Feminist Zinesters Unite


By Samantha Spoto

Barnard College’s zine library. Photo courtesy of Karen Green.

People of all ages and genders were invited to Barnard College for the third annual New York City Feminist Zinefest on Saturday, Mar 7, 2015. The event fell a day shy of International Women’s Day. The organizers emphasized that the NYC Feminist Zinefest was a safe space for individuals to gather.

Over 40 artists and zinesters–who identify as feminists and whose work reflects feminist ideology and politics–traveled to the private women’s college to showcase their work.

According to Barnard’s library, zines (short for magazines or fanzines) are not-for-profit, self-published works motivated by a desire for self-expression. Their content is often inaccessible in traditional, mainstream media, according to organizer and zinester Jordan Alam.

Examples of subject matter presented from the artists at this year’s fest included radical domesticity, women in prison, “big fat femmes,” and “psychotropic super-spiritual revelation.”

To kickstart the event, organizers and student volunteers invited guests to tour Barnard’s Zine Library. It houses the largest collection of zines in an academic library.

Guests were also welcome to attend a zine workshop with Topside Press, a New York-based independent press with the intent of printing authentic queer and transgender narratives. The workshop provided counsel to those interested in entering the field of publishing.

Throughout the day, attendees had the opportunity to meet the dozens of artists who gathered at Barnard to circulate their work. Most of the artists charged a small price for their zines, yet many engaged in the honored tradition of zine-trading: a barter system that allows people to swap art for art.

The event’s organizers encouraged all artists to share their zines, even those who did not register in advance for a table at the fair. Volunteers sat at an open desk and distributed the zines of those who wished to publicize their art.

Zinesters also shared their work at scheduled readings throughout the day. The first reading featured artists whose content explored themes of pleasure and discomfort. Many readers shared personal stories related to sex and the body. Other zinesters read later in the day at a program titled “Staking Our Territory.”

Lauren Melissa, a zine-maker from Ontario, read during the second stretch. Melissa, whose work focuses on queer, fat, and femme culture, says that fairs like the NYC Feminist Zine Fest are powerful and unique because they help to facilitate vital conversations that may often be silenced in the public sphere.

Fellow zinester Aus Bahadur agrees that hosting events for marginalized individuals is imperative. Bahadur creates and shares feminist zines as a way to “challenge gender-based oppression [as well as] the racist and classist structures that limit” individuals and communities.

The NYC Feminist Zine Fest brought together groups of passionate creative-types and activists who use art to express their beliefs. Guests left the Fest with “pocket-sized emissaries of ideas” to pass on and share.