In celebration of International Women’s Day, the Pivotal Voices team hosted a small zine party which featured a kick-ass ‘for the ladies’ playlist, and a highly impressive snack table. Most importantly, we had a group of talented women who were excited to shine light on issues they cared about through a fun and creative outlet.
Over the past few years, we have seen the resurgence of zine culture. In Toronto, there are multiple zine fairs held throughout the year such as Zine Dream, OCADU Zine Fair, Toronto Queer Zine Fair and Canzine. Zines provide an accessible platform for minority and marginalized voices that are often hidden from traditional mass-produced magazines. They cultivate an empowering community that promotes total freedom; anyone can create a zine and anything can be included in a zine.
Rebecca: As I was flipping through magazines to find inspiration for my zine, I found the lack of diversity and representation alarming. I came across one issue of Vogue that focused on Chinese fashion and culture. However, the images taken still held a Western gaze with Chinese women depicted as ‘exotic’. This ultimately led me to create a zine addressing “yellow fever,” the fetishization of East Asian women as a ‘good’ dating partner based on stereotypes that they are submissive, weak and docile. These harmful stereotypes are constantly perpetuated throughout Western media from movies to TV shows to fashion magazines, which results in viewing East Asian women as one-dimensional caricatures. These stereotypes affect how East Asian women are treated in the dating realm, and on online dating in particular. Recently, Tinder banned Nick Vedovi for life for his aggressively racist and sexist messages towards an Asian woman simply because she did not respond to his messages immediately. My zine is meant to show that East Asian women are strong, fully-formed individuals who will not be reduced to just a sexual object.
Jessica: Before we got started, I made an extremely long list of possible subjects to explore. Feminism reaches into the core of many topics, so the list just kept getting bigger (and if I were to pick it up now, I’m sure I could add a lot more). Overall, I felt overwhelmed with the possibilities, and wanted us to have some reference point or starting ground. Eventually, I decided to focus on consent culture. In a sense, I see learning about consent as one of the primary pillars of feminist thought. There’s been a lot of talk about consent and rape culture in Canada lately. Only weeks ago a Halifax judge reprehensibly declared that ‘clearly, a drunk can consent.’ He then ruled rapist Bassam Al-Rawi not guilty because apparently an unconscious woman can give consent. A month ago, Robyn Doolittle published Unfounded, an investigative piece for the Globe and Mail in which she found that police dismiss 1 in 5 sexual assault claims as ‘baseless.’ I want my zine to act as a primer for audiences that may not yet understand consent and rape culture, and as a reminder for those that do. I also want it to keep this important conversation going, and to provide small actions that can help quell rape culture.
Grace: Going into it as a first time ziner, I didn’t come prepared with a creative vision or an idea for a theme. I looked through Jessica’s inspiration list and flipped through endless magazines, and nothing seemed to come to me. As I tried to focus on what issues mattered to me, I realized that something that’s been on my brain for a while has been the long arm of Canadian colonialism and the way it hurts indigenous communities by imprisoning their women. It kind of started for me when I read an article called “How Canada’s Prisons are Failing Women (and everyone else),” in the Spring 2016 edition of herizons, which is a super cool magazine with a feminist perspective. When I looked for statistics, it was easy to see that Canada’s racist legacy was not a thing of the past, but is very much alive and well in our systems of discrimination. I wanted to use my zine to expose some of the ways incarceration hurts indigenous women and their communities, and to encourage you to take a step towards being an advocate in your sphere of influence.
Check out the zines below!
A very special thanks to Steph and Aubrey for attending the zine party, and providing us with their beautiful artwork, as well.