I’ve been reading Lip Magazine for a little while now and I’m always impressed by their thoughtful features. As they say “You may not find crass sex advice and body-shaming fashion pages here, but you will discover wonderful new female artists and musicians, a fresh outlook on feminism, and enough sass to shock the fainthearted.” I recently caught up with Lip’s Editor-In-Chief, Zoya Patel, to find out more about what Lip does, her career as a writer and just why they need your help!

Lip Magazine prides itself in being “an alternative to the hordes of superficial, uninspired magazines that currently dominate the market”. Give us a little insight; how does Lip Mag do things differently?

ZOYA PATEL: Lip is ultimately a feminist magazine – we are completely committed to gender equality, and firmly believe that mainstream magazines promote an image of women that is both steeped in stereotype, and that doesn’t do justice to the wide range of amazing women out there.

At Lip, we try our hardest to offer a broad range of content, on all topics – politics, feminism, pop culture, music, film, art, food, fashion – basically, if you want it, you’ll probably find it on our website.

And more than that, the magazine is largely reader-run. Our writers and editorial staff are all volunteers who started off as fans of the mag, and now have a stake in running it. We run the mag like a controlled democracy – our writers are encouraged to come to staff meeting and have a say, and we never promote our own opinions as editors. You’ll often find me commenting on posts I disagree with after they’ve been published!

We just want Lip to be a place for young women to go to where they can find thoughtful, intelligent content that doesn’t talk down to them, and that encourages the use of the word ‘feminist’ without it being a dirty word!

What are some of your favourite pieces of writing on the Lip Mag site you’d recommend to us?

ZP: That’s a super tough call! We’ve got a bunch of really good columns at the moment that I’m addicted to. In particular, Sarah Fortuna’s ’99 Tips For a Better World’ is a brilliant read every time.

I also love Danielle Scoin’s ‘Modern Ms Manners’ column, where she dissects some of the etiquette issues that come up in modern life. Elizabeth Flux’s ‘Is It Ok To..’ column is my ultimate favourite though – her latest column, on whether it’s ok to deny a Facebook friend request had me laughing out loud.

I know that you identify as a feminist; what do you think are the biggest challenges facing contemporary feminists?

ZP: I think a lot of people will try to tell you that the biggest challenge facing contemporary feminists is the PR issue around feminism itself – the fact that people hate feminists based on the stereotype of a man-hating bitch from the 70s, or the fact that young women today supposedly don’t identify with feminism. But to me, that’s just a deflection from the real issues women face in contemporary society.

In many ways, we have things a lot better than our foremothers, and we definitely have things a lot better than our sisters in developing countries. But issues like childcare, equal pay, domestic violence, reproductive rights and body image still exist, and will continue to exist unless we put some real effort into campaigning for better.

These issues don’t just affect women either – they’re issues of gender equality, and I think it’s important for the health, safety and happiness of both women and men that they are brought into the spotlight and dealt with.

Lip Mag are currently running a pozible campaign to raise funds to print your next issue; why is it important that Lip Mag has a physical printed magazine?

ZP: Lip has always prided itself on being an avenue for young, emerging writers to get published, and to get a taste of what it’s like to work with an editor. We offer many girls (and guys!) that opportunity online, but the print magazine has always been a big part of that, and I feel that our writers really value seeing their name in print.

The original idea behind Lip, when it was founded by Rachel Funari in 2003, was to offer an alternative to young female readers on the newsstand. The internet is an amazing forum for online publications like us, who have a tiny, limited budget. But it wouldn’t feel right for us to give up the print issue entirely.

For me, as Editor-In-Chief, I decided long ago that as long as the staff and readers continue valuing the print magazine, I’ll strive to continue publishing it.

How did you first break into the publishing industry?

ZP: Through Lip! I did work experience with Lip when I was in year 9 in high school. After that, I wrote an article and submitted it for their next issue, and was completely staggered when it was accepted! I eventually became a columnist, then Fiction Editor, then Editorial Assistant, and finally Editor-In-Chief.

I also started writing for my university newspaper, the local streetpress, and a bunch of different websites. Now, I write two blogs, edit Lip, still write for streetpress and the occasional freelance piece for a website here and there. It’s excellent fun.

What are your thoughts on the current state of the Australian publishing industry?

ZP: I think that right now is a time of extraordinary flux for the publishing industry, and I’m really excited to see how it’ll pull through, and what changes will be wreaked.

What’s been one of the most memorable things that’s happened so far since you became editor of Lip Mag in 2010?

ZP: That’s a difficult one, because so much has happened! I think watching the website stats grow steadily, from 20 hits a day to now between 1,500-2,000 has been pretty incredible. And at each launch party for our print issues, I’m always so pleased to see how the Lip community has grown!

What does it take to be an editor?

ZP: Haha, I wouldn’t necessarily know! I guess a keen eye and a good sense of humour are pretty necessary.

I know contributing writers are the lifeblood of Lip Mag; what do you look for in submissions?

ZP: Originality, well-constructed arguments, strong analysis, and an interesting choice of topic.

How have you personally grown as a writer from contributing to Lip Mag?

ZP: When I look back on the first articles I wrote for Lip, I inevitably cringe – granted I was 15 at the time, but it makes me feel so good to realise how much I’ve changed and grown as a writer since then. I think I definitely have a better understanding of nuance and how to construct an argument, these days!

And lastly, what does Lip Mag mean personally to you?

ZP: Lip means absolutely everything to me. For the past eight years, Lip has been a major part of my life – something to work on, build on, to grow with. I don’t think I would be the feminist or woman I am today without Lip, and I can only hope that I give back to the magazine even an iota of what it’s given me!

For more Lip Magazine. Check out Zoya’s blog too!

Stand up for what you believe in!