‘Strawberry Dreams’ Is A New Feminist Punk Zine Out Of D.C.

By Alison Baitz

"Strawberry Dreams" only publishes work by female-identified contributors.
"Strawberry Dreams" only publishes work by female-identified contributors.

When Paula Martinez and John Scharbach first told Farrah Skeiky about Strawberry Dreams — their idea for a free zine about music and feminism — the D.C. music photographer wasn’t entirely on board.

“I was just like ‘OK, this is a girl zine, this is gonna be great. I was being really sarcastic about it because I really like to focus on the inclusiveness of things,’” says Skeiky, who also works in food PR. “My ideal is always, ‘Why doesn’t every zine just have more female contributions?’”

But Skeiky eventually warmed up to the idea because Scharbach and Martinez had a strict rule: female-identified contributors only.

John Scharbach — better known as Crucial John, the vocalist of D.C. hardcore band Give — has spearheaded other zines before. He met Martinez, an artist and then-prospective American University student, at a Give show in her home state of Florida. He dug her art, so Scharbach advised Skeiky (an occasional Bandwidth contributor) to follow Martinez on Instagram.

Skeiky tapped “follow,” and out of this 21st century friendship, a 20th century zine emerged.

Skeiky took all the photos for Strawberry Dreams, mostly of live performances from punkish bands like Gouge Away, Downtown Boys and D.C.’s Sneaks and Priests. Martinez contributed a heap of drawings and a piece of writing, which opens the zine. Crucial John, the token man, handled layout and passed out the final product while touring Europe with Give.

“I think it’s important for everybody to consume media that makes them kind of uncomfortable.” —Farrah Skeiky

“I think it’s really good that [Crucial John] was part of this idea because he’s just being a really good male ally to women in the scene,” says Skeiky. “He’s setting a really good example — he’s not using his voice in the scene, which is a pretty strong one, to decide what should be in it. He’s using his voice [for] something everybody should be reading regardless of their gender.”

The zine’s founders stress that while Strawberry Dreams skews female-identified, they think everyone can — and should — read it. Skeiky points out that while cultural products created by men are considered open to all audiences, products made by women are often seen as specialized, or for women only.

“I think it’s important for everybody to consume media that makes them kind of uncomfortable,” Skeiky says, “because it means that you’re reading about something that you don’t know a lot about… or something that [makes you] realize you feel guilty [because] you haven’t given it much thought.”

Skeiky, Martinez and Crucial John plan to produce more issues of Strawberry Dreams this fall — with Issue No. 2 expected to arrive in the next month — and they’ll keep the finished product short and free of charge. After that, they may reevaluate both the zine’s size and cost. They say they’ve already been flooded with submission inquiries, so serious growth could arrive seriously soon.

The team’s distribution plan is a wonderful mix of old- and new-school: They distribute hard copies at shows, while folks with the digital PDF version are encouraged to email it far and wide.

The zine’s aesthetic is clearly influenced — like a lot of subculture right now — by the 1990s. But Skeiky and her partners (who have only been in the same room once, at a recent Ceremony show) want to go broader.

“There’s no denying that we’re not influenced by older punk zines, especially older riot grrrl kind of zines,” says Skeiky. “But we also recognize that there were a lot of things missing at the time from early riot grrrl zines, because that feminism was primarily for white women… and feminism can mean different things to different women.”

Hard copies of Strawberry Dreams are available at Joint Custody, Upshur Street Books, Smash Records and Meats & Foods. To get a copy in the mail, email your mailing address to strawberrydreamsfanzine@gmail.com. The zine’s second issue is forthcoming.

Strawberry Dreams Fanzine: Issue No. 1

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