Interview: Delia LaJeunesse

The first time I wandered into the Wolverine Farm Bookstore in Fort Collins, Colorado, I was magnetically drawn to a small section in the back—the local Zines— particularly a stack of small colorful issues with the words “Coin-Op” boldly expressed across the covers. Not sure what to expect, I found that the pages were filled with a diverse range of artwork and writing that felt immediately raw, thoughtful, powerful, and important. The arrangement of voices covered topics like sexuality, gender, gentrification, family, consciousness, love, identity, capitalism, sexual assault — through mediums of poetry, essay, collage, photography & illustration.

The more I explore these works, the more I discover new layers of profound depth and humanity — the authenticity of people’s direct experiences, thoughts, fears, and dreams. 

I recently had the opportunity to meet with Delia LaJeunesse, the founder of Coin-Op, to learn more about the project and how this all came to be.   — Rachel 

What inspired you to create Coin-Op?

The idea for Coin-Op really started 2 years ago. I was studying Sociology and Women’s Studies at CSU and having really interesting conversations on campus and in classes, but they were still pretty structured as academia tends to be. I was just trying to have a conversation with people everywhere in my life, and make feminism something approachable, not this incredibly daunting thing, or something where people feel like they’re being attacked. I have a lot of guy friends and I feel like they’re very often defensive which I think is a shame, because there are places for men to come in. I really believe that feminism is going to benefit everybody.

I’m an artist, and a poet, and a zine just seemed like a safe platform to open it up in a way that’s more free, where we can work with those ideas and have a conversation.

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Seeing as the zine is based on contributions, is there a sense of community that’s developed around it?

Yea, I have met so many people because of this, and had conversations and learned things about people that I really don’t think I would’ve otherwise. It is an interesting medium to connect with other people, because for the most part it’s an instant understanding of trust and respect which you don’t often get with strangers—you’re suddenly exchanging and communicating on a really high level. It sets some kind of standard for the level of honesty and authenticity we’re going to bring to the table which is really cool.

Where does the name Coin-Op come from?

I think at its core it’s a critique of capitalism—this frustration and feeling that a lot of people aren’t awake, they aren’t paying attention — that we’re coin-operated, and that we’re totally driven by money. We’re so embedded in capitalism that we have stopped seeing ourselves, one another, and the shit that we’ve been doing. It’s crazy when you start seeing what we are dong to each other and what we are doing to the Earth. How do genocides happen, how are we drilling into the Earth — how is our psyche ok with that? But I think it’s because we’ve totally become wrapped up in this ideology of capitalism that our happiness and our worth is going to stem from material gain. Really, even very conscious people are still driven by money because we have very few options in this world.

So really I think the name “Coin-Op” is a critique on being money driven and unaware. It has definite ties to feminist issues, but it also allows it to be as broad as it is which is where I’m at.

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There is a wide variety of themes throughout the zines — can you talk more about how these themes like Capitalism, Food, Desire, etc. relate to Feminism and why you chose to incorporate them?

I really do think it has a lot to do with the fact that most of my community happens to be men. Not that being surrounded by women is an easier platform for these kind of conversations, but I really want to believe that I can have this conversation with anybody, and anybody can understand why they need to be part of feminism. Going this broad with the themes makes feminism this global issue that I really think it is. I just see many social issues that I’m fascinated by, and I think if you turn your attention to the women in those social systems, or turn your attention to equality and kindness, which to me is what feminism is all about, and think about what that would do to that social system, it just enhances your understanding of it so much.

It also brings attention to the fact that this is a human issue, and that the struggles that women face indicate a larger system that we are all part of.

Yea, women are so powerful and can get so much done, but for really large social change, I think we have to find ways to include everybody. Sometimes it feels really slow moving. I mean, Sociology was my major and sitting through a lot of those classes, it really wasn’t until the very end that we starting talking about intersectionality, and looking at not only what women are experiencing now, and what black women are experiencing now, what poor black women are experiencing, and going further and further in. I think it was frustrating for me to have Sociology and Women’s Studies be these two very separate things that I was studying, when really they are wholly interconnected. I just don’t understand why we wouldn’t include feminism in every extremely broad thing that we’re doing — because that’s the way I think, I walk around this world and everything has to do with feminism to me. It’s not this random thing that I sit down and study, it’s life.

At the last launch party, on What it Means to be a Woman, this guy was like, “I think we need to stop talking in terms of male & female and we really need to talk in terms of feminine and masculine energies”. And when you do that, then everybody is involved, because while there may be some people who are almost entirely masculine oriented, they have some feminine energy, and if you talk about how that needs to be explored and celebrated, then everybody can join in in their own way, in an authentic way, that’s not addressing other people but addressing themselves.

There are ways we could all benefit from fostering the growth of our feminine side — in a way that allows you to be creative, and be healing and be kind and gentle. I see a lot of men who don’t feel that they can do any of those things which is tragic to me.

Where do you think backlash against Feminism, or people hesitating to identify as Feminists, comes from?

I think it mostly has to do with fear. It’s a huge issue—it’s a life changing issue if you take it seriously, and I think a lot of people are not down to do that.  So they’d rather pretend it’s not an issue. It’s a lot like capitalism, in that “this is way too big I can’t change everything in my life” — which you can, but it’s a lot. I also think that there’s some aspect to it that people feel poorly about. When you start to look at your history and the way that you’ve interacted with people and the principles throughout your life, and your childhood, etc. — there are some negative things that can come up. And we don’t have very good ways to deal with that or to address privilege. We don’t have good ways of addressing things that need to be fixed that we’re a part of. It’s really hard to recognize yourself as a portion of the problem. Even if you are a super conscious female, in a lot of ways, if you’re not paying attention to these issues, then you’re kind of contributing. We’re all kind of contributing.

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I was drawn to this section of the mission statement on the Coin-Op Facebook page: “This zine aims to … recognize our communal wounds and search for the places we can find healing among us.” I love that — with all the suffering that’s going on in our world, there’s so much value in focusing on healing, as individuals and as a society.  Has this been a healing process, for you personally?

Definitely, for me personally. It’s been crazy. This is why I love that it’s collaborative, because there’s a level of accountability that’s really great. I can’t just turn my head and not feel things. I’ve worked through so much of my own shit by accidentally stumbling into these things. I’ve had several conversations with friends that are suddenly divulging really sensitive information to me, and I have to imagine that that’s because I’ve very loudly established that I’m open to this kinda thing. I don’t know if that’s healing for them but I also think that when we share things it slightly lessens whatever you’re feeling.

There are some spaces for this  — some people go to therapy, and people have intimate relationships that can be very healing. But having one more platform that’s a little bit more creative and artistic, where the intent is to share, to be vulnerable and to be open with people that are around you, offers an additional avenue that can be essential to how people deal with things. I feel like I’ve had to coax things out of people because I know that they have something but there’s a fear of sharing it, and then if they do, I’m so grateful that I did that. That’s really cool to me, to show people that you can share in a way that doesn’t feel really horrible which sharing often does.

We definitely need start talking about this stuff as a culture, and start facing these huge problems in the world.

Yea, there are some pieces in here that come from outside of Fort Collins and Denver, but for the most part this is pretty local. I think it’s been insightful for people to recognize that there are people in their immediate community that are dealing with things every day that they didn’t before acknowledge.

We tend to think about violence and these things as happening very much elsewhere. We don’t tend to recognize how embedded we are in structures that are pretty violent. I think recognizing that even slowly starts to shift your understanding of what it means to be nonviolent, and what it means to be loving, and to be healing, and what it means to take care of yourself. We even do violence unto ourself in a lot of ways.  And that’s just so — what an illness we have, to not even be able to take care of ourselves, and to end up making ourselves kind of miserable…and then pinning it on other people because thats what we do as a society. But really we have a lot of control about how we’re going to approach the future, the present.

I really believe that you can’t take care of other people and you can’t address issues elsewhere unless you have dealt with them in yourself. 

Especially as women, we’re taught to take care of other people which is a beautiful thing, but we’re told to do that first. To deal with the people around us first, and then if you have time take care of yourself. That is sunk so deep in the way I operate — and it’s not a bad thing but I catch myself, how much is this depleting my energy and not being a fruitful productive thing?

You have to approach yourself with kindness. How the hell are you going to get through this impossibly challenging world, if you can’t have gentleness  towards yourself and your faults and your slowness of moving through the world? We’re all at different places.

Any advice for potential activists, or people interested in social change?

I’m still figuring it out, but I think ideally you recognize your own privilege first. Sometimes you end up getting to that point much later when you are recognizing conflict. Maybe listening is the starting point—actually listening to what is conflicting inside of you, and what is conflicting around you.  Paying attention to peoples’ experiences, observing the world—understanding the way that you’re implicated in the system and understanding these huge social forces that are at work that keep people in whatever marginalized position they’re in.

What does being a human being mean to you?

I think it potentially means being connected to your emotions — & don’t get too attached to your emotions — but if you can pay attention to what hurts and pay attention to where you find joy, then I think we’re all gonna become artists, and we’re all gonna become lovers. That is the highest level of consciousness to me, to embody love; and love is art, and emotion is art, but we’re also totally animals. I don’t know, I think that being a really honest being is somehow focusing more on what emotions you feel and what your really honest experiences are.

I’m going to quote Audre Lorde — “The white fathers told us, I think therefore I am; and the black mothers in each of us—the poet-whispers in our dreams, I feel therefore I can be free.” This is so beautiful to me, to allow yourself to feel, to allow whatever comes into your energy sphere to be what it is and not resist it and just allow it, and in that way transcend the bullshit that we go through.   

It is pretty interesting that expressing emotion and feeling, which is also associated with femininity, is often viewed as a weakness in our culture—but there’s so much strength in emotional understanding.

It’s so powerful…What are we doing calling that a weakness?

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Learn more about Coin-Op and how to get involved here.



* This interview originally appeared in the Fort Collins Courier, a production of Wolverine Farm Publishing

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Rachel Becker

artist, designer, activist, occasional poet, aspiring astronaut, human being.

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