*Contributed on by all of the VocaLady Staff
When this magazine was starting out a year ago, it was easy to brand ourselves as a “women’s magazine.” Upon starting out, I looked to Cosmo, Glamour, Bustle and other “women’s” publications for inspiration when developing our voice and thrived on working to develop a space by and for women – a safe space where empowerment, discourse and free expression can occur.
Yet, as we have grown and developed, it would be an injustice for me and my incredible staff not to address this undeniable point: the creation of a “women’s space” comes with its nuances. What I am addressing is gender expression and identity, as well as privilege.
Recently, a staff member brought up that a male friend of theirs was interested in working with us. At the same time, a trans-male friend of mine applied and I thought back to an earlier writer who is also transgender. He left in order to focus on his transition and academic work, but it always sticks with me what he said as he left, that he no longer felt as though he had a place here because he was now male.
The idea of being a “women’s magazine” is so nuanced. As a feminist space, who gets included? Who do we serve? The answer is: as feminists, we must strive to be inclusive. Even as a women’s magazine, a former writer should never have felt no longer welcome, simply due to their transition. Today, here, at VocaLady, we work incredibly hard to be inclusive of varying gender identities, particularly working to include trans and non-binary voices (as in those who are gender fluid, do not identify as a gender, etc.). Yet, at the same time, we do operate as a space for those whose gendered experiences are different from that of a cisgender man. Typically, these experiences are marginalized and thus we serve to act as a safe and empowering space for people with such experiences. Nonetheless, it also should be noted that power dynamics exist within masculine spaces as well. Race, ability and sexuality create power dynamics that position some men over others and it’s our duty, as feminists, to recognize these power dynamics and seek to lift up these individuals, as well.
In short, to truly be the sort of space we strive to be, we must aim to include all of those who digress from gender norms and those who fit into an experience that is marginalized and seek a space to lift their voice. In this space, as staff members, we welcome all trans-folk, men and women, non-binary folk and cisgender women as well as individuals from marginalized communities. We cannot be feminists without being intersectional and we cannot be intersectional without recognizing that the experience of a white woman is different than a woman of color, that the experience of an able-bodied individual is different than that of a individual with disabilities, that the experience of a cisgender man is different from the experience of those who are not. We must continue to be mindful of privilege and whose voice is being heard and whose isn’t. That’s being a “women’s magazine.”
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