Last week, during the regularly scheduled class time for JMM 592, we took a trip to the University of Miami Archives to learn about “zines.” According to New York Times Magazine, zines are self-published, unofficial “magazines” that express a common interest among a fan base. In this same article, the author, Jenna Wortham, describes her first experience with zines during her time in college. An English teaching assistant introduced to zines during the early feminist publishing movement of the 1990s. She described these zines as a, “lifeline to the outside world.”
Zines come in all shapes, sizes, and topics. During our class “field trip” to the university archives, the staff arranged dozens of zines on tables for us to examine. There were so many topics, points of views, and designs I could have spent hours reading through them all. However, one zine stood out to me. As I walked up to the tables the first thing that caught my eye was a zine with bold black font which read, “UNTIL THERE IS NO RAPE, THIS IS JUSTICE.” The words were accompanied by an illustration of a woman pointing a gun at an unknown object while standing next to another woman.
(The back illustration of the unnamed zine was used as the cover in the zine display at the University of Miami Archives.)
Shockingly, this is the back of the zine. The intended cover, pictured below, is much more provocative.
(The intended cover for the zine featured a overtly sexual image of a woman and the definition for the word sexism across the top.)
The zine I chose is very much like the feminist zines Wortham identified with in college. The zine is full of empowering messages to women and survivors of sexual assault while destroying the social stigmas around it.
For our assignment we had to choose a zine that we could relate back to our blog. I have spent a lot of time writing about fashion, results, appearances, and events in pageantry. However, I want to use this opportunity to explore why many women start competing in pageants, their platforms. A platform is a cause or organization you are passionate about that you choose to promote and raise awareness for during your reign. For example, my best friend, Amber Dawn Butler (who makes multiple appearances throughout my blog), was in a horrific car accident when she was just 16. The accident left her with a broken back and her father with a traumatic brain injury. When she started competing in the Miss America Organization, she started her platform RED: Responsible and Educated Drivers in order to raise awareness about driver safety.
( Left: Amber’s custom logo for her platform Red: Responsible and Educated Driver’s / Right: A picture of Amber’s car after the crash she uses as a promotional tool for safe driving.)
When I started competing in pageants, my platform was called Jeb’s Heart: Ending Animal Abuse. However, after some very………unpleasant…….events my sophomore year of college, I changed it to Break the Silence: End Sexual Assault. My goal with my platform is to encourage other survivors to come forward, tell their stories, and put an end to sexual assault. After a couple of years of working with this platform, I have found that the conversation about sexual assault and the conversation about women’s rights and equality go hand-in-hand. I believe this zine is a perfect example of using a different medium (as opposed to the internet or traditional magazines lined with advertisements) to change the way we talk about this topic and other women’s issues.
(My custom logo for Break the Silence: End Sexual Assault.)
I believe this zine is a an empowering battle cry to women everywhere. The opening page features an opinion piece written by a woman only refereed to as Esther. The piece details the struggles of being a woman in a male dominated society. In the piece Esther says, when referring to men, “They’re just assholes. Fuck you; all of you.” As a woman, I have felt this way about the male species on multiple occasions. I felt empowered reading the piece and compelled to absorb every word printed on the page.
(The opening spread of the zine. The spread is somewhat of a manifesto by a woman only identified as Esther.)
Something that shocked me about the content of this zine is how relevant it still is to women today. Many of the issues highlighted are ones, especially with the current political climate, that women are still battling today. Based on the content of the stories used in the zine, I believe this particular one was producer in the 1990s. That is nearly 20 years ago. Twenty years and we are still talking about these issues. That absolutely shocked me. The zine uses a variety of story forms to elaborate on these issues. There are long articles as highlighted above, shorter excerpts from long essays, and even cartoons. However, I believe one of the best pieces is the “Myths About Rape.”
(The Myths About Rape spread highlighted myths that surround rape then and still surround the subject today including, “Rape is not a big deal. it is only sex.”)
Lastly, one of my favorite spreads was the cartoon pictured below. It depicts women running what is normally a male dominated industry. With events such as the Women’s March on Washington and the ever-growing demand for equal pay for women, the cartoon could easily be published in any newspaper today.
(The cartoon spread illustrates a world where women can run businesses including automotive and wood working shops.)
Overall, zines are a great way to communicate an issue or topic you are passionate about. Zines have the potential to be used to communicate messages about your platform to the community. They can also serve as a great way to find a topic for a platform. With thousands of zines across the globe, there is bound to be something for everyone.