by Martha Allen
MULTI-ISSUE WOMEN'S PERIODICALS: THE PIONEERS
Periodicals owned and operated by women began to appear in
significant numbers after1968, creating new outlets for communicating
the information, concerns and ideas of this decade's strong resurgence
of the female liberation movement. These early papers -- though
their editors and readers could not realize it then -- were establishing
a solid base for two decades of continuous expansion that was
to build complex and extensive communication networks among women.
These periodicals, and the more than 1,000 that followed in the
1970's and 1980's, shared certain characteristics which sharply
distinguished them from mass media and from nearly all of the
alternative media as well. This new genre of periodicals with
their special characteristics and very different kind of journalism
developed quickly over the years 1968-1983 into unique communication
networks. A common thread ran through all of these periodicals
from their earliest days to the present, whether they came out
of small towns or large cities, whether they appeared in the Midwest
or South, or on the East or West coasts and whatever was their
main subject matter.
This chapter examines the pioneer multi-issue periodicals year by year during the first five years, 1968-1972, and then compares that with their subsequent history. The women's press came to develop distinctive characteristics, shaped in part by experiences posed by the established media that women had to face.
Eight identifying characteristics emerge from examination of the pioneering multi-issue women's periodicals. In brief, these characteristics are: (1) women speaking for themselves, not reporting for others, (2) preference for collective rather than hierarchical structures, (3) sharing instead of competitive, (4) analysis of mass media's role relative to women and women's media, (5) a non-attack approach, no name-calling or discrimination, (6) "open forum" emphasis, (7) provision of information not reported in the mass media, and (8) an activist orientation.
These identifying traits appeared in the pioneer periodicals from the time they began, as is apparent from a close look at the early papers. Each paper represented to their readers the new and rapidly growing women's movement, both sharing and stimulating the movement's new ideas. They were, in fact, defining the female liberation movement as it was then arising. These women saw themselves as the movement and were in fact, the women's movement. They were not communicating about something outside themselves, as mass media journalists might. They were communicating about their own ideas, activities, and the growing movement among women.
The year 1968 can be considered the year of the birth of the women's media movement. In March, the first multi-issue women's periodical appeared. The following month the next one emerged, followed shortly by the appearance of seven more. Networking also was increasing on a person-to-person level. In August of that year a women's conference in Sandy Springs, Maryland, brought together radical women from different parts of the country to discuss "women's liberation." The following month women held the demonstration at the "Miss America" Contest in Atlantic City, and in November over 200 women from 37 states and Canada convened in Chicago for the first national women's liberation conference.
The Voice of Women's Liberation
The first women's periodical, appearing in March, 1968, was The Voice of the Women's Liberation Movement . Published in Chicago by a coalition of women's organizations, The Voice described itself as "a national newsletter printed as often as time and money permit."
This newsletter immediately exhibited a new and distinctive journalistic style; it was written in first person. The writers wrote what they themselves experienced. Here was from the outset the most enduring characteristic of women's periodicals: a preference for reporting the news and thoughts of one's own self rather than reporting the news of others, as conventional third-person journalistic reporting does. In true network fashion, the Voice women were writing to each other, communicating on behalf of themselves. Many of the Voice writers and editors subsequently became well-known authors in later years, still writing their own views.
Notes From The First Year
Only a few months after the Voice, in June of 1968, another periodical arose, this one in New York City, titled Notes >From The First Year, followed later by Notes From The Second Year and Notes From the Third Year. This pioneering periodical, now considered a classic, was published by a group called New York Radical Women, most of them writers, made up of Kathy Amatniek, Rosalyn Baxandall, Cindy Cisler, Shulamith Firestone, Carol Hanisch, Anne Koedt and others. As was also characteristic of other women's periodicals, they wrote on issues not reported by mass media. Notes ' articles included women's sexuality, abortion, the women's rights movement and women in the radical movement. "We needed a movement periodical which would expand with the movement," they wrote in the second issue, "reflect its growth accurately, and in time become a historical record, functioning politically much as did Stanton's and Anthony's Revolution exactly a century ago." The second issue noted the strong impact of the first issue and particularly stressed the importance of publishing a feminist journal.
Also exhibiting the characteristic first person writing style, Notes provided one of the earliest articulations of the need for women to speak for themselves directly to other women to form true communication networks, instead of relying on others to portray them. "We are sick and tired of having our views presented for us to other women by (usually distorting) intermediaries. This, then, is the first over-ground publication by radical feminists rather than about them." They did not need to water down their ideas to present them to women not already in the movement, they said. If they communicated their ideas directly, other women could decide for themselves what made sense and what was not relevant to their lives.
"Our editorial policy is only this: authenticity," they wrote. "We have tried in a simple way to show women not yet in the feminist movement what is going on in it and how they might fit in, on the assumption that if they see it directly and honestly -- firsthand -- they can decide for themselves how they feel about it."
The New York Radical Women were excited by the ideas being generated among other movement women speaking in the first person about their own feelings and experiences. "The kind of thinking and writing going on in the women's movement now is so mind-blowing because it grows directly and organically from a real need for it -- a functionalism rare these days. In the last two years we have seen the beginning of a much-needed merging of intellect and emotion, thought and sensibility, the personal and the political, all leading to a deep and genuine politics."
Their excitement was apparently well-founded, for the next issue, Notes From the Second Year: Women's Liberation, edited by Shulamith Firestone with Anne Koedt as the Associate Editor, was twice as large as the first issue. Notes From the Third Year: Women's Liberation was larger still, with 142 pages.
No More Fun And Games, A Journal of Female Liberation
No More Fun And Games, A Journal of Female Liberation, the third pioneering women's periodical to appear in 1968, began publishing, four months after the first Notes, in October 1968. This journal, based in the Boston, Massachusetts area, carried articles on sexism, self-defense, sexuality, celibacy, and a critique of the traditional women's magazines published by men. It broached a number of new ideas which had been discussed in newly-formed groups or circulated only in the form of fliers but had not yet been broadly circulated among women.
In the next issue, published in February, 1969, the women described an organizational preference that was to become the second major characteristic of women's periodicals: a collective structure. They noted that though none of them was a professional editor, they did not only the editorial work but also layout and production themselves, and raised the money for publication costs by sponsoring a film at a cinema in Boston. As a nonhierarchical collective, members shared the writing, editing, and production of the periodical. The collective reflected a diversity of interests and occupations among its members: nurse's aid, poet and mother, student, welfare mother, bio-chemist, teacher, computer programmer, and former prostitute. This group, too, included theorists of the early women's movement who continued to make contributions in the decades that followed, and many of the writers and contributors to the journal also became well known in the women's movement. No More Fun & Games stands among the "classics" of the women's movement, as does Notes from the First Year, for initially bringing up issues which stimulated much continued discussion about the roots of women's oppression as well as hitherto taboo subjects.
The women publishing No More Fun & Games, like those at the two earlier periodicals, also insisted on speaking only for themselves. They took the name "Cell 16" to indicate they were just one cell of a growing movement and could not be seen as spokeswomen for the entire movement, nor for any other women than themselves. Even by the title of the journal, A Journal of Female Liberation, rather than The Journal of Female Liberation, the editors made clear their intention that the journal be only one of the movement's periodicals. Here was an evidence of the third identifying quality that was to become characteristic of women's periodicals: a noncompetitive, sharing spirit.
At the same time, the fourth characteristic of women's media -- an awareness of the discriminatory and hostile role of mass media -- became dramatically evident to the journal's editors, as more and more of their decisions had to take into account mass media's effects and power. The journal attracted attention from the mass media whose articles about it and about the Cell 16 collective were so often distorted that the editors learned they had to be constantly on guard. One interview for Time magazine, for example, used photographs taken with a "fish lens" which distorted the women in the way one would see if looking in the mirrors at an amusement park funhouse. Another time, Life magazine photos of the women demonstrating karate were taken from such an angle that the woman martial artist was shown from behind with her uniformed buttocks filling most of the screen, with arms and legs going out. These photographs were printed along with an interview that was full of what Dana Densmore described as "the usual lies and distortions." The distortions by mass media were not simply errors, she said. "It was a deliberate set-up to make it [the women] look bizarre."
Mass media also lied outright to get their stories and then printed inaccurate information, Densmore stated. After discovering this, the women of Cell 16 set a policy of speaking only to women reporters. Yet, even so, the mass media distortions continued. One woman approached them saying she worked for the Yale student newspaper. But in actuality she was working for Playboy Magazine where the information later appeared in an article with insults and inaccuracies.
In a telephone interview for Family Weekly, written up as if it had been a personal interview, the question "What do you do on dates?" received the answer: "I don't date. I am married. But if I did date it would be like two friends going out to do things together, and I would expect to pay for my own meals." Yet when the story was printed it reported her response as " 'I don't date,' smirked Dana." The deliberate distortions in their coverage made it clear, said Densmore, that the mass media was not a possible method for women to communicate within or through. "We realized again the need for our journal No More Fun And Games to accurately share our thoughts and ideas." The periodical renewed its noncompetitive, sharing characteristic and its opposition to attacks and name-calling typical of mass media. Stressing that "it is in our interest to ally ourselves with all other women," the journal printed an article in its fifth issue, entitled "On Unity," which had been a speech given at "A Conference to Unite Women" held in Washington, DC in October 1970.
Another 1968 periodical, Lilith, was published for approximately a year in Seattle, Washington, by the Women's Majority Union. Much of what is known about this paper comes from its being described in other periodicals, such as The Voice of the Women's Liberation Movement. Such stories illustrate the practice of promoting each other's periodicals instead of being competitive -- typical of women's media from these early papers on. This characteristic best suggests how the building of a communication-network consciousness took place during these two movement decades. The characteristic sharing and mutual promotion among women's periodicals derived from their expressed need to increase the number of voices as sources of additional information by and about women in order to expand their communication networks.
Although Lilith ceased publishing in 1969, it stated on its farewell cover that no one could be deaf to the women's movement by that time. They were right: 1969 was a year in which over twenty-five new multi-issue women's periodicals came into existence. If one counts the single-issue periodicals discussed in chapter five, the total was more than 45 new periodicals.
NOW Chapter and Community Periodicals
Women in the National Organization for Women (NOW) published a number of chapter newsletters that began in 1968, as, for example, Do It NOW (Washington, DC and Chicago, Illinois), NOW Times (Los Angeles, California), The New Feminist (New York, New York), The Vocal Majority (Washington, DC) and NOW Acts (Malibu, California). NOW journals continued to arise each year throughout this period and undoubtedly account for a substantial portion of the communication overall among women.
The second year of the women's media movement resulted in more than doubling the number of new multi-issue women's periodicals. Of the more than 25 multi-issue women's periodicals that appeared in 1969, many were independent community periodicals which chose to identify themselves with the National Organization for Women, reporting NOW news as well as news by other women, and serving as a communication network between NOW members and the rest of the women's community. Such newsletters were begun by women in San Francisco, Berkeley, and Los Angeles, California; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Princeton, New Jersey; Syracuse and Long Island, New York; Atlanta, Georgia, and elsewhere. Women's community-oriented periodicals emerging in 1969 included Women's Action Movement, in Madison, Wisconsin; Tooth and Nail, (Bay Area Women's Liberation) in Berkeley, California; Women's Liberation Newsletter, in Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Congress to Unite Women in New York, emerging from the First Congress to Unite Women, a coalition meeting of over 500 women for the Northeast region, which closed its doors to men and to the media. Similar conferences were held in Chicago and San Francisco.
Spazm, originated by movement activist Laura Murra,, in Berkeley, California, published 20 issues, from April 25, 1969 until December 18, 1969, covered local and national information of the women's movement. Reproduced by photocopy, the issues consisted of a collage of letters, articles, reprints of media coverage of the movement and editorial comments sometimes scribbled in the margins. The fact that it had a format that was at times almost unreadable indicates how little the women were concerned with appearance in their eagerness for the information to be exchanged by any means possible -- eagerness for, in short, a network through which they could communicate with each other.
Women, A Journal of Liberation
Women, A Journal of Liberation, still publishing into the1980's, arose in Baltimore, Maryland in August, 1969. "This Journal is intended to be of use to women engaged in struggle: struggle for greater awareness and struggle to change conditions," the editors wrote. "The Journal will serve as a forum of opinion and expression vital to a growing Women's Liberation Movement." Again we see the first and primary characteristic women's concern for providing a place where women can speak for themselves. They wrote, "We want everyone to have her say. That is what the whole upheaval today is about: people have not had their say about what is happening to them. We are dedicated to that end."
This attitude brought them into conflict with the local established media. The women recognized that they had to build their own networks of communication if their information was to get out to each other and to other women -- as well as to men and the public in general. They saw the hostile role of mass media in their lives; and the great power that mass media had over the information on which the American people based their judgments.
The editors recognized that mass media was not a means of communication for them but a strongly antagonistic force constantly setting the public against them by distortion and name-calling attacks. Nearly every women's movement periodical characteristically spent considerable space in analysis of this hostile role of mass media. For example, in the third issue of the Women, A Journal of Liberation, Carol McEldowney and Rosemary Poole argued in "A Working Paper on the Media" :
"The Mass Media plays a crucial role in
creating and perpetuating America's dominant ideology: racism,
imperialism, chauvinism, authoritarianism. . . . We have been
brainwashed to believe that the American press is free, that it
provides objective coverage of the news, all the news, and that
it is a public service.
"It is time for us to destroy that myth:
"The press is basically the voice of the ruling class, not an open forum for the expression of all. . . .
"The press is not objective. . . .
"The press covers the news it thinks is important and is therefore able to define social reality for millions of people.
"If the press chooses not to cover black riots, army protests, or job discrimination against women, then those realities effectively don't exist for the people who experience them directly."
McEldowney and Poole stressed the importance of strengthening the women's communications network that was beginning to emerge. "In the long run," they wrote, "we must build our own media, our own reliable means of communication, and not rely on those of the ruling class." At the same time the authors also advocated doing something about the powerful mass media which they knew would be continuing their campaign against the movement. "We should begin developing strategies and programs toward the dual goals of creating our own media and destroying the present media," they wrote. "In the short run, the tactical question is how to relate to the existing media, essentially how to use them now while we are not powerful enough to completely ignore them."
The next issue contained a further article, entitled "The Media Dilemma," raising questions such as whether negative coverage by mass media was better than no coverage and how women could deal with the elitism that the media "forces upon" women. "We must gain control of the media and stop its exploitation of women," the article declared.
Though the idea of gaining control may have been unrealistic, the Baltimore group saw increased possibilities for change in actions like the sit-in at the Ladies Home Journal which won an issue published by the feminists. They also saw hope in the filing, which they described, of a sex discrimination suit in March, 1970 with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission by 46 women in editorial positions at Newsweek, charging discrimination against women in hiring and promotion.
Some women increasingly were concerned about the manner in which the mass media selected spokeswomen for the movement, focusing on only a few, usually non-workingclass, women. Under these conditions, feminists directed their anger not only at the media for such methods, but also against the women who spoke to mass media. A workshop formed to discuss this problem and to propose solutions. The "Class Workshop" expressed the opinion that the media were allowing a few women to "make it" at the expense of most of the rest of the women. The women of this workshop stated: "Because we see the media as destructive to our movement, and yet it is impossible to avoid the media, we must have a media policy which is in the interests of most women, not in the interests of the privileged few who want to make it on our backs."
The workshop formulated strictly-worded rules which were unrealistic, but indicated how strongly many women had come to feel in reaction to what they considered to be abuses by the mass media and the lack of sufficient steps to include women's movement voices and perspectives. The rules stated:
"Everyone in the movement must be in groups
which operate collectively (i.e. use the lot system) and work
in the interests of the most oppressed women. 1) Anyone who appears
in the media is to be drawn by a lot from her group. No one is
to participate in the media alone. 2) Create structures to share
media contact information among all groups. 3) We can and must
dictate on our terms to the media: present prepared statements
and refuse to give personal information. Anyone who refuses to
follow the policy must be assumed to be doing so for her own personal
aggrandizement. 4) No member of a group can appear as an independent
feminist. 5) We will speak only to women reporters. 6) We will
demand to be paid by the media as partial reparations for its
exploitation of women. 7) No individual or group can earn a living
by writing or speaking about women's liberation. 8) We will work
towards creating a movement press. 9) Anyone who wants to write
should write for groups, and dealing with differences between
us: building solidarity. 11) Any individual who refuses collective
discipline will be ostracized from the movement."
Conflict with mass media may have helped bring out the fifth characteristic of women's media: the desire to avoid discrimination, in whatever form it took, from the omission of some groups of people to derogatory name-calling. But the male-run "alternative press" also brought the women into conflict with the same sex discriminatory journalistic practices. Most women's papers stated very prominently their principle of non-attack, non-name-calling, non-degrading language or graphics. The development of this characteristic of the women's press accompanied women's continuing confrontation with both mass media and alternative media.
Relationship with the Alternative Media
Women's developing networks ran into conflict with the alternative media almost from the outset. In 1969, Spazm, the Laura Murra paper mentioned earlier, had focused attention on sexism practiced by the alternative press. Reporting the Radical Media Conference in Ann Arbor in July of 1969, Spazm published the Conference's resolution on "Women and the Underground Press." It expressed the rejection of the sexism in underground papers by the women who worked on them and by other women who were irritated by their overt disrespect for women. Although the best known of these underground papers was The Village Voice, begun in New York in 1955, the number of others had increased dramatically by 1970 to over 450 such papers. While most of them purported to believe in female liberation, they nonetheless included sexist advertisements, photographs, cartoons, and articles. San Francisco's Open City printed photographs of a woman carrying a sign stating "Every Woman Secretly Wants to be Raped." The resolution of the Radical Media Conference demanded:
"It is the sense of this conference that
the underground press must undergo revolutionary changes in its
relationship to and projection of women.
"Therefore we propose the following:
"1. That male supremacy and chauvinism be eliminated from the contents of the underground papers. For example, papers should stop accepting commercial advertising that uses women's bodies to sell records and other products, and advertisements for sex, since the use of sex as a commodity specially oppresses women in this country. Also, women's bodies should not be exploited in the papers for the purpose of increasing circulation.
"2. That papers make a particular effort to publish material on women's oppression and liberation with the entire contents of the paper.
"3. That women have a full role in all the functions of the staffs of the underground papers."
The problem for women was not a simple one. Many of them wrote for these periodicals despite their overt sexism (as well as for the left press, such as the National Guardian), because they provided a voice for those with no press at all and because they reported information that was excluded from the mass media.
But trying to reform the blatant sexism of the underground press was not an easy task. Not only was it firmly entrenched, but the perpetrators repeatedly asserted their belief that the sex items they carried were "liberating" sexuality. In response to critics, publishers of the underground press argued that their financial security depended on the sex ads. "If selling sex was a short-term financial bonanza for the underground press," David Armstrong has claimed, "it was a long-term political failure -- one that led directly to the founding of feminist media as alternatives to the underground press itself."
The number of women's periodicals sharply accelerated by the end of the 1960's. In 1970 alone, more than 85 new multi-issue women's periodicals began publishing. Signs of progress for women were everywhere as the movement grew. For example, the Women's Bureau of the U.S. Department of Labor endorsed the Equal Rights Amendment at its fiftieth anniversary conference in that year and the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. voted to admit women members.
While women's periodicals were flourishing, the problems with
the underground press continued. Women took a dramatic action
in regard to one underground paper, the Rat, which was
seen as heavily sexist. Women on the staff forced a takeover of
the paper by ousting the men. It Ain't Me Babe, said to
be the first women's periodical to have a newspaper format and
which appeared January 15, 1970 in Berkeley, California, immediately
began carrying the women's own stories of the takeover. They reported
that on Saturday, January 24, the men at the paper had yielded
control to an all-woman collective. The women on the staff were
then joined by other women to make it a women's newspaper. The
collective consisted of unaffiliated women and women from groups
such as WITCH [Women's International Terrorist Conspiracy from
Hell], Redstockings, Liberation News Service (LNS), the Weathermen,
and Gay Liberation. "The takeover had to happen," the
women at Rat stated. "It was long overdue."
In addition to eliminating sexist ads, language and graphics in the paper, the women who took control of the underground paper had to decide what to do about the men who had chosen to stay on to help with the advertising and distribution. These men had begun to feel frustrated that they were not part of the collective. They believed that they were not "male chauvinists" and that they were working for what the women were working for in the movement. In feminist media's characteristic first-person writing style, It Ain't Me Babe reported the women's handling of the situation in these words of one of the participants:
"We called an ideological meeting open
to any women interested and a very outasite [sic] debate went
down. It was decided that it was oppressive and dehumanizing for
any one to work on anything where they had no control and therefore
the men shouldn't remain on the paper in that capacity. Further
it was agreed that if we opened the collective to two, three or
4 men and no others it would be elitism and tokenism. That we
were not in a position, nor did we want to be, of drawing up guidelines
of non-male chauvinism in men, and that once we opened the collective
to one man, we would have to open it to any man who wanted to
join. This we were not ready to do for a number of reasons . .
. so the conclusion was that we would have to take over the jobs
the men were doing now. In fact, we realized the two jobs still
held by men -- adv. & dist. -- were the main arteries financially
of the paper . . . "
The February 7, 1970 issue of Rat included the Rat's most classic piece, Robin Morgan's "Goodbye to All That." Goodbye, she said, to the pornographic cover of Rat, to the personal ads, the little jokes. "No more, brothers. No more well-meaning ignorance, no more co-option, no more assuming that this thing we are fighting for is the same: one revolution under man, with liberty and justice for all."
The events at Rat spurred women at other newspapers to take direct action to compel a feminist emphasis. At the Liberation News Service (LNS), the women's caucus felt an urgent need for a network of communication among feminist media women. They sent a letter to women working in the movement and in underground newspapers around the country calling for an East Coast Media Women's Conference. "We feel it is crucial for radical media women to meet each other and discuss aims, projects and problems -- both within the movement as women working in the largely male-dominated underground press and in the larger world as organizers and propagandists for Women's Liberation," they wrote.
In other confrontations with male-run alternative media, women occupied their college papers. The most notable of these occurred well into the 1970's when women occupied the Massachusetts Daily Collegian, the student paper at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, May 1-2, 1978. "If we cannot rely on the paper of our community to report on issues such as the use of psychosurgery on 'violent' women, wife-beatings, and local rapes, then we must take power to achieve the analysis and dissemination of such news by and for women," stated the women who occupied the offices, demanding "guaranteed space for women's news, editorial control over all material concerning women's issues and the right to select subsequent women's editors." The Collegian women's editor, Julie Melrose, one of the leaders of the 12-day occupation which asked that four pages a week in the 12-24 page daily be devoted to women's issues, explained in a release that women's issues had been consistently sabotaged by staff members in other departments. She gave these examples: "The arbitrary cutting of news stories about women's issues in a way which altered content; the outright omission of articles submitted by women's staff members; censorship of feminist editorials; relegation of women's news of national importance to 'leftover' space; consistent placement of sexist advertisements in the paper; and the continual violation of property, verbal harassment and threats to feminist staff members."
The periodical put out by the seventy sit-in women entitled, Both Feet In the Door, reflected the open forum distinguishing characteristic of women's media: the women wrote, "Our communication should be an open forum for sharing, unlike the present system of staff-generated news."
The women received support from feminists around the country after the first 40 hours of occupation, and subsequent support from as far away as Germany, Australia, and France where Simone de Beauvoir offered her encouragement. At a support rally writer Andrea Dworkin stated: "When all news pertaining to women is omitted from a newspaper, or distorted beyond recognition, a crime is being committed against women. It is a bitter irony that this crime is euphemistically called 'objective journalism.'" After 12 days of occupation, an agreement was reached with University officials for recognition of the women's concerns for coverage of their issues.
It Ain't Me Babe
It Ain't Me Babe, the Berkeley paper that had covered the Rat takeover, published a special media issue on April 28, 1970. It ran several in-depth articles, including one by Donna Keck on the depiction of women in television programs and advertising, entitled "The Art of Maiming Women" and a research paper by Ruth Rosen contrasting the traditional male-owned women's magazines of the 1860's and the 1960's, which noted the lack of change over the century. At the time of the "sit in" at the Ladies Home Journal, Gina analyzed and evaluated the contents of its then current issue and reported her findings in an article entitled "Written in Anger" in the April 28 issue. The same issue had an article entitled "Machoman" by Anne Henderson which analyzed the sexism of Do It by New Left activist and "Yippie," Jerry Rubin (who was one of those charged with conspiracy for his involvement in the demonstrations in Chicago during the1968 Democratic Convention).
It Ain't Me Babe, like most of its sister periodicals, was a collective. However, operating collectively, instead of in the male media's more typically hierarchical staff structure, presented a number of practical problems. To preserve their collective structure, women at all of these collective-run papers found it necessary continually to adjust their operating methods.
For example, the women at It Ain't Me Babe made not one but a series of adaptations. The paper had begun with a small group of women pooling their money and enlisting the help of friends with previous newspaper experience. Originally they had tried to keep editorial decisions "open," allowing community women to look over all the articles submitted and to collectively decide on the contents of the paper. But this meant that meetings sometimes lasted seven hours, and the layout crew would in the end have to omit some of the articles for lack of space. Meetings that were too large resulted in draining discussions over minor points in some articles. The community women who attended the early meetings also found them time- and energy-consuming. The "editorial board" dwindled down to about six or seven women. In mid-March of 1973, about three months after they began publishing, It Ain't Me Babe editorial collective "closed" their editorial board. Some Berkeley women active in the left movement objected to some of the content of the fourth issue and demanded that two women from the Berkeley Women's Liberation group be placed on the board. This was not done. In the next few months the board began to dwindle again; a number of the members had become too busy with other kinds of work to put in the necessary time. By the ninth issue a group of three or four women were making all of the editorial decisions.
To accommodate this new reality, those most involved with the paper decided that they would create a new structure where each woman would have responsibility for a page. This would mean an absence of power relationships or leader-follower patterns. Each woman would have editorial control over her page, and would be responsible for getting the material typed and laid out. They also provided five free pages for material submitted by women not in the collective. The women at this time described themselves as "communist anarchists," as opposed to "individualist anarchists." They dissolved the board and constituted themselves simply as a collective which would maximize the autonomy and energy output of its members. These efforts to operate collectively occupied the first eight months of publishing.
Off our backs
Another pioneering paper, off our backs, also struggled to preserve its collective structure. It resolved its difficulties in a different way. Off our backs is the first large-circulation monthly newspaper still publishing, having begun in Washington, D.C on February 1970, a month after It Ain't Me Babe. Over its long life the paper exhibited the first four characteristics noted above and amply illustrated the several other characteristics, as well.
In its first issue, the off our backs collective emphasized that all women should speak from their experiences as women coming from all backgrounds and classes and fighting for their liberation. "Our bias should be clear," they wrote. "We intend to be just, but we do not pretend to be impartial. Our paper is part of a movement; we ourselves are committed to a struggle and we will take stands to further the cause of that struggle."
Their collective structure was a firm principle with off our backs and has remained so to the present day. Off our backs began with two full-time (unpaid) workers, one of them with journalistic experience. They had $400 of their own money, the use of the basement of someone's home, and equipment "begged, borrowed or improvised." Marilyn Salzman-Webb, one of its founders, described the collective a few years after it began as being made up of women ranging in age from 17 to 32. She said they were careful about what they printed because they were attempting to create a feminist philosophy in the context of what they published. They always tried to discuss as thoroughly as possible everything they considered printing, at least enough to clarify differences among them. "To do this, each member had to learn about those issues up for discussion: current news, the legal system, the history of the family, the role of romance in Western civilization, etc.," she stated. "As collective members pushed themselves further intellectually, and learned to relate to one another differently from the way (competitively) that they had been taught to relate to other women, they found it necessary to challenge the foundations of their lives, and bringing change on many levels." The effects of this careful examination of women's lives did affect members of the collective, even leading some to end marriages, enter lesbian relations, or to form collectives where they lived.
Marlene Wicks described how the idea of publishing a women's paper first arose among the founders: "The paper really started because Marilyn Salzman-Webb was writing for the Guardian in New York and every time she would send articles having to do with women they would be totally screwed up and edited to the point that they wouldn't make any sense at all. So after a meeting at the Women's Liberation Center on Mintwood Place we were rapping about what we could do about that and I don't know who said first, 'why don't we start our own,' but the response was, 'yes, let's do that.' " Men contributed some support but were not on the staff. Marlene Wicks' husband, for instance, built the lay-out tables. Most of the women at that time dated or were married. The early mailing lists came from their contact with the left progressive movement. They utilized a left-over address list of anti-war contacts from Vietnam Summer of 1967 and added a mailing list from a national conference held in 1968. Mostly they relied on the excitement of the idea and word of mouth.
The collective of women that published the first issue was confident that by having a means of communication they could bring changes to journalism as a whole and introduce feminist characteristics to their journalism by letting people speak for themselves and eliminating discriminatory, derogatory, and exploitative treatment. "As we begin to create and support our own media," they wrote "the very definitions of news will change as we gain the power to describe it as we see it and as we make it." Off our backs also analyzed the role of women facing hostile mass media and urged a network of communication among themselves. Marlene Wicks wrote that women's liberation appeared to have become the 1970's toy of the "established" media, warned that "The women's movement must protect itself from co-optation and exploitation by the media in the 1970's," and advocated that women not give their stories to men for profit and exploitation but communicate directly with each other where they could express themselves and make their own criticisms. "The media always needs an angle, a 'story,' a 'leader,' a 'thread,'" she stated. "For the sake of our movement, we must protect ourselves by rejecting that and forming our own communications."
Women at off our backs analyzed the role of women in the underground press as well as the roles of women in the mass media. Marilyn Salzman-Webb, strongly condemning the supposedly radical men who accepted ads which exploited women's bodies, just as the male-owned mass media did, compared working on an underground paper to working for the New York Times -- "only worse, since we naively believe there is hope for change." She described the "hip" paper's custom of having one or two women writers out of a dozen and said the women would usually be caught up in a struggle with male editors, have their copy "butchered," or find themselves played off against one another personally or forced out.
She also urged building a women's communication network: "Women's liberation is a movement developing crucial theoretical and programmatic direction and it cannot be left to back pages or put aside for special supplements or lost forever It should be our responsibility as a movement to see that an independent women's media is developed." This might require some women to leave the periodicals they were currently working with in order to create new periodicals and radio programs that would solely serve the women's movement. "We must develop a news service that can quickly get stories, graphics, etc. around to all these media projects," she urged. "If we have no control of our own communications, we will have no control of our own movement!" she concluded.
Off our back 's network-style of communication encouraged women to speak directly to other women. Use of interviews, which was common to all women's periodicals, was particularly emphasized in off our backs, which had a regular interview section. Feminism in the mass media was distorted and watered down, they said, and feminist "superstars" spoke for other women. Women's media had a responsibility to "be a true alternative to the limited and distorted feminism in the straight press." More varied voices are necessary, they wrote. Interviews allow women who are not in media to have a chance to have their say.
Although off our backs gave first importance to women's being able to communicate with each other directly, it also supported the efforts of women working in mass media to make progress. It reported, for example, on the case of the women who made up three-quarters of the 3,500 employees at Readers Digest in New York and who had filed a suit charging discrimination in hiring, recruitment, training, promotion and pay, and challenged management practices of watching women employees by closed circuit television, and forbidding them to talk to each other. Lack of progress for Newsweek editorial women was also reported when they filed a second sex discrimination complaint against the magazine. Salzman-Webb reported women's challenges of broadcast license renewals on the grounds of discrimination in content and employment. "There is a pervasive, insidious and overt dehumanization of women and girls performed daily before millions of our very eyes and in the sanctity of our own rooms," she stated. "Women know it and are disgusted and furious; men know it and love it; children learn it, and advertisers make billions off it." When Gloria Steinem and Margaret Sloan of Ms. Magazine spoke to the National Students Association making references to the effects of mass media, Frances Chapman of off our backs was there to cover it. "Straight media is the property of the white male" Margaret Sloan stated. "I am resentful because I want my five-year-old woman child to have positive images."
The "open forum" characteristic of nearly all women's periodicals led off our backs to follow the lead of other periodicals and ban editorials on the grounds that editorials appeared in many ways to give a definitive position on issues or to establish a "line" which would exclude some women and make others feel more hesitant to speak up. Off our backs stopped printing editorials in the late 1970's. "People worried less about hammering out a common line and simply wrote counter-commentaries if they disagreed with each other," they wrote in their Tenth Anniversary issue. Avoiding an "official line" would provide more diversity of opinion and information as well as save time spent trying to get everyone to agree to one common position.
The non-attack, nondiscriminatory characteristic arose naturally out of concern that women's periodicals provide a diversity of views. Providing a forum for the news of women of color, for example, meant that to the greatest extent possible, women of color should be able to speak for themselves and report their own news and analysis. Accordingly, in April 1971 off our backs published an article by a black woman responding to female liberation; in March 1972 an article by Dolly Lilith and Lilith Fine discussed women in Mexico; in October 1973 an interview with a black feminist appeared and included the statement issued by the National Black Feminist Organization (NBFO); in January 1974 off our backs wrote an editorial on the NBFO first conference and included an article entitled "black feminists up front."
The seventh characteristic of women's periodicals was particularly well illustrated in off our backs: reporting information not covered by mass media. Special issues were devoted to in-depth examinations of women's health (as well as its coverage in all regular issues), women and ecology, women and the church, working women, women in prison, violence against women and on the nature, history, and practice of psychosurgery. In 1975 there were articles on the FBI and CIA infiltration of the feminist movement. Little or none of this information appeared in other media, established or alternative.
In the late 1970's the paper reported on the trials and confinements of women, including Susan Saxe, Assata Shakur, Dessie Woods, and Cheryl Todd and women in other countries, such as those incarcerated in Argentine prisons, Black women in South Africa's Soweto district, a French women's strike at a watch factory, and Australian women accused of false arrest for charging men with rape.
Off our backs not only was one of the earliest papers able to maintain its existence to the present time, it displayed all of the characteristics of women's media and helped initiate networking of women's media through such activities as the sponsorship of the Women in Print conference. Off our backs maintained its collective structure over the years, demonstrated strong awareness of class and race issues relating to women, and provided coverage of women's concerns internationally. The lesbian perspective could also be found in its pages from the early days to the present time, carrying articles and letters reflecting all lesbian issues as they arose. Providing coverage of news and opinion of interest to women in left movements, with information and analysis that were unavailable in the left press, the paper has developed a wide audience among activists. Because its pages carried a range of viewpoints, provided thoughtful analysis, and reprinted useful factual information, Off our backs continued to be one of the heartbeats of women's media.
Female Liberation Newsletter
Like off our backs, other papers coming into existence in 1970 also opened their columns to include more information and viewpoints of a more diverse group of women. Boston Female Liberation, which published Female Liberation Newsletter from 1970 until March 1974 with a national as well as local focus, not only covered many of the issues prominent in other women's periodicals, but included, in 1971, a special section on La Chicana that appeared in the newspaper El Grito, published in Espanola, New Mexico. Wishing to assist women of color to get their perspectives to as wide an audience as possible, Female Liberation Newsletter included extensive sections of Chicana women's writing.
And Ain't I A Woman?
Concerns of women of color appeared consistently in the pages of And Ain't I A Woman?, which appeared in Seattle, Washington, in March 1970, and again reflected the "open forum" characteristic of women's media which sought to be a communications network for all women. In its May/June 1970 issue an article on Chicanas stated: "A good deal has been written and spoken about the compound problems of nonwhite women. Feminists today make special efforts to emphasize the needs of their minority sisters. . . . When feminists are so hard at work getting recognition of women's special needs, we need to understand the problem of all different groups of women." Women of Color often organized their own groups, with their own special focuses, but they considered themselves part of the total women's liberation movement.
Ain't I A Woman?
A periodical with a very similar name appeared in 1970 in Iowa City, Iowa. As a Midwest newspaper of women's liberation, Ain't I A Woman? also expressed the concern of being relevant to all women, illustrating the feminist media characteristics of openness to and inclusiveness of all women, without derogatory treatment or discrimination. In August 1970 they wrote:
"After three issues of Ain't I A Woman?
the publishing collective decided it was time for self criticism.
The politics reflected in the paper have been less than we hoped
they would be but, because we have been so busy learning the technical
end of publishing a newspaper we had not taken the time to discuss
the political meaning behind articles we've written and published.
. . . We have indulged ourselves in writing about personal solutions
and white skin privileges. We have written from the perspective
of only one group of women instead of concerning ourselves with
the needs of all women. Women raised in the middle classes view
the revolutionary struggle from a privileged position. We must
be careful not to let our privileges deter us from seeing the
need for a revolution that frees all people."
They, too, covered issues not reported in mass media, such as a union struggle by primarily Mexican-American women; women in China and in North and South Korea; and consumerism and women. The periodical regularly carried a page devoted to lesbian women, explaining in its first issue that the purpose of the page was "to provide a forum for women to talk about gay women in hopes of breaking down the fears and taboos that keep us apart." Within a few months the periodical became lesbian/feminist and its collective renamed itself the Independent Amazon Women's Collective. A focus on helping women gain more control over their printed words came when the male printers refused to print an issue that contained medical self-help photographs, saying they would not print "pornography." As a result they formed their own press, the Iowa City Women's Press.
Up From Under
Women active in the radical movements of the sixties began Up From Under, a New York periodical "by, for and about women." In 1969 they sent out an initial letter about the periodical, and its first issue appeared May/June 1970, in which they described themselves as a collective of "working women, students, and mothers who have been active in radical politics and have come to feel women's issues are crucial." Dissatisfied with the existing periodicals women had to read, they wished to provide a forum "to explore with all women the new insights, understanding, and enthusiasm that are growing out of the women's movement. Women," they wrote, "deserve a magazine that will speak honestly and directly to their situation, a magazine that is not designed to push useless products, or to re-enforce the convenient stereotypes." They made reference to the stereotypes of the women's movement promoted by mass media, writing, "Contrary to a variety of popular images, Women's Liberation is not a movement of hardened and coldly unfeeling females, shouting slogans, hating men, and scorning 'unliberated' sisters. Nor is it a movement that demands 'instant liberation'; women do not have to leave their husbands and lovers, abandon their children, throw away their make-up, burn their bras, quit their jobs, or sleep with each other to be part of the movement."
Up From Under explained its preference for operating as a collective. "We feel that to work in a hierarchical structure would be to negate so many of the beliefs we are trying to put forth in the magazine -- the need for women to relate to each other in noncompetitive ways, and the need for all of us to explore our capabilities free from the restrictions that have always been placed upon us," stated the women.
The Up From Under collective made use of the various skills each woman had but no woman was restricted to one function, creative or menial. Many women learned new skills. And everyone shared in determining editorial policy. All manuscripts considered for publication were read by each collective member and discussed at the meetings. Articles that needed rewriting or editing were given to one of the collective members to work closely with the author in making the necessary revisions. To carry out this type of policy meant that minor decisions took up disproportionate amounts of time, but it was considered necessary for the desired results. The collective encouraged women to write for the periodical, reminding them that "nearly everyone has something to say, and that many women are capable of saying things that have meaning for all of us."
"Unlike Ladies Home Journal, Up From Under is truly a magazine for women. We speak in our pages about the personal/political issues which concern all of us as women, as human beings. We refuse to print advertisements which in any way, no matter how subtle, exploit or insult women (or anyone else)." This policy may have resulted in their having very few ads, but they pointed out that the periodical was not a commercial venture, it was a means for women to communicate with each other.
Women's Liberation Internal Newsletter
Women's Liberation of San Francisco began publishing S.F. Women's Liberation Internal Newsletter in May 1970. Five hundred copies of their third issue were mailed out in June 1970 and seven hundred of their sixth issue in July 1970. They too were acutely conscious of the effects of mass media and protested the derogatory treatment practiced in most male-owned media. "The media (and we all know who controls that) has coined one abusive term after another to describe us, the latest one being 'libbers," the women wrote. "The most popular term, though, and one created by these minor male masterminds is 'women's lib.' " This fourth characteristic of women's media, to critique the role of mass media, was often expressed vehemently in the early papers. With time women's media began to take for granted the omissions, distortions, and outright hostility of the mass media to their issues and their movement.
In June 1970 Susan Davis began to edit and publish The Spokeswoman in Chicago. This monthly newsletter carried information on such issues as the media, law, health, economics, unions, welfare, child care, and employment that was not being reported to the public. Space was also devoted to listings of new feminist periodicals, publications, and other materials and to news of feminist organizations. Many of the early activists relied on the information packed into the pages of The Spokeswoman. By October 1975, the periodical had a paid circulation of 7,500.
KNOW News Bulletin
KNOW News Bulletin came out in August 1970 from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, providing useful information to the feminist community, including, as was characteristic of most of them, lists of other women's periodicals. It also listed mass media "Reporters You Can Trust." KNOW, Inc., a nonprofit, tax-exempt corporation, published KNOW News Bulletin six times a year. A collective of five full-time and four part-time paid women published the periodical and article reprints, pamphlets and books in 1973. The women were not paid very much, but they were paid.
Austin, Texas women produced the first issue of their newspaper, Second Coming, on December 1, 1970. "Our task in this newspaper will be to explore new ideas, new alternatives, new ways of being women." As was typical of other women's papers, Second Coming was also a collective with an open philosophy. The women discussed the structure of their periodical in these words: "The newspaper in its very structure will attempt to avoid the pitfalls of masculine-oriented models of hierarchical organizations. We will have no intellectual elite on top with peons on the bottom. We will all share in reading what goes into the paper, we all will share in the menial labor. Moreover, the staff is open to any of our sisters who wish to work, either week to week or by offering articles, poems, photos, drawings, etc. We welcome and encourage the energy of every sister who had something to say about her liberation." The newspaper, they stated, would offer "a means of communication among all areas of the women's movement here and elsewhere." Articles appeared on Chicana sisters, Angela Davis, nutrition and health, women's history, women in China, Russia, and Africa, "how-to" articles (such as how to fix a cheap stereo) and other information not reported in the mass media.
Many other multi-issue periodicals appeared in 1970, including another Texas paper, Sisters Unite, in Houston, on the same date as Second Coming, December 1, 1970. Publishing of new periodicals continued to accelerate in 1971, with more than 90 new multi-issue women's periodicals in that year alone. That same year the National Women's Political Caucus was organized to see that more women speaking out on women's issues moved into elected and appointed decision-making positions, reflecting the new political direction of the women's movement.
One of these new periodicals was a major metropolitan bi-weekly Majority Report that appeared in May 1971 in New York City. By 1975 the periodical had a paid circulation of 16,739. According to its first issue, Majority Report was published by the Women's Strike Coalition, an organization of hundreds of women's groups and individuals throughout the New York area "which unites women in struggle against laws, institutions and practices preventing women from leading full lives." Majority Report "will enable us to fully discuss all of the areas and issues of our movement," they wrote. Coverage of news not reported in the established press was a goal and the characteristic that particularly distinguished this newspaper. One of its main reporting concerns was violence against women.
For example, Majority Report reported extensively on the showing of "Snuff," a film depicting brutal murders of women that was advertised as being the filming of actual murders. Majority Report encouraged the nationwide protest that was raised, also illustrating the activist character of women's periodicals. The paper said the mass media "hype" encouraged this type of film. Another article reported the role of the media in promoting violence against women and women's response. In "Made in the Media, Where Talk Is Cheap," Mary Lou Fox wrote: "Many feminists see this movie as a wider conspiracy by both the media and those in authority to ultimately insult and terrorize women, driving them back to their old subservient and fearful position in society."
Majority Report covered the trials of women who were raped or physically abused, who fought back and were charged with a crime for defending themselves. In one such case, Inez Garcia, had been charged with first-degree murder and convicted of second-degree murder but won an appeal for a new trial. She had gone after her rapist with a gun and killed him. Majority Report also covered the Speakout on Sexual Crimes Against Women held February 4, 1976 in preparation for the International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women and again noted the role of mass media.
Aurora: Prism of Feminism, whose first issue came out in June of 1971, also covered the issue of violence against women and women's efforts to defend themselves, characteristically reporting news not covered in the mass media and playing an activist role itself. Aurora also well illustrated another characteristic of women's media. It not only shared with its readers the information in other papers, as in running an article on sexism in karate schools and another on self defense from No More Fun And Games: A Journal of Female Liberation , but instead of competing, it promoted the support of other women's papers. Of one special supplement it said, "Aurora could not have put together our insert without the help of our sister publications, off our backs and Up From Under. We encourage you to subscribe to these feminist journals along with Aurora."
Another 1971 periodical, typical of the many being founded at the time, was Mother Lode, published by a collective in San Francisco. It began as a single folded sheet but had an estimated national circulation of 4,000. Its volunteer staff gave each issue a particular theme, such as women prisoners, lesbian mothers, health, or the family. Much of the content consisted of the personal testimonials of women about their lives, reflecting here, too, the characteristic of women's media to enable women to speak for themselves directly to each other.
New Directions for Women
The year 1972 brought forth over 85 new multi-issue women's periodicals, including New Directions for Women, Ms. magazine and Big Mama Rag, demonstrating that women's periodicals were proliferating and reaching greater audiences. It was an exciting year for women because Shirley Chisholm was running for President. This was also the year that Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment, first introduced in 1923.
New Directions for Women grew out of the first statewide feminist conference held in New Jersey in April 1971, where the need was discussed for a communication network to keep women in touch with each other both in and out of the women's movement. The first issue of their paper came out in 1972, a 14-page mimeographed newsletter distributed statewide through the state's women's organizations. Its efforts to be self-supporting illustrate the problems typical of women's periodicals. Paula Kassell was given the responsibility for publishing the newspaper and the $140 in proceeds from the conference with which to print 2,000 copies of the first issue. About 84 subscriptions resulted from the distribution of the first issue, which was considered a good percentage but was insufficient for publishing future issues.
Later interviewed about the paper's beginning, Kassell described how she turned to using ads for support. The second issue was a special issue on education and provided the basis for obtaining ads from book publishers. "We were very well aware that education was extremely sexist," she stated. The textbooks were "divided between girls taking certain courses and boys taking others." Many of the 5,000 copies of the second issue of New Directions for Women were distributed at the New Jersey Education Association conference in the Fall of 1972. Their activist orientation shows itself in their method of operation.
This illustrates the way we've operated: the business decisions,
the management decisions that we've made throughout our existence
are intimately tied in with our purpose to educate people, to
advance the feminist movement, and to reach people not yet feminist
to let them know what is happening in the movement, to give them
the names and addresses they need to connect themselves to the
movement, to bring to them the books and the other resources which
educate them about the position of women in the feminist movement.
The second issue was a printed tabloid, and the paper went on a regular quarterly basis by the third issue, which was devoted to the subject of employment. "Affirmative action was very big now and firms said they were looking for new women to hire and to promote," Kassell explained. These ads and some on childcare covered expenses but not salaries. However as people read the paper, they called and offered to help; there were always 30 to 50 people involved in each issue, whether they were involved in writing an article or in the production of the paper. Issues were bundled up and mailed out to libraries as a way to increase circulation. A box of 100 or 150 copies were sent to about 100 libraries throughout the country with a sign included that said "Free. Promotional. We hope you will subscribe." The circulation did increase, although most of the women volunteered to write, edit or proofread, not work on promotion.
During the time that Kassell edited the paper, published out of her home, CETA federal grants for the unemployed paid for training two women in the business of publishing. A part time clerk typist worked for several years, the only employee paid out of the paper's funds. Six years later, in 1977, there were five full time paid employees through CETA grants and for the first time the paper had a business office. A Board of Trustees was formed to run the paper and operated for a year somewhat as a collective. The paper went to 24-pages and in 1980 from quarterly to bi-monthly. After operating as a collective, the women saw that the business side was not receiving proper attention; they needed to have one person to direct the staff, to see that all the business was taken care of, that bills were paid, that ads came in, and that the mechanics of the circulation and distribution were kept up to date.
Circulation reached 40,000 to 50,000 by giving away many free copies. Not only did this allow them to reach large numbers of women, it made it easier to get advertising. New Directions for Women was given a Ford Foundation grant of $35,000 for three years to increase circulation and to widen their mix of subscribers to reach minority women -- both as readers and to work with them on the paper.
Kassell described the non-derogatory characteristic of women's media. "Our firm policy over all the years we've been in business has been never to accept an ad for a product or service that we did not feel was good for our readers," she stated. "Specifically, to use an example, we would never accept a cigarette ad though we could probably make a lot of money from it because they would take a full page."
Although New Directions for Women was reaching a large audience for a women's newspaper, the founding at about the same time of the glossy Ms. magazine meant that eventually over 400,000 women were reached by a single women's periodical. This was accomplished by getting the magazine onto the newsstands, as well as through subscriptions.
Ms. began as a 40-page insert to New York magazine in 1971 with articles on "Sisterhood," by Gloria Steinem; "The Housewife's Moment of Truth" by Jane O'Reilly; "My Mother, the Dentist" by Nicholas von Hoffman; "How to Write Your Own Marriage Contract" by Susan Edmiston; "Why Women Fear Success" by Vivian Gornick; and "Rating the Candidates: Feminists Vote the Rascals In or Out" by Brenda Feigen Fasteau and Bonnie Lobel, a study of the 1972 Presidential candidates' positions on women's issues. Record sales of this issue showed that it had succeeded despite predictions of failure, and in July 1972 the first regular issue of Ms. magazine appeared. By the mid-seventies the circulation was more than 400,000.
The Ms. women who had thought up the idea of a national magazine wrote that they wanted "a publication created and controlled by women that could be as serious, outrageous, satisfying, sad, funky, intimate, global, compassionate, and full of change as women's lives really are." Yet when they sought financial backing they were turned down by many potential investors, who gave various reasons but essentially expressed their belief that there weren't enough women in the country interested in changing women's status to support a national women's magazine.
When the women described the collective/staff-run way they intended to conduct the periodical, there was even more skepticism and opposition. "[T]he more we insisted on retaining at least 51 percent of the stock, the more everyone told us that investors don't give money without getting control; who ever heard of a national magazine controlled by its staff?" However, the Ms. collective was demonstrating one of the defining characteristics of "women's media": it is owned, controlled and operated by women. While some men might contribute support, financially or otherwise, they do not have the say on how the women's media is run. Media where men predominate in ownership or control may be "feminist" media but they are not "women's" media.
Also considered unbusinesslike (and downright crazy) was the Ms. originators' further idea of giving some of the profits to the women's movement. The purpose of the magazine was to communicate and strengthen the women's movement, not to make money, and these noncompetitive and activist characteristics of Ms., like its sister women's media, distinguished them from the mass media but also made obtaining financial backing much more difficult. The business community was reluctant to invest in a publication whose founders wished to share profits with the movement. "But," the Ms. women wrote in their first issue in July 1972, "there was support: friendly magazine people who thought we should try to find 'public-spirited' money; women in advertising who were themselves trying to create ads that were a service to women; feminist speakers who have been traveling around the country and knew that a mass audience was there."
Two things helped make the magazine a reality. Katharine Graham, one of the few women publishers in the country, bought a few shares of stock in the then nonexistent magazine. And secondly the editor of New York magazine agreed to produce their preview issue bearing the full risk of the $125,000 necessary to pay printers, binders, distributors, writers, artists, and others to produce the 300,000 copies. Half of the newsstand profits of the Preview Issue would go to New York, as well as all of the advertising proceeds. Decisions and work were done "communally."
The nonhierarchical nature of women's media was another of the eight characteristics that was present from the origin of Ms. The editors wrote in its first issue:
"We never had time to sit down and discuss
our intellectual aversion to the hierarchy of most offices, where
decisions and orders float down from above. We just chose not
to do anything with which one of us strongly disagreed. And we
didn't expect our more junior members to get coffee, or order
lunch, or do all the typing, or hold some subordinate title. We
each did as much of our own phone-answering and manuscript typing
as deadlines and common sense would allow. On the masthead, we
listed ourselves alphabetically, divided only by area of expertise
and full- or part-time work.
Feminist philosophies often point out that a hierarchy, military or otherwise, is an imitation of patriarchy, and that there are many other ways of getting work done. We didn't approach the idea so intellectually, but we did arrive at the same conclusion from gut experience. As women, we had been on the bottom of hierarchies for too long. We knew how wasteful they really were."
Ms. was the most extensive addition to the rapidly-growing women's communication network, making it possible for many thousands more women to begin communicating with other women. Over 20,000 letters poured into their office after the first issue -- "long, literate, simple, disparate, funny, tragic, and very personal letters from women all over the country," wrote Ms. Each month the magazine printed some of these letters received from women eager to communicate their experiences and information to each other. "Obviously," Ms. wrote, "the need for and interest in a nonestablishment magazine were greater and deeper than even we had thought." It was very clear that women were eager for the communication networks now being created in such great numbers, size and variety.
While each woman on the Ms. staff had her own philosophy, they agreed on one point: they wanted "a world in which no one is born into a subordinate role because of visible difference, whether that difference is of race or of sex." They stressed that they cherished the differences among women and that they want Ms. to be an open forum for many views. "We must learn from each other," they told their readers. "So keep writing. Ms. belongs to us all."
Ms., like other women's media, analyzed the role of mass media relative to women and reported information not available in the mass media. For example, attorney Florynce Kennedy, feminist activist, consistently held the mass media responsible for its lack of coverage of women and minorities, saying "you can turn on the TV and find out the score of some basketball game in Alaska -- but you can't find out how many states have ratified the Equal Rights Amendment. You can turn on the radio, and hear every score in the country repeated all day long -- but you don't hear how many women died from illegal abortions."
Lindsy Van Gelder, a Ms. Contributing Editor, wrotea critique of mass media coverage of the National Women's Conference in Houston, Texas, held November 18-21, 1977, entitled "The Media Version." She explained:
"Sometimes we were simply trivialized,
as in the headline 'It's a Big Day for the Ladies' in the New
York Post (which didn't even bother to send a reporter) or in
Jack Anderson's little aside on ABC about the 'fussing 'n feuding'
over the ERA. The New York Times dumped its opening-day coverage
onto its Family/Style Page. (Would they have put a conference
of airline pilots or nuclear physicists on the Sports Page 'because
men read it'?) A random sampling of national papers was depressing.
The Columbus Dispatch began its Saturday story with a lengthy
description of the 'tired, irritated delegates' waiting for hotel
rooms. . . . The Oregonian ran nothing for its Portland readers
on the Friday opening, and the Wichita Eagle that day carried
not a single news story -- just a syndicated column by Joan Beck,
warning of 'feminine caterwauling.' On Monday, the Evening Bulletin
in Philadelphia put its Houston coverage on the comics page. .
"Probably the worst single journalistic offense of the weekend was the Saturday-night United Press International story and photo, leading not with the conference or even the 'Pro-Family' rally, but with a street scuffle between a few female observers and some white-supremacist male pickets -- an incident most people at the conference didn't even know about. . . ."
In the summer of 1979 Ms magazine converted to a nonprofit, tax-exempt status as the Ms Foundation for Education and Communication. Except for the inability to endorse political candidates, the magazine did not thereafter show any significant difference in content. Greater changes over the years 1972-1983 were the same changes occurring everywhere in the women's movement. Radical for its time when it began publishing, Ms kept up with the pressures, usually internally. For example, in 1973 lesbians on the Ms staff contended that the magazine was not devoting enough space to their issues. Editor-in-chief and publisher Patricia Carbine responded that Ms would be expanding coverage of lesbians, blue-collar women, older women, blacks, and students. She added that the question would always remain before Ms :
"Are we radical enough or not?" As a magazine that competes on the newsstands for both feminist and non-feminist readers, it had to change constantly to meet the new information needs of women.
Big Mama Rag
A third major periodical begun in 1972 was Big Mama Rag, appearing in Denver, Colorado in September. In its first issue it provided an evaluation of the mass media role relative to women. Describing the sexism and the degrading photographs posted in the press room of the Denver County Courthouse, Carol explained. "The same men who put up those pictures are the men who have, at their fingertips, access to the news media that can sway public opinion . The tone and/or bias of their reporting can help to make or break the women's media. I ask myself why feminism is always distorted by the media, why half-nude women are on TV selling shaving cream or tooth-paste, why the women's movement is portrayed as a bunch of howling bra-burning castrating women," she wrote, " look at the men who are writing those stories!"
In the second issue, Big Mama Rag stated that they included articles whose ideas may conflict with each other, as well as with the staff's, because they did not wish to present a limited perspective. The characteristic collective structure, and its relation to this desire for openness, received comment in the third issue, which discussed turn-over in the staff, concern about what they called "group process," and their desire to find ways to bring out each woman's unique contribution.
In June of 1975, the collective of women held a weekend discussion retreat to talk about the ways they could build better communication networks for women and new ways in which they could play a more activist role in the movement. "The purposes of the paper have been defined in a broad context as the communication of news, ideas, to other women, and in a specific context as proving a way for women to get involved in a real way of working to change and enrich their lives," Carol Lease wrote.
The core group was open to any woman willing to commit herself to the work responsibilities and meet twice a week. An open meeting was held on the first Monday of each month at which friends of the periodical could voice any disagreement with the core group decisions and anyone could declare her intention to become involved in the core group. One full time paid staff member covered the office, answered the mail and phone, took care of some communication within the paper, and was in charge of the production of the paper. The following month the women changed the name of "core group" to "collective" for the purpose, they said, of removing any elitist, hierarchical connotations.
At a 1976 Women in Print conference held in Omaha, Nebraska, three members of the Big Mama Rag collective who attended heard women's book publishers stress the importance of women's periodicals reserving their review space for books of the women's press. The Big Mama Rag collective discussed this at the business meeting and decided to print no more reviews of books from male-owned presses unless they felt strongly that women should be warned against one. The desire to support other women's media was again apparent as a strong characteristic of women's periodicals.
Big Mama Rag 's understanding of mass media as a hostile force was also a continuing subject of discussion in the paper. A 1978 editorial analyzed what they considered to be a negative article in the January 2, 1977 New York Times, entitled "Creating a Woman's World," and noted that media trivialized women's issues and sometimes actually created intra-movement struggles. "We must anticipate this and take precautions against it," they wrote. "We must never be influenced by how sympathetic we believe the interviewer to be, the interview must remain strictly on our terms, dealing only with those issues we decide to discuss, not the issues the establishment media choose as being important." Women were urged to select their words carefully when speaking with media because they had so often been played off against each other and portrayed as competing against each other instead of struggling with each other against the same oppressor.
The September 8, 1974 issue of The Denver Post published an article about Big Mama Rag.. "The article, in the best tradition of patriarchal arrogance," the collective wrote about it editorially, "was a smear intended to discredit not only BMR but the women's community in Denver and the entire Feminist movement." The editorial commented on what this meant for women's communication:
"As the women's movement grows this type
of counter-action can be expected to increase. It is important
that we have a clear understanding of what is happening and that
we not be intimidated or divided by the defensiveness and smear
attempts we encounter.
"The Post, realizing the necessity and power of effective communication to a growing movement, made an attempt to cut the heart out of Denver Feminism. By striking at what it considered to be the soft under-bellie [sic] of Feminism (Lesbianism), the Post attempted to destroy one of our major exchange mediums and thus seriously curtain Feminist communication in Denver. "
Four years later Denver women confronted the mass media anew, picketing the Rocky Mountain News over a particularly insulting article on the women's movement. The previous month, on Mother's Day, May 13, 1979, the News had attacked the women's movement in its editorial pages. "The geniuses of the women's movement confected ideas that were uniformly stupid and boring," it wrote. "Every season brought a new liberationist genius spouting a goofball idea whose lifespan would be about equal to that of a summer fly, and for every one autumn would come." The News editor wrote, "It is doubtful that any movement in history ever went so far on so few ideas."
Big Mama Rag gave extensive coverage -- and played an activist role on -- the issue of violence against women and media pornography. When women at the University of Colorado in Boulder "spirited away" a pornographic film being shown on campus, Big Mama Rag reported what took place at the fundraiser by law students: "During the second showing, after the first reel, viewers were shocked as the lights suddenly went up. For a brief moment, they caught a glimpse of a 'woman of medium height with bangs' as she caught the flying 2nd reel of the film in mid-air. Dumbfounded, they saw her hurl it to a second comrade standing near a window. She, in turn, completed a neat throw through the open window" where waiting women carried off the film. Much discussion met efforts that were made to prosecute the women.
Women analyzed the role and affects of pornography on women's lives. "Basic to a feminist analysis of porn is that it reflects and perpetuates the political, economic and cultural exploitation [of women]," wrote Kathy Riley. "Given an understanding of the ways media violence influences behavior -- the basis of many attempts to pressure commercial broadcasting -- we know that porn is a direct threat to our lives and safety; and porn, as part of the culture, contributes to all the destructive myths we've ever been told about ourselves."
Women in Denver, like women across the country, protested against the pornography establishments, and this was reported by Big Mama Rag, which viewed the pornographic media as the segment of the mass media most antagonistic to the welfare of women. One article mentioned media portrayals of violence against women, such as the billboard for the Rolling Stones album "Black and Blue," showing a bound woman with the caption, "I'm black and blue from the Rolling Stones and I love it." They described another with the message of the Bowling Association, which stated in large letters, "BEAT YOUR WIFE" and in small letters, "go bowling tonight."
Big Mama Rag also printed information on the "snuff films," depicting the murder of a woman and advertised as a true murder, committed while filming took place. One article on the "snuff films" reported that a study of the peepshows offered in the Times Square area of New York indicated an increased number of films devoted to bizarre, violent rapes and assaults -- some complete with simulated blood and disfigurement. It specifically mentioned an X-rated film entitled "Charlotte" by director Roger Vadim which told the story of a woman who realized her fantasy of being murdered in the midst of erotic ecstasy.
In a regular column on "struggle," one month's issue was devoted to violence against women. The column included a powerful poem by Ntozake Shange which began: "with no immediate cause / every 3 minutes a woman is beaten / every five minutes a / woman is raped/every ten minutes a lil girl is molested." Big Mama Rag reported the cases of the women who fought back and needed support in the courts. Among them was a black woman named Dessie Woods who defended herself and a friend from a white insurance salesman who attacked them in June 1975 while they were hitchhiking to Atlanta. According to the article, the attacker had pulled off the main road and driven to a deserted area and attempted to rape them, threatening them with death if they did not cooperate. Woods was able to get the gun from him and shot him in the head. Sent to a Georgia prison for 22 years, she underwent nude solitary confinement, forced druggings, and brutal beatings. An appeal was filed on her behalf.
Publicity on such cases was crucial to women, yet it had to be provided by themselves in the absences of mass media reporting. Big Mama Rag told of one case where the raped woman, who was unsuccessful at getting a conviction of the man who raped her, was herself charged with malicious prosecution. Another case involved a young black single mother on welfare in Tacoma, Washington, who had been battered by the man she was living with and defended herself with a gun. Another battered woman went to jail in New York for killing her husband after years of suffering violence and threats against her and her son. Like many other women who defended themselves against violence, Bernadette Powell was given maximum security; she was told she should have known enough to get away the first time she was beaten. In Florida a woman who had been battered all her married life was given 15 years for shooting her husband. She said she had been terrified of her husband, who was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. He had shot her several times, including the night before she, in turn, shot him.
In another case, Big Mama Rag assisted in both publicity and financial support for Eva Williams, a young black woman from Holmes, Mississippi, and mother of three children. She said that her husband physically abused her, often leaving her bleeding or with sprains. She had left their apartment several times (where she was paying the rent) but he often forcibly brought her back. He refused to leave. One time, in August, 1982, when he was slapping her, she got a knife from the kitchen and warned him to leave her alone. He told her she was his wife and that he would do anything he wanted to do. When he grabbed her, she stabbed him. He died. She turned herself in and was taken to jail. She was raped by a deputy sheriff when she was let out of her cell to make a phone call. Without warning she was moved to the state mental hospital in Whitfield, Mississippi. Bond was set at $20,000. Women obtained an attorney at the cost of $2500 and urged readers of Big Mama Rag to contribute. They urged each woman to send $1 and to also spread the word to as many others as possible.
Big Mama Rag ran articles on violence against women elsewhere in the world, as well as other issues facing women internationally. The articles were based almost always on information about women's lives that was omitted from the mass media. These included, for example, articles on the genital mutilation of women commonly practiced in Somalia and elsewhere and articles on women's lives in El Salvador, including a message from women there to women in the United States describing the existence of poverty, illiteracy and malnutrition. Such efforts as these showed women communicating directly to each other, even on an international level, a function common among women's periodicals.
The fact that women's periodicals shared their information with each other, particularly when on an international level, meant that information about women's lives unavailable in the United States, surfaced in women's media. For example, from a women's periodical then published in Mexico, Mujer ILET, Big Mama Rag obtained and reported information on an all-women military battalion fighting in El Salvador.
Big Mama Rag also presented information from and about black women, missing from mass media. Denver formed the second official chapter of the National Alliance of Black Feminists (NABF) in the country. The chapter adopted the national's "Black Women's Bill of Rights" which included as its first point "Accurate Media Portrayal": "The right to a non-racist, non-sexist media image in films, television, radio, newspapers, magazines, books, literature, advertising, and other areas of the mass media -- to media coverage proportionate to her number in the population."
Big Mama Rag reported on the May, 1971 First National Chicana Conference (La Conferencia de Mujeres por la Raza), which was, again, the type of information rarely found in the mass media. It was held in Houston, Texas, with attendance almost double the number that was originally expected. Big Mama Rag also gave coverage to information concerning the lives of Native American Women such as an article on Wounded Knee, South Dakota -- ten years after the massacre, by Shainape Shcapwe. These articles indicate the concern the Big Mama Rag demonstrated for providing information affecting the lives of minority women and multi-cultural aspects of women's lives.
Throughout its coverage of major issues and cases that women were confronting, Big Mama Rag struggled for its own survival. Its regular reports "BMR: Where We're At," kept readers informed of the ups and downs of maintaining a collective structure and of the recurrent financial threats to its existence. The paper was drained by such events as the August 3, 1975 vandalizing of their office. No money was taken but vandals destroyed files, the mailing list, advertisers list, and smashed the typewriters. The struggle for survival was exacerbated by a 7-year legal battle, 1973-1980, with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for tax-exempt status. First denied status in October 1974 by the IRS District Director in Austin, Texas on the grounds that the newspaper was an ordinary commercial publishing venture, that it carried political and legislative comment and that its articles promoted lesbianism, Big Mama Rag appealed to the Federal District Court. This Court turned them down in May 1977 on the grounds that they did not present all sides. Finally, they won on appeal on September 15, 1980 when the Circuit Court of Appeals held that requiring all sides to be presented was a violation of the First Amendment. If Big Mama Rag had been granted its tax-exempt status initially rather than after a lengthy, costly legal battle, the periodical may have been in a better position to survive. After 12 years of feminist reporting, Big Mama Rag printed its last issue in April 1984.
Her-self in Ann Arbor, Michigan began publishing in 1972 and continued into 1977. It expressed the characteristic of women speaking for themselves and therefore carried no editorials. "Editorials are a mechanism by which the owners or editors of a particular paper can force their personal political opinions into the mainstream of the press," they wrote. "The originators of her-self newspaper felt that if her-self allowed editorials, then the paper would become a political tool of whatever group happened to compose its staff. And besides, who can speak for the women in Ann Arbor? Why not let them speak for themselves?" They stressed that it was not fair for publishers of a newspaper to say what is best for a community and that the space is best used for articles directly from the community.
>From the first periodical in March 1968, following through the next five years of the development of women's pioneering women's periodicals, we have seen in depth characteristics unique to women's media. The multi-issue women's periodicals covered issues ignored or distorted by mass media, such as violence against women. They consciously sought to provide information and analysis relating to class and race issues as they effected women. As we saw from chapter two, the roots of many of these pioneering periodicals were in the civil rights, peace, and left movements. Women with experience in the 1960's believed that unless racism and class issues were dealt with, women as a whole could make no real progress. Without challenging racism and class issues along with sexism, only primarily well-off white women would have some doors open to them, but even they would not be able to break all the restrictions and violence they faced without a unified movement. The media women of these early periodicals were clear that the women's media movement needed to be a communication network for all women and that all women needed to be able to communicate their information and experiences directly to others.
Following the pioneer periodicals of the years 1968 to 1972, multi-issue papers proliferated by the hundreds, yet the new papers arose with the same characteristics that had characterized the first group of women's media. Women's communication networks now expanded explosively.
Chapter Three Footnotes
The Voice of the Women's Liberation Movement, June 1969,
2 In subsequent years, for example, Jo Freeman (Identified as Joreen in the Voice), was the author of The Politics of Women's Liberation (NY: David McKay Company, Inc., 1975) and Women: A Feminist Perspective (Palo Alto, CA: Mayfield, 1979). Marilyn Webb was a founder in 1970 of the national women's periodical off our backs. Naomi Weisstien, later a Professor of Psychology, became a nationally known writer following her widely circulated paper, "'Kinder, Kuche, Kirche' As Scientific Law: Psychology Constructs the Female," delivered at a meeting of the American Studies Association in October, 1968. This paper was reprinted in Robin Morgan's Sisterhood Is Powerful , pp. 205-220.
3 "Editorial," Notes from the Second Year, 1970, p. 2.
4 Articles appeared by such women as Joreen (Jo Freeman), editor of the first national newsletter Voice of the Women's Liberation Movement; Ti-Grace Atkinson who was a past president of the New York chapter of the National Organization for Women and became a theorist in the movement; Roxanne Dunbar, a major theorist for the movement and a founder of No More Fun and Games; Kathie Sarachild [Amatniek], of the New York group, Redstockings; and Lucinda Cisler, who compiled a comprehensive bibliography on women and was an expert on the issue of abortion. Notes From The Second Year: Women's Liberation, New York, 1971, 126 pages.
5 In a section entitled "Liberating History," Judith Hole and Ellen Levine wrote about the first feminists in the United States history. Florence Rush, who came into the movement as a member of OWL (Older Women's Liberation) and later edited the National Women's Studies periodicals, wrote an article on women in mid-life. Cellestine Ware, author of Woman Power: Transitions in American Feminism (New York: Tower Publications, 1970), wrote "Black Feminism." Susan Brownmiller, later famous for Against Our Will; Men, Women and Rape, discussed prostitution. The third issue of Notes From the Third Year reprinted "Independence from the Sexual Revolution" by Dana Densmore, a founder of No More Fun and Games, A Journal of Female Liberation and A Theorist of the movement. Mary Daly, author of The Church and the Second Sex (New York: Harper & Row, 1968) wrote an article on the spiritual dimension of women's liberation. The issue also included information on other women's periodicals as well as a selected bibliography of feminist literature compiled by Lucinda Cisler. Notes From the Third Year: Women's Liberation, (New York), 1971, 142 pages.
6 Their articles were frequently used by women in consciousness-raising groups, as for example, Roxanne Dunbar's "Female Liberation as the Basis for Social Revolution", "Caste and Class", and "Who is the Enemy?"; Dana Densmore's "On the Temptation To Be a Beautiful Object", "On Communication", "Who Is Saying Men Are The Enemy", and "On Unity"; Betsy Warrior's "Females and Welfare" and "Slavery or a Labor of Love"; Jayne West's "Tae Kwon Do"; Donna Allen's "The Women's Revolution: The political Significance of the Genetic Differences Between Men and Women"; and Abby Rockefeller's "Sex, The Basis of Sexism'. The journal published previously circulated fliers such as "More Slain Girls" by Dana Densmore and Roxanne Dunbar. No More Fun And Games, A Journal of Female Liberation, issues 1-6.
7 Lindsy Van Gelder, Ms., November 1977.
8 Personal interview with Dana Densmore, Editor, No More Fun And Games: A Journal of Female Liberation, April 18, 1987.
9 Dana Densmore, "On Unity," No More Fun and Games, October 1970, p. 58.
10 Editorial, Women, A Journal of Liberation, Fall 1969, p. 1.
11 Women, A Journal of Liberation, Spring 1970, p. 40.
12 Women, A Journal of Liberation, Spring 1970, p. 40.
13 Women, A Journal of Liberation, Summer 1970, p. 57.
14 Women, A Journal of Liberation, Summer 1970, p. 57.
15 Women, A Journal of Liberation, Summer 1970, p. 58.
16 Anne Mather, "A History of Feminist Periodicals," pp. 43-44.
17 Spazm, 27 July 1969.
18 David Armstrong, A Trumpet to Arms, Alternative Media in America (Boston: South End Press, 1981), p. 55.
19 It Ain't Me Babe, February 1970, p.1.
20 It Ain't Me Babe, 7 April 1970, pp. 11, 14.
21 Hole and Levine, Rebirth of Feminism, pp. 273-274.
22 It Ain't Me Babe, 28 April 1970, p.2.
23 "70 Women Occupy College Newspaper To Obtain News Coverage For Women," Media Report to Women, 1 June 1978, p. 1,6.
24 It Ain't Me Babe, 28 April 1970, pp. 4,13.
25 "You've Come A Long Way Baby, women's magazines 1860-1960," It Ain't Me Babe, 28 April 1970, p. 5,13.
26 Gina, "Written in Anger," It Ain't Me Babe, 28 April 1970, p.6.
27 Anne Henderson, "Machoman," It Ain't Me Babe, 28 April 1970, p. 11.
28 "A Struggle for Identity," It Ain't Me Babe, 6 August 1970, p.2.
29 off our backs, 27 February 1970, p.2.
30 off our backs, 25 April 1970, p.16.
31 off our backs, September 1972, pp. 24-25.
32 Marlene Wicks and Marilyn Salzman-Webb, off our backs, February 1980, pp. 4,5.
33 "Survival/On Our Feet", off our backs, 25 April 1970, p. 16.
34 "Seize the Press, Sisters," off our backs, 25 April 1970, p. 5.
35 Bev Fisher Interview, off our backs, November 1972.
36 off our backs, September 1972, p. 1.
37 Fran Pollner, "turn on, tune in, and take over," off our backs, October 1972, p.4.
38 Media Report to Women, April 1980, p. 6.
39 "a black woman responds to women's liberation" off our backs, 15 April 1971; Dolly Velasco and Carla Fine, article on women in Mexico, off our backs, March 1972, pp. 2-3; "beating the system together: interview with a black feminist," off our backs, October 1973, pp. 2-3; editorial, off our backs, December-January 1974, p. 1; and "black feminists up front," off our backs, December-January 1974, pp. 2-4.
40 "'obb' Philosophy: 'Not Anti-Men But Pro-Women'; End Own Oppression; Provide Own News Coverage," Media Report to Women, April 1980, pp. 1,6.
41 "Women as Spics," And Ain't I A Woman?, May/June 1970, p. 10.
42 Ain't I A Woman?, 21 August 1970, p. 2.
43 "Gay Womanhood," Ain't I A Woman?, (no date, Vol.1, No.1), p.3.
44 Anne Mather, "A History of Feminist Periodicals," p. 86.
45 "Ten-Year-Old Iowa City Women's Press Asks Support To Keep Women's Presses Alive," Media Report to Women, January-February 1983, p. 22.
46 "Editorial," Up From Under, May/June 1970, p. 2.
47 Ronnie Lichtman, "Getting Together: The Small Group in Women's Liberation," Up From Under, May/June 1970, p. 23. The author met every Saturday night with 10 women who had come together through the Resistance (a left organization) mailing list.
48 "A Collective to share responsibilities, ideas, decision-making, as well as menial work," Up From Under, (May/June 1970): 50.
49 "So You Think You Can't Write?, Up From Under January/February 1971, p.42.
50 S.F. Women's Liberation Internal Newsletter, 16 May 1971, p.2.
51 Anne Mather, "A History of Feminist Periodicals," pp. 89-90.
52 Second Coming, 1 December 1970, p.2.
53 Other multi-issue periodicals, similar and therefore not described, of 1970, included: Akamai Sister, Hawaii Women's Liberation in Honolulu, HI; Bread and Roses Newsletter, Cambridge, MA; Coalition Newsletter, Women' Liberation Coalition of Michigan, Detroit; Dayton Women's Liberation, Ohio; Denver Women's Newsletter, CO; Everywoman, Los Angeles, CA; Feminary, Feminist Newsletter, Chapel hill, NC; Feminist Journal, MN; Feminist Times, New York, NY; Front Page, Bloomington Women's Liberation Newsletter, IN; Goodbye to All That, San Diego, CA; Her Own Right, New Orleans, LA; Indianapolis Women's Liberation Newsletter, IN; Just Like A Woman, Atlanta, GA; New Carolina Woman, NC; Pandora, Seattle, WAS; Pandora's Box, San Diego, CA; Sisters, Tallahassee, FL; Spare Rib, Women Mobilized for Change, Chicago, IL; Statues of Liberty, Rochester, NY; Underground Women, St. Louis Women's Liberation, MO; The Way We See It, Springfield, MA; Wildflowers, Isla Vista, CA; Womankind, Louisville, KY; Women's Liberation News, Rhode Island Women's Union, Providence, RI; Women's Press, Eugene, OR; as well as many NOW chapter periodicals.
54 Among the multi-issue periodicals appearing in 1971 but not described were: A Change Is Gonna Come, and Bay Area Women's Liberation Newsletter, San Francisco, CA; Aradia, put out by the Pittsburgh Radical Women's Union and The Opening in Pennsylvania; Best Friends, Albuquerque Women's Liberation, New Mexico; Born a Woman, Los Angeles, CA; The Changing Woman, Portland, OR; Common Woman, Berkeley, CA; Cry Out, Roanoke Valley Women's Coalition, Virginia; Feelings and Half of Brooklyn Newsletter, Brooklyn, NY; Feminist Voice, Chicago, IL: Gold Flower, Minneapolis, MN; Lancaster Women's Liberation, PA; Mountain Moving Day, Carbondale, IL; New Woman, Florida; On Our Way and Second Wave: A Magazine of the New Feminism, Cambridge, MA; On the Way , Anchorage, Alaska; Progressive Woman, Indiana; Raising Cain, Women United, Women Today and Women in Action, Washington, DC; 2nd Revolution, San Diego, CA; Sisters in Solidarity, Women's Liberation of Denver, CO; Sisters Stand, Salt Lake City, UT; S. O. S Speak Out Sisters and Through the Looking Glass, Philadelphia, PA; To, For, By & About Women, Charlotte, NC; Velvet Glove, Livermore, CA; Woman's Journal, Northampton, MA; Woman's World (later Feminist Revolution), New York, NY; Women and Revolution, NY/CA; Women Are Powerful, Riverside, CA; Women as Women as Women, Kansas City, KS; Women for Change, Dallas, TX; and many more periodicals affiliated with NOW.
55 "About Us," Majority Report, 10 May 1971, p.2.
56 "Enuff," editorial, Majority Report, 6-20 March 1976, p.2.
57 Mary Lou Fox, "Made in the Media, Where Talk Is Cheap," Majority Report, 6-20 March 1976, p.4. The name makes reference to the promotion for the films which claims it was made in Latin America "where life is cheap." Latin American nationals and others joined the women in also protesting the racism of the film.
58 Teddy Holt, "Inez Garcia in New York City," Majority Report, 20 March 3 April 1976, pp.3,14.
59 Lorraine Glemby, "Crimes Against Women. To Kick Media's Ass, Aim Foot at Sponsors," Majority Report, 6-20 March 1976, p.12.
60 "Editorial Notes," Aurora, issue 3, 1972, p.4.
61 Anne Mather, "A History of Feminist Periodicals," pp. 94-95.
62 Interview with Paula Kassell, founder of New Directions for Women, November 12, 1986.
63 Interview with Paula Kassell, founder of New Directions for Women, November 12, 1986.
64 Maurine Beasley and Sheila Gibbons, Women in Media: A Documentary Source Book (Washington, D.C.: Women's Institute for Freedom of the Press, 1977), pp. 119-120.
65 Maurine Beasley and Sheila Gibbons, Women in Media, p.121.
66 Maurine Beasley and Sheila Gibbons, Women in Media, p.121.
67 Maurine Beasley and Sheila Gibbons, Women in Media, p.121.
68 Maurine Beasley and Sheila Gibbons, Women in Media, p.124.
69 Maurine Beasley and Sheila Gibbons, Women in Media, p.125.
70 "The Verbal Karate of Florynce R. Kennedy, Esq.," Ms., March 1973, p.89.
71 Lindsy Van Gelder, "The Media Version," Ms., March 1978.
72 Martin Arnold, "Ms Magazine, A Success After 16 Issues, Now Tries Other Business Ventures," New York Times, 21 September 1973, p. C-7.
73 Carol, "Denver County Courthouse, Big Mama Rag Meets the Press," Big Mama Rag, (Denver, Colorado), (no date, Vol.1, No.1), p. 12. The author used only her first name, as was commonly done, particularly in the early years of women's media, in keeping with the characteristic concern for equality among women. She was, most likely, Carol Lease.
74 "Editorial Policy," Big Mama Rag, (no date, Vol.1, No.2), p.2; "Where We're At," Big Mama Rag, (no date, Vol.1, No.3), p.3.
75 Carol Lease, "BMR: Where We're At," Big Mama Rag, June 1975, p.4.
76 "BMR: Where We're At," Big Mama Rag, July 1975.
77 "bmr: Where We're At," Big Mama Rag, October 1976, p.4.
78 "Editorial: Dealing with the Establishment Media," Big Mama Rag, July/August 1978, p.4.
79 "Editorial," Big Mama Rag, October 1974, p.4.
80 "Media Picket the News," Big Mama Rag, June 1979, p.1.
81 "Law School Shows Porn Feminists Purloin Porno Film At CU," Big Mama Rag, January/February 1976, p.4.
82 Kathy Riley, "Analysis: Tread Lightly on the 1st Amendment," Big Mama Rag, November/December 1977, p.1.
83 "Legal Defense Forms for 'Bluebird 5' Anti-Porn Trial," Big Mama Rag, November/December 1977, p.1. The paper reported, for instance, the arrest of five women in October 1977 for spray painting and plastering with leaflets a theater which regularly showed pornography films. That same morning numerous pornography theaters, bookstores, massage parlors and bus stop billboards in Denver and the suburbs were observed and other slogans. The women spent the night and next day in jail before being released on their own recognizance. They were charged with destruction of property, a city ordinance violation carrying maximum penalty of $300 and 90 days in jail. A defense committee formed among women who felt that action must be taken to expose the role of pornography on the lives of women.
84 Constance Perenyi, ed., "Del Martin On Violence Against Women," Big Mama Rag, November 1979, p.9.
85 "Misogynistic 'Snuff' Films: Murder as Entertainment," Big Mama Rag, November 1975. The article stated that FBI agents and police in late 1975 under took a nationwide investigation into the "snuff films" which were "reportedly available to a select clientele for private viewing at a cost of $1500 for a collection of eight reels." Detective Sgt. Joseph Horman of the New York Police Department's Organized Crime Control Bureau stated: "I am quite convinced that these films exist and that a person is actually murdered. I suppose you could say they are the ultimate in obscenity." Horman said he base his belief on "extremely reliable underworld sources." The sequence in the "snuff films," of which there are said to be more than one, begins with sex acts between an actress and one or more actors. A knife is produced and the horrified woman, clearly unaware of the true nature of her role, is stabbed to death and then savagely dismembered. "Within recent weeks, a private showing of the film was reportedly held before a small closed location in New York City," the article stated. "The purpose of the showing was to sell the movie, and the views were charged $200 each for the mere privilege of witnessing it." The term "snuff film" came from Charles Manson who frequently used the term "snuff" to mean murder. The phrase came into being when it was reported after Manson's arrest that his clan had filmed ritual murders committed during the late 1960's. A Pornography film director in California said he heard reports circulating that a producer was looking for an actress to take part in a murder film. "I heard rumors about six months ago that a producer offered a large amount of money to someone who would be murdered on film," the pornographer stated. "Hopefully, nothing came of it."
86 Ntozake Shange, "Struggle Rape And Patriarchy," Big Mama Rag, May 1979, p.7.
87 "Black Woman Framed, Dessie Woods," Big Mama Rag, November/December 1977, p.3.
88 "Man Drops Suit Against Woman He Raped," and "Rape Victim Talks About a Nightmare With the Law," Big Mama Rag, November 1979, p.3; "Rape Victim Tried," Big Mama Rag, April 1979, p.1. According to the article, Lori Johnston of Portland, Oregon, had gone out with Riley Henderson on August 19, 1976, the night of the rape. Her roommate witnessed her leaving with him and return hours later vomiting, sobbing uncontrollably, with dress torn and purse broken. A grand jury indicted Henderson and the trial was set but the District Attorney's office struck a bargain with Henderson's lawyer and the case was dropped. Johnston began joining rape discussion groups and taking self defense classes when Henderson filed suit against her for malicious prosecution. When she started publicizing her case she faced harassment. Eventually Henderson dropped his suit against her. The Lori Johnston Support Committee stressed the implications of the case: "women who go through with the difficult decision and traumatic process of prosecuting their rapists run the risk of retaliation through the legal system. And rape cases are extremely difficult to prove."
89 "Women Continue to Fight Back: New Trial Set For Sharon Crigler," Big Mama Rag, February 1980, p. 8. According to Big Mama Rag, Sharon Crigler was able to make him move out after a severe beating and had instructed her apartment manager no to give him a key or allow him entrance to her apartment. A week later the assailant, Keith Rolland, returned to her apartment to harass and threaten her. She called the police and notified them that he was armed. Police arrested him on a warrant for traffic violations and asked the apartment manager not to let him into the building. The manager ignored the request of the woman and the police and ended up giving Rolland a master key. When he attempted to enter her apartment, she was frightened for her life and that of their four year old son. She warned him that she would shoot if he did not leave. Charged with first degree manslaughter, she won a second trial as a result of her appeal in April 1979.
90 "Bernadette Powell is Convicted," Big Mama Rag, February 1980, p.8.
91 "Trust In the Law?," Big Mama Rag, January 1980.
92 "Eva Williams: Target For Punishment," Big Mama Rag, June 1983, p.14.
93 A Report by Judy Barlow titled "Genital Mutilation of Somalian Women," Big Mama Rag, June 1978, p.3, indicates the seriousness of the problem of genital mutilation. A Somalian woman named Fatima, then living in England, described her experience.
94 Articles also told of their strikes and marches, and the organization they formed in 1978 called AMES.
95 Mujer ILET, (Mexico) April 1983, quoted in "Guerilla Victory," Big Mama Rag, August/September 1983, p.9. Mass media did not tell women about many things that women were very interested, for instance information about the women's battalion in El Salvador called "Sylvia," named after a woman guerrilla who, in August 1981, was captured, raped and murdered by the paramilitary organization of the El Salvadoran government. The battalion, formed in December of that year by women in the Armed Liberation Forces, was made up of three squads with seven women in each of them and was the first women-only military group to come out of the insides of a revolution. In March 1982 the Sylvia Battalion defended Cerro Malacara, a strategic point, against the elite Battalion Atlacatl, men who were trained and armed by the United States. "Women Battalions in El Salvador The Revolutionary Forces For Liberation," Big Mama Rag, August/September 1983, pp. 8-9.
96 Peg Hickox, "Black Feminist Group Organizes," Big Mama Rag, October 1976, pp. 1, 14.
97 "First National Chicana Conference a Success," Big Mama Rag, 14 June 1971, p.1. Workshops discussed the Chicana perspective on marriage, the feminist movement, politics, and education, and it adopted a resolution that women must control their bodies and their lives. They resolved that Chicanas want free, legal abortions for the Chicano community, controlled by Chicanas, and 24-hour childcare. Major talks Friday and Saturday nights discussed "The Mexican-American Women's Public and Self - Image" and "Machismo -- What we are up against."
98 Shainape Shcapwe, "Wounded Knee, S.D. Ten Years Later," Big Mama Rag, June 1983, p.5.
99 Press Release, Big Mama Rag Collective, August 8, 1975.
100 "Big Mama Rag vs. The Internal Revenue Service," Big Mama Rag, October 1980, p. 1.
101 "A Newspaper With No Editorials?," her-self, April 1973, p. 1.