May 3, 2013

Spare Rib returns: radical feminist magazine relaunching this month


Write for it and we’ll knock down your door.

The British radical feminist magazine Spare Rib is set to relaunch later this month after being out of print for 20 years. At the helm will be journalist Charlotte Raven; also involved are the magazine’s original co-founder, Rosie Boycott, and Nina Power, author of One Dimensional Woman.

The news has been met by a palpable hesitancy from feminist writers, keen to reserve judgement until the magazine is officially launched. Some fear that Spare Rib faces the ‘monster’ of a feminism that has become ‘too personal, too confused with consumption’ while others welcome the magazine, if it will have them: ‘It sometimes felt less like I was fighting the enemy, more like I was the enemy.’

The British magazine was the first to discuss female sexuality, and when it was launched in 1972, newsagents including WHSmith refused to stock it. Many women were afraid to incur their husband’s wrath by being seen reading it, never mind contributing to it. Reflecting back on the magazine in 2008, co-founder Marsha Rowe recalled how a man knocked down his girlfriend’s door in fury when he found out she had been writing for the magazine. Rowe was also shocked when she received a letter from the Home Office under the then Prime Minister Ted Heath, demanding that she leave the country.

So what now for the magazine as it joins burgeoning and noisy communities like The Vagenda and Jezebel, free to say, write and tweet anything they please? What will be the subjects—and angle—for a magazine that didn’t even take on the term of ‘feminism’ for years, instead calling itself ‘women’s liberation’? I don’t know whether to read it as a tactic of inclusion or proof of initial hesitation that the magazine has launched an online survey to find out what women want its focus to be (you can complete it here).

But Raven knows one thing-–she’s holding a party to celebrate the magazine’s launch:

‘the patriarchal tables will be turned, for one night only… Women will be served ‘Fucking Mary’ cocktails by George Galloway, Rod Liddle and other costumed penitents, while the men are kept pointlessly occupied; sweeping up, ‘keeping fit’ and worrying about their work/life balance. The star-studded after party with renowned DJs will finally scotch the myth that feminists can’t dance.’

Sure, it’s a funny stunt but it feels old-fashioned to be ridiculing men and ‘turning the tables’ rather than aiming for an ideology that is rooted in gender equality—for both sexes. I don’t recall the last time I was kept occupied by ‘sweeping up’, either.

One pleasing aspect is that online content on the website will exist alongside a print edition of the magazine. It can’t come soon enough—we need an antidote to the plethora of women’s lifestyle magazines that now dominate, and Spare Rib promises ‘life, not lifestyle’. This is ground as yet unconquered by today’s online sites, which very often preach to the converted readers and internet users who know what they’re looking for. Having Spare Rib in newsagents will offer a fresh perspective to unsuspecting readers, both male and female. I’m looking forward to placing copies of the magazine right in front of the poisonous pink covers of Glamour and Cosmo—and I hope you’ll join me.



Zeljka Marosevic is the managing director of Melville House UK.