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Emancypunx:
Creating space for women and making different perspectives visible
in Poland

An interview with Yen

by Elke Zobl

September 2002


Emancypunx is an autonomous feminist anti-hierarchic group of young girls and women (about 16-28 years) in Warsaw, Poland. Their aim is to
fight for women rights and against sexual discrimination. And they also used to publish a zine, Vacula!




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 26 years old I’m half German and half finish and I was raised up in Poland and Germany, for now I live in Warsaw (Poland).

What is the group Emancypunx, the zine Vacula and the web site about? What kind of projects do you do with Emancypunx?
In this moment the word Emancypunx stands for different projects. A performance group (includes radical cheerleading - contact
bordi@02.pl) and Emancypunx records/distro (emancy-rec@go2.pl). As Emancypunx I’m responsible for putting up shows, festivals and i run the small record label and distro called Emancypunx. Me and Robert from Refuse also started 96' to organize an antisexist antihomophobic festival called "Noc Walpurgii". This year the groups sister, Duldung, klirrr, Emancypunx happenings helped out. It's for sure the biggest project labeled by the name Emancypunx, because depending on the year there show up from 500-1000 people. This year it was around 800. The website is mean to be something open not focused on one single group. I'm doing it with a friend and we want it to be a website for all grrlz who are active in anarchofeminizm and want to say something or inform about actions. So each women will have her own kit that she can use to put her article on the site. This way there will be no possibility to create hierarchies between the writers/ articles and to make censorship when a girl once get her code number. So it will be a kind of polish anarchofeminist and riot grrrl site. Vacula was about many things like female terrorizm, women partisanes in the PKK, Kurdistan, Pornography, riot grrl, grrrlbands, straight edge, lesbian sex, Emma Goldman,...It was a anarcho/radical feminist zine.

 

For how long have you been running your group and ine/web site now? How many issues of the zine did you put out until now? Are you the only editor or is there a team?
It depends on the project. Emancypunx newsletter and the sites in Pasazer was made by a "team". Vacula was mostly my own project, but many friends helped out. I did put out two issues. The first in 95 the second 97'. Then i did take part in the newsletter and the pasazer sites, made by the whole Emancypunx group. If you mean the name Emancypunx, so it was first the name of the distro which was run by the anarchofeminist group KDP. That was around 95/96. Then stared around 97' Emancypunx started as a group. The website should start in the next weeks.


What made you decide to start this project and the group Emancypunx? How did you come up with the idea and the name?
Emancypunx means emancipation in punk rock and it's a word game. I decided to start Emancypunx, because the anarchofeminist group KDP started to try a legalization and there was some voices to create a formal group built up on hierarchies, leaders etc. So I decide to start a new group - Emancypunx. The idea was to create a more radical, underground anarchofeminist group based on real equality. No leaders, no interviews with names so that we also don't have press representations/leaders etc. At the beginning it did work great, because nobody did now anything about us. How we look. If we are ugly or pretty, sweet or tough, if we are a mass movement or 3 people etc. For the people from the official press it was a mystery. So they had to confront our ideas and thoughts. But now the group changed a lot it's more and more a inside scene group. There is no real access to the society anymore like in 98' for example.


Sticker for women right's

Kobieto walcz o swoje prawa =Woman, fight for your right!

So the situation of Emancypunx is the same like for all the other small political groups like Federacja Anarchistyczna, Ofensywa antykapitalistyczna, etc. Emancypunx records & distro & gigs had to be inside scene projects from it beginning and it's meaning was to give girls in punk access to independent feminist projects and art done by other womyn. Of course the idea was also to change the sexist and homophobic attitude of the punk&hc scene.

What topics are most often discussed in your group and the zine?
The Emancypunx newsletter and our sites in the punkzine Pasazer was often dedicated to ordinary readers so we had to write a lot about what is sexism about, why we don't except violence against women, homophobia etc. The very basic issues. In the performance group the hot topic for almost a year now is body image & sexuality. I think in general for now it's more internal scene stuff and the girlz are very into that personal means political things – that means also that the actions are more self-related, but maybe there will come up some change, because Poland’s declaration to join Bush Juniors war. The years before the topic behind others was the situation of women in Afghanistan, because some of us had contacts to RAWA, so we did many solidarity actions over here. In that time nobody did care a shit about women in Afghanistan (especially the US government, who did create the taliban power). Also the discussion about sexism in the polish anarchist federation was a hot topic. It was a big deal over here and burned out our group almost restly, cause here was a extreme backlash.

What do you hope to accomplish by establishing your zine and in general, by the projects you do with Emancypunx?
To not be a part of the establishment - ever! Also not in the so called scene. To be close and open to the reality of other people and not to end up as a narrow minded selfish movement/person. It's important to smash all masks and images which do movements create, and which cause mostly a stagnation with no space for real discussions and progression. That means sincerity in words and actions. In general it's about creating space for women and making our different perspectives visible.

What does zine making (and reading) mean to you? What do you love about zine making?
Hearing opinions from other people and having contacts and conversation with interesting people. That's also a way to have progress by your own. Also it's a way to abolish partly the media control, because almost everybody can make a zine if he/she have the minimum of funds for it.



Leaflet against Dicrimination

EMANCYPUNX DOSC DYSKRYMINACJI!

 

What ís the most challenging aspect of making zines?
To translate texts, write texts on pc and putting the whole thing printable together. When I did my last zine that part didn't work out. So at least i never-ever put it out. That is the reason for what I do like internet - it's less work and it don't cost so much money.

What was your first exposure to zines? How did you find out about them?
I don't remember. I guess first i got a independent punk comix, which was all about church and stuff. The next zines i found out about was all full of interviews with boring bands. When i first got in touch with the punk scene i didn't found any zines which i was interested into. Finally i found a feminist zine called "Asmodeusz" i was so exited and wrote to them immediately. Unluckily they answered that they are not into feminism or punk anymore.

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?
I'm sure. Here it was like that. The first feminist zines was a shock for the punk community - so it was a start to changes and people started to discuss about articles they read. Even people outside the punk movement, was discussing among their families and friends articles in zines. Zines/magazine do also create opinions and history. If we (women) don't have our media, with which we can create our own opinions, than no wonder that we can't effect any more meaningful or resistant change. We are, and everything we do, always described by others and after years no one will remember how it was, so the written words will create the reality. Even now if we look how the system works in the real time you also need recreate reality to make your reality exit. For me it's very problematic, cause it's still about power relations and it's hard to break trough and not use them in the same way, even if it's in the name of something I personally support. Sometimes it scares me how manipulative and brainwashing especially the anarchist press over here is. In fact it looks exactly like in the society/system. It's just smaller and maybe less dangerous. But it's too related on power and money. Important are also the structures of distributors. If a community is for example homophobic or sexist and you'll start to do a zine which criticizes that kind of discrimination without having yr. own independent structures, than it can happen that your zine will not reach the people. If assholes are running distros, than they will probably not take the zine to distro. I had that problem with a few distros over here, cause my zine was not supporting their status quo and a part of it was their everyday sexism and politic of excluding girls. In their eyes Vacula was of course the radical, aggressive feminist zine. In fact it's not radical at all. The only radical thing was a graphic, about castrating rapists. Even 6-7 years has gone I still hear that boys use that phrase as an example.

What does the zine community mean to you?
I don't feel belonging to any zine community. For some reason also because there are not much polish zines coming out for now, so I don't even recognize anything like that. I don't think we should separate the scene into zine communities, band communities, etc. Everybody is doing something important and nothing should exist without the other. For me it is a whole thing.

What advice would you give others who want to start a zine?
To not be afraid to write yr. real opinions. The most important thing is to create Yr. own thing and not to look at others. Also better start small. If you like it you can do always next issues. It make more sense to publish a few smaller issues than one hundred site zine, because the material in a such big zine is mostly not actual anymore.

What are some of the zines you admire?
There are a lot of zines i do like. A big meaning for me had the German women-lesbian magazine Amazorra. It was always kind of hard to get any feminist zines. So some zines I did get kind of too late, but better late than never (thanks Erin!:)) If I would love read stuff like that when I was younger, because i would probably have felt less isolated with my thoughts and I could integrate in a "mental discussion". Today - even some of them are old they are still a inspiration to rethink many things.

Could you please describe a little bit the grrrl zine and feminist community in your country?
In this moment any zine is coming out here...So i can only talk about the anarchistfeminist community. Now we do have more and more groups and feminizm in the scene is kind of "in". Something new are anarchist lesbian groups (sister, sister to sister). Then radical cheerleading is very popular. Also we do have now 6 girl bands (Histeria, Duldung, Fuckfinger, Femina, Los Trabantos, Junkie Train) maybe even more. One problem is that the feminists are enough not integrated. They are all more concentrated on their local community. So they more exist as feminist in their community then as feminists in the feminist community. That makes the punk & anarchofemists in Poland different from other liberation or human right movements (ecological, official feminists etc.). The movement is still in progress, some actions like the women action mdays in bialystok - organized by a local anarchist feminist group, can be a beginning of a more integrated underground feminism. Except more and more anarchofeminist groups, there is existing a university movement around gender studies and the official women organizations (la Strada, Oska, CPK, Pro Femina, PSF, etc). We also do have a feminist magazine distributed by official channels called "Zadra'.


Leaflet for the demonstration "Women conquer the night"
Kobiety zdobywaja noc = Women conquer the night!

[...the following translation might not be aqurate word by word, but has the same content...]
It was not enough that you went home alone through an empty street, you also passed an office with nobody in it exept a singly guy. Futhermore you had a short skirt on and you drank a bit too much. The guy was charming and so he convinced you to go to his room.
Your "No" sounded for him like a "Yes". Or maybe he just did not hear you scream. It did not matter wether it was your boyfriend, husband or boss. Your body became an object used only to satisfy himself. Later under the shower you washed away your pain and shame until you bled.
Fear of rape know all of you women. You many of us experienced rapes personally cannot be answered by police statistics, because only about 20% of all raped women notify the police. Women seldomly come out and want to state what happened that night, afraid that nobody will believe them. Also they are acussed that the encouraged men to rape them. "Why did you go that way?", "Why did you dress like that?" they have to hear.
The horrible experience of rape will be remembered by them until the rest of their lifes. The atmosphere of fear will be with them for the following years. It must not be that way!
We must stop feeling guilty, we must stop our fear! Rape is a crime and all rapers deserve prison. We cannot agree with the role of the quiet victim. We must win against our fear. Let us show that we can scream and defend ourselves.
Let us conquer the night! We will go to places where women were raped, we will show that we do not agree with that, we will show that we won't be silent anymore. Let us feel save together.
29th of April 1998 in Warsaw!
Remember: Rape is not only what happens to others, it can happen to you, too!

Do you define yourself as a feminist?
Yeah, definitely, but I don't agree with everything which is labeled with the name feminism. For me it seems more and more that the word lose any meaning, cause the term feminism is used often to cover even antifeminist ideas. The word is renamed and I’m kind of afraid that feminism is come to be sold out like every revolutionary idea. It seems to be a process that can't be stopped. There is to much money in it. Also I’m not a separatist or feminist who believe in a natural difference between genders. So I’m not celebrating any womanhood, cause for me it's ridicules in the same way as the "real manhood".

What are the most pressing issues you are confronted with in daily life (as a woman/feminist)?
For me a big pressure is the culture here. That everybody has to be so fucking nice all the time. Especially as a woman you always should have this big fake smile on your face to be accepted. Sometimes the pressure I feel from women to act & look in their way is much bigger than the pressure that comes from men. But I don't mind and in this case the pressure don't work so well. For resting that mental pressure it's important to have a clean head and not allow them make you crazy through their adds, talks, looks etc. Sometimes this kind of pressure comes even from the feminist themselves, who had the same socialization as other women of course. Luckily I’m not anymore in high school and not into any society structures, where someone can force me and try to make me down for real, so if i don't want to be confronted with some kind of people i just go out of their way.

Are you active in the feminist movement? How?
It depends. I'm taking part in a feminist hip hop band. Also In these days except the emancypunx projects I do photos for a free choice campaign over here. There is always something to do.

What do you think about feminism today? Do you see yourself as part of Third Wave Feminism and what does it mean to you?
Partly our time feminism is a commercial product - like the Spicegirlz, cosmopolitan feminzm, epilators who liberate the revolutionary liberated legs from ulgly uglyness. And "liberated" women are a sexy and a usefull product for consumption as well. In the other hand a big part of the feminists did integrate with the system. They don't give a shit about women from the working class or in third world countries. Some started to threat feminism as work, so we have the elite feminist - the professional feminists. Then the liberated sex objects and the cool fucked up money makers - so called businesswomen. And we do have even the "new feminists" - with the pope in front. When I think it all over I do come to the conclusion that I did prefer the second wave. We didn't win win and I don't think we can over control the capitalist and patriarchal system. The brainwash is nearly perfect from the beginning of birth. We will have new taboos (hairy legs ;), new repression. I really feel hopeless. "One step forward 5 steps back" that was singing Le Tigre and I can only agree.


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

I don't know how it is in other countries, but here in Poland since internet is more popular everything has changed. I see it also as a zine distributor: today it's very hard to sell any zine. The people are interested only in the biggest zines (we do have around 4 big&boring punk zines/magazines). A few years ago it was different. I did sell around 600-700 copies of my zine, which would be impossible today. I'm not sure about all the reasons. Maybe people are less political and more fashion oriented. But I think that also Internet is one of the reasons. What i don't like internet for is that It exclude people who are poor. Of course the world is smaller, communication easier etc. But the percent of people who use internet in worlds is very small. If we do have for example contact with people in poorer countries world it will be always the rich ones and the students. Of course most students most also belong to the privileged. I remember how it was when i didn't had access and already most information was going via internet and not post. If you run a distro, label etc it's almost impossible without internet, because people are to lazy to write letters.

Do you have any suggestions? Something you want to add?
If any polish speaking feminist outside of Poland is interested to take part in the website get in touch! The same with zine editors, who want me to distribute their zine here. (i prefer trading) And of course thanks for your interest and good luck with your zine!


Yen xxx

"We have a non-profit contribution for tapes, EP's and LP's from women and anti-sexist bands, magazines, books, T-shirts, postcards about women rights and much more. We can take YOUR things in contribution too. We also send free information about women, their rights and fights, women health, different groups, texts about abortion and much more. If you have information, books, leaflets or anything like that, we would be very glad if you send some to us."


We ask you to send letters only in English or Polish, of course. If you want to contact us send an e-mail.

email Yen at:

emancypunxrecords [AT] go2.pl

 



For all people (especially women and girls) who are interested in women politics or just like to know more about us, here is our address:

Emancypunx! Distro
P.O. Box 145
02-792 Warscawa 78
Poland

 

All images are used with permission and are copyright Emancypunx 1998-2002.


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