Category: zines

building feminist resistance through zine-making

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.


second annual canzine symposium

I will be speaking at this year’s canzine symposium in Toronto on October 19th alongside Chris Fritton from the Western New York Book Arts Center! I’ll be talking about building feminist communities around self publishing.




So you gather once or twice a year to sell your indie wares alongside your peers. But what abut the rest of the year? In this workshop, two indie pioneers will discuss why you should and how you can build and sustain independent cultural communities throughout the year.

Erin Oh is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where she co-founded the first-ever Pittsburgh Zine Fair in 2011. In April 2013 Erin organized She Said Boom, a 2-day feminist zine-making symposium in Toronto featuring GB Jones and Caroline Azar of riot grrrl band Fifth Column. Erin completed graduate school at the University of Toronto in Sociology and Equity Studies in Education and is now working for the Mayor of Pittsburgh on a campaign to raise the high school graduation rate of Pittsburgh Public School students.

Chris Fritton is the Studio Director at the Western New York Book Arts Center. He holds a BA in Philosophy (1998), a BA in Poetics (2000), and a BA in Art History (2010) from SUNY at Buffalo, as well as an MA in Poetics from the University of Maine at Orono (2005). A poet, printer, and fine artist, Fritton has decades of experience writing and making his own books, in addition to collaborative efforts with other writers and artists. Since 2007, he has been the Organizer of the Buffalo Small Press Book Fair, a regional two-day event that draws hundreds of vendors and thousands of participants. He currently oversees the studio space at WNYBAC, works as an in-house printer/designer for Mohawk Press, and teaches letterpress and printmaking.

– See more at:

interview on Geek Pittsburgh

Geek Pittsburgh wrote up a great article about the Pittsburgh Zine Fair.

Although the concept of self-publishing one’s personal thoughts in pamphlet form has been around since the political and philosophical musings of Thomas Paine and Benjamin Franklin, it wasn’t until the Twentieth Century that “zines” became a bona fide medium of their own. Starting with science fiction fandoms in the 1930s, through the Punk and Riot Grrrl movements of the 1970s and 1990s, zines have given voice to the previously voiceless and helped define the culture of their times in the process. One might think that the rise of the World Wide Web may have diminished the publication of physical zines, but in actuality the medium is still going strong in the Twenty First Century.

Although the US Postal Service was once the primary distribution method for zines, today’s creators utilize everything from independent book stores to downloading from the Internet to get their publications into the hands of the populace. Nothing beats the one-on-one approach, however, and numerous symposiums and publication expos have popped up through the years as well, including the Pittsburgh Zine Fair, which is holding its third annual congregation on Sunday, September 22, 2013, at the Union Project in Highland Park. “The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh held a Feminist Zine Symposium in the spring of 2011,” co-founder Erin Oh explained of the event’s roots. “Participants of that symposium discussed how great it would be if Pittsburgh had an annual zine fair, so we distributed an email list and developed an organizing committee to put together the first-ever Pittsburgh Zine Fair in September 2011.”

Erin Oh—who has her own zine about “feminism, education for liberation, dating, and dreams”—was first hit by the self-publishing bug in 2005 when she attended Canzine, the largest zine fair in Canada. In addition to assisting in the formation of the Pittsburgh Zine Fair, Erin Oh has also organized “She Said Boom,” a two-day feminist zine-making symposium held in Toronto during April 2013 that featured Canadian artist G.B. Jones and Carolyn Azar, lead singer of the all-woman post-punk band Fifth Column. “Zines create spaces for discussion about issues that are largely missed by mainstream media,” Erin Oh says in regards to the importance of zines. “Zines also facilitate the spread of individual creative thought and expression, and can be empowering tools for young people to develop voice and perspective.”

The scheduled participants for the third annual Pittsburgh Zine Fair are an eclectic group of authors with a wide-range of interests and narrative styles. Stories about personal relationships, travel adventures, martial arts parodies, legal guidance for activists, professional advice for sound and audio engineers, fictional fantasy tales, poetry and comics will all be available for perusing during the event. Many of the zines featured likewise defy conventional categorizing. “Past issues have centered on experiences in college radio, my love for Bill Murray and Feminism,” Laura Lane explains on the Pittsburgh Zine Fair website of Staircase Wit. “My most popular issue to date is a condensed, how-to guide for the phenomenon of Lucid Dream. In user-friendly language, I describe what Lucid Dreaming is, relay a bit of technical and historical information behind the topic as well as include cultural references and induction techniques.”

Maggie Negrete, an administrator at the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, also offers a unique spin on her writing style. “Adventuring Princesses is a serial fairy tale that attempts to subvert traditional gender stereotypes within the genre by focusing on two princesses as distinct individuals and developing young women as they try to save the kingdom from the Dark Wizard and therefore, metaphorically, gain equality for women in the physical, spiritual and intellectual realms,” she states on the event’s website.

While many of the zine creators in attendance will travel to the region from such far off locales as Detroit and New Orleans, the majority of self-publishers at the Pittsburgh Zine Fair are local residents. “It is blooming!” Erin Oh says of the Steel City zine scene. “Cyberpunk Apocalypse keeps it real with zine events and hosting visiting out-of-town writers. And we’ve become a destination for touring zinesters. People of Color Zine Project stopped by the Roboto Project last year for their Race Riot tour, and Cindy Crabb stopped by with Doris Zine the year before that. Zine readings are regularly held around the city—check out the Homunculus reading series at Assemble gallery in Garfield on Saturday, September 21st from 7-9pm where several zine fair participants will be reading selections from our work!”

In addition to zine creators, Pittsburgh is also home to a number of small, independent publishers who cater to the industry, and many of them will be on hand at the Pittsburgh Zine Fair as well. Little Tired Press, for instance, publishes the monthly comics anthology Andromeda, while Wild Age Pressspecializes in books that are “experimental” in nature and have an “edge” to them. Small Press Pittsburgh, meanwhile, is a pop-up bookstand that has featured local authors, artists and self-publishers since 2008, and both the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh in Oakland and the Mr. Roboto Project in Bloomfield have zine collections, adding to the unique flavor of the Steel City zine community.

Decades after science fiction fans reinvigorated the medium in the 1930s, zine publishing is still going strong despite the presence of the World Wide Web. “The Internet can never replace the satisfaction and fun that comes from creating a publication that is tangible and then organizing in public spaces to share, discuss and sell it,” Erin Oh explains. “The future of zines looks bright as long as we continue building community around self-publishing and keep tackling difficult topics through our writing.”

If the Pittsburgh Zine Fair is any indication, the future of zines does indeed look bright.

Anthony Letizia (September 19, 2013)

interview on les femmes folles

Interviewed by West Virginia-based blog les femmes folles!

Erin Oldynski, founder of the Pittsburgh Zine Fair (September 22nd from 2-8pm at The Union Project in Highland Park), and writer/zine-maker herself, shares with LFF how she got into the craft, how feminism plays a role in her work, her favorite book and more…

I saw you were raised in Pittsburgh. How long have you been interested in making zines? How did you get into making zines?

Pittsburgh is my home and where I currently live, but for the last 8 years I’ve been based in Canada, mostly in Toronto. I first became interested in zines after going to Canzine in Toronto in 2005. It’s the largest zine fair in Canada and it is always a great motivator for me. I made my first zine in 2010 as a way to share written work that I’d been keeping to myself until then. I co-wrote my first zine “Conversations I Wish I Had” with a friend of mine, about our shared experience with depression. It was really cathartic to write that zine, and it definitely marked a turning point in my life, both with how I deal with mental health issues, and how I share my writing.

Tell me about the work you do—the festival, why its important to you, and what you hope people get out of it. Also, who can go to it? Is it mainly the zine-makers or public, too?

I founded the Pittsburgh Zine Fair in 2011 because I’d been to zine fairs in a number of cities in Canada and the United States but realized that my own hometown didn’t have a zine fair. After participating in the Feminist Zine Symposium in the spring of 2011 – a 1-day event featuring presentations and discussions at the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh – I created a call-out for a Pittsburgh Zine Fair organizing committee. We held the first zine fair in September 2011 and since then it has really taken off. It’s received grant support from the Sprout Fund, as well as support from a number of community organizations and local businesses.

Anyone can participate in the zine fair as vendors. It’s a first come, first serve basis, as long as you apply to have a table before the deadline, we will reserve a spot for you. The fair is open to the general public, and we really encourage anyone to come out. We are especially hoping that more young people get involved in making zines and come out to the fair. Mostly, what I hope for the zine fair is for it to foster supportive community around self publishing and creative expression. Zines are arguably the most accessible form of art, and yet, the quality that we see every year at the fair is really high.

I see you also do other work towards education, feminism and more. What drives you?

I graduated from a Pittsburgh Public High School, where many students never graduate at all. Our city’s graduation rate is stagnating at 68%. My current ambition is for our city’s young people to achieve as much as we possibly can. Right now, less than 1 in 10 Pittsburgh Public School students finishes a 4-year college degree. I don’t think that success should be tied to graduating from high school, and I think that the school system needs radical change, but I also know that graduating from high school puts you leaps and bounds ahead of those who don’t, in terms of job access, health care, and overall standards of living. My experience in the Pittsburgh school system is largely what drives my current work with the Mayor of Pittsburgh on a campaign to raise the graduation rate. As a woman, I also want to see women be as confident and expressive as we can possibly be. Feminist beliefs play an important role in achieving that.

Does feminism play a role in all of your work?

Feminism plays out in everything that I do. I understand feminism broadly, as a life-long commitment to ending social inequities based on race, gender, class, and ability, because all of these social signifiers intersect and become sites for resistance against racism, sexism, and other forms of oppression. My current interest is to organize zine readings, workshops, and fairs that have an explicitly feminist agenda, and by that I mean creating space for discussion about patriarchy, and how to work together to end it in its various forms.

What would people be surprised to know about you—favorite book, movie?

Just Kids by Patti Smith is my favorite book, but that’s probably not a surprise since I tell everyone to read it. Recently, I’ve been interested in reading early libertarian theory, and that might surprise some because libertarianism is so often co-opted by the conservative right these days, even though I’m learning that its origins are more anarchist than anything else.

Any advice for aspiring zine-makers?

Come to the Pittsburgh Zine Fair on Sunday September 22nd from 2-8pm at The Union Project in Highland Park! Oh yeah, and make zines! Get excited about what other people are making, but don’t let that overwhelm you or think that you’re not also incredibly capable. Find my table and swap zines with me, I’d love to meet you!

What’s next/anything to add?

If you’re in Toronto, come to the Canzine Symposium on October 19th. I’ll be giving a talk about feminism and zines, and how to create community around feminist self-publishing.