Clitorally: Combatting Oppression with Community

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by Madelyn Sundquist, Arts Writer

While zines or “self-published written materials” are not a contemporary creation, their popularity across the country, especially in marginalized communities and DIY art scenes, has grown over the past thirty years. They enable their creators to present creative work and political voices that would otherwise go unseen and unheard.

Clitorally is a zine based in Madison, founded by Gabrielle Diekhoff, a UW-Madison sophomore studying Creative Writing. It focuses on issues that affect those occupying female bodies. On it’s way to publishing Issue 5, which focuses on mental health, the publication has expanded past it’s roots in less than a year. It features over 50 contributors from Madison to California, New York, Ireland and even Finland.

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I sat down with Diekhoff to discuss Clitorally and what accounts for its quick success in and outside of Madison.

Moda Madison: How did you encounter the zine format initially, and when did you realize that it was an effective way for you to present your creative work?

Gabrielle Diekhoff: The first place I heard of zines was through the riot grrrl movement, especially watching The Punk Singer for the first time, which focuses on Kathleen Hanna’s career. Very soon after I watched the movie for the first time I actually went to a punk flea market in Pittsburgh and bought my very first zine. I decided that it seemed easy enough to do. And then I read Girls to the Front, by Sarah Marcus, that summer and it put a fire under my ass to just do it.

MM: What would you say Clitorally’s mission statement, so to speak, is at present?

GD: Clitorally is intended to be an outlet for women and non-binary people, who feel oppressed by the patriarchy, to vent about issues affecting them through various mediums of art in a space where they will be validated and comfortable being vulnerable.

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MM: Despite obvious initial success, I heard that the zine was turned down to be sold at the Santa Cruz Zine Fest this spring on the basis that the title, Clitorally, is transphobic. Some of the complaints also included the use of the words “womanhood” and “girlhood” because they seemingly exclude those who identify as women but do not have female genitalia. Can you respond to this?

GD: The title was never meant to suggest that only women have clitorises or those women who do have female genitalia are the exclusive contributors and audience to the zine. The name was supposed to be catchy and memorable, because, you know, there are so many zines in the DIY scene that are trying to get read and you have to be able to stand out.

From the 5th issue onward, we are including a disclaimer that explains the name and explains that we are not cis-gender-exclusive. Multiple contributors also openly identify as gender queer or non-binary and this is a celebrated part of their identity. I’ll say again, queerness is so celebrated in Clitorally!

MM: Why do you think Clitorally has grown so quickly and has become a pretty well known publication in Madison, despite being less than a year old?

GD: I think I’ve done a good job marketing the publication, for starters. I was so enthusiastic about it when I first started that I wanted to share it with everyone, so I kind of inadvertently created a network of contributors. We all have experiences we want to talk about but are often silenced, invalidated, or at least told we’re overreacting. I think people are getting really sick of that, and they need a safe space where they can just be totally honest. It’s also a great way to meet people who have had these similar experiences, which is super important!

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MM: How do readers that are interested in getting involved with Clitorally go about doing that?

GD: They can write to me on Facebook or email address (gdieko@gmail.com). Pretty much anyone who doesn’t identify as a cis-man is welcome to contribute. People can ‘like’ Clitorally on Facebook for updates [on] the publishing schedule!

Photo Credits:

1: Journal art by Gabrielle Diekhoff

2: Art by Clara Lynas

3: Poetry and art by Erika Tri

4: Cover art by author for Issue 5: The Crying Issue of Clitorally, photo provided by author

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