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Arts & Entertainment - W.i.g. Is the Word



There’s nothing quite like reading a fiery letter from a magazine spurned.

Just days after City Weekly ran a sidebar on women’s web sites, partner to a cover story on young feminists Twisted Sisters, Kathleen Gasperini put her hands to the keyboard and set the record straight.

Where did we go wrong? In a rush to gush over the cream of post-feminist sites and magazines for young women, we forgot to look in our own backyard.

Another Utah paper has failed to recognize a local feminist magazine, she wrote in the stern tone of a mother. I’ll just send you all a bunch of That way, such a mistake should never happen again.

Thanks for the tip. As the cliche goes, all mistakes treated here as learning experiences. Fully recovered from the chiding, we cracked open an issue. If you’re not a young woman who charges through the powder on a snowboard with the Lunachicks blaring through the headset, perusing an issue of W.i.g. is a bit like reading someone else’s mail. Of course, who says you can’t learn a lot by eavesdropping?

Gasperini’s creation has already drawn praise from the what’s-new-in-demographics world of advertising. Predictably, her magazine is a trendsetter in publishing for Gen X women, according to Adweek. Yawn.

Of course, good magazines should be much more than marketing tools. Gen X is simply a catch-all term for people who know nothing about the under-30s. Feminism is a word easily bandied about by those who have no desire to understand the principles at its very heart.

Make no mistake, Gasperini knows all about the realities and ideals behind these labels. She’s matched the two, along with a healthy dose of sports, for a publication that almost defies description. It’s a hefty, bouncy, glossy index of sports tips, CD and book reviews, and personality profiles. Looking for an interview with one of the very few women street lugers? W.i.g.’s got it. Would you like to meet Kami Wilde, a pro snowboarder and competitive ballroom dancer? Again, turn to W.i.g.

Where the magazine really pushes the editorial mix, though, is with tasteful personal essays, original art prints, poems, and—perhaps the most unexpected item of all—women’s reports from underdeveloped countries. The last item holds a special place in Gasperini’s heart. In addition to being an avid sportswoman herself, she’s the proud holder of a degree in Third World Studies from St. Lawrence College near her hometown of Pulaski, New York.

W.i.g. , a punchy acronym standing for Women in general, is about the underdog view, you see. While the mass media pumps women full of beauty secrets, fashion and dating tips, Gasperini believes—no, she knows—that there are women starved for a magazine that won’t pander to them. Think of Outside crossed with Men’s Journal and Raygun, then custom-built for today’s feisty, playful, world-conscious girl-jock.

It all happened quite gradually. Over the course of several editorial jobs with sports and skiing magazines, plus a wealth of freelance writing work, Gasperini became miffed. Women should be thought of as athletes and artists on par with men, not neurotic, fashion-obsessed freaks who dread bad hair days.

One day I woke up and found that I was tired of writing about aerobic shoes, about how many calories a woman can burn off while walking from home to office, she remembers. I thought, ’This is not me, it is not what I’m interested in.’ I was a magazine buff, yet I didn’t have anything to read. And why did I read men’s magazines? Well, because they don’t treat me as if I’m an idiot.

After securing an art director in Oregon-based freelancer Dawn Kish, Gaspirini put a mock layout together, flew to a trade show in Las Vegas for advertising leads, and hit the shelves with her first issue in October of ’94. Now she has a steady quarterly publication schedule, and a healthy readership in London, Sweden, Toronto, New York and Seattle. She’s also maxed-out her credit cards. No problem. It was like a school loan, and she was already learning more than she ever did at college.

I compare it to being in really big surf, she says of the publishing business. As you keep doing it, you learn the waves, you learn how to avoid danger.

The waves were pretty high in the spring of ’95. That’s when her printer, Salt Lake City’s Hudson Printing, stalled W.i.g. ’s print job due to two pieces they described as obscene artwork that was degrading to people in the print room. The offending illustrations contained female frontal nudity free of any pornographic tone, but Hudson refused to print if Gasperini failed to replace them.

The situation was urgent. New issues were needed for the magazine’s sponsored event in Lake Tahoe, Boarding For Breast Cancer, a kind of snowboard Lollapalooza for the benefit of breast cancer research. Gasperini was cornered, and pissed. We had to put expediency over ideals, she says.

Hudson Printing owner Mark Hudson could not be reached for comment.

That over with, W.i.g. is rolling strong. Gasperini is especially proud of the magazine’s in-depth profiles of gold-medalist mountain biker Paola Pezzo and Olympic snowboarder Michele Taggart. A first-person narrative chronicling one woman’s real-life, organically induced abortion by way of herbs and will power also made an impact on readers, but not for reasons strictly sensational. Rather, it was a compelling account about the power of the mind over conventional medicine. Or, as the author Inga Muscio wrote, I promptly decided there was to be no grotesque waltzing with that abhorrent [abortion] machine.

W.i.g. is largely about mind-over-matter issues: doing things, saying things, and experiencing things, both in the context of your gender, and despite its societal limitations. Art director Kish, speaking from Portland, says it proudly: We want something that will rock the world, not float it on by. u

W.i.g. may be found at select Barnes & Noble bookstores, or in Park City at a Women’s Place and Dolly’s bookstores. The publication’s website is at