That's Ms. Zine to You!: Great Girl Zines

One of the first zines I ever bought was Mudflap. I instantly fell in love with Greta's style, both in storytelling and in graphics (most of Mudflap is hand printed and drawn). This zine is loosely about the biking life (that's bicycles) in the San Francisco bay area, but Greta and her friends cover so much more: urban flora, drinking, squatting in San Francisco, dreams, regrets, Pere Ubu (all in #2), freight-hopping, graffiti, pigeons, skinheads, and a lot of other stuff. Here is part of Greta's thoughts on a train-hopping trip to Los Angeles.:"I don't think punks expected to make it big on punk. So there was a really strange feeling I began to have about when the idea of 'no future' was tangible in the air. That's so different from punk now, either in the co-opted version or the real version. We are so constructive. (I frequently see or read about punks condemning 'mindless vandalism', that's very 90s.). Then I thought about all the people who died or otherwise threw their futures away, believing so hard in this nihilism, and I was sad and at the same time I loved them for it because I appreciate rash acts and irreversible behavior, and the feeling of not having any safety net...By this time I was looking up at the sun and making a face from thinking hard."One of my favorite things in issue #2 of Mudflap was the collection of tattoo flash art, especially the grease marks for your leg. Reading this zine you really get a feel for the bike messenger lifestyle -- living on almost nothing, taking advantage of the adventures to be found everywhere in the city, "just walking down the street with nothing to do, and everything to do, and wondering what's gonna happen next" in Greta's words. It's not particularly a life I want to lead, but I love to read about it as it shows San Francisco from a totally different point of view.Speaking of a different point of view, and of a little universe, if you know who Bruce Campbell is you will definitely want to pick up Bruce on a Stick, the zine entirely devoted to the life and times of the guy who played Brisco County Jr. on TV and starred in the recent Fox television ripoff Twister. But Tyler, who writes most of this, is not annoyingly obsessive the way most hard-core fans are; she's funny and sweet and -- most amazingly -- has a direct line to the Man himself, and prints quirky interviews with him in almost every issue. In every issue there are different paper clothes for the Bruce Campbell paper doll, along with movie reviews and news of other "twisty swamp stars" like Noah Taylor, Mark Hamill, and Wings Hauser. I have no idea where Tyler gets the energy to do all the things she and her brother Glenn write about, not to mention putting out this slick zine so often (and starting up a new one besides). The other zine Tyler started is called BOAS. Reading BOAS is like sitting around with your best friends, picking over every little detail and amassing yet more knowledge of the Object of Obsession. BOAS, I think, is the embodiment of a fanzine (as opposed to just a zine) -- crazy for its subject, but knowing the extent of its craziness and jumping into it anyway, with passion and a wicked sense of humor. Sadly, Tyler no longer puts out BOAS, having decided to spend her time as an "art terrorist". Back issues are worth inquiring about.If I could pick a new instant best friend, I think it would have to be Ariel Bordeaux, who creates the fabulous Deep Girl. Although this 5" x 8" book would probably be classed with comix, it really feels more like an illustrated per-zine. The art is great (those lips! those lips!) and Ariel's voice is bound to ring true for every woman. Issue #3 contains an essay entitled "Why do you put yourself down so much?", a question that should be asked more often. She speculates:"I don't hate myself at all, but I did spend a good thirteen to fifteen years of my life telling myself, several times a day...that I was ugly, fat, useless, stupid, clumsy, and lazy. Nowadays, I have to fight against that instinct constantly. It's an instinct that, I'm guessing, ALL women have to fight constantly. Let's speculate that this is universal. It is impossible to conceive of how incredibly damaging all these self-deprecating remarks are."Deep Girl #3 also tells the tale of "Lezbo Hellhole, a true story of psycho heterophobes" (anyone who has had demonic roommates will appreciate the division of the house into "the sanctity of my room" vs. "the evil domain"), and "Jeff: The boy I was infatuated with", an excursion into the valley of unrequited love. Ariel passes her life just like all the women I know -- trying, struggling, fighting to be a strong, independent woman who can fall in love and still pay the rent. Each issue of Deep Girl is better than the last. And I should say that I've met Ariel in person and she is, of course, charming and attractive and bears only a passing resemblance to her self-portraits (even the "pretty" ones).A recurring theme in Deep Girl is breasts and how we feel about them. DG #5 features a piece titled "Tit Chat", in which Ariel records her personal triumph over society's breast obsession and decided to love her tits. This also happens to be the guiding motif of Bust. Bust is the zine for older (and presumably wiser) women who were the punk and new wave girls of the 80s. As the editors put it, "Well, we had to fight for our right to party, and we aren't about to give it up easily just because we ain't girls no more. Trouble is, what's a thirty-year old gal supposed to do for fun? Can we still behave the way we did as girls, or is it just too embarrassing? Do we even still want to?"Each issue of Bust features pieces by several authors on one topic: issue #2 was "Fun", #3 was "Fashion and Beauty"; the latest, #7, is "Bad Girls and Their Vices" -- all near and dear to this grrl's heart. There's poetry, essays, stories about Important Experiences (like first sex, bad parties, and meeting David Cassidy, all in #2), old ads, and a great (and long) letters column. Just some girls sitting around talking, trying to make sense of this post-modern world, letting everyone know what it's like to be a woman these days. The writing (and there is so much of it! Bust is a big zine, in more ways than one) is almost uniformly excellent, without any ranting or hipper-than-thou attitude. Bust is sincere, and manages to remain so while publishing interviews with famous types like Thurston Moore, Janeane Garofalo, and Ann Magnuson, none of whom are mentioned on the covers.Judging from the letters printed, Bust certainly appeals to a much larger audience than the peer group of the writers. The zine communities, like electronic communities, overlap each other; everyone can be part of a lot of small groups that focus on a narrow interest or personal identity, and at the same time belong to larger, more inclusive tribes (so I can really enjoy a zine devoted to, say, minute discussions of MST3K, without abandoning the zines that deal with music, linguistics, wimmin-stuff, and living on terra firma, Mother Earth*). Don't worry about fragmentation. That Balkanization stuff is not going to happen.Proof of this is in a little zine from New England called Oompah! Oompah!, which caters to younger (teenage?) grrls concerned with sexism, breasts (always, always), herbal cures for yeast infections, exploring sexuality, alternatives to tampons, and food in the 7-11 that is OK for Vegans (Cracker Jacks, Twizzlers, Hydrox, Zagnuts, Planter's Peanut Bars). I think that the women who write Oompah! Oompah! would love Bust, and all of them would love Deep Girl and Mudflap -- well, you get the idea.And with all the hype about "cutting edge" alternative press, who in the mainstream press would admit that adolescent girls produce some of the most interesting and honest zines? Two shining examples spring to mind: Queen of the Thundercats, a messily xeroxed, text-packed look into the kick-ass feminist heart of Cristina Moracho, who is wise beyond her years; and Suburbia, Ceci Moss' stream-of-consciousness collection of art, essays, lists, poetry, and many reviews of other happening zines. Both of these young women are acutely aware of just how horrible it is to be young and female in America and boy, can they write angrily and eloquently on that subject. They're action girls, not whiners, and the very existence of their zines is an inspiration to cynical oldsters like me. QotT #2 says it all: "I don't know, I think I would have to do this zine even if nobody read it, just to get this shit off my chest." Cristina, I love you.Sure, there are some bad zines by women out there, but the good ones are very very good, and the pleasure of reading them far outweighs the disappointment of the few. It has always been difficult for women to get published, and self-publishing is rarely rewarding, either personally or financially. The growth of zines makes it possible for women to be out there, in your face -- women who five years ago might have kept all their thoughts in spiral notebooks are going out using and abusing Kinko's to connect with others just like them. It works.And so, in conclusion: What do women really want?Easy. Their own zines.(* Tom Brokaw after the most recent San Francisco earthquake, explaining what San Franciscans had lost faith in.)SIDEBAR Girl Zine Addresses*Mudflap: 628 Hampshire, San Francisco, CA 94110 1 plus 2 stamps. *Bruce on a Stick: Tyler Ferrara, P.O. Box 416, Tarrytown, NY 10591; $3 *Deep Girl: Ariel Bordeaux, P.O. Box 95805, Seattle, WA 98145-2805; $2.50 *Bust: P.O. Box 319, Ansonia Station, NY NY 10023; $3; BUST@aol.com *Oompah! Oompah!: Megan, 23 Long Ave. Apt. 1, Allston, MA 02134; $1 *Girl Frenzy: Erica Smith, Box 148, Hove, East Sussex, BN3 3DQ, U.K.; $4 *Suburbia Ceci Moss, 521 Golden Gate Ave., Point Richmond, CA 94801; $1; Astrogrrrl@aol.com. *Queen of the Thundercats Cristina Moracho, 151-20 22nd Ave., Whitestone NY 11357-3719

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