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"Making valuable DIY theory and herstory through zines". An email interview with Nina, from Belgium

Grassroots media in Europe
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Can you introduce yourself?

Hi, I’m Nina, 26 years old. I live in Belgium. I make drawings, comics, illustrations, visual art and craft. I’m currently working on a few children’s books to try to get them published. Also, I’m going to make a graphic novel or comic with a friend Kim who is writing the script. Occasionally I write and record music on my own as Lost Luna (you can hear some songs at and I’m trying to get together a band.

Besides the creative stuff, activism plays an important role in my life (of course art and zines can also be activism). Together with friends I founded a little creative DIY feminist collective in my town: the Riot Grrrl Collectief ( We organize actions, art events and skill-sharing workshops, occasionally do info stands at book fairs and festivals and publish a newsletter. I’m trying to support other actions and activist groups as much as I can. I’m mainly active in the feminist, queer, anarchist, squat and anti-capitalist movements.

Can you tell our readers about your zines? What topics do you cover? How is the zine put together and distributed?

My first zine was called Punk Feminist Mini-Zine, but it was just a first try; I didn’t make many copies. Then I moved on to Flapper Gathering, a riot grrrl-inspired zine, that lasted for 6 issues (and maybe a 7th some day). It was mainly about feminism, activism and underground subculture and included topics such as radical menstruation, beauty standards, DIY music, alternative media and self-defense. Then there was a single issue zine called Not Lady-like. It was about my journey to Berlin during the Ladyfest there in 2005. The zine documented my memories of the festival as well as questioned concepts such as (trans)gender, queer and lady.

Nowadays I publish Radix, a comic & art zine, and Same Heartbeats, which is similar in some ways to Not Lady-like (reporting on DIY feminist actions and events), plus it deals a lot with craft, DIY and activism. I’m working on the 3rd issue of both of these zines. I have also put out my dissertations as zines: Hier En Nu (“Here and Now”, about anarcha-feminism and non-hierarchical organizing) and Riot Grrrl: Rebels Feminisme. Then there are 3 collective zines that were made by the Riot Grrrl Collectief during workshops and DIY feminist events: Riot Not Diet, Ladies’ Room Zine and DIY Or Die. And finally, I just finished making a zine called Coma To Action about eco-activism for an art project.

Apart from the Riot Grrrl Collectief zines, all of these zines are written, drawn, cut & pasted, printed and copied by myself. Sometimes other people have contributed pictures or articles. I really enjoy making the zines completely by myself because it means I’m totally free to do what I want. I can even postpone the deadline a million times! The only thing I don’t like to do very much is distribution. Once my zine is finished, I like to sell or trade them at book fairs or festivals, but mail-order and contacting distros is not my best quality. I’ve put some zines online as pdf’s so they can be read by more people.

What made you decide to start this project? How did you come up with the idea and the name?

Not long after I started reading zines, I wanted to make a zine myself. But I wasn’t sure yet what to write about and how to put what I wanted to say to words. So I practiced a bit with unpublished half-finished zines and then put out a mini-zine and then started with my first “real” zine Flapper Gathering. FG was for me a way to help start some sort of riot grrrl chapter/network in Belgium but it was mostly my own project. Making this zine, however, did introduce me to lots of riot grrrls and DIY feminists in and outside of Belgium, so maybe my mission did succeed after all. I chose the name Flapper Gathering because I was a bit fascinated by “flappers”, short-haired girls from the 1920s, who might have been more hip and less rebellious than I thought when I started FG. The name of my current zine Same Heartbeats comes from the words a friend wrote on a mixtape she gave me and the name of my comic zine Radix is Latin for “root” (“radical” is derived from it). Coma To Action was also one of the names of a band I was in a few years ago.

What do you hope to accomplish through your DIY projects?

Hmmm… for me zine writing and doing other DIY projects is a lot about building a community with like-minded people living not too far away from me. You can write a zine on your own, but it’s really fun when other people make zines too and you can trade and share ideas and work together. I hope that by making my zine other people will be inspired to start self-publishing too or do other DIY projects. It’s about showing anyone can write or draw or publish something.

With my most of my zines I’d like to document our DIY feminist networks and actions by writing about its activities and making comics about them. By publishing about these activities and the ideas of DIY feminism and related movements, I hope more people will know about it and it won’t get lost and that discussions can arise from it. I know that don’t reach a large audience with my zines, but I think that people do cherish self-created paper magazines and they are easier to read than a long text on the internet.

What do you love about zines? Are there any aspects you find challenging or limiting in the zine community
Yes, I’m afraid that zines at this moment are very much linked to certain subcultures and white middle-class backgrounds. But I’m sure that in working-class/people of colour/migrant/ and any other communities there exist similar kinds of self-made publications /media but they are simply not called zines. It’s the same in countries where the word “zine” is not known. Even in punk/anarchist scenes in the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium, hardly anyone has heard of it, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any magazines or pamphlets or little booklets being put out. But they are called “krantjes” (little papers) or “boekjes” (booklets) or something else. Sometimes people who have heard of zines or fanzines may think it’s only about music/subcultures or just for teenagers and they don’t realize its activist potential.

So, at the moment I’m quite involved in giving zine workshops and doing zine info stands for different audiences to make people aware of this whole zine world that exists and to show them that they can get involved. But it’s still mostly a white privileged audience. It’s a problem that exists in a lot of activist communities here.

Do you consider feminist zines as part of a social movement? Do you think feminist zines can effect meaningful social and political change at large - or do they have significance mainly in individual lives?

I think zines are significant on both individual levels (for example a girl who finds empowerment in reading a grrrl zine or expressing herself in making one) and for social movements. They can and do play important roles in DIY feminist and anti-capitalist movements. Zines give its makers a lot of autonomy and freedom to publish what they want and they encourage readers to start self-publishing themselves. Its content doesn’t have to be dry heavily researched articles, but it can include rants, opinions, personal-political stories and interviews with friends. Anyone can write this and in this way contribute to a kind of non-academic/non-professional but very valuable DIY political theory and herstory. Like feminists in the 1970s who didn’t agree with male-dominated universities and health control, started their own skill-sharing classes and women-run healthcare centers, zines can put information control back into the hands of everyone. Zines can function as a participatory alternative medium to give alternative views on the society that can’t be found in the mainstream media. Zines also offer connections and communication between individuals and groups worldwide. These connections can be useful starting-points for further co-operation and sharing of knowledge, support and resources.

Do you see yourself as part of “DIY” or “Third Wave Feminism” and if yes, what does it mean to you? Or, why not?

Yes and yes, even though I rarely use the term Third Wave Feminism. DIY means a lot to me. Being doing things yourself, you can choose how you do it. It means autonomy. You can live more self-sufficient; by making or doing things yourself you don’t have to buy them. You can consume less, and thus pollute less and not support evil multinationals. Doing it yourself gives a positive feeling of empowerment, showing that you CAN do it yourself. It increases self-confidence. This is especially important for women and girls who are often told they can’t do it or that (like fix their bike, play drums, make furniture, repair something, build a house, etc).

DIY feminism is about everyone doing feminism ourselves and making changes, however small they may seem at first sight. It means not waiting for others, for “professionals” or politicians, to make the world more women-friendly and to solve problems related to sexism. I think that DIY feminists are often distrustful towards politicians and “improvements within the capitalist system” anyway. They are often involved in supporting anti-capitalist struggles as well and are convinced that this is connected to feminist struggles. So change has to come from ourselves. We have to start building our own utopias, put our ideals into practice and not rely on laws to give us more rights or protect us.

Making zines is an example of DIY feminist activism. You can read about feminism in books written by professional writers or academic researchers, and that’s great because you can learn from it, but you can also start writing yourself and publish your writings in a zine. This zine can be an expression of your opinions, a form of protest, a reaction against women-unfriendly commercial media and a forum for sharing new ideas and experiences. So DIY feminism is quite accessible because everyone can do something, in their own lives, locally, here and now, and you can also get together with other feminists in a collective or network so you can do even more.

What are the most pressing issues for you in daily life?

In my own life I work, write and think a lot on (trans)gender issues, self-defense / being free to walk anywhere anytime, questioning all kinds of privileges, macho behaviour within activist communities, free spaces,… Also climate change, pollution and other ecological problems are very important and urgent issues to me.

What would a woman-friendly society look like in your view? How do you think society might be re-thought and transformed to be a safer, better place for women, grrrls, transgender and queer folks?

It would be a society where gender doesn’t matter. You can be any gender you feel like, but always be equally treated, valued and respected for the person you are. In this society women would be strong and empowered and not have to be afraid for violence or abuse. I think learning and teaching self-defense is helpful in achieving this and building strong supportive friendships between women, girls, transgender people and queers and unlearning macho/violent behaviour in boys and men. What we can do is getting together, talking about stuff that matters to us, sharing experiences and resources, doing collaborative projects, writing and publishing, getting our voices heard, building permanent autonomous zones or free spaces, living more self-sufficient and independent from patriarchal institutions,… this is all important I think.

I find it a pity that so many issues related to gender and race are left to politicians to solve. Equal opportunities policies will only improve parts of (some of) our lives, but often they won’t go far enough and they’re not in the interest of all women. The entire society and the mentality of its people need to change and we all have to work on that. Something I find empowering about reading about second wave feminists is that they took things into their own hands and worked collectively. If they didn’t like something, they did it themselves and better. This may have only existed in small communities, but it happened in a lot of places and it’s a start, it can spread from there.

What are some of your personal wishes/visions/ideas/plans for the future, if you would like to share them?

Wishes: I would like the DIY feminist movement to grow. I want more people involved in local groups, better networking, more projects on diverse subjects not just temporary subcultural events (although they are great and inspiring too),… I want more action where I live! 

Plans: more zines, art projects, drawings/illustrations, actions, learning & reading,… I would like to get more involved in 2 queer-feminist groups in another city. It’s far away but they are doing great things, things that I can’t do on my own where I live. We’ll see what happens. In the summer I’ll be teaching / making a zine with teenagers for an art camp called Tijdbom. It’s in a nearby town where several zines were being published some decades ago so I hope this will make the local zine scene flourish once again!

Nina, zine maker
Red Chidgey and Elke Zobl
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