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The Uprising of Feminist Zines

Picture of Sofia Rubio
Updated: 24 May 2018
Magazine-lovers now have a new issue to add to their collection: feminist zines. Though zines in London are nothing new, the hard times that print has experienced in recent years certainly don’t imply that zines would be thriving. However, it seems this type of print publication has garnered the attention of many Londoners and even gotten them to wait patiently for new issues. But what is it about feminism and print media that has the city enticed?

Sadhbh O’Sullivan, one of the three editors of Ladybeard magazine in London, admits that though online media can help to spread feminism, print seems the way to go when it comes to their publication.

Sadhbh believes that “you can have a story that no one’s done before, but then, because of print deadlines, it doesn’t come out for another six months. By that time it’s already come out somewhere else. And it’s just harder to get your work out there. But there’s also an appetite for print – what we do wouldn’t work online because it’s so visual and every piece is interlinked.”

Ladybeard is one of many collaborative feminist zines that are part of the media in London. Starting up right after the editors graduated university, it was influenced by the model of “glossy magazines we grew up loving”. Many of those print issues that inspired Ladybeard include Mushpit, Cause+Effect and Sister Magazine, created by Beccy Hill.

Feminism had been a large part of Beccy’s life by the time the idea of Sister Magazine came to her while she was studying her fashion journalism degree in university. Her idea of combining fashion, culture and feminism for a publication started a successful zine open to “anyone who wishes to read it, and who are passionate about women’s rights.”

The feminist movement has been around since the 70s and many women are still fighting for equality to this day. The revival of print has been a new tool in the 21st century to keep spreading it.

“I think feminism is really trending at the moment, and whilst that’s create to raise awareness, I hope it leads to concrete change,” noted Beccy.

While publications like NME had made a definitive move to digital, feminist publications seem to find a balance between two worlds. For Lu Williams, creator of Grrrl Zine Fair, as well as Grrrl In Print zine, it’s both digital and print that make the feminist media work.

“They both are intrinsically linked. I don’t think half as many people would see Grrrl In Print if they hadn’t seen it on Instagram. I also feel like part of a community on Instagram which lends itself to visual practices but at the end of the day we’re all in it for the physical zines,” explains Lu.

Lu’s work in Grrrl Zine Fair is made up by events, workshops and a documentation of DIY feminist culture. Her first issue of Grrrl in Print was made by over 100 contributors. Her idea was to make it a space for women and nonbinary folks to share their DIY advice, tutorials, stories and artworks.

The idea of feminism having a space in print media has been increasing overall and has gathered more publications on the matter. Lu acknowledges that at one of her fairs, there were over 40 publications based on feminism. But to everyone in the media, what matters the most is to reflect the message rather than getting recognition.

“It’s important to platform smaller publications that have a lot of heart rather than the ones jumping on the bandwagon because it’s hot at the moment,” noted Lu.

Likewise, Sadhbh knows “we all need money to work so this is a good thing. When it’s done right. But it can feel like the landscape is now saturated with ‘feminist’ content, but what are they saying that is really pushing us towards something truly new and challenging? Is it really changing the media landscape or is it just repackaging it?”