The Vagenda

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The Vagenda
Type Online magazine
Founded 2012
Political alignment Feminist
Language English
Website Vagendamag

The Vagenda is a feminist online magazine launched in January 2012. It uses the tagline "Like King Lear, but for girls," taken from Grazia magazine's summary of the film The Iron Lady, starring Meryl Streep. The Vagenda is run by British journalists Holly Baxter and Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett; it was founded by ten London-based women journalists in their twenties and now written by a large group of anonymous contributors from all over the world, both women and men. The editors stated: "the women's press is a large hadron collider of bullshit and something needed to be done". Cosslett describes The Vagenda as "a media watchdog with a feminist angle".[1][2][3][4]


In the first few hours of its launch it had 10,000 hits; in the first 16 days 150,000, accruing 250,000 hits in its first month and approximately 8 million in their first year.[4] [5][6] Journalists write for the Vagenda in The Guardian and The New Statesman.[7][8][9] The Vagenda editors say that they were heavily influenced by Times columnist Caitlin Moran and her best selling book How to be a Woman. Contributing journalist Natalie Cox commented that she hoped it would become an "online feminist Private Eye".[4]The New Statesman described the magazine: "humorous and topical with a searing, critical streak, The Vagenda exposes the mainstream female press for its insidious elements - and its frequent ridiculousness."[2] The Times newspaper featured the magazine in an extended spread in March 2012 and Cosslett featured on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour, discussing the launch. [5][10]

Vagenda editors commented:

A vagenda is a woman with an agenda, or specifically a vagina with an agenda. Today’s media is full of them. Unfortunately, more often than not, these vagendas are not your friend - particularly in the context of women’s fashion and lifestyle magazines, which, quite frankly, have come to constitute one of the most underhanded instances of woman-on-woman crime. Fact is: Vogue has a vagenda, Cosmo has a vagenda, and even American teen mag Seventeen has a vagenda - and the vibe in there is not friendly... The fact is that women’s magazines nowadays constitute a minefield of body fascism. When you flick through one ("read" is probably too strong a word for the image-and-Tweetspeak-heavy content on offer), you’re always dodging another insecurity explosion. Whether it’s Rihanna’s 25-minute underwear workout (yes, it’s a real thing) or snake venom infused lip-gloss, the underlying message throughout is that you are your body, and your body isn’t good enough.[11]


In September 2012, the publisher Square Peg, owned by the Random House group (Vintage Press), outbid 12 competitors to win rights to a book by the two editors of The Vagenda. A six-figure deal was agreed, with a view to a book release in 2013, in the UK. It has been described as a "(wo)manifesto, exploring some of the most popular themes and topics in greater depth but with their customary humour, insight and irreverence not to mention wonderful writing". [12]

Author Jeanette Winterson selected the book as one of her 2014 holiday reads,[13] saying “The Vagenda... is a brilliant exposé of women's mags and marketing – laugh-out-loud and painfully funny. This gives me hope for women and for feminism and for fun.”

The site attracted criticism when it emerged that blog contributors had complained of not being fully credited. Germaine Greer, writing in the New Statesman, claimed "Baxter and Cosslett took a leaf out of the golden notebook of Arianna Huffington when they accepted submissions to their blog and published them without payment or full credit (the Vagenda’s policy is to include the author’s initials but not their full name) ... The six figure advance paid for the book will presumably not be shared with those who helped to build the brand."[14]

The site raised money for a relaunch after the book deal through Kickstarter, a decision that was criticised following Holly Baxter's article in the Guardian appeared to suggest that musician Dev Hynes should not receive donations following a house fire that destroyed his studio and in which his dog died, in which she called it an "undignified charity case."[15]

An April 2014 review of the book in The Observer by Rachel Cooke criticised the book as "grotesquely mannered, woefully researched and bizarrely dated ... The Vagenda achieves the rare feat of patronising the very people it purports to support."[16] A review in The Guardian claimed that "the fact-checking is extremely uneven. It is often difficult to tell the difference between their comical hyperbole and examples of things that happened in print; these distinctions are important if you want to make a dent in an industry ... you cannot on the one hand accuse outlets such as the Mail of poisoning women's relationship with themselves, while on the other using exactly their tactics – distortion, exaggeration, poor footnoting – to petrify people in the other direction."[17]

Germaine Greer's review claimed that some of the book's writing on sex contained "a level of ignorance that is positively medieval.” In a review in The Times,[18] Helen Rumbelow wrote that “they are pitched so squarely at the internet generation I think Germaine Greer wouldn’t even have the vocabulary to know what they are on about”. She added: “It’s a book written as a gift for a teenage girl in an age that has long been confusing ... It’s unfair of us to ask too much of The Vagenda — to unravel the deeper causes of female insecurity, for instance, or to solve anything. They’re just trying to be good mates to those who come after them, and make them laugh.”

Nielsen BookScan statistics showed the Vagenda sold 257 copies in its first week and a total of 639 by its second week. These figures do not include ebook sales.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "Caitlin Moran and Lena Dunham are great, but take note Vagenda - feminism isn't just a white, middle class movement", 23 October 2012 The Independent
  2. ^ a b New Statesman "The Vagenda joins" 14 May 2012
  3. ^ "Police corruption, the duck house of Hackgate and King Lear for girls" 1 March 2012 New Statesman
  4. ^ a b c Evening Standard, "What's on the Vagenda?" 22 February 2012
  5. ^ a b "What's on the Vagenda?" The Times, 25 March 2012
  6. ^ Dalston Darlings event, 1 February 2013
  7. ^ "Working motherhood: not sure a band of cupcake 'mumpreneurs' is the answer", The Guardian 5 November 2012
  8. ^ "Dressing up for Halloween: a feminist's guide", 26 October 2012 The Guardian
  9. ^ " The Vagenda List of the Quietly Awesome " 18 February 2013 The New Statesman
  10. ^ Woman's Hour, BBC Radio 4, 28 February 2012
  11. ^ New Statesman "Women's magazines: exposing their vagenda" 14 May 2012
  12. ^ The Bookseller magazine "Square Peg signs The Vagenda in six-figure deal" 17 September 2012
  13. ^ Jeanette Winterson The Guardian, 12 July 2014 "Best holiday reads 2014 - top authors recommend their favourites
  14. ^ Germaine Greer, "The failures of the new feminism". New Statesman, 9–15 May 2014
  15. ^ [1]"Why celebrity crowdfunding has little appeal"
  16. ^ [2] "Everyday Sexism and The Vagenda review – everything you wanted to know about sexism, except how to fight it" 13 April 2014
  17. ^ [3] Zoe Williams, "Everyday Sexism and The Vagenda – review"
  18. ^ "The Vagenda guide to feminism" 24 April 2014

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