November 15, 1985 · Cavalier Daily

'Iris' Broadens Horizons

This article is an exposition of 'Iris,' a feminist journal at UVA. It tracks the evolution of 'Iris' from a pamphlet to a fully-fledged journal, and discusses the expansion in the scope of the journal in its most recent issue, from University-wide women's issues to global ones.


1985-11-15 - 'Iris' Broadens Horizons.pdf
1985-11-15 - 'Iris' Broadens Horizons part 2.pdf
Debbie Mogan
Cavalier Daily
Cavalier Daily
‘Iris’ Broadens Horizons
Cavalier Daily Staff Writer
What began in the fall of 1980 as a 12-page newsletter for the University Women’s Studies Program has blossomed into a 72-page journal for women across the country.
"Iris — A Journal Women," is the biannual University magazine with a focus on women – women’s relationships with men and women's concerns, according to Co-editor Caroline Gebhard.
"Iris is geared towards feminists of all ages – that includes men," Gebhard, University Women's Studies administrative assistant, said.
This fall's issue, which goes on sale today in Newcomb Hall Bookstore and on the Corner, is a far cry from the local newsletter begun by Women’s Studies Director and Co-editor Sharon Davie.
With a first-person account from one woman of her experiences as a nurse in Cambodia and several articles on women in South Africa, this latest Iris moves outside the University to issues affecting women around the world, Gebhard explained.
“This issue takes a fresh approach on things that are important internationally as well as locally," said Gebhard, who joined the staff in the spring of 1983. "It is the first issue where we've done that."
Three articles on South African women explore tensions in the country from a woman's point of view. An interview with a South African film maker, a personal piece written by a University student about her past in the country and a piece by a Washington lawyer concerning the brutal murder of a black woman in Capetown are all included in this month's Iris, Davie said.
A few years ago, such personal accounts were not on Iris' regular story lists. Instead, the journal was a newsletter established by Davie because she "felt a need for some way of increasing a sense of community for people interested in women 's studies.
"As director, I get a huge load of information and this was a way to share it," Davie said.
The change from a simple newsletter to a typeset journal was Gebhard's idea. Realizing in 1983 that there was public interest in Iris, she suggested they advertise for a staff and turn it into a magazine.
"Little did we know how much work it would be trying to make it grow, but there was a great response from the community and the University," Davie said.
Today the journal has grown in prestige as well as size. In Iris' last issue, the magazine published a controversial personal account of rape. This January, that account will be in Harper's Magazine.
"Although it may not have any effect on the actual number of people who subscribe to it [Iris], I feel really good about a national magazine responding to what we're doing," Davie said.
And the journal does not restrict itself to one type of story. Staff members seek out a variety of topics such ag fellowships for students, things happening in government, job opportunities, poetry and fiction for articles, Gebhard said.
"We try to have a real balance," she added. "You never know what you're going to come across in Iris.”
As well as diversity in the journal's literary offerings, there is diversity within the Iris staff, itself.
Run by a group of community, faculty and student volunteers, the publication is headed by a l5-member coeditorial board — 13 women and two men.
Even the journal's title is multi-faceted, Davie explained. Its ties to the eye represent vision. As a flower, it symbolizes femaleness. Turning to the goddess, Iris, who was a messenger, symbols of communication become evident, she said. Finally, one can define the iris as a rainbow which symbolizes the variety the journal tries to achieve, Davie said.
The group has a one month deadline for information and typesetting. Proofreading and copy editing must be done in three weeks. Layout work takes a week to 10 days and the entire project is completed in about three months.
But, even with all of this work, the journal's funding is its main problem.
“We really exist on a shoe-string," Davie said, explaining that despite winning a fundraising battle with Student Council in the spring of 1984, the journal must rely on the energy of its staff to raise needed funds.
Davie said she would eventually like to see more institutional support for the publication and, perhaps, a University grant to alleviate money problems and help install a paid staff.
"We will not be able to continue indefinitely on an all-volunteer basis," she said.
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Date Added January 4, 2017
Date Modifed December 9, 2017
Collection Cavalier Daily: articles about gender discrimination

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