Books / Culture / Family / Parenting

Reinventing Hip Mama: an Interview with Ariel Gore

In the wee early months of my suburban lesbian parenthood, after swimming through a sea of glossy parenting magazines full of articles about which board books would grow my six-month-old’s brain faster, or how to up my sexy factor for the husband I didn’t have, I discovered Wausau Hip Mama: the Parenting Zine. What sweet relief to find a magazine that blended all that I had been: poet, feminist, activist, and general rabble-rouser with what I had become: mom. Hip Mama became not only my most beloved print magazine but also my favorite gift to give to my family-making friends.

hip mama

 So it broke my literary heart when I heard last October that Hip Mama had taken a hiatus of unknown duration.

And then I squealed with delight (for real: I squealed) when I read that Ariel Gore, Hip Mama founder and editor-in-chief from 1993 to 2008, is coming back to retool and revive the magazine. Joined by political editor Victoria Law, Rad Dad editor and writer Tomas Moniz, and Teen Mom NYC blogger Gloria Malone, Ariel Gore has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the reincarnation of Hip Mama: The Original Alternative Parenting Magazine.

hip mama new

By now fans of Hip Mama have probably skipped over to Kickstarter to make a donation (a mere $20 wins you a 4-issue subscription). For those of you still with us here, LesFam talked with Ariel Gore about her plans:

Santa Rita do Sapucaí LesFam: For folks who don’t know the backstory, how did Hip Mama begin?

Ariel Gore: I started Hip Mama almost 20 years ago as my senior project at Mills College in Oakland, California. I’d been a teen mom, single mom, welfare mom through college. There were a lot of parenting magazines around at the time full of articles about how to choose the right sippy cup. There were feminist magazines, but many of them avoided parenting issues for their own righteous reasons. I wanted a media for me and my friends—for urban parents, radical parents, feminists and college kids and queers who weren’t afraid of people outside their own generation. Newt Gingrich and the “Family Values Campaign” dominated the nightly news. So, yes, I needed a media for me and my friends.

LesFam: Hip Mama is to mainstream parenting magazines what roller derby is to figure skating. What’makes Hip Mama different?

AG: Ha. I like that. The truth is that most glossy parenting magazines are there to get a bunch of “experts” to dole out parenting advice without offending anyone—and in doing so round up an audience of parents to sell mini vans to. I don’t mean to sound cynical—that’s just the stated business plan they operate under. Hip Mama is about exploring ideas through essays, art, rants, and recipes. It’s about supporting each other and the hard and creative work we do.

LesFam: Hip Mama readers love the magazine’s diversity, how the voices in it represent a wide array of family structures, approaches to parenting, economic realities, cultural practices, and life experiences. What can we expect from the next incarnation of Hip Mama?

AG: When I started Hip Mama, I figured the readers would look a lot like me and my friends at that time: young, urban, poor. But a funny thing happens when you tell the truth about your life—you don’t necessarily attract other people with the same life but rather you attract other people who want to tell the truth about their own lives. So very quickly Hip Mama wasn’t about being a certain age or class or being a part of a certain family structure. It was about rejecting the standard American blueprint for family life we’d been handed—a blueprint of forced assimilation, hidden violence, and one-size-fits-all education—all the things that make families toxic and unbearable. And about a desire to explore the alternatives. What might child rearing look like without all the layers of shame and shaming we’ve been trained to call normal family life?

So all of that and NOW. We have a great new team working on relaunching the magazine with expanded food, arts, political, and lifestyle coverage.

In the first few issues, you’ll get…

  • Creativity Bootcamp: Songwriter Amani Malaika on Getting Back Into Your Creative Groove
  • Airstreams, Sailboats, and Tiny Houses: Living Small with a Family
  • Not Now, I’m Working on My Children’s Book: New Yorker Cartoonist Shannon Wheeler Teaches You to Draw Even With Kids Crawling Across the Table (Hint: It involves a lot of coffee)
  • Sushi for Superheroes: New Study Shows that Wearing Costumes in the Kitchen Makes for Better Dinners!
  • School Lunch Revolutions–Organics Aren’t Just for Rich Kids Anymore
  • A Queer Argument Against Gay Marriage
  • Radical Cupcakes with Inga Muscio
  • Concrete Ways to Help Families in Social Justice Movements
  • Nomadic Teen Moms With Superpowers
  • And in every issue, AT LEAST ONE PIE.

LesFam: While some zine creators have exchanged Xerox machines for blog sites, you’re adamant that Hip Mama stays on the page. Why is it important to keep print alive?

AG: I use my computer probably as much as the next guy, but for me part of what’s satisfying about community media, about art and literature is the paper it’s printed on. I like the feel of paper. I like the way the words and images meander to my brain from paper. I like to leave my computer and my phone at home sometimes and take a magazine to the park. And when I’m at home I like to curl up on the couch with something that doesn’t need to be recharged. For me, reading and even publishing my own writing has always been a very intimate experience and, for whatever reason, I don’t have that same sense of it when a screen is glowing in my face or when I’m immersed in the clamor of the internet.

Print’s not dead! But it does take a little money to restart a print publication. We’ve got some great rewards for contributors, so contribute what you can and tell your friends all about the new Hip Mama.


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  1. Whoa, this sends me back to my early mama days. Fantastic!

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