Riot grrrl zines live on in a traveling exhibit


Last week’s NY Art Book Fair in New York saw a lot of rad exhibits, but perhaps none so cool and rare as You Are Her, an exhibit of more than 600 riot grrrl zines, collected by Goteblud of San Francisco. Bolstered by the popularity of writer Sara Marcus’ new book, Girls To The Front: The True Story of The Riot Grrrl Revolution, Flavorwire does a nice round up of some of the hallmarks of the exhibit. And, for anyone familiar with riot grrl bands like Bikini Kill, Bratmobile and Heavens to Betsy, the zine history reads like a six-degrees-of separation-of-badass-feminists.

Tobi Vail of Bikini Kill had a zine called Jigsaw, through which she met future bandmate Kathleen Hanna. Zines of the formative days of riot grrrl featured articles about the punk scene, politics, music, interviews, and more. They also served as a primary communication tool between riot grrrls who wanted to connect with one another. Vail and Hanna are responsible for naming the riot grrrl movement, which Vail first called Revolution Girl Style Now. (A tidbit from Marcus’ book: the phrase “riot grrrl” was coined by Vail as a sort of tongue-in-cheek reference to the radical spelling of “womyn” and “wimmin” that some feminists embraced at the time).

These zines all offer a great snapshot of the energy of the riot grrrl movement and thirst to connect, in a day without internet, social networks, blogs, and instant information. From the handwritten front page of Issue One of Riot Grrrl:

I also hope this [newsletter] will get more grrrls in contact with each other to exchange ideas, zines, or just anything on your mind. I believe zines and communication is the “key” to this revolution. so read this take whatever you can or want (boy or grrrl) and start your own and send me stuff you want to have in this newsletter.

Other highlights include Girl Germs, the zine that Allison Wolf and Molly Neuman, who met at the University of Oregan in 1989, started when they formed Bratmobile. Snarla was a zine that writer/performer Miranda July and Johanna Fateman (Le Tigre) collaborated on. And Sara Jaffe’s zine, Manifxiation, is also noted. Sara Jaffe is a former member of Erase Errata and is now a fiction writer who is starting a micropress with Marcus.

All of the zines in You Are Her are being donated to the Fales Library and Special Collections at New York University, which houses many zines and artifacts, including Kathleen Hanna’s own zine collection, which she donated to them last year. And while many of these zines will only ever exist in their awesome photocopied form, a few have made the jump to the internet, including Action Girl, which was once a hub for riot grrrl zines and bands, and Vail’s Jigsaw, which is now a blog.

Were you ever able to get your hands on a riot grrl zine?

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