The Role of Zines as a Feminist Medium

On Tuesday, February 23, students, faculty and staff gathered in the Center for Women’s Studies for a brown bag titled, “Zines: Feminism and Do-It-Yourself Media.”         

Visiting Assistant Professor Kimberly of Sociology Creasap began the conversation by outlining the concept of Zines. She explained that Zines are non-commercial, non-profit, small-scale magazines that are produced, published and distributed independently. The presentation consisted of a brief historical overview and explanation of Zines, an analysis of Zines as a medium and a collaborative Zine-making activity.

In general, Zines serve a lens for feminist theory, creatively illuminating noteworthy concepts. Many are rooted in feminist theory as a way to report issues that have been overlooked, disregarded or misstated in mainstream media.

Creasap reviewed the history of Zines. First created in the 1930s by science fiction fans, they resurfaced in the late 1970s and early 1980s during the punk rock era and later in the 1990s with the “riot girl” movement. She continued by describing Zines as a mode of “circulation for commentary,” emphasizing their utility in both historical and modern terms.

Creasap described two major categories of Zines: experiential and cultural. Experiential Zines are often based on personal experiences and frequently focus on themes such as family, society, identity, gender or race. Cultural Zines typically comment on popular culture.

Junior Jake Mahr continued the conversation by expanding upon his own experiences with Zine production. Mahr expressed that Zines are a remarkably unique form of media in the sense that they can be characterized as both artistic expression and as a mode of social movement.

“I think that a lot of the time, we relate critical thinking and academics too much,” Mahr said.

He commented on the greater potential of Zines to initiate important, yet controversial, conversations.  Mahr argued that Zines are a productive way to allow these ideas to be presented and disseminated in a constructive way.

“Zines are able to simultaneously be an effective and cathartic way to produce knowledge and educate people, and that can be really liberating,” Mahr said.

Mahr recently began a concurrent series of Zines titled “Glam” that deals with many of his personal experiences and observations about identity, gender and sexuality. Mahr noted that he is looking to expand the project to a collaborative effort.

The presentation was received positively, especially by first-year student Kimberly Muth. Muth commented that she was especially interested in historical Zines.

“I am very interested in the historical aspects of Zines, especially the “riot girl” movement. I would definitely be interested in learning more about that and also looking into Colgate’s Zine library,” Muth said.