Taking gloss to task, nothing seems to slip through the watching eye of the Vagenda team. Launched in February this year, Vagenda is made up of a collection of anonymous industry moles, as well as recent graduates.
Whether it’s hilariously showing the way stock photos reinforce gender stereotypes, or lampooning the predictability of women’s magazine features, Vagenda are a sharp and funny redress to the all too often complacent way what women want to read is construed in mainstream media.
Twin spoke to Vagenda’s editor about their work and world…
Who and what is the Vagenda?
The Vagenda takes a humorous look at the women’s magazine industry and how it perpetuates anti-feminist stereotypes. We feel that laughter is the best weapon. In terms of who, well, we are a group of girls in our twenties living in London. Holly and I edit it and came up with the concept but the others have been instrumental in providing hilarious and witty content for the blog and producing great ideas. Most of us went to uni together. However, since the blog launched and became so popular we’ve had contributors from all over the world- EVEN MEN!
What’s your earliest feminist memory?
Mine personally was being a toddler in London’s Dartmouth Park and a much older boy (he must have been about six) asking me, “Are you a boy or a girl?” My mum had just given me a pudding bowl haircut and I remember feeling outraged. I’m sure the others all have their own memories too.
What do you feel is wrong with modern women’s media, mags etc?
It’s our feeling that the content alienates a lot of women. It’s very body focused and a lot of the time pretty stupid. The way female celebrities are portrayed, especially when they are going through some kind of crisis and trauma, is often cruel. There’s little to no focus on politics or art or music, or any of the fun stuff we like doing.
What makes the Vagenda team angry?
We all vary. We try to steer away from polemic on the site as it can be alienating, but obviously women’s mags drive us crazy a lot of the time. We also had a really terrible night out in Soho not long ago where the DJ at Punk nightclub was urging women to flash their “gash for cash”. We were pretty angry about that, and one of us cried. The way rape cases are reported in the press is also incredibly anger inducing.
What three changes would make the world a better place?
Only three? That’s a tough question as there are so many changes that need to be made and women in the developing world are being treated appallingly. For this country, however:
1/ A greater understanding on the part of men that the division of domestic labour is still pretty unequal. We’re the ones who are still, in the main part, having to scrub the toilet bowl, yet often this type of women’s “work” goes unrecognized. Equal pay and more flexible working hours would be nice, too.
2/ Better sex education in schools. It’s mostly crap and if young women are growing up with their only source of this information being women’s magazines, of course they are going to start subscribing to a manufactured version of female sexuality.
3/ We’d obviously like it if the media started giving a more balanced view of women and femininity. And we’re going to keep calling them out on it and laughing at them until they are embarrassed into doing it.
Who are Vagenda’s heroes?
We have so many. The UK is fortunate in that we have many incredible women journalists who are already out there giving the patriarchy hell. We love Eva Wiseman, Suzanne Moore, Caitlin Moran, Harriet Walker, Helen Lewis, Laurie Penny, Hadley Freeman, Rosamund Urwin. For every great woman journalist, however, there seem to be umpteen ones who don’t give a toss about female equality and instead write complete and utter drivel, which is sad.
What’s Vagenda’s approach to fashion?
Each of us has a different approach. I’d say a lot of us wear vintage and secondhand clothes, but some wear high street too. I personally have been boycotting Topshop for over a year now but I don’t know about the others. I used to have a bit of a shopping addiction and my house is so full I have no need to shop anymore. Fashion is great as a tool for personal expression, but that’s not to say that there aren’t aspects of the industry that make me feel a bit sick. Those flowery trousers, for example. We all have some pretty mental garments tucked away and that’s fine. But when a magazine is actively trying to get you to look mental, then there is a problem.
What does the future look like?
Not vagina-shaped, that’s for sure. At the moment, it’s a cross between Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror, Orwell’s 1984 and the Handmaid’s Tale. In other words, pretty shit. But we’re staying chipper and fighting the power in our own small way.