If you haven’t yet heard of Womanly, chances are you will soon. The newly launched magazine provides a platform (both online and in print) for women and non-binary people of all backgrounds to access meaningful health information through the lens of visual and literary art.
By combining multi-media art, literary content and research, Womanly is making waves connecting readers with relevant and empowering insights not only into women’s health, but the cultural, political, and social norms and environments affecting the health outcomes of women the world over.
With two issues already circulating and a third in the works, I caught up with editor-in-chief and founder Attia Taylor to talk about how it’s all going:
J: Where did the inspiration to start Womanly come from?
A: Womanly has truly grown out of feelings of personally being misrepresented and underrepresented in print and digital media. Black and brown people have been grossly overlooked and underserved in the healthcare system in the US to date. Our magazine is a hopeful solution to fill a hole that goes very far back and runs incredibly deep. We're simply looking to start a movement towards helping women and non-binary people understand their personal health and how to live long and healthy lives aside from the prejudices or economic barriers that they face through representation and opportunity.
Why do you think it's important to offer women's health information through a different medium—in Womanly’s case, through art?
I previously worked at Planned Parenthood, where I had the opportunity to work on an app that combined a creative approach to tracking birth control and menstrual health. I saw the way people respond to seeing their personal issues being imitated in art on a very personal level. The art world as it stands can be very exclusive and daunting to so many, whereas Womanly is creating an inclusive environment through pairing sometimes very sterile and jarring health information with the beauty of talented artists from across the world.
How did your own health education growing up influence what you're doing with the magazine?
The first issue that we released was on sex education. We chose that topic because in every circle I'm in we often have discussions about never having received proper sex education as young people; whether from our parents or our education systems. I have also done research on the reasons why parents aren't having "the talk" with their children and have found that it is mostly fear based. Parents think talking to their kids about sex means that they might start having sex or they have never had that conversation with their own parents, so they have no idea where to start. I truly believe the first step is just approaching parents and helping them to have these conversations. For instance, my mother never got a talk, so she never talked to me. There was a moment as an adult where I pulled up a webpage and had to explain something to my mother that she should have actually explained to me when I was a child. She responded positively with a, "I just didn't know". It was a true light bulb moment for me. I took that and ran with it.
This may be a hard one, but what's your favorite piece published in the magazine so far and why?
This is a great question because I think it may begin to change, but as it stands my favorite piece published is Birth Announcement For Those Who Will And Will Never Be from our first issue on sex education. The piece was hand stitched and dyed by my close friend, Emily Carris. This piece brought with it a heavy history of reproductive issues that we often leave out of our conversations. Abortion is still so very stigmatised, which overshadows our ability to understand its many nuances and the stories that come with it. Emily challenges us to think of slavery and sex through the lens of black women and their choices or lack thereof in history, and that is so beautiful, important and necessary.
How are people responding to Womanly and what kind of feedback have you received so far?
We have received an outpouring of support for this work and it comes as no surprise to me. It's almost as if this project was waiting behind a locked door and somehow the key landed in my hands. I'm grateful and honored to be able to open this door for so many. Our team is completely volunteer run by women from all walks of life and their passion for this work shows in how we present ourselves to the public. We are running on the positivity and support of the community we have organically built so far and that community is nothing but love.
What are some of the biggest challenges you've faced starting a magazine?
Money! Starting a magazine from scratch is very expensive. We aren't women who come from a tonne of money. Many of us have student loan debt, credit card debt, have to help out our families, and have sacrificed much of our time and money to make this work. We want to make this magazine accessible for women of colour and non-binary people, so creating a path to income has been a secondary goal for us. We're finally at a place where we're growing in a way that money has become more of a priority, but we are always going to put the people first no matter what.
What can we expect from the next issue?
We’ve just put out the call for submissions for issue three. The theme is around geriatric health, which includes many issues that need to be discussed such as elderly abuse, vision, polypharmacy, and the many ways that LGBTQ+ issues intersect with aging. We're also encouraging artwork that captures the words and wisdom passed down from older generations through cultures and borders. We're very excited to see what comes in.
Where do you see Womanly five years from now? What about ten years?
I see Womanly as a creative community of women who continue to honour the existence of women as it changes and pivots based on political, economic, and geographical landscapes. I'm personally interested in creating a dent in the numbers related to healthcare disparities around the world by partnering with resources that have the mobility and support to serve. We're on a really important journey toward uplifting voices and creating opportunities and I’m excited for all that is to come.Support Villainesse