We refuse to be pacified! The zine Baby Bloc for Activists in a Family Way
interview with Laurel Dykstra
What do you do besides your zine?
I am mother to twin three year olds Harriet and Myriam. I do freelance writing when I can, for parenting magazines and christian-left publications. I also lead workshops on reading the bible and on street theatre/creating giant puppets.
You are also very much involved in activism. Can you tell us bit about what you are doing and what your motivations and goals are?
Currently with parenting and moving from one country to another, my activism is at a pretty low ebb. I am involved with the campaign to close the US army School of the Americas (now WHINSC) mostly through the puppetistas, folks who do big public spectacle and street theatre. My writing is political and aimed at social change in various areas: family, poverty, housing, health. gender. My biblical writing is specifically aimed at challenging people who identify as christian to see and act out of the radical justice content of our scriptures. The other major area of my activism is in networking, and educating about families and activism. Working on making the movements I am involved with a friendly place for families and enabling those movements to benefit and grow from the inclusion of families.
For how long have you been running your zine now? Are you the only editor or is there a team?
Babybloc has three issues out and has been running for about a year and a half. Geez guess we better get another issue out eh? Bruce triggs, the father/spermdonor for my kids put the zine together for the Mama Gathering in LA summer of 2003 I think. He and I do the zine together but I would describe my role as a contributing editor. I am responsible for some content but he does layout, mailing, coalating, distribution and pretty much everything except what I write and draw.
I produce a (very) mini comic specifically about my adventures in parenting, it has been out a little longer and that is my own project.
made you decide to start this project? How did you come up with the idea and the
The main motivation was frustration with the isolation of trying to be involved in activism and to parent at the same time. Going to a big School of the Americas demonstration in Georgia when the girls were 4 months old I designed a logo "Baby Bloc, we refuse to be pacified!" and a raised baby fist with a pacifier. Kinda cute kinda funny. Bruce silk screened little shirts with the logo to help fund our trip and out of that we got a reputation for being the folks to hook up with on issues of activism and family.
What do you hope to accomplish by making and distributing your zine?
Challenging conversation with likeminded folk. Getting to read what I don't find elsewhere.
What topics do you discuss most often in your zine?
Families and activism, child activists, gender, gender difference and parenting,
Which role(s) did (and do) zines and zine making (and reading) play for you as you became a mother/parent?
Zines are a quick read (at least the ones I like) I once read that the typical readers of Harlequin Romances are women with interrupted lives. In some ways zines serve a similar function for me. I can read a story or article in between this task and the next. Zines also decrease my sense of isolation.
What do you love and find challenging about zine making?
I love getting one finished, reading it, seeing it done and I am immensely challenged by trying to make that happen oftener.
What are some of the zines you read and admire?
East Village Inky, EdgyCatin Mama, Dave Dumpsterland, The Mouth, Joy Bringer, red Diaper Baby, Tales of Nico Lots, I really like comix by women
advice would you give to a mother/parent who wanted to start a zine?
Do you feel part of a (local/national/international) zine community or network? If yes, what does the alternative mothering/parenting/feminist zine community or network mean to you?
To some extent. I get to have contact of a sort with folks whose values I share but don't get to hang out with.
I feel that there is a boom of mama zines in the USA right now. Why do you think is this? And what could come out of this?
I think zines and mama's are a natural. Parenting is a very DIY phenomenon. If you have kids of schoolish age you have all the stuff there, stapler, pens, paper. Making a zine is a way to be actively creative in an alternative way, a way that does not involve more consumer culture (like say a scrapbook class). Being a parent can be very isolating and the drive to communicate some of your life can be met in a way that the doesn't have to be perfect (like a magazine submission) and can just be you. For the most part mama zines are pretty accepting and supportive so that has great appeal too.
I am very interested in the international zine community. Have you ever heard of a mama or feminist parenting zine from another country? If yes, can you tell me more about it?
The Mama zines I know are Canadian and US.
When I look at all the different mama zines which are currently out there - from punk to alternative to radical mama zines to feminist parenting to feminist homeschooling -, I wonder if women have enough of the stereotypical image of mothers in mainstream magazines and that the image of motherhood has changed in the last years (or decade) in the US. Do you think it has, or is it just because zines recently started talking about alternative views of motherhood? How do you regard the role of zines in relation to mainstream magazines, in particular magazines on mothering and parenting?
That's a curious relationship. For the most part parenting magazines are pretty slick and in tune with the culture or in some cases their little sub-set of the culture (Queer parents or Attachment parents). They are very clear about what they want from their writers. For some Mama writers, zines are a stepping stone into that world of writing/publishing. Inasmuch as zines have added some glamour (alternative images) without challenging the bottom line of profits they have been cannibalized by mainstream media. Other zinesters are not seeking inclusion in the publishing industry or to further careers as writhers outside of the world of selfpublishing. So to conclude this vague ramble I see zines as both an alternative to mainstream parenting mags, publishing articles that will never see glossy print, and as a link to the mainstream.
Do you consider mama zines in particular and grrrl zines in general as an important part of a social movement? Do you think grrrl/mama zines can effect meaningful social and political change at large?
Mama/Grrl zines are a tool for conscientization and self-reflection. They are a means for women to communicate their own experiences unmediated but a social movement involves social action and zines fall short of this. Zines can/could be part of a social movement but are not necessarily.
Has the experience of making a zine been empowering to you? In which ways? What were some of main influences that have empowered you in your life?
My experience of zine making is more fun than empowering.
Which role does play the Internet for you?
It is a tool to stay connected and gather information.
Do you define yourself as a feminist? What are the most pressing issues you are confronted with in daily life (as a woman/mother/parent/feminist/ )?
I do define myself as a feminist.
What do you think about feminism today? Do you see yourself as part of "Third Wave Feminism" and if yes, what does it mean to you? Or why not?
I don't spend a lot of time thinking about feminism or how I fit into its historical arc. I think the time of strictly gender-based feminism is over, to be credible at all feminism must take into account the intersection of class, race, economics, colonialism, ableism, homo and trans phobias and the realities of the globalization of corporate capitalism. I see myself as trying to live counter to white-supremacist, hetero, patriarchy and corporate culture. At the same time I really want to avoid the kind of post-modern paralysis that comes with the perspective that multiple realities exist, that many perspectives are valid so we can't actually DO anything.
When I tell people in the US that in Austria (the country where I come from) all mothers get a paid 2 and a half year maternity leave as well as the father half a year (or the other way around), they hardly can believe it. However, in Austria there are discussions by feminists that this causes women to stay longer at home so that they loose connections to the work environment, or completely drop out. On the other hand, when I tell people in Austria the situation in the US, they tend to think it's "cruel" to give 6 week-old-babies into day care. What would a feminist family-friendly society look like in your view? How do you think society might be re-thought and transformed to come closer to an "ideal" world for mothers, parents and families? Do you have any suggestions for the development of progressive-mum/parent-friendly policies?
Off the top of my head: how about universal health care that included dental and optometrists care. Wages for mother work and a variety of options for paid childcare. Parental leave pay that does not assume a primary and secondary parent/care giver. Recognition of families outside a binary model: 3 parent families, grandparent headed families, mother/grandmother/kids families to name a few. Affordable low-income housing. Laws that protected children as individuals not as extensions of their bio-parents or semi-sentient property. Shelters, safe places for youth and kids who can't live with their families, esp. queer youth.
What are some of your personal wishes/visions/ideas/plans for the future?
It is January and I am full of resolutions. I would like to complete the Baby Bloc anthology (activist family stories) that Bruce and I are working on. I want to finish my lesbian murder mystery, illustrate my children's book, write my book on the matriarchs of Genesis and get together an anthology of essays of family, gender, parenting etc, called Hot Tips For Butch Mamas. How's that?
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
out our website at
Thanks for the interview!
All images from the Baby Bloc web site.