Disgraceful: the magazine for every woman who sets out to build an empire

Discover how Melissa Hawkins, a current BA (Hons) English with Publishing student, launched a magazine to claim space for women

“Disgraceful is for every woman who sets out to build her own empire; the only expectations in sight, are the ones she sets for herself.”

Melissa Hawkins

  • Current second year BA (Hons) English with Publishing student
  • Editor-in-Chief at Disgraceful Magazine
  • Founder and Brand Manager at Feed

A Disgraceful inspiration

Melissa Hawkins is currently in her second year of studying BA (Hons) English with Publishing at Plymouth and in her role as founder and editor-in-chief she published the first issue of the brand new Disgraceful magazine on 1 December 2020. 

The concept for Disgraceful was formed from an idea Melissa had queuing up in Tesco one day during the first lockdown period earlier in the year – however, the force behind the magazine manifested itself years prior. 

At eighteen, I left college with an abundance of ideas but no actual idea of where to take them. I was working at my local supermarket and had recently been made a duty manager; the pay was good, I enjoyed the job and the long shifts were made up for by the people I worked with.

“However, despite my role, and the differentiating uniform that came with it, it was clear that the majority of customers (often men) who came into the shop had a very hard time accepting I could be in charge when I was a woman.”

A Disgraceful mission

The experience Melissa gained in management was far from similar to those of her male colleagues, even after leaving her supermarket role – a string of retail jobs proved to be no different. 

64% of women have experienced microaggressions at work, including sexism, racism and elusive comments. Women are three times more likely to consider leaving a job due to this issue; an issue that, by the age of twenty-one, I had already experienced more than once. This needs to change.

Disgraceful's mission is to claim space in this world where women are expected to do the opposite; in a world where women are pushed to be thinner, talk less and smile more.”

Melissa used her creativity and range of skills and experience within marketing, PR and events management to make Disgraceful a magazine created, designed and written by and about women, for women. 

She held an internship placement at Penguin Random House in 2019 and has had six months as a social media marketing intern at the University this year.

Melissa is also the founder and owner of Feed, a female-run brand management agency working to close the the entrepreneurial gender gap.

“The publishing industry has always fascinated me and the modules on my course at Plymouth fuelled my eagerness for some real industry experience. However, with the pandemic and general lack of opportunities within the industry to learn, I decided to create a platform that created opportunities not only for myself, but for the people who came to work with me.”

<p>Disruptive Magazine December cover<br></p>
<p>Disruptive Magazine feature<br></p>
<p>Disruptive Magazine feature<br></p>
<p>Disruptive Magazine feature<br></p>

A Disgraceful woman

Disgraceful is a non-profit magazine run by women in business for women in business and female entrepreneurs.

Melissa believes Disgraceful is for every woman who sets out to build their own empire; the only expectations in sight, are the ones she sets for herself. 

“We are powerful; we are loud; we are strong; we are entrepreneurs, business owners, leaders, mothers. We are confident; we are disgraceful. And you can’t repress a disgraceful woman.

For their readers, writers and the team who have worked intensively over the last few months to bring this publication to life, Disgraceful is a place to be brave, expressive, inspired; a place to figure out exactly who you are without fear of societal pressures or constraints telling you to be otherwise. 

“We are confident; we are disgraceful. And you can’t repress a disgraceful woman.

Melissa and her team hope that Disgraceful will empower and encourage women and embolden them to do all the things they have perhaps only dreamed of doing – until now. Downloads for issue one soared into the thousands after only the first 48 hours of launching.

“My Disgraceful team is made up of around 60 (including our in-house writers) incredible women across the globe; in the US, Europe, Middle East, Asia and a handful of us in Plymouth, all students at the University. As editor-in-chief and founder, I could not have published issue one without the hard work and dedication of everyone involved!”


Disgraceful University contributors

The first issue of Disgraceful magazine is packed with a whole host of features, including careers goals and style, body politics and positivity, mixed-up media and pop-culture picks.

There are also contributions from two of Plymouth's current BA (Hons) English and Creative Writing students, Megan Binning and Jen Brogan. As well as a feature by Holly Peters, a third year English with Publishing student, Plymouth’s Young City Laureate, and chosen as one of Plymouth's coolest people in 2020. 

Other students from the University also part of the Disgraceful team are Chloe Cook, from BA (Hons) English, who is the head of PR and marketing and Sophie Veena Fisher, from MA Publishing, who is one of the editorial assistants.

Find out more about Megan and Jen's experience of studying at Plymouth and read extracts from their articles featured in issue one:

Females owning film

Megan Binning

According to the Centre for the Study of Women in Television and Film, women comprised only 20% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors and cinematographers working on the top 100 grossing films in 2019. There are so many successful women in the film industry who are claiming their space and owning their position with pride – let’s celebrate them!

Megan shares some of her favourite female directors, screenwriters and producers who she believes should be celebrated and supported, including Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Diablo Cody and Jane Goldman.

“I hope Disgraceful will be recognised as a leading magazine that creates a place for females to feel empowered and share the love.”

Studying BA (Hons) English and Creative Writing at Plymouth has inspired Megan to do many things, as well as contributing to Disgraceful.

“It helped me realise I love writing creatively. The course inspired me because it showed a perspective of film and TV I never thought I could do without any experience. It allowed me to discover screenwriting and taught me the skills to write the article.”

The experience of the course also introduced Megan to screenwriting and encouraged her to create the Writer's Room, the University's creative writing society, become an INK editor (the University's very own student-led literary journal) and start her own podcast and blog. 

After graduating, Megan wants to write television dramas and become a successful screenwriter.

Why being selfish is necessary

Jen Brogan

I’ve learnt the key place to seek strength and support to get through mental health is in ourselves. You need to prioritise you: your mind, your body, your lifestyle, your feelings, and you need to choose yourself over everything else.

Jen explores why it might be time for those of us struggling with mental health to take the work of destigmatising our conditions into our own hands.

“I think mental health is always something that is there, more so I also think it’s something that we ignore or don’t pay enough attention towards. I think that’s really sad and unhealthy. But this magazine empowers and inspires other women and that truly did that for me when writing my piece.”

Jen really believes Disgraceful has such power behind every title, every word owning itself, and is important for any woman out there.

“There are so many talented women in this magazine; running it behind the scenes, published in the magazine, writers, art creatives, business women – it just screams power, positivity and inspiration.”

Jen counts her experience studying BA (Hons) English and Creative Writing at Plymouth for helping to keep her inspired and constantly and creatively evolving.

“On the course you are constantly practising. Constantly finding ways to provoke new content or thoughts to inspire unique pieces of writing. It’s inspired me to create a blog, make a bookstagram account and contributed towards my opportunity with the magazine.”

Read Disgraceful magazine


Find your voice

Studying English and creative writing at Plymouth offers you the opportunity to choose a range of courses which feed your interest in literature, sharpen your critical and analytical skills, and study and practise creative writing.

We encourage you to interpret not only the texts you'll read but also the world around you in more subtle and penetrating ways.

The teaching staff are published writers and poets in their own right and support future aspiring and emerging writers through their teaching, publishing initiatives such as Periplum Poetry.

Study English and creative writing