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Riot Grrrl Europe: Establishing a DIY Feminist Movement in Europe

An interview with
Hilde


by Elke Zobl

March 2003


Being from Austria, I have followed the growth of Riot Grrrl Europe with great interest. I think it's amazing that there is a united revolution grrrl style action also going on in Europe! I am happy that Hilde had time to answer all my questions! Riot Grrrl Europe zine issue #1 covers a London Riot Grrrl Picnic review, a Riot Grrrl Netherlands meeting review, a Poland scene report, a Le Tigre interview, an article about porn, survey questions on riot grrrl in Europe and European zine and distro addresses. Itis available at Finger Bang Distro. And the RGE Zine #2 will be out soon! And this issue is going to be all about action, about protesting and demonstrating, about fighting for a cause and inspiring others by writing about it.


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?
My name is Hilde, and I live in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. I grew up in a little village next to Rotterdam, and like many young teenagers, I wanted to move to "the big city". At age 17, I did. I'm 23 now, and I still live there, happily ever after, together with my boyfriend.

What do you do besides your zine?
In my daily life I'm a librarian. Besides running the library collection, I also run workshops and introduction visits for high school students and immigrants in the library. My biggest passion is my band, Lady!Die. We're an all-girl screamcore trio and we make loud, aggressive music with socially aware lyrics. Mostly. My girls and my band are everything to me. I'm also thinking about creating a little distro to take along with me on gigs. It's a great way to promote grrrl zines, music and other projects. There isn't any girl oriented distro in ths country! This definitely needs change, but I don't have any experiences in setting up a distro. I also run little projects, like "women take back the streets" marches and stuff like that. Last year I was involved in organising Ladyfest Amsterdam too.

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 think Karo and I (Karo is the RGE webmistress, she maintains our website) decided to make the first issue somewhere in '99? I don't remember exactly. I think it came out somewhere in 2000, so yeah, #1 is pretty old. Karo and I wrote most of the articels, though we did get some great contributions like the Le Tigre interview from the girls from Pam Savage zine. I did the whole lay-out on my computer, while Karo looked around for fonts and images. We both wrote articles and we both promoted our zine for contribution. We actually decided not to make a #2, for several reasons, until Stina (Her Riot Distro) offered to make #2 for us. That's happening as we speak. RGE #2 is going to be an Action Issue.


What made you decide to start this project? How did you come up with the idea and the name?
Let's start from the beginning, shall we? When I was 17, my dad bought a computer. Yes, I wasn't living at home anymore, but I did visit my parents on a regular basis....mostly to have dinner :-) Anyway, he also had an internet subscription, and back in '97, NO ONE
had internet. Seriously. I was all excited about it, and people who now have their own internet companies or who are amazing website designers, told me to shut up about that damn internet back then. Very funy. Anyways... I was into punk and activism, and immediately understood what a great opportunity this was to create an extensive network. So, while surfing around, trying to find info on my fave bands....I stumbled on this amazing thing called riot grrrl. I guess I don't have to explain to all you riot grrrls out there how that felt...it felt to right...so GOOD....you know? But again, it was '97, and the first riot grrrl wave in the states was over and people were already having "riot grrrl is dead/ not dead" discussions. AND I HAD MISSED OUT ON ALL OF IT, GODDAMNIT!!! Still, my gut instinct told me there had to be grrrls out there, not only in the US, but in Europe too. After spending some more time on the internet I ran into some grrrls situated in Holland, which was so exciting!, like Manuela (Eye-Scream) and later on Tanja (Bunnies on Strike) and Suzanne (Dutch grrrl band website). I wanted to create a space for European grrrls to get together and I had been playing around with the term "riot grrrl europe" in my head for some time. Yes, I know, not very original, but at least it would speak to all those grrrls out there. For sure. Not long after, I created the riot grrrl europe mailinglist and oh joy! So many people joined! SO many people mailed me and told me that they had been feeling so alone for such a long time, and then, all of a sudden a place for european riot grrrls had been created! Which after all, was not a hard thing to do. I just logged onto Yahoo groups, and created that list. Around that time I also wanted to make a website aka on-line information center for grrrls in Europe. But I'm an HTML disaster, and the Goddess was so kind to send me Karo, the amazing, brilliant, kick-ass, ever active and creating Karo! Hehe. Together we created the website. This way, we reached many many grrrls, and I shall be so arrogant to say that the RGE mailinglist has been a cradle for many grrrl events taking place around Europe right now. I know that many people met on that list and then moved on. Wonderful, isn't it? But with a website and a mailinglist you don't reach everyone on the European continent. Not everyone is interested in the internet, AND, not everyone has access to an computer. Think of remote areas (cause most city people can get access to everything) in countries like Italy, Poland, the Czech Republic, former Yugoslavia, Spain.....these people have to be reached too! Karo and I decided that a paper zine would be the only way to "spread tha word" and thus, the RGE zine was born...


What topics are most often discussed in your zine?
I guess this one isn't really relevant, cause we're only talking 2 issues here. We're just talking about establishing an underground/ DIY feminist movement in Europe. I often read that American bands still encounter so much sexism in the public compared to their country, which makes me conclude that there's still tons to do here.

What do you hope to accomplish by establishing your zine?
That more people will know abot Riot Grrrl Europe and realize that they aren't alone. I still get messages every week from girls who just discovered our website, and even found the name of someone living near them in the member profiles. That fucking warms my heart, you know? I still remember how excited I was when I discovered grrrls near me. I want all those grrrls and bois to find like minded souls in their area, and then FLOOD this continent with grrrl oriented, grrrl-friendly projects (instead of water, hehe. Can someone spell "global heating" for me?)


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?
Do I need to describe the joy of finding one of those big envelopes in your mail box, and then a beautiful hand-made zine comes out, ready for you to read?? It's so amazing really.
I think I don't have a right to say anything about the challenging aspect of making zines. I only made one, and I had a hard time doing it. So as far as I'm concerned, it's all challenging. So Elke, please ask me that question again when I got some more zines out. Deal? Cause I'm definitely intending to make more zines. I have ideas for making a personal zine about spiritual activism. I guess my first steps on the path of zine making have just been made...



What was your first exposure to zines? How did you find out about them? What have they come to mean to you?
I don't even remember when I first read a zine. I guess through distro tables at punk concerts....I don't know really. I used to write little stories when I was 8 and staple
them together in a booklet and give them to my family and friends. Didn't realize they were zines though :-)



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, definitely, cause it's a great way to communicate. And communication is, I think, everything to us underground feminists. I don't think it will cause social/political change on a global level, but it will bring awareness to us underground kids. Eventually, we can bring our knowledge up to a higher level, and make change. So in an indirect way, zines do make a difference.

What does the zine community mean to you?

We don't have a zine community!! Well, hardly. I personally know all girls making girl zines in Holland (Manuela, Tanja, the anarcho-feminists in Amsterdam), and we're all good friends...yes, they mean a lot to me. But it's not a "community"...


What advice would you give others who want to start a zine?
I have experienced that people rather work on their own projects than helping out others.....no, I'm not bittered, but that's the way it goes. People hardly contribute to what other people do. So, don't base your zine solely on what others send you, start with writing yourself. Unless you have an extensive network of people who contribute, than this is my advice. Which makes me want to add: it's always the same people who contribute!


What are some of the zines you admire?
I love the Pam zine (London based), it's hilarious, but very very creative. I like Punk Pretty (Australia) and Metal Maiden (Holland). Other good zines are Heartattack, and some Dutch zines I've been reading for years like Ravage and Kleintje Muurkrant.

Could you please describe a little bit the grrrl zine community in your country?
None. Absolutely NONE!

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

First of: I'm a feminist, definitely, but on my conditions. No one can define for me what feminism means. This is one of the issues I'm confronted with: people assume I'm a man-hater and someone who desires a female utopia. Well, no....this is an image the media has created. To me, feminism means equality. Balance. Respect. It's intertwined with many of my other believes. I.e: I'm also an anti-globalist, vegetarian, a witch... A woman who gets to be manager for Shell won't be applauded by me, cause Shell is a multinational that should be, among many others, wiped off this earth. I'm spending a lot of my time explaining what it means to me exactly, and I want that to be over. I want to move on. I see this is a big conspiracy against us, cause even women my age are afraid to call themselves a feminist. Even though they fucking are. Why are people so afraid of taking a term, a word, and make it theirs? It's exactly what Kathleen Hanna did with writing slut and bitch on her body: she gave those words a different meaning so nobody can hurt you with it. Now it's time to do the same with feminism!


Are you active in the feminist movement? How?
EVERYTHING I do has got something to do with feminism. With liberating true female powers: be it my band, Riot Grrl Europe, Ladyfest...just everything. The feminist movement to me is that group of people around me who are ever active and who were also involved in organising Ladyfest Amsterdam and such. So yeah, I'm pretty active there. As for the "mainstream" feminist movement in Holland: I've been closely cooperating with them while I was organising the Witch Night marches here in Rotterdam. And to be honest, I didn't feel quite at home, though these people have been of a huge influence to me. Most of them were older (which, in itself, is no problem of course) and they were stuck in the victim role feminism created during the 80's. I couldn't identify, since I believe that a victim role is something you choose for. Always. The moment you realize you can't blame anyone for anything, is the moment the Goddess puts the tools in your hands to make change.




What do you think about feminism today? Do you see yourself as part of "Third Wave Feminism" and what does it mean to you?
No, to be honest I don't see myself as "part of...". But, if you want me to define what this age of feminism means to me, than I'd say that sexual liberation should be a very very important part of what you call Third Wave Feminism. I think that if women realize the existence of the sexual powers they really have, deep within, that womanhood will finally bloom. And not a second earlier.


Which role plays the Internet for you? Does it change your ideas of making zines and doing/reading zines?
Unfortunately, the internet keeps playing a big role in my life. In say unfortunately, because I'd rather meet all those people I'm talking to personally. But, a job and my financial status is keeping me in this place, so the internet helps me to contact people. It hasn't really changed my perspective of reading zines, I do think tough, that it makes zines a lot more accessible, to people with internet access that is. Ordering a zine from overseas is often expensive, and things can go wrong. That sucks, so it's great when you can go on-line and read the articles there. But still, it's not the same as holding a paper zine in your little hands, right?



Do you have any suggestions? Something you want to add?
Yeah, some links that belong to this interview:
Riot Grrl Europe:
http://rge.cjb.net
Ladyfest Europe: http://www.ladyfesteurope.org
Bunnies on Strike: http://bunniesonstrike.cjb.net
Dutch grrrl band website: http://home.planet.nl/~suzanne.klappe
Lady!Die: http://www.ladydie.nl
(her) RIOT distro: http://herriotdistro.rocks.it
The first issue of the RGE zine can still be ordered at Finger Bang distro: http://www.gurlpages.com/diyessex

 

Contact Hilde at:

jag [AT] euronet.nl


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