The women’s magazine industry is a topic fraught with issues these days. More and more people are speaking out about their often careless attitudes to relationships and body image, not to mention the highly questionable sex tips. Magazines and websites such as The Vagenda and Jezebel are amongst the organisations making their own spaces for women, more rooted in reality. Flurt! is another. We’ve spoken to the founder and Editor in Chief, Amanda Van Slyke, about the project.
Why did you set up Flurt! and who is your target audience?
I started Flurt! in my second year of University, after getting out of an abusive relationship and moving into my own apartment. I had just become diagnosed with a mental illness and was in a bad way. Being a writer, I needed to use my voice to feel heard. It made me get up every day knowing that I could be helping other women by writing about my experiences. From there, I approached other women who went to my university and they started writing about issues that mattered to them. It’s been three years and we’ve grown into an organisation, a magazine and a movement that reaches over 30,000 viewers around the world – who are not only young women but people everywhere who believe in our cause. Our target audience, however, is somewhere around 18-24 year old women, and Facebook tells me we’ve hit our mark.
How does Flurt! differ from the average women’s magazine?
Growing up, I adored Cosmopolitan because it was fun and flirty and talked frankly about sex – something other magazines didn’t talk about. However, when I went to university and became more educated, I realised that Cosmo wasn’t portraying a healthy message to young women who need it the most. I wanted to see a platform that was fun and flirty and talked frankly about sex, but at the same time was sex positive and talked about what mattered to young women, not what society said should matter to us. I wanted a medium that was LGBTQ inclusive, promoted diversity and didn’t photo shop. Think Cosmo meets Adbusters. I created Flurt! as an eccentric play on words – a kind of slap in the face to our media that women aren’t going to sit idly by and flirt with boys, they’re going to Flurt! with society and voice what’s important to them. They’re going to create their own media.
How do you feel about body diversity in the magazine industry?
It really bothers me that we’re still photo shopping bodies in magazines and selling this false ideal of beauty to young women – and that these young women are still buying into it! When I was younger I believed that being an adult meant being tall and gorgeous like in 90210. I seriously did. When I grew up short and normal-looking, I desperately tried to become the image I always had in my head. After seeing that my stomach stuck out and didn’t have abs like the women in the media, I worked out constantly. I wore heels, I bleached my hair, I caked on makeup – but my self-esteem continued to crumble no matter what clothes or accessories I bought. After years of wasting money on things like hair extensions, I realised I was always going to be told I needed something else to be happy, and if I followed this disgusting corporate scheme I would never be the healthy person I needed to be. As a young woman, I know just how important it is to have healthy images of beauty in the media.
Would you describe Flurt! as a feminist magazine, and why?
Yes and no. This is a tricky question for me, and I don’t want it to be. Obviously I’m a very strong feminist. In the past I’ve debated with partners who have told me to “put down the feminist flag” and ask me why women’s issues are so important to me – which is fucking laughable. Everything concerning me is a feminist issue, because it’s my right as a woman to make it my issue. Without feminism I wouldn’t have the power to raise my voice and work to change society – which is exactly what my organisation does. Flurt! is about empowering young women. That’s feminist. Do I want to call it a feminist magazine? Not really – because it’s limiting. I’ll go protest women’s rights at a rally and call myself a feminist, but I am not my organisation, and Flurt!’s primary goal isn’t pushing the feminist movement like Ms. magazine – it’s about raising so many diverse issues that matter to young women. I’m sure you could call me a hypocrite, but I’m afraid by labelling it a feminist magazine the opportunity for other women to talk about those issues will be squandered.
What makes Flurt! stand out from other women-orientated internet
spaces (e.g. HelloGiggles, Rookie)?
Good question. I often wonder that myself. There are already so many different spaces online for women to go for support – why would I want to create one from scratch and go through the difficulty of establishing a fan base? I don’t make money on this yet, and the people who work with me are volunteers who are often busy with their own lives. What really makes Flurt! stand out from other spaces is me – and it’s a scary thought to be the determining factor of an operation. But I’ve been doing this for so long and have gotten so much support that stopping would be like committing suicide. It’s kept me going during my darkest times, and it will continue to be the air that I breathe. Every day I get emails from women who are passionate about the same thing I’m passionate about, and it pushes me a little bit further. All I know is myself and my vision. I love reading XO Jane, Jezebel and other sites that are similar and have been around longer, but their vision isn’t mine. There’s so much I see in terms of Flurt!, and I’ve only touched the surface.
Where do you see Flurt! going in the future? Do you have a grand plan?
Growth takes time, and I know that the more time I work at this the more people will join Flurt! and help further my vision. I obviously need to grow as a person before I can further my organisation, and Flurt! can only develop as fast as I can. Last summer I told myself that I was going to start a magazine by the end of the year, and I did. This winter I told myself that I was going to transform the magazine into an app, and then I did. Of course none of this would be possible without the people who partnered with me and shared my passion. In the past I’ve looked too far into the future and it became this anxious cloud that hung over my head, so right now I’m focused on creating a better foundation before building upwards. I’m learning how to become a better business person and how to practice self-care. Entrepreneur-ship is a tough gig and with so many ideas you have the tendency to jump into things without thinking of how you’re actually going to carry them out. What I foresee for the future is an inspiring organisation that gives young women the voice to change their reality. I see strong writers, opinionated vloggers , ground-breaking voices and hopefully some sort of income. But my grand plan isn’t to make money, it’s for young women to become the voice of their generation, replacing mainstream media.
Amanda Van Slyke is the founder and Editor in Chief of Flurt!