Author: Sarah L, historical, literature, long read, voices of resistance

The First Feminist Magazines: A History

Zine culture has been flourishing of late, quickly becoming a hotbed of modern radical thought, exploration of identity, and grassroots activism. Through the creation and distribution of independent zines, we really are quite literally seizing the means. This phenomenon is by no means new, however. The turn of the 20th century (the fin de siècle) saw the birth of some of the earliest women-driven periodicals and magazines, in response to fervent public debate around women, work and education – in 1888, essayist Mona Caird called “the subjection of women” one of the central “factors of our system” (sound familiar?).[1] They also emerged in part as a response to smear campaigns against emerging early feminist identities such as Bluestockings and the New Woman. This ‘New’ brand of womanhood had thoroughly unreasonable aspirations such as equality (gasp!), education (no!) and independence (quelle horreur!), and were largely viewed sneeringly by their contemporaries. The public image of the fin de siècle Bluestocking was the equivalent of the modern-day stereotype of the blue-haired-butch-hairy-lesbian feminist. She was cartooned and caricatured as ugly, over-sexed, unmarriageable, riding a bike – a symbol of mannishness, and independence.

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