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The zine Femme Vitale: Reclaiming Femmeninity

An interview with

Tara Robertson

from Vancouver, Canada

by Elke Zobl
March 2005


images from:




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?

I'm Tara, 27 years old (28 in two weeks!), living in Vancouver after hobo-ing around the world. Besides this zine I do library work, recreational BDSM, fire performance and I enjoy riding my bicycle. I am but one of the people who have put energy into making

Femme Vitale (there have been lots of rockstar femmes who have either contributed, done layout, sold 'em, etc)

Can you please tell our readers what your zine Femme Vitale and the Femme Affinity Group are about?

The Femme Affinity Group (FAG) is (ha ha, i'll just steal this from our email list and zine):

FAG is an action group that gathers with a common interest in raising the status of feminine peoples in our communities. It is a group for people of all sexes, genders and sexualities who are femme identified.

FAG is an ongoing reclamation of femininity on our terms. We have found that learning to love femme involved unravelling personal and societal myths that surround and confound femininity. We say that "femme" can mean powerful, creative, outspoken and impactful.

FAG is our response to femmephobia, transphobia, sexism, racism and classism. We are sick of "femme" being used as an insult; we are tired of supporting others in the struggle towards freedom of gender expression without receiving respect for ourselves; we are through with being perceived as "nice allies" instead of the guts of queer culture; and we're fed up with the expectations, stereotyes and silence that blind our collective eyes to what femme can be.

For how long have you been running your zine now and how many issues are there?

So far, there have been 2 issues of Femme Vitale. The name came from a night of femme prankster-ing. We all felt kinda invisible when we went to the dyke bar so we made a bunch of fabulous stickers with our femme positive slogans on them and stickered and partied the night away. Femme Vitale was one of those slogans.

Check out:

for more pictures of the stickers.

various covers with stickers


How do you collaborate on the zine? How do you get contributions and how many contributors are there usually per zine?

We have sent out a call for submissions through email and through word of mouth and have had more than enough submissions to put together a zine. i think Femme Vitale 2 had 15 contributors.

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

Why this project? There wasn't alot of femme positive stuff in print, especially stuff that crossed genders and sexual orientations (i.e. femme dykes, femme bisexuals, femme transwomen, femme kink, femme transboi, femme fag, etc) We had stuff we wanted to say and also create a place for other people to say express their ideas too.

What do you hope to accomplish by making and distributing your zine? What was your first exposure to zines? How did you find out about them? What do you love and find challenging about zine making?

Femme Vitale 2 was my first zine. Amy had made lots of zines and had many excellent ideas about possible layout and what could be sent through the mail. Femme Vitale 1 was too long to send in a normal envelope, so it was a bit pricey to mail out to people.

What are some of the zines you read and admire?

I like "Go fuck yourself" because they have excellent ideas on DIY sex toys that are crafty and thrifty.



I am very interested in international grrrl zines. Could you please describe a little bit the grrrl zine community or network in Canada? Who are some of the most active participants? Do you think that there is a separate grrrl zine community/network from the larger zine community?

I do not know so much about the larger community in Canada...

Do you consider grrrl and genderqueer zines as an important part of a social movement? Do you think grrrl, lady, queer and transfolk zines, resource sites, and projects can effect meaningful social and political change at large - or do they have significance mainly in individual lives?

I think zines affect individuals but then people physically pass zines on or pass on the ideas, which then in turn can create larger social change. Especially for genderqueer stuff I think zines can breakthrough some of the feelings of isolation. I've passed on zines to queers in Japan who have read them and realized that they have queer freaky family that they have not yet met in other places.

What would a grrrl-femme-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 women, grrrls, lesbians and queer folks? Do you have any suggestions for the development of women/grrrl/queer-friendly policies?

It's exciting when I go to an event and I see all the people who inspire me on the same side, instead of being divided by stupid, ugly identity politics. The brand of feminism that excites me is concerned with racism, transphobia, classism homophobia, etc, as well as sexism. White, middle class, second-wave feminism is essentialist and boring.

Thanks for the interview, Tara!




Description of femme vitale:

femme vitale 2
this zine is 40 pages, half letter size, chock full of over 15 contributor's writings and drawings about femme and what it means to them. highlights include:

Elaine Miller's "A Femme's List of Incidental Skills (Or: Things This Femme Can Do)", first published in "Brazen Femme: Queering Femininity" edited by Chloe Brushwood Rose and Anna Camilleri Arsenal Pulp Press, 2002,my paperdoll,a drawing and writing about being a femme trans-boy, a rant about femmephobia in the queer community,a detachable sticker on the cover, which can be removed and affixed anywhere you'd like to show your femme pride
and much much more.

this zine is a minimum donation of $4.50cdn funds, with shipping to canada, and $4.00US funds, with shipping to the US. this price includes your paypal fees. unfortunately, the combination of the sticker on the front and the awkward size to mail made this zine a bit pricier thn we had planned, but i promise you, it's worth it! any amounts over and above the cost of making the zine and distributing it will be used to 1) pay off the small debt we had from our last zine or 2) pay for future femme awareness activities in vancouver!

this zine is not available in any distros, only through me!

you can paypal your payment to glittermary AT shaw DOT ca and i will send your zine out immediately. you can also e-mail me at that same address for info if you can't do paypal, or if you live outside of canada or the US.

copies have already been sent out to contributors, if you are a contributor and you haven't received it, PLEASE LET ME KNOW!

trades are not technically being considered for this zine, since it was done by a group, and trades won't help the group pay the printing bill, BUT if you have trades of zines relating to femme identifty, being genderqueer, being crafty (including how to craft zines), or anything to do with trans issues, i might personally be interested in paying for your copy of the zine for you, in exchange for your trade. i'll be picky though, because i can't afford to buy everyone's zine for them.

thanks for reading ALLL THE WAY to the bottom!



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