Zine and Heard: Fringe Feminism and the Zines of the Third Wave

By Fraser, M. L. | Feminist Collections: A Quarterly of Women's Studies Resources, Summer 2002 | Go to article overview

Zine and Heard: Fringe Feminism and the Zines of the Third Wave


Fraser, M. L., Feminist Collections: A Quarterly of Women's Studies Resources


Fringe culture has traditionally been dominated by men in the forms of punk rock, Straight-Edge, cyberpunk, and even--for a brief but lamentable period--glam rock. Then came the riot grrrl movement in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and the Third Wave of feminism began. Women started claiming the creation of culture through independent music, writing, art, and art activism, all with a distinctly feminist slant. This became labeled fringe feminism.

The idea of fringe feminism is really almost self-explanatory. That is, a fringe feminist is a feminist who resides on the fringe of culture. Women and girls who do not fall into any category of traditional feminism proclaim the ideals of feminism through the use of nontraditional media and ideology. The idea that the point of feminism is not what choices we as women make but rather the fact that we have choices seems to be the common ground of fringe feminists. This point is made time and again in their writing.

The versatility and diversity that women possess comes out in fringe writing. One really great zine (now vanished) called Pastie Face, written by a San Francisco sex worker, is a fantastic introduction. The writer also happens to be a lesbian who studied astrophysics. Another woman decries the title feminist not because she is a Christian (which she is), but because other feminists tell her she cannot be both. She plays drums in a punk band called Awkward and is an acolyte on Sunday mornings. Both of these women are what fringe feminism is about.

I am often asked what a zine is. I usually take a deep breath and try to explain that a zine must meet three criteria to be exactly that: (1) The writings must be self-published; (2) the slant must be the personal voice remarking on the political; and (3) the subject matter must use pop culture in some way to create a statement of identity. Often the zine has a tongue-in-cheek tone and a "cut-n-paste" format (in other words, anyone can make a zine).

A true zine is serious about the issues, yet also has a sense of humor and fun. It is a reclaiming of girlhood and an examination of what it can mean to be female. In these zines the rage and anger we feel as gendered individuals are allowed to mix with laughter and joy. The name does not come directly from "magazine," as so many people think, but by way of "fanzines," those mimeographed newsletters of 1920s sci-fi culture, where like-minded folks avoided isolation by distributing homespun publications about their favorite authors and books. Many of today's girl zinesters remark that they have found their communities through publishing zines and are happy not to be isolated in their thinking.

Makers of the grrrl zines that stick around for a long time, like BUST or Bitch or even Rockrgr/, are considered to be the big sisters of the bedroom cut-n-paste zinester grrrls out there. We start this review series with these "glossies." They are the easiest to find and give a really good idea of what is out there. Also, in terms of time considerations, the glossies were the way to go for this initial review. (One or two on-line versions of these glossies are also included here). The glossies were easiest because a kitchen-table zine is not always quite as timely as a larger, more established one. We all get busy, and things we do just because we want to don't always put food on the table. Zines often get pushed aside for a week or two to get the paycheck. In future reviews, we will bring in e-zines and bedroom cut-n-pastes. Voices come in all forms, and we will listen. We will even pay to hear them! (See below for more information on how to get your zine reviewed.)

Unfortunately, zines often shut down due to financial considerations. Many zinemakers refuse advertisers who they feel are subversive of or anathema to the zine's political views. This can create a problem in the world of conglomeration politics. As a dancer friend of mine says, "the best way ta support the arts is to buy a ticket. …

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