value the brain & cut the priviledge
Zines are many people’s first contact with the idea of the do-it-yourself ethic. I know this was true for me. It’s quite staggering, the first time you truly digest the revolutionary concept that you don’t have to depend on other people to do the things you want to do. You can have full power over that. For me, this zine was my first time being the final critic of my work before it was seen by the public. [..] The confidence people gain from this tremendous self-sufficiency can carry over into all aspects of their lives. This is particularly important to kids, girls, minorities, anyone who is discouraged from taking charge in their lives.
-a zinester from the publication Out of the Vortex #6
To those unfamiliar with zines and zine culture, well.. with all due respect, you’ve been missing out on a lot!
Zines are made by some of the most ‘creative of the creatives’ working today and they represent a particularly creative branch of the DIY movement. They are often autonomously authored, but not necessarily, and are typically produced in a small production runs. They can be made from collaged materials – images and text, or they can contain all original drawings and stories. They are most frequently produced simply, on a photocopier, and often in black and white. You can buy zines from creators themselves at zine fairs (such as Flourish Festival’s Print and Zine Expo), from a zinester’s online store, or other online shops such as Etsy were, after purchase, you may be provided a link for download after purchase, or receive your precious copy via snail mail. There are no rules except for those of the individual authors!
During feminism’s third wave Riot Grrrl culture of the 1990s, zines were especially important. Zine scholars Kevin Dunn and May Summer Farnsworth in their 2012 essay “We ARE the Revolution”: Riot Grrrl Press, Girl Empowerment, and DIY Self-Publishing for the academic journal Women’s Studies (issue 41 (2): 141) use the following excerpt from Erika Reinstein’s Fantastic Fanzine no. 2 to explain the relationship between politics and media production for girl zinesters:
“BECAUSE we girls want to create mediums that speak to US. We are tired of boy band after boy band, boy zine after boy zine, boy punk after boy punk after boy . . .
“BECAUSE in every form of media I see us/myself slapped, decapitated, laughed at, trivialized, pushed, ignored, stereotyped, kicked, scorned, molested, silenced, invalidated, knifed, shot, choked, and killed …
BECAUSE every time we pick up a pen, or an instrument, or get anything done, we are creating the revolution. We ARE the revolution.”— Reinstein, Fantastic Fanzine no. 2 (zine)
This collection of zines are from Riot Grrrl era 1990s on the Pacific North West Coast
From her essay “I’ll Resist with Every Inch and Every Breath : Girls and Zine Making as a Form of Resistance”, author Kristen Schilt writes:
Not being written for an adult audience is the main lure of zine writing, which has the ability to be simultaneously public and private. As Green and Taormino (1997) noted, many girls do zines to share their experiences with their readers. For girls, the experience of having a space to talk about their lives can be very important, as there are few chances for girls to express their thoughts and feelings without fear of ridicule or censure. As one zine maker said, “Sometimes paper is the only thing that will listen to you” (Green & Taormino, 1997, p. xi). Yet, although girls can be open about their lives, they also are able to control the audience of their zines and how much personal identification they provide for the reader. Girls often use only first names, employ pseudonyms, or give no names at all. Zine makers leave zines anonymously at book and record stores, or trade them with people who express interest in reviews they have read. Controlling the audience allows girls to feel they are still anonymous while revealing their inner-most thoughts on paper.
Zines are also unique in that they exemplify a girl-driven strategy for empowerment. Although a girl-power movement has sprung up in response to widely read works on adolescent girls, such as Reviving Ophelia (Pipher, 1994), much of these empowerment strategies have been consumer based. Thus, girls are supposed to be empowered through buying girl-power products, such as T-shirts with girl-positive slogans. Although these consumer slogans may be empowering for some, they do not encourage girls’ own creativity or input into empowerment strategies. Zines, on the other hand, are a do-it-yourself project that teaches girls how to be cultural producers (Kearney, 1998), rather than consumers of empty girl-power products. By making a zine, girls learn that if they do not like the cultural products offered to them, they can produce their own. Learning this do-it-yourself ethos can encourage girls to be more critical consumers of cultural products and lead them to feel more empowered to express their own ideas and opinions. In addition, as argued earlier, trading zines can lead to the creation of a supportive, zine network with whom to share Schilt / ZINE MAKING AS A FORM OF RESISTANCE 79 new ideas and opinions. Thus, zines allow girls to take part in and actively direct girl-based empowerment strategies for negotiating their specific problems in adolescence, rather than market-driven strategies created by adults that often fall short of offering girls the tools to effect change in their own lives. (p.79-80)
I had the good fortune of meeting artist Morgan Sea this past January during Toronto’s Feminist Art Conference at the Ontario College of Art and Design where I pick up my own copy of her publication “Zines: I Can Do That!”
A graduate of both the Media Art program at Alberta College of Art + Design and of Inter-Media Cyber Arts at Concordia University, Morgan Sea is and extremely talented artist and zine maker. You can also hear Sea live as she also hosts the monthly show Tranzister Radio “trans 4 trans’ talk radio show out of Montreal. Her creative work often blends fantasy and queer theory to create trans feminist mythologies. Sea has illustrated posters for a wide variety of organizations including the Ottawa Zine Fair, Montreal Trans Pride, Gallerie Articule, Tranzister Radio and Fun-A-Day.
Next are a few examples – just a small taste really – to introduce you to the extensive range of Sea’s comic and illustration style. First few are from my own collection of Morgan’s work:
“Zine Fair Lady”
“Zines: I Can Do That!”
The zine FULL-NELSON: A NELSON HENRICKS FAN-ZINE, shown unfolded. – Morgan Sea
“The monster always escapes because it refuses easy categorization… This refusal to participate in the classificatory ‘order of things’ is true of Monsters generally: they are disturbing hybrids whose externally incoherent bodies resist attempts to include them in any systematic structuration. And so the monster is dangerous, a form suspended between forms that threatens to smash distinctions.”
-Jeffrey Jerome Cohen
Ms Gendered, zine by Morgan Sea
“Monsters of course show themselves in many different and culturally specific ways, but what is monstrous about them is most often the form of their embodiment. They are, in an important sense, what Donna Haraway (1992a) calls ‘inappropriate/d others’ in that they challenge and resist normative human being, in the first instance by their aberrant corporeality.”
In closing, I want to share a couple of photos of Morgan. In the first one, she’s relaxing (which I have my doubts that she does very often!).
And the second photo is more representative of how you are likely to encounter her – as I first did – at work at a zine festival!
Be sure to check out more from Morgan Sea at her web address, and also the work of other brilliant zine artists at art shows and fairs near you in the future!
Why note open your own Zine Library!
Here are a few examples of how it has been done by other groups and organizations. But remember, you’re free to make up any new way!
And do we ever home that THIS happens again in Canada!!
Read/hear more from/about women in comics here:
Zines by trans artists
Work cited in this article: