All good things…

// 21 May 2013

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When Catherine Redfern, founder of The F-Word, called me up more than six years ago to ask to meet in a South London pub for a chat, I didn’t know what she was going to ask. I was nervous about meeting one of my feminist heroines for the first time.

I’d already been blogging for The F-Word for a few years, and I thought: oh shit! What have I said? Is she going to kick me off the site?!

In fact, Catherine asked me to take over as editor. I still remember how nerve-wracking that was! I had never taken on anything like editing an online magazine. Seeing my name on The F-Word’s olive green homepage (remember that?!), was still exciting.

That day was the start of a friendship with Catherine (and quickly with a lot of the other long-term F-Word contributors as well!)

And it was day one of an incredible journey for me as a person, as a new editor, and politically as a feminist. I know I’ve come a long way. And, to be honest, I feel like we have as a team at The F-Word, and perhaps even as a community of feminists.

It was the biggest opportunity anyone ever gave me and a massive responsibility.

But today I’m resigning as editor of The F-Word, and passing on the baton.

A couple of things are going on. I’m switching my focus to some new projects, and because I work full time as well as doing The F-Word, it’s all a bit too much at the moment. And I feel like I’ve accomplished the things I wanted to when I took on editing this site. I plan to stay on the collective and will still be involved, just not running The F-Word day-to-day.

And there’s another thing. When I took over from Catherine, we had regular bloggers and contributors. But basically she was doing everything. When I took over, I did all the editing.

Consciously and with the help of others, that started to change. First, the regular bloggers formed a collective, to make decisions about that part of the site. It has been a rocky road at times. We got better. We learnt while we did it, because almost none of us had ever been on a collective before, or tried consensus decision making.

We experimented. We launched a podcast, which was basically some F-Word regulars sat around my kitchen table talking for a few hours about whatever we were interested in right then (editing? schmediting.) I think that was more fun for those of us at the table than anyone who might have attempted to listen.

Other things stuck – we still have comments (it might surprise newer readers that we had a long debate over whether we should!) We solidified as a collective, while I carried on editing features and reviews. Then, more recently, I started to find our amazing team of section editors, who now do the heavy lifting on the long-form articles that we publish on The F-Word. Bringing more people into the process was the decision that most bolstered The F-Word of anything we have done.

me and Catherine blow out candles on F-Word cakeWe fundraised to get a professional redesign of the site, and had a hilarious party.

In the spirit of these changes, now I am stepping down, how the site is run will be different as well.

Helen G is stepping up as the first of us to take on editing the site on a rotating basis. Helen will edit the site for at least six months, and then the next person will take over.

A few words on how we believe this will work. All of the section editors and members of the collective can put themselves forward to be a rotating editor. From those who raise their hand, the next rotating editor is chosen at random. We will see how this system works for a while.

Here is a little bit more about Helen, if you don’t already know her from her many wonderful contributions to The F-Word:

Having spent most of her life in rural North Wales where, in between working for architects, she was a three-chord merchant on a variety of musical instruments, Helen packed her spotted hanky on a stick and moved to London 10 years ago as part of a career change into IT work. Currently unemployed, she spends a couple of days a week tinkering with computers in a voluntary capacity at an international aid agency. Music remains an important part of her life and while her listening tastes are eclectic, she has a long-standing penchant for the music of women singer/songwriters across a range of genres.

Helen joined the bloggers’ collective at The F-Word in 2008, taking on the role of events editor in 2011. She sees her stint as editor as akin to sharing the driving on a long road trip, rather than turbocharging the car, giving it a garish respray and taking it for a high-speed joyride through the feminist blogosphere.

At the same time, we have taken the opportunity to refresh the statement of principles of The F-Word, which underpins everything we do. All future editors will uphold these principles.

Finally, we wouldn’t be here at all without Catherine, so I’ve saved the last word for her! (And I promise I didn’t pay her to say any of this…!)

Well, it’s the end of an era… but the beginning of a really exciting time for this website. I’m continually so grateful and amazed at the commitment of our contributors, collective and section editors to this joint project of ours. In 2001 I never would have imagined how far we would come together.

I’m pleased to welcome Helen G as the first of our rotating editors. Helen has been involved with the website for several years now and has put in a great deal of ‘behind the scenes’ work to make sure the site keeps running – crucial, time consuming work that readers wouldn’t necessarily see and that doesn’t get much recognition – as well as contributing great content of course. It’s reassuring to know that continuity will be there as Jess hands over.

I’m excited about the new ‘rotating editor’ system too; it fits in really well to what I always hoped the site would do: promote new voices, and showcase different perspectives and diversity in feminism.

As I know only too well, being editor of The F-Word is incredibly hard work; and with everything Jess did in her time as editor (six YEARS, people!) she really raised the site onto a whole new level, reaching tens of thousands more people and really making the project a real collective, and sustainable, achievement in so many ways. And of course there were major projects like the re-design, as well as the daily work, and stresses and demands of the role as the site (and workload) got bigger and bigger. I have heard anecdotally of many people becoming feminists after encountering the website during Jess’s watch.

(Should I mention, like all of us involved in the site, she did all of this in her ‘spare’ time?)

I was so pleased to hand over to her back then, grateful (and relieved) that she wanted do it, and I often commented to anyone who would listen on how great a job I thought she did.

I don’t think it’s an understatement to say that Jess has contributed massively to the UK feminist scene. What she has achieved is HUGE; she should be proud, and I’m sure anyone reading this can appreciate that. Do me a favour and let her know how awesome she is, yeah?


The F-Word: Our principles

Our aims and objectives:

  • To showcase emerging and new feminist voices.
  • To provide a platform for diverse contributors, actively seeking out those whose voices are not heard in commercial media.
  • To publish thoughtful analysis of contemporary feminist issues.
  • To be a safe, supportive environment for feminists and supporters of feminism.
  • To be a place for disagreement and different opinions to be aired in a calm, constructive way.
  • The F-Word is against ageism, classism, disablism, homophobia, racism, sexism, sizeism, transphobia and all forms of oppression.

Our editors aim to:

  • Remain sensitive to different feminist viewpoints on contentious issues.
  • Never publish ageism, classism, disablism, heterosexism, racism, sexism, sizeism or transphobia, or any other form of oppression.
  • Never publish blatantly unsubstantiated or unreferenced statements as fact.
  • Edit in an ethical way, guided by the code of conduct set down by the NUJ.
  • Truly reflect the author’s intended meaning while editing contributions for publication.
  • Allow for a broad interpretation of feminism.
  • Encourage a respectful, open-minded approach to seemingly different viewpoints.
  • Produce content that is readable, engaging – sometimes enraging – and always accessible.

We will publish strongly held individual opinions, but The F-Word as a publication will not:

  • Define what feminism is, to the exclusion of other interpretations of feminism.
  • State that ‘true’ feminism is a certain thing.
  • Provide a platform for trolls or anti-feminists.
  • Be drawn into discussion about whether feminism is necessary or valid.
  • Get involved in personal disputes within feminist circles.
  • Claim to represent ‘the’ voice of feminism.
  • Restrict contributions only to those who have academic qualifications or are widely read in feminist ideas.
  • Be able to please all of the feminists all of the time!

Comments From You

Jolene Tan // Posted 20 May 2013 at 5:53 pm

Thanks so much for everything, Jess; your contributions have been monumental. All the best with your new projects – I hope we get to hear about them in due course!

Megan Stodel // Posted 20 May 2013 at 10:46 pm

Thanks for being so great for so long, Jess!

Holly Combe // Posted 21 May 2013 at 1:00 pm

Thanks, Jess, for being such a brilliant editor and building on the ingenuity of Catherine’s creation with your journalistic experience and knowledge. To continue with Helen’s analogy, I’m glad you’ll only be letting go of the wheel and not leaving us altogether.

And welcome to the role, Helen! Great to have another excellent writer and editor overseeing things.

sianmarie // Posted 21 May 2013 at 4:09 pm

thank you jess for being so awesome over the years! sianushka xx

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