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Riot Grrrl: Finding a voice

UI Libraries, Mission Creek Festival host zine open house and interactive exhibition March 30

Riot Grrl

In conjunction with the Mission Creek Festival of music and literature, the Special Collections department at the University of Iowa Libraries will host “The Zine Dream and the Riot Grrrl Scene” from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday, March 30. A cooperative project of librarians, scholars, and zine-makers, this event will highlight the 1990s Riot Grrrl movement and its independent publishing zine culture by exploring the intersection of music, writing, and social issues.

Zines (originally called fanzines) are amateur publications produced noncommercially and designed to circulate among a small number of people sharing similar cultural or social interests. Before the advent of the Internet and the introduction of blogging as a tool of personal and creative expression, zines were an important method of communication among members of subcultures traditionally underrepresented by the mainstream media.

The open house will focus on the Libraries’ collection of zines from the 1990s feminist “riot grrrl” movement that cover topics such as female-driven music, complexities of female identity, and a consciousness of institutional, social and cultural sexism. Riot grrrl zines are also concerned with feminist political and social issues such as discrimination, sexual abuse, eating disorders, and body image. Many zines are marked by stories of intensely personal experiences relating to these issues.

“Just before the rise of the Internet, the Riot Grrrl movement used photocopiers, scissors, glue and the Postal Service as tools to develop a hugely influential social network,” says Kembrew McLeod, associate professor of communication studies and co-organizer of the event. “In doing so, these pioneering feminists carved out an independent media space that challenged the dominant culture.”

Monica Basile, local zine-maker, artist, and doctoral candidate in gender, women’s, and sexuality studies, will curate a browseable selection of zines in the reading room. Attendees will be invited to share their experiences and thoughts in a discussion group on the importance of zines and zine culture. They’ll also have the chance to work on a collaborative zine which will be copied, collated, and shared with all of the contributors.

“As a print phenomenon, a Riot Grrrl zine demands attention be paid to its origins but it is physically turning the page that makes the continued relevance and urgency of the messages so evocative,” says Colleen Theisen, outreach and instruction librarian in Special Collections. “Zine newbies, Riot Grrrls, librarians, zine-makers, students, scholars, punk rockers, writers, community members—all are welcome to touch and turn the pages.”

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