I chose to look at a copy of Spare Rib from September 1978.
Wikipedia describes Spare Rib as a “second-wave feminist magazine in the United Kingdom that emerged from the counter culture of the late 1960s… (which is)…now recognised as an iconic magazine, and a place which shaped debate about feminism in the UK… challenged stereotypes and supported collective solutions”, aiming to present alternatives to traditional gender roles for women. Not being a specifically lesbian publication, it had a high lesbian readership and determinedly non-sexist advertising and content.
At the time of my life when I lived in peace camps and communes, and when political action was of crucial importance to me, I loved Spare Rib. I loved everything about it, not just the content, but the typeface, the typesetting, the photos, the illustrations, the covers. There was and is something comforting and creative about these aspects for me: the green and red and purple type, the quirky matte design and the 70s look of the magazine do appeal enormously. However, Spare Rib was undoubtedly a magazine that was content rather than style oriented.
Contained in the 1978 issue were the following:
Articles and letters covering: smoking; the poverty of humour in the women’s movement; complaints about sexual cartoons; analysis of the women’s movement in Boston; news snippets of abortion; cervical cancer; pre-birth screening; ghettoising the elderly; the lack of Conservative female politicians; demands for the wives of doctors to be paid; criminal law; herpes; a protest at the Hayward Gallery; arguments for abolishing the seven demands of the women’s liberation movement; a list of upcoming events; lesbians and the women’s liberation movement; a guide to lesbian groups; a classified ad section; a feature on an all woman rock band; music, film, TV, theatre and book reviews; a review of working in cashew processing plants in Brazil; and a short piece of fiction.
Obviously, the contents are nothing like your standard magazine aimed at women. Politics, especially sexual and social politics, are the top priority as the readership were largely intelligent women who believed strongly that knowledge and action would and could make a difference. And it is the existence of this and other allied publications and movements that really had led to life-changing social developments from the 1960s onwards.
Spare Rib ran from 1972 to 1993. There was talk of bringing it back in 2012 but it emerged that any re-launched magazines would not take its predecessor’s name. All existing issues are now available from the British Library’s website.
Image from mirror.co.uk.