night maids went on strike in London for better working conditions.

Not surprisingly, not everyone at the time agreed with these women’s demands for equality, and the British and American press often caricatured them as humorless, hairy-legged, bra-burning harpies. throaty and non-gendered, opposed to marriage, family and femininity. To counter the noise of this kind of coverage came the groundbreaking feminist magazine rib.

With a witty cover and incisive articles, the magazine echoes the demands of the Women’s Liberation Movement (WLM). The magazine supported campaigns and generally exposed women’s social and cultural experiences of sexism. rib did it all with engaging journalism and a great sense of humor. The magazine closed in 1993 due to commercial pressures. This year, we celebrate 50 years since his first issue and look at his legacy to feminist media.

A new kind of feminist magazine

The magazine’s founding editors, Rosie Boycott and Marsha Rowe, denounced the sexism and chauvinism of the alternative alternative press, where women were confined to mundane tasks and excluded from editorial decision-making.

rib and women’s presses, like Virago, forged a radically different approach to publishing. Women-led editorial boards enabled open debate on previously taboo topics such as female orgasm and lesbianism long before these became mainstream concerns. Many feminist magazines operated as collectives and encouraged women to develop editing skills in the male-dominated profession.

The first cover of Spare Rib. Angela Phillips, CC BY-NC

In format and content, rib has crossed the lines between magazines focused on home, beauty and lifestyle, such as Woman’s Own, and more overtly political and popular media, such as Shrew or Red Rag. In this way, he emphasized both the personal and political aspects of the feminist movement.

At its beginnings, rib partially emulated conventional women’s magazines by including articles on cooking, crafts and DIY – albeit with a feminist twist and positive attitude. But he was never conventional in his topics and opinion pieces.

Like Cosmopolitan, launched the same year in the United Kingdom, rib has never hesitated to highlight female sexuality. But unlike Cosmopolitan, it also directly addressed sexism in Britain. ribThe “news pages” of kept feminists informed and involved in ongoing protests, updates and achievements. Its lively letter pages also encouraged sincere reader involvement.

For two decades, rib has worked tirelessly for social change, investigating and promoting awareness of serious issues concerning women’s mental and physical health. These ranged from women’s diverse sexuality, family life, domestic violence, equal pay, sexism in the workplace, female genital mutilation and the shelter movement (which provided safe haven for women battered) and more. Today’s heightened awareness of these issues owes much to the campaigning work of these second-wave feminist magazines.

The magazine had a complex relationship with consumerism, navigating a difficult path between the need for advertising revenue and the rejection of industry sexism at the time. To do this, they tried to advertise ethical-only products alongside subscription ads and own-brand products, such as the rib diary.

But it struggled to sustain itself as ad sales and subscriptions dwindled. At the same time, distribution problems and disputes over the direction of the magazine led to its demise and eventual closure in 1993.

The difficulties of representing a movement

From 1982, rib faced criticism that it was too white, middle-class and London-centric. In 1984, a crisis within the editorial collective revealed that many – including women of color, Jewish women, Irish women, lesbians and more – felt that ribalongside much of British feminism, did not speak for them or address their particular concerns.

Photo of women at a demonstration, holding a banner.

Members of the Spare Rib collective on the move. Jill Posener, CC BY-NC

Whereas rib Struggling with various identity politics, other feminist magazines spoke directly to different groups. voice of womenfounded by the Socialist Workers Party, focused on working class women.

Mukti: Asian women’s magazinewas published by the Mukti Collective in six languages ​​and funded by London Camden Council. FOWAAD was a national newsletter for women of African and Asian descent. There were also local feminist publications, such as the Leeds Women’s Liberation Newsletter, which highlighted regional feminist concerns across the UK.

rib he himself has become much more international in his feminism too. Recent research on women’s activism in Britain has revealed that regional feminism and rib were broader in perspective than previously thought.

Innovative, informative, contemporary and political, rib educated and politicized its readers, galvanizing and encouraging feminism in Britain. More than that, it has given women a voice and a forum to tell their life stories, allowing them to raise awareness of a myriad of issues.

Self-expression and persuasive writing rib have their heritage in today’s feminist media such as the F-Word, feminist websites such as Everyday Sexism, and online blogs like The Vagenda. Because of her position in feminist history, spare rib became a touchstone for subsequent feminist magazines, and there was even an attempt in 2013 by Guardian journalist Charlotte Raven will revive rib himself. Unfortunately, it came to nothing but the legacy of rib continues to this day.

Laurel Forster, Cultural History Reader, University of Portsmouth

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


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