Spare Rib was an active part of the emerging Women’s Liberation Movement in the late 20th century. Running from 1972-93, this now iconic magazine challenged the stereotyping and exploitation of women, while supporting collective, realistic solutions to the hurdles women faced.

Visitors to this site can explore selected highlights from the magazine; and examine how the magazine was run, why it was started and the issues it dealt with. The full run of Spare Rib magazines can be accessed via https://journalarchives.jisc.ac.uk/britishlibrary/sparerib.

Important information for researchers: from 1 June 2016, some material from the Spare Rib magazines on the journals archive site will be redacted until the Library is able to secure further copyright permissions. More information on the redactions can be found here.

Featured content

  • Introduction to Spare Ribe the first nine years

    Introduction: Spare Rib - the first nine years

    So what was women’s liberation and why was it needed? How did Spare Rib differ from other women’s magazines of the 1970s? This article looks at the first nine years of Spare Rib; how it began, its readership and the topics it covered.

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    Body image, advertising and the media

    Professor of Journalism and contributor to Spare Rib, Angela Phillips, analyses the relationship between women's perceptions of themselves and the way they are seen by others, exploring the tension between the private and the public.

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    Race, place and class whos speaking for who

    Race, place and class: who’s speaking for who?

    Here broadcaster, writer and Spare Rib collective member, Roisin Boyd, explores how the magazine dealt with aspects of identity, difference, ethnicity and imperialism.

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    Music in Spare Rib

    Music in Spare Rib

    How did women use music to further the feminist revolution of the 1970s and 80s? Deborah Withers, co-founder of the Women’s Liberation Music Archive, explores sexism in the music business and shows how feminists countered this through their music and through feminist music journalism.

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  • A day in the life of Spare Rib

    A day in the life of Spare Rib

    Editing, proofing, designing, cutting, pasting, arguing – Spare Rib collective member, Ruthie Petrie, describes life behind the scenes in the production offices of Spare Rib.

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    Spare Rib and the underground press

    Ground-breaking and subversive, Spare Rib sprang out of the counterculture movements that were active during the 1960s. In this article, co-founder of the magazine, Marsha Rowe talks about Spare Rib’s links with the underground press.

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    Changing perspectives and new ideologies

    Changing perspectives and new ideologies

    Spare Rib documented the evolution of the women’s movement and represented the views of feminists of various ‘strands’. What did it mean to be a radical feminist, or a social feminist in 1980s Britain? And why did feminist ideology split around this time?

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    Sex and sexuality in Spare Rib

    Sex and sexuality in Spare Rib

    Sex, orgasm, birth control, self-examination, lesbians, pregnancy, monogamy, pornography, sex work, the commodification of women – Spare Rib’s articles addressed all these subjects and more. Here Sue O’Sullivan discusses the magazine’s desire to help women take control of their own experiences of sexuality.

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  • Spare Rib looking back from 2015

    Spare Rib: Looking back from 2015

    What is the relevance and significance of Spare Rib today? Haven’t feminists won all the debates and campaigns, at least in theory and in law, anyway? Zoe Williams looks at the legacy of Spare Rib for today’s women and men.

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    Photography in Spare Rib

    Photography in Spare Rib made female experience visible in a way that was rarely seen in mainstream publications. Contributor to Spare Rib, Liz Heron, analyses the important role photography played in the magazine.

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    Violence against women

    Violence against women

    Rape and violence against women were key themes of women’s liberation. Spare Rib raised awareness of the ineffectiveness of the police and judicial system around securing convictions in cases of rape and domestic violence.

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    Family, housework and childcare

    Domestic dynamics: Spare Rib, the family and the home

    What is the impact of raising children in a nuclear family? Should domestic labour be shared equally between men and women? Does marriage and family life make women financially dependent on their husbands? This article explores Spare Rib’s examination of the politics of traditional domestic roles.

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Featured themes

From sexuality and health to childcare, the arts and legal rights, Spare Rib offers a wealth of themes to explore.

About Spare Rib

The feminist magazine Spare Rib ran from 1972 to 1993. It set out to re-define what it was to be a woman in 20th century Britain. So how did it get started and what, exactly was it all about?

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Rights and justice

Rights and justice

Spare Rib was at the heart of feminist campaigns. With its photography and reportage it provided a window on the feminist revolution as it unfolded. Never just the journalistic bystander, it was also there at the demonstrations and the marches, its Spare Rib banner held high.

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Work and education

Work and education

Feminists thought that fundamental change was needed in the worlds of work and education in order to end the oppression of women in society. Spare Rib was committed to ending sexism in the workplace and in schools and ran a series of articles and news items about this.

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Representation and identity

Representation and identity

Women’s liberation was all about a re-defining of what it was to be a woman, a re-evaluation of how women saw themselves and were seen via mass media and advertising. As the movement evolved, the voices of many different women entered the debate; black women, working class women, lesbians and disabled women. Spare Rib provided the forum for the playing out of this ‘identity politics’, both in its articles and news pages and within the collective itself.

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