Riot Grrls and Maker Culture at Zine Workshop

Several zines in Sylvia’s incipient collection.

Now seemed to be exactly the right moment for the Publishing Humanities Initiative / FHI Story Lab’s event with Sallie Bingham Center curator Kelly Wooten, Publishing It Yourself: Pamphlets, Zines, and Riot Grrls. The variety of folks who participated in the sold-out event on December 6, 2017 was exactly what one might hope for in a public humanities context. In addition to Duke students, participants included artists, a documentary historian, a public historian, a publisher of an online community newsletter, two high school students, a bookseller from the Regulator bookshop, an activist, an educator who works with junior high kids, a scientist who is also a novelist, and a creator of zines for charities.

Several participants were activists or publishers who wanted to return to the visceral, physical individual-to-individual connection created by zines. All seemed equally interested in both the serious talk on the role of zines in Third Wave feminism and the more playful, creative hands-on workshop that followed, in which we learned to fold a simple zine and then made our own collage-filled zines with scissors, glue, and old magazines to cut up. Hearing about a low-tech  underground movement so relevant to our current odd and crucial moment in the history of feminism was a natural invitation to create and communicate in ways unmediated by digital tools.  Some newly acquainted participants were inspired to invent a zine collaboratively, and some stayed on past the official end of the 2.5-hour event to sew pamphlet bindings.

During her talk, Kelly described Third Wave feminism in the early 1990s; she shared Riot Grrl zines and a map showing how these informal photocopied publications with their edgy drawings carried revolutionary ideas around the United States and beyond via mail and couch-surfing musicians.

Kelly read aloud a quotation from Rebecca Walker’s 1992 essay in Ms Magazine, “Becoming the Third Wave,” penned in the wake of Anita Hill’s testimony against Clarence Thomas, that is strikingly relevant today:

“To be a feminist is to integrate an ideology of equality and female empowerment into the very fiber of my life. It is to search for personal clarity in the midst of systemic destruction, to join in sisterhood with women when often we are divided, to understand power structures with the intention of challenging them. While this may sound simple, it is exactly the kind of stand that many of my peers are unwilling to take. So I write this as a plea to all women, especially the women of my generation: Let Thomas’ confirmation serve to remind you, as it did me, that the fight is far from over. Let this dismissal of a woman’s experience move you to anger. Turn that outrage into political power. Do not vote for them unless they work for us. Do not have sex with them, do not break bread with them, do not nurture them if they don’t prioritize our freedom to control our bodies and our lives.

“I am not a postfeminism feminist. I am the Third Wave.”

You could have heard a pin drop in the Story Lab as we all absorbed the power and relevance of Walker’s words.  Then we turned to Making–connecting mind to hand, past to present, and new collaborations to the future.

(Click here for more info on Publishing Humanities Initiative events.)

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