Hashtags, chic living-working spaces and a couple waves of feminism weren’t yet conceived when Rosie the Riveter pumped her long-replicated fist.
Even though some progress has swung in Rosie’s economic, political and social favor, other trends of gender inequity haven’t gone out of production. Well aware of that dichotomy and inspired by Rosie, the women behind the Riveter Magazine, a Minneapolis-based start-up with a national audience, have spent the past couple of years rippling the gulf between the sexes in long-form journalism.
The online magazine (therivetermagazine.com) — whose fourth issue is out next month — publishes general interest work by female writers and has gotten mentions in publications such as Bustle, Glamour and Nieman Lab’s Storyboard, a publication by Harvard University. A print version of the magazine — which most recently shipped to 44 states and 16 countries — is available at two Minneapolis retailers, Proper & Prim and Wilson & Willy’s, and a bookstore at the University of Missouri, the owners’ alma mater.
Dollar signs don’t motivate Kaylen Ralph, Natalie Cheng and Joanna Demkiewicz. Although they eventually want to take salaries for their start-up, they work other full-time jobs. They all studied journalism and were gobsmacked by statistics showing that male bylines still dominate long-form media and annual awards.
The three, all in their mid-20s, insist on paying female contributors in a field that often demands free labor. So far they have published 20 writers.
The subjects in the magazine have a “long shelf life,” the owners say.
“We look like what you might consider a traditional magazine to be, for sure,” Demkiewicz said. “But we wanted it to appeal to this broad audience to show that our women’s content is not specifically for women, or just one type of woman.”
The articles delve into anything from the sociopolitical history of eyebrows to the sexism against female comedians and the overlooked plight of women in agriculture. The magazine also features Q&As with prominent female leaders, reviews and recommendations (called “The Canon”) and, naturally, a lineup of social media accounts.
The owners also have identified a dearth in storytelling, like profiles and in-depth or historical pieces, that isn’t profit-driven in traditional women’s magazines (think: Cosmopolitan and Glamour).
“We will have a story about women in jobs — we have. We will have a story about women’s reproductive health, for sure,” Demkiewicz said. “We’ll also have a story about other topics that aren’t necessarily considered ‘women’s interest.’ Because we consider them [all] to be of equal importance.”
Snappy, savvy and social
The Riveter isn’t a pioneer in media that draw mostly female writers (see: Jezebel, Rookie or Feministing).
And its short history resembles those of a growing pool of start-ups: Secure funding for idea online (first Indiegogo, and more recently, a Kickstarter that raised $35,000 last spring). Then, continue growth through networking, events and brand development.
It’s all been after-hours work for the three owners, who moved to Minneapolis over the hot spots of media and tech on the coasts.
Identifying as a local business, the Riveter has paired up with others in retail and food and beverage to boost one another’s ventures. Most of their counterparts are also of the “young professional” variety who have flocked to the Twin Cities; a New York Times Upshot article last fall declared the city as the best for budding careerists.
“Minneapolis has been kind to us with creative collaboration,” said Cheng, chief executive officer. “Before I moved here, I was thinking, ‘Huh, we’ll see how this goes.’ ” Cheng works remotely for a tech company flying drones, joining the ranks of freelancers and independent contractors who are projected to make up 40 percent of the job market by 2020, a study by software company Intuit predicted.
That collaboration inspired the new “boutique model” for their magazine that was hatched on a WordPress site.
In the past few months, the owners have helped host a series of events: a launch party at Wilson & Willy’s over Bogart’s Doughnuts and champagne; a book discussion at Magers & Quinn, and a video chat with authors of a book on gender disparities in tech at Clockwork Active Media.
“Behind each of the creative brands and creative businesses are people who want to see each other genuinely succeed,” Demkiewicz said. “They also built something from the ground up.”
Minnesotan ties are front-page material for the Riveter.
The cover of the latest issue featured Lizzo, whose hip-hop career blossomed in Minneapolis, photographed at the Walker Art Center’s Pop Art exhibit. The next issue spotlights Lizz Winstead, Minnesota native and co-creator of “The Daily Show.”
“We are rarely told no,” Ralph said.
Contemporary feminism is now often packaged with a price tag, owners say, which isn’t their intention. For instance, feminist ideas have been behind recent brand campaigns by Dove and Pantene, and they were the bulwark behind Taylor Swift’s and Beyoncé’s latest commercial successes.
The Riveter is angling to become less of a specialized publication, though its audience is now mostly women (latest social stats put them at an 80-20 ratio).
“Feminism can’t be a marketing tool, but it has become one,” Demkiewicz said.
Cheng added: “It doesn’t come from a genuine place. It comes from what can sell.”
Another term that floats around nontraditional work is “self-care,” or the maintenance of emotional, physical and mental health in a 24/7, global world without set schedules. Immediately after graduation, Demkiewicz and Ralph worked service jobs because they wanted to devote all their creative energy to the Riveter. Their day jobs are now also creative.
When it’s time for a staff meeting, they gather at a coffee shop.
“Maybe having a central office at this point would feel a little jarring,” Demkiewicz said. “We all do different things that contribute to this central magazine.”
They’ve experienced burnout, prompting new mantras.
“I didn’t fully understand it until I hit a wall,” Demkiewicz said. “I am a vessel. I am doing these things, and these things will fall apart if I don’t take care of myself.”
There’s no room in entrepreneurial outfits, like the Riveter, for one-size-fits-all.
“I’m still figuring out self-care, I think,” Ralph said. “It’s throwing out the timeline that you think you need to be on and finding the magic and letting things emerge as they happen.”