11 Bits Of Kick Ass Feminism From The First Issue Of Spare Rib Magazine
The Debrief: The feminist mag from our mum's youth is all available online now. Here's what's changed.
Here’s some good news for today: all 239 issues of seminal feminism magazine Spare Rib have just become available online, thanks to The British Library.
Launching in 1972, the magazine aimed to be a feminist alternative to traditional women’s magazines and was a born as a result of the Women’s Lib movement that became prominent in the late 1960s. Some newsagents refused to stock it at first and a ‘floating library’ exchange system was set up – supposedly, in part, so women could get hold of the magazine without fear that their husbands would find out!
The editor’s letter in issue one explains why founders Marsha Rowe and Rosie Boycott felt they needed to start the magazine. ‘We are not attempting the impossible. To try to explain Women’s Liberation in one quick, easy lesson would be both ludicrous and wrong. What we can do is reflect the questions, ideas and hope that is growing out of our awareness of ourselves, not as a “bunch of women” but as individuals in our own right.
‘It was startling to realise that we could not buy any publication which discussed what we felt to be vital issues and so Spare RIB is a beginning. We are waiting with bated breath for your reactions...’
Here’s some of our absolute favourite bits from the very first issue. Head here to read the rest and more.
1. It was a place to report everyday sexism before Everyday Sexism
Check out this letter from a reader. Because dodging bacteria is a man’s game.
2. Feminism was divided then, too
In the same way some take umbrage today with ‘different types’ of feminism to their own (sigh), this reader letter highlights the divisions in the 1970s between ‘feminism’ and ‘Women’s Lib’. A handy reminder we were all working towards the same goal then and we still are now; some people just go about it in different ways.
3. People have been marketing women’s products at underage girls for, like, ever
Now it’s sexualised children’s T-shirts, then it was Femfresh, that aimed its campaign at 12-15 year olds. Because puberty isn’t tough enough without worrying about ‘intimate odour’ too. Gross.
4. It had actual useful beauty advice
When was the last time you read a non brand-based beauty article? Julie Reiter, the author of the Face Value column tells readers about the types of dirt you need to remove from your skin and how to get rid of it, depending on your skin type. It’s the sort of advice your mum probably gave you. But that you ignored because you wanted to buy the flashy product on telly that Vanessa Hudgens was advertising.
5. Street style was a thing and they dressed like fucking heros
Just check out Lois from Reading (via Japan) here. Want. Everything.
6. They reported on abortion scaremongering
Luckily, in today’s world we’ve moved on from authority figures telling the public completely innacurate things about abortion. Oh wait...
7. There was some pretty bonkers sounding contraceptions
Literally no idea what the old ‘Viennese Ripple’ contraception method was. Like, there’s actually no trace of it that we can find. If you know, then please let us know. Otherwise, we’re going to go back to imagining it as a slightly outdated dessert to serve at dinner parties.
8. Women were comparing themselves to unachievable celebrity bodies back then, too
Turns out while we’re getting down in the dumps about Kylie, Gigi and Taylor’s legs and abs, our parents grew up comparing their boobs to Marylin Monroe’s. Ugh.
9. They didn’t mince their words about other women’s mags...
10. We’ve moved on in the foodie world (thank God)
Banana and cabbage salad... the kale and quinoa of its day. We’ll pass, thanks.
11. It even had a DIY section!
Which we still need today. Sorry foremothers, we’ve failed a bit in this area.
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You might want to think about the fact you're about to read something that wouldn't exactly get a PG rating