In the final part of her interview, Joanne talks about why she stopped reading feminist magazines and the importance of popular music and bands to the development of her personal feminism.
Joanne can you tell us did your mother read feminist magazines?
My mother certainly didn’t but having told the story about how we were quite a conventional family, my mum actually went to University about the same time I did and she went to what was then Manchester Poly and did English and History. So although I don’t remember her reading my Spare Rib, she was someone who read a lot of feminist novels, probably far more than I did in the end. She was absolutely addicted to Virago Classics but as far as I know, no, and I certainly didn’t learn to read them off her. She always read She magazine.
It’s funny how these Virago Classics really cut through, my partner inherited a bunch of his grandmother’s Virago Classics. Do you still read feminist magazines now?
No I don’t really. This is a shocking confession for someone who edited a book on women’s periodicals. I don’t really read magazines and I haven’t read magazines for a long time, feminist or otherwise but I stopped reading women’s or feminist magazines.
I think what happened was I graduated from feminist magazines onto semi-commercial socialist magazines such as Marxism Today and, I can’t remember, is it New Socialist maybe? in mid to late 80s and at that point I never really read feminist magazines again. Partly it was because I had become more academically interested in it, possibly seemed a bit superficial with the things I was interested in, then I might know a bit more about it. It felt like a bit like work as well and I’ve tended to see, in various ways, magazines as an escape. And then, as the internet became more dominant I just stopped reading magazines and I think as someone who was always a very selective reader the internet suited me far better.
So there was a span of about 10 years is that right when you were reading this magazines in a not entirely sort of consistent way?
I would probably say slightly less, probably more like seven or eight years, but not entirely consistently. By that point there probably would have been other people with them hanging around where you might have picked them up and read the odd article as well.
Does that mean that that you didn’t necessarily notice or it didn’t make a big difference when Spare Rib folded in the early 90s? I guess there were still a few other things publishing at that point like Bad Attitude but that sort of demise…
I obviously noticed it and it was an end of an era and sad but no, not in a sort of actual practice way no.
Finally, a big question to finish. Looking back how much impact do you think feminist magazines had?
I think it’s impossible to say because they were part of some, as I said earlier, I think feminist magazines were part of a world wider popular culture, and that popular culture had a huge impact on my feminism but I think the magazines were just one part of that and it’s very hard to disentangle what were the feminist magazines and what were other things. My memory is that gender was kind of written through everything in this huge mishmash. When I look back from the 70s early 80s I’d say things like popular music have a far bigger impact probably in terms of my feminism than feminist magazine things did, so the post-punk loosely feminist bands probably fitted my kind of feminism slightly better than the more didactic air of Spare Rib. Yeah it’s hard. I would [say they] undoubtedly had an emphasis and undoubtedly they have an influence because I went on to study Spare Rib so clearly somewhere deep inside me it had influenced me and I thought it was important enough to study but I don’t feel a conscious direct impact of that. I feel a conscious impact of a time that I was part of.
Could you tell us a bit more about the popular music that you were into Joanne? I’m just wondering about the connections between popular music and some of these magazines…
Oh, that’s a good question. The kind of things I was into were things like The Slits, The Au Pairs and The Raincoats. They were very important to me and to my, you know as I became a student, to my student friends as well and they were very much something that women really liked and it was something that was ours. That the men kind of laughed at a bit.
I can’t remember whether those bands were reflected in Spare Rib or not. If they were, certainly infrequently and I also can’t remember with Shocking Pink but I saw the visual connection and the stylistic connection in the clothing that was in it. That made it feel part of that movement in a way something like Spare Rib never did.
Yes, they did appear in Shocking Pink actually. That’s useful because it places you in a sense in terms of the culture. I suppose maybe Spare Rib, is aimed at a slightly older woman and not necessarily someone who’s into punk music or pop music or who’s going to discos and things like that.
Yeah exactly, yeah.
It’s helpful to get that sense because that was my memory as well. Spare Rib was very grown up, I’ve always felt, really grown up, and quite serious but that’s perhaps about generation and age more than anything else.
Yeah, exactly and I think I also always felt that generational politics of feminism as well. I always reacted very badly when I became involved in feminist groups, never for a very long time, to people explaining to me that I’d know better when I was older. I didn’t feel that when I was first reading Spare Rib because I was just there, quite eager to learn I suppose, but certainly as I got older I sort of resented that role of always being the person who had to learn rather than the person with something to contribute and the sense that feminism was changing or should be changing.
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