Cover Story: Shut Yer Hole

Goin' off on The Rag

May 5, 2004 at 2:06 pm
Una-Kariim Cross

The Rag is a rag not solely for women on or off the rag: (L-R) Shana Yinlang, Erika Yinlang, Kelly Carr, Natalie Mathis, Virginia Tabot and Emily Joy.

Articulating and applying feminist theory to real-life situations in a slightly crazy but very cool and sexy sort of way isn't for the faint of heart or mind. The founders of The Rag, a year-old quarterly publication primarily distributed on the UC campus, view this task as one of their many missions in life.

This vibrant group — co-editors and contributing writers Shana Yinlang and her twin sister, Erika; co-editor and communications/operations guru Natalie Mathis; and Kelly Carr, contributing writer and keeper of The Rag flame — sat down with CityBeat to discuss the inception of the magazine. We collided at the intersection of race, gender and class.

CityBeat: Let's start with Natalie. As one of the publication's founders, talk about your initial vision and motivation for starting it and how it all came together.

Natalie Mathis: The initial vision for The Rag was definitely to have a gender focus with activism in the city. We wanted to have a publication that linked the community outside of academia with the community inside academia. People often think that those two are completely separate and therefore can't be compatible. But, in reality, people who are in academics do have lives outside of that.

We saw an incredible lack of feminist activity in Cincinnati and decided to pull together a lot of issues that weren't just simply gender-focused but were intersectional between race, sexuality, nationality and class.

I think a typical criticism of feminism is that gender isn't enough, so we tried to incorporate everything.

CB: How does this translate to the mainstream community, or does it? Or is it too idealistic?

Erika Yinlang: Some of the issues, I think, can be somewhat idealistic. But the way that The Rag is set up, a variety of topics are presented that really address the materiality of women's lives. For example, there have been articles about mothering, issues written about problems with body image and dieting, all of these things women can access. Natalie raises more awareness to various activist groups, while Shana's column gives a different look at the way that the normal media portrays things. You're getting more of an oppositional perspective versus what we see in dominant media and newspaper sources.

Kelly Carr: I would also add because this is an alternative media press we're taking theories of academia and putting them into the community. Thus where The Enquirer or even CityBeat have a limited space to even talk about feminist theories or various other theories, we're putting it before people.

Shana Yinlang: I also think The Rag could serve as a vehicle for social transformation. By bridging academia to activism, it's making theory practical. You'll see all different approaches to feminism throughout the magazine, some of which we all may not agree on but we've learned to let that fall by the wayside and let all voices of women speak. This publication is reflective of all of other women's voices that aren't heard.

CB: Let's talk about women of color who, historically, have not subscribed to feminism per se. There are those within this group who really need to hear empowering messages yet may not feel that The Rag is an accessible publication. How do you speak to this audience?

KC: I think that by the nature of how we're organized, every quarter the publication is open for a new voice. New writers can come aboard through internships or by community submissions. Editors can change each quarter as well, so that voice can resonate in different volumes and in different dialects. Each issue is an opportunity to try to branch out and reach more people. For example, I hope to include in the future where one can register to vote in a bilingual format.

SY: We don't choose to represent one singular voice, but rather we attempt to unite women on the grounds that our differences are what make us the same. We referenced my column, "Urban Girl," earlier. I clearly state that, although we do have varying experiences — different women from different social locations, different racial and ethnic backgrounds, different classes, status and whatnot — these differences make us the same.

EY: Well, not the same. I would say more that these differences would allow us to recognize the potential for solidarity — allow us to have solidarity by recognizing and appreciating our differences. We recognize that we operate from the position of privilege (points to her skin), and we're calling for more submissions from the community.

KC: It's about having our voices reach that pinnacle of volume, something that we are continuing to strive for.

THE RAG is a woman-focused magazine, is democratic and encourages writing submissions from the community at large regardless of gender. For more information on article ideas submissions or even to subscribe, e-mail cincinnati_rag, or write to The Rag, P.O. Box 19938, Cincinnati, OH 45219-0938.