“What would a women-centered magazine look like?”
Back in February, the question was posed by two students during a discussion in a Woman’s Psychology lecture. Two months later, Lizzie Lane, LSA senior and Haena Kim, LSA junior — along with the executive board, artists and writers they assembled around them — put out their first magazine, a wo-manifesto answering just that.
“What the F: Your Monthly Periodical,” winner of the 2012 Women’s Studies Department’s Feminist Practice Award, is the first ever woman-centered, feminist publication at the ‘U.’ Though they’re as new as they are groundbreaking, the entire staff has their eyes set for big things in the coming academic year.
“It’s really amazing how well and fast things came together,” said Lane, now co-president and Editor in chief of the magazine. “Especially since we all came into this project without any experience in publication. All we had was a passion for women’s health.”
But what about the veritable glut of magazines that already categorize themselves as woman’s health?
“Most woman’s magazines today are not woman-centered, they’re him-centered or sexually centered and rely on stereotypes, but they never portray a complete picture of womanhood,” Lane said. “But the problem is also in target demographics, which are almost exclusively white, upper-class, educated and heterosexual. It’s just too narrow a definition of womanhood — it isn’t real.”
Instead of selling a packaged ideal of womanhood, “What the F” is an inclusive invitation to a conversation, by women, for women.
“We’re trying to spread feminism to the masses — it’s our goal, but we’re not a crusading feminist publication that is in your face with an agenda,” said Jen Spears, co-president for “What the F.” “Rather, we’re trying to reach women who don’t necessarily call themselves feminists, who find that the material in the magazine resonates with them.”
Too often, Spears and Lane explained, feminism is dismissed as an exclusionary movement, stereotyped as angry and man-hating, but this image is completely misconstrued. And “What the F” is here to change that.
“For example, this October we’re doing a spread on presidential candidates and their platforms on woman’s health issues,” Spears said. “But because we work to bring facts and not conclusions, we are able to bring political information into the magazine unbiased and with the intention of sparking conversations among woman on the subjects.”
Though campaign politics are in high gear and well-covered in the magazine, it’s only a small fraction of what “What the F” is all about. As you flip through and read an article on music juxtaposed against a spread titled “How do I know when I have a yeast infection?,” it becomes clear that everything goes.
“We’re really new to this and everything is still developing and taking form,” said Eria McTurk, Visual Editor in Chief for “What the F” and a senior in the Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design. “We’ve tried to go a little more editorial in the October issue, focusing on individual women and their voice, in the same vein as the ‘New Yorker.’ ”
The magazine is also doing an in-depth look into almost a dozen forms of birth control, debating pros and cons of each, how they actually work and are used in a frank, informed way, Spears explained.
For those familiar with “What the F” ’s first issue this spring, there are many returning and continuation pieces in subsequent issues. Pieces like “Origin of the Word,” which previously traced the origin of “dildo” and now tackles “condom,” are back. So, too, is the completely anonymous column, submitted to the magazine under the pen name Ivana Happycooch.
“We’re really glad this column is back,” McTurk said. “There isn’t a place anywhere else on campus where someone can share their story with people while still maintaining anonymity. It’s a safe space.”
Another facet is the magazine’s VAJA2, which is a bulletin board for events, speakers and functions related to women’s health around campus and Ann Arbor.
One big change this fall is that “What the F” will be published in full color, giving the original art in the magazine even more bite. Color just gives everything more presence in the magazine and we’re exited to be printing in it, McTurk said.
Lane explained how they want “What the F” to grow and mature as a group.
“We weren’t organized as first,” Lane said. “We couldn’t be, we were learning as we went. Now we’re really trying to grow our permanent member base and we’re also beginning to partner with other organizations like AIDS walk and the Susan G. Coleman Breast Cancer Foundation.”
Their hope is to turn “What the F” into a social movement on campus, creating a tangible space for woman’s health and wellness on campus.
“There is real passion, a real spark driving this thing now and it’s only the beginning of a long and vital conversation,” said Lane. “It’s growing and it’s exiting. And it’s exciting because for the first time, these issues are on campus, in print, in an unapologetically honest way.