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Celebrating female queer culture, alternative music and feminism

An interview with

from Melbourne, Australia

by Elke Zobl
May 2004

Now in it's second issue, Woami's editor Shannon has covered poetry, articles, rants, collages and artwork. She has also interviewed very active grrrls, such as Flea about Ladyfest Melbourne, Carrie Brownstein from Sleater-Kinney (issue 2) and Sarah Dougher (issue 1). Shannon's zine is available in Polyester Books on Brunswick St, and Sticky Artists Underground (Melbourne) or email her to order a copy ($4.50 plus postage)! Read here what she has to say about making her zine!

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 24, and live in Melbourne, Australia, it's the only city I've ever lived in!

What do you do besides your zine?

I work part-time at the post office at the moment, I also do a radio show featuring local and international women's music, and play drums in a couple of local girl bands. And hang out with my girlfriend, Emily.

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 started Woami a year and a half ago, and I've done 2 issues. It's just me, and I get a few contributions, although i'd definitely like to see my zine grow, not necessarily in size but in the people that are involved in it. It's kind of a combination of personal/music fanzine but anyone at all can write for it.

What made you decide to start this project? How did you come up with the idea and the name?
I became attracted to the idea of zines without knowing that much about them. Then a couple of years ago I wandered into a record store in the city and saw a little red zine called 'crush', with cutesy little pictures, music reviews and interviews and lots of stories about ppl having crushes. It was the first zine I'd seen and a few months later I lined up some interviews with some local bands and with Sarah Dougher, who was touring from the US, and was excited I had some cool material for issue 1 of Woami! It's a made-up name, although it could mean Womyn's army. hehe

What topics are most often discussed in your zine?
Feminism is discussed although so far not specifically but in interviews with female musicians. Topics like riot grrl, I suppose and how women in Melbourne are getting out there and doing radio shows, fronting or playing in all women bands, maybe starting a record label or a business. It's been pretty music focused so far with interviews with local bands, as well as Sleater-Kinney (my all time favourite band!), Ember Swift and Sarah Dougher.

What do you hope to accomplish by establishing your zine?
I guess I've got a little subculture in mind that I want to create, or tap into. I want young women to be interested in my zine, to have fun reading it and to perhaps find something new for them, to inspire them, even if its just finding a new band, or a quote that sticks in their heads. It's also a tool for me to express myself on a personal level, with my personal writing, poetry and rants, and I want it to be a platform for other women to do the same. I definitely, maybe most of all, want grrls to really see how much awesome music by women is out there, and right here in their own city! So many women my age and younger still listen to a lot of men focused music, or poppy kinda stuff that is just played over and over again on commercial radio. I think the kind of music you listen to has the power to change your life, I know it has for me.

What does zine making (and reading) mean to you? What do you love and find challenging about zine making?
I love finding personal zines that give you a unique insight into the creator, it's so cool, because it's something you would never find on TV or in a magazine, or even from talking to someone on the street. It's like finding a really good book where you have a connection with the main character. As for zine-making, it's fun thinking of ideas and making those ideas into printed material, whether its printing cool interviews, poetry or cutting and pasting a collage together. Sometimes I do find it disappointing that I don't get many contributions because it makes me wonder who's actually reading my zine. The feedback from friends has been good, and I know I've sold a few in the 2 local shops but I really would like more people to read my zine.

What advice would you give others who want to start a zine?
Think about what you want to put in your zine, and do what your heart calls you to do, don't write it about what you think people will like, but what means most to you. And it can be done very cheaply - part of the fun and the appeal of zines is in their scrappy photocopied, hand-drawn, cut and pasted look. In fact professional zines with lines of text all in a row (of which I've seen a few) are BORING! Anyone who wants to can do a zine that is really awesome.

What are some of the zines you admire?
Pretty Ugly, it's more of a magazine now than a zine, but it's non-commercial and is all about feminism and local women's music, and encourages young women to write! I also like personal ones such as the Canadian 'A girl and her bike', I got so into that, and the American 'Red Hooded Sweatshirt', it has some cute little stories and comics about daily life for Marissa. Also Village Bike, a zine done by UK chick Lucy, now living in Brisbane.

Do you feel part of a zine community or network and what does it mean to you?
Actually I don't feel that closely tied into one. A few months ago we held a zine workshop as part of Ladyfest Melbourne and we had several women zinesters get up to speak about their zine and it was a fun day, everyone bought and swapped zines and you got an insight into their lives, their motivation for the zines they do. But apart from that I don't have any friends who are into zines like I am, although I do know people that are starting to make them. Hopefully the zine community will grow more, but I do find that most interaction I make with other zinesters is on the Internet.

Could you please describe a little bit the grrrl zine community or network in your country? Can you estimate how many other grrrl zinesters there are, and how do you interact with each other?
There might be about 10 grrl zinesters in Melb, not sure about all of Australia as it's such a fluid thing. With ladyfest, we contacted each other over the net, and made a few phone calls. Apart from this though I don't really contact other zinesters very often, except maybe to swap zines (and mainly they're overseas). Maybe I just need to get out more!

Which role plays the Internet for you? Does it change your ideas of making zines and doing/reading zines?
The Internet is a huge influence on my zine making, as I get a lot of my ideas for stories and my inspiration about stuff going on in the world over the Internet, as well as in real life. And you can promote your zine on the net, find out about other zines and make contact in an instant.

© Shannon

Do you define yourself as a feminist? Do you identify yourself as a riot grrrl, lady, or any other term?
I identify as a feminist, I strongly associate with the ideals of riot grrrl, although it's more something that existed a few years ago, so perhaps i'm not the same kind of 'riot grrrl' that existed in the US in the early 90's, but I am into all that kind of music, and feel strongly that more women need to get out there and do what makes them happy. I believe we need to take an interest in how we are represented in culture, and how to change and subvert things so we can take back the power.

Do you feel part of the riot grrrl movement (or any other movement)? Do you think it is still alive and thriving? Why (or why not)? How has it changed in your view?
It's not alive in the way it was when it started, but when I learned about the riot grrl movement about 2 years ago, it fully inspired me and changed the feminist outlook that I had at the time. It got me thinking more and I do believe that if more young women found out about and were inspired by riot grrl, they would be glad they were. I dont' know if it's thriving the same as it was then, having not been a part of it as I was only a kid. I think that there are so many good all grrl bands in my city at the moment, there are a lot of activist women getting together and doing stuff, there are forums and political rallies, and it all relates somehow to riot grrrl, although it isn't exactly the same. I'm not sure what the impact the movement had in Australia, but I'd say things happened more slowly than they did in Olympia.

What are the most pressing issues you are confronted with in daily life (as a woman/feminist)? Are you active in the feminist movement besides making a grrrl zine?
I'm not that active in the feminist movement. I would like to be, but am busy doing other things! One important thing to me is how many women my age are scared by the word feminist, and just don't get it at all. Especially queer women, who should be more informed, and they just aren't. As for other issues, the things close to my heart are being a woman in music, and just informing young women to feel enriched by who they are, and giving them hope.

What were some of main influences that have empowered you (punk/feminism/zines/friends…?) in your life?
Music is the first: bands like Sleater-Kinney, Bikini Kill, Ani Difranco, Ember Swift, and friends that I have who are making a difference, doing stuff and are active.

What do you think about feminism today? Do you see yourself as part of "Third Wave Feminism" and if yes, what does it mean to you? Or why not?
I suppose so but I haven't done too much research on this as yet!

Do you consider grrrl zines as an important part of a social movement or/and a feminist movement? Can you see any unique contributions they may have made to society and these movements?
I think they must definitely make an impact on a social/feminist movement because the whole idea of a zine is that it's an independent piece of work that anyone can publish. Any woman can publish a zine, and a lot of young women into feminism do make political zines available in book and record shops for anyone to see, read and buy. But, the limitation of zines is that some people just never venture into the city, might not go to the places where zines are sold, might live in the country and no nothing about them. But in a way, it's exciting that they are not wide-spread, like TV hits magazine.

Do you think zines can effect meaningful social and political change at large? If yes, how?

Not quite sure. I mean, I don't even know what total strangers think of my zine, so I think the affects the zines have will be small, but still consquential.


Issue #1:

Melbourne band Origami chat about their roots, melbourne's rock grrl scene, festivals, recording.. and chickens!

Feracia, mostly grrl band from Melton, Victoria on being ladies in rock, playing live, independent record labels and booting lazy band members...

syn fm
Volunteers at syn fm get the chance to do everything from present their own shows live on air, read the news, production, management and sponsorship/PR.

Anna-Leisa, organiser of Stagefright talks about getting on stage for the first time, encouraging women to perform and turning the melbourne event into a regular occurence

Issue #1:

Woami #2 is an interesting mix of collages, rants, poetry plus interviews with Sleater-Kinney (!!!) Ember Swift, dyke-porn magazine SLIT editors, Gurlesque (lesbian strip performance artists) and Melbourne zinesters and local bands!



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