Zine collections, libraries and archives are one of the richest repositories of the historically lesser heard voices over the last half century. Among these, the struggle for women’s stories (and thoughts, perspectives, communities, actions) to make it to a mainstream public sphere flourished otherwise through the DIY, self-publication medium, and the LCC Zine Collection keeps many hundreds of examples.
This guide is a brief and incomplete introduction to the world of feminist zines and a peak into their histories within our collection.
A partial introduction to feminist zines
“Feminist” or “girl” zines are umbrella terms that refer to a vast and heterogeneous kind of publications. These are usually created by cis and trans women, non-binary femmes, non-mixed gender or mixed collectives, and even male allies, but they have in common bringing to the front the female perspective, either empowering or criticising it or both, and relate all sorts of subjects that emerge from this perspective.
The genealogy of feminist zines could be traced back all the way to the early days of the Women’s Emancipation consciousness, where personal scrapbooks would be shared in women’s meetings or small runs of pamphlets would be printed, specially focusing on issues like suffrage or sexual health. These examples can be understood as precursors of zines, but it wouldn’t be until the second feminist wave that the evolution of the technologies of printing — like the mimeograph or the copy machine — would allow for publications created fully independently in a pre-diy manner.
In fact, it’s through the emergence of so many small publications relating to feminist ideas from the second half of the century that the homogeneous view of the Women’s movement is potentially contested. Whereas the more privileged actors in the movement would increasingly have more chances of getting their ideas disseminated through mainstream methods, self-publication would be a key strategy for other womxn and allies in the 60s, 70s and 80s. Voices of the working class, racialised, squatters, anarchists, and queer feminists took to forms like the manifesto, the newsletter, or the collaborative magazine as a space for grassroots activism. Either through aesthetically more conventional approaches or creatively — for example, visually striking parodies of commercial women’s magazines — all these proto-zines would flourish in parallel to the birth of punk zines and the consolidation of the cut and paste, handwritten and photocopied idea of the genre of zines.
Even though many feminist views would make their way into the 70s and 80s zines — see examples in our collection like Poison Girls, Ablaze! or Hysteria — it wouldn’t be until the 90s that a specifically female-centered subculture has zines at their core. The Riot Grrrl movement is one of the greatest explosions in the history of zine cultures: originating in Olympia, Washington (USA) around music bands like Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, and Heavens to Betsy, and zines like Jigsaw or Girl Germs, and encouraged by the conversation around sexism in male-dominated punk scenes. Reclaiming a femininity that could be at the same time girly and rebellious, the movement called “for the creation of female community, interrupting mainstream gender norms, identifying intersectional identities and moving seamlessly between tongue-in-cheek irony and hope” (description by Alison Piepmeier based on the Jigsaw Manifesto, in Girl zines: making media, doing feminism, p. 7). The attitude of riot grrrl quickly extended first around the USA and soon internationally, and through the 90s and early 2000s hundreds of defying girl zines would be created, countering the idea of third wave feminism as apolitical or narcissistic, developing a sense of community across countries and languages but also deeply rooted in each particular’s material circumstances and surroundings.
It is out of this community spirit of riot grrrl that the first Ladyfest was celebrated in the year 2000 also in Olympia, consolidating a model for diy feminism that would rapidly extend to cities all over the world. As a festival dedicated to women musicians and artists of all kinds, Ladyfests are the optimal environment for the exchange of ideas, inspiration, and crucially, zines. Although sharing name, each Ladyfest is organised locally and is the perfect example of how zines and communities reflect each other, imagining and making themselves possible through interaction.
With the popularisation of internet access, many zine creators took to a mixed approach, but zine making hasn’t stopped as a means for feminist expressions and discussion. While online environments provide an immediate and seemingly barrier-free mode of community building, zines have stayed strong as spaces where creators are not immerse in the many times antagonistic tone of blogs and social media, and also rooted to their grassroots environments. The growth of feminism since the beginning of the 21st century, finally becoming established as an intersectional movement deeply entangled with issues of sexual, racial and class identity, has benefited from the online world, and current feminist zines thrive collaboratively in a digital/physical balance.
Feminist zines at LCC Library
Our collection holds hundreds, if not thousands, of examples that can be considered feminist or girl zines. Bellow we list some highlights but, alternatively, if you wanted to browse a varied selection of feminist zines in the library, we have a subject request box ready for viewing. Book a viewing through https://librarybookings.arts.ac.uk/ (currently restricted access to UAL students or staff due to Covid safety measures) or contact us at email@example.com.
Though the years, the LCC Zine Collection has received amazing donations that contribute to its richness. Out of these, three particular donations are of interest for the subject of feminist and girl zines:
Two boxes of uncatalogued Spare Rib issues donated by the Feminist Library.
Three boxes of Riot Grrrl zines donated by Jennifer Denitto.
Two boxes with the contents of the Latin American Feminist Zine Collection donated by Editorial Facsimile.
Selection of zines
Scarlet Women was a pioneering publication born after the 1976 Women’s Liberation Conference, in an effort to create a space of communication and shared ideas for a socialist feminist network.
Brass Lip was an English punk music fanzine with a feminist slant produced in 1979.
Appearing first between 1981 and 1982 and then resurfacing between the years 1987 and 1992, Shocking pink! was a groundbreaking feminist zine that challenged and ironised about the conventions of mainstream magazines for women.
Doris is the long running perzine started by Cindy Crabb in 1991. A candid, raw and beautiful expression of Cindy’s world she talks from a feminist point of view about all things from music to cooking, from sexual violence to gender and queerness.
Reassess your weapons is a zine that came out of the Leeds’ Manifesta feminist and queer diy collective, expanding later to wider contributions to folks akin to their feminist ethos.
Morgenmuffel was a comic perzine created by Isy Morgenmuffel from the early 2000s until the last issue in 2014.
Chella Quint, creator of Adventures in menstruating, describes it in her personal website as a “fanzine series started in 2005 that became an installation and five-star live comedy show, using humour and adbusting to challenge menstrual taboos”.
The Chapess was a feminist zine first started by Zara Gardner and then edited Cherry Styles between years 2011 and 2016.
OOMK (One Of My Kind) is a collective and zine working since 2013 in publishing projects about women (particularly Muslim women), art and activism.
Learn more about feminist zines
These featured zines are a very small selection from the overall LCC zine collection. If you’d like to know more then you can explore zines by subject using the relevant subject tags on this blog. Other interesting resources to dive deeper into the subject are listed bellow.
All access through UAL login:
Radway, J., 2016. Girl Zine Networks, Underground Itineraries, and Riot Grrrl History: Making Sense of the Struggle for New Social Forms in the 1990s and Beyond. Journal of American Studies, 50 (1), pp. 1-31.
If you are the creator of any of the zines mentioned in this post and would like to amend or remove your work from this online resource then please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.