A look at Millennial feminism in magazine form

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Sophie Elliott in her magazine “Ugly Girls.” Credit: Sophie Elliott.

 

20 young feminists in their 20s want to tell stories that see women as they are and beyond the idea that beauty is life’s greatest achievement.

They want to compete with Cosmopolitan and other mainstream women’s magazines that focus on more superficial subjects.

And Parallel Magazine was born.

A crowdfunding campaign to create a website and launch the first issue in January has received money from more than 180 backers but with less than two days to go (45 hours when this story was published) they have to raise £2,800 to reach a £6,000 goal.

The campaign and magazine are led by 22-year-old Editor in Chief Sophie Elliott, who used Kickstarter last year to make a zine called Ugly Girls and is pictured above in a party hat.

We talked to Elliott about the campaign, the taboo that surrounds the word feminism and creative use of a hashtag to further Parallel’s campaign in social media.

If the campaign is successful, Parallel will publish their first issue in January.

Johnson: What’s the story behind that awesome photo of you eating a sandwich in a party hat? Or is that a burger?

Elliott: Haha! That’s from a zine I did – which oddly enough I used Kickstarter to fund! It’s called Ugly Girls, and the zine was a response to the “Women Who Eat on Tubes” Facebook page where creepy men were taking photos of women eating on the tube and commentating on them like a nature documentary. The zine was basically just a series of photos of women eating food in the messiest way possible, kind of as an “F you, we’ll do what we want!” and I took a self portrait for it where I’m stuffing my face with a birthday cake.

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Parallel Magazine staff. Photo used with permission from Parallel Magazine.

Johnson: Why did you decide to align your crowdfunding campaign with the hashtag #unashamedlyfeminist?

Elliott: That came from a brainstorm we had for the logo and overall design of the magazine. One of the graphic designers made this brilliant mock-up of the front cover, and at the bottom she’d used the phrase “Unashamedly Feminist.” We all picked up on it and thought it was a brilliant tagline, and decided to use it as the official tagline for the magazine.

When we were coming up with marketing and promotional ideas, one thing we looked at was viral hashtags and how they can not just spread a message but also create a movement. For example #EverydaySexism. So we encouraged people to send in photos and examples of why they are #UnashamedlyFeminist.

It’s also quite a bold tagline – it tells other magazines that we aren’t afraid to be all-out feminist and that we won’t stand for any degrading, objectifying, or manipulative behaviour. We’re out there not just to be another magazine but to make people think about the current state of advertising and female-targeted journalism.

Parallel Mag Needs Feminism http://t.co/fehNKPR4Ec #UnashamedlyFeminist

— Parallel Magazine (@theparallelmag)
October 25, 2014

Johnson: Feminism is sometimes referred to as a word that comes with a stigma or stereotype. Do you ever get concerned about the word feminism being considered unpopular, radical or somehow off-putting?

Yes, definitely. And I think that’s something that is a threat to our Kickstarter!

Feminism is becoming more mainstream, but there are a lot of people who are completely opposed to it. One thing we hope to do with the magazine is to introduce people to feminism. A lot of people do have feminist ideals but don’t want to associate with the word. We’re going to try and bring it more into the mainstream.

For example our cover girl for the first issue is Kate Nash. A lot of people will know her from her old music and will be interested, but she is now an outspoken feminist, has formed her own community of female feminist musicians called “Girl Gang”, and is heavily influenced by the 90s Riot Grrrl movement.

I am #unashamedlyfeminist because the first thing I get asked is “Is it a boy or girl?” My baby doesn’t need a gender pic.twitter.com/PGUh1A5pQq

— LaurenBecki Rowlands (@LBRowlands)
September 16, 2014

Johnson: Where and how was the idea for Parallel Magazine born?

Elliott: Well I really want to get into journalism, and specifically print journalism, but as someone who is a feminist I felt like a lot of the magazines I could get involved in were very unfriendly toward their target audience.

Sex-positive magazines like Cosmo focus a lot on the male experience, and magazines that tout feminism contradict themselves with degrading or manipulative fashion editorials. I was getting really frustrated, and so, having made small publications and zines in the past, I came up with the idea by myself to produce, edit, and manage my own magazine that would actually try to empower, educate, and liberate women. I advertised the vacancies on my blog, and a lot of women came forward who seemed interested. Some of them were women I’m friends with, and some were complete strangers.

#INeedFeminismBecause despite this being a completely normal part of pregnancy, not ONE magazine shows stretch marks even when printing articles that talk about nothing else but stretch marks! #unashamedlyfeminist — Do you see yourself reflected in the media you consume? Check out Parallel Magazine at bit.ly/parallelmag to learn about the alternative they’re trying to create and find out how to contribute to their awesome feminist project! @sophieephotos

A photo posted by Who Needs Feminism? Campaign (@whoneedsfeminism) on Oct 10, 2014 at 11:52am PDT

What would you say is the average age of Parallel staff?

Elliott: I think it’d be around 20ish.

Johnson: Where are your contributors? Near you in Norwich or scattered?

Elliott: There are 2 other women in Norwich, then the majority of the other people involved are elsewhere in England. There are 1 or 2 people in America, and one as far away as Tasmania!

Johnson: What happens if you don’t reach your goal? Will you still try to get the magazine out by January?

Elliott: If we don’t reach our goal, we’re going to continue working on the content we’ve already decided on, and probably turn the blog into a full website or e-magazine. But we’re going to keep working towards getting funding, for example applying for grants and things like that.

If we don’t make our goal and don’t receive any funding then we’ll most likely work on it as an online entity for a while and then try again with the crowdfunding in a few months time.

I think our main downfall was that our goal was quite large and we hadn’t exposed ourselves to the public enough yet. If we continue doing what we’re doing online, especially with the interest and readers we’ve gained through doing this initial Kickstarter, it’s likely we’ll get more attention and have more success if we attempt another crowdfunding campaign in the near future.

Click here to visit the Parallel Magazine Kickstarter page.

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Khari Johnson
Khari is founder and editor of Through the Cracks: Crowdfunding in Journalism. He also writes about bots and artificial intelligence for VentureBeat. He has built news startups in the U.S. and Europe for the last decade.

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