Elevate Difference

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.

Written by: Michelle C. Schaefer, March 1st 2007

I picked up a copy of Xtra Tuf No. 5, The Strike Issue tonight at a used bookstore. (Hmmm, I paid $1.95 if anyone is keeping track to see how much they might loose in the google settlement.)

Moe Bowstern and Xtra Tuf are new to me. I feel kinda stupid having missed them as they came out. I fished on Kodiak for a while. Recently, I've been searching for a detailed history of Kodiak and, well, Bowstern is one of your better Kodiak historians. Which is odd. I never thought to look at zines, which is dumb. I think I knew all of the women fishing on the far side of Whale Pass at one point--I haven't recognized anyone so far--and, yeah, those women were zine readers, and that was way back in the day.

Ah, four, no five, more lovely issues to look forward to!

Thanks, SG! Daily challenges are our only true challenges (if you want to get all Zen about it). Community connection is so important. Let's support, challenge and celebrate each other~~~~Spread the word!~MCS (review author)

Excellent and inviting piece about this blog - can't wait to join in and learn more about the wilds of womanhood as we face our daily challenges, whatever and wherever they might be.