A new magazine recently hit Knoxville and has created quite a stir among some students. Skirt! magazine began publication in Knoxville with their March edition. Skirt! is a women's magazine that has been in circulation for 14 years and is published in 9 cities with Knoxville being the most recent addition.
What many students found controversial about the magazine was that while Skirt! is a feminist publication as labeled by its staff, on a couple of occasion it depicted women in very traditional, somewhat demeaning roles. Female students and faculty were quick to pick up on this.
Catherine Luther, Ph.D., a Journalism and Electronic Media professor at UT, heard such complaints from students in her classes and decided to attend a fashion show hosted by Skirt! Luther said that the fashion show was tasteful for the most part, but when a model wearing a maid's costume complete with yellow kitchen gloves emerged on the runway she was shocked. Her shock continued when the announcer pointed out the how "handy the gloves would be for cleaning."
When I spoke with Janet Testerman, editor of Skirt! magazine, I asked about this incident. Testerman said she understood the reaction and explained that Skirt! had had very little control over what their sponsors contributed to the show. She said that while there probably should have been more planning, they did the best they could do with short notice and that she hoped one incident would not taint their reader's opinion of the magazine. "This one incident is not indicative of the magazine as a whole. Skirt! has women's interests at heart and always intends to promote women in a positive light," she states.
Other complaints students had voiced about the magazine is that it didn't show pictures of real women. Iris Killingsworth, a JEM senior at UT, points out that the magazine utilitzes "slim, curvy cartoon images that are unrealistic" as opposed to pictures of actual women. Testerman was surprised when she heard of this complaint, and brought out the newly printed April edition which contained multiple pictures and stories about real women. "We have an entire section dedicated to women from this community who are doing extraordinary things. All these women are real and they all have accompanying pictures. I think those complaints are just representative of a fluke in one issue," says Testerman.
Other similar complaints about the lack of images of women from ethnic minorities were also refuted by the newest edition of the magazine. "I think Skirt! is still evolving and finding its place like any new publication," says Testerman, "Skirt! is about representing women and giving them something they can relate to, and I think if readers take the magazine as a whole they'll see that."
If you're interested in checking out the magazine for yourself, Skirt! can be found at many distribution sites around town and on campus. Also, you can check them out online at skirtmag.com.