Grrrl Justice Now zine
Can you imagine a time without social media? Instagram is unheard of. The words ‘face’ and ‘book’ have not yet not been joined together to make the billion dollar corporation that Facebook is today, and “tweeting” is just something birds do. Welcome to the early 1990s. WhatsApp? What’s that Las Vegas hookup profiles? There’s not even such a thing as Snapchat. Want to complain, compliment, or create? Got a message to share to a mass audience? Back then, the quickest way to communicate was to telephone (via a clunky landline), by picking up a pen and writing, or through designing and photocopying hand-made posters, notices or fanzines (which will be the focus of this piece), and getting them out into the world by mail or spreading them by hand.
This may all sound rather unbelievable and in a few senses quite unattractive when looking back from the comfort of our present day, with its many modes of communication and its popular ways of sharing ideas, images, and music. But what I’m describing is not some alien world. While it may all seem pretty old school and opportunities may appear stifled, it was a time when individuals and, importantly for you readers of Alternative Girl, young women, used their creative input without the aid of mobile phones, the internet, computers and all of the other advanced technology existing at present that we all hold to our hearts and rely upon so heavily.
Hero Grrrl zine
Despite this apparent ‘lack’, groups of young women used all opportunities of this era to their advantage. They became active cultural producers, as opposed to passive girl consumers. These young women felt a drive to create, a passion to protest, and to ultimately draw attention and form alliances based on the inadequacies and inequalities that they faced. With this, they built a self-sufficient community called Riot Grrrl, which then grew into allied networks all over America, as well as England (all done without the aid of Facebook!).
Along with music, a popular method riot grrrl used to spread their message was fanzines (or ‘zines’). Zines are small, self-published booklets that contain drawings, writings, photos (either original or appropriated from magazines) and covered either a single topic or a variety of topics. They can take the form of fan fiction made about a favourite band or celebrity, they can be personal like diaries, or contain examples of poetry and literary writing. Zines were originally part of the punk movement, and they reflected punks’ do-it-yourself spirit that was, in turn, copied by riot grrrls. Through the DIY creation of zines, paper cuts undoubtedly ensued, ink was spilled, and there was a guaranteed mess of cutting and pasting to create work that was (to say the least) rough around the edges. Forget posing with the very best filters available on Instagram. The aesthetics produced by riot grrrls were poor quality photocopied images that, in part, made up the crude and imprecise cut-and-paste collages of their zines.
To return to our present day, the question is: why would young women want to come back to these messy methods of creation? The answer lies in the fact that it is about maintaining that original grrrl spirit of seizing the tools available to become active girl agents. In our modern day, this can be strengthened by the technology that now lies at our fingertips. As noted by Mary Celeste Kearney, author of Girls Make Media, the creation of zines is vital as they ‘allow young females to develop other interests through their creative abilities, while also providing a space to explore their identity’.