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"Girls, keep on getting the word out!" The Austrian zine NYLON is spreading the f-word

An interview with
Sonja Eismann and Vina Yun from NYLON


by Elke Zobl

February 2002





"nylon as kuenstliches Material weckt Assoziationen zu konstruierter Weiblichkeit.
nylon steht fuer Style. Style gehoert als Identitaetsstrategie zu unserer Alltagskultur.
nylonund Laufmaschen. Die Fehler im System.
nylon steht fuer Bewegung.
nylon tragen/lesen (fast) alle. Von der Hausfrau bis zum Glamour-Girl."
 



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
?
We are a group of 7 women between 24 and 38 We are from different parts of Austria and Germany, but all of us reside in Vienna.

What do you do besides your zine?
Most of us have part time day jobs, some of us still go to university (but are all already preparing their MA thesis/Diplomarbeit). Most of us have a lively interest in music and club culture, literature, film, politics 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?
The first issue of nylon came out in April 1999. There have been 5 Issues so far. We are team of 7 editors, there is no editor-in-chief.

What made you decide to start this project? How did you come up with the idea and the name?
All of us already cooperated on the board of another feminist zine, but because of some personal difficulties and since we weren't happy with the direction in which this magazine was going, we decided to start our own project which would center more on the implications of the impact of pop culture on feminism and the ways in which they interact or contradict each other.

 


VINA: the "rise" of cultural theory within social sciences had also a strong impact on feminist thinking, drawing more attention to mass phenomena such as tv soaps, girl magazines, shopping etc. - "low culture" so to speak - as highly gendered social spaces, that may stabilize certain ideas of "femininity" on the one hand, but also give room to positions of "subjectivity" within those "pleasures" on the other. simultaneously the idea of a "classical" seperation between a sphere of production/public sphere and a sphere of reproduction/private sphere (which of course has always been identified as "female") has been challenged, too. in the field of culture, men are more likely to be seen as cultural producers whereas women are "only" perceived as "consumers" or at least, as necessary accessory parts next to their male collegues. now the point is not only to disclose the creative potential of women as artists, musicians, djs etc -no one would doubt that, and in fact, there are still too many female artists unknown to the general public. but there´s more to the question of gender & popular culture than the perception of women as the "other": what is It that makes a cultural practice cultural? and what does gender have to do with all this?

We searched a long time for an adequate title and than came up with Nylon since it seemed to denote best our affinity to artificial, short-lived pop culture, and also the associations of artificiality and
constructedness that mark femininity as we view it.

   
What topics are most often discussed in your zine?
Feminist/queer theory, pop music and club culture, literature, film, comics, new technologies i.e. the internet. 


What do you hope to accomplish by establishing your zine?
Oops, hard one. To discuss the connections and contradictions of Feminism and pop culture because we find that the aspect of feminism is neglected in the almost omnipresent and ah-so-fashionable anylses of popular culture, or is even hardly ever discussed at all (at least in German speaking countries) - we try to raise awareness in this respect. We also want to enrich the critical discourse on pop culture with an important facet by doing so. Of course, we also want to further discourse feminist theory and
practice in general, and we want to reach other women/people who might have been looking for a critical discussion of these very topics, although we know that our recipients are mostly women (and men) our own age from an decidedly academic background. It is also important for us to point out the constructedness of gender and therefore we would like to, as opposed to older feminist magazines, not replace existing stereotypes of women with "better, more adequate" images, but to make visible the constructedness of both female and male roles in general. And we want it to be fun, too!


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?
Well, it means a lot of unpaid work. But it also means getting together with similarly minded women (and also reading about/from them) and raising our own voice in a money-dominated mainstream press with making only very few amends to the marketability of the "product". It means writing about the things we care about in ways that we want, not having to fit into any preformatted media slots, not having to care if enough people will buy the zine if we speak our minds freely.(And of course it's great to do something you are really passionate about and that you believe in without thinking about money and target audiences). The most challenging thing is probably the money and time issue - there is simply never ever enough of both. And that - at least for some times during production - your personal life may very well go to hell and the tender bonds of friendship with your dear co-editors (and, mind you, friends) are permanently on the point of tearing apart due to constant stress.

What was your first exposure to zines? How did you find out about them? What have they come to mean to you?I think that is different for all of us - I think our editor Judy was the first to put out a personal zine and she, rooted in the punk scene, was exposed to zine culture from early on, I. for example, had my first serious contact with zines when I was studying at UCSC a couple of years ago, and for others of us zines may not have played an important part in their decision to put out nylon at all.


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, very important, but unfortunately hard to come by, especially for girls who live far away from metropolitan areas. So the distribution may be an obstacle to its movement character. Well, I do certainly hope that zines can affect the way we view the feminist movement - it just tells you that there are so many more feminist-minded women out there, which is a powerful feeling. And Riot Grrrl happened in the wake of a "Zine Revolution", and as controversial the reception of Riot Grrrl in the press may be, it definitely had a huge impact on our perception of a feminist presence and activism after the massive backlash in the 80ies.


What does the zine community mean to you?
Well, I have to admit that i fear in Austria there is not much of a community (yet?). Could be a great thing, and of course we are all networking in all kinds of fields, but we are all friends anyway (but this raises the question of which came first: friendship or network?? hmm, interesting). So yes, in theory the zine community could be a great thing, and I think it is in the US, but here we have some more networking or development ;-) to do.

What advice would you give others who want to start a zine?
Hell, I don't know. The old "Just do it" (yikes) I guess. Write about what really interests you, don't be afraid to be personal, xerox it and start telling your friends and potential friends about it - you'll see that things start happening by themselves.

What are some of the zines you admire?
I guess that's different for each of us again.
Sonja: Bust, Bitch Magazine, Komm Küssen (now extinct German
Magazine, sometimes a little laddish but still very nice and funny) - I am sure I would like more (American) zines but I just don't know them.


Could you please describe a little bit the grrrl zine community in your country?
Hmm, I guess it is pretty small...

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?
Yes. We're all feminists.
Sexism. Economic inequalities. Discrediting of positions taken by women in public on the grounds of gender stereotypes. I guess, yes. nylon is part of the Feministischer Medienverband, takes part in discussions on feminism etc.


What do you think about feminism today? Do you seeyourself as part of "Third Wave Feminism" and what does it mean to you?
I guess we could be seen as Third Wavers, but I believe that we all think that the media always tries to "divide and conquer", to be able to write about a new "fad" or hype, and also, since the media are of course male dominated in a patriarchal society, to induce a split to divide the feminist movement. So we think that it's more important not to reinvent the wheel every time, to learn from the Second Wave and to try to build a bridge to today.

VINA: it might be true that "cultural" or "post-modern" feminists have neglected economic and social restraints, but focused too much on "symbols" and questions of identity, representation etc (by the way, I´ve never met a woman who would call herself a "cultural feminist" - labels, eh?). but obviously, i.e. the question of representation can be directly linked to economic conditions people live under. in our recent issue there´s an article about the global fashion industry, that creates desires based on specific images of race and gender and sells to western consumers - those fashion items are mostly produced by women in export processing zones and sweat-shops in asia, south europe and latin america. without referring to this very symbolic level of desire and identity (the power of fashion labels), there would be a lack in analyzing the economic and political power of the fashion industry of today - and vice versa.

Which role plays the Internet for you? Does it change your ideas of making zines and doing/reading zines?
For most of us the internet is an indispensable tool that we use everday to communicate and to do research. It makes access to other zines a lot easier and is therefore very useful - but you have to put up with more and more commercial shit on the World Wide Web, which is a development that has to be observed critically. Unfortunately, we haven't had time yet to design our own website. Some of us think that this is crucial, others reckon that other stuff regarding nylon has higher priority.

Do you have any suggestions? Something you want to add?
Girls, keep on getting the word out. We love to hear from you in a world that is still crowded by overzealous indie boys who always know best.
VINA: spread the f-word ;-)



info:

nylon.kunststoff [AT] gmx.net

Address:

nylon
Postfach 2
A-1172 Wien
Austria


copyright of images by NYLON 2002
 


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