Xtra Tuf No. 5: The Strike Issue
This zine is such an interesting peek into the world of commercial fishing in Alaska that it’s almost possible to overlook the story’s dismissal of the gang rape incident.
Written in a style that is at once comforting and compelling, Moe Bowstern respectfully tells her story of life-as-an-Alaskan-fisherman. Xtra Tuf No. 5 takes us through the 1997 Alaskan Fisherman’s strike. It ends in 2005 with Moe coming full circle, back to her fisherman’s-soul’s life.
We’re glad she does. Moe has heart. Her allegiance to feminism is unquestionable; she talks of “dismantling the patriarchy,” she attends underground anarchist meetings and the zine itself is free to commercial fishing women. She gives nod to the linguistic debate over the term fisherman to include all, um, fisher-persons. Furthermore, she walks the walk: just how many women fishermen do you think there are, anyway?
However, there is that pesky (alleged, but you know it happened) gang rape. The victim/survivor, another female deckhand, chose not to report it—ostensibly due to her “illegal immigrant” status (she’s Australian). More likely, hers are the same reasons as any woman’s who “chooses” not to report a rape.
Nearly as horrifying as the rape itself is the reaction to it. Picnic, anyone?
Okay, so the picnic serves as a well-intentioned take action event, but make no mistake: in Alaska, during a strike, a scab is infinitely more loathed than a rapist. So much for serene sunsets and a peaceful existence. (Oh, and P.S.: vegans needn’t waste time searching for any “cruelty to fish” reference; there is none.)
Despite these subtle omissions, I still love Xtra Tuf. Read No. 5 and discover that women get hernias, hoochies aren’t just for cities anymore, and the phrase "down below" is not always accompanied with a wink and a smile. Jap-bashing, artfag deckhand and flat as piss on a plate mean anything to you? They will after you read this zine.
There is a fine line between tedious and thorough, and at times Xtra Tuf walks (or tows) that line. Cover-to-cover, it comes in at 192 pages and includes a dictionary, BBQ salmon recipe and a song about “Farmed Salmon Blues” that caps the whole thing off nicely.
Ultimately, skipping out on this zine would be unfathomable. Now put the juice to the jimmy and get reading.