If you’re new to GrrlPunch (like me), you may not know the whole story origin story behind the magazine. I got to sit down with Lucy Hargrove, founder and editor-in-chief, and hear exactly what inspired her to start the magazine and what her ultimate goals are.
Chelsea: I just want to talk about what exactly made you start GrrlPunch. What was your mission when this whole thing started?
Lucy: Oh, wow, I should’ve prepped or something, haha. I made Grrlpunch one day after skipping school. I went to an all-girls school, and there was a lice epidemic going on at the time. I have really thick, curly hair, and I was not going to get lice.
So, this was during my junior year. I walked into school, found out we had lice, and walked right back out. I got in my car, called my mom, and she told me to go home. I went home and spent the day watching movies; I was particularly interested in documentaries at the time. I was watching whatever was on free streaming services, and I found one called The Punk Singer. I thought the cover looked cool, so I watched it based on the cover—didn’t even read what it was about.
I had heard about feminism and read about it. I guess I considered myself a feminist but had never really given it much thought. I was really impressed and inspired by what a lot of the young women who were showcased in the film were able to do in the 90’s. Like, today we have so many resources and more technology. I felt enough wasn’t being done, like it had kind of died out.
I think truly there’s been a resurgence since forming GrrlPunch. Obviously, not because of GrrlPunch, but it is very mass media now. However, I think we formed before that started happening, which is really interesting to me. After watching this movie, I said, “Wow, nothing’s being done,” and then the whole world also said, “Wow, nothing’s being done”.
I watched that movie and thought I was going to form a girl band because that’s what Kathleen Hanna did. But I realized I had no one to form a band with, but I still started brainstorming names in case I were to form a girl band. I’ve played guitar and sung my whole life. I thought if I could find a drummer then maybe. However, I didn’t know any female drummers, and I didn’t wanna start a band unless it was an all girl band.
I don’t really know how I came up with “punch.” If I could, I would go back and change it, honestly. I think it is too aggressive, maybe a little kiddish. I don’t really care at this point though. It is just what it’s always been. At first it was spelled “grrrl” like riot grrrl spelled it, but then I decided that if we wanted grrl to fit on the knuckles for merchandise, it should only be two R’s. This was all decided very early in the beginning, too.
After about a week, I decided to just make a website. I bought an $85 subscription to WordPress, named it [GrrlPunch], picked a template, and wrote the worst article to ever grace the Internet. Then I realized I couldn’t do this alone, so I picked out all the cool girls at school, who I thought would be interested in it. I wrote these really weird, but I guess nice, notes asking them to join and telling them to check their email accounts because I had emailed them the link. So, I slipped them notes during lunch, and everyone I asked did it, but not many of them are left.
C: I know you do a million things for the magazine. Could you lay that out for the readers?
L: I come up with themes for the month. I used to do the calendar, but Emily really took that over and did a much better way of making that. Now people can pick the dates they want, which is so much better. Now I just kinda watch over it, and if people aren’t signing up, I’ll send a message—either a group message or private.
I plan events and try to build partnerships with other companies. We’re planning on doing a photoshoot with a local skateboarding and clothing company in Memphis soon, hopefully, to kind of help each other out. So, building relationships with other small businesses that are local or in other cities and states. I also hire everyone. I make sure they’ll be a good fit. Then, Emily and I co-wrote the packet that you get when you join. I think anything that I missed, Emily was able to see.
I think all of the editors really contributed to that, as a whole. It made it a lot easier, since everyone has so many different responsibilities. We were able to understand exactly what would help know what a certain author, artist, or photographer’s responsibilities would be.
I write articles. I make podcasts. I used to edit the articles, but now we have a copy editor, which is so much better. She’s really good at it and really passionate about it.
I try to do monthly check-ins with as many of the grrls as I can, just to see how they’re doing, how their experience has been. I conduct the video meetings and the editor meetings, and I conduct seasonal reviews, alongside the other editors.
Oh, and I fund it.
C: What’s your favorite part, out of all of those responsibilities?
L: I really like the event planning. That’s really fun. I like giving younger bands and artists the chance to play a gig. That’s really cool and fun. I like talking to people when they first want to join. I don’t know. I don’t think I could just do one thing and be happy with that.
I really like when I tell someone about it and they already know what it is. That’s really cool. Or when I see a picture on Instagram or Snapchat of someone wearing a Grrlpunch t-shirt. That’s really cool.
C: Do you come up with the Grrlpunch merchandise?
L: Like, do I create the designs and logos? No, we have someone else who does that. I took art lessons for a little while—I can’t do that. I give the artists a lot of creative license, but I try to tell them what I’m looking for and give them examples of brands and logos that can help and inspire them.
I buy all the wholesale stuff and check for good quality. I package and send everything and write thank you notes. So no, but yes. Kind of, but not really.
C: Can you tell me about the event you’re working on planning for the summer?
L: Yeah, so it’ll probably be closer to the beginning of school, but I’m not sure how that’s gonna go. No one has really called me back yet. It can be hard when you’re young and a girl. I used to have to take my dad to a lot of meetings I would have if I wanted to have an event in someone’s space, in order for them to take me seriously.
C: What’s your plan for that? Is it more of a marketing thing?
L: Well, this one is mainly for raising money for GrrlPunch. Every other event we’ve had has been for charities, and that’s awesome. We love doing that. We have really good, strong partnerships with a lot of local Memphis organizations like H.O.P.E Women’s Caucus and Choices, and we’ve done things with AFRIpads. It has been great to help them under our name.
However, I feel like it is time to be able to take some of our revenue and put it back into the website and our merchandise items–I guess to take a little of the load off my paychecks. I don’t mind doing it all, but it would just help to improve the website and make a lot of the improvements that I, the board of editors, and all the other girls of Grrlpunch have been asking for for quite some time. I think it would make people on GrrlPunch happier to have the website cater to them a little more.
This one is more for going back to GrrlPunch, so like a marketing kind of deal. We want to do a kind of underground themed event, like [what] a lot of the Bikini Kill shows were in the 90’s, with a little more grungy aesthetic. We would love to do an all-girls show, but that’s just not really an option, unfortunately. There aren’t many girl bands or ones that are small enough that we could get them to play or that wouldn’t be on tour at that time. A lot of the more well-known girl bands in the Memphis community tour a lot more than you think. We just like giving younger bands an opportunity to play their music. So yeah, this unfortunately won’t be a charity event, but we will have another one in the future because of our partnerships, and we’re even planning one already for the fall.
C:What’s the best change that you’ve seen in the magazine over the years?
L: The organization has changed a lot. Everything’s a lot more organized than it used to be, definitely thanks to having more people in charge. Everyone can focus in on smaller or larger tasks and be sure that they can get [their work] done efficiently. Definitely, the number has changed. We’ve grown a lot. We’ve lost people, and we keep gaining people. It is fine because it is not like we lose someone in, like, “bad blood.” They’re always welcome back and always supported. We’ll never take them off the website. We just take them out of the GroupMe, so we don’t annoy them. So that’s cool, having a lot more people in a more spread out area of the world. The website has also changed a lot. It used to be a template and really ugly and just hard to navigate. It is way better now, so that’s a really big change.
C: So what do you study in college?
L: I have a double major in journalism and marketing.
C: Do you want to continue on with GrrlPunch and have a career with the magazine?
L: Yeah, definitely. I’ll keep it going, but I’ll most likely wanna work at another magazine at some point. As long as we keep getting bigger, I can keep giving people more responsibilities and keep broadening GrrlPunch’s mission and voice. That way it would be less of a stress on people’s shoulders, who are navigating the magazine, so they can explore other avenues that can make them happy at the same time.
C: What would you say you want to see continue to change with the magazine?
L: I’d like for it to grow a bit more so that we could post twice a day, every day. But that takes a lot of work and it is just gonna take time. We’re definitely wanting to redo aspects of the website to make it more interactive and have more ways for writers to personalize things in their articles or artists to personalize things a little more, so that you can get to know the people behind the content a little better. We want to form more of a community between readers and those putting out the creative work.
I would also like us to be more involved more in the Memphis community, as well as other cities as we grow larger. I’d really like to be more active in youth leadership–like, involve more younger people, not so much as regular staff, but more to really show them that this is something they can also do if that’s what makes them happy, and to show them responsibility and organization and leadership skills. So, working with middle school to early high school young men and women could benefit them and [help] us to understand the younger generation and to see what they really need. I wish I would’ve had something like this when I was growing up, something to teach leadership to younger people.
C: That’s awesome! What’s one statement that sums up what you hope to accomplish with Grrlpunch?
L: I think “be aware but take action.” Yeah, that would be it. Be aware but take action, respectfully.
I think the media focuses so much on how we need to be aware, and that’s great and really cool. I mean, awareness is obviously the first step, but nothing is ever really written about what you do after the first step of awareness. I think that’s the problem, and [it is] why we keep needing to make people aware of the same things over tens and tens of years.
With GrrlPunch, we try to keep our readers aware of what’s going on, both in GrrlPunch and in the outside world, with various topics that are very personalized, which helps people relate more. But also by taking action. From when we created this to the things we do in our communities, because nothing’s gonna get done unless you try to do something about it.
It’s been so awesome being able to sit down and talk to some of the amazing women behind the scenes of GrrlPunch. Hearing about Lucy’s original passion and how it has grown so much in barely 3 years is so encouraging. It goes to show that no matter how insignificant you feel your voice is, how small of an impact you think you’ll have, you CAN be a part of the change for good. “Nothing’s gonna get done unless you try to do something about it.”
Thank you so much to Samantha, Jada, Emily, and Lucy for taking time out to give us some insight to your reasons behind joining what could’ve been a girl band but ultimately became an outlet for so many grrls to express who they are.