Monday, 28 January 2013

Diva: profile of lesbian magazine

One clear way of looking into representations of any particular group is to investigate media which specifically targets them. Diva is Europe's best-selling lesbian magazine, and there's a lengthy profile in today's Guardian of its editor, who relates some of the difficulties of editing such a title as well as some of the social changes she's seen in her time. Here's a few sample quotes; you can read the full article here.
 Jane Czyzselska, the editor of Diva, was in her 20s, working as a freelance journalist in Leeds, when she heard about a new mainstream magazine for lesbians and bisexual women. She soon began writing for it. Frances Williams, Diva's launch editor, wanted to make it a "publication for us", says Czyzselska. "Previously we had been the object that had been written about, and now we were the subjects. We were reporting on our own lives."

Published by Millivres Prowler Group, which also publishes GT (Gay Times), Diva is the biggest-selling magazine in Europe for lesbian and bisexual women, selling 55,000 copies a month, 30% via subscription, the rest on newsstands. Its 200th issue is published this week, and has a gatefold cover, inspired by Vanity Fair, featuring 12 well-known women, an idea Czyzselska says would have been inconceivable when the magazine started. They include Paralympian Claire Harvey, trans activist and writer Paris Lees, novelist Sarah Waters, artist Maggi Hambling, filmmaker Pratibha Parmar and chef Allegra McEvedy. Czyzselska was disappointed not to feature more ethnic minorities – boxer Nicola Adams and football coach Hope Powell, among others, were unfortunately unavailable – "but in terms of diversity, I think we've not done too badly".
"A lot of the shops still seem to think a lesbian magazine equals 'porn mag', so they put it on the top shelf. I sometimes go into shops myself and say 'do you know why that magazine is on the top shelf? Because it's in the men's section, and it's not for men, you know?'" It can also be difficult to convince advertisers that lesbians are a strong market. "Some brands and advertising agencies still see us as a sub-group within a general gay group, and not as a market in our own right, and I think that can be problematic."
In the upcoming issue, Czyzselska addresses the community's diversity, writing that "we are (and have been) butches, femmes, gay women, dykes, bi women, pansexuals, lipstick lesbians, bois, studs, zamis, blacklesbians, queer".
Czyzselska thinks Diva would have made a serious difference to her had it been around when she was a teenager in the early 80s. "I remember when I first thought I might be gay, I prayed that I wasn't, because I thought it was just the worst thing you could be. Not the worst, but pretty bad." She receives letters from young women who say "thank you Diva, you helped me feel I was normal"

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