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"It's not just boy's fun!"

An interview with
Elena Stoehr

by Elke Zobl


Elena has edited two zines so far: It's not just boys fun and rote traenen (both mostly in English, partly in German).
It's not just boys fun zine covers just about anything from interviews with bands to diary writings, quotes, comics, info about how the get active, stories about "maennliches Verhalten und dessen Folgen", women and hardcore, ... A great personal and political zine, now also online! Rote Traenen is a small zine, very delicate and personal. It has poems, fiction, stories and wonderful collages. Enjoy!

> 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? What do you do besides your zine?

my name is elena, i am 19 years old and i live in a small town in the southwest of germany. i never lived anywhere else before... besides my zine, i just wrote my final exams and after school, i am gonna move to cologne and start studying there (scandinavistics, anglistics, philosophy). apart from that, i organise shows from time to time, write columns for and various other zines, etc.

> 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?

that's a difficult question, i think i started working for my first zine in 1998. i had the idea of making a zine on my own a long time before but i didn't know how it all works, how to get a zine distributed and stuff like that... i am making two different zines at the moment. the first one (and my "main" zine) is called "it's not just boys' fun!" and there have been two issues so far. the first one came out in 1998 and the second one two years later. it always took me a lot of time to do a whole zine since i wanted to have a broad variety of topics in there and i also had other things to do so i never published my zines regularly or had deadlines. the other zine i am making is called "rote tränen". there have been three issues so far, the third one has just been finished. it's only a small zine (A6) with personal writings and poems in german. i would like to go on doing that in the future and i would love to do another split-issue (#2 was a split with "nachfrühling").
i am the only editor but there were always other people involved, for example by writing columns and expressing their thoughts.

What made you decide to start this project? How did you come up with the idea and the name?

well, i always liked writing a lot. i had and still have a diary where i wrote all of my thoughts down, everything that moved me, made me angry, sad, happy and so on... when i came in contact with zines for the first time, i knew that i wanted to create something like that, too. what really made me decide to make a zine on my own was a zine from belgium called "the ugly duckling".

i wrote a letter to lieve (the editor), she gave me some helpful advice and then i started... basically, the idea behind the zine was the fact that i only knew a few female zine-editors and i thought that the hc/punk-scene was strongly male-dominated. so i wanted to do something on my own, see more girls involved or just know where all the active girls are and what they're up to. the name of the zine is from a song by 7 seconds called "not just boys fun". i loved and still love this song very much, i could identify myself with its content and that's why i decided to give my zine the same name.

> What topics are most often discussed in your zine?

i always tried to cover many, many different topics so i can't really say that there are topics which are most often discussed in my zine. of course, feminism and gender-roles have been discussed quite often since this is influencing me as a woman and also in life. i try to write down everything that makes me thoughtful and i don't want to limit myself to only one topic... of course, it can happen that i have the strong need to only write about one single topic. that happened at the time when i wrote down my thoughts for rote tränen #1 & 2. those issues mostly deal with childhood and growing older in general.

> What do you hope to accomplish by establishing your zine?

i want to share my thoughts with people and i also want a response from them. i think communication is the most important thing and creating a zine helped me to reach more people from all over the world. since i started publishing my writings, i got to know so many different people from so many different countries, i learned a lot and i was able to expand my horizon in any possible way. so basically, i want to communicate and probably give more people a cause for writing and making their own zines... oh yeah, and having a voice, saying what makes me angry is also something i wanna accomplish.

> What does zine making (and reading) mean to you? What do you love about zine making? What's the most challenging aspect of making zines?

zines have become an important part of my life, may it be reading them or making zines myself. when i first came into contact with hc/punk, i read a lot of zines because i didn't know anything about the whole thing and zines were really helpful to get to know more about the people, the bands, the zine-editors, politics and whatever... well, i guess i love everything about zine-making! :) no, seriously, i love writing in the first place and i love doing layouts and most of all getting into contact with so many wonderful people from all over the world. i love getting responses to what i have created, may they be positive or negative... i love informing myself about various things that interest me and then publishing what i have found out... the most challenging aspect of making zines for me personally is trying to create something new and different. with every issue, i am trying to improve what i've done before since i tend to not liking the previous issues anymore. that's what keeps me going...

> What was your first exposure to zines? How did you find out about them? What have they come to mean to you?

as i already said, i first came into contact with zines when i started listening to hardcore and punk. i had listened to metal before and i was about 12 or 13 years old at that time. i used to order my records at a local distro and they also had many, many zines. so i was curious about what would be the difference between them and some of the more popular magazines i had been reading before and i ordered some. that was my first exposure to zines and i have been constantly reading zines ever since. i still have many of my "first zines" (like one issue of "tension building") and i will never ever throw them away because they gave me a lot. i laughed and cried while reading them. apart from music, they were the most important thing for me during that time of my life...

> 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?

sure, i do consider grrrl zines as an important part of a movement. zines in general are important for all kinds of movement and i hope this will never end... if zines can effect social and political change? well, i surely do hope so. but i think that not only zines can effect those changes but they surely take part in that...

> What does the zine community mean to you?

many people that also make zines have become close friends of mine. so the zine community is a very important part of my life! i would say that i am almost a zine-nerd, every time i see a new zine and it sounds interesting at first sight, i just have to get it... i learned a lot from zines, they made me thoughtful, happy, sad and so on... basically everything i learned about punk and straight edge when i was younger came from reading zines. and as i already said, i got to know so many wonderful people who also make zines or who just wrote me a letter. all of this is just awesome...

> What advice would you give others who want to start a zine?

first of all: write about everything you want to write! don't try to make your zine like all the other zines, that's boring. do whatever you like with your zine! if you want to have lots of pictures in it, do so. if you don't like interviews, don't interview anyone. if you prefer cut and paste and your handwriting instead of a computer-layout, go ahead... another important thing is to let many other people know about your zine by spreading flyers, advertising in other zines and so on... i think this is the most important advice i received when i started and i would like to forward this to others... basically: just do whatever YOU want to do!

> What are some of the zines you admire?

as i already said, "the ugly duckling" was/is a great zine and i read the old issues again every once in a while. then there's a great german zine called "beyond", a zine from the philippines called "get in touch"... "heartattack" is also a really good zine and there are tons of others i like reading but i don't remember most of them at the moment...

> Could you please describe a little bit the grrrl zine community in your country?

if there was a grrrl zine community, i would love to describe it. well, maybe there is one and i don't know anything about it. as far as i know, there isn't that much going on over here in germany, sorry...

> Do you define yourself as a feminist? What are the most pressing issues you are confronted with in daily life (as a woman/feminist)? Are you active in the feminist movement?

yeah, i surely define myself as a feminist. the most pressing issue i am confronted with at the moment is fear. i have got fear of being raped, fear of going out on my own when it is dark, fear of being alone somewhere, etc. i wrote a column about this where i told a story that made me realize my fear. here it is, i hope i don't bore you with this:
some days ago, i was walking through the streets of cologne in the darkness... it wasn't even 9 o'clock and i was probably daydreaming when i heard someone with a bike behind me. he was driving pretty slowly and i asked myself why he didn't just pass by since there was enough space next to me... suddenly he came nearer and i heard him saying "sorry lady..." ...that made me wince and my heart stopped. in the end, that guy only asked me how he could get to any place in the city. i mean, i was afraid, only because someone was behind me, it was dark and i was alone. when i talked about this later on, i came to the conclusion that it should not be like that. womyn shouldn't be afraid when they are on their own... of course not. but almost all the womyn i talked to about this felt the same. they told me about being afraid in the darkness, being afraid when walking home alone, even being afraid when they are alone at home... that makes me so goddamn sick!! i want us to feel safe. i want to feel safe. but how? a girl i know was nearly raped some months ago if her dog had not barked loudly... since she told me about that, i started getting a bit paranoid when i was alone, especially at night... and it still is like that. when i go home late at night, i walk faster than i usually do, i look behind me all the time, every single noise makes me shiver. when someone is behind me, i start walking faster and my heart is also beating faster. and then i read that -in the united states- one out of every three womyn will be a 'victim' of any kind of sexual assaults during her lifetime... and my paranoia increases... all i want is to feel safe. but i just can't. i want to feel safe again. can you help me? we should all be able to feel safe again. and it is surely worth a try.
i am active in the feminist movement by doing my zines (which are somehow part of it, too), spreading flyers and information in general. i was also part of some collectives but unfortunately, they do not exist anymore...

> What do you think about feminism today? Do you see yourself as part of "Third Wave Feminism" and what does it mean to you?

i think being a feminist today is difficult. of course not as difficult as some years ago but still, i noticed that most people smile condescendingly at you if you say you're calling yourself a feminist... there's still so much sexism and patriarchy around all of us, in any way possible... i don't really know if i see myself as a part of third wave feminism. should i? :)

> Which role plays the Internet for you? Does it change your ideas of making zines and doing/reading zines?

since i have access to the internet, i have been using it regularly. it became a very important source of information for me and if i feel like informing myself about anything (for example if i want to write a column for the zine), i first look it up on the internet. i mostly use the internet for communication and i guess i write about ten or more e-mails a day... since i have a homepage, i also got in contact with lots of different people and parts of my zines can be read online. of course the internet has changed my ideas of making zines, especially because i am not only doing a 'paper-zine' anymore but also an e-zine. i still like 'real' zines much more than those online-zines. they are too impersonal in my eyes...

> Do you have any suggestions? Something you want to add?

thanx for this interview and if anyone is reading this who does a zine, he/she can get in touch with me for trading and so on... i am curious to read more zines!
love and strength for dreaming and fighting, elena

elena's address:
elena stoehr
50733 köln