What's on the Vagenda? A New Satirical Blog Is Piling Up the Hits by Making Feminism Funny, Says Rosamund Urwin. Women's Glossies in Particular Should Run for Cover

The Evening Standard (London, England), February 22, 2012 | Go to article overview

What's on the Vagenda? A New Satirical Blog Is Piling Up the Hits by Making Feminism Funny, Says Rosamund Urwin. Women's Glossies in Particular Should Run for Cover


Byline: Rosamund Urwin

THE other day, a link popped up in my Twitter feed. "Stock photos of women looking remorseful after sexual encounters," it read. Clicking on it, photographs of couples in bed filled my screen: the women all with mascara-smudged eyes, staring mournfully into the distance or with hands over their faces. This is the commonly spotted post-coitus cry image (habitat: the problem pages of women's magazines and above articles advising females to stick to a strict three-datesbefore-intimacy rule).

Amused, I looked at the name of the site: The Vagenda, tagline: "Like King Lear, but for girls." The next 20 minutes disappeared as I read every other post. First, there was "Work Strife", documenting a day in the life of put-upon Isabella Bradley, the "deputy junior fashion assistant's assistant intern" at a famous style magazine. The highlight of her day? Discovering that in the "giant bottom-feeding human centipede that is fashion, at least I'm not at the end". (The PR girl is.) Then I clicked on Chicktionary Corner, which lists the irritating portmanteau words that "would leave Oscar Wilde spinning in his grave": including Shoemageddon ("the only way women can relate to the end of the world is to imagine that someone shat on their shoe collection") and Tanorexia ("when you've spent too long at the Fake Bakery ... [and] you think you're too pale when you're really the colour of Katie Price in a s**t storm").

Last were the CliffsNotes for women's magazines: setting out the ways that the glossies -- supposed to be a female friend -- were instead reinforcing gender stereotypes. Each article was written with the wit of Dorothy "Don't put all your eggs in one bastard" Parker.

The Vagenda blog is the embodiment of a new, young feminist voice: satirical, sharp and very, very funny. "The humour is vital because a strident tone can be alienating," a contributor tells me. "We thought there was a proliferation of feminist analysis on the internet already. But, often, feminist blogs and websites are preaching to the converted -- whereas we are trying to reach people who are not necessarily that interested as well. They'll be more open to it if it's funny."

Contrary to the stereotype, funny feminists are everywhere. One of The Vagenda's main influences is the Times columnist Caitlin Moran, whose book How to be a Woman (part memoir, part feminist polemic, part stand-up routine) hit the bestseller list last summer: "She had a different take on feminism, which wasn't alienating and was light reading -- that isn't a bad thing."

Back on the blogosphere, there's also Bitchbuzz, launched by California-born Londoner Cate Sevilla, who wanted "to find her own brand of feminism", and the Hairpin, the site which revealed the ridiculous -- and patronising -- nature of stock images with its "women struggling to drink water" and "women laughing alone with salad" features.

Collectively, they easily undermine the cliche -- argued by the late Christopher Hitchens -- that women can't be funny. But while there is a wealth of feminist humour to draw from, satire remains dominated by men -- something The Vagenda wants to change. The site -- just 16 days old -- was founded by 10 London-based female writers, all in their twenties. Although one of the contributors, journalist Natalie Cox, names herself as part of their editorial team on Twitter, the rest aren't revealing their identities. Their dream is for The Vagenda to be an online feminist Private Eye -- balancing out media sexism. Interestingly, their main focus isn't "lads' mags" or Page 3 but the glossies -- the very magazines that should theoretically be on the side of women.

"We read women's magazines ourselves but we want to put the counter view -- some of their content is ridiculous," another Vagenda writer says, adding that a huge amount of attention in these magazines is given over to men: how to get one, how to keep one, how to make one happy in bed: "I call Cosmo 'the wife of Nuts magazine'. …

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