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"Zine making is a way to exist."
interview with two zine editors: Isabella Gargiulo from Bendita (Sao Paolo, Brazil) and Amy Schroeder from Venus(Chicago, USA)

by Elke Zobl

July 2001

"Bah. My zine is about rape."

Bendita: A latin women's initiative against violence towards women, is a zine focused on sexual violence against women. The zine, published by Isabella Gargiulo and Geisa França, contains true stories written by women who suffered from sexual violence. The stories of Bendita are available online in Portuguese and in English. Isabella - with whom I had the chance to do the interview - also plays in a feminist punkrock band called Dominatrix and runs a small zine distro, whereas Geisa publishes her own zine called Dear Jessie. Both are living and working in Sao Paolo, Brazil.

"Basically, Venus is my life."
Venus, published by Amy Schroeder since 1995, is primarily about female musicians but also covers women artists, writers and provides feminist resources. The zine is now in its 10th issue and located in Chicago, USA. In its beginning, Amy was the sole editor of Venus but with time, the zine attracted a lot of contributing writers and several editors. Although Venus is what Amy's life is about, she has also been one of the organizers of Ladyfest Chicago 2001. And if that's not enough, she works in her day job as an arts and entertainment editor.

Elke Zobl: How, when and why did you decide to put out a zine? How did you come up with the idea and the name?
Isabella Gargiulo: Geisa had gone thru sexual abuse as well as I did, and when she was telling me about it on the phone we came to the conclusion that rape is just so revolting, it's such a 'hidden' crime and we girls feel so unpowered... so we decided to tell everyone about it so that maybe we could get people give a little more thought to the sexual abuse issue. We want to tell out our stories so that raped girls/boys can identify with it and also because we wanna break the invisible walls that surround this subject. It's our big FUCK YOU to a patriarchal society that tells us to shut up when it comes to rape.
Amy Schroeder: I actually released my first zine when I was about 12 years old. But I didn't know it was a zine at the time. It was called After School News - I interviewed my friends and asked them random questions. From an early age, I've always been really into making stuff or producing things - from talent shows for the kids on my block to mud pies to clothes. I've also been interested in magazines for a long time. So making a zine seemed like a natural thing to do. I started Venus because I was antsy. I'm always antsy unless I'm creating something.
I was taking a women's studies course in college and we were learning about the mythology of women being from Venus and men being from Mars. I fantasized about this world where only women lived - I thought it seemed like a pretty nice place to be. I also wondered if women would be more empowered on a global scale if men hadn't been around to interrupt women's work. This is the gist of Venus it's a space that showcases women's artistic work.

EZ: What does zine making (and reading) mean to you?
IG: Zine making to me means creating our own channel to express just about everything we wanna say and were never given a chance. It's so empowering. Especially coz in a lot of occasions it gives a voice to marginalized groups whose voices (and lives) have never been considered by mainstream society in general. Zine making is a way to exist, really. Others know about you and they maybe their lives are as much fucked up as yours and we can unite and look for solutions or just exchange ideas, which is so important... Same for reading zines. I personally love it. I don't care if the person who did it belongs to this or that 'crew', fuck it if my friends or my ghetto don't like it, I buy them and I read them nevertheless just because I love the whole idea of zine-making from the bottom of my heart. It seems absurd to say all this but once you're inserted in some sort of hardcore-punk context you can really notice how people keep themselves from buying such and such zines coz their friends probably wouldn't like it or something like that. Bah. My zine is about rape. Rape is all around and I want everyone to know about it whoever they are, and as well as mine there are other zines which talk about relevant issues but because of 'scene' rules like friend groups whatsoever, they don't get bought and that's just so sick.
AS: It means freedom: doing what I want to do, saying what I want to say, featuring women who don't always get recognition in other spaces.

EZ: What do you love (and maybe don't) about zine making?
IG: see above answer
AS: I love the rush of the creative and communication processes. I love the information-gathering process. We do our best to be timely in covering the latest music and art made by women. What I love most is hearing from readers from around the world. The part I don't like is the financial struggle. Since we barely break even (and sometimes we lose money on printing and mailing costs), I have quite a bit of debt.

EZ: Do you define yourself as a feminist? What do you think about feminism today? What issues are you concerned with as a woman/feminist?
IG: Both Geisa and I have been feminists for quite a long time now not only because our country is extremely sexist but also because we are concerned about the situation societies of today's societies put women into (not only womyn though). Feminism today is just as important as it ever was, as opposed to some people who claim it isn't necessary 'anymore'. It seems obvious that sexism and machismo have never been extinguished but have taken other forms instead, concerning issues of the modern world for example. We women still have to fit into stupid aesthetic standards, we still earn lower wages, we still have sexist husbands beating the hell out of their wives, our naked body parts are still a weapon for advertising companies, we still don't have total freedom over our own wombs etc. etc. etc. The issues part is a little more complicated to talk about because there are so many womyn's issues which I feel touched by, so the list would be endless. But I guess the issues that touch me more, which make me more mad are the ones from daily life as a woman in Brazil, basically not having freedom over our female body, not having freedom to dress the way we want (it's a tropical country but it seems most men think we wear mini skirts and sleeveless shirts because of them (?) or something, because no matter if we're thin or fat or black or white or Japanese, we always get teased in the streets). Also being female in an enterprise company is like much of your success is depending if you're always thin and looking 'ok' and if you don't get pregnant etc. Not to mention life for the lower class womyn. Incest is something that happens an awful lot, dads raping their daughters and having her kids live in the same house and stuff like that... Religion is overwhelming overpowering as well, so it's like domino effect... It seems natural that I should be feminist under the conditions I live everyday. I guess for women everywhere it goes this way too... Sexism is always there, no matter what form it uses, and we must pay more attention.
AS: I am a feminist. I love saying it. A lot of strong women I know don't like to use the word. They think it has negative connotations. I believe the feminist movement is not perfect, but I think the purpose of it is extremely important. Women still aren't treated equally. Women are still viewed as subordinate to men. Similarly, whites still have more power than people of color. Rich people have more power than poor people. All issues of inequality are important topics in the feminist movement.

EZ: Could you please describe a little bit the grrrl zine community in your country?
IG: The fanzine production began over here around the late 70s, and the first women-made publications came out in the mid 80s but normally they had help from men in the editing and stuff like that. So I can't really tell when ALL GIRL zines started to come out, but I can say that since the Riot Grrrl movement established some roots around here in 1997, girl zines started popping up wildly here and there and it was just amazing, and still is, but the difference is that today girls seem to be more daring. It's not just about being indie or punk rock or hardcore or emo or artsy whatever - girls are starting to talk about art and politics so I have to say the quality is tending to increase. Violent Playground, Água, Magazine, Grrrls Voices, Gumption, Vertigem, Garatuja... the names are countless. I would even dare to say that there are just as many female editors as there are male ones, and girls seem to have so-o-o much to say as there are always new zines on the stands. Thumbs up to them as they managed to pave their way in such a culture-lacking country.
AS: Although grrrl zine makers are underground ladies, the movement is popular in the United States. I would guess that there are hundreds if not thousands of grrrl-related zines being made in the United States. Although it's hard to document all the small-press grrrl zines in the U.S., they make an important impact upon the readers in small communities of readers. There are also a significant amount of small zine distributors that do a great job of sending zines to readers around the country.

EZ: Do you want to add something?
IG: The only thing I got to say for now is that the more women get involved in art productions (zine is one), the more they'll know themselves. And that's our main weapon.
AS: I just want to add that a lot of people ask me why I publish a zine, and they sometimes don't understand why I put so much time, energy, and money loss into it. Basically, Venus is my life. It's a huge part of my identity, and I can't imagine not doing it.

read more about these two zines:

latin women's intiative against violence towards women

Venus Zine