Feminist Business Praxis and Spare Rib Magazine
This article analyses the ‘business praxis’ of the feminist magazine Spare Rib, one of UK feminism’s most enduring cultural institutions. It discusses the diverse ways Spare Rib sustained itself financially (or not), with reference to the role of advertising, distribution, revenue and wages. I explore how Spare Rib developed ethical approaches to business through supporting other women-led business endeavours and attempting to balance profitability with accountability to its readership and the wider women’s movement. The provision of grant funding by the Greater London Council transformed Spare Rib’s fortunes in the early 1980s, and demonstrates the ways in which the magazine operated in a market ecology comprising commercial, publicly-funded and philanthropic elements. Tracing the history of radical political movements as enterprises and employers expands the existing field of business history and connects it to the history of social movements. The concept of ‘business praxis’, extending across public, private and philanthropic sectors, helps nuance simplistic talk of ‘the market’ or ‘enterprise culture’ in late twentieth century Britain. It also expands social movement analysis, demonstrating that making money and creating employment were important though often controversial principles of radical activism.