Sue’s testimony (part 2 of 3)

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In the second part of Sue’s testimony she talks about the excitement of learning and understanding international issues and women’s universal experience and how reading magazines like Spare Rib and OutWrite helped her to develop a “feminist lens” to view conventional media through. She also talks about different feminisms, Lesbian and Gay activism and the the magazines’ classified adverts section.

“There was lots of anticipation about when the new things were coming out like Spare Rib, there was lots of excitement and energy and it was invigorating to read that other people were doing stuff as well and you’ve got ideas about actions and I remember when they started to put stuff in that wasn’t about Britain or America because obviously there’s always been an American influence on these things and you start to read about what’s happening in other countries and how it just felt like you know, yes this is a universal experience that women have, the media is just shocking everywhere you know so what I picked up on the international front was it’s the same, it’s not identical because different issues are going to affect women differently, I remember hearing about FGM you know probably back in the 80s certainly in the 90s and, knowing about things like that that were different for some women that weren’t at that time being experienced and certainly would have been experienced by white British women obviously but you know so having so having this growing understanding of the international context as well that just and you know and the so-called socialist countries so behind the Iron Curtain where nominally women had had equality in terms of educational opportunities job opportunities therefore some Financial, not necessarily Independence, but some ability to earn money of their own but there were still all these other structures that it seemed you know so we were looking at that a lot because we were interested in leftist ideas about feminism but you’d read these stories and interviews with women in things like Spare Rib and OutWrite of women who would say well no it’s you know it it became very apparent that male violence was still a problem for women that women weren’t holding any of the senior positions in companies or universities or, any of the public institutions and you know we’re still subject in the home and in the family or household situation mainly to men being in charge and men making decisions and women even if they had a bit of money or a job or an education were still responsible for everything to do with children in the home leaving men as we know with more free time so there were lots of things that seemed to be Universal whether you lived under a different political structure or in a different part of the world with a different culture so I learned loads about that I mean we did some on my course as well but I learned more from magazines, from feminist magazines than I could have ever got from the news for instance. I mean the news gives you a picture but when you start to see it through a feminist lens. You understand what’s you know you see it differently so you’re not just accepting what they say but you’re seeing underneath that and around it and that came from the magazines more so yeah magazines and books and films and stuff, amazing source of information that shaped you know how I thought about the world and what I wanted to do about it. I wrote a letter to Spare Rib, I might have subscribed to spare rib at some point because it wasn’t that easy to get hold of and I wanted it every month so I might have been a subscriber but I can’t be sure of that because I didn’t have a lot of money. I certainly subscribe to other things because there’s no way I could have got them without subscribing to them because a lot of them were produced in London and they weren’t freely available you couldn’t like it wasn’t that easy to find things like Spare Rib I mean you could get it here I’m not saying it wasn’t like not available but it wasn’t as straightforward as buying the Evening Chronicle for instance which you could buy from a stand in Northumberland Street in those days. So I might have subscribed but the letter is very interesting because, it’s the date is very interesting to me as well as the content because it says August 83 because it made me think about who I was in August 83. I certainly used to tear bits out of them if I was going somewhere else so that I would know where there was a women’s center or where there was a bar that I could go to when I was going to a conference or visiting another town so I used them actively in that way rather than just reading them. I don’t remember doing anything like dating through a magazine or joining a group through a magazine because I was involved with lots of things up here and I was involved in setting things up here and getting involved with them existing projects so I was involved in lots of things and so I didn’t need magazines to get me involved in things and part of when I worked on the line which was a phone line a lot of the calls we got group was people who were looking for other lesbians or lesbian and gay groups that were about their particular thing so they’re taking information from magazines about new organizations or where there wasn’t a local thing we would definitely have referred people to a national phone line or a national in those days PO box number for a group that you could write to anonymously via a PO Box because everyone else have used information from the magazines and wires newsletter and things like that well people would phone up asking about events or you know they’re visiting Newcastle where could they go out so we would hold information about all those things not just for the phone line but other organizations I was involved with you know like the young lesbian project. you know they’d want to you know go to things and you know so you’d have to you’d have to have that information you’d have to keep up to date and you might be able to do that in your own town but if people were phoning you from another place you’d have to be able to look it up you know soon I mean I’ve always been a collector of bits of information so we would keep this file of things and some of that would come from magazines and newsletters because otherwise how are you going to know but things like the bookshops like Sister Write in London you know you would only know about that through the magazine because I didn’t live in London so I used to you know when I went to London I would have these things with me that I would you know make sure that I had the address and my A to Z because that’s how you found things in those days. so that I could go and visit these book shops. so magazines were that kind of bridge for me and I guess for other people if you’re going to a different town and you don’t and you want to find a feminist community it could fulfill that function as well and now I was discovering lesbian feminism and then you move into a whole other world of magazines and newsletters because there was an explosion in the 90s of lesbian stuff. so that was produced in London and they’re completely feminist these magazines Shebang may be a bit less so a bit more mixed quite Arty and cultural this is feminist throughout it’s all about Health Service, this was a specific lesbian Health newsletter and so then in the 80s it’s much more of it becomes more of a lesbian story and then in the 90s very definitely I was you know involved in lesbian projects I was involved in lesbian active lesbian and gay activism as it was then I know people use different words now but that’s what it was then it was lesbian gay and so these kind of magazines and newsletters were very affirming you know that there are other people who are thinking similar things to you or thinking about it or doing something about it they’re producing this material and they’re speaking to you about who you are and aspects of your life and they’re showing you people who have some similarity with you but have different kinds of lives as well and different problems um and different issues to deal with yeah it was amazing to get this stuff so I had this kind of flow of literature coming from other places and other sources.”

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