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Zine Activism: No-Filter Feminism

What is a Zine?

Zines can be difficult to define. The word “zine” is a shortened form of the term fanzine, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. Fanzines emerged as early as the 1930s among fans of science fiction. Zines also have roots in the informal, underground publications that focused on social and political activism in the ’60s. By the ’70s, zines were popular on the punk rock circuit. In the ’90s, the feminist punk scene propelled the medium and included such artists as Kathleen Hanna, who produced riot grrrl out of Olympia, Washington.  

A zine is most commonly a small circulation publication of original or appropriated texts and images. More broadly, the term encompasses any self-published unique work of minority interest, usually reproduced via photocopier.  A popular definition includes that circulation must be 5,000 or less, although in practice the significant majority are produced in editions of less than 1,000.  Profit is not the primary intent of publication. There are so many types of zines: art and photography zines, literary zines, social and political zines, music zines, perzines (personal zines), travel zines, health zines, food zines.   And the list goes on and on. Learn more...

What is Riot Grrrl?

The emergence of the Riot Grrrl movement began in the early 1990s, when a group of women in Olympia, Washington, held a meeting to discuss how to address sexism in the punk scene. The women decided they wanted to start a “girl riot” against a society they felt offered no validation of women’s experiences. And thus the Riot Grrrl movement was born.  

The Riot Grrrl movement believed in girls actively engaging in cultural production, creating their own music and fanzines rather than following existing materials. The bands associated with Riot Grrrl used their music to express feminist and anti-racist viewpoints. Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, and Heavens to Betsy created songs with extremely personal lyrics that dealt with topics such as rape, incest and eating disorders.

By the late '90s, "girl power," a slogan that began in the pages of Riot Grrrl zines, started being appropriated by pop sensations like the Spice Girls. Some claim this to be the end of the movement. Others contend that it never ended and that bands like Pussy Riot are still carrying the torch today. Learn more...

Zines Highlight Marginalized Voices

Sweaty music venues, photocopiers, riot grrrls — these are the images that likely come to mind when you think of zines. Though the women-fronted punk rock movement of the early ’90s is often thought of as the time when zine culture thrived, the reality is that zines have long been a way for marginalized communities to record their stories, spread information, and organize. From the wood-printed abolitionist pamphlets created by the American Anti-Slavery Society in the 1830s to La Catrina satirical cavalera cartoons made and distributed by José Guadalupe Posada in the 1900s to the handouts the Black Panther Party disseminated in the ’60s, zine culture as we know it today was created by, and built to fit, the political and social needs of communities of color. Read more...

Zine Activism