Copyright STACKEDD Magazine, 3/15/2015

Hollaback Grrrls: Catcall Zine Reframes Call-Out Culture for Seattle Feminists

There’s a new feminist zine in town, and it has everything you could ever want. “A zine can be a way to critically engage questions of feminism, while also serving as an entry point into feminist thought for folks who have no exposure to these questions,” states the Note from the Editors. “We believe that we have the power to shift the discourse and create spaces that are more feminist.” Catcall, a quarterly, Seattle-based zine, was launched by co-editors AnnaLise Bender-Brown and Tessa Nesbit last month at Beats and Bohos. The debut issue, ‘chill’, is available online and demonstrates a strong commitment to accessibility and conversation-building, with poetry, prose, photography, and comics, with submissions from both women and men.

Catcall’s formula has resulted in a feminist publication that is both popular and smart, effective and accessible: original feminist content, a clever name that reclaims a negative elements of female experience, and gorgeous cat drawings (by co-editor Tessa). AnnaLise Bender-Brown and Tessa Nesbit shared with us their thoughts on feminism, zines, and the magic of collaboration!

STACKEDD: Tell me about your personal journeys toward identifying as feminists.

T: I’m pretty sure I was born a feminist. I’ve always been inclined to fairness and kindness. I remember as a kid being pissed when folks would say I couldn’t something because I was a girl — it made me outshine everyone vehemently! Especially on the co-ed soccer fields. My feminism grows and changes every day, and I think that I’ve had a little feminist in me from Day 1.

I think that the word confused me until college because it had such a bad rap. I’d say that my Mom was and is a feminist, but we didn’t talk about that word.I read Inga Muscio’s Cunt when I was 19 and it opened my eyes a ton to sexism and women’s bodies. From that point, it took surrounding myself with feminist friends to understand feminism and become comfortable with the word. I’d say that life post-college has made me far more of a proud feminist.

A: I didn’t develop the feminist consciousness that I feel I inhabit today until I went to college. I had a really, really, simplistic, problematic understanding of feminism until I was exposed to feminism in an academic context. I’d say I was nineteen when I really started to actively think about feminism in a critical way and started striving to practice feminism. Using the word “feminist” has come very easily to me, however, largely because of the rigorous interrogation of the word “feminism” by a really influential professor I had at Reed who really exploded my thinking about feminism.

STACKEDD: What are your favorite feminist publications, Seattle-based and otherwise?

T: BUST, Bitch Magazine, feministing.org, and Men’s Right’s Club is an awesome Facebook group in Seattle that I go to for resources and discussions often. And now that I know about STACKEDD, I love it!

A: I love Autostraddle and Shakesville and The New Inquiry (all online), although TNI isn’t explicitly feminist. Bitch puts out some great feminist media commentary. My favorite feminist (digital) publications these days are probably my friends’ feminist blogs and Twitter accounts.

STACKEDD: How do zines act as an entry point to the larger conversation about feminism?

T & A: Feminist zines highlight the feminist potential of different media: poetry can be feminist, prose can be feminist, comics can be feminist, although we don’t usually conceptualize art in that way because dominant understandings of feminism are so reductive. The dominant narrative about feminism is that feminist artistic productions are like, angry screeds and rants. That sells feminism short and it also undermines the immense value of angry screeds and rants. I think that rather than deeming certain art or creative products feminist or not feminist, we should be rigorously evaluating feminist a given work or art or media product is. With that approach, we can look at any piece of media and say, “how feminist is this work?”

STACKEDD: Outside of its cleverness as a call-out of harassment culture, why did choose the name “Catcall”?

T & A: We wanted to reclaim a word that has sexist connotations. Instead of being the ones catcalled, we are now the ones making our own catcall through a feminist zine! Plus, we get to make art with hella cats.

STACKEDD: Why are handcrafted zines are important, when platforms like Twitter and Tumblr are faster and fancier?

T: Social media can spin out of control. Zines are there, permanent, and allow folks to slow down and consume. They are accessible in a more personal format, in that all of our zines have been exchanged person to person.

A: Zines made by hand are really important because of their physicality; for me, they’re like these precious gems. I think that zines’ legacy as information-sharing tools is actually pretty relevant, even in the digital age; there’s an intimacy with the text when you’re holding a paper publication that I feel I don’t always get when I’m reading online.

STACKEDD: Who is Catcall trying to reach? Who needs to be a part of the conversation about feminism?

T & A: We have so many inspiring, feminist friends who didn’t necessarily have a platform to expose or share their voices. We wanted Catcall to be a place where folks who might not typically create feminist art would have a space to do so. We love that all the contributors got to see the other contributors’ takes on the same topic in the finished zine. Feminism is complex, individual, and would benefit the entire world if voices came together, and Catcall is a space where lots of different feminist voices and different feminist perspectives coexist.

STACKEDD:Is Catcall for men? Are there any men working on the zine?

T & A: Catcall is certainly inclusive of men. We’ve had a number of submissions by men already, and we’re looking forward to more. Everyone is a part of the feminist movement regardless of gender. However, Catcall is not “for” men in the way that feminism is not “for” men; feminism as a political practice is challenging for men. Male feminists have to learn about male privilege, own up to it, and try to practice feminism in a meaningful way. There is no endpoint to the amount of education and experiences that make someone feminist, though to be male and feminist means acting very differently than socialization has encouraged them to. Feminism is a communal world-making move, and everyone needs decide whether they want to create a feminist world. We need more men to decide that they want to join us in creating that world.

STACKEDD: Talk to me about the binary. Is it real? Is there a spectrum? Why do we need feminism and women’s spaces and women on the mastheads of publications?

T&A: The binary is “real” in as much as we rigorously socialize people to believe that it’s real, and gender is something we feel within our bodies and something that’s enacted in the social world. So in that sense it’s very real, and it also very really shapes the material conditions of people’s lives: binary folks have immense privilege over non-binary people. For example cis men have privilege over women, so the fact that the gender binary is a construct doesn’t negate its material effects in the world. We desperately need feminism because patriarchal violence hurts everyone, even those who benefit from it. Feminism doesn’t make our lives “easier,” but it is inextricable from love and compassion.

STACKEDD: Are there any issues that you feel are strongly tied up with the future of feminism? Like racial equity, queer liberation, immigration, the environment?

T: I see feminism as the platform of intersectionality. In particular, I am a passionate vegan and am looking forward to more discourse on animal exploitation, the consumption of female animals’ bodies, and the entire intersectionality of how food relates to racism, speciesism, and classism. Carol Adams has written fantastic books on the sexual politics of meat and the pornography of meat.

A: Feminism often gets reduced to meaning “women’s issues,” and that’s something that saddens me a lot. It’s really difficult to craft a pithy definition of the term, but I think that “feminism” is a commitment to creating a world where we treat each other with love, compassion, fairness, and respect. Feminism is about ending racism and racial violence, it’s about ending economic inequity, it’s about creating a world where folks of all ability levels get to have meaningful, full lives. Feminism, love, and nonviolence are really bound up together for me.

STACKEDD: If you could have five feminists over for tea, alive or dead, who would you invite?

T: bell hooks, Kathleen Hanna, Yoko Ono, Beyoncé, and Merril Garbus.

A: I would have Janet Mock, Gabi Gregg (of GabiFresh, she’s a plus-size feminist style blogger), Nicki Minaj, Mikki Kendall, and my friend Nina Liss-Schultz.

STACKEDD: Tell me about the experience of working on a feminist publication with a bunch of other feminists. Redeeming? Challenging? World domination aspirations?

T: Muahahahaha how did you know about our next step??? It was incredible, inspiring, and rewarding to hear so many voices. I think I got goosebumps and teared up like 1,000 times.

A: I was so humbled and moved by the time and care that everyone took in creating their submissions for the first issue. We have poetry, prose, photography, experimental essays, a recipe — people really made these pieces with care. It was so inspiring and humbling to put all these pieces together and present them as something unified. Tessa and I also work extremely well together. Our horoscope says that we’re best suited for a business relationship

STACKEDD: What are your goals for the future of Catcall? What would you like to see change in the creation and distribution of feminist literature?

T: My goals are to get solid contributors and ideally a platform to share our zines. And to meet Kathleen Hanna and become best friends.

A: There’s this problem of feminist media entering the mainstream and getting watered down, reduced, and prettied up for mainstream culture to the point where the redemptive feminist elements of that media may be totally lost. I hope to see more folks creating feminist media and feminist art that maybe isn’t palatable to the mainstream so that we can create a world where feminism informs every aspect of the things we make, say, and do.

STACKEDD: When you’re not working on Catcall, what do you do?

T: I’m in a band with my bestie called Tessitura, I facilitate a feminist book club, go to shows, kick it with my buds/boo, yoga, travel. I used to barista and run teen leadership programs for YMCA Camp Orkila.

A: I work for Seattle’s Child magazine doing work on their website, I’m a member of a super rad feminist book club, I blog about feminism, I play music, and I spend a lot of time with my fam.

STACKEDD: How can people be involved in the creation and distribution of content for Catcall?

T & A: It’s just us two, so if anyone wants to help in their own creative way that’d be rad! We are most excited about expanding our contributor base. If you are a feminist, please contribute! Folks can get involved in our zine by submitting at catcallzine at gmail dot com. People can send us anything for our summer issue until June! Our summer issue comes out in July: the theme is “drift.”

For more information on Catcall or to submit contact Catcall.