Monday, December 21, 2009

Girl Zines: Making Media, Doing Feminism, by Alison Piepmeier

Girl Zines: making media, doing feminism. By Alison Piepmeier. New York University Press

I want to recommend this book, if you like academic books, and I'm not just saying that because I'm one of the featured zine writers. What I love about it most, is that it looks at zines, their history, their often overlooked place in feminism, and in doing so, talks about embodiment, about the contradictions inside of each of us, and talks about what we can do to challenge and change each other, ourselves and the world.
When I first found out about feminism, I mostly just knew liberal feminism - voting, critique of mass culture, etc. For the most part, it didn't speak to me or inspire me. When I found feminist writers like Audre Lorde, bell hooks, and the writers in the book This Bridge Called My Back, I was inspired, forever inspired. They talked not just about what was outside of us, but also how it ate up our insides, and how our source of power was inside of us, demonized by patriarchy. When I was told that we had to reach to our most feared places and work from there. work on social change and inside change at the same time. Believe in ourselves. Speak and listen.
Sometimes I get tired of zines and wish people would read more serious books. Sometimes I wish college people would quit college and write zines. Sometimes I think it is ok that everyone does different things.
This book put girl zines in the same trajectory as writers like Audre Lorde, and it helped me to take zines more seriously. Truthfully, it usually is zines that inspire me, when I get a really great zine, or even a shitty one that is honestly looking at shit and working it figure it out - the voices of girl zine writers inspire me more than anything.
This book also had a nice little history of girl zines that I didn't know about. And I like how it traces girl zines back to the 1800's women's health pamphlets and the 70's feminist underground papers.
I haven't read the whole book yet, but the chapter called "We Are Not All One: Intersectional Identities in Grrrl Zines" is really excellent. She talks about a number of zine writers, including Mimi Nguyen, one of my favorite zine writers who edited and Evolution of a Race Riot, - a very smart zines that wanted to "subvert the dominant punk rock order & yes, whiteboy/girl hegemony."
Coming from an activist world into a zine world, it was really great to me when I'd read zines that were girls who were coming from academic language, using and fucking with that language.
Sometimes I like theory and sometimes it makes me laugh with it's over important language, but I can't hide the fact that it really does help me think more deeply, and more seriously.


Ericka Bailie-Byrne said...

Mimi wrote Slant/Slander (& edited Evolution Of a Race Riot). Margarita Alcantara Tan wrote Bamboo Girl.

Alison Piepmeier said...

Thanks for this great review! I'm so glad you see this as a book that will help zines be taken more seriously. And I definitely think laughing at the over-important academic language is appropriate.

KellyRose said...

good review, i am currently reading the book and i agree with many of the things you said. i like the academic look at zines, even though the book is wordy at times. i also liked the history of zines. though there is lots of fancy language, i think discussing zines in this context is an important task in helping zines be taken more seriously.

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