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"I love being able to get my ideas out there and have them read."


Feminist Response to Pop Culture

An interview with
Lisa Miya-Jervis

interview by Elke Zobl

January 2002

Bitch | Feminist Response to Pop Culture is a print magazine devoted to incisive commentary on our media-driven world. We feature critiques of TV, movies, magazines, advertising, and more—plus interviews with and profiles of cool, smart women in all areas of pop culture.”

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

I'm 29, born in Boston, early childhood in L.A., but mostly grew up in New York City (age 8-18). Went to college in the midwest and now live in Oakland, Calif.

What do you do besides your zine?
As of late summer, *nothing*! I am a full time Bitch. (I used to be a proofreader and copyeditor, mostly in corporate settings.)

For how long have you been running your zine now? How many issues did you put out until now? Are you the only editor or is there a team?
6.5 years, we just published issue #15, and it's been a team thing from the very start. My coeditor Andi Zeisler and I hatched the idea together and brought in our first art director, Ben Shaykin, in the middle of working on the first issue. Now we have a different art director and a small handful of other editorial and business staff/volunteers as well.

What made you decide to start this project? How did you come up with the idea and the name?
Basically we started it out of a sense of outrage at the way women are treated in mainstream media. The specifics of naming etc. are lost to the fog of memory.

What topics are most often discussed in your zine?
our subtitle pretty much says it all: feminist response to pop culture. We try to get a balance between criticism/analysis of negative things and spotlighting of positive things (activist projects, positive portrayals, alternative media, etc.).

What do you hope to accomplish by establishing your zine?
At first we just wanted a forum to express our outrage. Now it's more broad, to foster critical thinking among our audience and (hopefully) effect the way that pop culture imagines women and feminism.

What does zine making (and reading) mean to you? What do you love about zine making? Whatís the most challenging aspect of making zines?
I love being able to get my ideas out there and have them read. The most challenging thing for me is keeping up with all the work, especially the business side, and also the increased pressure with our planned expansion (from twice a year to four times a year).

What was your first exposure to zines? How did you find out about them? What have they come to mean to you?
I didn't really have much exposure to zines before we started Bitch. It was more of an awareness that self-publishing was possible. So i would say that most of my exposure to zines has come after the
fact--through people sending stuff to us and just through poking around on the newsstand.

What they mean to me...
that's too hard a question to answer. Mainly, they mean good reading material (for me) and a freedom from top-down editorial decisions (for the zine makers).

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?
Yes, definitely. Zines important to the political development of both readers and writers (re: the latter, writing really helps you hone your ideas and so become a more effective activist). And by giving people options outside the corporate media, they can help break corporate media/adertising stranglehold on our reading material.

What does the zine community mean to you?
Because Bitch does not have its roots as a zine, I don't feel that much a part of the zine community (and I know many in that community wouldn't consider us a zine anyway because of our size, slick cover,
bar code, etc.)

What advice would you give others who want to start a zine?
Just get started! don't put it off.

What are some of the zines you admire?
nebulosi, the east village inky, peko peko, arcane, my evil twin sister. the (sadly defunct) fat girl. fat!so? beer frame. many more that i am forgetting--i always forget things when asked questions like this.

Do you define yourself as a feminist?
Yes, definitely.

What are the most pressing issues you are confronted with in daily life (as a woman/feminist)?
that's such a huge and complicated question, i don't think i can really answer it concisely. on a very prosaic level, there's street harassment and the like walking to work every day (though generally it's something that i have learned to insulate myself from mentally).

being immersed in feminism all day every day at work can be kind of depressing, as far as a hyperawareness of how fucked up everything is, and what uphill battles feminist activists are faced with. but the other side of that is feeling connected to feminists working on wide ranges of issues, seeing the potential in that.

But to get back to what I think is the thrust of the question, I think the most pressing thing facing feminists today is the havoc unrestrained capitalism wreaks on all of our lives--so many feminist issues, from the wage gap to sweatshops to corporate control of news and other media, come down to the ruthless pursuit of profit at any social cost.

Are you active in the feminist movement?
Yes, I consider myself active.

What do you think about feminism today? Do you see yourself as part of ìThird Wave Feminismî and what
does it mean to you?
Another huge question, so I'll just address the latter half: While I do see myself as part of it to some extent, I am not sure that the "third wave" is a meaningful category. I think that too often it is used to set up divisions among feminists and obscure the contiguousness of generational feminist agendas.

Which role plays the Internet for you? Does it change your ideas of making zines and doing/reading zines?
I use the web for research and read a lot on the web, but I am so enamored of print that the web will always be a limited presence in my life. It also presents a paradox for zinesters: it can be cheaper
to produce and/or read a webzine(if you already have access to the technology--but if you don't have the technology it is tremendouly expesive to get it. So the web can be more inclusive/accessible or vastly more elitist, depending on the situation.

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