What is feminist publishing all about? I’ve answered this question quite a few times since becoming interested in (& academically invested in) it. At first when I talked to friends, strangers, peers, or coworkers about my independent study course on feminist publishing I felt like I needed to justify myself. I felt the pressure of being a Representative of Feminism and conveying the Importance of Feminist Publishing or whathaveyou. However, like most topics, the more I learned about feminist publishing the easier it became for me to answer that question.
[Feminist publishing] is publishing that’s committed to feminist ideals from what they publish, to who they publish, and how the company is run. It’s a facet of feminism that works towards either fucking up the status quo of a patriarchal industry or trying to change it from within. It’s p fluid and very cool. See: The Feminist Press, Ms. Magazine, Bitch Media, the Riot Grrrl movement, Inanna Press, Everyday Feminism.
That’s my short answer. And kind of my long answer. I was lucky enough to present at the National Women’s Studies Association Conference in Milwaukee last november and the IU Women’s & Gender Studies Conference this April where I got to talk about feminist publishing. I’ve written a few papers about the subject so this is my condensed, less academic, exploration of feminist publishing.
The rise of mainstream feminist publishing began in the early 1970s with the inceptions of Ms. Magazine and The Feminist Press as well as the rise in independent feminist presses (including Second Wave, 13th Moon Literary Magazine, and Inanna Press). Collectives of feminists throughout North America began working together to archive works written by women and to promote new feminist authors. The main obstacles facing emergent feminist presses were financing the publications and establishing a secure place in an industry dominated by men and patriarchal ideals.
Ms. Magazine began as a one-time insert in New York Magazine in 1971. It soon became it’s own publication and paved the way for women’s magazine to be made by and for women. In a very liberal feminist way, Ms. worked within the existing system of publishing to carve a space for women writers. The Feminist Press was founded in 1970 and began by publishing lost works by women writers. It helped create academic textbooks for the budding field of Women’s Studies and started the process of including women writers in the literary canon (still a work in progress, fuck the patriarchy).
Zines get their own section because they were as important to third-wave feminism as Ms. Magazine was to the second-wave. Feminist zines started in the late 1980s-early 1990s and were, quite honestly, pretty badass. They still are.
The rise of feminist zines can largely be attributed to the Riot Grrrl movement of the early 1990s. The Riot Grrrl movement began in 1991 when Allison Wolfe, Molly Neuman (we have similar last names, but are unfortunately not related), and Jen Smith worked together to create a feminist zine entitled Riot Grrrl. Other feminists, including Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna, began hosting Riot Grrrl meetings with other women. These meeting included individuals who were involved with zine making, activism, music, or members of the punk community.
As feminist zines began to take root all over the country (and world), Riot Grrrl Press was founded. Riot Grrrl Press was a zine distribution network that provided a expansive network for feminists to share their experiences in a way respected their right to be involved and engaged individuals. It also allowed for the self-promotion, which took out the obstacle of working with advertising agencies.
Present Day Feminist Publishing
So, the lovely feminist before us worked to create spaces for feminist publishing to exist. Did it work? As everything, it’s a work in progress. There’s no real end goal to feminist publishing, in my opinion. It’s simply (or maybe not-so-simply) about queering an industry that has worked very hard, and very long, to remain the same.
Ms. Magazine and The Feminist Press are perhaps the most well known names in feminist publishing, at least in the academic community, but they are most definitely not the only ones. Especially now that the Internet exists, huzzah!
Feminist publishing has exploded w/ the rise of the internet and rightly so. Much like feminist zines independent blogs/websites/zines/vlogs give control to the creators. And much like the early days of feminist publishing, having the funds to continue creating and publishing is a huge obstacle. Luckily, feminist have found clever ways to create and publish authentically–with as minimal interference as possible.
Here are some of my current favorite online feminist publishers:
Bitch Media: Bitch began as a DIY zine entitled Bitch: A Response to Pop Culture in January of 1996. The magazine emerged out of the feminist zine movement of the 1990s, which encouraged independent publishing. Bitch co-founders Andi Zeisler and Lisa Jervis started the publication as a platform for feminist critique and discussion of popular culture.
“The notion at the heart of Bitch is this: If the personal is political, as that famous phrase goes, the pop is even more so.” –introduction to BITCHfest by Andi Zeisler and Lisa Jervis
Bitch started as a zine, transformed into a larger magazine, and is now a quarterly magazine w/ a ton of awesome free content online. Bitch Media also decided to say ‘fuck it’ to traditional advertising and financing and became a nonprofit feminist media organization. Becoming a nonprofit has allowed Bitch to stay closer to their feminist ideals.
Everyday Feminism: Everydayfeminism.com began in 2012 and has quickly become one of my favorite feminist sites and resources on the internet. Created by badass Sandra Kim, Everyday Feminism works tirelessly to lift the voices of those who all too often go unheard. They have contributors from throughout the world sharing their stories, lessons, criticisms, and individual experiences.
Everyday Feminism is one of my favorite examples to give when I talk about current feminist publishing because it is comprised of so many people who have a wide range of identities and experiences. Feminism is reliant on open discussion of privlege and oppression and it’s really impossible to do that if you’re only getting the opinions of one type of person. Everyday Feminism overwhelmingly rejects the standard of feminism being for upper-class white women. Feminism is for everyone, all the time!
Additionally, websites like Patreon allow for writers/creators/musicians to crowdsource the funds they need to continue publishing. My love of crowdfunding will be expanded in another blog, I’m sure, but it’s particularly important to the feminist movement because of how unmarketable anything feminist-related can be. In addition to being hard to market, feminist publishers also work to stay committed to feminist ideals–and advertising or taking endorsements from businesses can sometimes go against that. That’s where crowdfunding comes in!
Oh my gosh, there are so many! This isn’t even enough. There are more, perhaps I’ll keep a running list. If you’re a feminist creating badass online content, let me know! I want to read/watch/enjoy your stuff.
So, why do I care so much about feminist publishing? Mostly, it’s because it’s the perfect answer to my personal problem of trying to divide my personal and professional lives. I want to take the passion I have for writing and publishing and the passion I have for feminism and use them in tandem to further both the feminist movement and my professional life. Sometimes this idea seems too awesome to reach but I believe that the feminist movement has always been made up of strong individuals who took risks and pursued their passions.
I’d like to encourage you to check out some of the awesome feminists and feminist organizations I’ve listed in this blog. Dive into the internet, the feminist sections of the internet! And create your own stuff. Collaborate with other feminists and with feminist organizations. Make feminist publishing whatever you want it to be!
I have to get back to work now. I hope you’ve found this brief exploration interesting and informative. Let’s talk about feminist publishing!