To kick off the new year, The Feminist Library will be hosting a variety of talks, workshops and story-sharing as part of the recently launched Women’s Studies Without Walls — an initiative set out to encourage further exploration into feminist issues through learning and sharing skills, experience, and information. This weekend’s events will focus on the topic of ‘The Personal is Political’ and will feature film shows, feminist fiction writing workshops, women’s self defence classes and a wide range of open discussions.
WSWW commences this Saturday followed by a weekly series of evening events at the Feminist Library. For further information or to view the full program visit feministlibrary.co.uk.
Taking its title from the concept of traditional women’s magazines constantly degrading us due to lack of designer wardrobe/überly attractive partner/perfected physical appearance, KnockBack Magazine is an A5-sized package of feminist fun.
Having launched its debut issue with the tagline “The magazine for women who aren’t silly bitches on a diet”, the publication with tongue in cheek humour and razor sharp wit is currently on its sixth issue.
Twin caught up with contributions editor Hilary Hazard to talk about modern feminism, independent zine making and the joys of not taking life too seriously…
As a self-described “anti-Cosmopolitan”, how did KnockBack Magazine come about and what is the mantra behind it?
KnockBack (KB) was started because there weren’t any magazines talking to us. Sure we wear high heels and mascara, but we also have ideas and think being mean about someone because they look bad is worse than looking bad. We value good manners and good times and we were bored of being patronised by women’s media. We also wanted to show that ‘light hearted’ doesn’t have to mean ‘idiotic’ we can do low-brow and intelligent and good looking. We can, and we did.
What does feminism mean to you today?
I really don’t know anymore. I thought I had it down and it was just about respect but then a proper feminist kicked me in the shin and now they make me nervous.
KB aims to occupy the middle ground between political feminism – which is all female circumcision and rape statistics* – and women’s pop culture, which is all deodorant and celebrities. They are the two extremes of the female experience, KB is the happy medium.
*not a million miles from the comment I made just before getting kicked in the shin.
Issue themes have ranged from Hardcore to Smoke and Mirrors. How do you decide on the concept of each issue and what is the process of producing an independent zine like?
We use the themes as a guideline to be ignored in the face of something better. The process is a slow one, everything has to be perfect (it isn’t) and everyone has to work hard (we don’t). The problem with working independently, with no advertisers, deadlines or money, is that when we have meetings we also have bottles of wine and parties and lie-ins and days off and roast dinners.
Who are your feminist icons?
Jane Bussman (author of The Worst Date Ever), Tank Girl and my Nan, because they’re fearless and funny and they work hard. My Nan got alopecia when she was 27 so spent her whole life bald as a melon. When we were kids we’d wait until she was in the shower and then steal her wig so she had to chase us while we ran away screaming. She is a tough old broad, but she is also confident and content and that’s a massive challenge for modern women, even skinny ones with pretty hair. Most women spend their whole lives thinking they’re fat and ugly and comparing themselves to people who are thinner and prettier, my Nan just got on with it.
Jane Bussman is a comedy writer who went to Uganda because of a handsome US aid worker and subsequently wrote a book that somehow manages to bridge the gap between comedy and horrific war crimes, corruption and a child army (which is a f*cking big gap). And I like Tank Girl’s shoes.
We find feminist icons in women who are cool to each other and are proud to be women and are good at it. The KB hero is Tina Fey (Liz Lemon), because she’s funny and she loves sandwiches.
Who is the typical KB reader?
Students doing PhD’s in women’s studies, and the editor of The Spectator.
There is always a humorous tone to KB, is this an attempt to put a bit more fun back into the publishing industry?
It’s partly because funny women are something we set out to celebrate, and we really don’t take ourselves seriously at all. But also if we did straight down the line feminism stuff then only feminists would read KB, this isn’t for them, they’ve got forums all over the shop. Plus we’re funny women and it’s ours so it would be weird to make it serious.
What can we expect from the next upcoming issue?
A long wait, a snazzy cover and some jokes (but not as many as we’d like because half the team had babies or got married and everyone’s too exhausted to stay angry).
Last but not least, what are some KB words of wisdom to live by?
If it’s not funny, don’t do it, if it’s not free don’t eat it and f*ck cupcakes.