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TUCoPS :: Radio :: sp000886.txt

Women's Radio Collectives




Women's Radio Collectives, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

I am involved with a women's radio collective in Edmonton, Alberta, 
Canada, at the University of Alberta's campus and community radio 
station, CJSR. I have been working on the program as a volunteer for over 
a year and a half now and our goals and direction have changed quite a 
bit in that time. Also, because the radio station is volunteer-run and we 
tend to see a high turn-over rate of contributors -- people join up and later 
find they don't have the time or energy because the pressures of a 
capitalist society force us to set wage-earning as a priority -- the voices 
of women who have taken part have changed over the years. 

When I first joined the women's program, which is called "Adamant Eve", 
it had quite a mainstream-feminist slant to it, focusing on intellectual 
discussion and middle-class women's issues. Because of my commitment to the 
program and it's goal of feminism and putting positive images of women onto 
the airwaves, I eventually was asked by the news director to fill the position
of producer of the program. I was not exactly comfortable with taking on 
that role myself, so I asked another woman to join me and we co-produced. 
We worked together at co-producing for about six months. It was extremely 
difficult at times, as the contributors to the program became more and 
more dependent on us for not only leadership and guidance, but for 
telling them what kinds of topics they should be covering and projects 
they should work on. As well, we found that there was a general lack of 
commitment among some contributors; one could call in at the last minute 
saying that she had not completed the segment she had committed to, and 
since we were the producers, it was always up to us to fill the time with 
something else. We tried to encourage contributors to take the maximum 
amount of freedom in self-expression. We continued to re-enforce that our 
role was one of guidance and not arbitrary control over the content of 
the show. But I think that just that wee-little title of "producer" 
connotes authority, no matter how benevolent one tries to come across, 
and I think that is what ultimately intimidated some of our contributors. 
Because we were 'responsible' for the programming, it often felt like the show 
'belonged' to us and that contributors just helped us to fill time. We 
tried to get around this by suggesting a 'rotating producer' where a
contributor could take on the role of producer if there was a particular
show theme that she was interested in presenting, etc. No one ever took 
the bait, no one volunteered for the opportunity. I felt that if we 
could just share the responsibility and decision-making, women would feel 
more like the show belonged to them as well, and therefore the commitment to 
the program we sought from contributors would follow.

At around the same time, I became much more interested in making the program 
in to something more radical than it had been -- or at least adding a radical 
element. I wanted to get away from the mainstream-feminist discourse and 
start talking about things like anarcha-feminism. I began to do a regular 
segment on Adamant Eve, called Vaginal Discharge (I wanted the title to 
be as radical as possible, so to alert the listeners that this segment 
was equally radical, something different from the rest of our 
programming). I used this segment as an expression of my own views on 
hierarchy in society, hierarchy in the feminist movement, sexism in the 
anarchist movement -- views that my co-producer and other contributors 
did not necessarily agree with. 

I think it was a good move to break up the monolithic view of feminism that 
our program had been focusing on previously, however, it came to this: I 
eventually became incapable of dealing with the internal conflict of 
espousing anarchism on the air, while holding the position of producer in a 
hierarchical structure behind the scenes. I talked to my co-producer often 
about becoming a radio collective and eliminating the need for producers, 
overseers, etc. She disagreed with me, saying it would never work because 
contributors to the program were so dependent on the producers that they 
would be unable to take the initiative and responsibility to work 
collectively. What did I do? I left the program.

It was a combination of scholastic pressures and shear burn-out which 
prompted me to make such decision. Even though working on Adamant Eve had 
given me the fulfillment which university studies and p/t jobs denied me, in 
that I was actually *doing* something productive with issues that concerned 
me as a woman, expressing myself, being *active*, I felt that leaving would 
be more beneficial to me than continuing the contradiction to my 
anarchist ideals by working as a producer. At the time, I intended only 
to take a 'break', and return as a contributor, not a producer.

I returned to Adamant Eve four months later. The woman I had been 
co-producing with had continued to produce the program on her own, and by 
now was so burned-out that she was not even contributing to the program 
any longer, her time taken up solely on running the program. It was no 
longer fun for her (which is essential in volunteer work, to keep one 
interested), she was no longer excited about radio and so, had a very 
difficult time inspiring contributors and welcoming new volunteers ( I 
recall a story meeting I attended where a woman interested in joining the 
program was discouraged, I am sure, by the producer's lack of enthusiasm 
-- she bearly even acknowledged this prospective new volunteer's 
presence!). 

It was then that I again suggested we try to become a women's 
radio collective. This time, instead of leaving such a discussion for the 
privy of "one-producer-to-another", I suggested it to everyone at a story 
meeting. The other contributors (almost an entirely new crew, remember 
the high-turn-over I mentioned earlier) were intrigued by my idea. I 
argued that working collectively would spread out the responsibilities 
(no one person takes the fall if something goes wrong, no one person is 
suseptible to the kind of burn-out a volunteer producer is almost 
inevitably going to encounter...) and power in decision-making. This would 
ensure that each contributor could feel that the program was equally her own, 
that each has an equal input into shaping the program, and hence an equal 
stake in the outcome and quality of the programming. We put it to a vote, 
our first 'collective' action, and the idea to become a women's radio 
collective was unanimously accepted by all present.

I have given the above run down of my 'hysterie' with Adamant Eve to 
point out how the hierarchical structure can be counter-productive 
(contrary to many pro-hierarchy arguments that it is more efficient). 
My work with the program has been my first experience with becoming a vocal 
member of my community on issues which concern me (ie. an activist). It has 
also been my first attempt at taking part in creating something which subverts 
traditional models of leadership. The collective is like an experiment to 
me. Can we make it work -- given that we have so little access to 
contemporary examples of non-hierarchical organization (this is 
especially true in Edmonton, Alberta, where right-wing conservatism is the 
order of the day...I am aware that other communities are "miles ahead" in 
terms of anarchist organizing)?

The collective has been in existence now for about 5mos. We are coming 
along slowly-but-surely. There is a lot of work to be done in terms of 
re-organizing, while at the same time, maintaining a weekly radio program 
of quality. The sound of the program has changed radically since one year 
ago; for example, a lot of times our music features are having to do with 
'riot grrrl' -type rock bands, and we try to offer practical 
suggestions for alternatives to corporate pharmacuetical and medical 
solutions to women's health issues (we have a new health feature 
called "The Conscious Cunt" which has dealt with herbal contraceptives 
and herbal abortion.). More importantly, our goal has been reshaped as 
well. Since we felt that the kind of programming we did in the past was 
not always accessible to listeners off campus in terms of being highly 
intellectualized "insider"-type discussions of feminist issues, we have 
decided to make our show more accessible for women in the community by 
focusing on voices of women within the community. We have begun to 
establish a network with women's groups in Edmonton, so that Adamant Eve 
can be a vehicle of information on local women and activities. We have 
also switched to a lot more discussion-type programming (ie.interviews, 
group and panel discussions) rather than the book-review/film-review-type 
programming that we used to do -- we still include those types of things, 
but they are not the main focus any longer. One of our primary goals in 
terms of creating an atmosphere of equality within the collective was to 
offer the technical training which I see as necessary to empower women to 
initiate and follow through on their own projects. This, I think, is also 
necessary inorder to get rid of the notion of expertism, which is 
ultimately elitism (ie. if I am the only one who knows how to work the 
sound board, I hold a certain amount of power over the other women, since 
they are forced to rely on my knowledge -- training people makes that 
knowledge universal and accessible). As well, we have stopped defining 
the program as a feminist program, because we felt that a) the meaning of 
that word has become so ambigous, b) such a narrow definition alienates 
women who shy away from labelling themselves, and c) our focus is 
*women's* voices and experiences, where as feminists can be women *and* men.

When the collective began, our membership shifted again so that I was one 
of the only 'veterans' from before. I was charged with new ideas and 
suggestions and very vocal. Often new volunteers came to me for advice on 
what to do, topics, etc. Because I am still so concerned about taking on a 
leadership role (rather, *avoiding* such a role), I suggested that we 
implement an "idea jar" (an idea suggested to me by my partner after many 
discussions about my concerns regarding leadership). The Adamant Eve 
Women's Radio Collective Idea Jar was originally a place where people who 
had a lot of ideas for radio projects and little time to initiate them, 
could write down their ideas and put them in the jar. On the other hand, 
those having trouble coming up with ideas for radio projects, but looking 
for a way to participate, could go to the jar to check out what's in 
there and take from it any ideas which they were interested in following 
up. The idea jar has also become a way for others to participate in our 
show, since the jar is in a visible place at the radio station and all 
are welcomed to contribute ideas (even men!), the members of the 
collective taking what they want from it.

Of course, not everything is running completely smoothly, as there are a 
lot of wrinkles still to work out, but what pleases me most is that this 
project is finally past the drawing room and into construction. One of 
our problems is that women don't always know what it means to take part 
in a collective, and sometimes look to me as an authority. When they ask 
me "What do you think if I ....", I open it up to the whole group, "what 
does everyone think?" Another problem is that the administrative staff at 
the radio station don't always know what it means to be a collective, so 
for example, when a decision is "passed down" from the program manager, 
she often brings it to me (I think it's because I used to be the producer 
and because a lot of the administrative staff are not yet completely 
familiar with the newer members of the collective) to tell to the other 
women....It's difficult to work collectively within a structure which is 
not necessarily collective (we're the odd-balls, and sometimes I feel 
that everyone else is watching us, skeptically) -- but, on the other 
hand, our program does enjoy a certain amount of favour among the staff 
at the station because there is such a strong feminist thread in the 
administration (the program manager, news director, and administrator are 
all women).

I got a lot of ideas and inspiration from a book by Martha Acklesberg 
called "Free Women of Spain: Anarchism and the Struggle for the 
Emancipation of Women". It is about a group called Mujeres Libres which 
formed during the Spanish revolution in the 1930's in order to empower 
women to participate more fully in the anarchist society at the time (men 
contended that women were equal in theory, but in practice, that was not 
always true...). I am completely open to any comments or suggestions that 
any one has regarding the radio collective. I am especially interested in 
finding out what other women are doing in terms of anarchist organization 
and activites.

If anyone is interested in receiving some of our audio material, I would 
be willing to send out cassettes (please remember, I am working on a 
minimal student budget...). I have a complete series of the Vaginal 
Discharge segments I did (which includes an interview with Exene 
Cervenka), as well as some other misc. features we have done over the 
past year. Recently, we completed a 27:35min. documentary on the hysterie 
of the women's radio program at CJSR which goes into more detail on the 
collective.
I can be contacted at

email: jsoukup@gpu.srv.ualberta.ca

address: Jana Soukup-Razga
         Oliver P.O. Box 35053
         Edmonton, Alberta
         T5K 2R8
         C A N A D A

phone: (403)429-6399

or at the radio station:

         Jana Soukup-Razga
         c/o CJSR FM 88.5
         Rm. 224, Students Union Building
         University of Alberta
         Edmonton, Alberta
         T6G 2J7
         C A N A D A 

phone: (403)492-5244
       




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