Interview with Ayanna van der Maten,
co-founder of the Amsterdam-based feminist collective & zine
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired the creation of PISSWIFE.
I grew up in East London and worked as a volunteer in the Feminist Library where they sold a lot of zines. Zines are really big in London, and I would go to zine fairs on behalf of the library. When I came to university here, not that many people were doing it, so Tessel and I decided to start a zine (which became bigger than I thought it would).
To reiterate the question from the title of the first issue of your zine, what is a ‘pisswife’?
‘Pisswife’ is actually a mistranslation of the Dutch word ‘zeikwijf’ which is a derogatory term used to describe someone who moans or complains - especially if it’s a woman, even though I know that the word is used for more than just women. To me ‘pissed’ is like ‘pissed off’; being pissed also evokes being drunk, as well as urinating because it is illegal for women to pee on the street. We also don’t interpret ‘wife’ in the traditional sense of the word, so we take the piss out of typical gender roles. The name can be confusing because it is quite binary, but our collective is inclusive and open to all - we also have wives who are non-binary and who do not identify as women.
What is it like to be part of a group where each of you is an individual with their own opinions, but all of you ultimately share an ideology?
It’s actually really, really difficult because everyone does have their own views on things. We try to align ourselves politically, so we have meetings where we talk about what the content of the zine is supposed to be, as well as craft days where we just make art together. We strive to have mutual views on politics – we’re all intersectional feminists, so we have meetings about what intersectional feminism really implies; what have we been neglecting in terms of our content, in terms of the voices that get involved. We talk about topics such as racism, ableism, and transphobia in order to make at least the collective aware and to make our politics and feminism as good as possible. It is important to be conscious of the language we use - when it comes to gendered language, for example. Since not everyone has the same resources, we seek accessible ways for all of us to gain knowledge on these topics, such as creating YouTube playlists; this is how we work through it.
How do you try to incorporate politics and your own experiences into art?
Politics and art are completely interconnected, and the personal is always political. We write primarily from our own experiences because the aim of the zine is to carve our own space for us to really just exist. It sounds very basic, but there are a lot of spaces where you feel like you can’t just step in and exist as you are. That is the case for a lot of different people for a lot of different reasons.
Are there particular influences which you have incorporated in your project?
Most of my zine influences are from London. I really like gal-dem zine; it is a collective of women and non-binary people of color who do events in London and a huge zine once a year. I also love reading their website articles. Two others are Polyester and sweet-thang. Someone coming to our zine fest is RaeZor Beam – they make zines and zine workshops in The Hague.
Tell us about your upcoming PISSFEST zine fair – what is the idea behind it and what can we expect to see?
We wanted to organize an event because time-wise we can only really afford to make a zine twice a year. PISSFEST will run from 3 pm to 3 am on June 29. It will be a zine fair during the day where people will be able to buy zines, artist merch, and jewelry, make eco-friendly vegan soap, listen to poetry recitations, and participate in a zine workshop. Later in the evening there will be a party with DJs. In other words, it’s going to be a really chill summer day and then a party at night.
What are some plans and goals that the collective has for the future?
We’re planning another launch party in October. We always try to stay in touch with the activist communities here in Amsterdam, and we’ll continue working on the shape of PISSWIFE. We strive to make a community out of the collective, and we talk a lot about mental health and about supporting each other. We’re definitely going to do more events, but there’s nothing concrete beyond the next launch party and editing the pieces for our upcoming issue, ‘Body and Mind,’ which we’re really excited about. After that, we’ll ask ourselves about the next step, and we’ll see where it goes.