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A Brief Visual History of Riot Grrrl Zines

Riot Grrrl was an underground feminist movement that began in the early nineties, which was closely tied to punk music, radical politics, and a DIY aesthetic. Riot Grrrl activism involved meetings, the creation of zines, and a nationwide network of support for women in music. While some say the movement lasted until the mid-90s, others contend it never ended. With the popularity of Sara Marcus‘s recently published book Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution, it seems there may be some truth to that statement. And there are many zines, which tell the tale of the origins of the movement. In 1993, according to a Canadian newspaper (as mentioned in Girls to the Front), 40,000 zines were published in North America.

During the NY Art Book Fair last weekend, a sampling of those publications could be seen at You Are Her — an exhibition of over six hundred Riot Grrrl zines presented by Goteblüd, a San Francisco-based dealer in fanzines and underground magazines. As these artifacts would be donated to the Fales Library & Special Collections at New York University following the exhibition, it was the last time most of them could be freely handled and photocopied. While the Riot Grrrl community now has a life online via the Riot Grrrl blog, we took the opportunity to look through the physical artifacts that started it all and bring you a selection of some of the more notable Riot Grrrl zine covers we could get our hands on.

Jigsaw

The origins of the Riot Grrrl movement can be found in this zine started by Tobi Vail in 1988 in Olympia, Washington. Vail, a musician, wrote mostly about the punk and feminist scenes in the Pacific Northwest. According to Girls to the Front, after reading a five-page article on gender called “Boxes” in Jigsaw, Kathleen Hanna was inspired to send Vail — who would later become her bandmate in Bikini Kill — some interviews she had done with musicians while on the road. After Vail and Hanna met, the two soon came upon a vision for a movement that Vail titled Revolution Girl Style Now. Jigsaw now has a blog.

Girl Germs

Molly Neuman and Allison Wolfe, two young feminists who met at the University of Oregon in 1989, were encouraged by Tobi Vail to start a band and a fanzine. They formed the band Bratmobile. About her experience reading Vail’s Jigsaw, Neuman said, “I realized that there were [other] people with these ideas” about feminism and music “that Allison and I weren’t the only people.” (Girls to the Front, p. 58).

Bikini Kill

The four-person band Bikini Kill was started in 1990 by Tobi Vail and Kathleen Hanna who were the force behind the zine of the same name. As with Jigsaw and Girl Germs, articles in Bikini Kill focused on punk rock, politics, feminist issues, and Riot Grrrl, as well as scene reports on local performances and news on bands including Bratmobile, Heavens to Betsy, Fugazi, and Nirvana, among many others. Along with Jigsaw, Girl Germs and Riot Grrrl (the zine), this zine was instrumental in initiating the Riot Grrrl movement.

Riot Grrrl

Action Girl Newsletter

With so many zines to go through, young women could subscribe to the Action Girl Newsletter, which listed girl zines. Action Girl now has an online presence.

Snarla

Snarla was a literary and art zine started by Miranda July and Johanna Fateman.

Runt

Runt zine was started by musician Lara Cohen who was part of the duo known as Nik-L-Nip.

Manifixation

Manifixation was a zine by musician Sara Jaffe formerly of Erase Errata. Currently, she is a fiction writer and is starting a micropress with author Sara Marcus.

K

K was a newsletter related to K Records, a label founded by Calvin Johnson, a KAOS DJ. It was Johnson who asked Tobi Vail to start a band when she was fifteen. This resulted in the formation of the Go Team, in which she was the drummer.

Sneer

Zine from the You Are Her exhibit presented by Goteblüd, a San Francisco-based dealer in fanzines and underground magazines at the NY Art Book Fair.

Sweet Heart

Zine from the You Are Her exhibit presented by Goteblüd, a San Francisco-based dealer in fanzines and underground magazines at the NY Art Book Fair.

Scarbaby

Zine from the You Are Her exhibit presented by Goteblüd, a San Francisco-based dealer in fanzines and underground magazines at the NY Art Book Fair.

More Than A Feeling

Zine from the You Are Her exhibit presented by Goteblüd, a San Francisco-based dealer in fanzines and underground magazines at the NY Art Book Fair.

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