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We have had enough!
Women's Self-Defense: Stories and Strategies of Survival

An interview with Ariel Clemenzi

by Elke Zobl

September 2002

Ariel does the zine Women's Self-Defense: Stories and Strategies of Survival as well as a small music/zine distro called Riveter. She is also calling for submissions for the second issue of the women's self-defense zine (coming out in January!). This is an incredible powerful zine with stories about different ways women have defended themselves and other women. Read an interview with Ariel below!

Can you tell me a little about yourself? How old are you, where are you originally from and where do you reside now?

A: I’m 23 years old and originally I’m from Boston MA. But I’ve lived in various parts of the country. For the last 3 years I lived in Chicago, which is one of my favorite cities. Now I’m living in central Illinois in a small college town surrounded by corn. The small part is actually growing on me, but the college and corn part is not.

Copyright Sanya
What do you do besides your zines?
A: Besides zines, I go to school where I’m studying community health, in particular women’s health. I also do a music distribution called Riveter with my partner Adam. Riveter focuses on music from outside the US made by women who sing in languages besides English. We carry all kinds of stuff including US bands and bands who sing in English but that’s not our focus. We started Riveter mainly because we think that the ideas and music of women in general are overlooked, but that’s especially the case with women who don’t subscribe to the notion that English is “the new world language”. So far it’s a small distro and is going slow, but its fun to be doing something I really care about. I also like putting on shows that feature women musicians. When I was living in Chicago I was part of a women’s show booking collective. I worked with the collective putting on a series of benefit shows that ranged from punk to hip-hop and raised money for the Chicago Women’s Health Center (which offers free/sliding scale health care to women).

For how long have you been running your zine now? How many issues did you put out?
A: So far Adam and I have only put out one issue of Riveter zine, which came out this past spring. Riveter is a kind of free for all zine that we started to get out ideas and issues we are interested in. This first issue is a little bit of everything and covers stuff from radical women’s history and the story of a pre Row v. Wade underground feminist abortion service called “Jane”, to immigrant workers’ fight for the 8-hour day, as well as interviews with two of our favorite bands (Post Regiment, and Stracony both from Poland), and info on depaving your driveway, as well as some personal-tied-in-with-political writings we did. The Women’s Self-Defense zine: Stories and Strategies of Survival is my longest running project. I have been collecting stories for the past 5 years, but the first issue just came out last winter.

Are you the only editor or is there a team?
A: The first issue of the WSD was edited solely by me, but this second issue is much more of a collaboration which is great and a quite a relief! I’m working with my friend Megan from Chicago who’s doing a lot of artwork for the 2nd issue and we’re able to bounce ideas off of each other. That’s been really awesome and helpful to have another woman in on the process! I’m also writing an article with another awesome woman zinester/musician on how people can support survivors of violence (a topic I think was sorely missing from issue #1). So this next issue is much more of a team effort. And hopefully the 3rd issue will be even more so. I’m very open to working with women on articles, and artwork etc. and I’m hoping that more women will want to get involved.

Copyright Sanya

What made you decide to start this project?
A: The idea for this zine was brewing in my head for a really long time! To make a long story shorter, there was a whole series of abuse in my life and the zine is part of my response to that abuse. The pivotal event which inspired this zine was when I was assaulted by a stranger one afternoon. That guy just picked the wrong girl to assault because I had had enough!! All this rage that had built up in me over the years came out and I fought hard, threw the guy to the ground and ran to the street. That was the last straw and I really realized that “Yes! I can defend myself! I don’t need to put up with any more abuse.” But there was still a lot of pain and fear in me after that assault and I felt really isolated. So I decided I needed to hear how other women were defending themselves. I also felt the need to share my own successful experiences defending myself to inspire other women fight back. To let them know that it is possible to fight back, that women are doing it all the time! And doing it successfully.

How did you come up with idea and the name?
A: I chose the title Women’s Self-Defense because it’s pretty straight forward and self-explanatory. I chose the subtitle Stories and Strategies of Survival because the personal stories that make up the content of the zine reveal many techniques/strategies of self-defense.

What do you hope to accomplish by establishing your zine?
A: Well, when I started talking to women about their experiences with sexual assault I found that many women who had gotten themselves out of dangerous situations or stopped an assault didn’t think of it as self-defense; they just considered themselves lucky. So one goal of the zine is to help women redefine their experiences so that they can look back and acknowledge all they did to actively keep themselves safe. That they were in fact using self-defense techniques and not just “lucky”. I also want this zine to help create more of a network and ongoing discussion so that we can break the taboo around sexual assault and work to eradicate it! The zine also serves as a safe space for women to “come out” about their experiences so we can overcome isolation and begin to heal.

What does zine making (and reading) mean to you?
A: Making and reading zines means that I’m actively expressing myself and networking with other people in underground and independent publishing. It’s very empowering and worthwhile!

What do you love about zine making? What’s the most challenging aspect of making zines?
A: I love creating a place for women to share their stories and experiences. I learn so much from each woman’s story. One of the big challenges with the Self-Defense zine was that it was really slow getting submissions at first. It ended up taking a lot of outreach and networking with women over the years before I got enough stories to finish the first issue. The second issue has been a little easier to get together and it’s already due out in January of 2003! With Riveter zine it’s just plane fun. In particular I love getting to interview women musicians I’ve always admired.

What was the first exposure to zines? How did you find out about them? What have they come to mean to you?
A: I first found out about zines from my friend Kate Stamps who did a zine called Notes. This was back in 1994 or ‘95 and I’d never heard of zines before. She handed me a copy of Notes and I totally freaked out… it opened a whole new world for me! I was like “What IS this?! How do you do this? I need to know!” From then on I was hooked on zines, but for a while I idealized them too much to do it myself. But once I did (my first zine was called Kryptonite Girl and it was about dropping out of high-school) I just had even more of a passion for it. Zines mean a lot to me because they are one way that I’ve got a way to express myself, and to hear what other underrepresented voices have to say.

Do you consider grrrl zines as an important part of a movement of sorts? Do you think zines can effect meaningful social and political change?
A: Yes on both counts! I see zines as being like the equivalent of books, but mostly written by marginalized people who probably don’t have the resources, time, or connections to get published in the traditional sense of the word. On a good day zines have the potential to be revolutionary because they are totally free from censorship, and profit motives. Zines create space for folks to express their concerns, ideas, experiences, etc. as well as educate others. All very important stuff for creating any kind of social change!

What advice would you give others who want to start a zine?
A: Go for it! And once you start don’t stop! It gets easier the more you do it.

What are some of the zines you admire?
A: There are lots, but a few that have been influential are Guerilla Greywater Girls: Guide to Water, Mine: An Anthology of Women’s Choices, Rocket Queen, Hot Pantz, Notes, Sideshows, Red Alert, Survivor…

Could you please describe a little bit the grrrl zine community in your country?
A: The community, like the country itself is really huge and spread out. There are zines by grrrls on just about everything you’d want to read about and the only trouble is trying to find them all because there is just so much out there! My only complaint with the whole zine community is that I think there needs to be more events that actually bring grrrls/zinesters/people physically together in the same room. I’d like to see more zine readings and conferences and stuff so that we can build upon the networks we’re creating in print in person.

Do you define yourself as a feminist?
A: Yeah-- I’ve always thought of myself as a feminist. But at the same time I’m weary of labels of any sort as they have a tendency to drive people apart just as much as they bring people together. I think my actions define me as a feminist: I love working with women, hanging out with women, and advancing the equality, empowerment, and autonomy of all women on all fronts in any way I can.

What are the most pressing issues you are confronted with in daily life (as a woman/feminist)?
A: Everyday I’m intensely aware of the fact that I live in a totally fucked up patriarchal capitalist political system which oppresses so many people and pits us against each other. As a feminist I think a lot about issues of community and how do we build it, and sustain it, and use it to support each other and impact the world.

What role plays the internet for you? Does it change your ideas of making zines and doing/reading zines?
A: The internet is a really great tool. It’s helped me to find out about people and projects that I wouldn’t have otherwise. Actually, the grrrlzines website in particular has been fantastic for that! But as with any tool it’s got its limitations. It’s pretty impersonal and doesn’t compare to print zines, or getting to talk with a person face to face.

Do you have any suggestions? Something you want to add?
A: Thanks Elke for giving me this opportunity! Thanks everyone for reading! Get in touch, I love communication!

Ariel Clemenzi
PO Box 2433
IL 61825-2433
email Ariel at:


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