Feature / February 2017 / Jessica Schultz / Jordan Upshaw

Satire is a Woman’s Weapon

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Logo Suite by Marlowe Dobbe

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News flash: women aren’t funny—they’re hilarious. This may come as a shock to some people, so we wanted to highlight a new kick-ass, women-led satire publication.

Meet The Belladonna. Helmed by four female editors—Caitlin Kunkel, Brooke Preston, Fiona Taylor, and Carrie Wittmer—The Belladonna accepts submissions from cis and non-cis women, no matter their experience.

We know it better than anyone—getting started as a writer can be real rocky. So The Belladonna (named for the poison women used to put in their fucking eyeballs because society thought it was pretty to have huge pupils) decided to help some sistas out.

You see, women aren’t “supposed” to write satire. That’s not our thing. “It felt like in satire there was this need for a place where [female writers] could confidently submit and know that editors were going to read their work. If we don’t publish it we still give them feedback … and hopefully help a lot [in developing] their satirical voice,” stated Kunkel, who currently works as the Program Designer for Second City’s online satire writing program.

Through their conversations with other women in comedy, the women of The Belladonna realized there was a need for a place where emerging female writers could receive feedback as well as develop and broadcast their voices. “Our idea is just to showcase all the range of women satirists out there because a lot of those voices aren’t really getting heard as much as we feel like they should,” Preston explained. A lot of satire publications either don’t accept outside submissions at all or only accept submissions from writers who already have a certain number of established bylines. There really is no escape from the “need experience to get job, need job to get experience” paradox.

And so comes The Belladonna to level the playing field. They’ll accept anything—except poetry and fake news. And unlike us, they don’t want your heart-wrenching personal essays. (But you’re welcome to submit them here.) With the recent loss of notable female-led The Toast, the founders of The Belladonna have taken up the torch. These ladies have bylines in high places: The New Yorker, McSweeney’s, Reductress, The Huffington Post, Refinery29, Splitsider, The Second City Network, Romper, Robot Butt, and more.

The site officially launched on February 13th and they’ve published smart, funny, feminist content nearly every day since then. “So, Your Boss Touched Your Knee in a Meeting” by Amanda Henning pokes fun at the way women are conditioned to respond to sexual harassment and general mistreatment in the workplace while still managing to point out how fucked up it is. “My Life is a Lie by Meryl Streep” by Carrie Wittmer reveals Meryl Streep’s true identity (she’s a goat) and “Where Is Kellyanne?” by Page Barnes speculates about where Kellyanne Conway has disappeared to since breaking the law and looking like an idiot on national television.

The majority of submissions have either been accepted as is or sent back for rewrites. “I don’t know that any of us expected how much people have responded to that. We’ve had people over and over again say ‘this is worth it just for the fact we get feedback alone.’” Their goal is to publish on a daily-ish basis and they already have a full editorial calendar for the next few weeks.

The editors believed that creating a space specifically for women was important. “The difference between women writing satire and men is there’s no such thing as an argument that all of men, the entire gender, isn’t funny. That’s a thing that still exists [for women] and people write think pieces about it…. It’s really patently absurd.” Taylor’s point sadly rings true, especially in The Time of Trump.

But if the past month has proved anything, it’s that women are not going to be silent. Millions are marching, protesting, and writing to make their voices heard. At The Belladonna they’re also making you laugh. “I feel like, especially at this point in our political climate women have a lot more going against them and we have a lot more to satirize,” explained Wittmer. “Even though it’s totally serious issues. For men I think they kind of have to find it a little more—for us it’s just our daily life.”

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