“Diversity, representation, these are all buzzwords and they need some serious work,” Hannah Gooding, gal-dem’s Lifestyle Editor, told us ahead of the magazine’s second release last week. She was discussing how she, and her female collective at gal-dem, aim to diversify the faces, voices and experiences of the women we currently see in magazines.
Born out of a tired frustration fuelled by statistics that offer up a bleak picture of our media (“only six percent of people working in newspapers, radio and television are of ethnic minorities, compared with 14 percent of the UK population as a whole”), gal-dem is, in Hannah’s own words, “both a magazine and an online platform run collectively by women of colour for all to explore.” Over the last year, gal-dem has joined forces with other independent online communities, such as AZEEMA and Adwoa Abloh’s GURLS TALK to help women learn about identity and cultural heritage, but to most importantly, celebrate it all.
With issue 1 sold out and issue 2 available now for pre-order, we caught up with the incredible collective to talk about the power of female friendship, the importance of finding a voice and naturally, periods.
For those who haven’t come across gal-dem before, can you introduce the platform?
“gal-dem is both a magazine and an online platform run collectively by women of colour for all to explore.”
How did gal-dem come into being?
“We noticed a lack of representation of women like ourselves - women of colour - in the media, and as they say, if you want something done, go do it yourself! So we came together as a female collective just under two years ago, and did just that. Some of us knew each other through high-school or university, but mostly we came together through the weird and wonderful world-wide web. Online communities can be so powerful, they are a great way of coming together and sending out a clear message.”
It must feel empowering to be working as part of a collective with a shared belief system?
“Yes, it’s a massive ball of energy actually. We are always thinking of the next step. In the last year we’ve got our own radio station, club night, and now we have finally moved into a dedicated office space, so there’s so much more to come! We are actually made up of lots of contributors - it’s getting pretty tricky to count - but that’s what is so great about being a collective, it’s a community we support each other in an online and offline capacity.”
Our aim is to support women by acknowledging societal taboos too - namely involving periods. Why do you think periods still come with a stigma attached?
“Because men control the media and they don’t like talking about what they don’t understand. I have so many male friends that have had no idea how the menstrual cycle works, but I know how their anatomy works. It requires research, it requires time and understanding to be able to write or talk about periods - which unfortunately, isn’t always happening.”
Do you think this links up with the negative associations and slurs we see about the female body?
“Yes. To quote Naomi Wolf: “A culture fixated on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty, but an obsession about female obedience. Dieting is the most potent political sedative in women’s history; a quietly mad population is a tractable one.” If we’re too busy hating ourselves, we can’t take over the world.”