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Pretty Ugly


An interview with Kelly


by Elke Zobl

March 2002


I was curious about the story behind Pretty Ugly, based in Victoria, Australia, so I asked Kelly - as a member of a the Pretty Ugly collective - some questions about the zine scene in Australia. Don't forget to check their web site!

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?
'm 24 year old lefty, bisexual feminist. I'm a member of the Australian Greens Party. I grew up in a town on the edge of suburbia and the bush. Lots of flannel shirts, bogans and cock rock music. I've only recently moved from there a few towns closer to Melbourne. I can't imagine moving much closer to the city cos I like the trees too much :) I had your usual public school education, was quiet and reserved but loved loud music. Have been writing since I was in my mid-teens. I started going to University in 1996 immediately after finishing high school and within a few weeks of being on campus I was running the campus writers club. I've been involved in independent press ever since.

What do you do besides your zine?
As much as possible! Besides writing zines I co-host a weekly radio show on a student/community station in Melbourne called 3SSR 94.1 FM. We play predominately female rock bands. And I host a monthly independent music show on the same station called 'The Indie Show'.

I also run a label-type-thing out of a shoebox called PDR Productions. It encompasses many things, zines, books, music. I'm currently working on a compilation cd and are planning with Cameron of Aussie riot grrl band Hamster Baby to release a 7". But without a doubt the biggest project happening under the PDR banner is my book. For years now I've been putting together a book that features stories from fans of the band Nirvana, about discovering the band, the music, gigs they went to, meeting the band and stuff like that. Info on all this stuff can be found on my website http://pdrzone.com

On the occupational side of things I'm self-employed web designer.

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?
The Pretty Ugly zine in it's current form has only been running for a few months. We put out the first issue in January 2002. The zine is produced by the Pretty Ugly Collective, there is a team of about 6 of us who write and edit the zine. Presently I undertake editorial duties, but we all pitch in with the planning of the zine, writing and seeking contributions.


What made you decide to start this project? How did you come up with the idea and the name?
I decided to start this project because I was involved with a couple of US based online collectives for womyn and I thought they were great but what I really wanted was to get in touch with other Australian womyn. One of the collectives I was loosely involved in was the X Womyn. It was fanastic sourse of information, support and so on and I thought wouldn't it be cool to have something like this for Australian Women. I wanted to connect with women in my own country and talk about bands and issues that were a bit closer to home.

So I started an online collective and named it after the feminist zine I was doing at the time called 'Kill the Real Grrrls' which is taken from the title of a song by Australian band Def FX ("Kill the real grrls and create a race based on a pretty face"). After two issues of the zine under that name I wanted to involve other women and pro-feminist men in the zine so it became the offical publication of the online collective. We changed the name 'Kill the Real Grrrls' because I thought that title may be missunderstood so I came up with the name 'Pretty Ugly' which I later found out was also the title of a Lunachicks cd. I ran the name by the Collective which was at that time in the early stages and they seemed to dig it so Pretty Ugly was born!


What topics are most often discussed in your zine?
We'll seeing as we've only put out one issue so I can't really answer that one! Although it's worth mentioning that many of the articles, rants and so on have feminist influences. And also a sense of challenging the status quo has already emerged as a common theme (as you'd expect from a zine!). For example the 1st issue featured articles on challenging traditional notions of feminity, Valentines Day and the portrayal of women in mythology.


What do you hope to accomplish by establishing your zine?
When I started the first incarnation of Pretty Ugly (Kill the Real Grrls) I hoped to refocus people's attention to feminism as a valid and essential movement, the zine was also a great medium to explore feminist issues and concerns on a personal level. As the zine transformed into the Pretty Ugly project, a major goal of ours became to inspire young people, especially women, to write and perhaps make their own zine. One reader wrote to me recently upon discovering our website saying that she has become "excited again about the possibilities of women's words". I thought that was pretty cool.

 

What does zine making (and reading) mean to you? What do you love about zine making? What ís the most challenging aspect of making zines?
I'd have to say the best thing about zine making is holding the finished product in your hand and reading it through for the first time. I love putting all my ideas and thoughts out there and I love providing other people with the forum to have their work unleashed as well. And of course it's always great when you get a letter or email from someone who's been affected, insprired or challenged by something you've written/put in your zine.

I think the most challenging aspect of making zines for me (apart from dealing with shitty photocopiers!) is to create something original that is a worthwhile read and gives the reader something new to chew on.



 

What was your first exposure to zines? How did you find out about them? What have they come to mean to you?
My memory is a little fuzzy but I think my first exposure to zines was in the early to mid 90s, around 1995. I caught up with one of my oldest friends and she had just finished printing up her zine 'Agitational Gravel'. I had heard of zines before but never really picked up one to read. At that time I had just started working on the Nirvana book and she gave me a list of people to get in contact with who might help me promote the book. A number of zinesters and zine distributors where on the list. So I got in touch with a few of them and started receive and buy zines from there. I'd always been big into writing but it had always been for myself. A couple of years later I decided to take the plunge and created my first zine 'Mindfield' which later became known as PDR Zine.

Zines mean a lot to me because there seems to me to be an increasing number of boring people in this world, complacent, lazy and apathetic. Zinesters are getting off their arse and making something creative and more importantly expressing themselves through words. It's important to me to know that there are still people in this world with fire in their bellys.


Do you consider grrrl zines as an important part of a movement of sorts? Do you think zines can effect meaningful social and political change?
There have been times when I would have found that a hard question to answer.. but I only need to think of a world without zines and independent press and then the answer is obvious. YES! I love the idea of creative communities. If people are creative then people are thinking, they're active. Without zines some people may find it difficult to find a medium to express themselves. Zines provide a forum for people to express their ideas and for other people to read them and perhaps take them on board. If we didn't have zines then all we'd have is glossy magazines with populist content made by people with lots of money. Alternative and independent media is VITAL for any social change and movement. Grrl zines are especially important because we live in a world were male voices reign supreme and strong, independent, feminist womens voices are few and far between. They are out there, but we don't often get to hear them... unless you pick up zine to read!


What does the zine community mean to you?
Hmmm, a tough one to answer. I've never really felt part of the "zine community". Sure, I contribute to it with my zine and buy other zines but I've always felt on the outer edge of the community, which is fine. On the other hand when I have been more involved in the community I've found people who are very supportive of each other's zines, helping with distribution, contributing content, providing tips and advice. In general terms the zine community is important to me because to know that there are intelligent, inspired and passionate people in the community and that helps me keeps me interested in continuing to write and produce zines.


What advice would you give others who want to start a zine?
First of all, just go out and do it! One less person sitting on their arse watching Television is one step closer to a better world! I guess the main advice I would give is to try and find your own voice and make a zine that really reflects you. Don't be afraid to speak you mind and say what you think. Don't worry about making a "cool zine", make something that reflects how unique and wonderful you are.

What are some of the zines you admire?
Most of the zines I admire come from Australia. Firstly, 'Personality Liberation Front' by a grrl in Brisbane named Kylie. She has a lot to say and says it well. I really like well written zines that write about important issues. I find zines about trivial things really boring, and I'd seen a lot of those when I came across PLF, so I was immediately impressed by her zine.

Another Aussie zinester I admire is Paul of Ventricle Zine. His writting is very strong and often emotionally driven. You can't read his stuff without being affected. He often makes me stop and think and I love that.

I'm not normally into comics zines but I really enjoyed one I read recently called Revulva Grrl (vulvagrrl@yahoo.com.au). Others I really like are Biblio Eroticus (www.eroticus.com.au), APiTO (www22.brinkster.com/apito), Ooze (www.geocities.com/ooze_zine) and Kiddie Punk (www.kiddiepunk.com).

Could you please describe a little bit the grrrl zine community in your country?
I'm probably not the best one to ask this. I don't know if there is a seperate identifiable grrl zine community in Australia. I consider there to be simply just a zine community in which there are many guys and grrrls who are equally supportive of each other. In my experience I've found the guys to be really into the grrrl type zines. Apart from the grrls directly involved in Pretty Ugly, overall I've received more support from guys than grrls. So to me it seems there is just one big zine community. Having said that the music/punk zines seem to be mostly written by guys, about other punk guys so things aren't in any way equal between grrls and guys in terms of content and that particular type of zine. To me, 'grrl' has lost it's original meaning. I don't get that sense of feminism, radicalism and anarchism like I used to from that term or from the zines written under the "grrl" banner. When I think of grrl zines these days the first thing that comes to mind is Hello Kitty and yet another rant about how wonderful Kathleen Hanna is. I hate to say it but I'm kinda bored with "grrl zines". Maybe it's just Australian grrl zines, there seems to be lots of cool stuff happening overseas. Or maybe I'm not reading the right Aussie grrl zines? I don't know. Hopefully the Pretty Ugly project will help foster a stronger feminist-focused grrrl zine community in Australia.

 




Kelly from Pretty Ugly
Do you define yourself as a feminist?
Absolutely! 100% I get really annoyed when I see women describe themselves as "humanists" or "equalists" or say they're not a feminist because they want equality for women *and* men. Unfortunately the image of a feminist has been so demonised that many women are too afraid to adopt the title for fear of how others will react or judge them - despite their beliefs being identical to what would otherwise described as feminist. Another common comment I hear from women is "I'm not a feminist because I like men." It's so frustrating that the real meaning of feminism is so distorted. As a feminist, I am against patriarchy, not men. I believe in equal rights and equality among men and women.

 

What are the most pressing issues you are confronted with in daily life (as a woman/feminist)?
One of the most pressing issues I find is women being "allowed" to be a woman without being what would traditionally be called "feminine". Because I am female, I am constantly aware of expectations people have of me as a female. I am expected to be like other women - and like shoppping, cosmetics, jewellery and pretty things. When in reality my interests are rock/punk music, non-fiction and politics.

Another issue that is pressing to me is the acceptance of women in rock music. I host a weekly radio show that plays predominately music by female rock/punk/metal musicians. Often on other punk/metal/rock shows you will not hear one single bit of music sang or performed by a woman. I explained my show to collogue at the radio station I work at recently and I asked him why he didn't play many women he replied "cos I only play good stuff".

And of course there is the most obvious issues which every woman deals with everytime she walks down the street or goes out at night.


Are you active in the feminist movement?
These days I find it hard to find an identifiable "feminist movement" (which is partly why I started Pretty Ugly in the first place) so it's difficult to say whether I am part of it or not. I'm not really a fan of individualist feminism, I believe in collective efforts, but outside of how I life my own life I'm not terribly active "in the movement". I am very active in the movement in the broad sense of the term, in that I reject sexism when I encounter it, I promote music made my women on my radio show and I offer encouragement and support to women in their various endeavours when the opportunity arises. I would like to be more involved in womens activities etc, but living so far from the Melbourne where everything happens makes it difficult. Also the womens groups I was exposed to in my time at uni weren't too enticing. I'm fine with radicalism, I myself are more aligned with radical feminism than anything else, but these groups seemed a bit too self-righteous. You can stand there and say we demand this, we deman that, but ultimately if you want to achieve genuine change for the better of women, education and talking with people, rather than yelling at them, is the best tool for success. My different opinion about the best methods for the feminist movement prevented me from getting involved in the feminist movement at the student level. I've not been out of uni long so perhaps I'll get more involved in the Women's Electrol Lobby or something like that.


What do you think about feminism today? Do you see yourself as part of ìThird Wave Feminismî and what does it mean to you?
I don't know what to make of 3rd wave feminism, the only thing that seems to put me in it is being "a 20 something". I sometimes wonder if the 3rd wave is a bit directionless - apart from aiming towards better equality, the 3rd wave seems more to be little more than a term to describe the feminists born after 1965.

Feminism today concerns me greatly, well, not so much feminism itself but the environment in which feminism exists. The environment does not allow feminist voices to be heard. In some respects I feel our societies are becoming more conservative and mainstream women do not see feminism as terribly important to their lives. A challenge for feminism today is to hold on to and strengthen it's place as a valid and essential movement.

Which role plays the Internet for you? Does it change your ideas of making zines and doing/reading zines?
The internet has made making zines a lot easier, especially if you seek contributions to make up your zine as we do with Pretty Ugly. You can get in touch with people fast via email and there's millions of images at your fingertips! Having access to information is the most wonderful thing which makes researching something for an article very fast too!

Having the internet also means you do not need to go and print a zine and get it distributed. If you spend a hour or so learning basic HTML you can set up your own webzine quite easily and without spending a cent. It's the ulimate in DIY. No paper, glue, sissors, staples, photocopiers, distributors, you can do it yourself quickly and easily and affordably online. The internet has opened opportunities for people to get their words out there.

Having said that there is nothing quite like having a copy of your zine in your hand to read :)

Do you have any suggestions? Something you want to add?
I want to make one final comment on feminism which might be unpopular among some feminists but it's something I strongly believe in. I feel that if we are to have a successful feminist movement then we ought to involve men in everyway we can. Men have a lot to contribute to the feminist movement and while women ought to remain in control of it, we ought not to under estimate the benefits that can be drawn from the participation of men genuinely dedicated to the feminist movement. A lot of women have suffered at the hands of men, but many men have also given women opportunities that other men and women have denied them. A successful movement requires the participation of people across all ages, races, classes and gender lines.
When I was a teenager and just beginning to delve into feminist thought, it was from male role models and public figures from which I heard pro-women, pro feminist statements. It was from them that I learned about sexism, violence against women and pro-choice. And it was partly through listening and learning to these pro-feminist men that my own feminist head emerged.
It is also from men that I have received the most positive feedback about the Kill The Real Grrls / Pretty Ugly Zine. I receive more letters from men than women! I've always had more male then female friends as it has been men who have been more accepting of my being a feminist than women. Without support of these men I doubt I'd be the strong feminist I am today. Women alone cannot make deep social change with regard to how society views and treats women, men speaking up about women's issues to other men is essential for this change to take place.

 


Pretty Ugly Zine/Collective
Po Box 331
Lilydal 3140
Victoria
AUSTRALIA


kelly [AT] pretty-ugly.com
http://www.pretty-ugly.com

Kelly's web site:
http://pdrzone.com



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