building feminist resistance through zine-making

by erinohsays

Published in the October issue of Broken Pencil magazine:

participants in the She Said Boom zine making workshop // photo by Amy Egerdeen

participants in the She Said Boom zine making workshop // photo by Amy Egerdeen

Building Feminist Resistance Through Zine-Making
by Erin Oh

“She said boom” are 3 simple words that, for us, mean being responsible for your own pocket-sized revolution, and that one’s exasperation with what is false can be said aloud: “I say boom, you say boom, she said boom!”
– Caroline Azar of Fifth Column

Throughout the winter of 2012 a number of hateful incidents at the University of Toronto led me to begin thinking about how to build feminist resistance movements to structural oppression and the role that zine-making can have in building these movements. Specifically, I began thinking about how to use zines to talk about the connection between individual acts of hate, white supremacy and patriarchy.

These hateful incidents were university sponsored Men’s Rights Association events. One event featured rape apologist Warren Farrell, who is well known for saying, “before we called it rape, we called it exciting.” Another event featured a self-proclaimed anti-feminist English professor who blames women for keeping men out of the humanities. Finally, at a commemorative event for the women killed at the Polytechnique Massacre in Montreal, men’s rights activists interrupted a woman who was speaking, attempted to grab the microphone, laughed, and photographed us.

University administration responded to each of these incidents by supporting the men’s rights activists, citing their “right to free speech.” I was enraged. If the University of Toronto wanted to protect hate under the guise of freedom of speech, then we needed to build feminist resistance in response. Our movement would need to address the rhetoric of the MRAs – namely that men are oppressed and that feminism is responsible – but it would also need to address the larger societal structures that make it possible for men’s rights activists to be taken seriously in the first place.

To build this movement, student union organizers and activists met over the course of the winter, along with community members and women who had been targeted by men’s rights activists. We decided that our response would include direct, militant action, along with communicating feminist resistance through zine making. These conversations led me to get in touch with GB Jones and Caroline Azar of 1980s feminist punk band Fifth Column, whom I had met the previous summer at the premiere film screening of “She Said Boom: The Story of Fifth Column.”

I asked GB and Caroline if they would be part of a feminist zine symposium, and when they said yes, I reached out to the most talented feminist artists I knew in Toronto to help organize the event: Amy Egerdeen of Nightjar Books and Women Moving Forward, Shannon Gerard of The Book Bakery and OCAD, and Tara Bursey of the Toronto Zine Library and the Textile Museum.

Together, we organized the “She Said Boom: Feminist Zine Making” Symposium, a free three-day event with a keynote talk, led by GB Jones and Caroline Azar, that focused on feminist zine culture. The symposium culminated in a daylong feminist zine making workshop at The Book Bakery printmaking studio. That same night, we had a gallery launch party for our collectively produced zine.

The zine-making workshop brought together 20 people, most of who had never met before, to make a zine about our experiences with feminism. For the first part of the workshop, we introduced ourselves and discussed what feminism means to us and how we have come to identify as feminists. Specifically, we talked about gender identity, race, dating, and the rhetoric of MRAs. After an incredibly honest and difficult conversation, we decided to create a publication that would address the question, “What does our ideal community look like?”

We made illustrations, collages, and comics. We also wrote short stories and poems, interviewed each other, and shared recipes. The result was a 26-page book, which we perfect bound, designed a hand drawn cover for, and printed on a risograph machine. We photocopied it and made 50 copies for our launch party that night. Our zine, called “All Needs Met” was a true labour of love and a blueprint for our feminist movement.

There is incredible potential to build feminist resistance through zine-making, not only by creating relationships among feminists, but also by leveraging these relationships in order to build a broader movement against patriarchy, white supremacy, and capitalism. The She Said Boom symposium came out of a response to individual acts of hate, but from that we became agitated, mobilized, and created more of the kind of communities we want to see.