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Zines & Feminist Pedagogy


By Kimberly Creasap, Sociology & Women’s Studies

In the spring semester I received an email from one of my Women’s Studies students that began, “I am sending you this email to tell you that I had a small revelation in my life recently that made me realize how much I relate to the ideas we talk about in class….” The email came on the heels of our first writing workshop, during which I introduced students to the history of zines–handmade, independently produced publications–and we collectively reviewed zines about feminism and gender in the collection at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (CLP). We also discussed possible themes that students could explore as they wrote their own zines.


Ogadi Anyanwu & Kimberly Creasap
Ogadi made a zine as a student in Intro to Women’s Studies, Fall 2011.

My primary pedagogical objective is to make theoretical concepts relevant to students’ everyday lives. To this end, the major project in the writing intensive sections of my Introduction to Women’s Studies classes is a zine. The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (CLP) is home to a collection of more than one thousand zines from around the country, hundreds of which deal with feminism, gender, and queer identities and politics. Our class meets at CLP early in the semester, and students spend time reviewing the collection to (a) get familiar with zines as media and (b) see how zine makers integrate theoretical and political ideas with their own personal narratives and experiences. In subsequent writing workshops, students review each other’s work and give feedback for improving both writing and theoretical links. The final zines are anthologies; each zine has a theme and students write 2-4 brief essays on those themes. Themes in last year’s student zines included promiscuity on campus, images of African-American women in the media, and the challenges of balancing a career and family life, among others. At the end of the semester, students had the option of donating copies of their zines to be included in the CLP collection. The project was a success in getting students to connect our class material to their lives. One student felt as though she had no experiences about which to write, but came to feel more confident in her argumentative writing abilities after making a zine in which she explored feminist critiques of pop culture. Another student said, “I started this as a class assignment, but when I started writing, I found that I really cared about this project.”


The zine project is meaningful to me personally, as my feminist consciousness was indelibly shaped by zines that I first read as a teenager in the early 1990s. In those Xeroxed pages, I encountered the words of brave girls who shared their stories of sexual violence, struggles with body image, and adoration for the loud and furious music known as Riot Grrrl. They gave me the sense that I was not alone, and opened my eyes to feminist analyses of my own life. I was pleased that my students had similarly moving experiences with the zine project. As a teacher, there is no more rewarding feeling than knowing that students are connecting to classroom material in substantial and personal ways. I find it exciting to be part of those intellectual and personal transformations, and it ignites my enthusiasm for teaching.






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