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“There’s no need to be afraid of technology”: An Interview with Gabrijela Ivanov from, Croatia

Alternative economies
Internet & digital divide
Networking & community building
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Like any non mainstream media, has emerged from the feeling that something is missing. In this case [the] missing link was the voice of the arty 3rd wavers, or to be more specific: Women- made online space that focuses on art, creativity, skill exchange and offers women’s and/or feminist view on [the] world in Croatian society.
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With its tongue in cheek name, aims to ‘participate with a dynamic and diverse voice in the media map of Croatia’. Founded and edited by Gabrijela Ivanov of the Expanse of Gender and Media Culture ‘Common Zone’ civil society organization, this women-led e-zine offers an entertaining and informative webportal, documenting women artists and Central and Eastern European feminist culture.

Red talks to Gabrijela about grassroots media, alternative economies, and the need for feminists to embrace technological competency.

How did emerge?
The site has been online since fall of 2006 and is updated on almost a daily basis. I am site editor, web developer and put all the content online, but cooperate with other people who provide content. First there was this magazine that was very wide. It was about everything, you know. You can’t present a project like that: Oh, whatever people want to write about, it’s about them. So it wasn’t very good for PR-ing or advertizing it. We wanted to do a specific magazine that was more oriented to one thing. So I meet with Djurdja Knezevic- she’s one of the second wavers, one of the biggest feminists or even writer/journalist in Croatia now. I talked with her. I like very much making up the names for everything. So one day, I don’t know what I was doing, I said Cunterview. And she said ‘Yes! Yes! That’s a great name’. So…it’s cool, you know. Who gets it gets it, who doesn’t doesn’t.

There were about 10 of us to start with. Like in any community and voluntary initiative, the main problem is how to keep people motivated and how to endure. This is a great challenge. There is no smarter answer then simply by not giving up and by being very open, transparent and inclusive.

We have great cooperation with a few journalists from mainstream media, and they publish their articles on We also have a good cooperation with the one mainstream independent news portal in Croatia, and a few smaller ones that are beginning to publish our articles on their websites also. We are getting more and more visibility and have been featured several times on national television, radio programmes. We also co-organize Vox Feminae festival/Ladyfest Zagreb and several cultural events during the year in order to have our press presence continuously.

What was your aim for the site? What do you want it to achieve?
I wanted it to be a place where women could write about activism and cultural stuff that is happening, and to present women artists in Croatia. I couldn’t find any magazine, any newspaper, any website where I was reading something that I liked. I was tired of browsing. That’s what guides the agenda. To have stuff in one place. started with 6000€ from the Gender Equality office. We paid people to write a bit and put it online. It was money for a year period. We put everything in order. We still don’t have any money. Nobody is interested in financing clever independent women’s media who wish to develop self-sustaining structures.

600 unique visitors daily is maybe not too much, but all the right people are reading The audience is loyal and active and we try to meet their needs. They produce content; we throw a party, make a photo or video report of their initiative/event, promote their work, design them a poster for an event, make them a website…

You’ve described as a form of ‘citizen’s journalism’ – where people write the content themselves. What would you say is the importance of grassroots feminist media?
Independence and the guarantee that there is no bullshit that’s being shoved down your throat are great advantages. But how do you start thinking about these things? I worked in this one NGO run by second wave feminists called B.a.B.e [Be active, Be emancipated, Women’s Human Rights Group]. Babe is the word for grandmas; it’s a catchy name, but it’s not a very nice name to call a woman, ‘babe’.

I was taken on as an assistant on the media project and it was education for journalists. Like other NGOs, they were educating women politicians about stuff. But this is small seminars where nothing is online. That seems very closed. Okay, you have seminars. You have five people who hear that. But you can reach 10,000 people just by putting it online.

They did produce three documentaries about the subject. They were fairly big productions; they got money from the European Union. They are doing it on some higher level. It’s not higher- it’s just not the grassroots level. I was more interested in having members who would support the cause; if you want to do something, then you don’t have to wait to get money to do it. We can gather what we can ourselves and do something.

I learned a lot, but it didn't quite work for me. They always have general campaigns on the national level. And I found that very…like building something in the air. It’s just not my way of doing things. From the bottom to the up I think is better.

You said B.a.B.e are a second wave organization. Is that because of their tactics, or what they do, or because of the time they came?
Because of the time they came and also the things they dealt with, and the way they dealt with issues. In 1991, when Croatia became independent, that’s when the organizations began to register. But before that, in ex-Yugoslavia, there were feminist women. They fought for their issues in socialism (see []). Those women founded NGOs in the 1990s and they run it and slowly now they are fading. They are retiring, but they are still here.

I’m not very academic in the way of the feminists. I call them second wave, maybe they don’t call themselves second wave. That’s how I perceive them. I didn’t hear about second wave or third wave in Croatia. No one is speaking about it. That’s something you go online and say, "Oh, it seems like we are genuine third wave feminists". I think we are seen as the young ones. Especially being involved in grassroots media.

We are not taken seriously in the Croatian feminist scene. But as the change of generation is occurring, and we are getting more experienced by each month, we offer our help to them with media production. I think we’ll get to be a valuable factor. I don’t think we’ll get big in the political movement though, at best we’ll be recognized as a harmless/small voice of sanity.

The problem lies in the old and the new way of doing things in the NGO sector; in the generation and technology gap. Not to mention of how little significance grassroots feminist media issues are to most donors in the Balkan area. No one will finance things we really want to do. That was the issue. I can write the project proposal for something they would want to finance, but that’s not what I want to do. My main motive is to show that the actual/concrete needs of women must be met, not only the activist or donor driven goals. Women’s creativity and their ideas need to have proper representation through the use of new technologies. I’m convinced that that is a good way to start establishing models of new/alternative economies, which I envision is a very important tool for social justice.

How do you define the dominant economic system?
It is a system where the goal is to make money. I don’t have anything against entrepreneurship but I think the most important thing is how you do it. In capitalism you don’t see how things are done, you just see the product. And that’s the problem for me. Nobody asks questions; it has great colours, and smells good, so let’s buy it. The media is very important because people are working 10 hours a day and they are coming home and they have their television. This kind of economy and system doesn’t give you time to think at all. Because everyone knows that it is no good. But they don’t have time to think. That’s the issue.

Fastening pace of life, consumerism, capitalism, environmental issues, all of these big words and problems seems to crush one’s shoulders - excluding hope and creativity, leaving no time to conversate properly and share ideas and emotions. This diminishes the will for believing in and making changes.

So do you have any daydreams or visions about what a feminist economics would be like?
Yep. We struggle with funding, even if our media is online. I don’t want to have some job here where everyone will forever send me articles and be happy about it. In order for something to grow I think it needs to have some structure. Maybe not hierarchy, but some kind of goal. And it needs to be sustainable. I think there’s lots of good attempts – women and men do projects for a few years and then it just falls apart. Then somebody else has to do it all over again. And the very natural thing is, it should have come to me sooner; we have artists on so let's sell their work online.

Do you think that feminists need to be better at selling their ideas and wares?
Definitely. I think we can have the opinion that this world functions on selling. Feminists think they shouldn't sell anything, that money is bad. But, you know, you won’t make anything better by making something new, but by making something else obsolete. By making that system obsolete then you make your own which works better in these times. Usually it is not something completely different because people are not keen on that. Because they would need to rearrange their lives completely and it’s hard to ask four million people in Croatia, Ok, today we will stop doing this this way and nobody will go to work tomorrow and we will go to our villages and make our food and exchange things. It won’t work. It's idealistic. It’s utopia.

Do you think that a third wave feminism, which is situated in these changes in our society with new technologies and advanced consumer capitalism and so on, has to perhaps steal or appropriate a little bit from everything that is around it. And to take whatever it can to make something…
Yeh, because you can use anything for good or bad. You just have to be smart and see what you can use. Everything is there and you can get it free. You can download something, hack it; someone will give it to you; lots of things are free today.

I want people to use the technology that is available. Almost everyone has a camera on their cell phone nowadays. You have Microsoft editor which is great for starters, and you can do whatever you want with it. I love zines, I just love them. But it seems to me like they are a way of saying, "we don’t know how to use technology". I hate reading things on my computer with PDFs; I want something that I can hold in my hand also. But you can make video zines. It’s easy. There’s no need to be afraid of technology.

Gabrijela Ivanov
Red Chidgey
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