The Great (Female) Indie Magazine Explosion

Amelia Naomi

How the female voice has come to be heard through the rise of indie mags 

Magazines are the perfect medium for portraying personal or controversial views, proved by the chaotic state of politics at the present time bringing about more activist publications. Minority voices such as female, ethnic minorities and those from the LGBTQ+ community can produce titles entirely curated by their own people and do not have to conform to the views or brand of a larger corporation or institution. Heather Barrett, opinion editor of Gal-dem, an online and print magazine written by women and non-binary people of colour, says that ‘a lot of publications only ask people of colour to write about race or other related topics – thus they’re put in a box. We’re intersectional humans; race is not our entire identity.’ Oppressed groups are not out of line to wish to have a voice for talking about things other than the nature of their oppression! Paul Gorman and Clare Catterall, co-curators of Print! Tearing it Up exhibition at London’s Somerset House said that ‘alt-right views and fake news exist almost exclusively online, the preserve of white heterosexual… men’ because to portray them in print would be ‘a commitment to clearly stating their hateful, unrepresentative views, which could then be easily challenged.’ 

Ruth Jamieson wrote  ‘Print is Dead, Long Live Print’, (an anthology of what she views to be the very best of independent publications available at the present) wrote the book was a product of the question ‘is print dead?’, which Jamieson would be asked regularly, and she wanted to put it to bed as it seemed obvious, to her at least, that it was very much alive and kicking. We so often hear of the narrative that the digital world is killing off the analogue one, that online news platforms will be the death of print. However, the opposite could be argued. She believes that new media ‘doesn’t necessarily replace old media, it just refocuses its role.’ The rise of digital has created a desire for a different type of experience, where you can log off Facebook, put down your phone and immerse yourself in something you can smell, touch, and hear the pages turn as you flick them between your fingers. 

So why are these magazines emerging now? Women are finding their feet and are extremely fed up about the lack of diversity in mainstream media, the independent magazine scene is ready and waiting to give them a platform on which to say what they want to. For publications like Gal-dem, which is addressing the lack of diversity in the fashion and style press, it is even more prudent for them to be publishing in print as it has a level of prestige in the industry. Publishers are creating avenues for people to walk down for which they do not have to change or adapt themselves for, but that represent them for the person that they already are, on the same level as the publications that won’t include their narrative. People who have waited their whole lives to be represented and recognised in a form of media are grateful for this opportunity to feel a part of something.  

The mantra from Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘Lean In’ will ring true for so many in the creative industry: ‘we’re holding ourselves back by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be leaning in.’ Women are ingrained to blend into the background and be seen and not heard, but the rise of the independent magazine is letting us scream whatever we want to, as loudly as we can. The problem with big publishers is that they are ‘just so beholden to the profit margin… they’re all about making money,’ says Amy King, founding member of VIDA. These male-dominated industries have to be dragged kicking and screaming to expand the scope of what they are publishing even slightly. As a woman, running your own business relieves you from having to trust big publishers to make changes, in an industry where you are constantly being challenged or questioned, and you certainly aren’t expected to succeed. By taking control of the magazine, women take control of the relentless way the mainstream media industry pushes them to be underpaid and overlooked. 

Words: Amelia Naomi, Storehouse Content Team, @ameliana0mi

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