Title (as given to the record by the creator): A conversation with FaT GiRL zine (1994-97) collective members.
Date(s) of creation: June 11, 2022
Creator / author / publisher: Fat Liberation Archive, Barbarism, Candida Albicans Royale, Sondra, Max Airborne, Cookie Woolner
Physical description: 93 min video
Source: Fat Liberation Archive
Reference #: FLA-FaTGiRL-2022
Links: [ YouTube ] [ FaT GiRL ]
Amid the flourishing of 1990s zine culture, there was an explosion of fat, queer culture in San Francisco, harnessed and cultivated by a collective of fat dykes who made a zine called FaT GIRL. Cultural historian Cookie Woolner interviews FaT GIRL zine collective members Barbarism, Candida, Max and Sondra about what creating FaT GiRL was like and how that time relates to fat, queer life today.
This conversation kicks off Fat Liberation Archive’s first series of conversations about fat liberation history.
Video image description:
[On a swirly watercolor background in cutout letters] A Fat Lib Archive
[image: an array of 7 FaT GiRL zine covers]
A conversation with FaT GiRL zine (1994-97) collective members. JUNE 11, 2022
Barbarism, Candida, Max, Sondra. Moderated by Cookie Woolner.
The bulk of the video shows 5 fat, white queers in their 50s on a video conference.
At the end is a closing slide: fatlibarchive.org
Max Airborne [00:00:11] Okay. So welcome. This is the first event being hosted by fatlibarchive dot org, which is a fat liberation archive that we began recently and it started with Fat Girl. And so it makes sense that hosting this panel of Fat Girl participants, Fat Girl creators is going to be our first event. And Cookie has generously offered to moderate this conversation. And so let me just introduce Cookie. Cookie is someone who moved to the Bay Area sort of as Fat Girl was winding down, but then became part of our community and was doing fat burlesque and has done fat zines and Cookie is now a queer cultural historian and is… I’m excited to get Cookie’s queer cultural history perspective on Fat Girl as we talk, so, Cookie, take it away.
Cookie Woolner [00:01:22] Thank you so much, Max, and thank you so much for all your work on this really important archive. It’s so important that Fat Girl is now digitized and accessible to more folks so everyone can access it. So thank you so much for doing that! So, I’m so glad to be here. I’ll just say a couple of words just to kind of give a little historical context for the moment, and then we’ll go round and introduce everybody and then I’ll ask some questions and then we’ll do some Q&A. So just to kind of think about..so we’re in the early nineties, right? We do have this kind of explosion of new kind of mainstream queer visibility, you know, with folks like Ellen going on. But it’s also really the era, you know, we’ve got grunge heroine chic – Kate Moss, the very, very thin supermodels. Right? We still have this kind of like ongoing 1980s fitness craze. Plastic surgery and liposuction are now taking off. We have books like Naomi Wolf’s “Beauty Myth,” talking about how women have to kind of work harder than ever before on their appearance to be successful in the workplace. Right? So it’s really a depressing time for fat people. There’s very little, you know, representation or acceptance. There is kind of you know, there has been kind of a more mainstream kind of fat acceptance movement emerging in some places. But the emergence of a zine like Fat Girl is a real breath of fresh air, bringing this new radical, fat, queer representation and community. And even though it’s coming out of the Bay Area, it’s something that people nationally and internationally are able to access and really like see themselves for the first time. And I’m someone who the magazine really affected, I saw it when I was in college and I have to say I was very intimidated by it. You know, I was very, very sheltered still, but I was just so glad it existed and that this type of world could maybe, you know, be there for me someday. I even wrote about it in my college thesis, which I had forgotten about until now. And it was fun to kind of go over that and think about how I – how this affected me at this time. So yeah that just to kind of, you know, remember this kind of moment in which this magazine occurs, right? This is before, of course, you know, the kind of fat positivity and body positivity movements we have today. Of course, we can talk about that, and how things have changed, how the zine has influenced these movements as well. So I just kind of want to give that little historical context here. So yeah, now we can just go around and everyone can just give a brief introduction. Max, do you want to introduce yourself first?
Max Airborne [00:03:44] Sure! My name’s Max Airborne. I don’t know really what to say about myself, but I was part of the Fat Girl collective from the beginning. Part of the group who came up with the idea and started working on it. And we can tell more stories about that later, but I live in the Bay Area still, I’ve been here for 30 years now and I’m still doing fat-related organizing. That’s it.
Cookie Woolner [00:04:21] Great, thank you. All right, Barb?
Barb/Barbarism [00:04:24] Hi, I’m Barb or, as some of you know me, Barbarism from the zine. And like Max, we were there together from the beginning. We’ll talk about those stories. And the collective was really an important group. We came together- not everybody’s here today, but there a lot of them are here in spirit. I know many of them [would] wish to be here. I can’t introduce myself without thinking about them because Fat Girl wouldn’t have existed, you know? From the moment we conceived of it, we knew it needed to be a collective, and we knew we needed many voices at the table. And so I’m really honored that we’re kicking off the archive because Fat Girl didn’t happen in a vacuum.
I really appreciated Cookie you sharing just sort of your perspective about what was going on at the time. You know, some of the people who aren’t here I was doing organizing work with before Fat Girl in Santa Cruz. We helped start Queer Nation there. And so we had been politically organizing together and we were all artists and creatives. And so I think that this Fat Girl sits within a history of direct political action that happened before, you know, the communities that we involved – were involved in. I was a politics major. I studied with Vito Russo at UCSC. I went to New Pacific Academy, which was a one-time program for queer activism that happened in 1990 in San Francisco with activists from all over the world. And, you know, there’s a lot of strands and threads and different ways of creativity and activism and art and bodies that all came together at the same time through Fat Girl. And it’s really nice to see this being sort of connected to what’s happening now and also happening in the future. And I think that’s really important to take in context as we talk about everything. So I traded in my combat boots of my youth for hiking shoes now. I live in the Pacific Northwest, very isolated on the Hood Canal. And I’m a recent cancer survivor, have fibromyalgia. So if I’m struggling for words, it’s because I am. I take a lot of photography now and find my words through photography since the fibromyalgia has kind of made it harder for me to communicate. But I’m finding my way back. And so if I – if you’re confused by something I say, you can always ask me through chat or connect with me afterwards through – I’m Barb in Rainbow Land on Instagram. That’s where I do a lot of my communication now. So but – that’s just kind of who I am now. [laughs] Thanks!
Cookie Woolner [00:07:15] Great. Thank you, Barb. Hello Candida, can you please introduce yourself?
Candida Royal [00:07:25] Hello. I am not known in the zine as Candida, but I am here thanks to the wonders of search algorithms. So, hi! Today you can call me Candida. I also live in the Pacific Northwest in Portland. I was part of the founding folks of Fat Girl and was involved with the first four issues and have since then moved on to a number of other kinds of intersectional fat activism, including several years working with NOLOSE. I really am so excited to see several new faces here and also familiar faces of friends and contributors back from the early nineties. So it’s really exciting to see you all here. As Barb mentioned, there are so many others who are involved and so it’s a mini reunion, but it’s exciting.
Cookie Woolner [00:08:36] Thank you. All right. Sondra? Can you please introduce yourself?
Sondra [00:08:41] Hi everyone. Welcome. I am really glad to be here with you all and missing the rest of the collective. But everyone is in my thoughts as we talk about all of this. My name is Sondra and I joined Fat Girl as kind of the second wave, and it was a long time ago now. I was reviewing some of the zines before today and just realizing, you know, I was in law school at the time. I’d forgotten that I was talking about the book I was hoping to write in one of the zines. So I’m excited to say like that did happen. And I went on after the last issue of Fat Girl, I have been doing legal work that’s related to weight. I am retired now, but that was my career. One of the first people looking at weight as a civil rights and fat justice issue and trying to get us protections and help fight for our rights. And I am also really honored to have been able to co-edit, The Fat Studies Reader,” with Esther Rothblum, which I also have and – this lovely artwork that’s on the cover was also done with Max. And it’s really part of like the whole Fat Girl thing is like, if you can’t – if you don’t see yourself, then just do it yourself. And so that really continued on through my life. And I think, yeah, that’s my introduction. Glad to be here with everyone.
Cookie Woolner [00:10:38] Yay! Yes, and just for folks who might not be familiar, those are both very important books, really, really groundbreaking books in overlapping fields. So you should definitely have them in your library if you’re into fat studies. All right. So, um, so I guess now I circulated a list of questions to folks ahead of time. So the first question, you know, just a little one, how did the zine get started? And I think I’m thinking both about if people want to talk maybe about kind of influences of the zine? And also just like the actual, you know, series of events that led to the creation of the zine. So, who wants to get started?
Barb/Barbarism [00:11:16] I’ll start with the genesis story. So, it’s a kind of fun one. Some of you might have known Heather McAllister. She was in town and Max and I and Heather were hanging out in a bar on the Castro overlooking Market Street and not a place that Max and I would go to because we never sort of felt comfortable there. But Heather was in cruise mode and it gave her the best vantage point to look up and down the street. And so we were hanging out and trying to get Heather laid [laughs] – pretty much that started the genesis. So that’s kind of – it led to us having a conversation with Oso, who is not here. And he and I were exes and they were in Santa Cruz. We got – were very involved in different elements of the community there, we were activists together. And after we left the community we were asked to do a photo shoot for a sort of softly queer, sort of queer influence zine that was about desire. And basically, our photo shoot was just too fat for them and got rejected. And so we were talking about, well, you know, maybe it’s time for us to do our own. You know, if they don’t want it, let’s just publish it. Why not? And so we just got really excited. But as we started just getting really excited about it, we were, you know, we sort of talked about all the things, you know, the name was a part of the conversation and the idea of, you know, Fat Girl being larger than life and the emphasis on girl being, you know, Shazam! And all the different sort of elements, you know, really that conversation was just like we were fired up and we were excited and, you know, we got Heather Wade and we moved forward and started saying, how do we get, you know, how do we make this zine happen? Right. We did this. We accomplished this thing. Let’s accomplish the next. So, it, you know, it was born out of desire and it was really about the representation.
But from that direct action standpoint, you know, we were I think – I can’t speak for everybody in the collective, but everybody were artists and creatives, musicians, textile artists, writers, photographers, political activists. And we were doers and creators. And we, you know, we believed that the vision was to create for yourself. You know, we were a part of the whole identity politics that were going on. You know, the community, there were a lot of like fat dykes who were present in creating the culture there. You know, all of our favorite deejays at the clubs and the bouncers and the tattoo artists and the, you know, the cute dyke at the cafe. We were all present, but we weren’t represented and we didn’t have a voice. And this was the tipping point for us. And we figured out how to make it happen by asking others to join us. So that’s really how I see it. Or remember it.
Cookie Woolner [00:14:22] Thank you. Candida?
Candida Royal [00:14:27] Ah yes. I want to just mention for context, that the whole thing that Barb mentioned about Queer Nation- Act Up was also another direct action group. Those were very much happening, but also San Francisco specifically, I mean the Bay Area, but really San Francisco was a total hotbed of DIY publishing at the time and there were – it was also just really, a really burgeoning dyke-identified, dyke-oriented movement. It was – there was just like so much, so many creative projects. I feel like there were so many amazing events that were really dyke-led, dyke-run, and dyke – focused and including a lot of really sex radical events and publications, play parties, sex clubs, women – I mean, like, I don’t know about you, but I have not encountered a women’s sex club since specifically, like, not even just play parties, but like it was specifically sex clubs happening for women and we just were not represented there. I mean, like we all know queer fat women, but we were very much not represented in any of these magazines that I was seeing or zines. A few smaller zines did have a bit of fat representation, but I think that is like – sort of to set that scene of where we were coming from, there was just so much exploding creatively and sexually.
Cookie Woolner [00:16:12] Yeah. Yeah. Max?
Max Airborne [00:16:14] I want to add another condition that I feel like made Fat Girl possible that maybe we didn’t completely acknowledge at the time, but that is that the Bay Area had already had a thriving, fat-liberation-oriented, fat dyke community. You know, they were already doing events. There’s a bunch of fat dykes who were – are like maybe ten years older than us who are really involved in leftist politics in the Bay still, they were then and they are now. Many of them have passed on. But yeah, there was already a thriving community that we weren’t exactly part of cause we were a little too young, but it was there. It was sort of in the milieu, so to speak, like they had been crashing the pride parade with a fat dyke party, you know, for a couple of years before we started Fat Girl, you know, so that was kind of in the air already.
Barb/Barbarism [00:17:18] For sure.
Cookie Woolner [00:17:21] Thank you. Anyone else want to speak to this?
Barb/Barbarism [00:17:27] Well, I just want to go along with what Max was saying in terms of the other aspects of the community and what Candida was saying, you know, here were creative spaces like Lunacy, and we had a lot of support, I think, like from all the – there was like a queer small business, there was (Red Door?) And there were, you know, there was the clubs at night and there was Osento like I mean, literally, Fat Girl was made across the street from Osento, you know, literally. And there were – there was so much going on in terms of like the growth of the tech industry. That also was a huge influence on our ability to get this done and support from other zine makers like from Brat Attack. And we had support from, you know, Modern Times, A Different Light. There were there was the Epicenter, which was sort of the punk anarchist zine place to go. I mean, there was just – there were a lot of resources and there was a lot of gentrification going on at the same time, too. So you had the tech industry growing, the gentrification of San Francisco going on. You know, queer people were doing the gentrifying as it was happening. So there were so many – there was so much like, you know, it was a very fertile time with a lot of change and a lot of sort of in-your-face people taking up space. People helping each other take up space. And you know that that created opportunities to be able to find other people who were interested. But also, you know, I think it sort of created an opportunity for us to feel emboldened. You know, it’s not – it’s not easy to go up to someone and say, ” Hey, you’re fat, you’re cute. You want to like, come do something with us?” because you didn’t know what kind of reaction you would get. And, you know, it wasn’t always positive. It was you know, we were even though we felt, you know, we were celebrating our bodies, but we were also learning and going through our own sort of individual journeys and to be able to that carry that enthusiasm forward and interact with other people and get them excited enough to want to participate and take risks. But not only just to say, hey, I’m queer and I’m fat and I’m present, I’m a dyke. But to like really get into the sexuality of, you know, our bodies and be able to, you know, a lot of us were, you know, a part of the, you know, the pervert community, too, and to be really public about it was – even now when – was it last year Rose started doing her research and she was working, it was a year ago in spring and Max said, “Hey, Rose would like to talk to you. Would you like to be involved in this?” I was like, “Well, that’s great,” because I think- I’ve really been thinking a lot about Fat Girl and how it sort of threads through not only my life but other lives.
But I also was thinking at the time, well, am I really ready to go back and sort of with all of the technology that’s out there now, revisit those stories because we really put a lot out there. Like, you know, there wasn’t much that we left unturned over or unseen, I think, through the zine at that point. And it was risky then, and I think it was kind of risky for us even to have these conversations and have everything be digitized and put it out there again. So so my point being that the ability to do and do as an individual often comes from the fact that other people are doing at the same time. And there is sort of safety and there’s also inspiration in seeing what other people are accomplishing. And so it’s sort of, you know, even if I didn’t know all of the individuals that were a part of my community, but I saw what they were accomplishing. I said, okay, if they – if I can get up today and get something done and I see what they’re getting done, I’m going to go out there again and try this. So I don’t know – I just want to point out that – how important community is really.
Cookie Woolner [00:21:44] Yeah. And I mean, looking back at it, I mean, aside from that, first off, it’s like a collectively created magazine, right? But beyond that, like it’s so clear that it’s part of this larger community and conversation. There are so many people involved in every issue. Sondra, did you want to say anything for this first question?
Sondra [00:22:01] Well, I wasn’t involved in the starting. So my story is more about the continuing. So I’m sure it’ll come up as we go along.
Cookie Woolner [00:22:11] All right.
Sondra [00:22:12] I was a wannabe. I was just, like, contributing and wanting to be more involved.
Cookie Woolner [00:22:18] One question that came to me as we were talking from the start, was it always conceived of as a sex zine or periodical specifically? Or was it more about kind of fat queerness more generally than sexuality? Or how did you guys think of it as a sex zine or erotic zine? How did you kind of think of it in that regard?
Barb/Barbarism [00:22:35] I don’t think we thought about it in terms of – we felt like you couldn’t have one without the other. But it definitely was like smut driven and it was definitely about making sure that there was sexual representation, not just fat queer representation that we couldn’t, you know, how do you – I mean, that’s where we were Raddis right? You know, in terms of, we didn’t want sort of a cleaned up, corporatized or just like, we may be the girl next door, but we’re sexual – the sexual girl next door. We’re not not sexual. But we also were – everything was very intentional. I mean, we took six months to – before the first issue came out because we really went through a collective process that was consensus-based. Not everybody had been in a collective or worked in a collective or understood consensus. And so we really explored all the different aspects of what we wanted – people wanted to have in the zine. But the political component of it was always there from the beginning, not only because it was a political act, but also to protect ourselves. I mean, we really sort of talked about and there some good – if any of you have read the interview with – in the book zines, we sort of talked about like the lines of what’s smut, what’s pornography, whether or not we could show penetration. You know, if someone sent something into us, how do we determine whether or not we can and can’t include it? And we decided we weren’t going to limit ourselves. And we also made sure, even on our covers, to have really clear markers that said this was a political act. So if it was ever in a court situation or in any other situation where it had to be defended, it was – it was integrated. It was holistic. It had all of the components of who we were. You know, that was integral to why we did it, I believe. I mean, I don’t know, maybe you guys disagree with me.
Candida Royal [00:24:36] No, I think it was very – I mean, we were very explicitly, explicitly sexual as a radical act and as a political act in and of itself. And part of that was many different kinds of sexual representation. So that was perverted sex, that was vanilla sex, that was fetishes. It was like, sky’s the limit depending on what people had to contribute and where the imagination went. But it was a very explicit part of having that and that it was not only that, you know, it was one part of our diverse existence.
Cookie Woolner [00:25:21] That’s lovely. Shall we move on to kind of the process of creating the zine? That’s been talked about a little bit. Did you guys have like regular monthly, weekly, or monthly collective meetings at rotating households? Or could you paint us a picture?
Max Airborne [00:25:40] I don’t remember how often we met, but I think all of our meetings took place at Barb’s house. Which, as she mentioned, was across the street from Osento, which is a women’s bathhouse that used to exist. And so we would sit in the window and watch the dykes coming and going from Osento. But Barb had a good living – good-sized living room. And so, like, I feel like when I look at our old – back at our old pictures what I see is us in Bar’sb living room or in Barb’s bedroom. You know.
Barb/Barbarism [00:26:11] They were conjoined. It was a big – it was a big Victorian living room. It was a queer household in the Mission. And one of the – it was challenging, actually. We tried to – we wanted to rotate to other places. We’d look for other spaces and other spaces couldn’t accommodate all of our bodies in terms of like the chair support. You know, we had enough – the physicality worked in terms of us being able to be in the same space and it was hard, it was up a fight, one flight of stairs, which we knew was a challenge. And from the beginning, you know, we were aware and we went to other spaces, we couldn’t find anywhere we could fit or that wanted us. So it was kind of hard that way. So yeah. And then I know that there were complications when the – this was the for – first four issues. And then I’m not certain where the meetings happened after that, but I know that they are one of the reasons why there was problems with them staying together was actually having a space and finding places to be where that would work.
Cookie Woolner [00:27:27] Sondra, do you?
Sondra [00:27:28] Yeah. So speaking for the sort of – the rest of the post four issues of Fat Girl, we met in lots of different places. We really rotated our houses. I don’t remember how often we met, but I can recall being in many different people’s houses. So like the meeting place didn’t seem like a problem for us. I think that one of the challenges that we faced was, you know, some folks left, some new people came on. I think that there was fatigue for people who had been there from the beginning. And I think at that time, you know, I think a lot of the people who were then on the zine were also, you know, looking for work or working like underpaid jobs. And it really was a very big project on top of, you know, just surviving in the Bay Area, which at that point was – felt like it was getting harder. Things felt like they were getting more expensive. And that’s really like what I remember as being a big part of the challenge. I can’t remember why, but I think that we changed publishers at some point because I very much remember going and interviewing different publishers and that being a real challenge.
Cookie Woolner [00:28:49] And printers or?
Sondra [00:28:51] Printers. Yeah. The people actually produced the zine itself. Does anyone else remember? Like, why – anything about why that happened? I think it was like after you all, but maybe someone talked-
Barb/Barbarism [00:29:02] I remember actually reading – there was some reference to just the level of sexuality that was on press for them and their comfort level with it.
Sondra [00:29:13] Oh, yeah. That’s why.
Barb/Barbarism [00:29:14] Yeah. And you know, in terms of like the meetings, a lot of the meetings were about planning and the zine itself. The meetings weren’t about creating the zine. It was about – Oso was just talking to me yesterday about how much he really enjoyed the going through the mail, you know, because that was when everything – people would take the time to mail you something and they’d mail letters and really personal, interesting things and sometimes things that were hard for us to receive and we would sort of process and talk about. We spent a lot of time – how to respond to people and what we wanted to do, how to fundraise, how to get things done. But then the creative process we would do is – we’d talk about what we wanted to do, who wanted to be involved in what, you know, those of us who like to work on the roundtables versus, you know, people had their own columns and we’d sort of share ideas. And then sometimes our meetings were really about just processing our feelings and experiences and just sort of, you know, it was a very gestalt process to go through, to do the zine as much as we would be, you know, proud and confident, you know, it brought up – there were many of us who had trauma histories and or didn’t, you know, and there was just of different dynamics as we had different means to contribute and different abilities. You know, we sometimes would kind of bounce off of each other literally, like in good ways and bad ways. So it had all the sort of ups and downs of collaboration. But for – the most important thing is like we laughed together a lot, and we ate together a lot, and it was like a really great thing to like be able to be somewhere where you could be so free, you could eat whatever you wanted in front of these the people you were with. And it was very freeing. We also spent a lot of time outside of the meetings, socializing and getting together and going out together as very large groups. You know, like the group itself was large and we were also larger than life, not only size-wise but just personality-wise. You know, all of us had sparks in different ways. You know, some of us were loud, some of us were bright, some of us were noisy. And so we were we became like a real sort of physical presence in the community, too. And I think that elicited interesting reactions, but mostly positive. So that the collective meeting wasn’t just where things happened, you know?
Sondra [00:31:51] It’s interesting to hear that because I think that by the second wave, it felt different. There was more focus on creating together and I think less focus on processing. I remember we would, we would sleep over together and like work on the zine, like back-to-back projects together. Like we would review the layouts together. It was less like, it was less like people would go off, do their thing and then just slot it in and more like they’d be like, what do you think about this layout? Like, what do you think about this? You know, this photo? We would go through all of the submissions all together. We would all like provide feedback, by the end. And it was I mean, it was a very, it was very, it’s very cool. Like there were definitely some folks who had been able to put, I would say, like boundaries around what they wanted to do, especially people who had been there from the beginning, had really kind of fine-tuned what they wanted to do and what they didn’t want to do. And then I think they were like some of the newer people, but also April, who was just like, you know, there really weren’t it wasn’t really possible to have boundaries and get the zine out in the way that I don’t know – the way that maybe like would be nice, but it was just like you had to push in and do it at some point. And I just remember like wonderful, like connection and creativity. And how amazing it was to read everyone’s letters and hear how the zine was affecting people in so many different locations. And some of the letters that stick with me the most were actually not like – not fat dyke letters, but letters from other people who were like, you know, you’ve captured something that’s so important that I can’t find anywhere. So even though this zine isn’t like for me and isn’t about like my interests sexually, like this scene is giving me life and thank you.
Cookie Woolner [00:34:02] Does anyone else want to talk about the process of creating it? Did you get a lot of – I mean, did people write in and say, I want to be in a photo shoot? Did you find that a lot of the content come from readers, or was it mostly local folks, or?
Sondra [00:34:14] I forgot, I was going to add one thing about the about – the printer. So I just remember, like shopping for a printer who is willing to actually like print, [laughs] print the zine. And that was a really hard process. And I, I specifically remember going from furniture to printer with April and we were just, you know, we were just basically super fat people being like, we’re trying to print this smutty thing. And it’s about, it’s about fat dykes and how do you feel about doing that job? And I remember, I remember the printer we ended up going with this like – she was a very petite woman, but she – and there was a bit of a language barrier, so we were trying to explain it in like literally in the middle of like the print shop with all like the loud noises all around. [Laughter in background.] We were kind of shouting at this point, and we’re really towering over her. And she gets this like look of understanding and she says, “Oh, special pictures!” [Panel laughs.]
Barb/Barbarism [00:35:25] Best story!
Sondra [00:35:25] “We print special pictures!” It was very sweet, actually.
Cookie Woolner [00:35:34] Yes, Candida?
Candida Royal [00:35:37] This is to respond to your question about photoshoots and whether people would request them. And I know that some people provided their own photo spreads. And also we have joining us today, Laura Johnston, who is in the background here, who did many if not all, I mean, she did most of our own shoots in terms of things that we would shop around together at least the first four issues. Can’t speak to – and several after that actually. She was kind of our main photographer in terms of collaborating with, you know, what we wanted and what we’re envisioning and just bringing that out. And like, I feel like her artistic genius was so inspiring and also really gratifying because she did beautiful work. And it felt like a comfortable filming environment too. I can’t say – I don’t know any people that we didn’t know requested a photoshoot. I don’t remember Laura ever shooting somebody who she didn’t know out of the blue, so, I don’t know, maybe in chat that’s something that she might be able to speak to.
Sondra [00:37:06] Just to emphasize, like literally film, like I think today we think of like cell phones. It was – it was a much more difficult thing at the time to take photographs.
Barb/Barbarism [00:37:18] Yeah, she had her own studio. She was, she was a real photographer and everything came in print. We got, we got stuff in print, you know, where people did shoots elsewhere and we would scan it. And, you know, one of the things that was really great about the process was the fact that – it was the time that desktop publishing was coming about. And you now, while, you know, I love your stories, Sondra. It’s really special to know that, you know, Max and I worked for a very large tech publisher, and we had we worked for what was kind of considered a renegade business unit within this large corporation in a lot of ways, we but – we had you know, all of our coworkers knew we were doing this. And they bought the zine, they supported us. And we got official permission to be their off hours and use the professional magazine scanners to, to scan everything and use the desktops to do all the publishing. The first couple of issues – and we used our some of our training and applied it to that until we could fund having our own computers to be able to to work on. So, you know the rise of the tech industry was happening at the same time and definitely had its influence in- in our ability to make this happen. So it’s sort of interesting how you know, liberation happens in the crack, in the shadows of what’s going on when you take advantage of other resources. So.
Max Airborne [00:39:03] Now I just want to add that I feel like the fact that we had jobs in that place is.. you know, like when we first talked about doing the zine we were imagining or at least like I know Selena, a collective member who’s not here, you know – it was going to be like a small Xerox thing, you know. But the fact that we had those jobs, we got to go get free training in how to use Photoshop, how to use QuarkXPress, like our work paid for us to do that because it was sort of related to our job. But you know, all the skills went directly to Fat Girl. So that’s why it became something fancier than what we had really envisioned.
Barb/Barbarism [00:39:48] Yeah, I took classes on layout like in terms of masthead layout and magazine layout. And so the first couple issues were very intentionally laid out so that we stuck out on a magazine rack in the store – in the shops where you could see all the information you needed to see because we knew we were going to be put at the back, you know, “let’s stick them in the back.” And I said, “Well, we’re going to stick out” So, you know, we were very, as I said, everything was very intentional. And, you know, and I’m glad to hear that you didn’t have to talk about everything quite as much, Sondra, once the next four issues were in place because, you know, enough talking, more moving to collaboration. But I didn’t mean to make it sound that we didn’t collaborate and spend time, it just wasn’t the whole collective. And sometimes it would be three of us or two of us or four of us doing like some – we had just like the sort of the collective concept where we had, you know, the subspikes, the subgroups of people so that this way not everybody felt comfortable in a large group, you know, to be able to like express themselves. And sometimes it was – so it was really important for us to have one on – like smaller group time together just to kind of respect that. Just the flow.
Cookie Woolner [00:41:07] So I’m curious, did the revenue from people purchasing the magazine and from the advertising support the printing? Or did everybody have to kind of like to pull your funds to produce the magazine as well? Could we talk about the economics of it for a minute or? I know that wasn’t one of my questions.
Max Airborne [00:41:23] Well, so, we printed it initially using my credit card. I had a credit card, that was like our big thing that allowed us to even do the printing was that I had a credit card. And then, so then the zine sales would just pay that credit card bill, basically. And yeah, I think it did pay for itself. And then–.
Candida Royal [00:41:46] We had some scarcity–
Barb/Barbarism [00:41:47] We fundraised.
Candida Royal [00:41:48] We fundraised and we had some scarcity with postage. Like that was kind of a silent killer with our project was that I think that we didn’t really always budget in what postage would cost, especially since it was going to all kinds of different locations internationally. But I stole lots of postage from my job. I mean, like, I don’t know, hundreds of dollars of postage. Um, and I think others may have too, Do y’all recall? I think it wasn’t just me in terms of..yeah.
Max Airborne [00:42:26] I’m using my real name here, so.
Candida Royal [00:42:29] Yeah, fair enough.
Cookie Woolner [00:42:31] This is also the era when, like, everybody had their own Kinko’s keys like they could use to, like, you know, make your own free copies at Kinko’s.
Candida Royal [00:42:37] And friends, friends at copy shops, that was definitely a big help.
Cookie Woolner [00:42:42] Resuing stamps too, like putting glue on stamps to reuse them. There was all these, like little zinester tricks to make extra little money there.
Barb/Barbarism [00:42:50] We did fundraisings through t-shirts.
Sondra [00:42:52] [Unintelligible, speaking at the same as Barb.]
Barb/Barbarism [00:42:53] The t-shirts were very popular. They sold really well. You know, we had – we didn’t pay for – everything that was in was fully contributed. So we didn’t pay any of the creators, we didn’t have to pay anybody that we interviewed. And, you know, we had, you know, the – I don’t know what they go by now, but at the time, I can’t remember having a moment. But, you know, our logo was drawn by another ally of ours. Fish, who did Brat Attack. And, you know, we didn’t have to pay for the artwork on our t-shirts, that kind of stuff. We had – we were at Pride. We did fundraising at Pride events. We did a – we had a speaking night and I forget what the bookstore was. It wasn’t Modern Times. It was across the street from Modern Times.
Max Airborne [00:43:45] Old Wives’ Tales.
Barb/Barbarism [00:43:47] Old Wives’ Tales. Thank you. You know, that space was donated to us and we did get donations, I recall, from a couple people, you know, when they would they when they would write in and pay for their subscription, they would send in extra money, you know. So there was, there was support.
Sondra [00:44:05] There were, there were donations, there was ad revenue also. But I think, like I – like in the second half and like money was a real issue. Like, financial scarcity was definitely a real problem. And I think, you know, part of that is like the resources of the people who are in the collective just where everyone is in their lives. And I think part of that is because also people were buying subscriptions. And so, you know, you get the money back from the subscription, but then you still owe for zines that you’re not getting money for. And so, you know, when there was that transition, you know, we had zines that we owed out without expecting to see money back from those. And I think also like the cost postage and printing and all that stuff was going up. So definitely in the second half, we struggled very, very seriously on the financial fronts and that’s reflected, if you, like if you read the, um, the message from the, from the collective in the last zine, you’ll really get the flavor of that. It was like a desperate ask for like cash! And all this other stuff and cash! And all this other stuff and cash! Because we, we were struggling and we were, you know, we were trying – we would do fundraisers, but we were also trying to keep those financially accessible. So if a fundraiser, you know, like if a fundraiser broke even, that was, that was awesome. But it wasn’t like – things weren’t huge moneymakers. So everything was like a little bit here and there, but there was no..like there was no one easy financial resource. And I think like when I reflect on it, I just think how important it is to have that structure to support projects like this, you know, like we wanted to do, we wanted to become a nonprofit thinking that that would be a way that we could better like better support ourselves by getting donations. And that was something that the collective was thinking about before the collective disbanded.
Cookie Woolner [00:46:20] Just one other quick question that popped up in the chat from another, an old zinester friend of mine. Did you do your own distribution or was it done through someone else? I think I saw Last Gasp somewhere in there, right? Did Last Gasp help with distribution?
Max Airborne [00:46:31] Yeah, like they came on later. So, like, initially what we did was our friend Fish from Brat Attack provided us with a list of queer, lesbian, gay bookstores all over the world. And when we published our first issue, we mailed sample copies to maybe every bookstore on that list. It was like, this is something that I don’t think would happen today, right? Everything’s so different now. But that’s what we did. And that was the beginning. You know, it’s like slowly bookstores would say yes or no and we would send them out. You know, the Internet was so much less of a thing, right? We barely just had email when this began. And so distribution was really hard. And we didn’t – I didn’t conceive as one of the main people doing distribution, I did not conceive of getting a distributor. I didn’t even know what that meant. And, you know, eventually it came. Eventually distributors started approaching us, or I don’t even remember how it happened. But we did get – what’s the anarchist one? AK Press.
Barb/Barbarism [00:47:42] AK Press. Yes. [Unintelligible].
Max Airborne [00:47:44] Last Gasp and another one too. But initially, for the first couple issues, at least, we did it all ourselves.
Barb/Barbarism [00:47:54] And at the time we were you know, one of the things that we heard was from A Different Light bookstore that we were their best-selling zine of all time. So, you know, we were, we were quite popular in, in, in the different stores, but I just want to give a visual. So Max, as the distributor meant Max with the helmet on and all of the lunatic stickers on the–
Max Airborne [00:48:19] You mean motorcycle helmet?
Barb/Barbarism [00:48:21] Motorcycle helmet–.
Max Airborne [00:48:23] Okay.
Barb/Barbarism [00:48:23] The zo bag over and then the pack of zines stuffed in the zo bag and then me behind on the back seat of the motorcycle with the other zo bag [laughs] to balance going to do the distribution. It was a labor of love to get it to – the first time we sent all of those out to the, to the those – all the different bookstores.
Sondra [00:48:50] Distribution was brilliant. It was brilliant. And then the reach that Fat Girl had is unprecedented for zine reach. It’s incredible.
Cookie Woolner [00:49:03] I mean, to be the most popular zine at the queer bookstore in San Francisco. You know, I mean, considering how many zines that were in that era, that’s, that’s really saying a lot. Right? Yeah. It’s really impressive.
Barb/Barbarism [00:49:13] At the time I had a friend who was doing work in Korea and she said, “Oh, I was I met this person casually and they heard I was from San Francisco and they said, Do you know any of the fat girls from San Francisco?” And she was like, “I do!” So it was very like – she was like, I can’t believe that this is you, right? So it was just very- it had a lot of international kind of ripple.
Sondra [00:49:41] I was literally on an airplane flying to Texas. And because Southwest used to make you pay for two seats, if you were a fat person, I would like pay for my two seats and then I would like hold on to that extra seat and I would like make sure if that person got the third seat so we could enjoy the paid seat together. Anyway, so I was flying to Texas and sitting next to this really style-y person. And we started talking about clothing and she’s like, “Oh, have you seen the zine, Fat Girl? It’s really great.” And that’s why – one of my two Southwest Airline miracle stories. So we’re like friends to this day. And actually, like, she’s a cookie artist. She made these beautiful cookies and sent them.
Cookie Woolner [00:50:31] That’s lovely. I love that story.
Sondra [00:50:34] But that was, that was Fat Girl. Like, you could be flying your ass on a plane to the middle of Texas and the random person next to you somehow had found Fat Girl like in Tower Records in Texas and loved it. And it meant something to them, like even though, you know, they might not be the target demographic.
Cookie Woolner [00:50:58] My goodness. Yes. I mean, this is just the kind of the portion where, yeah, are there any other stories from the – about the creation of the magazine people want to share? You know, especially any anything about maybe photo shoots or anything a little bit racy? If it’s appropriate with that — yeah, obviously, you know, keeping people’s names in mind and other issues. Any other fun stories to share?
Candida Royal [00:51:21] I have a fun story to share that isn’t really about photoshoots or anything racy.
Cookie Woolner [00:51:27] Whatever you want.
Candida Royal [00:51:28] Yeah, this is just – it was really remarkable getting the word out because we wanted lots of submissions and people involved. So, you know, this was really just also at the start of the very first Dyke Marches, maybe it was like the second one? It was like an anniversary one in New York that several of us managed to get to and we were flyering. We were just like flyering everywhere. And people had such reactions to being targeted because we were giving them out to fat people, specifically, mostly fat women. And they were sometimes so offended, they were so – they and others were, you know, like flattered. It was just like all over the place. But it was just like a huge reaction. Like people would flush. They would just like – it was just like being called out in this way that, you know, we obviously meant it as a compliment, but people took it all kinds of different ways. It was just so new. And, you know, people were not used to being called out for, you know, as a – you know, I mean, it wasn’t like if the people more used to like drive-by insults and being honked at and yelled at and jeered at and whatever and not having like a posse of people who were like flirtatiously trying to solicit their submissions for being fat.
Max Airborne [00:52:58] Yeah, yeah.
Cookie Woolner [00:53:00] Yeah. I mean, it just wasn’t really a term you heard a lot of people claiming yet, right? I mean, I think maybe in the nineties was it like that actress Camryn Manheim maybe wrote a book that had fat girl in the name? You know, maybe Roseanne Barr was maybe talking about being fat, but it was generally it was – yeah, it was not something you really heard a lot yet. I mean, it’s become a lot more normalized today, even though so many people, you know, are still disgusted by the word, unfortunately. But I think especially back then, I think it definitely probably had kind of like a shock value to it. So did you guys have conversations about the name? I mean, did you also want to maybe – were there other, other options? Was it a consensus?
Max Airborne [00:53:36] Well, my memory is that the name actually came from a song that I wrote for – I was in a band called The Bucktooth Varmints, and I had written a song called, “Fat Girl,” that was a polka, and it was all about a fat super hero who like, shows up for fat people in need, basically, and does the thing that is needed. And I don’t remember there being any disagreement about it at all. It’s just like what, Oh this is what we’re going to call it. I don’t know.
Barb/Barbarism [00:54:07] Yeah, there was – it wasn’t open for discussion. I think we said [laughs] this is what we’re doing. Do you want to be a part of it? This is the name. So I think maybe there are a couple of people who didn’t like the fact that the R and the L were capitalized. But maybe I don’t know, but I, I don’t know. I felt pretty strongly about it, remember? Sorry. That’s just. I wish there was more of a story there, but it’s true. And if you’ve never heard Max play or sing, you’re missing out.
Max Airborne [00:54:41] We can post a link to the song in the chat.
Barb/Barbarism [00:54:45] It was a very creative group. Lots of cooking. There was corset makers and clothing makers and painters and good huggers, good mistresses.
Cookie Woolner [00:55:02] Did the collective consist of a little bit of a different group of folks for every different issue? Or was it pretty set?
Barb/Barbarism [00:55:10] There was some – there were some people who dropped in and out through the first four, you know, that we were really trying to, like, find people. And I remember, you know, part of it just had to do with availability, not interest. And then I know – I don’t know enough about the last four, but you know it was we were pretty solid group for the the the first four with like you know, a little bit of transition. So and we came together pretty quickly, you know, once we said we’re going to do this and we had our first meetings. And, you know, I think, I think everybody was there who was in the collective for the first four at the first meeting, at least by the second meeting.
Sondra [00:55:53] I would say it was a very solid group in the second half too. Just that I think people were really trying to figure out like what could they do and still like have a life outside of Fat Girl and people who had been in it for the long term, like trying to figure out what balance made sense for them. Of course, I don’t know if like that balance maybe was already happening in the first four, but like that’s how it seems. That’s how it seemed to me.
Cookie Woolner [00:56:20] It sounds like kind of, you know, San Francisco’s gentrification and the growing tech bubble really hadn’t – potentially had an influence in the end of the zine? I mean, in terms of like economic issues or do you guys want to talk about how the collective ended? I know I didn’t put that as a question.
Max Airborne [00:56:41] It would have to be Sondra talking about it cause Candida and Barb and I all left after issue four.
Barb/Barbarism [00:56:52] Well, in the interview with Rose, there’s discussion about it, too, that April talks about, you know, some things happened specifically to her that also influenced that ending. I know she’s not here to talk about it, so.
Cookie Woolner [00:57:05] Oh, maybe. Should we share a link to that to that thesis for folks? Is that accessible? Can we do that?
Barb/Barbarism [00:57:14] It’s in the archives.
Cookie Woolner [00:57:15] Ok, perfect.
Barb/Barbarism [00:57:15] It’s the piece by Rose.
Cookie Woolner [00:57:18] Yeah, there’s a great thesis on Fat Girl.
Sondra [00:57:21] Yeah, I don’t – I mean, Fat Girl didn’t because of lack of desire or interest. It was really just the combination of needing sort of needing to survive and prices going up. And that’s my recollection. And mind you, this is a really long time ago. But I think, yeah, it wasn’t, it wasn’t for lack of interest. And I feel like people were very supportive. The community was very supportive in wanting, like wanting Fat Girl to, um, continue and people were appreciative for what people had done. Like, I didn’t. There were no hard feelings. Like there were some people who, you know, I’m, I’m sure it didn’t end up like getting their whole subscription, like paid out because the zine didn’t keep producing. But I don’t recall people being – I recall people being very understanding.
Cookie Woolner [00:58:20] Did you get – was there ever push back around, you know, having some – like dealing with issues of kink and S/M in the magazines, you know, kind of part of the larger sex wars conversation. We associate that more with the eighties but it was still kind of ongoing in the – in the nineties. Especially maybe among – you’re mentioning like there was kind of already an older group of fat dykes.
Max Airborne [00:58:40] We heard a lot from them.
Cookie Woolner [00:58:42] Yeah.
Max Airborne [00:58:42] We heard a lot from them and they, they were conflicted because they really liked a lot about what we were doing because nobody else was doing so much of what we were doing. And they hated the kink and they, you know, they tried multiple ways of talking to us about it. You know, they didn’t want to just write us off or many of them didn’t want to just write us off because they saw the value in Fat Girl. But, yeah, it was – if you look through the zines, you’ll find a lot of the discussion about it in the letters section. And then there was another section that we kind of pulled out for that debate where one woman had written in, and then like four different collective members gave their own responses. You know, people were like, why are you, why are you doing this? As though it was like an agenda to do kink. it wasn’t an agenda. We came out of kink community. Kink community in San Francisco in 1993 was full of fat people. It is maybe the most fat-friendly space I’d ever been in was kink community in the Bay Area. So that’s where we came from.
Barb/Barbarism [00:59:55] And I just want to say, you know, some of us were members of Outcast, which was a, you know, a group for queer women that did kink and had been around for decades. And it was a private, supportive space where there was, you know, a lot of sort of support. If you wanted to, like, learn and learn safely and and explore and, you know, they were members of that larger fat dyke community that were a part of that as well. So I but I think it was the publicness of it, the exposure of it, the we don’t talk – even though we do this, we don’t talk about it publicly. We go out to like Dore Alley or, you know, we have our spaces we go to. But, you know, we have to be very private about this because of all the risk involved, you know, in terms of our livelihood. And, you know, there’s – I don’t know that there is still public support for that, you know, it is still risky to share your your your sex life when it comes to your job and your family. And, you know, I think there were members of the collective who had relationships with their family and there were members of the collective who didn’t. You know, and so there’s, you know, people – or they had their you know, everybody has their chosen family, obviously. I didn’t mean to sort of distinguish between the two in any way that was disrespectful. But I do feel like, you know, the that…your ability. I mean, there’s a lot of risk involved in doing that relative to the different people that you have relationships with who may or may not know that aspect of your life and how out you are. And so I think that part of the pushback wasn’t just that it – what the content was, but just the exposure of it and the exposure of sexuality in such a public way. Because, you know, usually the erotica was over here and your being out was over there. You know, you didn’t sort of do the same one and together and then you weren’t talking about. And I and I feel bad because we’re – you know, I mean, I don’t feel we can talk about fat without talking about racism and class and we’re not really talking about it. And but I do think that that was a big component of what we tried to talk about. I mean, from the beginning we talked about it. It was a part of our roundtables. But I also think when you are – like when it comes to smut and being out around stuff, that class and race was a component of that too. You know, you can’t – but, you know, we – I don’t know, I just wanted to make sure that that’s not forgotten.
Cookie Woolner [01:02:36] Yeah, no, definitely
Barb/Barbarism [01:02:37] That’s more centered in this conversation.
Cookie Woolner [01:02:40] Yeah. I think this is also being positioned as like the first hopefully of many conversations about, you know, the texts in the archive. [Dog barks.] Oh.
Barb/Barbarism [01:02:51] Sorry. Happy dogs.
Cookie Woolner [01:02:54] All right. Does anyone want to speak to anything else that’s currently on the table? Or should I bring up a question? And also, I was thinking maybe these issues, you know, might come up a little bit in – there is a question I was going to pose about, you know, looking back on the, um, experience, what would you do differently? Give you a minute to think about that one.
Candida Royal [01:03:18] Well, that’s a hard one. I know maybe all of us are in agreement that we were pretty late to the game in more adeptly aligning with disability organizers. And just like really I think that we were sort of on page, sort of off-page with what other disability activists were doing. And I think that part of that is also related to being young and fat. We were young and there are so many health problems that arise and much better awareness in terms of larger communities with age. I mean, that’s just something that I think that maybe all of us have expressed real regret over not having done more and better. And we were working with what we had, but also that – it didn’t necessarily need to end there. On the other hand, I do think that. You know, as a starting off place, I feel like those shortcomings have resulted in better coalition building and better work since then in the work that all of us have done and or many of us have been doing in other activism. So that’s like one regret. And another regret is honestly to me there are so many original contributors who have died since publishing this. And I think we just didn’t really understand where the Internet was going to go. I mean, like the first Web browser just came out in 1994. We didn’t really understand the full extent of its capabilities. And so early on Max and I had put with permission some of the materials without images up on Fat Girl Online. And we just – it sort of floundered and we didn’t really consider the future of that and being able to get permissions to, to do that. That’s why this digital archive is really, to me, such a big deal, because it was, you know, 28 years in the making. And it’s really a difficult endeavor after a certain point when you can’t even like – we always insisted that copyright was owned by the contributors of their own work so they have rights to their own work. We definitely didn’t digitize any of these images and pieces to just put out without people really giving their consent. And so to do this as a massive project is a really big deal to go back and wade through who was in what, try and reach people who are way off the radar or who aren’t even alive anymore. These are really difficult decisions that the archivist has had to make for some pieces. Anyway, that’s maybe – sorry, I’m getting really off-topic with that, but I feel like that is something that was really difficult because over the years many people wanted to see it online and I believe there was one archive that was planning on doing it and I had to ask them not to because we did not have people’s permission to republish their material in that way. And that was just really kind of hard and painful over the years and really sort of limited accessibility to our material. And yeah, anyway.
Barb/Barbarism [01:07:19] I think along those lines, because the technologies were in place – weren’t in place that makes it easy to stay connected to people. And, you know, the I mean, I wish we had done more to bring, you know, there was so much interest and so so much engagement, but we can never sort of weave it together so that people could interact with each other more. You know, I mean, I feel like, you know, looking forward, it’s so exciting that nowadays, you know, we could all get together on a Zoom and think about all the different generations and all the different, you know, I know everybody that’s listening into this is doing something right now that’s meaningful in their lives, that’s helping others, you know? And there’s so much, there’s so much strength in that, that all those strands and threads of connection. And I feel like if we had only had figured out how to bring – to bring all the people that were excited with Fat Girl together in a more connected way back then, that that we could have had even that much more impact. I mean, I think that’s the thing that I personally regret the most, but…
Sondra [01:08:30] I actually think it’s really good that we let people own their stuff and that we didn’t say, okay, you’re giving us free stuff and now we own it. And I know that that’s so limiting. We couldn’t like -you just couldn’t conceive in the nineties of the Internet being like the way it is. I mean, a regular person. I couldn’t conceive of that. But I think I mean, the other thing to remember is it’s it’s been even since then that people have faced major discrimination in the workplace for even like really gentle – gentle, sort of like sex-related acts like, you know, professors being fired for having done like a political burlesque or, you know, being fired for doing like a very modest, um, like cheesecake photograph or very modest nude photos. People like, really losing their jobs over that stuff. And especially – especially the fat women of color being like incredibly poised to be exploited for that kind of discrimination. So I feel like it’s really good that we left the control of the images with people so that people felt more free to express themselves and know that they then have control over that – that image, even though it is like, it is sad that it can’t be like as easy to have access to it at the same time. But I wouldn’t make a different decision like especially knowing how vulnerable people are to discrimination.
Cookie Woolner [01:10:12] All right, anyone else? We’ve got about 15 minutes left, so it seems like a good time to open up a Q&A to the – to our fabulous audience if people want to ask some questions. You can put them in the chat or can people just unmute themselves or do we want to put it in the chat?
Max Airborne [01:10:30] I say that folks can raise their hands and then Liz could spotlight them so they can…
Cookie Woolner [01:10:35] Okay, great. Yes, you can.
Candida Royal [01:10:37] Just a reminder that I believe that you will be recorded. So you’re being recorded as you are participating.
Cookie Woolner [01:10:48] Hello, Caleb.
Caleb Luna [01:10:49] Hi. Hi, everyone. It’s so good to see you all. Thank you for doing this. And this was such a beautiful and enriching conversation. And it brought up a question I’ve had for a while that y’all kind of touched on, but I’m curious about y’alls takes about – so much of what y’all are sharing comes from- like it sounds like this was born out of a politicized dyke movement already. And so I’m wondering if y’all feel like there’s something specific and unique about dyke community that makes fat liberation possible? I’m also wondering if you feel like it has maybe something to do with kink community? As y’all mentioned – yeah, I’m just curious. It seems like there’s as, as I like to think through this and do my own research and stuff, it feels like there’s a different lineage of activism in dyke communities than gay male communities. And I’m really curious about y’all’s take on what it is specifically that brings that out?
Max Airborne [01:11:56] I will say – thank you for that question, Caleb. And after having – as a person who has – had my eyes and hands on every single thing that has gone into the archive, not just Fat Girl. I’ve just read so many things in the last six months. And so – so many things come from lesbians, right? In the seventies, like so many things. And it’s an interesting question because there’s also like there were even like lesbian versus straight kind of conflicts happening in the – in the early era of what people were calling fat liberation. And I’ve gotten to hear some of those stories doing oral history interviews, which we haven’t put up on the archive yet, but we’re starting to do those. And, I mean, I feel like, you know. The lesbians and the feminist were challenging lookism and just like the way your body is supposed to be, right? Like bra – bra-burning. I mean, you know, bra-burning gives rise to fat activism, you know? Yeah. It’s like, no, these pieces of flesh get to hang however they fucking want to. They don’t have to be contained, you know? So I just feel like it starts there. In terms of like why dyke culture lends itself to fat activism. But it’s also true that not all dyke culture does. Like there was a lot of resistance in early lesbian culture to fat lesbians. So…
Candida Royal [01:13:43] I’m sorry. I was just going to quickly say that dyke culture was in and of itself only existing in the underground. Like, there just wasn’t any mainstream, in-your-face queerness that was part of mainstream culture at all. So like all kinds of media were pretty much underground at that point, so it lent itself really well to that. Sorry. Barb?
Barb/Barbarism [01:14:13] Well, I was – you know, it’s an interesting question, and I’m really glad you asked it. You know, my background, like my degree was in social movements, and politics from UCSC. And so I spent a lot of time looking at – I don’t know social movements from like the 1800s, you know, and I think there’s always the sort of intersection of class and being on the margins and sort of, you know, really people who are pushed to create their own spaces for survival, you know, are often the ones who move forward with surviving and creating spaces for others. So, you know, there’s a large component of that, but I also think like, you know, when you – part of what was going on when we were talking about, you know, when Fat Girl was happening and the whole pervert community was also the reemergence of the exploration of butch and femme in a new way. And like some of the pushback was like, you know, I mean, I remember I’ve always, I’ve always known and I’ve always been a femme. [Laughs] So I knew as I was femme before I knew I was queer, right? But I didn’t know what that was. And I knew it wasn’t like, you know, the what I was supposed to be as a straight femme, you know? But I think like within the kink community, you can find a home around that. And there was an exploration around that where the broader dyke community, you know, like being a femme, was not okay for a long time. I remember going to environments and being treated like I didn’t belong there because I didn’t like, you know, I didn’t fit the mold at that point. But I do think that – so the exploration around gender was coming out of that as well, you know, as you know, and just gender definition. And, you know, I – there is other components to this that were about, you know, the lesbian community starting to sort of talk about gender and what was under the umbrella of lesbian and gender. So I – and I do think that, you know, that’s another component of this conversation that we haven’t really gotten into, you know, but Fat Girl was very specifically for dykes from a – because we were defining that relative to like voyeurs from the outside of the community not to leave people out within the community. So I hope that’s kind of understood. But I do think to your, to your question, there is something about all the intersectionalities that are – that happened that I believe help, you know, there’s sort of a, I don’t know, like a – it’s not static. You know, there’s so much energy around the intersections that they start to create more space. And as they create more space, more people are able to make change happen in those spaces. And I think that that’s a piece of that.
Max Airborne [01:17:30] You’re muted, Cookie.
Cookie Woolner [01:17:34] Sorry. My bad. Oh. Did anyone speak to – the piece of Caleb’s question about the kink community specifically and how like that piece of it?
Barb/Barbarism [01:17:43] I think that’s what I was sitting around butch and femme.
Cookie Woolner [01:17:46] OK, gotcha. All right. Got a couple other questions in the chat. Faith? Maybe Faith could speak – could ask her question if she wants to get spotlighted? Faith Levine.
Faith Levine [01:18:05] Sure. Hi, everyone. Thank you so much for everyone’s input tonight. And I do think that Candida just addressed this a little bit in the chat. And my question was about what the release process was like? I’m always interested, like, I mean, having the foresight honestly to like ask for a release forms when you’re doing a project like this is really impressive, especially when you’re young and thinking about like longevity of what that could look like. And I guess I was just curious when it came to the archive what, what that looks like? And so I didn’t actually get to fully read Candida’s response to my question about, about consent to putting the archive out with images. But if anyone wants to speak to that more otherwise, we can, we can just move on if there’s other questions.
Max Airborne [01:18:58] I can address that. And actually, it’s a little bit of a funny story. Um, you know, people have asked to put it online for so long, and every now and again I would call Candida and say, “Hey, can’t we just put it online?” And Candida would once again say, “We have to get everyone’s permission first.” And I would be daunted. Well, I decided to take the same question to Sondra, and Sondra’s response to Candida’s concern that I was so daunted by was, “All you have to do is make a spreadsheet.” And Sondra is famous for making something sound really easy. And I was like, “Yeah, I can do that, that sounds easy enough.” But, you know, once I actually went through and made an entry for each contributor, it was hundreds of people, I can’t remember the number, but it was so many people. And so, I just started with the people I knew and I just eventually attempted to contact everyone. And then so – you know, almost everyone said yes. There were a few people who said no. And then of the people I couldn’t reach, I treated them in different ways. Like if it was porn, I would just not include it. If it was not porn, I would anonymize their name in some way. So it’s not searchable on the Internet. There were a couple of individual cases where I was like, yeah, I don’t think – they’re not answering me. I think they probably don’t want to include it. I’m just not going to even include it. You know, it’s sort of depended on my own knowledge, but I tried to – my partner was very wise and said, you need to decide what your ethical stance is on this and then follow it. And if you haven’t been following it, go back and make sure you’re following it because that is the only way this is going to work. You know, it can be good to everybody. So that’s what I did.
Candida Royal [01:21:00] I want to also add that I – in reaching out one of the things that I know Max was asking as – or offered as an option was to, is it okay to use this photo? You know, we can change your name. We can also put something on there to obscure. We can put a circle over whatever areas, if it’s okay to use this photo and just have your face and or body parts obscured, you know, like there was a lot of flexibility offered in that so that people might say, oh, you know, I’m comfortable having that image in there as long as my face isn’t it or etc.
Barb/Barbarism [01:21:38] Well, and it was, it was really helpful to just to be able to make a decision about what to include, you know, like, you know, as an as a contributor to know that, you know, maybe there was something in there that I didn’t want on – you know, there was like a photo, too. I was like, well, maybe just not that one photo.
Max Airborne [01:21:58] I’m seeing that Nomy is asking the – what about people who aren’t alive? And I feel like that’s an important thing, too. Again, it depended. Like, in some cases, I would contact the closest people if I knew, you know, like Margo, for example. Margo passed a couple of years ago and there – you know, Margo was part of the second round of the collective. And so there’s a lot of their stuff in Fat Girl. And so I contacted Margo’s partner and I said, “What do you think? You know, is it okay for me to add this stuff?’ And she said, yes. And, you know, so it’s all there. Yeah. You know, it really just sort of depended on the person, so it was harder to – Heather MacAllister, you know, like there was nobody to contact to ask about Heather, but I’m pretty damn sure that Heather would have wanted this stuff to be accessible. And so in that case, that’s the judgment I use. So yeah.
Sondra [01:23:07] I just want to make a quick mention and just take a quick moment to remember Margo’s contribution. Margo was such an amazing collective member and was – when we worked together – was part of like all pieces, business pieces, and visual pieces and photography and writing and poetry, just all of it. So.
Barb/Barbarism [01:23:36] And before she was a collective member, she was one of our first contributors. And she showed up to the roundtables. I mean, she was, she was always present. And had a lot to – had, but was so supportive too. Like just like she showed up in all sorts of ways.
Cookie Woolner [01:23:59] All right. So I guess it’s about time to kind of wrap things up. Does anybody want to share just some kind of, you know, parting words maybe about, you know, what, being involved in Fat Girl meant to you?
Barb/Barbarism [01:24:17] Okay. I will bite. Aries here. Always first to jump in. You know, I just it’s hard to imagine my life without Fat Girl, you know, I can’t imagine doing it differently other than what we sort of talked about. But in terms of, you know, Candida said earlier when she was talking about what she has done since, and I just think that every time I wake up and I put my two feet on the ground and I start moving, that the work that I did, in Fat Girl is part of why I’m here still and still moving forward and doing what I do. And I, I just felt so like honored to have, like, had an opportunity to like, create with other people that, like, had enough similar passion and dedication and, you know, just ability to like facilitate space for others to be able to do that together. Just, I don’t know, I just, I feel like I was birthed through the process and I carry it with me and I don’t know, I’m just really honored that people would want to show up and learn about it more today. And I don’t know, I just I can’t imagine, you know, a life other than living through having been that person that, you know, because it really was, you know, it’s such a gift to be able to be yourself and be accepted for, you know, being loud and big and all of those things. But, you know, being able to make mistakes and be vulnerable together and laugh and I don’t know, just is -it is truly a profoundly wonderful life to live. You know? So.
Sondra [01:26:10] I feel really honored to have been part of it. Like, I really treasure the zines. Like they’re here and they’re wonderful to hug. And I am really grateful for the folks who started Fat Girl because it was such a treat to be able to be involved in – in Fat Girl in the way that I was. And I think that Fat Girl really reinforced for me a life lesson that I knew, but I didn’t realize, like, how much it would be important as I grew older, which is like, if you don’t, if you don’t see yourself or you don’t see what you want to see, then just do it yourself. And I think every – like it, it really has been a thread through my life. Like if there’s not a law about weight discrimination then you’ve got to make one. Or if there’s not something in your size, then you have to make it. So I feel like that was for me what Fat Girl really was about was people being like, fuck this, like, we’re going to see ourselves and we’re going to be represented and we’re going to be some piece of hope for other people who are maybe sitting in a town in Texas or a town in Georgia, or like all these amazing places that we got letters where people said, there is like no one like me here and thank you. So I thank everyone who started the zine. I’m very grateful.
Candida Royal [01:27:50] I’m grateful to you for keeping it going for as long as you did. You know, Fat Girl really changed my life in so many ways because it was my first foray into fat community beyond maybe like relationships. This was really an intentional – an intentional community of sorts. And it was really kind of amazing to see culture change around us in real-time. And so it’s kind of amazing to see bits and pieces of where I feel like we left a legacy or where it carries on in other places, even to people who had never heard of it. And so that is just like impactful and so meaningful to me. But it also just really was an amazingly creative time. That was just the process of that. And being in this creative collective together was so great.
Max Airborne [01:28:57] Oh, wow. I don’t even know what to say. Yeah, I feel like in many ways, Fat Girl is like…I don’t even know what the word is, a fulcrum or something. Like I feel like Fat Girl was at the time that we did it, it was the biggest thing I had ever done. It had way more impact than I ever could have imagined anything I did in the world happening – having. So yeah, I feel like in a way my whole life has been kind of in reaction to that since like, okay, I’m sort of tired of talking about fat. Fat has to be everything I talk about for the rest of my life? And then trying to go other places and realizing I need fat community. I need it. I can’t – other people don’t get it. I’ve tried so hard to be in big, diverse communities that are not centered around fat stuff and it gets very hard after a certain point. You know, no matter how much faith I have that people care about me and want to get it, it gets really hard. And so I feel like Fat Girl gave me the first taste of what that could be, that like beautiful, nurturing, creative, explosive, supportive, fat-centered environment, fat- loving, fat – fuck you environment. Like I need that in my life and I’m creating that in other ways now. And still it’s like, yes, I am going to just keep talking about Fat Girl for the rest of my life, even though it’s that cool thing I did in my twenties and I’m in my fifties now, right? Like it’s cool and it’s been it’s not very known by the current generation of folks because of the internet or the lack of internet. And so I’m really excited to just like show folks in their twenties and thirties like, hey, we did this really cool thing. You can do all this cool shit too, you know, and, and we’re still alive, so let’s be in relationship, let’s work together, let’s create stuff together. I feel like that is what my life is about now. It’s like intergenerational, fat political change and love and creativity. So thank you, Fat Girl. And thank you, all of you, for all that you gave to this beautiful zine, and this beautiful panel.
Cookie Woolner [01:31:30] Yes, thank you so much. And everyone check out the archive. This is like a new, a new era for Fat Girl. A new time for younger people and new people to discover this really important now historical periodical. Right? Very revolutionary. Very important. I’m so glad we had this conversation. Thank you guys so much.
Barb/Barbarism [01:31:50] I don’t know if you saw in chat that Laura Johnston put her Instagram handle on there so you can still see her photography. And I know we talked about staying connected. I put my Instagram handle in there, too. I’m a – you know, I’d like to stay more connected and I’m a part of the fat and outdoorsy communities. So I take a lot of nature pictures, if you like that. But, you know, just forgot to say thank you to the people who aren’t here that I know are here in spirit. And thanks, Max and Candida, and Sondra, like collaborating with you has just been a joy. So it’s really nice to be able to – I know part of this was talking about radical joy, but I feel like, you know, you all understand radical joy because you bring beauty to what you do, you know? Like you just have so much like, I don’t know, just you – each of you has just such beautiful spirits. And, you know, I and beautiful things that you say and give to others. And it’s just been such a pleasure to give and exchange with you. So it’s really nice to reconnect.
Candida Royal [01:32:59] Thank you. And Cookie, thank you so much for facilitating this.
Cookie Woolner [01:33:02] Yes, I’ve been so honored and everyone has been dubbed fat royalty in the chat. So enjoy your – this new title.
Max Airborne [01:33:15] And thank you to Liz for doing tech. And if people would indulge me, what I would like to do is turn off the recording and go on gallery view so we can just see each other for a minute. And I would like to ask a question that just involves hand raising, so let me stop the recording.