Girl Zines

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With names like The East Village Inky, Mend My Dress, Dear Stepdad, and I’m So Fucking Beautiful, zines created by girls and women over the past two decades make feminism’s third wave visible. These messy, photocopied do-it-yourself documents cover every imaginable subject matter and are loaded with handwriting, collage art, stickers, and glitter. Though they all reflect the personal style of the creators, they are also sites for constructing narratives, identities, and communities.

Girl Zines is the first book-length exploration of this exciting movement. Alison Piepmeier argues that these quirky, personalized booklets are tangible examples of the ways that girls and women ‘do’ feminism today. The idiosyncratic, surprising, and savvy arguments and issues showcased in the forty-six images reproduced in the book provide a complex window into feminism’s future, where zinesters persistently and stubbornly carve out new spaces for what it means to be a revolutionary and a girl. Girl Zines takes zines seriously, asking what they can tell us about the inner lives of girls and women over the last twenty years.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“[Piepmeier is] one of third-wave feminism’s astute voices... As the wealth of examples she brings to her argument reveals, the author has done careful research on the significance of this medium and its use as a tool for making the voices of third-wave feminists heard. The study is important in that it affirms the continuity and relevance of feminism and does so in a way that delights as well as informs... Summing Up: Essential.”-CHOICE,

“In , author Alison Piepmeier defends the grrrl ethos with a scholarly take that points to the movement as a key part of feminist history; one that enabled women to gain more presence in a male-dominated world, albeit through flimsy, phantasmagorical photocopies passed around in the 1990s. Here Piepmeier brings forth a local study that, whether you agree with it or not, steadfastly lodges zine culture into the feminist archive.”-Broken Pencil,

“Overall, [Piepmeier’s] analysis about the political role that grrrl zines played is dead on. They were central to the evolution of my own feminist development in college in the early 1990s, speaking directly to my feelings of exclusion, disgust with pop culture, and surliness about the lingering sexism that second-wave feminism had failed to abolish.”
-The American Prospect


“Piepmeier’s careful study of the zine movement in girl culture is a powerful and convincing articulation of the ways women’s and girl’s activism has developed, and the creative forms it has taken.”
-Leslie Heywood,editor of The Women’s Movement Today

“Before you could Tweet your every thought to the world, young women cut, pasted, Xeroxed, and traded their own handmade magazines through the mail. In fact, the gorgeously glossy mag you’re holding in your hands right now started off as a ’zine. Girl Zines analyzes the beginning of the movement and its ’revolution grrrl style’ roots, as well as the way ’zinesters used the medium to explore race, sexuality, and identity.”
-Bust Magazine


Library Journal
Zines are an idiosyncratic and personally distributed form of creative participatory media, engaging with topics often ignored by mainstream media. In the early 1990s, created mainly by girls and women, they began to proliferate. Piepmeier (director, women's & gender studies & English, Charleston Coll.) calls them "grrl zines." Using textual analysis, art scholarship, interviews, and participation in the subculture that creates zines, Piepmeier examines how zines not only provide voices for individual women but also contribute to the theoretical work of third wave feminism. She traces their genesis to 19th-century women's club scrapbooks and second wave feminism's mimeographed publications, then contextualizes them in feminist history while examining how they are relevant to a new generation. Using images to illustrate her close reading of five zines, she notes that the material form of the zine is an important aspect of its message. VERDICT Presented in densely written academic prose that makes for slow reading, this interdisciplinary study will be appreciated by scholars from a wide range of disciplines and may also be of interest to the producers and collectors of grrl zines. [See also our quarterly column of zine reviews in LJ's newest enewsletter, BookSmack!—Ed.]—Judy Solberg, Seattle Univ. Lib.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814767511
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 11/18/2009
  • Pages: 264
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Alison Piepmeier directs the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at the College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina, where she is associate professor of English. She is the co-editor of Catching a Wave: Reclaiming Feminism for the Twenty-First Century and author of Out in Public: Configurations of Women’s Bodies in Nineteenth-Century America.

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Table of Contents

Foreword by Andi Zeisler
1 “If I Didn’t Write These Things No One Else Would Either”: The Feminist Legacy of Grrrl Zines and the Origins of the Third Wave
2 Why Zines Matter: Materiality and the Creation of Embodied Community
3 Playing Dress-Up, Playing Pin-Up, Playing Mom: Zines and Gender
4 “We Are Not All One”: Intersectional Identities in Grrrl Zines
5 Doing Third Wave Feminism: Zines as a Public Pedagogy of Hope
Appendix: Where to Find Zines
About the Author
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