How Can Women Better Help Other Women?

The powerhouse teams behind five independent Canadian women’s mags weigh in

Katherine Singh
A set of hands collaborating in the middle of a circle with a bunch of rays in the background
(Photo: Joel Louzado)

For as long as I can remember, women’s magazines have been a touchstone in my life: strewn around my pre-teen bedroom, carted from sleepover to sleepover in high school, and more recently, saved as favourites in my browser, on the off chance I can steal a few minutes during the day or on my commute. And while I may not have realized it when I was taking a quiz on which Jonas Brother I’d marry in Seventeen (Nick, fyi) or learning about women’s health issues like the *actual* risk of getting toxic shock syndrome from tampons, women’s magazines allowed me to learn not only about myself, but also the experiences of others. Women’s mags always felt like a safe space. 

But, just because women’s mags are beloved by some, definitely doesn’t mean they’re beloved by all. This industry has been critiqued on just about everything, from the accusations that women’s magazines sell fake feminism and present limited portrayals of women, to assertions that these outlets tear down the women they’re meant for. Perhaps the most fundamental criticism, though, is one that women’s mags have been grappling with forever: that they’re fluff. Sexist critics *still* can’t seem to grasp that women can love the latest gossip about the Kardashians and want to know more about their electoral candidates. And TBH, those critics’ real message is clear: By characterizing women’s magazines as shallow and lacking substance, they’re saying that, by extension, the women who read them are, too. And that just doesn’t work for us.

Because, if anything, women’s magazines are more necessary than ever. With women *still* fighting for equal pay and reproductive rights on both sides of the border, and with marginalized communities continuing to be targeted, it’s never been more important for women to listen to each other and work together. 

With this is mind, we turned to the the women behind some fantastic Canadian women’s magazines; the people and publications who have seen a need, a readership unmet and have aimed to fill it. In honour of International Women’s Day 2019, we asked the teams at Sophomore, Lez Spread the Word, The GIST, Shameless and GUTS Magazine a very important question: How can women can better help other women?

And they had some thoughts—mainly, we’re better and stronger when we work together.

The team at Sophomore

From left, Cassidy Allan, Jody Anderson, Stephanie Rotz, Maia Grecco, Patricia Gavidia, Ruchika Gothoskar, Alexandra Gallant, Trang Be Sophie Margolian, Amy McNeil, Ramna Safeer, Alicia Churilla Jeanine Brito, Raizel Harjosubroto, Tamara Jones, Nicole Tinker (Photo: Sophomore magazine)
From left, Cassidy Allan, Jody Anderson, Stephanie Rotz, Maia Grecco, Patricia Gavidia, Ruchika Gothoskar, Alexandra Gallant, Trang Be Sophie Margolian, Amy McNeil, Ramna Safeer, Alicia Churilla Jeanine Brito, Raizel Harjosubroto, Tamara Jones, Nicole Tinker (Photo: Sophomore magazine)

“Women can better help women by listening to each other, by amplifying the voices that aren’t as loud and by showing up for each other. There is a lot of noise online, but without listening and amplifying the stories of other women, how will we know what’s going on in the communities that we’re not a part of? How will we know what women need? We can show up for each other by unlearning our own biases, creating spaces and opportunities for other women where possible, and by celebrating each other’s growth. But, supporting women doesn’t necessarily mean supporting everything we do. Showing up for each other requires holding other women accountable for their actions and for their growth. We have to work towards building compassionate and supportive communities in an age when transactional relationships have become the norm.”

Lez Spread the Word 

(Photo: Lez Spread the Word)

“Now, more than ever, valuing and giving visibility to other women’s artistic work, passions and struggles is a necessity. We strongly believe in the power of collaboration. We’re stronger when we join powers and when we truly try to understand each other’s realities. While it can be challenging at time, by doing so, we often come to the realization that we have the same goal and end result in mind.

We’ve come a long way, but we still need more women promoting each other’s work in a positive and constructive way by being out and visible. It’s normal for women to want to see their realities reflected back at them, and that’s what we need to do more of, everyday: continue to join forces, work on intergenerational points of views and devote even more of our energy representing the diversity of all the women around us.

We are so thrilled that LSTW continues to allow us to freely express ourselves and bring together supporters and allies who excel in their fields and have a burning desire to contribute to a community that is still (too) often invisible.”

The GIST

From left, co-founders Jacie deHoop, Roslyn McLarty and Ellen Hyslop (Photo: The GIST)

“Unfortunately, while working in the corporate world [co-founders Jacie deHoop, Roslyn McLarty and Ellen Hyslop graduated from Queen’s University’s commerce program and previously worked in financial services], we noticed that there can be a mentality that there’s only room for one woman at the table. And as a result, there’s sometimes competition among women. We think there’s room for all women at the table. So much more can happen when you collaborate with other women, celebrate their successes, mentor them and bring women up with you. There are so many positives to corporate culture when companies and employees have this mentality. 

From The GIST‘s perspective, we’re always trying to highlight and collaborate with female athletes (currently only 4% of sports media coverage is on female athletes), female sports writers and women who work on the business side of sports. For our events, we work with other female-founded businesses. From a product perspective, we’re all about empowering women through sports content and experiences so that she has the choice to be part of the conversation and community.”  

Sheila Sampath, Editor-in-Chief of Shameless

(Photo: Sheila Sampath)

“I think that collaboration versus competition [among women] is really important… For us to be able to fully embrace this idea of helping each other, which I’m going to call a ‘feminist future,’ it requires us to always think of dismantling harm or striving for healing. If systems of oppression work on  three levels—institutional, interpersonal and internal—then our path to healing and to supporting one another has to happen on these three levels. Oftentimes, people who do really good public work might work on an institutional level but still harm people in the process by not focusing on the interpersonal or by not focusing on the internal; people who do a lot of personal work, that’s really great, but it also has to translate to how we treat other people. Support has to happen in multiple ways. We have to build structures for support while supporting each other and also while undoing the effects of patriarchy and colonialism and capitalism, on our own. [It’s] always thinking about how everything we do can translate to be multiple levels; that if we ignore any one of those in our practice or our politic or work or relations, then we also don’t really build sustainable movements.”

The team at GUTS

(Photo: GUTS magazine)

“Support can look like recognizing that while women and feminized people share many experiences, solidarity means understanding that ‘being a woman’ looks different for every person, and finding ways to uplift and support women who don’t share your experiences.

Asking women to support other women is also too often a tactic used by white women to silence BIWOC, a defence mechanism that attempts to derail critiques of white feminism and paint BIWOC as mean, uncooperative or aggressive. If we truly want to support ALL women, finding ways that you can lend your privilege to support women with less privilege than you (while making sure that your support is wanted) is a great way to start. Listen to BIWOC. Listen to trans women. Listen to disabled women. Listen to poor women. There are tons of asks out there. Google is your friend!”

Interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.

Related:

FLARE’s Doing Something Different For International Women’s Day
GUTS: I’m Still Sexy with Psoriasis
Sophomore: We Need More Coming-of-Age Films about Young Black Women
Lez Spread The Word: How VR Porn Can Empower Queer Women
The GIST: Motherhood and Maternity Leave in Sports
Shameless: Eating Disorders Are Not Just a White Feminists Issue

 

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