Protest on the Page

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  • Due to time constraints had to narrow scope of presentation. Mostly about zines, which was true motive behind this panel anyway—to make activist scholars more aware of zines as a resource for studying the lives of contemporary women and girls.   As we know from Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, well-behaved women seldom make history. Neither do their lives and contributions, nor do those of even their ill-behaved counterparts get collected, preserved, and made available without the deliberate efforts of those who select and describe archival and special collections materials.   Honor Sachs, from "Reconstructing a Life: The Archival Challenges of Women's history ” in Library Trends:   The emergence of feminism inspired scholars to identify and revise assumptions about women ’s experience that were pervasive in the traditional historical narrative.   What I did not know about were the ways that such political transformations similarly affected archivists and librarians to rethink their own professional conventions. {{358 Sachs,HR 2008; }} p.653 Do scholar activists think about where the resources that support their work come from? Interested in talking about girls' history, which is even more challenging to uncover in archives than women ’s. Particularly interested in girls, activist girls telling their own stories—not as reported or case studied, but with the full agency self-publishing provides. Since the rise of riot grrrl and the personal zine in the 1990s, however, the job has gotten easier.
  • Women ’s zine collections and women's cultural institutions with zine holdings, bringing the unedited, unmediated voices of young women activists into the academy, have been established at institutions around the U.S. and the rest of the world.   It's sometimes easiest to define zines by showing, rather than telling, so here are some examples of zines by girls and young women held at the Barnard Library Zine Collection.
  • Feminism NJ teen Where else can you find an 18-year-old ’s writing on an academic library’s shelf? Will it be unmediated? Lucy writes in the intro: “ We are constantly questioning Girl & Femininity. What is it to be ladylike, unladylike? And which is the greater achievement? Is there a difference between feminine + feminist? Girl + woman? Every generation-every individual-has been forced to discover the answers for herself, and yet the same images, same expectations are pushed on us. ENOUGH. This is devoted to you. Re-define Girl for yourself.” She is conscious of herself as a part of one generation, wrestling with the same question that previous generations (or waves) have dealt with before her. She may be thinking of the 2 nd wave, or of the 1990s riot grrrl movement. Everygrrrl. When she says “This is devoted to you,” to whom is she speaking? Her peers? History? Consciously the former, or even her enemies, but also the latter. Author describes herself: I am a writer, publisher, photographer, punkerchick, artist, athlete (lacrosse, tennis 10 years, and I run [away] every chance I get), activist, feminist, designer, zinester, warrior, worrier, lover, girlfriend, ex-girlfriend, goddess, scum, hero, degenerate, patient, therapist, caretaker, victim, minority, gem, hotyoungthang, pill-popper, best friend, close friend, acquaintance, dreamer, doer, complete mess, professional, ex-user, hardcore, girl, grrrl, woman, child, adult, teenager, person. (all lowercase, each descriptor underlined by hand) Ask the audience: What does Danger! Hole mean? Who is in danger? Who is the threat? Three bodies on the cover—what do you notice about them? This issue: Cut and paste style Guerrilla Girls book review Song lyrics Quotations about chivalry from friends (and fellow zine publishers) and lengthy (for a zine) essay on personal experience with chivalric boyfriend Almost every page has handwritten marginalia Contributed essay about masculinity and femininity, quiz whose responses identify you as a feminazi, Daddy ’s Little Girl Next Door, Femme Fatale/School Slut, White Trash, or Tom Boy—thereby showing the choices she feels are available to her and her friends. Interview, fiction, explanation of DIY, ads for allied projects Outro is a “Love note from the editor” Lucy Doyle now: college, leading a feminist club on campus
  • Queerness Discussion about cover? Growing up queer and Korean in Kansas, later zine External Text about Living Wage campaign at Harvard. December 2000. Cambridge. Quarter size Handwritten Home from college, traditional parents giving her a hard time—wanting her to have a boyfriend, but thinking she ’s too young to have one “ You know that If you ever became a lesbian, if you fell in love with a girl… well… I’m your father and I love you, but from that point on you would not be my daughter. You would no longer be a part of this family. Value of these words in the library, not just to scholars, but to questioning students. Other topics: Relationship with her sister, hiding sexual identity from her Altering behavior depending on who she ’s with, including other Asians and Koreans Growing up as only Asian in suburban Kansas Reconciling queer and Asian identities Because I feel like being queer does not fit in with my concept of what it means to be Asian. And that is BULLSHIT, because if I am Asian and I am queer, then how can it follow that being queer & being Asian are incompatible? Am I inhabiting some impossible contradiction? Is there really only one way of being Asian? Can I not have an identity where I am Asian-American, queer, female, middle-class, young, etc. ALL AT ONCE, all in one? Coming out to roommate. “Hey, I’m a dyke. You know that, right?” Insecurity about not having dated a girl, crush on a girl. In PhD school?
  • Parenting 2001? Does this make anyone in the room nervous? The radical idea that one reproductive right is having a child and that youth doesn ’t preclude that right. DIY, self-empowering, peer education with sound, specific advice, e.g., How to tell your parents you ’re pregnant: Stay calm Write a letter, if you need to Make a plan beforehand If you plan to continue the pregnancy, be specific about the future. Explain how you ’ll finish school, provide for the baby, etc. Bring a supportive friend or relative along Tell them first, don ’t let them hear it somewhere else If they freak out, leave for a bit and come back later, once they ’ve calmed down and adjusted to the shock Stick to what you know what you want Followed by a supportive paragraph assuring the reader that her parents will come around and that having a baby is her decision Look at the table of contents to see what the rest of the zine is all about. I painstakingly typed it all in, btw, which is my contribution to the girl revolution. It ’s in WorldCat, as well as the Columbia catalog. Item level cataloging vs. finding aids, vs. exposed to internet Ends with resources and statement: If you enjoyed this zine and felt it was helpful to you, tell someone at the place where you found it and ask them to make more copies for other young mothers to find. … Please copy this zine and give it to as many young mamas and pregnant women as you know. i.e. fuck copyright Editor deceased. Girl Mom site (developed by fellow zinester Bee Lavender) still active. Online resource vs. zine.
  • Race Mimi Thi Nguyen now Asian studies and gender & women's studies professor at U. Illinois Then age 23 Editor Mimi: It was immensely important to me to make [Race Riot], in order to both reconcile and recognize the "good" and the "bad" aspects of this troubled scene --both of which I experienced in such extreme ways, after I began to write about race and racism in punk-- especially because it was (and is still) so formative to how I understand I want to move through the world. I also thought of the compilation as a good-bye, and a gift to all the punks of color I imagined might stumble across the compilation after I had "left" the scene, so that they would know they were not alone, and that we had been there all along. I suppose I especially imagined the zine as an archive (and later, the project directory in the second comp) that would make a particular activist intervention in the history of punk. Of course, the compilation is also why I didn't end up leaving after all! Mimi and her contributors changed punk with this zine. Contributor Lauren being a contributor to Race Riot made me feel like I was part of a rad community of anti-racist punks, activists, and quasi-intellectuals. I'd always romanticized the people and communities who'd been involved with radical feminist '80s anthologies/journals/presses like This Bridge Called My Back , Homegirls , Conditions , Kitchen Table Press, etc. Zine compilations like Race Riot made me realize that I didn't need to go back in time and be BFF with Barbara Smith, Audre Lorde, Cherie Moraga, or Dorothy Allison--zinesters like Mimi Nguyen, Helen Luu, and Bianca Ortiz were just as radical, brilliant and fierce. Non contributor Celia I remember reading Evolution of a Race Riot and having this feeling of awe. I never realized there were so many individuals of color making zines. As a Latina zine-maker I felt like I found my people. Like I made it to the center of one of those matroyshka dolls: punk rock, zines, people of color, and then the little tiny doll at the center that is all those things. It helped me feel like there as a place for me. I was impressed that a zine could deal with such heavy and important topics in such a well-written and, at times, academic manner. I think it kind of blew open for me the potential of the world of zines and what a zine could be--that despite its format a zine could be a tool for education and empowerment. Equally important I think it gave voice to a lot of the unspoken issues that often excluded people of color from punk and from zine making and other connected activities and opened the door for serious discussion. Contributor Felix In terms of the zine's impact, for me, primarily was the sense that I was not alone in feeling alienated. And I don't mean in the sense of just as a person of color in the U.S., but even more specific in all my intersections: immigrant, non-native speaker of English, mixed race, queer, punk, riot grrrl. Another important aspect of the zine and related to the first, is that not only it made me feel less alone, it actually connected me to a community that I previously didn't know existed. And who was open and friendly and receptive, and willing to share stories and resources. And who was cute!
  • Social justice Two authors at two different colleges (Sasha Cagen at Barnard) Cut and paste, but also desktop published Lots of letters to the editor Focus on bisexuality Growing up (buying a futon) Helen Keller, radical Blizzard propaganda Graduation day, sadness Favorite things Ads, reviews, interviews, real estate summer job, mad lib Political reporting on campus events (Juan Gonzalez at an ISO forum), Barnard strike “Sisterhood WOULD have been powerful: notes on class and contemporary feminism “Please consider this article the commencement address I so sorely wished someone had made.” pre-dates me; those who were here may have differing opinions on the strike, but useful 14 years later to read a student's perspective from the time, written for an audience of her peers (shorter version published in the Village Voice, “reprinted and revised with permission from me.”) What does it say that I asked for and was given permission to publish the whole article on our website? There were no blogs in 1997. If it happened today, what would have been her medium of choice? How would that choice have affected the work ’s longevity? Author/feminist
  • Political Personal Personal/political
  • Feminist zine collections. We're not the only ones. Skip over descriptions of each. Keep in case asked. Duke University Since 2001 Situated in Sallie Bingham Center for Women's History and Culture where zines can be viewed on a continuum of women's history (Southern women, girl culture, domestic culture, women authors and publishers, lay and ordained church women, women artists, the history of feminist theory and activism, women's sexuality and gender expression, women of color) Newcomb College Center for Research on Women also situated in women's archive, but includes zines by men circulate for X days "The Vorhoff Library is interested in collecting zines that focus on New Orleans, the recovery and rebuilding of the city, and the adventures of new transplants or former city residents.  The library houses a small circulating collection as well as an archive of zines from the late 1990's and early 2000's." Smith The Girl Zines Collection consists of self-published small magazines (known as "zines") created primarily by young women and girls, who share a strong feminist perspective. Topics include "third wave" feminism, lesbian relationships and erotica, and fat liberation. The collection is comprised primarily of individual issues, mostly dating from the 1990s, some of which were used in the book, A Girl's Guide to Taking Over the World, edited by Karen Green & Tristan Taormino (NY: St. Martin's, 1997). No longer active? The Women's Library , London Metropolitan University Over 2,500 titles are held, some in single issues, but many in complete or representative runs. Titles range from popular magazines (Vogue, Cosmopolitan), to academic quarterlies (Gender & History, Feminist Review), special interest publications (One Parent Families, Executive Black Woman, National Association of Women Pharmacists), and older titles such as the English Woman's Journal and Votes for Women. The zine collection , dating from 2002, includes zines which reflect women's lives in the UK today. Barnard "Barnard's zines are written by women (cis- and transgender) with an emphasis on zines by women of color. We collect zines on feminism and femme identity by people of all genders. The zines are personal and political publications on activism, anarchism, body image, third wave feminism, gender, parenting, queer community, riot grrrl, sexual assault, trans experience, and other topics." Circulating & archives collections
  • Contacted archives at all of the seven sisters, Mills, Tamiment, Labadie and Lesbian Herstory and spent a couple of hours in the Barnard Archives. Sought advice from Alison Piepmeier, author of girl zines book. No true zines parallels were identified. Also searched ArchiveGrid. Hardly an exhaustive search. This topic worthy of a book length work, but limited by time and practicality for a 15-minute presentation. Locating evidence for any minority population in archival resources requires a certain level of suspicion. Searching for a needle in a haystack was part of the job. Scholars must reconcile the fact that certain subjects were not deemed historically important or worthy of preservation for many generations of scholars. (me: girls not so much deemed as unimportant or unworthy, simply not considered) {{358 Sachs,HR 2008; }} p.651 Imagine if girls in garment unions had published zines! Challenges to finding materials--descriptors Changes in mores (era, wave) and means (means of production and distribution) My conclusion is that Kathleen Hanna was correct in saying that Riot grrrl "rewrote feminism and activism in punk rock rebellion and youth-centered voice that was felt to be missing from forms of feminism available in the 1990s." {{337 Katelyn Angell 2010; }} p.16 (quote from Julia Downes, "Riot Grrrl: The Legacy and Contemporary Landscape of DIY Feminist Cultural Activities," in Riot Grrrl: Revolution Girl Style Now! , ed. Nadine Monem (London, U.K.: Black Dog Publishing, 2007, pp. 12-49, at 26.
  • How do these collections "surface" or come to exist? It's not the library or archive, it's archivists, librarians and administrators who conceive, develop, describe and maintain them. Words historians use to define archives and archival research: random, chaotic, higgeldy-piggeldy, artbitrariness, surfaced (passive voice), records otherwise buried, unearthing. History does not exist unless it ’s written about, but taking a step back, it can’t be written about if it isn’t collected, preserved and described.


  • 1. Activists and the Archives: Expanding the Permanent Recordto Include Radical Women--and Girls presented by Jenna Freedman Protest on the Page: Print Culture History in Opposition to Almost Anything*Center for the History of Print & Digital Culture Madison, Wisconsin 2012
  • 2. Danger! Hole #2 by Lucy Doyle.August 2007. Lincoln Park, NJ.Zines D695dCover image used with permission.
  • 3. Queerean by Yumi. December 2000. Cambridge, MA.Zines Y85qCover image used with permission.
  • 4. Empower: a Young M’s Guide to Taking Co, edited byAllison Crews.2001? ZinesC749eEditordeceased.Statement inzineencouragesreproduction.(Ha ha.)
  • 5. Evolution of a Raceby Mimi ThiNguyen.1997.Berkeley,CA.Zines N584eCover imageused withpermission.
  • 6. Cupsize, #5 by SashaCagen and TaraNeedham. New York,NY. 1996.Zines C75Page image used withpermission.
  • 7. • Approximately one million zine topics not discussed in the five examples, including – fat empowerment – womens self-defense – sex work – teen rights – Palestine – radical mental health – personal issues
  • 8. sOther women’s zine collections• Duke University: Sallie Bingham Center for Women’ sHistory and Culture• London Metropolitan University: The Women’s Library from Sallie Bingham Center website Image• Smith College: Sophia Smith Collection• Tulane University: Newcomb College Center for Research on Women
  • 9. Girl activists in archives & special collections before zines• Types of materials found: – Scrapbooks: newspaper articles about suffrage, – Diaries – Pamphlets – Broadsides – Institutional publications like newspapers and newsletters – Club publications• Girls vs. women activists
  • 10. Archivists as activists• How do collections of radical materials come to exist?• Archivists as creators/facilitators• Archivists making collections accessible (archival research is hard!)• Administrators and grant writers finding us the $
  • 11. Contacts & credits•••• Barnard Zine Library banner section of Rock Out: Ideas on Booking DIY Shows zine cover. Used with permission.