"We were social revolutionaries. We wanted to create a dialogue and reach as many women as possible." Marsha Rowe
Spare Rib magazine, founded in 1972, was an essential platform for (and attempt at) intersectional feminism in the United Kingdom during a burgeoning feminist movement. Its radical content and powerful storytelling challenged societal norms and shed light on the experience of women beyond the biblical Adam's Rib notion of women as nothing more than a support system for men.
Spare Rib launched around the same time as another iconic feminist publication: Gloria Steinem's Ms. in the US. However, as Rowe explains, the two were very different. "They had the same management structure as other women's magazines, a secretary and all that! We wanted to do things differently and we didn't have the huge money they did."
At a time when women's voices were often silenced or dismissed, Spare Rib provided a safe haven for expression and solidarity. The magazine fearlessly tackled a wide range of issues such as reproductive rights, domestic violence, workplace discrimination, and the struggle for LGBTQ+ rights. Insightful articles, personal narratives, and captivating artwork encouraged women to question the status quo and find strength in their shared experiences.
Spare Rib was not just a publication - it was a community.
It actively sought to empower women by offering practical advice on self-care, self-defense, and sexual health. By doing so, it provided tools to help women assert their autonomy and navigate a world that frequently ignored their concerns. The magazine also celebrated the accomplishments of women, shining a spotlight on their contributions in various fields, from art and literature to politics and activism.
With its open and inclusive approach, Spare Rib recognized the importance of intersectionality long before it became a mainstream concept. It dedicated space to discussions on race, class, disability, and sexuality, acknowledging that feminism could not be separated from other systems of oppression. The magazine amplified the voices of marginalized women and challenged the predominantly white, middle-class feminist narrative that often failed to address their unique struggles.
How do we fight oppression and create solidarity?
Dear Reader, One of the ongoing discussions in our collective has been on racism. We would like your participation so that we can develop a dialogue. Our discussions have been long and painful and have not ended in any conclusions […] Do definitions matter? What questions have to be asked? What is Black? What is white? […] How do we fight oppression and create solidarity?
(Spare Rib Magazine - from Issue 127 published in 1983)
Spare Rib ceased publication in 1993 due to financial constraints. However, its impact continues to reverberate within feminist movements across the globe. Many of the issues it addressed are still relevant today, underscoring the need for ongoing activism and dialogue.
You can now Download All 239 Issues of Spare Rib Free Online !!!
PS I’ll keep doing more Zine history posts to keep us inspired and aware of possibility. xo
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Amy (she/they) is the co-founder of Missing Witches and co-author of Missing Witches: Reclaiming True Histories of Feminist Magic and New Moon Magic: 13 Anti-Capitalist Tools for Resistance and Re-Enchantment.