photo from http://catherineelms.co.uk/
Zines (short for magazine) are self-published books, papers or websites created to explore topics outside mainstream media. They’ve been specially important for underground communities seeking representation in media, such as the punk movement in the 1970s and the rise of feminist “riot grrrl” zines in the 1990s. They’re goal isn’t to make bank, but rather to foster a community among its readers and serve as an expression of Do-It-Yourself culture (yes, it existed before Pinterest). In fact, that’s the most beautiful thing about zines: anyone can create one, and since the photocopy machine came around, zines have been created by teens and nine-to-five adults alike.
With the Internet, zines have taken different forms. It’s debatable whether or not a blog can be considered a zine, but nevertheless, many zines today have some sort of website to either accompany or replace their print versions. No matter the medium, the goal is still the same: to curate art, essays, poems, photographs and more into a radical, bad-ass package. And though zines may seem like a thing of the past (print media, whaaaat??!?!??) they’re still super relevant to today’s social and cultural topics, which is clear within minutes of exploring this entire wiki devoted to zines here.
I read online zines throughout my teenagehood, and I’m realizing now how much they impacted how I see/interact in the world. Zines gave me my first taste of feminism, activism, radical politics and off-the-cuff pop culture. They engaged me in conversations about race in America and led me to my love of stickers and Kanye West. They taught me about breaking gender roles, told me it’s OK to be angsty sometimes, and encouraged me to become a creative person. Most importantly, zines taught me how to love myself and be myself.
This week, BROADER focuses on feminist zines of today. I speak with NYU sophomore Alex Hanson, the editor-in-chief of a new zine called HERpothesis that recently launched as a website. I highlight some of my favorite zines available online, link to step-by-step instructions for making a zine and tell you about zine events happening soon. LET’S GOOOOO.
An Interview with Alex Hanson, HERpothesis EIC
Alex Hanson is a sophomore studying at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study and the editor-in-chief of HERpothesis. She is currently studying abroad in Prague.
BROADER: Give us some basics about HERpothesis. What inspired you to create it, and what message do you want it to send?
ALEX: HERpothesis is a zine and website that features work by young women in STEAM — science, tech, engineering, art and math. Both the zine and website explore STEAM and how it enters our lives through pop culture, academics and everyday questions about the world around us. I was inspired by publications I had been reading that were started by young women publishing their own work using a combination of print and Internet mediums, including Rookie, Plasma Dolphin, Pop Culture Puke, Screen Queens… There are so many! I had taken a class at NYU that heavily focused on riot grrrl zines and loved the visual, tangible qualities that made their ideas really stick in my brain. With HERpothesis, I wanted to take that visual approach and apply it to STEM (at the time, I had only heard of the acronym without “art” included) ideas that my friends and I had been thinking about but rarely saw presented in an engaging, non-academic form.
A zine is a glorious combination of writing, art and collaboration. What roles do art and creativity play in fostering a radical space for girls?
I think that turning a concept, feeling or story into a creative piece of work immortalizes and validates that idea, while allowing others to engage with it through their own perspective. When you create a space that allows girls to continuously create and share, you open up discussion and learn from each other’s perspectives and experiences. With subjects that may at first seem dry or complicated, allowing yourself to look at it creatively and collaborating with your peers makes it easier to tackle.
The perceived division between art and STEM dominates conversations about academics and careers. Why is it important to incorporate art into science, technology, engineering and math?
I think it is important to realize that our brains, and our lives, are not divided into sections the way high school schedules one hour for English and one hour for algebra. No realm stands completely on its own: there is history behind astrophysics and graphics technology behind fashion magazines. I used to think that STEM was not as big a part of our pop culture and media because it was not storytelling-oriented, and people favor consuming ideas through stories. Now, I don’t think that is true: by making art, including writing and visual art, about these concepts, you can expose the stories that STEM ideas are instrumental to telling.
Historically, zines have been important tools in publicizing feminist movements. Why is getting female voices in STEAM important? What can women help accomplish for STEAM?
Getting female voices in STEAM is important because girls and women need to see that these areas of work, study, exploration and conversation can be not only accessible, but fun and creative. There are many women kicking butt in the world of STEAM already, including Debbie Sterling, founder of GoldieBlox toys that combine engineering and storytelling, Mae Jemison, a doctor/dancer/astronaut, and Emily Rice, astrophysicist and co-founder of STARtorialist, a space-inspired fashion blog. Highlighting these amazing women and encouraging curiosity and exploration in STEAM is going to inspire young women to pursue their own brilliant ideas and create some awesome contributions to society.
What advice would you give someone looking to start a zine?
Make something you would want to read — it will maximize the fun of the process, and you’ll end up with a zine you’re really proud of. Read other zines to get inspired and see how people are using the medium, but don’t feel like your zine has to look or feel any specific way. There are no rules! If you are looking for people to contribute to your zine, tell everyone you know: professors, colleagues, friends, your grandma. You never know where you may find someone who is just as passionate about your subject and will want to contribute!
If you’d like to learn more about HERpothesis, head over to herpothesis.com, and find it on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @herpothesis.
More to Explore
Take a look at some of my favorite feminist zines online:
- Clementine Zine — “We are an online magazine run by a group of diverse and like-minded women. We discuss current affairs, music, fashion, film, and so much more.”
- Color Study Zine — “Designed to create solidarity and showcase the creativity of people of color all around the world.”
- Girls Get Busy Zine — “Girls Get Busy is a feminist creative platform that supports artists, writers and musicians.”
- Hoax Zine — “Hoax is a US bi-annual queer feminist compilation zine that aims to create a space to analyze the feminisms of our everyday lives. “
- Margins Magazine — “MARGINS is an online magazine for teenage girls and non-binary people on the margins.”
- Not Ur Babe Mag — “not ur babe is an online feminist zine and art space that consists of emerging photographers, illustrators, and writers.”
- Polyester Zine — “We want to be recognised as real human beings offline and online, not just ‘digifeminist’ or emotional and hormonal young adults using the Internet as a way to let off some steam.”
- Sandy the Zine — “Practicing the fine art of women supporting women.”
- Shade Magazine — “Shade Magazine is a multimedia space for up & coming, young artists.”
- We’re Hir We’re Queer — “WHWQ is turning over a new leaf with renewed confidence and belief in the importance of encouraging non-males, queers, and transgender folks, especially those who are people of color, to write, read, and engage with political theory.”
Wanna learn how to make a zine? Click here.
Interested in zine events near you? Click here.
NEW YORKERS: The NYC Feminist Zine Fest is next Sunday, 2/28! I’ll be there, and I hope you will be, too.
Grace Rogers is a staff columnist for the Highlighter.