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Cindy Crabb Says No to Microcosm

In July of 2010, Cindy Crabb of Doris wrote a blog post in which she stated that she would not be publishing her next book with Microcosm Publishing, and unless certain criteria were met, she would be removing her zines from the distro. The reasons for this are not easy to summarize, but relate to Microcosm's founder Joe Biel's former relationship with Alex Wrekk, which has been characterized as abusive and manipulative, and his behavior toward other zine publishers. Cindy has been an active abuse survivor advocate, both in her publications—such as her zine Support, about sexual abuse—and in her day-to-day life. Cindy was also involved in an accountability process with Joe, to help him work on "identifying behavior and making amends," but this process failed.

In her blog post, Cindy asked the Microcosm collective to issue a public statement "confronting/admitting Joe's abuse and manipulation, and/or for Joe to legally remove himself from the collective." She said, "I think collectives have to stand up and confront abuse by members within their collectives. Microcosm as a collective does not do this. ... I can no longer support a collective that will not stand up against abuse." Within days, Alex also wrote a blog post titled "So, what's the deal with you and Microcosm" (which discusses her history with Microcosm and the failed mediation and accountability processes she and Joe have been involved in), and Joe wrote a rambling post called "A Public Statement" on WeMakeZines (since deleted).

At the end of December, the Microcosm collective finally released a statement in response—a statement that was not published on its own website, or within an active zine community, but instead was published at Anarchist News (since deleted). The statement said that the collective has "spent many hours discussing this topic," and "we want to say that we do recognize Joe's history of emotional abuse and manipulation. Not just with Alex, but within other relationships as well." The statement said that collective members "have noticed some positive improvements in Joe's behavior" and that because they "believe that he can work through this," the collective has chosen to continue working with Joe.

Cindy issued her response in January 2011. She will no longer distribute her zines with the distro, she said, although because Microcosm published Doris #23, the Doris anthology, Support, and Learning Good Consent, she has no control over those publications. Her response, in part: "I wanted to give the workers at Microcosm a chance to show their commitment to confronting Joe's manipulative behavior, and a chance to make a strong stance against abuse. The statement that was recently released by Microcosm is too little, too late. ... If this statement had come out immediately, and they had followed up with concrete examples of change months later, that would have been great. If they had waited six months and come up with a statement that firmly placed the responsibility of change on Joe's feet, discussed concrete changes the collective was making to deal with his abusive behavior, and took a strong stand against abuse, that would have been great. This statement is very weak, particularly considering that Joe's abuse has been known for years. ... I take abuse very seriously and while I think there are some people in Microcosm who are committed to working for a world without abuse, I also think there is complicity within the organization."

Cindy also discussed other incidents and factors affecting her decision and discussed in more detail the accountability process she had previously been involved in with Joe. Cindy is hardly the only zine publisher who has decided to stop distributing zines through Microcosm because of Joe (Ker-bloom!'s artnoose is another), but she is perhaps the most well-known. Only time will tell whether the stance they have taken will have a significant impact on the collective's success, or whether business will continue as normal once the attention fades—like a black eye. –Jerianne