An Interview With... the Ladybeard Editors

As a part of issue 5, we spoke to a series of women who love, or are passionate about, their jobs. One of the interviews that didn't make it into the magazine was with the editorial team of Ladybeard magazine, one of Parallel's fave feminist mags. Words by Jodie Matthews.

'Ladybeard magazine is a feminist publication which takes the form and format of a Glossy magazine, but revolutionises the content. It is an attempt to carve out a space in an over-saturated and stagnant industry and give fresh insight and hope to its readers'.

I speak to the co-editors about life outside the magazine, fresh starts and what it takes to create a feminist glossy magazine with the weight of a book and the beauty of a piece of art.

L-R Sadhbh, Maddie, Kitty, Scarlet (design), Brony (design) and Tyro (art direction)

Can you start by telling our readers a little about each of you and what you do?

KD: I'm Kitty, I co-edit the magazine with a focus on editorial. Outside the magazine I'm unemployed and addicted to Breaking Bad.
MD: I’m Maddie and also co-editor. I work for a literary agency and do a little freelance editing on the side.
SOS: My name is Sadhbh (pronounced Saive) and I’m also, also co-editor. I was made redundant (again) in November and now I’m freelancing as a copywriter/editor, tutoring, and eating off-brand baked beans.


You work collaboratively, with no single 'leader' or main 'editor' between you. Why did you decide to work this way? Has this been difficult to maintain?

MD: We were all doing the same thing so it made sense. Ladybeard aims to platform many voices, in particular those that don’t get the chance to be heard in the mainstream media. If there were a single ‘leader’ as such it would undermine this ethos.
Kitty: We were all friends first, the magazine is non-profit and we all work on a volunteer basis: hierarchies weren't practical. For all of us this is a passion project, and we all end up mucking in and being equally involved. You're much more likely to want to do something for free if you feel invested in it, as opposed to if someone has told you to do it. Also, we've found it’s a much better environment creatively if everyone is on a level footing. A lot of the meat of Ladybeard is just sitting in a room discussing our ideas. If everyone doesn't feel like their voice is valid, that part of things is so stunted.
SOS: Part of why it’s taken us so long is because of this balancing act because it is really difficult to put into practice, especially when the whole team have different levels of employment at any one time. But like Kitty said, it’s integral to how we do it.


Ladybeard was conceived whilst you were all at Cambridge. How did it feel to create something innately feminist in surroundings that are renowned for rich boys clubs?

KD: I think the fact that we were surrounded by sexist drinking society culture fostered our drive. But in many ways, Cambridge is such a creatively stimulating environment. As a student, I was mostly taught by women, and I never ever felt that my gender identity biased anyone against me academically. There was also a lot of drag and queer nightlife when we were at Cambridge, so that was inspiring. For me, Ladybeard mostly grew out of a reaction to pressures I'd felt from the media growing up as a teen in an all girls’ school.
SOS: Yeah, it was more of a delayed reaction to being a teenager at first, and what I learnt of feminist theory at University. It came more out of our English degrees I think, and the way we were taught, than Cambridge itself. But the most radical things about feminist theory and practice, and cultural analysis, would not have been on the Cambridge curriculum even 10, 15 years before now. A lot of the stereotypes about those kinds of universities are true, but we weren’t unique in what we created. Ever since they founded my college Girton, and let women attend university, there has been a backlash from women against the boys club. Only now, that backlash is increasingly inclusive, and isn’t just for white, cis, straight, middle class women. It was exciting to be a part of that.


You released what you know refer to as a 'pilot' issue of Ladybeard, around 2 years before the Sex issue came out. How much do the two differ?

SOS: The design, the size, the quality, the manifesto, the font… If you’ll excuse the term, our ‘vision’ is clear now. For the first issue we truly had no idea what we were doing, and the fact we produced something is a feat in itself. But our structure was messy within the team and it meant a messy issue. Especially as we knew nothing about printing. But that was a necessary step to get to where we are today. This time we created what we set out to create.


What was the greatest struggle you encountered whilst putting Ladybeard together?

MD: Everything was new – we had no idea what we were doing – so everything was a struggle. There are over 40 written articles, which from an editorial perspective is a nightmare. No one person can copy edit or proof it in one sitting without missing something.


In interviews, you've mentioned acknowledging the privilege of your editorial team. How did you work to diversify Ladybeard?

MD: this ties into our ‘collaborative’ ethos – about profiling others’ thoughts and experiences and not our own. Over 70 contributors helped put Ladybeard together, all with very different stories to tell, and obviously without them it would be nothing. We tried as far as possible to remove our own voices from the magazine – there are only a couple of pieces by team members. But it’s hard, you cannot deny that as a team we represent a very small, privileged sector of society.


Why do you believe independent publications such as Ladybeard are relevant and necessary?

MD: Because people still suffer abuse daily – murder rates of trans women are some of the highest, suicide is still the biggest killer of young men (which is often not seen as a gender issue), and 85,000 women are raped every year in the UK alone. At the same time, and on a more positive note, the feminist debate is shifting and evolving. There has been a shift from more essentialist notions of womanhood and manhood, to a more fluid and inclusive understanding of these concepts. Magazines like Ladybeard, we hope, are part of developing this.


What was the most exciting aspect about Ladybeard for each of you?

MD: The thoughts section in particular for me with Dan Glass, Vince Dolly Dollotson, and Freiya Benson. And then getting it back from the printer, finally having something physical to hold on to. And then hearing positive reactions from people!
KD: I think the fact that our first issue speaks so honestly about sex. I love the 10 sexual experiences at the beginning. They feel so truthful, and I find that very liberating. I've spent so long reading and telling lies about my sexual experiences.
SOS: The wealth of talent we’ve met and worked with, and the number of people who want to contribute to it. My favourite pieces are probably the interviews, and the little snap shots you get into the lives of incredible people making concrete difference in the world. And also finally being able to show people what we’ve been talking about for so long and being really, truly proud of it.


How did you balance your everyday jobs with working on the magazine?

MD: With great difficulty.
SOS: There have been many sleepless nights and wrought conversations. We half-jokingly talk about having to set up a Ladybeard Survivors support group for our significant others.
MD: Someone did coin the term ‘ladyBORED’.


What advice would you to give to new writers and people who want to create their own publications?

SOS: Don’t judge yourself against other people’s outputs: just because someone else made something great, it doesn’t mean that your work isn’t also great. Value isn’t based solely on popularity, quantity, or response. Hold onto the idea of sisterhood and support one another, or else you’re giving into an unfairly weighted system of meritocracy: working collaboratively is so rewarding and uplifting. That said, there is hardly any paid work for people starting up so you’ve got to work for free and keep at it. It will reap its rewards, whether it is being commissioned or just ticking off the little note on your list that says ‘write’.
KD: Take your time. This issue took us two years to finish, but if we hadn’t taken that time it wouldn’t have been something we’re proud of – not nearly as comprehensive or detailed. There’s a tendency today to feel everything has to be immediate, and that’s true with some forms of journalism, but the beauty of print is that you don’t need to rush. It’ll all be old news by the time it’s printed anyway so you might as well make it good!


What's next for Ladybeard?

SOS: Despite our big dreams, we’re taking it slowly. The next issue, the mind issue, will be out in late Spring/Summer this year. After that, who knows! Hopefully Kitty and I will be employed at least.


The Sex issue is out now -

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t | @Ladybeardmag
i | @Ladybeardmag