Smoke Spotlight: Women's Magazines

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Women's magazines have come a long way from the days of dieting tips, questionable relationship advice, and the circling of so-called flaws on the bodies of celebrities. Oh no wait, that still happens. But there certainly has been progress made in the sector. Around the world, women are launching publications online and offline to fill gaps in the mainstream media. A new breed of women’s magazines has stormed the independent publishing world, answering a demand for a more rounded reading experience. They’ve been addressing issues in ways they haven’t been tackled before, reflecting interests in an engaging way, and even building communities through these platforms.

This shift in women’s magazines goes to show there is an appetite for more socially-aware and diverse content, particularly from millennials and Generation Z who are behind a lot of these new titles. It’s also part of the new landscape charities are now operating in, with younger audiences choosing to engage with social issues and causes through media that entertains them. Charities should take note of how these brands are building communities, engaging audiences in a way that’s relevant to them, and creating things people want to spend their time reading.

Here's what's on our reading list:

Roundtable Journal

Roundtable Journal (RT) is a biannual publication and website here to start conversations about representation, stereotyping, unattainable beauty standards, and more. It covers self, art, politics, and womanism through interviews, photo essays, and thoughtful articles. RT was founded in 2017 by Wase Aguele, Ayoade Bamgboye, and Nicolle Nyariri, who decided to create something that they'd like to read.

Gurls Talk

Founded by model Adwoa Aboah, Gurls Talk is a platform that aims to be a safe place for girls to talk about topics that are hard for many to open up about, such as mental health, body image and sexuality. Aboah, who has been open about her own history of addiction and depression, set up the website after realising girls aren’t always given the tools they need to help deal with mental illness and other issues.

Riposte

Riposte is a biannual magazine that celebrates women for their achievements. Each issue profiles 5 women, ranging from artists to activists, and discusses their work, successes, failures, and views. Riposte’s cover has been graced by the likes of trans activist Janet Mock and design extraordinaire Nelly Ben Hayoun, whose projects often draw inspiration from social movements. The magazine’s features also cover a range of topics including art, design, business, politics, and travel.

Teen Eye

If you want to take the pulse of Gen Z and find out what they’re up to and what they care about, Teen Eye is a good place to start. The online magazine is created exclusively by teenagers and focuses on art, fashion, and culture. It also explores the social issues within these spheres, with features that discuss racism, feminism, gender, and more. The magazine aims to give teens a voice and a place they'll be taken seriously as well as spotlight young creatives and inspire the next generation.

Filmme Fatales

Realising there were no publications talking about films from a feminist perspective, Brodie Lancaster decided to start her own and launched Filmme Fatales in 2013. The zines are full of thought pieces and essays about women on screen and sexism in cinema and each topic is approached in an accessible way. No more issues are planned for the foreseeable future but Lancaster has said we might not have seen the last of the zine.

Rainfall

Launched by activist and author Daw Pyo Let Han in 2015, Rainfall is Myanmar's first feminist magazine. Pyo Let Han wants to change gender norms in the country where men dominate leadership positions and violence against women is widespread, saying in an interview, “I like to break out of the traditions and the cultural and social norms. I make women think about their social status as second class citizens.”

The Gentlewoman

Featuring interviews with inspirational, contemporary figures and focusing on personal style, The Gentlewoman is a fashion magazine with a fresh perspective that steers clear of fantasy. The biannual has cultivated a loyal following since its launch in 2010 through celebrating modern women and their achievements and its covers have been graced by the likes of Beyoncé, Angela Lansbury and Simone Biles.

FANATIC

The closure of popular Japanese street style magazine FRUiTS and the end of KERA Magazine's print edition in 2017 left many people feeling pessimistic over the state of Harajuku fashion. However, four women from Tokyo's Bunka Fashion College are proving the street style scene in the district is still alive and well. FANATIC is a free independent magazine created by students Haruka, Rizna, Fuki, and Mei that features street snaps, interviews, editorial shoots, and articles. Publishing four issues a year, they hope to capture the current era of fashion and culture in Harajuku through a more permanent medium than social media.

OOMK

OOMK (One of My Kind) is a London-based publishing collective led by Rose Nordin, Sofia Niazi, Heiba Lamara, and Sabba Khan. Their OOMK Zine is centred around female creativity and spirituality while exploring topics like faith, activism, and identity. The zine originally focused on Muslim creatives but now spotlights and takes contributions from women of all backgrounds.