From Our Founder: Happy 9th Birthday, Rebellious!

rebellious birthday

Nine years ago today, on International Women’s Day 2012, a mouthy Black lesbian, her equally mouthy white gay male bestie, and a legion of friends, family and supporters brought forth Rebellious Magazine for Women into the world.

And the world hasn’t been the same since. Ooooh, chile.

I founded Rebellious Magazine for Women as a safe haven for other mainstream media misfits, and as a home for then-unpublished women who had fallen victim to journalism’s notorious gatekeeping.

Karen Hawkins Rebellious Magazine launch party 2012 by Carla K. Johnson

Me dolled up at the Rebellious Magazine for Women Launch Party in March 2012. Hair, makeup & style magic by Mark Bazant; photo by Carla K. Johnson

I launched the site as I was leaving my job as a breaking news reporter for the world’s oldest and largest media organization. While I loved being a reporter, I hated the way I was treated as a mouthy Black lesbian. My story ideas were shot down, my perspective was minimized, and I worked nights, weekends and holidays for years longer than any of my white peers. The last straw was the day my boss called me “rebellious” for requesting four Saturdays in a row off. Yep, I’m done.

Rebellious was my way of creating space for other women and folks across the gender spectrum who felt silenced, marginalized and disrespected in media workplaces. Writers have brought stories to us that their mainstream media employers didn’t want or that they couldn’t find a home for elsewhere. And many contributors have never been published before. Publishing those pieces and working with those writers is something I’m incredibly proud of.

Rebellious was and is a place for women and nonbinary folks to tell their own stories and the stories of their communities in their own way, with authenticity, dignity, respect and a beauty you don’t see other places. I’ve sought to create a space where my writers can bring their whole selves to their work, without feeling like they have to shed parts of themselves or how they express themselves to fit some kind of arbitrary standard.

This journey hasn’t always been easy, but feminist journalism and storytelling is as important and vital now as it was nine years ago.

I gotta say: this anniversary is an emotional one for me. In past years at this time I’d been planning our anniversary party and too busy obsessing over the event to think too deeply about our history and how far we’ve come. And for the last two years, our events have been on hiatus as I juggle being birth mother of Rebellious with my dream-come-true day job.

But if the pandammit has given many of us one thing, it’s time to reflect.

And that reflection has brought me to the realization that we’ve accomplished a helluva lot in nine years, and we have so much more left to do.

Rebellious Magazine’s accomplishments I’m proudest of:

  • We’ve built a diverse AF team of contributors whose creativity, wit and dedication continues to inspire me every day.
  • We’re the only digital publication in Chicago to consistently and passionately center women, nonbinary and gender nonconforming artists, creators, entrepreneurs, leaders, activists and everyday badasses. Our interviews, features, photo essays, and live event coverage have been putting those folks first since 2012, with intersectional feminism as our foundation.
  • We have persevered, even when other feminists said what we’re doing couldn’t be done.

And we ain’t done! Our plans for 2021 include:

  • Continued arts and culture coverage from a feminist perspective, including visual arts, theater, dance, comedy, pop culture, books, graphic novels, and more
  • More unique first-person essays on the hardest-to-talk-about parts of identity, parenting, relationships, politics, and more
  • Launch of a new project, the Feminist News Initiative, to enhance our coverage of Chicago’s feminist businesses, nonprofits, leaders, government programs, and mutual aid efforts

Plus, we’re over the effin’ moon to announce:

  • Sex Rebelle, a vertical we’re launching in April to strengthen our feminist sexual health and reproductive justice coverage with the support of a yearlong grant from the Field Foundation.

I couldn’t be more excited about what the future holds for Rebellious and for independent media in general, especially outlets founded by other mouthy WOC, LGBTQ+ folks and feminists with so much to say.

It wouldn’t be a Rebellious anniversary if I didn’t ask for your support to keep the virtual lights on. If you’ve ever read our coverage and columns and learned something, been inspired to explore a new topic, or felt less alone in the world, we hope you’ll consider a tax-deductible contribution.

We’re a small but mighty team with the leanest of operations, and every single dollar counts. All of your donations are appreciated, whether you’re able to commit to a monthly contribution or a one-time gift. We appreciate you.

Donate now at Fractured Atlas!

Thank you for reading! Happy birthday, Rebellious!

In Rebellion,


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Karen Hawkins is the Founder and Rebelle in Chief of Rebellious Magazine. She is a recovering mainstream media reporter and editor who wants to thank her former boss for naming the online magazine she's always wanted to start when he called her “Rebellious” for taking too many weekends off. When she isn't instigating a media Rebellion, she's thanking her lucky starlets she gets to do whatever she wants on weekends.