Jack Off Jill’s Jessicka Addams and Zine editor Carrie Jo Tucker walk the line between confrontation, expression, and exploitation.
In the beginning, there were cave drawings. Perhaps another cave dweller got angry at what was written and stoned the author to death. Then there were letters carried by birds, with furious responses that sometimes took months to get back and forth, frustrating both parties until communication eventually stopped or somebody was beheaded. Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, not knowing that in the future, one of the rudest gestures would be to hang up on the other person.
Fast forward to the 90s and… the Internet was born. It began with message boards and chat rooms where people could hurl insults at each other, knowing that their identity was hidden by their screen name. Fast forward again to 2015, where anonymous online bullying is now the norm. It seems like there's no safe place to voice your thoughts besides the journal you hide under your bed, and even then, there's a chance that a nosy sibling or parent could find it.
Enter AFTER GRRRL.
Since the dawn of humanity, people's empathy and understanding has been a hard thing to come by – especially as a woman. “Pussy” became an insult; “hysterical” women were locked away in sanitariums. Even now, many consider feminism the "F Word" – celebrated by some, demonized by others, and often misrepresented as a man-haters club that only white women are invited to.
So with the help of our peers and friends, we decided to change the stigma of the term “feminism.” We wanted to create a zine to share our stories: stories written by feminists of different ages, faiths, locations, and ethnic groups. We missed the art form of the zine, and once we started working on ours, we got sucked back into zine culture. We missed (what felt like) secret confessions and dangerous information. We missed the idea that another feminists we’d never met could be reading and experiencing the exact same thing at the exact same time as we were. It helped us feel less isolated and a bit more human in our fucked-up little world – and we wanted to bring that feeling back if we could.
Jessicka Addams and I had a conversation about AFTER GRRRL, the future of feminism, the term Riot Goth, and why she decided to share her views and stories after so many years of keeping quiet.
Over the years, and we’ve talked about this at length, you've experienced anonymous online bullying, constant trolling, and even had a fan show up at your house. Is this one of the reasons you wanted to create AFTER GRRRL?
Somebody should have told me long ago never to read comments about myself or my band. I guess it all started when I got an AOL account. I found that there were threads on message boards dedicated to how fat and ugly I was. A lot of these comments were written by [Marilyn Manson bassist] Twiggy Ramirez fans. I was dating him at the time and 98%, from what I could tell, were written by women. I'd be lying if I said that the actual comments didn't sting, but what was more upsetting is that women were attacking me because I was male-identified at the time. I naively thought that anybody who was aware of Jack Off Jill would most certainly be a feminist and wouldn't care what I looked like. I never thought my physicality defined my artistic integrity or feminist message.
I finally just had to repeat over and over when anybody tried to fat shame me, "Fat is not a 4-letter word!” I was a zaftig cherub and proud of it. I was never ashamed and didn't mind being called fat ever again. The name-calling continued for years, even after Twiggy and I broke up. Our relationship took on its own twisted online narrative and to this day I'm still trolled by Manson fans who hate me. Thankfully the fan who showed up at my house was harmless and just wanted to talk about Christianity. It could have been a lot worse.
I took a bit of an Internet break, but once I started to use social media, the anonymous comments began again. At this point I had lost a lot of weight due to an illness, so the insults changed. I was no longer being called a fat bitch, but instead a no-talent groupie whore.
What was the worst comment someone made?
One especially vile comment was, "Why would a Rock God rape an ugly whore like you?" Why would rape sympathizers be following my accounts? I guess I'll never know. At that point I'd been with my now-husband Christian for years and still couldn’t understand why I was being attacked on a daily basis. This is when I realized that no matter what I posted, even a photo of a kitten, there would always be a troll with something to say, so I decided to start telling the truth when people asked me questions. That set me free, as cliched as that sounds.
This is why AFTER GRRRL is so important to me. I believe all of the women who contributed stories have dealt with the same type of online bashing that I have. I thought it was important for us as a group to share stories without anybody being able to comment. I wanted the reader to digest our stories and relate to us, rather than judge us because of Internet hyperbole, jealousy and just plain hearsay. It's very strange to have people have a preconceived notion of the type of person you are and also be preoccupied with who you are having sex with. I've watched firsthand celebrity friends being stalked, bullied, and have every move analyzed even when trying to do something charitable. For me, the worst part is this happens mostly to women, not because of anything they have said, done, or achieved, but because they've been male-identified in some way. It's gross.
Why was the Dita Von Teese quote so important in the inclusion of AFTER GRRRL?
I love Dita's quote: "Some days are just bad days, that's all. You have to experience sadness to know happiness, and I remind myself that not every day is going to be a good day, that's just the way it is!" I think that she is a polarizing figure; some wonder how she can be a feminist when so many define her as the “perfect woman” with all of the attributes women admire and men desire. It’s simple. It’s what you believe in that matters, and you can present yourself to the world however you want. I’d argue that she’s the ultimate feminist: an intelligent self-made woman with a head for business, who worked her ass off. I also felt that it was important for the reader to know that even those who they think have a perfect life have bad days and incredibly sad moments.
Your story in AFTER GRRRL is called "To Riot Grrrl, With Love." After so many years of it not being a term, do you find it insane that the term “Riot Goth” is being popularized? People are actually hash tagging it!
It's an amazing and also a truly bizarre feeling to have something I said 18 years ago become relevant. Maybe in 1992 the world wasn't ready for the riot goth? Like I said in the story, I believe that if the original members of Jack Off Jill would have stuck together instead of leaving each other when we needed one another most, perhaps "Riot Goth" could have been a thing for the black lipsticked and skull-buckle-boot-wearing children of the night who believed in equality no matter how they dressed. I'm glad people are catching on 18 years later. I'll just be grateful, ride the wave, and create the t-shirts.
Did the Jack Off Jill reunion prompt AFTER GRRRL, or was it something you'd been wanting to do for a long time?
You and I had been throwing around the idea of doing a zine for years, but the opportunity didn't really present itself until the Jack Off Jill Asheville reunion show was in the works. We were both sick of hearing and reading the term "boys club,” and decided to create a zine that everybody could benefit from. Is there an "Everybody Club?” Because AFTER GRRRL is for everyone. We intended to have it ready for the July 18th show, but both the zine and the show took on lives of their own. I’m glad we waited, it came out exactly the way it was supposed to.
Is the name a euphemism for post-riot grrrl?
Yes, it’s the idea of what happens after Riot Grrrl and riot goth – do we become riot ladies? Why must every generation of women musicians have to address these issues all over again? We have to walk the line between confrontation, expression and exploitation, as if thousands of women haven’t gone through this before. It seemed like perfect timing not only because of the Jack Off Jill reunion shows but because of all the reunions that were happening independently of us: Babes In Toyland, Sleater-Kinney, Veruca Salt... just to name a few. It wasn't like we all got together and had a meeting about reforming. It was clear, at least to me, there is a need and indescribable synergy to have strong women in the forefront. Over the past five or six years, I’ve noticed a renewed interest in the term “riot grrrl,” the women involved, and what the movement stands for. I personally wanted to hear stories from these women, like Allison Wolfe, who was instrumental in starting the riot grrrl movement with a lot of other inspirational women. I wanted to know about a small part of their lives, and knew after countless conversations that others did too.
Was there a theme to tie AFTER GRRRL together?
That actually happened organically. The only instruction to the writers was to share a personal story – any story, as long as it would be empowering to like-minded souls. Whether it was confessional, humorous, outlandish, or all of the above, all we asked was that women were open and honest! And honest they were – so honest and so real. I laughed, I cried, and cried some more at the beauty that our brave contributors shared with our readers.
You've been quoted as saying “if you surround yourself with strong, independent, successful, supportive women, you are bound to become one yourself.” Is this something you've experienced, and perhaps the basis of 4th Wave Feminism?
I believe that statement to be 100% true. The majority the women I surround myself with define themselves as intersectional feminists. I think at its core, women not being equal makes zero sense and I want to do something about it.
When Jack Off Jill broke up in 2000, I began to surround myself with a group of women who had their eye on the prize, meaning they would stop at nothing to become successful in their individual fields. I watched and took notes and worked my ass off in order have my first art show on November 13, 2010 with my friend and artist Lindsey Way. I actually make a decent living creating art now. But in 2013, I woke up on a respirator due to an undiagnosed illness called Helicobacter pylori. It was my family and the strong women who are featured in AFTER GRRRL who got me through my ordeal.
I asked myself while lying in the hospital bed, watching an update on what was happening with Pussy Riot, what the fuck was I waiting for? Why was I not being vocal? What was I afraid of? I'm not saying I have the perfect grasp of feminist language and concepts, but I knew work needed to be done in so many areas, especially healthcare and economic analyses of women's predicaments. Feminists’ concerns are forever shifting, and will likely do so powerfully when some of today's young activists encounter the pay gap, health care costs and pregnancy discrimination in their own lives. My hope is to continue AFTER GRRRL, and tackle some of these issues again by sharing stories with each other.
So, what's next?
I’m working on a two-woman art show with my friend, artist and bassist Lindsey Way. She was the first person I had an actual show with, so my story comes full circle. The show opens February 5th in Los Angeles at La Luz De Jesus gallery. And I think we should get started on AFTER GRRRL, part 2. We better get to work, friend.
AFTER GRRRL is available at House of Addams. For more info on what Jessicka is up to, visit Jessicka.com
Story by Carrie Jo Tucker
Photography by Remy Holwick