In conversation with

Danielle Pender

Founder of Riposte



Danielle Pender started Riposte – a magazine and online platform for women – as a jab at the state of women’s media at the time – flat, rife with stereotypes and monotonous in its perspectives. The platform has now flourished into a dynamic community, with talks and debates, exhibitions and enviable events (read: enviable launch parties).

The Riposte community has very much inspired her writing too, and her new book Watching Women and Girls draws upon the stories of women that are often shared on the platform – of tumultuous relationships, of being surveilled, of the internalised policing of women. We catch up about it all in this interview.

Question and Answer

What are some of your favourite stories and books about women you read growing up?

I loved Judy Blume! Even though they weren’t 100% contemporary by the time I came around to reading them, her books were the first time I’d read stories that spoke to the feelings and experiences I was having as a pre-teen and teenager.

I also loved magazines as a teenager. I used to buy J17, then More and Cosmopolitan – mainly because those last two were pretty focussed on sex and at the time that felt very exciting! As I got a little older–16,17–I started to buy i-D, The Face and Dazed which gave me access to ideas and people that weren’t in my everyday orbit as a teenager in the North East.

Your debut short story collection Watching Women and Girls is coming out this spring. What can we look forward to in this collection, and how did it all come about?

As women we instinctively know what it’s like to be watched, to have our every move examined. I was aware of this gaze from a young age and in this book I wanted to examine what living under a microscope does to us. How does it alter our behaviour? How do we perform for it or challenge it? How do we internalise it, police ourselves and how do we project it onto others?

Each of these stories are told through a different character – they range from young to old across an array of life experiences. Young girls perform at a ballet recital, a young woman explores her relationship with an older man, a married woman confronts her own infidelity, mothers watch each other, sisters fizz with resentment and an older artist looks back on her life.

This variety reflects the women I’ve come into contact through my life, from growing up in the North East to now living and working in London. They’re each very specific experiences but hopefully tap into universal themes that everyone can relate to.

Some of the stories are uncomfortable, maybe unpleasant to read in parts but I hope people find moments of tenderness, love and humour amongst the discomfort. I hope that readers see themselves, their friends and family in some of the characters and that these stories make people laugh at how ridiculous life can sometimes be.

Which writers did you turn to, to shape your own voice?

I really love the work of Mary Gaitskill and Lynn Tillman. They write in a really humorous way and feature very flawed characters. They were really transgressive for the time they were working and a lot of the stories in Bad Behaviour feel contemporary. I love a lot of Mary Gaitskill’s descriptive passages of places and people, she finds really fascinating juxtaposing ideas and makes them work beautifully.

You started Riposte in 2013 as a response to the state of women’s media, and to create a space to challenge stereotypes and tell nuanced stories about what it means to be a woman. How did you land on the name ‘Riposte’?

At the time we wanted the magazine to be an anti-dote to what was on the newsstands on the time so we landed on Riposte as it means to give a sharp response. As women’s media has developed over the last eight years it now feels like we respond and give responses to wider issues in society rather than just the state of women’s media.

You now have 13 print issues and have more recently released a digital magazine, covering a variety of themes such as motherhood, love and home. Has there been an issue or a theme that has been most meaningful to you and why?

I really loved putting the latest print issue together which was themed around the idea of care. Moving through the pandemic we all watched communities come together to care for each other, we cared for ourselves and our loved ones in ways we’d not had to before and we also saw examples of who we don’t care about in society. So, the issue was a really good way to dive into all of the issues we’d been faced with over the pandemic and celebrate some of the positives ways we’d come together.

“I think community is a really loaded word now. It’s been co-opted by brands and organisations who have ulterior motives but I think at its core community is about having a shared set of values.”

You’ve now hosted hundreds of events for your Riposte community worldwide and many of your community are also your contributors. What does community mean to you and how has it shaped your personal writing?

I think community is a really loaded word now. It’s been co-opted by brands and organisations who have ulterior motives but I think at its core community is about having a shared set of values. Community can definitely be fostered authentically online and IRL but over the pandemic I’ve witnessed the power of really leaning into and supporting local, physical communities. I think real community is also about supporting each other – I saw so many examples of that throughout the pandemic in my local and within my immediate physical environment which has been really inspiring and made me a lot more engaged locally.

With Riposte I try to support our community by sharing their stories, commissioning and paying members of our community and bring everyone together at events.

It’s shaped my writing as a lot of the women in my communities have shaped the characters in my book or the way I think about how women move through the world. Listening to the experiences of my friends and the women I meet through work have definitely shaped some of the stories in my book.

If you could describe Riposte in three words, what would they be?

Interesting. Fun. Supportive.

Danielle's Storylist


  1. Bad Behaviour by Mary Gaitskill


  1. Apartamento


  1. The American Life
  2. Still Processing
  3. The Great Women Artists
  4. LRB Bookshop
  5. Unreal: A Critical History of Reality TV
  6. The Writer’s Voice


  1. It’s Nice That
  2. Dazed
  3. Refinery 29
  4. The Guardian
  5. The New Yorker
  6. The New Times

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