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MRR Interview

 

MRR: I've always appreciated the articles in Doris about history and it seems that over time Doris has evolved more into stories of your own past and present. What determines the content of an issue?

I don't think I wrote about history at all until around issue #6, and so I don't see it as evolving towards more personal writing. It is more cyclical and it will cycle back around. I never really know if people like those parts, but I just think history is so important. I think our society is deply dependent on our ignorance. They want us to believe that we are isolated and we don't have the power to make fundamental changes in our world, but when you study history, especially revolutionary history and the history of movements for social change, you see that we really do have power, and that change is happening, despite all the nightmarish-ness of the world we live in. History has definitely helped keep me sane.
Basically, I usually try and have at least a tiny bit of history or historical perspective in each issue. The girl gang article in issue #21 was history, and the same with that bit about cultural appropriation in the last issue. I want Doris to evoke a whole range of emotion and thinking: some laughtor, some critical thinking and figuring things out, some opening of secrets and silences. There have been issues where that formula isn't as strong, but that's basicaly how I figure out what, out of all the things I've been writing about, to work on and include in the zine. Also, with the vague encyclopedia set thing, there were some topics that were slated for different letters from the beginning.

MRR: Are you ever shocked by the amount of personal stuff your pen pals or strangers disclose to you?

I'm really honored that people open up to me, and that I can be a confidant or resource for people. Also, despite the zine, I am still really isolated and the letters make me feel less alone, and help me feel like my work is valid and needed.
We live in a culture that is so very silencing, and one of the main reasons I write Doris is to help people break cultural silences and help people break their own personal silences. I don't think I' ve ever been shocked by a letter.

MRR: Can you talk about your family's relationship with your writing?

My zine wan't a big part of my life until I was in my mid-20's, and by then I was pretty separated from most of my family. I was never very close to my extended family. Also, my family is pretty reserved and polite. There was definatly some awkward years where I wanted my dad and mom and grandparents to know that I was doing something with my life, and I tried to explain about my zine, and even made a couple edited copies to give them. I wanted them to understand and be proud, but since I could never talk openly about it, or really show them what I was doing, I just had to accept that they thought I wasn't doing anything with my life.
Eventually my relationship with my dad got a lot better, and I sent him some issues, and I guess he must just block out the hard parts, but he's always really happy and supportive about what I'm doing.
Since my mom dies, I've been trying to forage relationships with some of my aunts and with my grandparents. I told my grandparents about the book, and told them it wasn't family appropriate. They're sort of hurt, buy they're also 90 years old and I think they understand how much times have changed and that they probably wouldn't really want to read it. I just laugh about it and tell them they can read the next one.
One of my aunts read it, and when I sent it to her, I thought she would never talkd to me again, but she called me after she read it and she was just going on and on about how great it was and how sorry she was that I had to go through all that alone. It was really surprising, and it brought us a lot closer.

MRR: Was the aesthetic of typewriter and illustration intentional or circumstantial? Can you talk about what led you there?

I started doing the drawings because I thought it would be really funny to try and learn to draw. I stopped drawing when I was like eight or something because my older sister was so much better. I used a typewriter because I couldn't afford a computer, plus there were huge and bulky and they broke all the time, and I didn't always have electricity. I really love manual typewriteres. You can bring them around in your bike basket. I like the way typing on a manual typewriters slows my thoughts down. It makes me more aware of language. Plus, I think typewriters are beautiful. I like beauty.

MRR: What prompted such a heavy discussion of assault and rape? Was it the lives of the people around you or your evnironment or something that you wanted to bring to a higher level of discussion and public consciousness?

When I first started reading zines, there was a lot of writing about assault and rape. There was a lot of really valid and really powerful anger and I just don't find writing like that anymore, which is sad because there is still so much work that needs to be done. People are still getting raped and not even knowing to call it rape. People are still assaulting their friends and not being able to own up to what they've done. So I did want to remind people that this is a very real issue that hasn't gone away.
I had always planned to write about girl gangs when I got to the letter G. It just happened that when I got there I was dealing pretty heavily with my own abuse history stuff, especially about how no one I'd been in a serious relationship with had ever been able to be actively supportive. I didn't think the sexual issues I had that stemmed from abuse were unusual or that they should have been particularly hard for my partners to see or deal with. It made me really depressed that I couldn't get the support I needed. I hoped that by putting the call out for contributions to a zine about supporting survivors, that I could help start to open up a place for people to learn from eachother about abuse, the effects of abuse, and how to be supportive. I was sick of how survivors had to carry all the burden of healing ourselves and educating our partners. When I put the call out for the support zine I was exhausted and desperate and trying to pass the work on. I didn't realize what I was getting myself into.

MRR: As a musician, artist, and writer, do you feel that these components feed into eachother creatively, or just as far as people being familiar with the many facets of what you do and your work?

Am I an artist and musician? That is so sweet of you to say! Seriously! I don't really think of myself as either of those things. I am having my first art show in July, which I think is hysterical. It's at a coffee shop near my house that always has really mediocre art, so I figured I might as well.
I have never thought about this question. I pretty much have to write. I don't think I have to draw and play music, but I do need some kind of release. The drawings help me step back from the more complicated writing. They help me use a more forgiving part of my brain. I get to laugh and it helps me go on. Also, they help me remember to get to the heart of things, so I suppose the writing and drawings do feed eachother. They're also sort of a crutch. When I need to make a transition in one of the stories, I can just put a drawing in and it helps get your brain ready for something else and I don't have to work so hard an figuring out a good way to make the transition literarily.
As far as music goes, I mostly do it because there still aren't enough girls in bands. There still aren't enough girld screaming. Also, it's fun and I still have a hard time remembering that fun and release are important. I do love singing. I usually wish I didn't have to play the bass so I could flail around more and help people remember to dance.

MRR: With so much of the new issue being about menstrual extraction, is that a response to the events in South Dakota, or just coincidence and something you are interested in sharing with your audience?

I was always going to write about menstrual extraction, but the new Supreme Court and the South Dakota law definitely made me focus on it more. Our access to abortion is really threatened. I think there is a chance that Roe vs. Wade will be overturned, and even if it isn't, the Right is having real success in defining the way we think and feel about the issues around reproductive freedom.
In the early '90's a lot of people were politicized around issues of abortion rights and clinic access, and now the focus of young activists has moved on to other things, and I want to encourage people, especially women, to remember that our bodies are political. I really want women to form health groups and to start to take back some of the knowledge that has been take from us. I think health groups can be so empowering. I really believe that if you feel empowered and present in your body, you will be more effective in your struggle for social change, and it'll help you stay alive.

MRR: We get a large amount of feedback about the content of your book, especially from young teenagers who are really influenced by your voice and approach to life - working in collectives, making your voice heard (sometimes illegally), and being strong. Do you think about this influence much or how more impressionable people will respond to your writing and ideas?

When I read that question, my first thought was, "Oh, god! Am I a bad influence?" I wouldn't wish my life on anyone. I don't really think about my influence. I have a strong kind of splitting in my brain about the zine. I don't think anyone reads it and a lot of times I don't even think I wrote it. It's a weird defense mechanism, but it's pretty strong. I am a really closed in and private person, and I have a really hard time letting people close to me or telling them things that are important to me, so I guess if I really thought people read my zine I don't know if I could write it in the way I do.
On the other hand, of course I know people read it and that I have influence. There are a few things in it I wrote because I wanted to educate younger people - like the collective comics. I started them when the Seattle WTO protest was being planned, because I was worried that this whole new protest movement was starteing and maybe we hadn't passed down our knowledge of our experiences - like maybe no one would know about affinity groups. Quickly it became apparent that the knowledge was getting passed down in ways that were more effective than my comics.
The way I look at a lot of my writing is that I'm trying to normalize things rather than influence. Like, we all know that TV rots us, that beauty standards are really destructive, that feeling is important, that being challenged to think deeply is actuallly really great, and that there's a whole other kind of world we could be living, a world based on being nice to each other and trying to understand each other and sharing and celebrating and working and seeing usefulness in our work, and all that kind of stuff. I really believe most people know this world is what they would want, even if it is just a vision they think of as childish that they have buried deep within themselves and it's surrounded by scar tissue and cynicism, and so I want to counter the messages that say there is only one way to live and that way is to numb yourself and go along with whatever unthinking kind of place you can fit yourself into. I want to help people see more options.
When I write I often think about how much I tried to numb myself when I was younger, and how much I hated myself, and I think of the voices that helped me to see that I wasn't crazy and it was actually heroic and important to hole on to pureness and hope. There is still a lot of stuff I deal with that goes back to teenage times - stuff about abuse and fitting in, about what am I going to do with my life, about whether or not to give up, would I ever find my soul mate, how could a humanity exist that would go to war, why were people so cruel, why did I love my family so much, why didn't my friends love me enough. That stuff is still with me. Not as controlling as it was then, but still deeply in me, and I write to that part of me a lot. I want to help that girl. I want to prove that we can embrace our broken selves and become beautiful and real and vulnerable and strong.
MRR: Zines often have a reputation for being selective windowns into people's lives; only revealing what they want or feel is appropriate. In contrast, your zines feel extraordinarily hones. Do you feel your run of zines as a whole as truly reflective of yourself? Do you hold back to not expose things about yourself?

Doris is mostly about what goes on deeper inside my head and heart. It is not at all truly reflective of my whole self. I'm human. I spend a lot of time being irritated and confused. I don't know how to say what I think most of the time. I almost always feel about a hundred things at once, and it takes me a long time to sort out what's really going on. I'm pretty inarticulate.
I am honest in my writing, but not all the stories are completely true stories. Most of them are, but a few of them are fictionlized to protect people, or to protect myself, or because it just works nicely literarily. Like we didn't really use our shoelaces to try and tie the rain tarp on to the tent, but it felt like that's what we did. I don't usually write much abou the poeple who are the closest to me, because I want to protect them. In my writing, I'm not trying to tell people who I am. In fact, it is pretty hard to meet people who have read my zine's for a long time, because they feel like they know me and it makes sense that they do, but really they don't. Doris is not me.

MRR: You tend to drop numerous references to anarchism and feminism in your writing through value choices and anecdots so casually that it doesn't even seem intentional. Is is? Can you talk a bout how you shaped and develped these values over time?

I drop references to anarchism and feminism because they are at the core of my belief system, and they inform pretty much everything I do. I think it is helpful for people to see these beliefs in a context of someone's daily life, because so often they're jsut seen as abstractions. I also want to help encourage people to look at the belief systems they hold and the reasons for their actions. I think there's a lot of pressue in our world to just think that we are the way we are, and we believe what we believe, and that's all there is to it, but we do have the ablility to be self-reflective, that's what makes us human. That's what makes humans amazing. We can look at our actions and our thought processes and how we relate to other people, and look at why we're doing the things we do, and we can challenge ourselves and change, becoming better people.
As far as how I shaped and develped my values over time, my mom was raised Christian Scientist, and believed that all people were fundamentally good, and she really passed that on to me. I went to an alternative school - it was in a public school but was an alternative program, and we set our own study plans and learned from eachother, not just from the teachers. We went on a lot of field trips, did projects where we had to learn group process. I mean, the teachers talked about how difficult it can be to work in groups, and what were common problems that arose, and then we'd work on something - like some kind of art project or logic project, and half the goal was to get the art done or problem solved, but the other half was to learn group process and how to work together.
I guess I would have to tell my how life story if I was to really explain how my ideas developed over time, but I guess, briefly, I read a lot. I hung around smart people who were tryinhg to change the world in concrete ways, and I tried to learn to think deeply and to think for myself. I read a lot and sorted through the differeing ideas and came to a place that felt right inside of me.
Then there was trying to put ideas into practice, and learning from the ways they worked and filed. In the beginning there were a lot of quick develpments - like squatting was going to bring about the revolution, or music was going to, or we better learn to be self-sustaining and stop being part of consumer society. Quickly though, I could see that there was no one thing, no one way of thinking that was perfect and right, so I opened up to deeper and long range thinking.
I spent a lot of time trying to value women and get rid of the sexist parts of me that looked to men for approval and answers.
Mostly I tried to live a live worth living; live a life that constantly calls into question my own complacency. I mean, life just happened. I was lonely and scared and curious and I wanted to experience everything, and I think people are so interesting and complicated, so I live as fully as I can and my ideals develop. I always try to be really self-reflective and not dismissive. I don't know if I answered your question.
I still have the same core belief I came to early on, which is that humans have the capability to organize themselves and live without coercion and domination, and that we'd be a hell of a lot happier if we did, and that capitalism has to constantly grow or it will collapse, and there's only so much the earth can take of this insane growth, and any work we do now to help people to become more human will help in the long run. Even if there is no revolution, even if we don't create an anarchist world, anything we can do is better than nothing, and since it has been proven over and over in history that power corrupts and the ends do not justify the means, we better do our organizing and our living within the moral system of some sort of collectivist-anarchist-democracy, or whatever you want to call it.

MRR: In my experience, many people, punks included, have quick rebuttals to anarchism and feminism - they essentially write it off as useless theory, impractical or idealistic. Do you have a response to this?

I never saw punk as being essentially political. I see it as coming from a place that is a big fuck you to all convention, and that embraces anger and says we're going to make our outsides look like our insides and our insides feel like shit, because this world is shit and here we are, Deal with it.
I think there are a million ways to argue for anarchism, you can argue it economically (capitalism is just not sustainable, and communism has obvious failings), or you can argue it morally. I personally hate arguing, and think a lot of times it's semantics. Plus a lot of people just want to argue and push your buttons, and I don't really see the point of it. If I have to debate, I try to do it from a loving place, and if that's not where they're coming from, then I give them a book or I just don't engage.
There are people who are recruiters for the revolution, and I'm not one of them. Plus, I think lots of people who hate anarchism are way more anarchistic than the anarchists. But, I guess I would say I think theory is useful, and who cares if it's impractical or idealistic, as a society, all the gains we have made have been fought for, and we have made real, concrete gains toward freedom, so it just seems rediculous not to fight.
If I have to argue about this, I would probably talk about my mom's life, and the choices she had (which was basically to get married and have kids), and how much has changed because of the feminist movement - I mean, birth control, battered women's shelters (and the radical idea that women have the right to be safe in their homes), the fact that there's women getting published now and included in required reading in schools. I mean, so much has changed, and it didn't just happen on it's own.
I think people have such an ignorance of history; it's sad and so disempowering. I would try and spend more time talking nicely with people who haven't been exposed to anarchist or feminist ideas, and who are open to talking and thinking and figuring out what they think, and less time on people who want to shoot you down. That's my advice.