In 2016, the F-word is dirtier than ever, and sadly, "feminism" is even tougher to utter for some than it is to use the curse word. It seems these days, not only do women struggle with self-identifying as a feminist (I'm a feminist but...), but there are legions of anti-feminists. A quick interweb search soured my stomach, as Tumblr is rife with anti-feminist sites and anti-feminist memes could be found everywhere. There are so many gross misogynist groups and pages upon pages dedicated to hating on women. To back me up, I recall a gem of a zine, "The F-Word," by Melody Berger: tongue-in-cheek-titled to play off the idea of feminism being a bad word. Yet, Berger's feminist zine was published a decade ago and it seems that in 2016 more people are flat out refusing to be called feminists. Meryl Streep does not want to be mixed up with feminism, instead she says she is a humanist, "for nice, easy balance." What balance are you referring to, Ms. Streep?
Does the average person understand the concept of feminism? Is there a misunderstanding of the word "feminist," or has the interpretation of the word shifted? Why do some many women refuse to identify as a feminist? This past fall, Zeba Blay and Emma Gray published an article titled, "What Saying, I'm Not a Feminist Means," as a reaction to the anti-feminist statements made by Meryl Streep, Shailene Woodley and Marion Cotillard. The authors hoped to re-educated people on what feminism is and what it is not. (For example, feminists are not men-haters.)
Thankfully, feminist spaces are still sought out and desired in our society. The N.Y.C. Feminist Zinefest (FZF) is a gathering of these like-minded folks. According to the FZF, the festival aims to "showcase the work of artists and zinesters who identify as feminists, and whose politics are reflected in their work." The do-it-yourself culture is alive and thriving and zines are a classic example of self-created, noncommercial expression. Zines are self-published, printed booklets, ranging in size, color and content. Anyone can make a zine, but "Zines are the thriving medium of folks who exist beyond the margins, creating spaces & forums for ideas that are erased from traditional media." (FZF Website).
I asked Stephanie Basile, creator of the zine, "Suburban Blight," why she felt we needed a feminist zinefest among the other zinefests that already happen in N.Y.C.:
It is important for N.Y.C. to have a feminist zine fest because zines provide a medium for anyone to make their voice heard regardless of their level of social privilege or economic status. Anyone can make a zine, and the Feminist Zine Fest is a pivotal place for voices who may not be heard in other spaces to come together and share their work.
I was curious about some of the politics behind the zinefest and chatted with Elvis Bakaitis, co-creator of the N.Y.C. Feminist Zinefest and creator of the zine, "Homos in Herstory."
JHH: Why did you co-found the FZF?
EB: At the time, I felt really strongly that it would be amazing and unique to see a bunch of feminist-aligned zinesters in one space, and that it would be a great alchemy of ideas on different topics! I had been to zinefests that had work in them that sort of bummed me out, left me with a feeling of...where are my like-minded people at?
So the zinefest was a way to focus the energy of zines and feminism together, like a magic laser.
JHH: Why do you think it is important to continue to have this space annually in NYC?
EB: There really aren't that many feminist-aligned and non-commercial art spaces in N.Y.C. The zinefest is technically a commercial event in the sense that zines are sold there, but, there are no zine millionaires. To me, that's a key element that makes the zinefest a very unique space -- this is a true community event. People can brew thoughts in their heads all year, make a zine, share those thoughts -- and suddenly meet folks who are excited to read it, hang out, etc. There's an in-person dimension the zinefest brings that is really cool.
JHH: Should there be more spaces like this event? What sort of impact does the FZF have on society?
EB: Hehe! For me personally, FZF feels like a rare, ideal space where all these messy ideas are expressed, in a beautifully messy format... and the whole idea is hey! we want something else from this world, in terms of "feminism." To me, that is really cool. In terms of "society," I hope people pick up some good energy at the zinefest, and just hold that with them -- the idea that people want to read about these obscure, sometimes lesser talked-about topics. Just the energy of people's interest in feminism -- I carry that with me the whole year.
I know that I look forward to the N.Y.C. Feminist Zinefest and I carry that magic energy with me as long as I can. It is important to me to know that "my people" are out there in this crazy world, where I sometimes feel alienated.
If you are excited for the fest, you can check out the zine reading event at Bluestockings Bookstore on Saturday, February 27th.
N.Y.C.'s 4th annual Feminist Zine Fest will be held Sunday February 28th at Barnard College. The Zine Fest is free and open to all ages and genders. The festivities begin at noon and end at 6p.m. More details about the fest including zinesters tabling and interviews can be found on the official site.