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For ladies and all their friends:
Ladyfriend zine


An interview with Christa Donner


by Elke Zobl

January 2002

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 grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana (USA) and now live in Cleveland, Ohio.

 

What do you do besides your zine?
I toil in my studio as a visual artist, making large drawings and installations dealing with issues of body image, health and identity issues. I occasionally teach classes on experimental drawing for the Cleveland Institute of Art, and I work as a Gallery Associate at SPACES, a nonprofit artist-run gallery, where I coordinate exhibitions, update the website, write and distribute press materials, help with grants, oversee catalogue production, 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?
I've only been doing my current zine, Ladyfriend, for about a year now. Previous to that I did a zine called Sissy, after the once-great "Sassy" magazine was bought out and eventually folded - did that one from '95 - '97 or something, and took a long hiatus in between.So far there are three issues of Ladyfriend and hope to do 3/year from now on.I'm the only editor of Ladyfriend, though I try to include work by 5 or more contributors to add a broader perspective on the themes covered in each issue.

What made you decide to start this project? How did you come up with the idea and the name?
Ladyfriend started out as a way to celebrate and honor the talents and specialness of this close-knit group of female friends I had at the time. I knew we'd all be moving to different cities soon and wanted to make a document of the kind of empowerment you can get from being around a bunch of supportive, motivated, talented ladies. Now that we live in different places, it's become a way of fostering those kinds of friendships, sometimes sparking new ones, even over vast distances. Basically it's a zine about friendship and helping each other out, with advice on how to haggle for a car, how to make your own pants, and funny first-hand stories as you might hear them from your best friend. I think that one of the primary strengths of the current feminist movement is that there is this global network of young women who are able and eager to help each other succeed, promote each others projects, etc. It's becoming a more and more powerful force as many of these women gain higher positions in law, the media, the arts etc. and have more resources at our command.The name for Ladyfriend is probably pretty self-explanatory, though it wasn't easy for me to think up... initially I wanted to make it seem less female-exclusive, but as I worked on it I realized that it was really pretty much about female friendship. There are still guys involved, of course, hence the all-inclusive subtitle, "for ladies and all their friends."

What topics are most often discussed in your zine?
Each issue has a theme: the first one was the Super issue (all about women as super-heroines) the second was the Hair issue (ranging from body hair to bald women), the third is the Driving issue, the next will be the Age issue, and so on. Despite these different themes, there are always some constants - I always try to include at least one article that will teach readers how to do something new, at least one interview with a woman who are doing something really cool and DIY, and there is always some sort of centerfold art project in each issue to liven things up.

What do you hope to accomplish by establishing your zine?
I guess a number of things: to help promote the art, writing and projects of the ladies who we write about and who write for the zine, and to provide another alternative to fashion magazines, which I have an intense love/hate relationship with. I love girly culture, fashion, etc. but hate how the media uses it to make women feel inadequate and insecure (to sell products). I don't have the budget to do full-color layouts and all that, and I realize there are now many grrrl zines out there - I think that all the support we can offer our peers is important. I hope to build and celebrate a supportive network of proactive, creative women, reach out to younger women to encourage them to critique mainstream media, and have fun in the process.

What does zine making (and reading) mean to you?
Zines are such a great vehicle for self-expression and for disseminating ideas and information to like-minded (and non-like-minded) people. It's a cheap, accessible way to reach other people and accomplish a wide variety of things without censorship.

What do you love about zine making?
I love contacting and meeting new people to interview, or to do research for an article, and I love getting letters from people who really got something out of what I do.

What's the most challenging aspect of making zines?
The most challenging aspect of making zines, for me, is distribution. It costs money and takes so much time to send these things out, do the research on where to send samples, get reviewed, keep track of who has what and making sure you get paid etc. that it really can become like an administrative desk job.

What was your first exposure to zines? How did you find out about them? What have they come to mean to you?
My first exposure to zines was when I was in high school. I went to a punk rock show at a tiny underground club, and there were these girls handing out their zine. It was a 1-page, double-sided legal-sized sheet of cut and pasted text, all about activism at their high school, short interviews with local bands, etc. and they used glitter and crayons to hand color them. I was so excited by this and gradually sought out more zines.

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?
Yeah, as I said above I think grrrl zines are a really important part of the contemporary feminist movement, and all sorts of other social and political movements in that they can be created by anyone, without censorship, and can be distributed to just about anyone. Word of mouth advertising, spreading information that way is the most powerful and most sought-after form of advertising. If an idea is potent enough it can spread like a positive virus or epidemic: one person makes a zine, passes it on to his/her friends and contacts, they in turn pass it on to their group of contacts, and so on. Its an amazing process. The band Le Tigre and singer Ani DiFranco are both very political, and have become internationally recognized and hugely popular -- without being on a major label, without being on MTV, without compromising their lyrics or their message, purely through the power of independent media and word of mouth.

What does the zine community mean to you? What advice would you give others who want to start a zine?
I don't know that I'm really connected to the zine community at large, but the community I do have gives moral support, feedback, and a sense that I'm not the only person who feels the way I do about things. If I were only aware of mainstream media I'd probably worry that I was nuts.

What are some of the zines you admire?
I really enjoy and admire East Village Inky, Found, and Doris, and although they're now crossing over into "magazine" (or mega-zine?) territory, I've always loved Bust, Bitch and Venus. It's becoming harder to discern between what's a zine and what's a magazine these days, which is kind of exciting
actually.

Could you please describe a little bit the grrrl zine community in your country?
I'm not really an expert on the grrrl zine community here, except that it seems to be pretty active. I don't think it is very diverse in terms of race or age, but it is a part of the larger feminist movement and in that I think it's important and successful. I do zine workshops and even did a "zine-signing" at a local indie bookstore, and while people are really interested, there don't seem to be many people making zines in my area. Maybe because I'm in my mid-20's, I feel a little out of touch with the grrrl community, as far as I can tell there are hundreds of us spread out in different parts of the country, and zines are a great way to exchange ideas and meet new people.

Do you define yourself as a feminist?
Of course I do.

What are the most pressing issues you are confronted with in daily life (as a woman/feminist)?
Personally, I'm hyper-aware of how gender roles and stereotypes (for both men and women) are perpetuated and abused in movies, television and other media. For a culture that's as media-obsessed as ours is, these things can be more powerful than they might seem. I also fear being raped or sexually violated, harassed, etc. It makes me so angry that it's not safe for me to walk the two blocks to the library at night to do research alone, because a girl was raped there a few months ago. Women have to worry about their safety every single day, in ways that men have never have to consider.

Of course President Bush's stance abortion issues, international affairs, health coverage, etc. are deeply troubling to me, though I haven't had as much personal involvement with these issues as other women have. I think many of the most serious issues are faced by women in countries where feminism hasn't yet taken root as much yet, isn't taken seriously.

What do you think about feminism today?
I think feminism today is pretty exciting. It's opening up information to a much wider range of women than ever before, and many feminists are finally becoming very media savvy, making feminism "cool" and taking the stigma away. The older feminists I've talked to seemed unaware that young women were still becoming involved in feminism. I think this is because we're doing it in different ways. They laid down the groundwork for us - starting up women's health clinics, forming support groups, rioting and writing and speaking out about the immense and unacknowledged injustices of the time, etc. Not that there aren't young feminists doing these things today, but many of us are working through music, zines, artwork, and other more subtle ways of infusing our culture with those viewpoints and inviting everyone to join the crowd. Often this networking is done long distance, so although we may not appear to be getting together and mobilizing, we're actually creating a vast network of support and feedback and letter-writing and creativity and feminism. It'd be great to see more feminists creating their own organizations and mobilizing together to start huge demonstrations, but I think the "small" things get a lot more done than we realize.

Do you see yourself as part of "Third Wave Feminism" and what does it mean to you?
Sure. It means I have an international network of cool, proactive feminist peers, and it means I can enjoy wearing glitter nail polish and baking cookies if I want to, without anyone discounting my feminist stance. It means I can do workshops on body image where we use gold lame and pink lace, among other things, to decorate drawings of participants' least favorite body parts.


Which role plays the Internet for you?
I use the internet a lot. It is sort of scary how dependent I've become on the internet for research, communication, fun, etc. I have a website for my artwork (http://christad.homestead.com), and another one for my zine (http://ladyfriend.homestead.com), and these have brought me an important new audience for my work, new readers for my zines, and the ability to communicate with them much more easily and quickly.

Does it change your ideas of making zines and doing/reading zines?
Well, it has allowed me to put some things from my zine online, which means more people can find out about what I do, and it doesn't cost me anything (paper or postage) to produce and distribute, which is a great advantage. On the other hand, it's not really practical to post everything on the web - takes too much time. It is much more satisfying to me to have the actual paper zines I like, so I can refer to them, give them as gifts, carry them with me to read. I don't see the internet replacing paper zines anytime soon, just adding to the kinds of things that are out there, adding to the tools we have.

Do you have any suggestions? Something you want to add?
Nope, I think that covers it!

LADYFRIEND:

http://ladyfriend.homestead.com/

ladyfriendzine [AT] hotmail.com


To get your hands on a copy, just send $2 (cash, please) and three 33-cent stamps to:

Ladyfriend
Cotton Crotch Productions
P.O. Box 606118
Cleveland, OH 44106


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