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Its grassroots feminist ethos and the drive to run the magazine non-hierarchically strongly influenced how Spare Rib developed. By the 80s, the management structure had evolved into a collective. Today Roisin Boyd is a broadcaster, journalism lecturer, and researcher. In 1980 she became the first Irish woman to join. Prior to moving to London, she was heavily involved in the Irish women's movement, which she reported on for Spare Rib. "I had no idea really what I was getting myself into," Boyd says. "When I arrived, there started to be huge shifts in the way that Spare Rib was run. It was always a very radical magazine and beautifully produced but it evolved. It was completely different in the 80s."
Part of that evolution involved the necessary work of diversifying. "While I was there, the collective, because of discussions around race and racism taking place in the women's movement, took a decision that they needed to diversify as it was all white women," Boyd explains. "I was the first Irish woman, which was a big change; then a young working class woman, Louise Williamson, started to work there and later women of color were recruited to the collective. Issues of racism and power came to the fore which challenged the power dynamics within the collective."
"When you're living it though, it's very difficult," Boyd says. She explains that at one point, "the collective were meeting separately, the women of colour and then the white women…There was a lot of emotion." Given her identity, Boyd was included in both groups. Although she was white, she was also an Irish woman coming from a country historically oppressed by Britain at a time when, due to the volatile political situation between Britain and Ireland, anti-Irish prejudice was at its height.
Dear Reader, One of the ongoing discussions in our collective has been on racism. We would like your participation in this debate so that we can develop a dialogue. Our discussions have been long and painful and have not ended in any conclusions […] Do definitions matter? What questions have to be asked? What is Black? What is white? […] How do we fight oppression and create solidarity?
When I ask her about Spare Rib's legacy, she points out, "The fact that you're even talking to me about it now shows how it's recognized as a significant contributor to debate and change within the women's movement and within broader society." It's a sentiment shared by Marsha Rowe, "'The press today includes all the things that we originally did. It's considered normal now; part of the general conversation."