Girl Zine Revolution!



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The West Coast Zines Collection in Special Collections consists of zines and similar publications dating from 1985 to the present. Topics include politics, activism, music, art, pop culture, feminism, and sexuality. These zines are significant because they contain ideas that often challenge traditional views of race, gender, and class, creating cultural artifacts to document important strides in the long and ongoing struggle towards human equality. They are also visually fascinating and inspirational. It is almost impossible to spend any time exploring the zine collection without feeling the urge to make one of your own.

One particular strength of the zine collection is its rich assortment of “girl zines.” Third-wave feminism was a major driving force in the zine craze beginning in the early 90s. Zines were an essential product of the DIY (Do-It-Yourself) ethic promoted by the Riot Grrrl movement developing at that time in the Pacific Northwest. Many girl zines had already arisen out of the earlier punk rock scene as a reaction against the sexism and misogyny women regularly experienced in a male-dominated subculture. While DIY itself was an idea left over from the punk scene, it lent itself well to Riot Grrrl philosophy, which focused on, among other things, communication of marginalized ideas, anti-capitalism, and self-sufficiency.

In the seminal scene-moving zine, ​Riot Grrrl​, Bikini Kill  wrote of a need for zines that “speak to US that WE feel included in and can understand in our own ways.” The material in girl zines was heavily tied to the strong feminist messages being spread through their music – much of Riot Grrrl culture centered around the bands – Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, Huggy Bear, Sleater-Kinney, to name a few. Women were using zines to share stories, network, and organize without having to conform to a singular statement of feminism as insisted upon by previous generations.

Girl zines of the 90s touched upon topics that today are finally maintaining momentum as mainstream social and cultural issues for which lines of dialogue remain open. To read about issues such as rape, abortion, birth control, reproductive health, body image, gender, sexuality, abuse, mental illness, and discrimination as they first began appearing in zines offers a striking visual symbol of each subject’s accessibility. These zines were primitive, homegrown, patched together – and necessarily so – for they represented the crude nature of mainstream attitudes towards very real and very important issues for women.

Since SDSU can proudly claim pioneer status in the academic field of Women’s Studies, it is essential that feminist writings and ideas be preserved here. The SDSU community has access to an amazing array of Women’s Studies materials in Special Collections, of which girl zines are the tip of the iceberg. To learn more, have a look at our Women’s Studies research guide.


Further reading about girl zines:

Green, Karen and Tristan Taormino, eds.  A Girl’s Guide to Taking Over the World: Writings from the Girl Zine Revolution    (NY: St.   Martin’s Griffin, 1997)  Call number: PS647 W6 G57 1997

Piepmeier, Alison. Girl Zines: Making Media, Doing Feminism. With a foreword by Andi Ziesler (NY & London: NYU Press, 2009)  Call number: PN4836 P54 2009

Robbins, Trina. From Girls to Grrrlz : a History of ♀ Comics from Teens to Zines (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1999)  Call number: PN 6725 R58 1999

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Special Collections & University Archives Contact

Location: SDSU Library & Information Access, Love Library Room 150
Phone: 619.594.6791

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