Teaching Authorship, Gender and Identity through Grrrl Zines Production

By Gabai, Sara | Journal of International Women's Studies, November 2016 | Go to article overview

Teaching Authorship, Gender and Identity through Grrrl Zines Production


Gabai, Sara, Journal of International Women's Studies


Introduction

Zine studies is a multi-disciplinary field of study that has developed predominantly in the United States and the United Kingdom and is at the intersection with art history, aesthetic theory, crafting and design, literary studies, queer and feminist scholarship, media literacy and popular culture (Chu, 1997; Duncombe, 1997; Williamson, 1994, Leblanc, 1999; Radway, 2001; Piepmeier, 2009). Even though academia has been reluctant to bring zines within the classroom due to their non-academic layout, style, tone, contents, languages, several researchers have investigated the use of zines as visual and narrative spaces for students to tell their stories within the classroom setting (Alyea, 2012; Bott, 2002; Fraizer, 1998; Guzzetti & Gamboa, 2004; Moore, 2009; Poletti, 2005); others have also identified zines as a kind of public pedagogy (Sandlin, O'Malley, and Burdick, 2011), a pedagogy of tactics, subjectivity, and of civic and political commitment (Knobel and Lankshear, 2001). In this paper, zines are situated in critical feminist pedagogy, one that sees women as knowers, that is concerned with equality and power, community building, consciousness about diversity and justice, and concerns with caring and empowerment (Chow et al, p. 260).

Zines have their roots in small press and fan magazines communities in the 1950s and 1960s and are self-published periodicals covering a wide variety of subjects, including, those dedicated to punk and musical styles, poetry and literature, religion, science fiction, fantasy, ecology, politics, feminism, sports, among others. Despite their diversity in contents and genres, they share common characteristics: they trespass the boundaries and rules of copyrights and intellectual property, escape the proprietary relations and the hierarchies of traditional publishing industries, and often have a confrontational relationship with mainstream and corporate (media) culture. Moreover, most zinesters trade and exchange their work rather than sell it.

While zines are commonly recognized as being the result of non-elitist, do-it-yourself (DIY), participatory culture, and originating from the rise of the punk rock scene in the late 1970s, very few acknowledge their feminist predecessors and the artifacts, scrapbooks, documents, pamphlets, letters, produced by women from disempowered positions during the first and second waves of feminism. Alison Piepmeier explains, "one reason for this omission is that zines are resistant media, and women are, even today, rarely identified with resistance" (2009, p.25). This paper will be concentrating primarily on grrri zines, literate cultural practices and gendered sites of cultural production in which sexism, racism and other forms of inequality may be interrogated and challenged, and identities negotiated and elaborated. By appropriating the term "grrri", zinesters have used writing to play with the symbols of dominant and mainstream culture to reimagine femininity and girlhood, and create alternative subject positions outside of the male-dominated punk zine scene, and the mainstream feminist movement. Grrrl authors, and in particular the Riot Grrrl network, have also greatly influenced feminist and postfeminist sites of cultural production, and have been instrumental in the creation of third wave feminism. Through the discourse analysis of the zine MOON ROOT, AN EXPLORATION OF ASIAN WOMYN'S BODIES, the paper will reflect on the importance of grrrl zines as transnational spaces for women, gender queer and trans people of Asian descent living diaspora to investigate the politics of race, desire and imagination, heritage and nostalgia, homeland, mobility and identity.

Grrrl Zines Authors and Literacies

Rapidly changing media environments are re-shaping our understanding of literacy and requiring new ways of teaching and learning, engaging with knowledge and culture, and communicating with others. Barton and Hamilton (1998) maintain, "literacies do not just reside in people's heads as a set of skills to be learned; they are located in the interaction between people. …

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